I have found this week to be such an interesting example of God's way of pricking at the conscience of anyone who wants to pay attention.
During a week in which the Archbishop of Sudan called for Bishop Robinson of New Hampshire to resign for the sake of "unity", the words we in the Episcopal Church are directed to read every day are from Paul's letter to the Romans. Look at this passage from Romans 15:
We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Each of us must please our neighbour for the good purpose of building up the neighbour. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.’ For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Two people, with polar opposite views on human sexuality and the Church, can read this same passage and have two different opinions (each will likely think of themselves as the strong one needing to put up with the weak one). But regardless of who is who, the plea is for us to come together in Christ. What an amazing passage to have put before me as I gather news via email and the internet about what is occurring in the life of the Anglican Communion!
This, and other readings from Romans this week, have been so important. At a moment when I might otherwise have wanted to take hold of the wheel of this boat I'm in and run it ashore in anger, disappointment, and disgust...these messages have been the reminder to me that God is running this river trip, his hands have a steady hold on the wheel, and he will take care of getting the boat through all the choppy waters. He's got it under control. And my mind, my heart, my soul remain calm. If there's one thing I think I've learned, when I get the signal to keep my hands off the wheel, I can trust the boat won't capsize.
As for Bishop Gene Robinson, I ask those reading to pray for him. Below, I have copied some of his statement from his blog (http://www.canterburytalesfromthefringe.blogspot.com/) in regards to the Archbishop's comments. The bishop, wisely I think, is keeping his comments to his own blog which was established mostly for communication back to the citizens of New Hampshire, but certainly is viewed by anyone who goes looking for it. May God continue to grant him strength and courage to love and serve in the name of Jesus Christ. He does it well.
First, this is also about the faithful people of New Hampshire who called me to be their bishop. Everyone seems to forget that I am not here representing myself, but rather all the people of the Diocese of New Hampshire, with whom it is my privilege to minister in Christ's name. They have called me to minister with them as their Bishop, and suggestions that I resign ignore the vows that I have taken to serve my flock in New Hampshire. I would no more let them down or reneg on my commitments to them than fly to the moon. We may be the one diocese in the entire Communion who is, for the most part, beyond all this obsession with sex and are getting on with the Gospel. They would be infuriated, as well they should be, if I entertained any notion of resigning. And it is not just Gene Robinson who is being denied representation at the Lambeth Conference, it is the people of New Hampshire who have been deprived of a seat at the table.
Second, those calling for my resignation seem to be under the impression that if Gene Robinson went away, that all would go back to being "like it was," whatever that was! Does ANYONE think that if I resigned, this issue would go away?! I could be hit by a big, British, doubledecker bus today, and it would not change the fact that there are faithful, able and gifted gay and lesbian priests of this Episcopal Church who are known and loved for what they bring to ordained ministry, who will before long be recognized with a nomination for the episcopate (as has already happened in dioceses other than New Hampshire), and one of them will be elected. Not because they are gay or lesbian, but because the people who elect them recognize their gifts for ministry in that particular diocese. We are not going away, as much as some would like us to. That toothpaste isn't going to go back into the tube! Not if the Bishop of New Hampshire resigns. Not if the "offending" bishops leave the Lambeth Conference. Not ever.
I especially need your prayers tonight. It is the first of two Wednesday evenings in which some American bishops will sponsor a Fringe Event (officially sanctioned, not as part of the conference, but as a Fringe Event), for bishops and spouses of the Communion to come and meet their brother bishop Gene. After four bishops describe the process that led to my election and consent, and testimony, one from a bishop who voted for my consent and one who voted against consent, about my warm welcome into our House of Bishops by virtually all members of our House, even and especially those who voted "no." They will bear witness, I hope, to how the Episcopal Church is forging a model for ministry together, despite our differences. Something the Anglican Communion might want to learn from.
Then I will be introduced -- not by a bishop, but by the people of New Hampshire who elected me. A DVD presentation will include voices of clergy and laity from New Hampshire introducing me and reflecting on our ministry together. I am so proud of that.
I will then attempt to share my own witness to the love of Christ in my own life. It will not be a "sell job," although I'm sure some will judge it to be that. Rather, my one goal is to talk about my own life and journey in Christ in such a way that those who are listening will perceive that the God I know in my own life is the same God they know in THEIR lives. Then we can wrestle with the faithful differences we have in interpreting that God's will for us and for God's church. I feel an enormous weight on my shoulders as this evening approaches, and hence ask for your prayers. I assume that God will, as God has always done, supply me with the words I need. Not MY words, but GOD'S words, as best I can open myself to being a channel for those words. Those who have ears to hear, by the grace of God, will hear.
This has gone on much too long, and I apologize. But as I write these words, my faith in God is strengthened and my spirit is calmed. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, "God is good. All the time." I trust that this evening will be no different.