Thursday, August 23, 2007

Peace, Be Still

Bishop Sisk's Comfortable Words

Bishop Mark Sisk (Diocese of New York) has a truly pastoral message to his diocese. The letter is not online, but the Admiral of Morality has provided the text. He reports that the Bishop's comments "come as part of a diocesan examination of the current controversies within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion," but which is not yet online. We presume this is part of the diocesan examination of Communion Matters, a study document the House of Bishops released on June 1, which they have encouraged us all to consider over the summer.

Too many strident voices are declaring gloom and doom, predicting the ouster of the Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion, and declaring that everything will change after the Primates' supposed "deadline" of September 30. Our friend Mark Harris offers wise insights about the efforts to "ratchet up the noise" leading to September 30.

Out of the midst of this maelstrom, Bishop Sisk offers his belief "that the Communion will emerge from these struggles, changed but recognizable" and observes that the Anglican Communion has "a strong tendency to adapt to challenging circumstances rather than break apart over them."

Here is the full text of Bishop Sisk's letter (courtesy of the Admiral of Morality):

The presenting question is: Will the Communion survive in its present form or won't it? To state the obvious: no one can answer that question with certainty. My personal guess is that the Communion will emerge from these struggles, changed but recognizable. I say this not because I think that the issues before us will simply drift away like smoke after a fire. I say this because the long history of the Church suggests a strong tendency to adapt to challenging circumstances rather than break apart over them. Following the American Revolution we in The Episcopal Church were left with no bishops and an unwillingness on the part of the Church of England to help us resolve that crisis. Yet, ultimately, a way was found to restore our claim to apostolic orders, and, in due course, we realized that by that act the Anglican Communion had been born.

The deeper question is this: Just what exactly is the problem anyway? Surprising to many people, serious-minded folks give very different answers. For some, perhaps for most, the answer as conceived by them is a simple matter of sexual morality: right or wrong. Others couch this dispute in terms of the authority of Scripture. Still others argue that not only does Scripture not speak with one voice to the actual question that is before us, but also the insights of science and experience of our faithful gay and lesbian brothers and sisters—integral members of our community—cannot simply be ignored. Yet others see this dispute through the lens of authority: Who has the right to decide? This, in turn, pushes others to state the problems in terms of polity—that is, the way we organize ourselves to make decisions and, at least by inference, obligate others by those decisions. And all this debate takes place within the context of a world of different contexts, a world which seems busily occupied in dividing and re-dividing itself along the countless fissures that are found in the bedrock of the human community.

In my view, it is a mistake to despair at all about this conflict. I am convinced that God works through our struggles to bring us, if we are faithful and charitable in those struggles, ever closer to the Divine Life that unifies all creation. We have no reason to despair. We have nothing to fear. We live in the arms of God's abiding love. God is working in us the Divine will. Through it all, I am convinced that our Episcopal Church has been strengthened, and I have confidence that the larger Anglican Communion, in whatever form it takes, will be strengthened as well.

In the end, if we are faithful, charitable and just, God's will for us and for all creation will be made more evident, more available, more present. What more could we hope or ask for?

God bless and sustain us as we carry out the work and ministry that has been entrusted to us in our generation.

Without a doubt, many Episcopalians – whether in "Network" or Episcopal parishes and dioceses – have felt great pain in the last few years of increased strife. There is considerable evidence the efforts to foment this "crisis" have been manufactured by some well-funded ideologues. But, without a doubt, the strident language has caused pain to many people in our church.

Thus, we are especially pleased to hear Bishop Sisk's calm and thoughtful message. "Peace, be still." So said our Lord in the midst of the storm.


Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Scott, it is fine for you to comment here from a conservative perspective and to make your points vigorously. But I am weary of your intentionally hurtful language. It does not bespeak the charity with which we should address our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Should you wish to post the essence of your comments again, without references to a "sodomy lobby," I'll let them stand.

8/23/2007 11:48 AM  
Blogger David said...

"this "crisis" [has] been manufactured by some well-funded ideologues."

No doubt there. Wish this was more common knowledge amongst your avg. pew-sitters, however.

Sounds like something TEC Office of Comm. should be getting the word out about...

8/23/2007 4:36 PM  
Blogger SUSAN RUSSELL said...

The "Bread of Anxiety" appears to be prominently featured on everybody's menu.

The conservative blogs are full of dire predictions that the ABofC will be "manipulated" by the revisionists, the moderates are hoping his presence will tip the scales in favor of the HoB backtracking on its Camp Allen position and there is concern in the "progressive" camp that the dulcet tones of of the Mother Tongue wafting about and urging capitulation-couched-as-compromise will once again cast the LGBT baptized in the role of scapegoat.

Bishop Sisk's measured words are a bit of balm in our Gilead ... and so is the enrgy coming from the Archbihsop of York and the increasing impatience of the faithful of ALL theological stripes with the bullying and threatening and deadline setting.

So pray without ceasing. And say thanks but no thanks to the bread of anxiety: it's bad for the waistline anyway! :)

8/23/2007 7:55 PM  

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