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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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Memo to: Clergy and Diocesan/Congregational Leaders
From: The Rt. Rev. James L. Jelinek
VIII Bishop, Diocese of Minnesota
Have you ever worked on a statement with ±150 colleagues? And have you ever done so considering the nuanced meaning of words and phrases to a worldwide audience? That pretty well describes the last two days of the House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans. Within hours after its release Tuesday afternoon, it was commented upon and interpreted by scores of people and so it is my hope that this /Response to Questions and Concerns Raised by our Anglican Communion Partners/ (attached below) will be read more carefully than the comments and criticisms about it. Please spend the time to read it slowly. What does it say? What doesn't it say? I believe it is a pretty accurate description of us that is quite clear about what we stand _for_ in the name of God and also sets limits as to what we are willing to take from others outside of The Episcopal Church.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, +Rowan Williams, and several members of the Steering Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council (the only body with a constitution and agreed-upon authority in the Anglican Communion) met with us and urged us to be clear. I believe we were. I also believe we answered everything we were asked to answer. It is clear that some were looking for a repudiation by The Episcopal Church (TEC) of earlier actions, but that is something we neither could nor would do.
Will there be reactivity to this /Response/? Is the sun likely to rise again tomorrow? Watch and listen, but first of all measure your own reactions and re-read those passages or phrases to which you most strongly react. Upon second or third reading, do you hear them the same way? If so, that is worth pursuing in conversation in your congregation or with your clergy group. If not, it is worth reflecting on what this touched (or even triggered) in you. We need to be aware that in times of tension like this, our fears and anxieties are likely to be near the surface, more easily unsettled.
The big picture is that we are considering matters that are not about winning or losing, but of discernment and meaning and within relationships. Where is the Holy Spirit leading the Christian Church and leading humanity? How do we identify the marks of the Holy Spirit in what feels like a progression, in comparison with the spirit of the age we live in? Most especially, how do we do this /within time/ when we do not yet have the luxury of looking back at the past where we sometimes have more clarity? Some argue that this is precisely why we must go very slowly, yet that seems more than unjust when people are suffering. So, The Episcopal Church is moving forward while trying not to inflict more pain or to provoke more controversy.
At times like this I am most concerned about reaction without reflection, for in haste our reactions are usually determined by fear, particularly one of the following: the fear of losing or failing or losing out or losing one's touchstones and one's bearings. It seems to me that when we struggle with our inclusion we are most afraid of losing out, of not counting. And when something new comes along that seems so unusual, so different from the ways we have always seen the world and how we understand God's creativity, it seems that our experience is one of disorientation, the fear of losing our bearings. That seems to describe the church we live in today. No wonder there are tensions.
I pray that our personal and communal responses may be guided by hope, the hope which comes from trusting in God to inspire us, and more-to knit us together in one heart even when we cannot be of one mind.
* * *
I am pleased with the comments in the Minneapolis Star Tribune by Dean Spenser Simrill and the Revs. LeeAnne Watkins and Mariann Budde, for they put the matter into perspective for people, which Martyn Minns does not do as well, glossing over the limitations which our structure puts upon us. Notice that the headlines here and in the New York Times yesterday love to focus on the controversies and the differences and do not choose to see how many in the House of Bishops have come to be of one heart.
* * *
In general, the meeting of the House and Community (including our partners) of Bishops was a good experience. +Rowan Williams spoke a few times, preached at a stirring ecumenical gathering where the jazz trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, Jr., "stole the show" from everyone else there, setting us all on fire. +Rowan was at his best Friday morning, offering a wonderful bible study which revealed his deep knowledge, intellectual brilliance and spiritual insights. This is where we saw the man of faith, and he inspired us. +Katherine was perceptive, able to
enumerate, synthesize and describe what we had come to in our discussions, both our agreements and where we still had work to do. She can be very charming and funny, as well, and at the end we gave her a standing ovation for her work among us and on our (TEC's) behalf during her first year. Our chaplains gave voice to the prayers we were not articulating well, as we wrestled inwardly and outwardly. Our Anglican Communion guests brought us both challenge and gift: differing points of view and the warmth of international friendships.
I have never been to New Orleans before, so I can only guess what is missing from the number of empty lots, falling down buildings and neighborhoods, and the personal stories of those who live there. Tourism and business are way down. Complaints abound about the lack of a good governmental response on any level, and yet churches and agencies get kudos-both for the work that so many local and out of state volunteers do and for the caring listening which affirms people so much. Most of us took Saturday to participate in rebuilding, and I am very glad I did. We worked alongside honor student volunteers from Tulane putting in the beams and flooring of a house. Cliff, our crew chief (about 20), is doing this work "for a while" before he begins college. We did not need to talk much, for there was an easy rhythm to our work together.
We have done what we have done, and it was worth the time, the effort, the care and the prayer, and I thank you for yours. We offer this to God, to the Church, and to all those whose lives may be affirmed and strengthened by it.
Next entry (above): Anselmic Sees What Occurred in New Orleans
Previous entry (below): Common Cause Partners Press Release: Anglican Bishops Take First Steps to New Structure
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