Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Bishop Sisk Comments On Tanzania

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The long awaited meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion has just taken place in Dar Es Salaam. This gathering brings together Primates from communities all around the world. As a consequence this meeting brings together all the complexities that mark our world and our Communion. Not surprisingly their deliberations resulted in a rather large body of material that needs to be assimilated and addressed by a number of different bodies over the coming months. These issues and concerns require and deserve the very closest attention.

Having said that, even a cursory reading of these documents makes it abundantly clear that the Primates of our Communion are not happy with the Episcopal Church. Further, they are less than satisfied with our responses to the formal requests that we have received at their hand. It is my expectation that our House of Bishops meetings, both in March and in September, will consider what further assurance we can give, while duly respecting the structure and governance of our Church. Bear in mind, the General Convention has legislative authority in our church and the House of Bishops can only speak for itself. I look forward to working with others to discover if there are ways in which we might give the assurance which our brothers and sisters around the world have requested. It is my hope that through that process, our relationship across the Communion will broaden and deepen.

However, I feel that I need to add an important caveat. Over the years I have been prepared to make certain accommodations to meet the concerns of those whose view of the Gospel promise differs somewhat from my own. I am fully aware that those accommodations have not been uncontroversial. Now, I want to make it abundantly clear that I am not in the least prepared to make any concession that strikes at the heart of my conviction that gay and lesbian people are God’s beloved children. They are we. Our witness to the Gospel would be unthinkably deformed if by some tragic misjudgment we willingly submitted ourselves to vivisection. We are one body in Christ. Each and all of us rely upon the love of God, as revealed in Jesus, to attain to the life that is ours in Him. We have all been called by God to offer ourselves for the transfiguration of our lives in order that we “may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory.” This vision of a God who embraces all in the arms of Divine self-offering love is the vision that is at the heart of the Gospel as I know it.

Faithfully yours

The Rt. Rev. Mark S. Sisk

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a historian, I have been amazed at the way the Bible has been used to defend positions in the past. I recall well sitting in the dusty stacks at GTS and reading a work of 200+ pages by the Bishop of Vermont (later Presiding Bishop) on "The Biblical View of Slavery." He and many other prominent Christians in the 1850's used many texts from Holy Scripture to argue that "Slavery is God's way," and to condemn those who did not agree as unfaithful to the Biblical witness. (One of my students wrote a fine article about the Bishop of Vermont's book which was published in The Historical Magazine--I'm away from a library now and don't have the reference.)

A similar pattern occurs over and over in American church history: in the defense of racial segregation, the "satanic" character of labor unions, the inferiority of women, the irrevocable nature of marriage vows, etc. etc. A literal reading of Holy Scripture can find texts to support many positions that most persons on all sides of this debate would reject today.

It seems intolerable to me for our conservative members to claim that they represent the authentic Biblical voice; hermeneutics involves more than finding a few texts that agree with your position. Gay Christians, like myself, can claim that the overwhelming Biblical witness to God's love for all creatures (even the hairs, few in number, on my head) is a far more authentic Biblical voice than one based on a few selected texts.

Guy Foster