Bishop Skip’s Response to the Anglican Primates’ Decision to Censure The Episcopal Church
Dear People of Central New York,
You probably have heard of the decision that has come out of the recent Anglican Primates meeting in Canterbury, England. (The Primates are the head bishops of the various provincial churches that make up the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which our Presiding Bishop is one.) Of the Primates gathered, a majority voted to censure The Episcopal Church for our full embrace of LGBTQ persons, specifically for our most recent General Convention’s action approving inclusive marriage rites that can be used for same-sex couples.
According to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the Primates’ decision is not a “sanction” of The Episcopal Church, but a “consequence” of our theological and pastoral decisions that are not embraced by a majority of the head bishops of the Anglican Communion. Whatever the term used, the Primates decided that clergy and lay leaders of The Episcopal Church, for a period of three years, cannot participate in any official Anglican bodies that deal with matters of doctrine or policy.
The positive part of the Primate’s declaration is that they unanimously expressed a desire to continue to walk in partnership, joined in Christ in mission and ministry. In my perspective, however, the Primate’s decision to censure The Episcopal Church compounds the pain of discrimination that LGBTQ people have suffered over the centuries and continue to suffer as a result of Church policy. For that pain I am deeply sorry, and as a Bishop of the Church I apologize to all LGBTQ people, especially those of this Diocese.
Discipleship can be costly and sometimes, although we do not want it to be so, relationships are strained as part of that cost. People who love God can honestly disagree on weighty matters, and it is my desire to respect and remain in relationship with those who disagree with me. It is my belief, however, that as I read Scripture, understand the teaching of Jesus, examine the history of the Church, and apply God’s gift of human reason seeking the Spirit’s direction, that the actions of The Episcopal Church moving toward full inclusion of LGBTQ people are of God. The Spirit is calling us to stand by our carefully and prayerfully made decisions.
We, the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York, will continue to embrace our baptismal promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.” As we believe everyone is made in God’s image, we will continue to work to be a faith community that offers God’s radical hospitality to all, assures everyone of God’s loving embrace, and supports relationships lived in fidelity to God and one another, no matter one’s sexual orientation. All leadership positions of this Church remain open to all who seek the Way of Jesus.
The decision of the Primates does not affect us in the every day life of our churches except in one essential way. That is, we must continue to pray for one another and love one another as Jesus has loved us, especially where we may disagree. As the Archbishop of Canterbury said, reconciliation and agreement are not the same thing.
I will be attending an Episcopal House of Bishops meeting in March where I may receive much more information and clarity regarding the decisions made and where we may go from here. Until then, God be with you all. I call upon you to remain steadfast in God’s hope as we seek “to be the passionate presence of Christ for one another and the world we are called to serve.”