Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bishop Bauerschmidt of Tennessee

For Bishop John Bauerschmidt (Diocese of Tennessee), last week's was his first House of Bishops meeting. His letter to his diocese is available here.

Like several other bishops, he comments on the "cooperative and respectful spirit" of the meeting. He reports (as have others) that the bishops' request for a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury was unanimous. He reports what we have not heard elsewhere: that during the discussion of the Communication to the Episcopal Church, a proposal to defer the statement and to refer it to the Theology Committeee "was narrowly defeated."

Bishop Bauerschmidt also makes a point which we had not noted. Like others, he says the bishops did not address the issues of same-sex blessings nor of consecration of gay or lesbian bishops, but "took up instead the Pastoral Scheme, about which no response had been asked." It appears to be true that the primates meeting in Tanzania did not ask the bishops or any other group within the Episcopal Church to accept or respond to the proposed Pastoral Council or Primatial Vicar. How very strange.

He seems to distance himself from the two votes that were not unanimous. He writes:
Though I appreciate the canonical concerns of my colleagues which led to the rejection of the Pastoral Scheme, I believe it is possible for the Presiding Bishop to participate in the Scheme within the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. In spite of the failure to move ahead with nominations to the Pastoral Council, I recognize the willingness of the House "to work to find ways of meeting the pastoral concerns of the Primates" in some other way. I hope this will be possible, though in the absence of new proposals, I am not sure who is taking responsibility for advancing this work.
Bishop Bauerschmidt also seems to distance himself from the bishops' letter to the Episcopal Church and deems the historical arguments "of little usefulness." He calls for Anglicans – and not just Episcopalians – "to pay more attention to ecclesiology, the consideration of what the Church itself is."

He observes:
We need ways in which the Communion can hold together in spite of difference, and pursue a common life. . . . A Communion in which there is no way to reach a common mind about the extent of difference will not be able to grow together. Or even hold together. Insisting that our present differences are not enough to divide us will not convince others who believe differently. Instruments are needed by which we can engage each other and hold each other accountable, and not simply be Churches that are talking past each other. I believe that those Instruments of Unity are at hand.
We do not wish to draw too many conclusions from his nuanced letter. Click here to read the full text.


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