As the Church of England had its last “Warrior” Archbishop of Canterbury in Robert Runcie, (the last Archbishop to have seen military service) so the Episcopal Church recognizes the contribution of our own “Warrior” Bishop, George Packard. For the past decade, the Episcopal Church’s ministry to the men and women of our brave armed forces has emanated from the soul of Bishop George Packard. He celebrated his final Eucharist at the Pentagon on Ash Wednesday.
As Bishop Suffragan for Federal Ministries, Packard was responsible for the care of 19,000 Episcopalians in the armed forces, federal prisons and veterans affairs facilities. As a decorated Vietnam veteran he has served in the midst of some of the most difficult events in the history of this country, from relief efforts following 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina. Bishop Packard leaves a legacy of what it means to be pastor and an advocate in the midst of human suffering and disaster.
It must also be noted Bishop Packard served his church and nation during one of the most unethical periods in the history of modern warfare: the invasion of Iraq, the failure of the Bush Doctrine of Pre-emptive Strike, the prisoner abuse and torture of recent times and the unworkable policy of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” Military policy and practice has been highly criticized for its failure to address complex domestic and international situations. These failures undermined our nation’s confidence in our military leadership, moral authority and foreign policies, including questionable challenges to the Geneva Conventions themselves.
While Bishop Packard served his church he saw this country’s largest employers, the US Government and Military, begin a campaign of deliberate discrimination of gay and lesbian employees that has affected 14,000 people since the creation of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”. We give thanks for Bishop Packard’s consistent efforts to share the values and polity of the Episcopal Church under these very difficult conditions.
Bishop Packard’s successor will continue to have a challenging ministry and deserves the full support of our church. It is our hope that his successor will continue to be a pastor and advocate for the marginalized. This is not a time to settle for “the status quo”, particularly as we seek to repair failed policies of the past decade that have caused so much suffering to thousands of people, including members of our own church community.
With the election of the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool as Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles, the Episcopal Church is one step further in removing all obstacles that have prevented the LGBT faithful from fulfilling their God-given vocations. Likewise, the appointment of the new Bishop Suffragan for Federal Affairs offers the Episcopal church a new opportunity to move outward and to share our experience, theology and polity of inclusion with our military and federal institutions.
Integrity remains committed to working with the new bishop to advocate for ending, once and for all, this blatant discrimination that hurts our church and shames our country.
Rev. Canon Albert Ogle is Vice President for National and International Affairs with Integrity.