A Pastoral Letter to the People and Clergy of the Diocese of Washington
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ Jesus,
I write to you as we begin to close the Spring Session of the House of Bishops, meeting in Navasota, Texas, March 16-21. I am pleased that the House of Bishops was finally able to craft resolutions that seem to best describe how we see the state of the Episcopal Church at this time in its life. The resolutions that were passed did not please everyone, yet there was clearly a shift in the way we have worked together.
This meeting of the House was prayer-centered, with almost two hours each day spent in prayer and in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Bible study at our small table groups took place each morning and was a wonderful way to re-connect with one another and to prepare for the work that was before us.
Discussions and debate on the floor as we crafted the resolutions (available here) were respectful, thoughtful. There was none of the mean-spiritedness or “hostage taking” that has occurred on occasion at previous House meetings. We were deliberate in our actions and we spent over three hours in debate to craft what you now have before you.
The first resolution, “Mind of the House of Bishops Resolution Addressed to the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church” passed in the House by a simple voice vote after several hours of debate. The second resolution, “To the Archbishop of Canterbury and the members of the Primates' Steering Committee” passed unanimously. The third resolution, which puts forth “A Statement from the House of Bishops-March 20, 2007” passed by a standing vote after some modifications in language.
These resolutions make clear that in spite of our differences on human sexuality and other issues, a solid majority of the House viewed the recommendations contained in the Primates' communiqué from Tanzania as offensive to our Church and disrespectful of the way that we discern and respond to God’s will. Our democratic polity is not universally admired within the Communion, but I was encouraged to see so many bishops resist the Primates’ call for our House to act unilaterally. We are a hierarchical church to be sure, but in our governance, the voice of bishops is balanced by the voices of the clergy and laity.
It was the hope of the bishops that the statement we have released will be a helpful teaching tool for the Church as we continue to discuss how best to respond to the Primates’ ultimatum by their September 30th deadline. As always I ask your prayers for the Episcopal Church, our Presiding Bishop Katharine, and all of our brothers and sisters throughout the Anglican Communion as we seek ways to walk together during these times of great challenge and change.
In Christ’s Peace, Power and Love,
The Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane