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Episcopalians: Archbishop of Canterbury's letter to the Bishops of the Church of England
Mon, 23 Jun 2003 12:25:24 -0400
June 23, 2003
Episcopalians: Archbishop of Canterbury's letter to the Bishops
of the Church of England
The following letter was posted on Anglican Communion News
I have today sent the following letter to the diocesan and
Dear Brothers in Christ
None of us will need any persuading that the recent appointment
of Canon Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading has proved a
controversial and challenging one. It has become a focus for a
great deal of debate, in which differing views of the
appointment and its significance have been widely aired, inside
and outside the Church here, and indeed much further afield.
At this point in the debate - particularly since some of you
have already voiced serious concerns - it is important that I
try to clarify basic issues, in my capacity as Archbishop of
Canterbury and Chairman of the House of Bishops.
First, about the appointment process. As you know, the
appointment of a suffragan bishop is made by the Crown, on the
advice of a diocesan as forwarded by the Archbishop of the
province. And that is what has happened on this occasion. It is
not for me to recount the diocesan process. But so far as my own
involvement is concerned, you should know it is an appointment I
have neither sought to promote nor to obstruct.
I was informed that Canon Jeffrey John was regarded as a highly
gifted candidate, was acceptable to the diocese, that he had
given explicit assurances on various matters, including his
personal circumstances and his willingness to work loyally
within the framework of doctrine and discipline as expressed in
Issues in Human Sexuality. With these assurances, since repeated
very publicly, and in keeping with the principle that the
integrity of the process within the diocese should be respected,
I raised no objection to forwarding his name.
Despite what some have claimed, I do not believe this overall
process weakens the commitment of the House of Bishops to what
we have declared as our common mind. Nor do I believe that Canon
John's appointment either subverts current discipline or
forecloses future discussion. It would certainly be deplorable
if it were assumed that the existing approach has been abandoned
by stealth, or that the forthcoming guide to the debate on
sexuality that we have agreed to publish, was slanted towards a
change in that policy. So, let us be clear: there can be no
question of trying to pre-empt, undermine or short-circuit the
reflection of the Church as a whole.
It is also important here, to stress to the wider Anglican
Communion that we are not embarking on or colluding with any
policy of unilateral local change, which I have more than once
Two final and important points. The concerns of many in the
diocese of Oxford are theologically serious, intelligible and by
no means based on narrow party allegiance or on prejudice. They
must be addressed and considered fully. Confidence in the
ability of a new bishop to minister to those in his pastoral
care is a centrally important matter, and it is clear that
serious questions remain in the diocese. To consider these with
prayerfulness and maturity needs time and a measure of calm. It
is not for anyone outside the diocese to override or pre-empt
what is obviously a painful and complex process, and I can only
ask your prayers for the diocese as it struggles with this and
tries to find a right discernment.
Finally, it would be a tragedy if these issues, in the Church of
England and in the Communion, occupied so much energy that we
lost our focus on the priorities of our mission, the priorities
given us by Our Lord. What we say about sexuality (and not just
on the same-sex question) is a necessary part of our
faithfulness, but the concentration on this in recent weeks has
had the effect of generating real incomprehension in much of our
society, in a way that does nothing for our credibility. In the
world where we are called to offer the Good News of Jesus, we
need to reflect on this dimension of the situation - not to
surrender to alien standards, but to keep our eyes on those
central revealed truths without which other matters of behaviour
and discipline will never make sense.
In a few weeks, I shall be making a pastoral visit to West
Africa. Some of our local issues are there too, of course, but
so are most of the greatest wounds of our age, afflicting
millions - violent conflict, epidemic disease, instability and
poverty. Faithful Christian witness shines through all this, and
we are deeply thankful for it. It does us no harm to think about
our own priorities against such a background, and perhaps to
learn in some matters to give each other a little more time and
space for thought as we try to find how we can walk in step as
the Body of Christ - not falling over ourselves because of
anxiety and suspicion.
23rd June 2003
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