Thursday, September 27, 2007

Statement From The Bishop OF Alabama

26 September 2007

The Feast of Lancelot Andrewes

To the Clergy and People of the Diocese of Alabama:

As I prepare to return to the diocese after participating in the House of Bishops Interim Meeting in New Orleans since last Wednesday, I am attaching hereto the communiqué that we have adopted in response to the requests of our partners in the Anglican Communion. Please read it carefully and know that it was written over a lengthy period of days and adopted by a very broad consensus of your bishops.

I believe that this communiqué represents a considerable spirit of compromise and collegiality in the House of Bishops, which I am pleased to see. There were only two voiced votes against its adoption and no minority report or open dissent. The communiqué will be "spun" in different ways no doubt in accordance with the biases of the press and the desires of different factions in the church. I lament this, but it is the way of the world in which we presently live. I was particularly disappointed by the inaccuracy of the New York Times article which appeared in the Birmingham News today. Let us not be misled by negative and ill-prepared comments.

A few of the elements of the document that I find encouraging are as follows. We are clear, in response to the request of the Primates' Meeting, that non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom the General Convention Resolution B-033 pertains. We reaffirmed this resolution that calls upon bishops and Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." An Anglican sub-committee had earlier found this resolution to comply with the force of the recommendation of the Windsor Report, as a footnote explains.

Secondly, we have said that the bishops pledge not to authorize for use in our dioceses any public rites of blessing of same sex unions "until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action." This recognizes and affirms the common discernment of the Anglican Communion, which the Archbishop of Canterbury highlighted in his address to us and to which many of us have been trying to appeal for some time.

Thirdly, the Presiding Bishop has developed a way to have episcopal visitors provide pastoral care on her behalf for dioceses that request alternative oversight. Consultation with the Communion about this is encouraged, and an appeal is made for the interventions by uninvited bishops, which imperil common prayer and long-standing ecclesial principles of our Communion, is urged. We emphasize that "we appreciate and need to hear all voices in the Episcopal Church."

Throughout the communiqué we stress the love of God and of the church for persons of all sexual orientations and the dignity of every human being. Quoting the Primates' Meeting, “we have a pastoral duty to respond with love and understanding to people of all sexual orientations... [I] is necessary to maintain a breadth of pastoral response to situations of individual pastoral care." The listening process across the Communion on these matters is encouraged, and the important role of the Anglican Consultative Council is stressed. Our hope that the Lambeth Conference will include all duly-elected bishops is expressed.

There is more here to read and digest. I find the above points of our letter to be responsive to the concerns of the Communion and to members of our church who may have been unclear about certain things. Your bishops are not of one mind on every point of this document and we continue to struggle together with important and complex issues. But this provides a place of coming together which I find encouraging at this moment. I ask that you read the communiqué for its own merit and take care not to draw reductionist conclusions from what you may read in the press or on the Internet.

There will be opportunities for further discussion of these things in the days to come in our life together. I ask that you continue to pray for the unity and mission of the church throughout the world, and I wish you every blessing in your worship and service of God.

Faithfully in Christ,

Henry N. Parsley

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