The Bishop of Tennessee’s Diocesan Convention Address

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Finally, I want to say something about the peculiar point in our life as Episcopalians and Anglicans that we presently inhabit. I believe the Windsor Report offers us the way forward as we work to repair the common life of the Anglican Communion. At our 2007 Convention, clergy and delegates resolved that “the findings and recommendations of the Windsor Report represent the best way forward for the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Communion”. In addition, the Diocese re-affirmed a commitment to being a “full and active part of the Anglican Communion, in unity with the See of Canterbury, and the Episcopal Church USA; forgoing our own local desires for the sake of the greater Anglican Communion; and a conciliar approach to decision-making in the life of the Church and the Anglican Communion by working with and heeding the collective wishes of the Communion before making unilateral decisions”. These graceful words of connection I have made my own on a number of occasions, and I do so again today.

As Bishop of Tennessee, I am committed to the so-called Camp Allen principles of compliance with the recommendations of the Windsor Report, principles that the Archbishop of Canterbury identified in his recent “Advent Letter” as making obvious “that such dioceses and bishops cannot be regarded as deficient in recognizable faithfulness to the common deposit and the common language and practice of the Communion”. I hope that you know that I am committed to a traditional understanding of Christian marriage, and that that I believe the Church’s traditional teaching on sex and sexual relationships. I have been saying this consistently and publicly, I believe, since the year 2000, when it suddenly seemed necessary (at least to me) to say so. I will follow through with the discharge of my responsibilities as bishop, but you should also know that I am not planning on taking my beliefs and commitments and using them as a weapon against anyone, a tool in some war of separation that I do not believe will serve the Gospel or the Church.

I reaffirm these commitments in regard to the Windsor Report that I have made on a number of occasions before. I plan to attend the Lambeth Conference, one of the four “Instruments of Unity” that we have as a Communion. I believe that we are called to life together, as a Communion and as a Diocese, to unity in the midst of difference. Can we model in the Diocese of Tennessee a life together, where we can recognize the life of the Risen Christ present within each other, even when we disagree about important and even fundamental things? There are other voices that have put before us a different view of the situation, in which the church is defined by separation from those with whom we disagree. These voices identify the errors of others and then continue on a separate way. I believe that the end result of this process is the end of the church as a community of faith, faith that overcomes difference in the Risen Lord. We need to seek a common mind in the Church, that’s absolutely correct; there is no virtue in difference for difference’s sake when we can seek agreement, especially about fundamental things that might now divide us. But in order to seek a common mind we are going to have to show up in the same place and share the same life. That’s the life I’m committed to. It is the way of death and resurrection, the pattern we have learned from Christ; it is the way of bearing one another’s burdens, though I am acutely aware that the burden I bear may be small in comparison to that of others; it is the way of self-giving, of sacrificial offering, so that others may live. It is not the easy way, but I think it is the Gospel way, in this time and place, for us now in the Diocese of Tennessee.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils

Posted January 29, 2008 at 5:50 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Statmann wrote:

A “pep talk” by the bishop seems to be in order. From 1996 through 2002 membership grew by about 14 percent whereas from 2002 through 2006 membership grew by only 4 percent. Plate & Pledge from 1996 through 2002 grew a very robust 68 percent whereas from 2002 through 2006 Plate & Pledge grew about 25 percent. The diocese still looks rather healthy but may well be suffering from the post-2003 “blues”.

January 29, 10:35 pm | [comment link]
2. Scott K wrote:

Statmann, that’s why so many of us were encouraged by the bishop’s pledge to concentrate on planting and re-planting new congregations, and cultivating ministries on all the college campuses in the area.  And—not that there’s anything wrong with them, per se—nothing about our focus being on the MDGs.

January 29, 11:01 pm | [comment link]
3. Tired of Hypocrisy wrote:

Surprisingly coherent and thoughtful comments from a bishop who has been, up to now, quite vanilla. There is hope for Tennessee.

January 30, 3:35 am | [comment link]
4. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

Alas, being a “Windsor Bishop” based on Camp Allen principles seems to mean twisting in the wind based on the last two HOB events and the inactions there by those bishops who so identify.  This is not a move up from plain vanilla.  It is the allegation that no flavoring is vanilla.

January 30, 2:11 pm | [comment link]
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