|The Rev'd Dr. Tory Baucum|
I am writing this with a few days remaining of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Like many of you, I have followed with grave concern and grief the news and blog accounts of the events taking place there. Of particular concern were the "Bishopsgate" charges filed on the eve of General Convention against eight respected, conservative Bishops (including Truro's former rector, John Howe). Our hearts and prayers go out to these brothers who have tried to remain loyal to the institution of the Episcopal Church while maintaining a faithful witness.
The resolutions related to human sexuality, though heart rending, were predictable and yet another sign that TEC has stepped further away from us and the historic Apostolic Faith. The Episcopal Church is making decisions where decisions cannot be made -- an assault on reality. The journey that Truro is taking in our study of the Theology of the Body leads to profoundly different conclusions, ones that allow us to offer compassion and hope for all relationships. I will be writing about some of these different conclusions in a forth coming TFN article.
While I grieve for those who were and will be harmed by the decisions made at General Convention, my strongest emotion is one of gratitude for our new ecclesiastical home in the Anglican Church of North America and for all the faithful leaders, both lay and ordained, who risked much to create it. We now have a home in which we can engage our society redemptively. Though we share the same Anglican heritage with the Episcopal Church we obviously read and bear witness to it with increasing difference. The painful point of this convention for the rest of the Communion is that we are even further apart -- which is hard to imagine.
As you know, I reached out to Bishop Shannon Johnston of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia during the final stages of the litigation. He and I have attempted to build a constructive relationship that could survive the antagonisms and wounds inflicted during the course of the lawsuit. We have prayed for him and he has prayed for us. At some professional risk, he traveled with me to London to experience the home of Alpha (the greatest Anglican evangelization movement since the eighteenth century) and to meet many of my closest friends in ministry. His reception was characterized by grace and truth. I am grateful that Bishop Shannon continues to desire to build a relationship post-litigation. I hold out hope we can do so and I still consider him a friend.
What this General Convention underscores, yet again, is that the work of rebuilding trust with individuals, parishes and dioceses in the Episcopal Church, if it is ever successful, will take decades. It is worth doing, but it must be seen within the wider mission that God has given us. We are called to continue to speak and bear witness to the truth of God's revelation in all things but at this moment particularly as it pertains to human relationships. Why here? Because this is where the faith is under attack. In faithfulness to Jesus Christ, we must reflect in our relationships and in our words (even to theological opponents) the beauty of God's creation of the human person as male and female and the mystery of marriage as the only sanctioned context for sexual intimacy. In his teaching ministry on marriage and sexuality, Jesus located the norm in Eden -- "have you not read that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female" -- and so must we (see Matthew 19:3-9). It appears our witness to TEC will be much like it is to society at large: a matter of display rather than mere argument.
As a sign of our emerging missionary focus, and especially the Mission Conference on Marriage we are hosting in January, I have made some changes in the weekly prayers that you will certainly notice. Most important, instead of praying for Bishop Shannon and the Episcopal Church in the Prayers of the People on a weekly basis they will be placed on our Rota of prayers with other prayers for churches. In our personal prayers I hope all of us will continue to pray for them daily. We must remember that our enemy is not the Episcopal Church, but the ideological "strong man" that has ensnared them. In its place, on a weekly basis, we will pray two special collects. The first one is for land, which I composed around the great theme of Abraham's radical response to God's call to be a blessing to the nations. The second is for marriages, which I composed around the theme of God's nuptial love climactically revealed in Jesus' mission. I conclude with these prayers, which I encourage you to use during your daily devotions:
Collect for Land
Gracious Heavenly Father who called Abraham into a land that you had prepared for him to make him into a great people who would be a blessing to the nations: we ask that you lead us to the land you have prepared for us and that you would make us ever more fully into a people who will be a blessing to others. We ask this in the name of him who left his home to seek us when we were without a home, Jesus Christ our LORD. Amen.
Collect for Marriage
Gracious Father in Heaven, who officiated the first marriage in Eden and proclaimed the union of man and woman as "very good": we ask that our marriages will more perfectly manifest the mystery of Christ's love for the Church, His Bride, and be a sign of hope in a sexually broken age. We ask this in the name of him who wooed us at the well of our alienation and gave us the dignity of his spousal love, Jesus Christ our LORD.
Your brother in Christ,