Dear Friends in Christ,
If you are following the reports of the Lambeth Conference now underway in Canterbury, England, you may be concerned or confused by the controversy surrounding the “Lambeth Calls” document that the gathered bishops are asked to vote on. A draft of these “Calls” was issued late last week, just prior to our arrival at the Conference. In them was a “Call on Human Dignity” in which the writer — as yet unidentified and unknown — inserted a statement that Christian marriage is between a man and a woman, renouncing any endorsement of marriage between persons of the same gender. The inclusion of that statement came as a complete surprise to the committee that drafted the Call.
After several days of vigorous responses to the draft of the “Call on Human Dignity” from many bishops from all over the Communion — not only from those in The Episcopal Church — the Call’s language has been revised to say, more accurately, that the bishops of the Anglican Communion are not in agreement in these matters, but we are committed to walking together in witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many bishops are also considering the value of voting, up or down, yea or nay, on our support of this or any of the Calls. Voting is the practice of a legislative body such as a General Convention or Congress. Historically, the Lambeth Conference has not been a legislative body, rather its statements are meant to inform the wider church, including the Church in the Diocese of New Hampshire, what its bishops are thinking about any number of topics. That is all.
I write my dear diocese of New Hampshire to inform you of what I know is happening here. But more importantly, I want to assure you with no hesitation in my heart or mind, that the Gospel of Jesus is for all of God’s children. Our commitment to marriage equality and the full inclusion of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer and questioning persons in our church is unwavering.
The Calls document that was distributed last week was not a setback to the work of full inclusion, neither in New Hampshire nor in The Episcopal Church. We have traveled so far, borne so many personal and costly sacrifices, to change the course of this commitment now. I consider it a deep and humbling honor to be here, among several wonderful LBGTQIA+ bishop colleagues, especially since in 2008 my predecessor and your bishop, the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, was the solitary disinvited-to-Lambeth bishop who could only walk and bear powerful witness to what you and he had done to make God real in New Hampshire and throughout the world.
Despite media reports, I do not see widespread and deep discord among the bishops at Lambeth. Yes, the conference has just begun, but what I see is prayer, fellowship, and a desire to be friends in Christ, even among those who disagree. I see a passion to continue with God’s mission to heal a world imperiled by war, catastrophic ecological collapse, wounding gaps in wealth and privilege, and the need to repair relationships broken by civil, religious, and economic violence. Jesus was often confronted by those who sought to trap him in controversies. Even the Cross could not hinder his mission to include all humankind on the journey to the Kingdom of God. Nothing ensnared him, not even death. That’s the Easter power with which I seek to be his disciple, and your bishop, while I’m so honored to be here in Canterbury.
With love in Christ Jesus,