A letter from the Bishop to the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania
January 15, 2016
Dear Friends in Christ,
I have read with distress and sadness of the decision of the Primates of the Anglican Communion gathered in Canterbury, England, that The Episcopal Church be excluded from participation in the structures of the Anglican Communion for a period of three years. This decision is painful to many of us in The Episcopal Church, especially faithful gay/lesbian communicants of this church who once again feel the harshness of exclusion.
We must be clear, however, about several things about the expressed decision of the Primates:
- The Episcopal Church retains the recognition of the Archbishop of Canterbury as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, which understands that authority in the life of the Communion is a shared practice rather than a monolithic structure.
- The Anglican Communion is a family of independent, national and self-governing churches, of which The Episcopal Church is one. No one church, prelate or body has jurisdiction over any other member of the Anglican Communion.
- There is no “one size fits all” model of Gospel proclamation or mission. Since the Anglican Communion is a family of churches ministering in widely different settings, disagreements are bound to arise. One of the strengths of Anglicanism is our ability to disagree openly and strongly and publically while we continue to walk together in fellowship as a worldwide body.
- Sometimes in family life, members grow and mature at different paces. I believe this moment in our life is one such instance. As I read the Book of Acts and the letters of Paul, I read the story of a church growing in its understanding of the breadth and depth of Jesus’ invitation to all people; and the ensuing struggles as the Church struggled to grow in its understanding that the Gospel invitation is both clear and wide: all people are invited to be included in the life of the church. As St. Paul states so clearly, “All who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ.”
- At another level we must also understand the sad history of the church down to this present day in its willingness to exclude and marginalize people. I am thankful and proud that The Episcopal Church is leading the way in expanding our Biblical understanding of the wideness of God’s invitation and honoring our Baptismal vows to resist evil, work for justice and peace, to serve Christ in our neighbor and to honor the dignity of every human being. (BCP p. 304-305)
- The Primates have also declared their desire that “we continue to walk together as a Communion.” I am committed to continue to walk together as a constituent part of the Anglican Communion, as a follower of Jesus, a member of The Episcopal Church and a bishop of the Church even in light of this painful and sad decision. The Primates (currently and sadly, all male) are and remain, after all, our brothers in Christ through our Baptism.
- I pledge to continue to encourage, invite and lead this diocese and its members to continue to honor our membership in the Anglican Communion and to continue to work, pray and give for the support of the mission, life and ministry of the Anglican Communion throughout the world in our determination and resolve to continue to walk together with our brothers and sisters in Christ even in the midst of present disagreement.
- Finally, I urge every member of this diocese to pray for guidance in this difficult moment; to pray for the generosity of spirit to forgive and to accept forgiveness; to pray for those of our members who are in pain at this moment and for the strength to share their pain.
I give thanks for the bravery and witness of our Presiding Bishop Curry, who witnessed to the commitment The Episcopal Church has made to justice, equality and inclusion. As Bishop Curry stated so clearly: “Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all.
While I understand that many disagree with us, our decision regarding marriage is based on the belief that the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians are true for the church today: All who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ.”
I remain, Faithfully,