Oklahoma bishop's letter to the diocese on primates' statement

By Edward J. Konieczny
Posted Jan 15, 2016

[Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma] Last September, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby called for a meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion to occur at Canterbury this week. The Primates of 38 Anglican provinces, including our own Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael Curry, were invited to attend.

This meeting was intended to bring leaders of the Anglican Communion to discuss numerous issues, including those currently causing strain within the Anglican Communion, most predominantly human sexuality and same gender marriage. The actions taken by The Episcopal Church this past summer at General Convention was an area of particular concern during these discussions. Specifically, changing the Canon language on marriage from “union of a man and a woman” to “both parties” and authorizing new marriage rites with gender neutral language to allow for the use in either same gender or opposite gender marriages.

I previously shared with you my concerns regarding these actions taken at General Convention, and why I voted against both changing the Canon language and adding gender neutral marriage rites. One of my concerns was how these changes might affect the polity of the larger Church and our relationships within the Anglican Communion.

After several days of prayerful discussion, a statement was released detailing an agreement of how the Primates of the Anglican Communion would choose to, “walk together in the grace and love of Christ.” This agreement, “acknowledges the significant distance that remains [between the Anglican Communion] but confirms their unanimous commitment to walk together.”

In this statement, The Episcopal Church is identified as having “a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces on the doctrine of marriage.” Further, the statement continues to say that due to the seriousness of these issues, for a period of three years, The Episcopal Church will not represent the Anglican Communion, nor will The Episcopal Church be allowed to take part in making any decisions regarding doctrine or polity within the Anglican Communion.

Despite these actions, the Primates of the Anglican Communion clearly state that, “It is our unanimous desire to walk together.” Reaffirming their intention to strive to walk together in journey to preach, teach and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The statement continues and asks the Archbishop of Canterbury to, “appoint a Task Group to maintain conversation among ourselves with the intention of restoration of relationship, the rebuilding of mutual trust, healing the legacy of hurt, recognizing (sic) the extent of our commonality and exploring our deep differences, ensuring they are held between us in the love and grace of Christ.”

In reaction to this statement, our Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael Curry stated:

“Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all.  While I understand that many disagree with us, our decision regarding marriage is based on the belief that the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians are true for the church today: All who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ.”

He continued:

“For so many who are committed to following Jesus in the way of love and being a church that lives that love, this decision will bring real pain…For fellow disciples of Jesus in our church who are gay or lesbian, this will bring more pain. For many who have felt and been rejected by the church because of who they are, for many who have felt and been rejected by families and communities, our church opening itself in love was a sign of hope. And this will add pain on top of pain… The pain for many will be real. But God is greater than anything. I love Jesus and I love the church. I am a Christian in the Anglican way. And like you, as we have said in this meeting, I am committed to ‘walking together’ with you as fellow primates in the Anglican family.”

Presiding Bishop Curry continues by saying, “We are part of the Jesus Movement, and the cause of God’s love in this world can never stop and will never be defeated.” You can read the Presiding Bishop’s full statement here.

I wholeheartedly support our Presiding Bishop in this matter, and I ask each of you to keep him, our church and our world in your prayers.

As we move forward, The Episcopal Church will be involved in discussions regarding exactly what these changes mean, and how they will affect our relationships in the Anglican Communion. Additionally, this will be a significant topic of discussion at the spring meeting of the House of Bishops. However, while these actions by the Primates of the Anglican Communion may affect relationships between The Episcopal Church and parts of the Anglican Communion, they do not affect the mission, ministry or service of our Church or our diocese. We will continue working, worshipping and serving together to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

+Bishop Edward J. Konieczny