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Feb 14, 2016 | C. Andrew Doyle

Bishop's Presentation 167th Council Part II of II

**Note: A letter read by the Rev. Russell Levenson is included here as the following remarks by Bishop Doyle refer to it.

 

 Letter:

 

“As clergy serving the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, we support the leadership of our Bishop, The Right Reverend C. Andrew Doyle, and we take seriously the necessity to work shoulder to shoulder with our fellow presbyters and all Episcopalians in our Diocese toward the cause of serving the mission and ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

While we do understand and affirm the need for a comprehensive revision of our Diocesan Canons, we must dissent from any change that excludes or deletes Canon 43, also known as the “Moral Canon.”

 

In a time of changing views on traditional marriage and sexual mores, we feel removing Canon 43 will send the message to those we are called to serve, that our Diocese is abandoning in part, or in full, the Biblical teaching on marriage; as traditionally understood by Christians, and as summed up in the words of the Book of Common Prayer:

 

“The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored by all people.

 

The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord” (BCP, 423)

 

The nature, purpose, and meaning of marriage are linked to the relationship of man and woman. The promises and vows of marriage presuppose husband and wife as the partners who are made one flesh in marriage. This understanding is a reasonable one, as well as in accord with Holy Scripture and Christian Tradition in their teaching about marriage.

 

When we were ordained as clergy in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, we vowed to “be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them” (BCP, p. 526). We renew that promise; and in light of the actions of the 78th General Convention sanctioning same-gender marriage, the 166th Diocesan Council of the Diocese of Texas which includes a proposal to remove Canon 43, and of our own deep pastoral and theological convictions, we pledge ourselves to:

 

  • “Maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” ( 4:3). The bonds created in baptism are indissoluble, and we share one bread and one cup in the Eucharist. We are committed to the Church’s unity even in the midst of painful disagreement.

 

  • Speak the truth in love” ( 4:15). We are deeply disheartened that the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Texas have chosen to extend the sacramental rite of marriage to same-gender couples; however, when we disagree with the Church’s actions, we will do so openly and transparently and – with the Spirit’s help—charitably. We are grateful that Resolution A054 of the 78th General Convention which includes provision for bishops and priests to exercise their conscience regarding the sacraments of marriage without fear of discipline or penalty. We are grateful for the pastoral oversight of our Bishop who has affirmed the same. In this season in which the tensions over these difficult matters may grow within our Communion, we pray for the grace to be clear about our convictions and to love brothers and sisters with whom we disagree.

 

  • “Welcome one another … just as Christ has welcomed [us]” ( 15:7). Our commitment to the Church includes a commitment to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. We will continue to walk with them, pray with and for them, and seek ways to engage in pastoral conversation. We rejoice that Jesus’ embrace includes all of us.

 

We are mindful that the decisions of the 78th General Convention, or the actions of this Council, do not take place in isolation. The Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican Communion. We remain committed to that Communion and to the historic See of Canterbury, and we will continue to honor the parameters and principles of Lambeth 1.10 and those outlined the Windsor Report and affirmed by the Instruments of Communion.

 

Submitted by: The Revds Howard Castleberry, Stuart Bates, Bob Wismer, David Luckenbach, Doug Richnow, Darrel Profitt, John Himes, Russell Levenson, Scott Thompson, Bill Laucher, Ted Smith, David Browder, Geoff Gwynne, Stuart Shelby, Ted Welty, Michael Wyckoff, Clay Lein, Robert Wareing, and Nick Dyke”

 

 

Bishop C. Andrew Doyle:

 

As I said earlier, I wish to address you here as the second part of my address to you.

 

Let me begin by saying that I really want to thank – not just Russ, but the other authors of such a thoughtful and, quite honestly, prayer-soaked statement.  

 

Thank you for your support of me, thank you for understanding how important the reordering of the constitution is and the importance of parishes to be able to chose their own rector. Thank you also for your continued commitment in time, treasure and talent to this diocese and the mission of Christ in Texas.

 

Not everyone here knows what Canon 43 is or its history. In 1997 this council adopted Canon 43. Canon 43 is a canon that limits the powers of congregations to choose their own rector and that seeks to limit the bishop’s power. It creates a very dangerous precedent for every congregation and all future bishops.

 

For the last 19 years, every year, vast amounts of energy and time has been spent as two sides of the church have fought over the meaning, boundaries, and ability of this canon to function. Literally not a year has gone by that has not required this council to be caught in a tug of war between two sides of a biblical argument.

 

Over the years these two sides have asked me to help settle the battle. Why? Because in the Diocese of Texas we actually love one another and we love mission and we want to get on with our common mission together.

 

In 2012, having worked for over 3 years, we came up with Unity and Mission document. This unity in mission held our diocese together, protected the variety of different world views, and moved us to the center stage in our communion as a place where liberals and conservatives had managed to work together on mission.

 

We upheld fidelity in marriage and our focus on mission. Our unity truly became an icon of the future possibility of the Episcopal Church to remain together in the midst of very great and serious difficulty. Yet after 2012 we returned to our old ways and began once again to fight over Canon 43.

 

In 2014 and 2015 clergy leaders from both the progressive and traditional sides of our diocese, many of the same who signed the statement you just heard, once again approached me and asked if I couldn’t figure out a way for us to deal with this canon and put our fight over sexuality behind us.

 

Therefore, I have worked for two years building support for a plan that would:

1) put an end to our warring over sexuality in our council AND uphold fidelity in marriage

2) do so in a way that would not bring about a fight at council or cause people to vote for or against marriage

3) restore the power of the bishop according to our constitution and canons to ordain

4) restore the power of churches to chose who they want as a priest/rector in accordance with our constitution and canons

5) keep us together I have done so. I have support from every side, support of the clergy, support of the vast majority of lay people across the diocese.

 

The plan is rooted in the reordering of the canons. The canons themselves are being reordered to better serve mission and this is the second of a three-year process. Reordering the canons for mission gave us an opportunity. It gave us the opportunity to leave out the canon we have argued about for 19 years. But because I believe in the fidelity of marriage I have placed the statement in our clergy expectations where it belongs and I have a strong record of disciplining those who break this covenant.

 

I have kept my promise to restore the powers to their rightful place and to restore the unity in mission that we value so much in the Diocese of TX by setting aside those anything that threatens it.

 

Power and Love of God in Christ Jesus. I want to recapture the energy that, for the past 19 years, has gone into fighting over marriage so that we can shift that energy into positive energy for mission and growth.  

 

Some will say, We are concerned.

 

I will say I am also concerned. I am concerned that we are not placing all of our energy and power into evangelism and service for the sake of mission. I am concerned about parishes that are more concerned about this canon than their shrinking numbers. Churches concerned with mission and focused on mission are growing.

 

The diocese is growing in large part because we have moved beyond this fight. We have clergy from break away congregations, traditionalist congregations and of every kind who want to come to Texas because we have moved beyond this issue. We have lay leaders across the country looking at our leadership because we have chosen unity for mission over division. People want to serve Jesus and believe that all people are welcome to do so in Texas.

 

And so regardless of how this Council votes, as long as I am Bishop, this Diocese will be a place where each congregation and individual, lay or clergy, will be free to act in accordance with their Gospel-shaped conscience. Russ simply could not have said it better:

 

Jesus’ embrace includes all of us, even when we differ on this topic.

 

Does it please God to invest more energy (because, as we all know we’ll be back at it next year if this measure fails)– and so does it please God to keep investing energy in an emotionally draining conversation knowing that to invest energy here we are simultaneously making a choice to not invest energy in mission?

 

Because that’s the thing about energy: God gives us a limited amount and asks that we steward it for His glory.      

 

And so whether you’ re conservative or liberal, gay or straight, I ask that you take these words to heart. This is not a vote against marriage. This is not a vote for marriage. This is a vote for mission.

 

You can tell yourself your vote is for a lot of things. In the end your vote for restructuring the canons for mission is a vote for mission. I believe your vote against the restructuring of the canons is a vote that will keep us fighting at diocesan council for many years to come.

 

Therefore, as your bishop, as your chief pastor, as a son of this diocese: I tell you that enough is enough, and it is time to put 19 years of fighting behind us and join hands for the sake of the mission of God in Christ Jesus.

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