Walk In Love: A Letter from Bishop Mariann on the Primates Meeting

by | Jan 15, 2016

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:2

Dear Friends of the Diocese of Washington,

We are all still in the process of absorbing the news from the Primates Meeting of the Anglican Communion and understanding the implications of their communique regarding the Episcopal Church.  The premature release of only one part of the primates’ communiqué and inaccurate media reports suggesting that the Episcopal Church had been suspended from the communion caused confusion, and I thought it best to wait and write after the release of the full communiqué and word from Presiding Bishop Curry.

Our place in the Anglican Communion remains intact, for the Communion is, in fact,  a rich web of relationships among individuals, parishes and dioceses around the globe who work together in mission and rejoice in one another’s company. Even as they were voting to enact what they described as consequences for our decisions regarding marriage, the primates wrote: “It is our unanimous desire to walk together.” If you would like to read about the role of the Primates Meeting in the Anglican Communion, I commend to you two essays: one from the Very Rev. Andrew McGowan, dean of Berkeley Divinity School and the other from the Rev. Mike Angell, a former associate rector at St. John’s, Lafayette Square, who is now a rector in St. Louis.

The primates seek to limit the Episcopal Church’s membership and participation in certain bodies within communion governance for the next three years. While the primates say they are requiring these limitations, as both Dean McGowan and the Rev. Angell write, they do not have authority over the bodies they seek to direct. While this issue is debated, I want us to be mindful of more lasting concerns.

I regret that the primates’ decision has caused pain to those who have been deeply wounded by prejudice in the church they love because of their sexual orientation. But I am also confident in the decisions we as the Episcopal Church have made, based on over 40 years’ engagement with Scripture and one another, on issues of human sexuality.  While not all in the Episcopal Church agree with those decisions, they are as solid as earlier decisions made regarding the full inclusion of women in leadership, our positions on divorce, and our commitment to racial justice.

That there is a cost for making decisions that we believe are faithful to the love of Jesus is not a surprise to us.  We have always known as Episcopalians that we might face consequences for declaring, unequivocally, that LGBT Christians are beloved members of the Body of Christ.  Those consequences are insignificant in comparison with the rejection, marginalization and violence LGBT Christians have been asked to endure, even in their churches.

The primates’ statement includes a promising paragraph in which they condemn “homophobic prejudice and violence” and reject “criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people.” I ask your prayers on behalf of vulnerable LGBT people in other parts of the world. 

The Primates Meeting will not change the fact that the Diocese of Washington welcomes LGBT people, their families, and allies into the fullness of life within our churches. This is our witness, based on our understanding of the love of Jesus. And so we will continue to walk in love as Christ has loved us.

I give thanks to God for the privilege of walking the way of love with you.

Faithfully in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde
Bishop of Washington