Saturday, September 29, 2007

From Bishop Alexander of Atlanta

Bishop Alexander was my bishop and seminary professor. He is an individual of profound faith and insight. I share his hope for our common future.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Having just returned from a week in New Orleans for the fall meeting of the House of Bishops, I would like to offer a few brief reflections. You will find links to the post-meeting comuniqué and to another statement from the House of Bishops that responds to the Primates of the Anglican Communion. I urge you to read both of them.

At our meeting we were blessed to have with us the Archbishop of Canterbury and the General Secretary of the Anglican Communion, together with members of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion. The Joint Standing Commitee is composed of laypersons, priests, bishops and primates from around the world. They came both to listen and to speak. The mutuality that implies was honored by all. The speaking and listening was not always easy, but it was a gift to be able to communicate directly with one another and not through the media, the Internet, or by way of intermediaries. The Archbishop was quite clear that there is no ultimatum on the table. The members of the Joint Standing Committee seemed hopeful that there is a way forward for the whole of the Anglican Communion joined together in mission and ministry in the name of Jesus for the sake of the world.

I believe the two statements from the House of Bishops speak for themselves and do not require extensive commentary. The statement in response to the Primates of the Anglican Communion was crafted after several days of prayer, conversation, honest speaking and careful listening. The bishops were nearly unanimous in their support of this statement. I do not believe that any bishop of this church is happy with every detail, but we found a place where the vast majority of us can live together. From my perspective, the statement honors the immediate concerns of the Primates of the Anglican Communion while being faithful to the fullness of the life of our church. I wondered before the meeting began if we could find such a place without losing our soul as a good and faithful church centered in the Gospel of Jesus. I believe that, with the prayerful support of our people and the aid of the Holy Spirit, we found just such a place.

A new consensus has emerged in the House of Bishops for the sake of the church’s mission. It is not a consensus built upon agreeing on all matters (that’s never been an Anglican charism!), but a willingness to give and take for the sake of the church’s larger mission. I believe that every bishop present gave up something – and not without considerable pain and agony at points – but we were able to arrive at a place where most of us can live together faithfully if not altogether comfortably. The depth of the conversations, arising as they did out of much prayer and contemplation, will sustain and enrich my own ministry for some time to come.

In the days to come, there will continue to be dire predictions from some corners about the state of The Episcopal Church and our life as a part of The Anglican Communion. Most of that will come from folks who have predetermined the outcome they desire. My counsel is that we delight in the ministries we share in the name of Jesus, be about the work of the church’s mission to a world in need, and rejoice in all that God has given to us in Jesus Christ our Lord!

Faithfully, in Christ,

The Right Reverend J. Neil Alexander

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