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Last month, headlines around the world screamed that the Episcopal Church in the United States had been suspended from the Anglican Communion because of its stance on same-gender marriage.

AnglicanCommunion logoTo read those headlines, and the stories that ran below them, you would think that Episcopal Church was in dire trouble and had been sent to a three-year time-out for extreme misbehavior.

It took several days before all the rumors were squashed and the truth instead declared: The Primates of the Anglican Communion (the senior bishops in each church province) are not pleased that the Episcopal Church has approved same-gender marriages and want the Episcopal Church to refrain from participating in some of the discussions that take place worldwide. Apparently, the primates seem to think that asking the Episcopal Church to sit on the sidelines for three years will cause the Episcopal Church to change its mind on how to treat people with love.

There are two things to know about this whole contretemps:

First, the Primates who gathered do not have the authority to even make this request, because the Anglican Communion doesn’t work like that.

And second, but much more important, know this: The Episcopal Church is aliveTEC logo and well, and will continue to carry out its mission and ministry in the world, regardless of what anyone says.

Let’s be honest: This is a complicated story, because the Anglican Communion is a complicated organization. It is not governed by a set of church laws, and each province is independently formed and run. It is a relationship-based network of churches. For those of us inside the Church, we could spend hours, days, months, years, discussing what happened in England in January (and trust me, we will).

But trying to parse out what happened, and worrying about what might happen, is to miss the whole point of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is to love.

Pure and simple, the Church is called to spread the love of God in the world.

And that is what the Episcopal Church continues to do, regardless of what anyone anywhere says.

This whole debate comes down to the fact that we – meaning, all the members of the Anglican Communion – interpret the Gospels differently. In the Episcopal Church, we formally have made the decision to declare, by word and deed, that “all means all,” that God’s love is not restricted by color, by gender, by sexual orientation or identity, by language, by ethnicity, or by any other thing that humans use to distinguish themselves.

Because in the Episcopal Church, we are firm in our belief that all of us are beloved children of God, and all will be treated with the same love.

That’s it. That’s our baseline.

You are a beloved child of God. And you. And you. Every single one of you. All of us are beloved children of God.

God loves all of you. And each of you.

TEC Jesus Movement bannerAnd since that is our baseline, our truth, that is what we as Episcopalians are going to do.

We are going to love you.

We are going to do our best to take care of you.

To treat you with dignity.

To welcome you in our churches.

To encourage you to be leaders in our churches, and in our Church.

To stand up for you when you need someone to have your back.

To do our best to right the wrongs of this world.

To bring you food when you are hungry, and give you water when you are thirsty, and visit you when you are in prison, and pray for you when you are ill.

To celebrate who you are, and how God made you.

To shout from the mountaintops that God’s love is more than enough to right the wrongs of the world, and then to act on that love.

Brass tacks: The leaders of the Anglican Communion are in disagreement with each other and with the Episcopal Church as to how we are going to love God and love one another as ourselves, how we are going to love one another as Jesus loves us.

But this disagreement will not, in any way, stop the Episcopal Church as a whole, and Episcopalians individually, from living into our Baptismal Covenant.

As our Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry said following the meeting, “We are part of the Jesus Movement, and the cause of God’s love in this world can never stop and will never be defeated.”

Because no one and nothing can ever stop God’s love from being proclaimed and lived.

• • •

This column was written for InsideSources.com. For an alternative viewpoint, go to Counterpoint: Curing American Myopia.

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The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs reports that following the meeting of the Episcopal Church House of Bishops March 25 – 30, two letters were issued: a letter from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to the Church; and a letter from the House of Bishops to the Israeli ambassadors to the nations where the Episcopal Church has dioceses or presence. The letters call for resolution of the denial of “Temporary Residency Status” for The Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, Anglican Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.

Diocese of Jerusalem Bishop Suheil Dawani and his wife, Shafeeqa, at the 2010 General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada. Photo: General Synod Communications

The following are the two letters:

To the members of The Episcopal Church

From the House of Bishops:

At our meeting in Kanuga, North Carolina, 25-30 March 2011, we considered the plight of our fellow Christians in the land of the Holy One. Bishop Suheil Dawani, of the Diocese of Jerusalem, has for many months been gravely limited in his ability to function as leader of that diocese. We urge your reflection on the following letter, and your response as you deem most appropriate. Change is likeliest when the leaders of our governments know of our urgent concern.

In every part of The Episcopal Church, your response is most likely to be effective when directed to Israel’s ambassador to your nation, to your national leader – President and/or Prime Minister, and/or to your legislative representatives in your national government.

In the dioceses of The Episcopal Church within the United States, those contacts are:

Ambassador Oren:  embsec@washington.mfa.gov.il
President Obama: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
House of Representatives: https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml
Senate: http://senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

In the dioceses of The Episcopal Church beyond the United States, we urge you to work with your diocesan bishop if you are uncertain about how to contact the Israeli Ambassador, your President or Prime Minister, and your legislators.

May God bless the land of the Holy One with peace. I remain

Your servant in Christ,

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

_________________________________________________________________

A letter from the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church to the Israeli ambassadors to the nations where The Episcopal Church has dioceses or presence

30 March 2011

It is with deep concern that we inform you that the Anglican Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, the Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, has been denied renewal of his “Temporary Residency Status” in Jerusalem. This action was taken when the A-5 permits held by the bishop, his wife, and youngest daughter were revoked by the Government of Israel, effective 24 September 2010.

The Government of Israel claims that the permits were denied because of an accusation by the Ministry of the Interior that Bishop Suheil acted with the Palestinian Authority in transferring land owned by Jewish people to the Palestinians, and also helped to register lands of Jewish people in the name of the Church. There were further allegations that documents were forged by the bishop.

Bishop Dawani has vehemently denied these allegations and responded formally to the Ministry of the Interior. He has never received a response. The bishop also sent a letter challenging the allegations and demanding that any evidence to secure the claim against him be made known to him. To date no information has been forthcoming.

The Archbishop of Canterbury received assurances that the situation would be resolved promptly. Other Anglican leaders including Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington D.C. (the Rt. Rev. John B. Chane), and the Primates of the Anglican Communion, representing Anglicans throughout the world, have all used their influence individually and collectively with Israeli authorities, without success to date.

Diplomatic efforts through the British Foreign Secretary, the British Ambassador to Israel, the British Consul General in Jerusalem, the State Department of the United States, and the American Consul General in Jerusalem, and Christian and Jewish leaders in Jerusalem have all provided support for Bishop Dawani in his ongoing contact with Israeli authorities, but without tangible results. In terms of discovering the source of the allegations against the bishop, or the restoration of the residency rights which are crucial to his ability to provide leadership of his diocese, and residency in Jerusalem for himself and his family, the Israeli Government has failed to respond. Because of the current situation the bishop is unable to conduct any legal business on behalf of the diocese, and is crippled in his ability to run the day to day affairs of his diocese, which comprises schools, churches, and hospitals in Israel, the West Bank and occupied territories, Gaza, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

We seek your assistance in resolving this situation as rapidly and completely as possible. The ability of our brother, Bishop Dawani, to lead his diocese is severely compromised. We ask your urgent attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

The bishops of The Episcopal Church, in 110 dioceses and two regional areas in Austria, Belgium, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Federated States of Micronesia, France, Germany, Haiti, Honduras, Italy, Switzerland, Taiwan, Venezuela, and the United States of America (including Guam and Puerto Rico), and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands

 

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