Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The House of Bishops has concluded its “College of Bishops” forum for this edition of the Spring House of Bishop’s meeting and we will move into our next stage which will end on Wednesday evening. To date we have had the theology committee’s report on “Same-Sex Relationships in the Life of the Church”. Suffice it is to say the response to this report was received with some caution and we will continue to use the report as a basis for further conversations and it should not be seen as the definitive statement of the Church’s statement on same-sex relationships although some would see it as so. Presented were both the “traditional” view of relationships in marriage on the “right” and the “liberal” view of relationships on the “left”. Instead of one paper requested by the House of Bishops we received two from divergent views. The theologians involved in the preparation of the “paper” determined early on in their study that it was not possible to present One paper on the subject. So the conversation continues with two very divergent views, which in my mind, shows where we are as a Church on the matter of same-sex relationships.
It goes without saying that the recent Consent for the Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Los Angeles has been a topic of discussion among the gathered bishops and how that will impact our relationships with the larger Communion. Although we have not had a plenary discussion on this development we will no doubt do so when the subject of the Anglican Covenant later this week occurs. Of course, her presence at our meeting makes it difficult to discuss this openly and honestly, both for her and the House gathered. I bid your prayers that we may have a spirit of mutual respect and forbearance for all involved. I do believe that we will do so with sensitivity and concern for all.
Yesterday we had a discussion on “Incarnation” and “Salvation” as a part of the “Around One Table” initiative. These were refreshing conversations regarding who we are and what we are to be about. Many of you will be surprised to learn that, for the most part, the House believes we need to be more missional as a Church and begin proclaiming Jesus as the way to salvation. It remains to be seen where this will go so far as a definitive statement as to who we are as a Church but the conversation has begun. As a member of the House of Bishops Planning Committee I intend to press this conversation as fervently as I can. It’s as much as our common life is worth to get this right! At issue in this conversation is “how are we saved”? Is it through a solely “personal” relationship with Jesus or, is it through the Church, the community of faith, that we experience the saving act of God through Jesus Christ. Think what you will, we at least have realized the importance of this conversation and perhaps, God willing, we will see the fruit of this conversation among the House in the not to distant future.
Today we will begin focusing on the “Emergent Church” with Phyllis Tickle, Diana Butler-Bass, Karen Ward, and Stephanie Spellers as our presenters. ( I am somewhat ambivalent about the worship services that go with this, but that’s because I’m old fashioned!) Tuesday we will finish-up with the “Emergent Church” and close the day with “Mission Funding” and the Anglican Covenant. (An interesting combination wouldn't you say?) Wednesday we will elect the new Bishop Suffragan for Federal Ministries from a list of 8(!) nominees and elect the next Bishop for the Navajo Regional Ministry. We will conclude on Wednesday afternoon with our continuing conversation on the Anglican Covenant. I plan to return to Dallas on Thursday.
As I am writing this missive to you I am looking at a picture Sally sent me of the “light” dusting of snow you received Sunday evening. (4.5 inches in our back yard!) I can’t say that I miss that but I can say that I am grateful to be your Bishop Suffragan and look forward to my return to Dallas to continue the good work God is calling us to. Know that you are ever in my thoughts and prayers and I hope and pray that I am in yours. Pray continuously for your beloved church, your diocese, and for one another. I'm going to sleep!
May God bless and keep you and may the light of his countenance shine upon you always.
Your Servant in Jesus Christ,
+Paul, Bishop Suffragan