The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church USA acted yesterday to resoundingly reject the demand of international Primates that the US denomination take a detour on the road to justice. The bishops calmly and prayerfully reiterated their firmly held beliefs in principles that have developed over time in the rough and tumble of democratic debate and in conversation with the provocative, persistent, even pesky Holy Spirit.
They stated clearly that women are ordained by God for full membership and leadership in the life of God's Church.
They stated unequivocally that lesbian and gay men are also so ordained.
And they reiterated the deeply held tenet that all God's people, including lay people, should have a voice in how the Church is run - that a few far-away Primates should not control local congregational practice.
The bishops have acted with great love for the Church and with a greater love for the justice God requires of all of us. They have reiterated their desire to remain in the larger Anglican Communion, but not at the expense of their lesbian and gay sisters and brothers in Christ. They have not abandoned women as sacrifices on the altar of an idol called the unity of the Communion. They have not given up their democratic principles in order to keep a false peace.
The bishops have responded to arrogance and spiritual violence with a reasoned and loving statement of belief that is no less radical because it is also gentle. In doing so, they have reflected the Christ they serve and have given great hope to us all - hope that the Church can stand strongly for what is right and model patience and community at the same time. I recommend their statement to you.
As Human Rights Campaign Religion Council member Rev. Susan Russell of Integrity has written, "It is long past time to abandon the fiction that the LGBT faithful demand the exclusion of the theological minority in the Episcopal Church who consider our lives, relationships and vocations unacceptable in the eyes of God. It is not and has never been true that the LGBT leadership in this church have ever made a criteria for our inclusion being agreed with."
The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson is also a member of the HRC Religion Council. In his pastoral letter to New Hampshire Episcopalians following the passage of the resolutions by the House of Bishops on March 20, he wrote, "We will NOT let these issues distract us from God's mission - to preach Good News to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to release those in captivity, to bring sight to the blind, and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. May God bless us richly in that ministry."
It has often broken my heart on Bishop Robinson's behalf to see news articles that attribute possible schism in the church to his election as bishop, as if it were somehow his fault or the fault of LGBT Episcopalians. No one loves the Church or its Christ more than Gene Robinson. It is clear now that his faithfulness and Susan Russell's community-oriented leadership and ministry have borne great fruit as the House of Bishops has moved to make clear that if schism happens it will be because those against full inclusion divided the House of God.
Susan, Gene and the House of Bishops continue to invite dialog in the spirit of what is best for the whole Anglican Communion without retreating from God's incessant call to justice for everyone. If you know anything about the Communion's devotion to conversation and consensus, you know it's downright Anglican of 'em.