Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"It is a time for grace"

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Here are some of my favorite excerpts from the bishop's address to the 25th Annual Convention of the Diocese of Fort Worth last Saturday:

"I would like to set the tone for our deliberations today by beginning with a quote from St. Paul the Apostle in the 16th chapter of his First Letter to the Corinthians: 'Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.' (I Corinthians 16:13-14) What a wonderful text to guide and direct us as we debate the proposals that are before this Convention."

"Let our 'yes' be 'yes,' and let our 'no' be 'no,' not a garbled yes and no at the same time. Let us not lose our will to stand for conscience and truth, whatever the consequences or the cost. Dare to be a Daniel! Dare to stand alone, if need be! But we are not alone; we are together."

"Let our courage and boldness be expressed in love for all sinners, love for those who threaten us, showing the sacrificial love of Jesus for a fallen world and for all people, created in the image of God. Let us speak the truth in love, not seeking revenge or harm to anyone, but only the glory of God, the building up of the Body of Christ, and the extension of Christ’s kingdom in the world. Pray God that our debates and decisions this day may be marked by the love of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul reminds us: 'Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.' (I Corinthians 13:4-7) Whatever comes of our decisions today, let us debate in love, decide in love, and deal with one another in love, as we face the consequences of choices we must make."

"It is my fervent hope that no parish will elect to pursue this course and that we will remain together in mission for the next 25 years and beyond. But if separation must come, let it be accomplished without rancor and litigation. Let it be done in a Godly manner, in charity and in peace. Let it be a parting of brothers and sisters in Christ. On numerous occasions, I have said that I cannot make anyone leave the Episcopal Church, nor can I make anyone stay in the Episcopal Church. This is a very difficult time for all of us, and it does not help to demonize one another or to attack the integrity or motives of those who disagree with us. It is not a time for threats, intimidation, or coercion. It is a time for grace, cooperation, and mutual respect. The multiple lawsuits that have been filed across the United States by The Episcopal Church against good Christian people over the ownership of their church property are outrageous. It is a scandal to the Body of Christ, and it must stop! This is not the way Christians deal with one another."

"Tomorrow morning, after our votes have been cast today, your local church will remain unchanged. You will have the same priest, same building, same Prayer Book, and all the rest, that you had last Sunday. And I would like to say a word of reassurance to all of you, if I may, that this also will be the most likely scenario next year, following a possible ratification vote on any proposals that we adopt on first reading today. Your church and your priest will still be there for you and your family. The liturgy and worship in your congregation will continue as it has in years past, edifying the faithful and giving glory to God. Any and all who wish to join us will still be warmly welcomed, and we will continue to reach out to the world about us in evangelism and witness to the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. Do not be fearful; trust God to provide. Do not vote today out of fear, but out of conviction, in confidence and in faith."

"From time to time someone will ask, 'Why don’t you just resign and go away and join some other church where you will be happy?' My reply is always the same; because I cannot forsake the faithful people of this Diocese. I cannot renounce the sacred vows I took when I was called by God to serve as your Bishop. I will not desert the flock that has called me to shepherd them in this Diocese. I will not cease to guard the faith. I will not forsake those who look to me for spiritual leadership and guidance. As Jesus himself said, it is the hireling who, when he sees the wolf coming, runs away and abandons the sheep. The good shepherd remains to defend and lead the sheep entrusted to his protection and care. I am not going to abandon the faithful of this Diocese in the midst of the assaults and threats being hurled at us for standing up for what we believe. The controversies and divisions that confront us are not about me or about my role as Bishop. They are about the truth of the Gospel, the authority of the Bible, and the received teachings of the apostolic Church."

"My dream is for a day when we are not under attack by adversaries from within the same church or engulfed in endless religious controversies. I long to be a part of a Province that wants us and values our witness, instead of threatening us and isolating us as a 'problem diocese.' My hope is for a time when we are not sidetracked from the mission of the Church by endless conflicts, so that we can be truly set free to focus on making disciples, planting new churches, building up the Body, equipping the saints for ministry, encouraging the faithful, and doing the work of Jesus Christ in the world. May God in His goodness hasten the arrival of such a day, such a time, and such a Church."

You can read the entire text here, or watch the video on Anglican TV.

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