September 28, 2007
To the Clergy and Lay Leadership of the Diocese
As I traveled home from the House of Bishops meeting, I gave some thought to specific messages that I bring home with me from New Orleans. As you read the various statements, I would ask you to keep the following in mind:
- The House of Bishops meeting, which spent considerable time dealing with our words to the Anglican Communion, also spent considerable time in concern and action that related to the ministry and mission of God's Church.
- Many of us spent time in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast and learned first hand about issues that are important in both places.
- The people in New Orleans were gracious and most appreciative of our meeting in their city. In addition to the appreciation and their pioneer spirit, there is sadness, discouragement, and depression with relatively few mental health resources.
- Poverty, which has for so long been part of the landscape, and racism, which helps it continue, has been uncovered by Katrina—a new light shines on the affect of racism and the continuing poverty of many people.
- The Episcopal Church in New Orleans and in the Diocese of Mississippi are among the most organized and dedicated forces to help in recovery work of body, mind, and soul.
Regarding the statement made to our Anglican partners, I would say the following:
- We restated and reconfirmed actions taken by our General Convention 2006. We did not make new statements which would compromise the role of priests, deacons, and lay people in our church's polity.
- We find ourselves in a place stating that we are not of one mind and that we have a deep and abiding pastoral concern for all the members of this church. Though that appreciation is clear to many of us, it remains a major sadness of mine that we did not more specifically and clearly highlight the ministry , the care, and the gifts of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in the church. I am sorry that we were not clearer with that statement.
- We quoted the Primates in their May 2003 statement saying that we have a pastoral duty, "to respond with love and understanding to people of all sexual orientations." They further stated, ". . . It is necessary to maintain a breadth of private response to situations of individual pastoral care." This will be honored in the Diocese of Rochester and I believe in many dioceses throughout our church.
- The incursion of bishops from other provinces and people consecrated from within our church by bishops of other provinces must cease! This is a uniting force in The Episcopal Church. Perhaps nothing else brings us more together than the violation of these actions from the bishops of other provinces.
- We were able to move the Bishop of New Hampshire's invitation to the Lambeth Conference in 2008 from a personal Gene Robinson issue to a concern of our House of Bishops. It is hoped that ongoing discussion will issue a full participation invitation to Lambeth for the Bishop of New Hampshire.
Finally, we struggled for clarity amidst our differences. We worked hard not to lose ground and to stand as firm as we could. Let us continue the struggle to that end.
The Rt. Rev. Jack M. McKelvey
VII Bishop of Rochester