Monday, July 28, 2008

Bishop Gray's Statement to the Windsor Continuation Panel

My bishop, the Rt. Rev. Duncan M. Gray III, said these words at the Lambeth Conference today before the Windsor Continuation Panel.

My name is Duncan Gray from the Diocese of Mississippi in the Episcopal Church. I have been nurtured and shaped by the evangelical tradition of my church. Most importantly, that means that the ultimate authority of Holy Scripture and the necessity of an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ are foundational and non-negotiable components of my faith.

Within my own province I voted not to consent to the election of Gene Robinson for reasons both theological and ecclesiological. I have followed both the letter and spirit of the Windsor Report – before there was a Windsor Report.

For my faithfulness to this Communion I have been rewarded by regular incursions into our diocese by primates and bishops who have no apparent regard for either my theology or ecclesiology. I have made some peace with this reality preferring to think of the irregularly ordained as Methodists--and some of my best friends are Methodists!

What I cannot make peace with is the portrayal of my sister and brother bishops in the Episcopal Church, who disagree with me, as bearers of a false gospel. That portrayal does violence to the imperfect, but faithful, grace-filled, and often costly, ways in which they live out their love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, I am in serious disagreement with many of them on the very critical sacramental and ethical issues about which the Communion is in deep conflict. Are we sometimes, at best insensitive to the wider context in which we do ministry, and at worst, deeply imbedded in American arrogance – absolutely! And for that insensitivity and arrogance we have begged the Communion's forgiveness on several occasions.

But do I see the Church in them? (as the most serious question at the last hearing asked). As God is my witness, I do. Despite my profound disagreements I continue to pray "One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism". We continue to reaffirm the creedal faith together. We continue to gather round the Lord's Table together, bringing the brokenness of our lives into the healing embrace of our Lord who sends us out together to the poor, the weak and the hopeless. And, in the midst of our internal conflicts, they show me Jesus.

There are dozens of bishops like me in the Episcopal Church. We are not a one, or even two-dimensional church. We are a multitude of diverse theological, ecclesiological and sacramental perspectives. And the vast majority of us have figured out a way to stay together.

How is this possible? I think it begins with the gift from St. Paul who taught us the great limitations of even our most insightful thought or theological certainty. We do, every one of us, "see through a glass darkly." And none of us can say to the other, "I have no need of you."

One day, St. Paul says, we will see face-to-face the glory that we now only glimpse. One day, we will know fully, as we have been fully known. But in the meantime, as each of us struggles to be faithful, may each of us – the Episcopal Church and the wider communion – find the courage, and the humility to say to the other, "I need you. I need you for my salvation and for the salvation of the world.”

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