Tuesday, March 16, 2004

The Bishop's Address

I recently mentioned my observations of the 220th Annual Convention of the Diocese of New Jersey, and quoted a brief excerpt from the message offered by the Rt. Rev. George E Councell. It is now available online;

Bishop's Address

Just a couple more excerpts;

While we design and implement a discernment process, there is urgent work to be done, and areas of mission and ministry where we need to stretch. First, I believe that it is urgent that we stretch to reach out to the impoverished people of the world, of our nation and in every neighborhood of our Diocese, especially so in the cities and urban areas. Pope Gregory served in a time of plague, pestilence and famine. To minister to hungry people, he opened up the papal granaries. He placed the Patrimony of Peter, lands and endowments, in the service of the poor. In one of his homilies, Gregory taught that we 'must honor the poor. Consider that those you see experiencing the world's contempt are within themselves friends of God. Share your possessions with them, so that in the end they may deign to share what they have with you. What you reach out to offer to a person lying prostrate on the ground you are giving to One who is seated in heaven.' (Be Friends of God, an English Version, by John Leinenueber)...

...Our conflict over the ordination and consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson and the ongoing debate over the development of rites for the blessing of same-sex unions have stretched us, our churches, our diocese, our province and the Anglican Communion. We have heard that our Communion with one another is stretched, strained, impaired, damaged, and/or broken. That these developments are very much present with us in New Jersey is evident in the resolutions that will come before us tomorrow. I am personally grateful that our diocese has not experienced the extremes of strident language and dramatic action that other dioceses and other provinces are experiencing. I have been stretched as a pastoral leader to serve and lead you in this complex moment in the history of Anglicanism and our Episcopal Church as I followed my conscience and what I believe to be the leading of the Holy Spirit when I took part in the Consecration of our brother Gene Robinson. I will continue to stretch, to reach out, to honor and respect and love and learn from my brothers and sisters who are gay and lesbian. I will continue to stretch, to reach out, to honor and respect and love and learn from my brothers and sisters who are angry, disappointed, or confused, and/or who believe that my own position and my actions are in error. Please. Let us wait with patience and hope for the report of the Lambeth Commission next fall. Let us wait with patience and hope for the work of our own House of Bishops on a process for the provision of supplemental episcopal pastoral care of those who are in distress, but who wish to remain in the Episcopal Church. In this, as in all things, I call upon us to remain at the Table of our Lord together. If he stretched out his arms of love on the hard wood of the cross, you and I cannot do less than to stretch out to embrace one another. Every Church is or will be facing these issues and conflicts. This is our way. I believe that God has his hand on this Church and that we are being stretched for greater glory and loving service...

...I love our Lord Jesus Christ, I love our Church, and I love being with you in New Jersey. Please accept my profound gratitude for entrusting me with this ministry as your shepherd in our Diocese. Unworthy as I am, I thank God and I thank you for this call. I will do my best to be a good shepherd and to handle the gifts and responsibilities that you handed over to me on St. Luke's Day last year. I ask for your prayers.

At the end of the day, I say to you that God is good. All the time. We know that because of God's heart, revealed to us in the passionate living, dying and rising of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hear now the words of Brian Wren in Hymn 603/604 and let them be our prayer as we engage the mission of the Servant Church.

When Christ was lifted from the earth, his arms stretched out above through every culture, every birth, to draw an answering love.

Still east and west his love extends and always, near and far, he calls and claims us as his friends and loves us as we are.

Where generation, class, or race divide us to our shame, he sees not labels, but a face, a person, and a name.

Thus freely loved, though fully known, may I in Christ be free to welcome and accept his own, as Christ accepted me.

Can I get an AMEN?

God is good...all the time!


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