Admiral of Morality: The Bishop of New York: "The Presenting Question"

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Bishop of New York: "The Presenting Question"

The Rt. Rev. Mark Sisk, XV Bishop of New York, has written his diocese about the state of, and prospects for, the Anglican Communion. "My personal guess is that the Communion will emerge from these struggles, changed but recognizable," Bishop Sisk says. "I say this because the long history of the Church suggests a strong tendency to adapt to challenging circumstances rather than break apart over them."

His comments come as part of a diocesan examination of the current controversies within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. The full "package" of materials is presented as "Turmoil in the Anglican Communion"; it is not yet online.

The materials include many fine analyses, profiles, and comments, including contributions from the Rev. Tobias Haller and the Rev. Canon James Rosenthal, the director of communications for the Anglican Communion Office, and the editor of the Anglican Episcopal World magazine and the Anglican Communion News Service. Links to these resources can be gotten from the Anglican Communion portal.

The complete bishop's message follows.

∞ ∞ ∞

The presenting question is: Will the Communion survive in its present form or won't it? To state the obvious: no one can answer that question with certainty. My personal guess is that the Communion will emerge from these struggles, changed but recognizable. I say this not because I think that the issues before us will simply drift away like smoke after a fire. I say this because the long history of the Church suggests a strong tendency to adapt to challenging circumstances rather than break apart over them. Following the American Revolution we in The Episcopal Church were left with no bishops and an unwillingness on the part of the Church of England to help us resolve that crisis. Yet, ultimately, a way was found to restore our claim to apostolic orders, and, in due course, we realized that by that act the Anglican Communion had been born.

The deeper question is this: Just what exactly is the problem anyway? Surprising to many people, serious-minded folks give very different answers. For some, perhaps for most, the answer as conceived by them is a simple matter of sexual morality: right or wrong. Others couch this dispute in terms of the authority of Scripture. Still others argue that not only does Scripture not speak with one voice to the actual question that is before us, but also the insights of science and experience of our faithful gay and lesbian brothers and sisters—integral members of our community—cannot simply be ignored. Yet others see this dispute through the lens of authority: Who has the right to decide? This, in turn, pushes others to state the problems in terms of polity—that is, the way we organize ourselves to make decisions and, at least by inference, obligate others by those decisions. And all this debate takes place within the context of a world of different contexts, a world which seems busily occupied in dividing and re-dividing itself along the countless fissures that are found in the bedrock of the human community.

In my view, it is a mistake to despair at all about this conflict. I am convinced that God works through our struggles to bring us, if we are faithful and charitable in those struggles, ever closer to the Divine Life that unifies all creation. We have no reason to despair. We have nothing to fear. We live in the arms of God's abiding love. God is working in us the Divine will. Through it all, I am convinced that our Episcopal Church has been strengthened, and I have confidence that the larger Anglican Communion, in whatever form it takes, will be strengthened as well.

In the end, if we are faithful, charitable and just, God's will for us and for all creation will be made more evident, more available, more present. What more could we hope or ask for?

God bless and sustain us as we carry out the work and ministry that has been entrusted to us in our generation.


Blogger Thomas+ said...

I guarantee you that the Episcopal church has not been strengthened, unless "strengthened" means people on both sides being damaged again and again. I would even say that is comment, on the part of the bishop, shows an amazing lack of sensitivity to the thousands of people, and scores of priests like myself, who have been forced out of their church communities.

8/22/2007 03:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Jeff + said...

I am shocked every time I hear about "the findings of science" and the "experience" that we "cannot ignore".
There are any number of "experiences" which strengthen the traditional position. Science has found out nothing that we have not known for a long time. Some people have desires that they do not always pick/choose. Until there is more honesty about all of this it will remain a dialogue in name only

8/22/2007 04:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Rick D said...

Reading the headlines of the last five years, it's hard to understand how the church has been strengthened. But I believe that for every member who has left the church, there are 10 or 100 -- on both sides of this issue -- who have done their very best to listen actively to the experiences of their fellow Episcopalians, and who have come away willing to focus on the grace that unites them rather than the acrimony and fear that divides them. There is strength in respect and love.

8/22/2007 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger The AoM said...

Greetings and peace in the name of the Lord.

The Bishop is entitled to his considered and prayerful view on these matters.

I do not read anywhere in his current or past statements anything to the effect that there has not been pain suffered by many.

8/22/2007 09:19:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Thank you for posting this, Admiral. It's a marvelous and pastoral message to the people of New York.

I could try to address some of the comments above. But I have finally come to realize there really is no point in trying to argue with Chicken Little. I do grieve for those who only read the headlines of gloom and doom, and who ignore the many signs of growth and health in this beloved church of ours.

8/23/2007 02:11:00 AM  

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