The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts Logo

Text Resize

-A +A

The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates and the Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts have issued the following statement to the diocesan community regarding this week's action by the primates of the Anglican Communion.

A moment for re-affirmation

The communiqué issued by primates of the Anglican Communion this week is part of the ongoing conversation within our Communion regarding matters of authority, scriptural interpretation and sexuality.  While articulating no new convictions, the communiqué includes recommendations which have come in terms unexpected and dismaying to many of us.  In the face of that distress, we, your bishops, wish to make the following affirmations.

First:  We re-affirm our commitment to the full inclusion of all Christian persons, including LGBTQ Christians, in the life of the church–its fellowship, its leadership and its sacramental life.  This commitment is firm in the Diocese of Massachusetts, where we have known the immeasurable grace brought to our life together by such full inclusion.  Presiding Bishop Michael Curry reaffirmed the commitment of the wider Episcopal Church to full inclusion in his statement to the primates earlier this week:

“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.” 

[The presiding bishop’s statement, made after the primates’ communiqué, may be found here, and the statement he made during the meeting is included in Episcopal News Service's report here.]

The president of the House of Deputies, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, has also issued a clear statement of the mission and purpose of the Episcopal Church in response to the primates’ communiqué [available here].

Second:  We re-affirm our identity as Anglican Christians.  That identity, since its inception, has included two foundational principles:  the ecclesiological autonomy of the church in a given land, and a comprehensive inclusion of divergent theological viewpoints.  Our identity as Anglicans has never been a matter of credal or doctrinal subscription, nor of conciliar membership requirements.   

News media reports that the Episcopal Church has been “suspended from the Anglican Communion” reflect a misconception regarding our polity and identity.  Indeed, the surprise to many this week is that the primates have called for certain sanctions which they do not have the authority to impose.  We commend a full and very fine review of this question by the Very Rev. Andrew McGowan, Dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, as may be found here.

We look forward to clarification from the next meeting in April of the Anglican Consultative Council–whose very name suggests the autonomous affiliation around which our Communion is structured.  Meanwhile, we claim in its fullness our identity as Christians in the Anglican Communion.  Here in the Diocese of Massachusetts we rejoice in that identity, as manifest in mission partnerships and fruitful relationships with our sister and brother Anglicans in El Salvador, Honduras, Tanzania, Jerusalem and elsewhere around the Anglican world.

Third: We re-affirm our gratitude for our own primate, the Most Rev. Michael Curry.  The presiding bishop’s statements, both before and after the Canterbury communiqué, were strong and faithful and encouraging.  This morning Bishop Curry spoke of his hope and vision for our church and its calling:

“The truth is, it may be part of our vocation to help the Communion and to help many others to grow in a direction where we can realize and live the love that God has for all of us, and we can one day be a Church and a Communion where all of God’s children are fully welcomed, where this is truly a house of prayer for all people.”

We offer grateful prayers for our presiding bishop and his leadership of our church at this challenging time.

The reconciling beauty of Anglicanism at its birth was the conviction that unity of doctrine and theology is less central to Christ’s Gospel than unity of spirit.  Our voice and our prayer are lifted in support of maintaining this comprehensiveness.  We hope you will join us in praying not only for unity, but equally for justice, integrity, grace and mutual respect throughout the Anglican Communion.

The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates, Bishop
The Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, Bishop Suffragan

I am so grateful for the wisdom, compassion & faith in God your message conveys. It - and you - give me hope that in the fullness of time humanity may all become one in heart and spirit.

From: Mary Lou Pierron
Location/Parish: St. Paul/Newton Highland

The Bishops of the Episcopal Church must reassess –rather than reaffirm-- their positions on Resolutions A036 and A054 from the last General Convention in order to seek compromise for the good of the Church. The statements of a number of Episcopal Bishops regarding the censure communiqué understandably reflect deep frustration and resentment at having a higher authority attempt to force contrary views upon them as regards the issue of same-sex marriage. Ironically, however, these statements reflect the same pain and frustration as those issued by the 20 dissenting Bishops at the Convention and statements issued subsequently by Bishops who hold the contrary view with just as much passion and certainty.

Perhaps now that both sides have experienced firsthand the pain and frustration of being commanded by an unsympathetic majority to go against their deeply held beliefs; the two groups can use this shared suffering to find common ground before this emotional division spirals out of control and destroys the Episcopal Church. This Church does not belong to the Bishops—it belongs to Christ. The Church is not yours to destroy or preserve as you see fit for causes you decide are “worthy” of creating rancor and separation. The duty of our Bishops is to preserve His Church at all costs –including through compromise if necessary.

No Bishop, and indeed no person of this earth, can say with total certainty that their opinion on this matter is precisely the same as the Word of God. The intensity of your convictions does nothing to change this undeniable fact. If Christ had thought that the rite contemplated by these Resolutions were absolutely necessary to the religious life of His followers, He could have made that clear in His teachings. The plain fact is that he did not do so in any clearly discernible manner. Hence the temporary suspension of these Resolutions while discussions proceed is not, by definition, fatal to the spiritual salvation of any Christian person.

Upon reflection, it is possible that our Bishops may realize that here is no compelling reason to equate the acceptance of LBGTQ persons into the life of the Church with the content of Resolutions A036 and A054. Any individual (including an LBGTQ individual) who seeks to join any church does so after considering the benefits and shortcomings of that institution as it has stood for 2000 years in light of his or her life. No church is likely to reflect all of the views or to meet all of the needs of any individual—LBGTQ or otherwise. Hence it is not necessarily true that the Church as it has stood for 2000 years must tear itself asunder to accommodate the needs -or perceived needs --of any person or group.

From: Ronald Monterosso
Location/Parish: Edgartown

Thank God for rational discourse.

From: Denis Moona
Location/Parish: Saint Martin's, Providence RI

So well stated with eloquence. It reminds me why I converted to the Episcopal Church from the Roman Catholic Church. While there was a brief moment in time I considered returning to the Roman Church, with leadership such as witnessed within the Epsicopal Church, I will not only abandon that thought - but now want to official reaffirm myself as, and officially be received as an Episcopalian. It was determined that my being confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church negated the need for my being received, I want to make an official affirmation of my faith as well as my faith IN the most beautiful and truly Godly Episcopal Church. I am proud to be an Episcopalian as well as an original New Englander after reading OUR Presiding and the Massachusetts Bishops response. God save the Commonwealth and protect our Episcopal Church!

From: Jonathan Mac Donald
Location/Parish: All Saints, Fort Lauderdale

Luke 6:37 "Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."

Luke 6:41 And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?

It seems to me that these words spoke to us from the Lord himself have truly fallen on deaf ears. I believe mercy, kindness, and compassion is the example we are suppose to be setting for others to follow, and to lead all souls to Jesus, and eternal life.

From: Brother Kenneth Kaigle, O.S.B.
Location/Parish: All Saints Episcopal, North Adams

This clarification, gracefully and clearly articulated, is gratefully received!

From: Maureen Dallison Kemeza
Location/Parish: Trinity Concord

I am so extremely thankful for the strong, compassionate wisdom of our leaders. I heartily agree with Sam Rorer, and I am proud of our faith.

From: Jennifer Newbold
Location/Parish: Trinity, Concord

Well said. Thank you.

From: Barb Morris
Location/Parish: Trinity, Bend, Oregon

Thanks for such a thoughtful, comforting response. I am reminded that I am truly at home in my faith.

From: Sam Rorer
Location/Parish: St. Mark's Burlington MA

Thanks so much for the clear and helpful statement.

From: Joyce Scherer-Hoock
Location/Parish: St. Andrew's, Ayer