Thursday, March 13, 2008

Thoughts from the House of Bishops

I have not posted anything here for a while, so I will share with you all the report from the House of Bishops that I sent to the folks in the Diocese of Arizona:

Wednesday afternoon
March 12, 2008

The spring House of Bishops Meeting in Camp Allen has just concluded and I want share my impressions with you before I head back to Phoenix.

We have enjoyed 6 days of fellowship, prayer (we worshipped together three times a day), great preaching and teaching against the backdrop of a springtime in rural Texas. I even managed to join some colleagues for a couple of hours of horseback-riding!

Much of our time together was spent on the hearing of reports and presentations, but the meeting was framed by two very emotional bookends.

The first was the announcement that in spite of intensive lobbying by many bishops of our church, the Archbishop of Canterbury has decided not to permit Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire to participate in any capacity at the upcoming Lambeth Conference in July. Although Bishop Robinson was the only American bishop not to receive a formal invitation, it had been hoped that a way could be found to have him present in an unofficial capacity. This news was greeted with great sadness by most of the House, and we are working to find ways support our brother during our time in England, and especially to invite our counterparts in the Anglican Communion to meet with him. I invite you to read all the documents that are posted on the Episcopal News Service website, including Bishop Robinson’s very moving response to the Lambeth decision, as well as a resolution passed by the House in support of him. Whether one agrees with him or not, it is important to remember that he is a duly elected Bishop and that his exclusion is hurtful not only to him, but to the integrity of the American church.

The other sad moment in our time together came when we took action to depose two bishops of the church who had violated their ordination vows by working to take parishes out of the Episcopal Church, Bishop John-David Scofield of San Joaquin, and Bishop William Cox, retired Suffragan of Maryland. This action was taken after long moments of prayer and silence reflection on the floor of the house. All of us wished to be as charitable and forgiving as possible, but the fact remains that both bishops have worked for many years to separate themselves from our church and in doing so have cause great harm to their dioceses. We consider our action to be a recognition of an existing situation, and not a punitive action.

Many of the presentations we heard focused, appropriately enough, on reconciliation and on our need to go to the Lambeth conference in as open, humble, and cooperative way as possible. We spent an entire learning about “faith-based reconciliation” and how it has been successfully practiced in our own church in around the world. We also renewed our commitment to anti-racism training.

As always, there were a number of practical items. We can expect, for example, some changes in our clergy medical insurance program that should result in considerable savings. We also received some training in dealing with media which will come in handy when we are interviewed by reporters this summer.

I continue to be impressed by the great wealth of talent and diverse thinking of the bishops of the American church, and their willingness to undertake decisions prayerfully and seriously.

A prayer used by our chaplains at worship each day sums it all up:

Give to your Church, O God,
a bold vision and a daring charity,
a refreshed wisdom and a courteous understanding,
that the eternal message of your Son
may be acclaimed as the good news of the age;
through him who makes all things new,
even Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen

21 comments:

Lisa Fox said...

I'm truly grateful for your willingness to blog about your experience in the HoB meeting. I can't know what really transpired, but I can tell you that I am quite disappointed in the final statement from the House of Bishops. You quote the prayer about bold vision. But I heard nothing bold coming from the bishops' meeting. The contrast between this meeting and the one last March was truly jarring. I wonder if the absense of Bishop Kelsey was the sad difference.

Bishop, there are many people waiting to hear a bold and prophetic word from the junior house. I was sorely disappointed by the final statement that you all issued.

Jim of Michigan said...

Bp. Cox is a longtime acquaintance of mine. He is a kind, gentle man, whose wife is currently terminally ill.
His action, in a continuing Anglican church was really an act of charity and had nothing to do with TEC.
The fact that the HOB's felt the need to assassinate a gnat with a shotgun is sad.
Especially with the timing on the eve of Holy Week. The crowd cried "Crucify Him."
In all my meetings with Bp. Cox I have never heard him express one negative comment about his fellow bishops, or former fellow bishops even those who have targeted him for discipline.
The fact that Bp. Cox is deposed and that the church remained silent (or mostly silent) on the heresies of Spong, Righter and Pike is truly stunning in its contrast.
But those of us who have left the church of our birth and those we know who remain and fight to bring the church back to Scriptural fidelity will continue to pray for those who pile on us.
Dear Bishop, was it really necessary (assuming it was done correctly) to depose gentle little Bp. Cox in the season of the Lord's most holy feast days.
But I guess with Bp. Cox deposed, somehow the integrity of TEC is somehow preserved, even if to an outsider it simply looks mean.

Jim of Michigan

Anonymous said...

Bishop, perhaps you should be straight with your flock. Whatever one thinks of whether Bishops Schofield and Cox should have been deposed, the procedure to do it was an abuse of the canons, and dishonest. And you, sir, are not being honest. You should admit that there were in fact far fewer votes that the canons and parliamentary procedure require to depose one for abandonment of communion--it simply wasn't numerically possible since the canon requires a majority of the "whole number of bishops eligible to vote." How is such undemocratic, and lawless behavior anything BUT punitive? You wonder why our church is in free fall?

Václav Patrik Šulik said...

I was a parishioner in a church in Oklahoma while Bishop William Cox was serving there. He is truly a Godly, humble servant of Christ Jesus.

He has long been retired from active duty in ECUSA.

That the entire House of Bishops felt the need to kick this man out -- to declare him anathema - speaks volumes about what has happened to the Episcopal Church.

When did you become so vindictive?

R S BUnker said...

Sir,

+Cox could in no way be said to be working to remove his diocese from the TEC, he is retired. Furthermore the acts which for which he is accused of "Abandoning Communion" took place in a church far removed from his parish, and not a part of The Episcopal Church.

As you must know by now the vote that took place was an abuse of the canons. It now appears that all who read you blog will know that in the case of +Cox it was also uninformed.

R S Bunker

Anonymous said...

Sir:

My first reaction upon reading your vacuous comments of the recent House of Bishops meeting was to reason with you as to your defense of the legitimacy of the consecration of VGR and the actions of the House in deposing two Christian bishops for defending the faith, once delivered. On reflection I decided that neither you nor apparently the majority of those present have the intellectual capacity to understand what you have done.

Phil said...

Sir -

Knowing now that +Schofield and +Cox were not, in fact, deposed, but subject to an abuse of power and a misuse of the canons:

1. Can you share with your flock to what extent you were complicit in the events involving PB Schori, David Booth Beers and the Secretary of the HOB?

2. Will you now call on Schori and Beers to step down immediately, pending a full, fair and independent investigation into the abuses surrounding the failed depositions?

Anonymous said...

I can only second the comment by Jim

"The fact that Bp. Cox is deposed and that the church remained silent (or mostly silent) on the heresies of Spong, Righter and Pike is truly stunning in its contrast."

The contrast in the House of Bishop's acceptance of Spong, Righter and Pike, and their callous rejection of Bishop Cox when the treatment of the latter is supposed to be defending the faith trashed by the former three, is just so hypocritical as to defy belief.

Margaret

I fail to see how any Bishop could accept both. Perhaps, Sir, would take the time to explain your support of this contradiction to us.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for some reason my name was not at the bottom of the last post but rather put as a separate paragraph in the text.

Anonymous said...

What's next for your prayerful discernment? Perhaps at your next retreat you can get training for pushing elderly people in wheelchairs down flights of stairs. I am sure there is the appropriate canon violation to fit the punishment. Bishop Cox..Bishop Cox? What on God's great green earth could ever persuade an educated man like you that this is justified...ever????
how terribly sad for your soul dear Bishop.

Lisa Fox said...

My, oh my! Isn't this interesting? Aside from my early comment on March 13, not a soul posted here until the afternoon of March 18, when Kendall Harmon linked to your statement on his blog. Coincidence?

And now the harpies are descending on you, with unfounded and baseless accusations and hysteria.

These folks are just being silly. Both Schofield and Cox have been clear that they are no longer bishops in the Episcopal Church. Both made it clear they have "shaken the dust off their feet" and left TEC. What the House of Bishops did was exactly what every rector does periodically: removing from the membership roll those who are no longer members of that parish or of this church. The hysterical screaming from the rejectionists is truly perplexing.

Bishop Smith, I am sorry such hatred is being directed your way. But I've received their hatred and venom, too, when Kendall and other rejectionists have sent their harpies in my direction.

I wish you grace and peace. And -- as I said back on March 13 -- I do still hope that the Bishops will take a stronger stand for the Gospel next time you meet.

Jim of Michigan said...

There's the problem:

We disagree with what the bishop has done. Offer prayers for him and Lisa Fox says it's "hate."
If there was ever a better description of what separates us is the hyperbole of the revisionists who cannot tolerate dissent of any kind.
There was no hate in the postings. In fact, I made a point of saying I was praying (and I am) for the bishop.
But whether or not you believe it, disagreement is not hate.
Jim of Michigan

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