Our Diocese continues to offer our prayerful support and thanksgiving for our Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, and the 34 other Primates of the worldwide Anglican Communion as they complete their work in Newry, Northern Ireland today.
The Communiqué from the Primates reflects the hope and commitment as well as the pain and anger around the Anglican Communion over developments in the Episcopal Church in the USA and in the Anglican Church of Canada.
I read, with sorrow, that the Primates request that representatives of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada "voluntarily withdraw" from the Anglican Consultative Council until the Lambeth Conference of 2008. I am encouraged, however, that the June 2005 meeting of the Council is to include a hearing, at which time representatives of our two provinces will "set out the thinking behind" recent actions.
It is of no less importance to note that the Primates request the ACC, at the same June meeting, "to initiate the listening and study process" that will help our Communion to listen to, learn from, and not just talk about homosexual persons. This goal has been included in resolutions of Lambeth Conferences in 1978, 1988 and 1998. I pray that each of the Primates will lead his Province in this effort, so long desired. Only so can we respect the dignity of gay and lesbian persons.
I am grateful to find that the strongest language in the Communiqué is found in paragraph 6: "The victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us." The Diocese of New Jersey and I are committed to live with and serve with gay and lesbian clergy and lay persons as our brothers and sisters in Christ, "deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship."
I hope and pray that these next three years will be a time of calm and restraint within the Communion so that the American and Canadian Provinces may articulate the theological foundations for our recent actions. Our Presiding Bishop has already appointed a theological committee to provide that account, in response to this recommendation of the Windsor Report on Communion.
I take seriously, as I know that our Presiding Bishop and House of Bishops takes seriously, the damage that has been done to our bonds of affection and trust within the Communion. I am committed to strive for reconciliation so that we may continue to walk together in the service of Jesus Christ in the Anglican Communion.
I am grateful that the Diocese of New Jersey is a community that continues to work together in mission and to engage in respectful conversation about our differences. We are also committed to address the other items on the agenda of the Primates’ meeting, such as working toward the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, including the reduction of poverty and hunger and the provision of relief for those millions suffering from HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria, and from natural disasters such as the tsunami in the Indian Ocean.
We are a community with deep differences over matters of great importance. But we are committed to find ways to walk together in the light of Christ and in the service of the world, for Christ’s sake. Let the world see in us the fruits of the Holy Spirit and the extraordinary quality of respect, trust, and mutual affection, that we may demonstrate this word from I John 4: 20-21:
"…for those who do not love their brothers or sisters, whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also."
The Rt. Rev. George E. Councell
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey