Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bp. Steenson Intends to Resign

Jeffrey Steenson, Bishop of Rio Grande, has sent this letter to the clergy of his diocese:

...The reason for this decision is that my conscience is deeply troubled about where the Episcopal Church is heading, and this has become a crisis for me because of my ordination vow to uphold its doctrine, discipline, and worship. An effective leader cannot be so conflicted about the guiding principles of the Church he serves. It concerns me that this has affected my ability to lead this diocese with a clear and hopeful vision for its mission. I also have sensed how important it is for those of us in this position to model a gracious way to leave the Episcopal Church in a manner respectful of its laws.

I believe that God’s call to us is always positive, always a to and not a from. At the clergy conference next week I hope to be able to share something of this. Many of you already know of my love for the Catholic Church and my conviction that this is the true home of Anglicanism. I will not dwell on this, however, so as not to lose sight of my responsibility to help lay a good foundation for the transition that you must now lead...
Bp. Steenson addressed the House of Bishops this morning. His address included this statement:

...I hope that you will not see this as a repudiation of The Episcopal Church or Anglicanism. Rather, it is the sincere desire of a simple soul to bear witness to the fullness of the Catholic faith, in communion with what St. Irenaeus called ‘that greatest and most ancient Church.’ I believe that our noble Anglican tradition (‘this worthy patrimony’) has deep within it the instinct of a migratory bird calling, ‘It is time to fly home to a place you have never seen before.’ May the Lord bless my steps and yours and bring our paths together in his good time.
I think it is also worth noting a previous essay written by Bp. Steenson, entitled The New Donatists. Here is the conclusion of that essay:

...May I conclude by taking up a point made earlier about the Donatists’ failure of confidence. They feared the intrusion of worldly influences into their community; the future was an ominous place; they wanted to close up the Ark because the rain clouds were on the horizon, and they feared further contagion from the wicked. These are the fears that traditional, orthodox Anglicans experience also. Can they sustain themselves and preserve their identity in a hostile church? Will they be overcome by ordination policies and deployment practices designed to deny them of leaders? Will they gradually change to be more like those whose values they despise and abhor?

It is such fears that induce faithful people to try schism, and certainly to them
encouragement must be given. There is a positive value of living under the authority of this church even in those places where it seems hopelessly compromised. It is not
compromise to live faithfully under the laws of such a church. And if we are in fact on the horizon of a newly aligned ecclesial world, it is crucial that we prepare spiritually for this future: by overcoming anger, by subduing passions, with charity to all. The Church that we experience now will not be the Church that will be gathered in heaven. Are not these words of the blessed Augustine wonderfully ã propos? -- “But let the separation be waited for until the end of time, faithfully, patiently, bravely.”
Although many of us might disagree with Bp. Steenson on some matters, I hope we can all agree that this is an honorable man, who believes he is doing the right thing. May we respond respectfully, and wish him Godspeed on his journey.


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