a difficult thing

The letter from my Bishop, post-convention. Heavy hearts.

Gc2006_prov6_ellen_bishop
Statement from Bishop James
Jelinek
Regarding General Convention 2006

The Right Rev.
James L. Jelinek writes about his reaction to decisions made at the 75th General
Convention of the Episcopal Church specifically regarding the Church’s response
to the Windsor Report.  The Church concluded its triennial meeting in Columbus,
Ohio yesterday.

 

 

Sisters and
Brothers in the Diocese of Minnesota:

The end of
General Convention was difficult. We were led to the foot of the cross, and the
cross means sacrifice. Letting go. Letting go of fear, fear that whatever will
happen may not be worth the cost. The cost at this convention was very high – a
resolution calling for restraint on the consecration of bishops in a loving
relationship which is other than heterosexual.

Many of us
found this hard to do. Many. On the first vote in the House of Deputies,
the deputies expressed their willingness to show “considerable restraint” in
giving consents to someone elected bishop who fit this description. That was
what the Windsor Report asked, perhaps expected. But the Windsor Report has been
superseded by the demands of the Anglican Primates, at least a good number of
them. They want repentance and a commitment from the Episcopal Church not to
move forward with such consecrations and not to move forward with developing or
authorizing the blessings of same-sex relationships.

Some of us
tried legislatively to limit our promises and commitments to respond only to
Windsor, and offered amendments to do so. But the language that came out of the
Special Committee on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion’s
resolutions was strong, and there was no possibility to tone it down. The
Deputies originally defeated it, but we bishops were enjoined by both Presiding
Bishop Griswold and Presiding Bishop-Elect Katharine Jefferts Schori to affirm
the Special Committee’s recommendation to comply with the larger expectation,
and we did.

We stood at the
foot of the cross. Perhaps only because our Lord was willing to die for
something greater than his own life, for the sake of humanity, that largely was
not, and still rarely is, either aware of or grateful for the immensity of his
sacrifice. Because of that, we offered a sacrifice today that was very
expensive.

Some of us
sacrificed our credibility and trustworthiness. Those who have stood for gay and
lesbian people and their full inclusion in God’s Church, put our relationships
and our beliefs on the cross. Those who are gay and lesbian and voted against
their own lives, their own loves, put themselves on the cross. Those who have
found this church’s willingness to consecrate an openly gay person and to bless
same-sex relationships and who have been tested in staying in the Church put
their ability to trust others on the cross.

The
Presiding-Bishop Elect, while re-affirming her commitment to gay and lesbian
persons, asked us to move forward, to take a decisive step toward others in the
Anglican Communion that we may continue to walk with them. In so doing, being
mindful of elders in many places, who could not understand anyone breaking
communion for any reason; mindful of gays and lesbians in other countries who
have no advocates to witness for them or give them courage and hope;
 mindful of suffering and starving children around the world whom
we are willing to help, but whose Provinces and Dioceses have not been willing
to receive our money or the companionship in mission we have offered in the past
three years – mindful of all of that, we put one “good” on the cross for the
sake of what we believe is a greater one. That is the nature of
the cross – dying so that new life may come abundantly.

Bishop Jefferts
Schori, after the vote by the bishops, went into the House of Deputies to speak.
 It was an act of great courage, and when she finished, she walked
off the podium in silence. Over 1500 people sat without speaking until she was
out of the room. A couple of bishops moved toward her so that she would not have
to walk alone, but she had already walked most of the way. Had we elected one of
the other candidates, I believe that even if he had preached the same wonderful
and profound sermon earlier in the day about letting go of fear, even if he had
used her same well chosen and extemporaneous words to speak to them, the
Deputies would very likely not have responded in the same way. They would likely
not have seen it as prophetic witness but as coercion and perhaps betrayal. It
is evidence of the Spirit’s work in her election on Sunday and the Spirit
working in and through our Presiding Bishop-Elect.

Why are we
concerned about the Communion? We Anglicans we do not call ourselves a
denomination, but a communion. The strength of communion is its
grounding in Jesus Christ, the originator and the host. It is rooted in
scripture, yet more importantly, the communion is an embodiment of Him, with the
sure and certain hope that together we can live as Christ in the world,
constantly being made more into his likeness, being healed and transformed from
our own devices and desires, our own self-interests and prejudices, our own
narrowness that is shaped by family, local and national loyalties. The Spirit
God gives us is too grand to be contained in anything smaller, too all-embracing
to love any less. So is our own spirit, which God creates and invites to reflect
the whole Body. When we speak of the resurrection of the body in the creeds, we
are not professing that our mortal bodies are raised we are professing our
belief in the resurrection of the Body of Christ, all of us
together.

Resurrection
only comes after death, and this week, some part of every one of us died, our
wills, our control, and some other loyalties which are less than the whole Body
of Christ. I think some of our optimism died, but optimism is only a pale
reflection of hope, for that gift of the Spirit moved among us mightily. I am
sure some among us acted out of fear, fear of losing a way of seeing things,
fear of losing ties with like-minded people. I am confident that a great number
of us – on all sides of the issues which have divided us – acted out of hope
that the Spirit will grow us up most readily in the relationships we have with
people who are very different from us.

My deep faith,
my sure and certain hope, is that God, in Christ, is always leading us to be of
one heart, even when, especially when, we cannot be of one mind.
If I were to describe the mind of Christ, I would have to say, we begin and end
in his heart.

His heart
embraces us this week.

Faithfully, in
Christ,

+James L. Jelinek
VIII Bishop of
Minnesota

***

I am
mindful that not only the voting members of General Convention and those other
people who were present are experiencing pain from the decisions that were made.
I am aware that because people on all sides of the issue did not get everything
they wanted, that all of us have at least been disappointed and some to a degree
much more than that. I will work with Regional Deans to determine if, when and
where we ought to gather for conversations about this on a more local level.
Meanwhile, the people of this diocese, this Church and our Communion are in my
prayers as I trust they are in yours.

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One thought on “a difficult thing

  1. It’s a wonderful statement by your bishop. After the thrill of Jefferts Schori’s election, it’s diappointing that we couldn’t continue to act with courage and love. I’m sorry to see my church seeming to back down from its stand on behalf of equality for everyone. There is still a lot of work to be done.

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