Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Bishop Hollingsworth Comments On Tanzania

Ash Wednesday

Sisters and brothers in Christ,

As we begin today our journey with Christ through the fast of Lent, I am quite conscious that we do so against the backdrop of the recently concluded meetings of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I am grateful for the participation of our Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, and for the integrity of her presence as our representative in that important company of peers. As well, I hold in my prayers each of her colleagues in that group, some of whom I count as close friends, and all those faithful Christians around the world whom they represent and serve.

These archbishops and presiding bishops bring together their varied voices, reflective of the cultures and communities by which God has shaped and formed their vocations, perspectives, and convictions. While we might want the results of their work together to constitute an harmonious chorus of agreement both with one another and with whatever each of us most longs to hear, these documents more realistically come to us as complex expressions of the very diversity the Primates represent. Like our own 2006 General Convention's responses to the Windsor Process, because theirs strive to include the perspectives of all, they deliver a complicated and sometimes mixed series of messages, whose meaning will take time to understand, as will each of our responses to them from across the Communion.

The three principal documents by which the Primates have shared their recent work with us are worthy of our attention and prayerful integration. They are available on-line at the following sites:

The Report of the Communion Sub-group

The Report on Covenant Design

The Primates' Communiqué

I expect that each of us might find some comfort or agreement with certain aspects of these documents, and fault or hurt with other aspects. In some cases, elements of one document appear to conflict with elements of another. I am troubled by some of the implications of what is being requested, as they may compromise the integrity of our or any other province of the Church and its witness to the culture and society it serves. It will doubtless take considerable time to understand them fully and discern how we can best respond, both as individuals and as a body.

The polity of the Episcopal Church was designed to allow for such time in discernment; indeed it requires it. While the Communiqué asks for our House of Bishops to make decisions by the autumn of this year, such decisions are not made in our Church by bishops alone, and timelines that might be appropriate in other provinces of the Communion may not be possible in ours. So it will be important that none of us rushes to early conclusions or succumbs to easy reactivity. The Spirit of holiness needs time and needs us to be accessible to her and to one another if she is to lead us to the next faithful place on the journey.

I want to assure any of you who may be feeling let down or abandoned by particular responses of the Primates in these documents, that, whatever your perspective and convictions, your place is secure in this diocese. God alone has called each of us into this community of faith, and the challenge of living together as Christ's body, with all our rich differences, is the gift by which God is drawing us deeper into our own conversion and into the divine love that casts out no one.

As we journey now along the Lenten path of penitence, may we not abstain from our calling to do justice, and like our Lord when he was tempted in the wilderness, may we resist the distractions of self-focus and self-service offered by the power of evil that take our attention off God's mission to reconcile all people to God and one another in Christ. I invite us to walk forward together, respecting and protecting the other, whoever she may be, that we might all arrive as one at the empty tomb of our Saviour's resurrection.

The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr.
Bishop of Ohio

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