Friday, August 31, 2007

Hopes for the House of Bishops

by the Reverend Nigel Taber-Hamilton

On September 20th the House of Bishops will gather in New Orleans to consider – among other things – an appropriate response to the other requests of the Anglican Primates. Pundits throughout our Province and outside it are telling our House of Bishops what they should do. But little is being said about the values they should predicate their decision-making on, and nothing at all on the central values that define their ministerial identity and thus inform those values. Using the baptismal covenant (BCP, p. 293), the examination from the Ordination of a Bishop (BCP, p. 517) and the Catechism (BCP, p. 855) as the best pointers toward these values here are my suggestions to our episcopal brothers and sisters:

1. Remember you are, first and foremost, members of "the Laos," a Greek word which is the original root for our contemporary word "laity" – a word best translated as "the whole and undivided People of God." Remember, therefore, that you are members of this "Laos" by virtue of your baptisms, for baptism is the foundational order of ministry and is much more important than any subsequent derivative Ordering for specific ministerial tasks.

2. Remember that your Ordered ministry is representative: your fundamental responsibility as bishops is to exercise your episcopal ministries on behalf of the baptized, who have called you out to fulfill specific tasks on behalf of the baptized and who have loaned you some of the authority of the baptized for you to do so. You are "stewards of God’s mysteries" (1 Cor 4:1) on behalf of every baptized person, not just some of us.

3. Remember that primary among the specific tasks the baptized have given you at this time is "to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church" (BCP, p. 517). This surely means to guard the biblical vision of baptism as the marker of all Christians’ common identity and the source of every Christian’s authority to minister; and to guard the authentic vision of Eucharist as God’s welcoming table where none are turned away, and where no discriminatory impediment is placed in the way of the baptized’s authority to select whomever it chooses to represent it.

Reflecting on the March House of Bishops meeting the late bishop Jim Kelsey said this to his brothers and sisters in the Diocese of Northern Michigan, but it applies equally to the upcoming House of Bishops meeting. I can think of no better charge than this:

Now it is time to move ahead with God's work of redemption. Hopefully it will be in partnership with others throughout the Anglican Communion. The extent to which others are ready to keep in partnership with us has yet to be seen – but that we are prepared to step out in faith and with courage and determination to celebrate God's liberating work in our midst and in the world, have no doubt.

© 2007 Nigel J. Taber-Hamilton

September will be dawning in a few hours. Certain elements within the Anglican Communion have sought to ratchet-up the noise, seeking to create the illusion that some Armageddon may come down upon us on September 30th, unless the Episcopal Church makes significant consessions to the September 30 "deadline" advanced by the primates in Tanzania.

We invite all our readers to use this space to speak their hopes and prayers to our bishops. What do you hope they will do? What prayers and encouragement do you offer them?


Blogger Susan Russell said...

Well said, Nigel!

Here's my "hopes and encouragement" for our bishops:"Speaking of Lambeth 1.10"

And my prayers as for the WHOLE church that we might continue to live out our unique charism as a particular (and sometimes peculiar!) people of God willing to find our unity in the tension of our diversity

9/02/2007 1:46 PM  

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