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From Massachusetts’s Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE

[Episcopal News Service] 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

As you know, the Feb. 24 communiqué from the 2005 Primates Meeting in Belfast has been widely reported in the media. Your three bishops have read the communiqué carefully, and we are grateful for the prayerful work of the Primates. As our Presiding Bishop commented on the communiqué, “Again this week it was revealed that so much more unites us than divides us.”

Because media attention doesn’t always reflect the nuances of this complex document, it may be helpful to share this letter with your parishioners.

The Primates’ communiqué shows genuine appreciation of the polity of the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church in Canada in stating that we have proceeded entirely in accordance with our constitutional processes and requirements.

The communiqué also recognizes that the discussion as to how the Provinces will relate to one another through the Archbishop of Canterbury will be a long term one.
The Primates are cautious about a Council of Advice for the Archbishop. There is no question that they continue to support the geographical jurisdiction of bishops.

Your bishops were encouraged by the Primates’ renewed commitment “to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people” and were encouraged that the Primates recognize that our Presiding Bishop consults with the lay and ordained members of the Episcopal Church USA in decisions having to do with a moratorium on public rites of same-sex blessings and the consecration of any bishop living in a same-sex relationship.

Of course, we are saddened by the request of the Primates that the Episcopal Church USA withdraw from the June, 2005 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (which is the Anglican Communion’s representative decision-making body) and yet we are heartened by the invitation for a dialogue on the decisions our Church has made.

What does all this mean for the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts?

It affirms our efforts over the past two years in allowing space for the theological diversity in our diocese by providing Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight for parishes that disagree with the decisions of your bishops and the Convention of the Diocese of Massachusetts and by our acknowledgment of the affiliation of some individual clergy and parishes of our diocese with the Anglican Communion Network.

This communiqué acknowledges the polity of the Episcopal Church where all decisions regarding human sexuality will be made in the community of General Convention.

We pledge ourselves as your bishops to the full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons in the life of the Church through the appropriate canonical procedures.

The public attention being given to the Primates’ response to the aforementioned concerns threatens to obscure perhaps the most important part of the Primates’ communiqué -- the recognition of the serious challenge we face with our Anglican brothers and sisters in Africa with regard to people living with HIVAIDS, the dying, the bereaved and orphaned children.

For some years, the Diocese of Massachusetts, through our Jubilee Ministry, has been doing important work in Africa to alleviate the suffering caused by HIV/AIDS. The communiqué is a real endorsement of our work and encourages us in our diocesan mission strategy around HIV/AIDS in Africa and the support of the Millennium Development Goals.

Our Deacon, Maggie Geller and Jubilee members continue to work with local parishes to build awareness and support for those who are suffering.

Please continue your prayers for the Anglican Communion, for Frank, our Presiding Bishop, and for our Diocese. If you have further questions, please contact Maria Plati in our Communications Office.

Faithfully yours,
M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE
Bud Cederholm
Gayle E. Harris