Friday, April 11, 2008

Bishop Smith of North Dakota responds to sabotage - please pray

From right here.

April 10, 2008

Dear People of God in the Diocese of North Dakota:

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

For the second time in three weeks a priest of the church has gone to the secular news media with a protest about my policy and expectations for the sexual behavior of clergy in this diocese: “Faithfulness for those called to marriage and abstinence from sexual relationships for those not called to marriage.”

I am extremely disappointed that sensitive pastoral issues have been politicized by these actions. They serve to divide, polarize and work against the sense of community in the diocese we have sought to build.

As one whose responsibility it is to guard the faith, unity and discipline of the church, let me be clear. The diocesan policy I uphold is not one of my own invention or devising. Rather, it is the teaching of the Church for 2,000 years as derived from the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. It is based on the order of creation as recorded in Genesis and reasserted in the Gospels when Jesus says: “From the beginning of creation ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’” (Mark 10:6-8).

Obviously, there have always been people who for one reason or another are unable or unwilling to live by this standard. These “exceptions to the rule” are matters of personal conscience between the individual and God. They do not, however, supplant or replace the traditional teaching of the Church, which until recent times was unquestioned as the behavior expected of all Christians.

The Episcopal Church and the other churches of the Anglican Communion have traditionally held together the Liberal, Catholic and Evangelical wings of the church by common worship and a common relationship with a bishop in the historic succession. This theoretically provides us with balance, correction and comprehension for the sake of truth.

What we are seeing in our national church and in other parts of the Anglican world is Liberals moving out on their own without benefit of the moderating and balancing effects of Catholic and Evangelical perspectives. In other places, Evangelicals and Catholics are choosing to walk apart from the Liberals. Either way, we are diminished as a community of Christians. There is a better way, however.

The Instruments of Communion of Anglicanism and our own General Convention have supported the so-called “Windsor process” which is to culminate in an Anglican Covenant. An Anglican Covenant should enable us to deal with the inevitable differences that will come before us in the years and centuries ahead.

I urge any Episcopalian of this diocese involved in our decision-making processes to support the Anglican Covenant. It is our best, perhaps only, hope of moving forward together through the contentious issues that threaten to divide us permanently.

To be sure, no one will be completely satisfied with any Anglican Covenant. That would be impossible given the diversity we represent. On the other hand, God will be glorified and the Gospel will be furthered when we learn to submit to one another in charity for the sake of the mission of God in Jesus Christ. I am,

Yours in Christ,


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's a well-written letter. It's evenhanded and cool-headed. Probably it will not placate those who are militating for full acceptance and ordination of gays in the church, though. God grant the Diocese of ND patience, mutual love, and wisdom. Sadly, militants tend to lack all three of these things, and they tend to polarize others and force those who would foster patience, agape, and wisdom to abandon those things. Christ have mercy; Christ bring about what is best even when we have become cynical and have lost hope. Christ, restore your church! Christ, teach us to humbly repent and to follow you. Amen.

- Laocoon