Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bishop Gray: We are a multi-dimensional Church

A little over a year ago, I joined a group of colleagues -- priests and deacons -- for a week at CREDO, the amazing one-week retreat paid for by the Church Pension Fund to help Episcopal clergy reconnect with our calling and plan (a little) for our future. The CREDO I attended was at the serene Duncan Gray retreat center near Canton, Mississippi (and speaking of "Fiat Lux," that's the view from my window at dawn, above). We were welcomed to the Duncan Gray center by none other than the Rt. Rev. Duncan Gray III, the bishop of Mississippi. Both his father and his grandfather had been bishop, so the retreat center and the diocese in which he serves is truly a sacred family trust. Bishop Gray was a most gracious host, shared several meals with us, and was a delight to meet.

Bishop Gray is conservative, yet whether you agree or disagree with him, he has a gracious open way with both liberals, moderates and conservatives that is simply amazing. Earlier this week he testified at the Windsor Continuation Group hearing at Lambeth. I am indebted to Trinity Cathedral Dean Brian Baker, who was at CREDO with me, for finding this and posting it on his blog. I share Bishop Gray's testimony with you, and invite your comment:

Remarks by Bishop Duncan Gray III
At the Windsor Continuation Group Hearing

Lambeth Conference
July 28th 2008

A bit of personal history: I have been nurtured and shaped within the Evangelical tradition of my Church. Most importantly, this means that the ultimate authority of the Holy Scripture and the necessity of an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus as the way to the Father are foundational and non-negotiable components of my faith.

Within my own province, I voted not to consent to the election of Gene Robinson, for reasons both theological and ecclesiological. I have followed to the letter and the spirit of the Windsor Report — before there was a Windsor Report.

For my faithfulness to this communion I have been rewarded by regular incursions into our diocese by primates and bishops who have no apparent regard for either my theology or ecclesiology.

I have made some peace with this reality, preferring to think of the irregularly ordained as Methodists — and some of my best friends are Methodists!

What I cannot make peace with is the portrayal of my sister and brother bishops in the Episcopal Church, who disagree with me, as bearers of a false gospel. That portrayal does violence to the imperfect, but faithful, grace-filled, and often costly way, in which they live out their love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, I am in serious disagreement with many of them on the very critical sacramental and ethical issues about which the Communion is in deep conflict. Are we sometimes, at best, insensitive to the wider context in which we do ministry, and at worst, deeply embedded in American arrogance — Absolutely! And for that insensitivity and arrogance we have begged the Communion’s forgiveness on several occasions. “But do I see the Church in them?” as the most serious question at the last hearing asked. As God is my witness, I do. Despite my profound disagreements I continue to pray “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” We continue to reaffirm our creedal faith together. We continue to gather round the Lord’s table together, bringing the brokenness and imperfectness of our lives into the healing embrace of our Lord who sends us out together to the poor, the weak and the hopeless. And, in the midst of our internal conflicts, they show me Jesus.

There are dozens of bishops like me in the Episcopal Church. We are not a one, or even two dimensional Church. We are a multitude of diverse theological, ecclesiological and sacramental perspectives — and the vast majority of us have figured out a way to stay together.

How is this possible? I think it begins with the gift from Saint Paul, who taught us the great limitations of even our most insightful thought. We do, every one of us, “see through a glass, darkly.” And none of us can say to the other, “I have no need of you.”

One day, Saint Paul says, we will see face to face, the glory that we now only glimpse. But in the meantime, as each of us struggles to be faithful, may each of us, the Episcopal Church and the wider communion, find the courage, and the humility, to say to one another, “I need you — for my salvation and for the salvation of the world.”

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