A Report from Bishop Paul V. Marshall
On the recent meeting of the House of Bishops
Dear Colleagues, Sisters, and Brothers,
I want to report on the recent House of Bishops meeting. The four texts issued by the bishops are here (three “Mind of the House” resolutions) and here (the House of Bishops’ “Message to God’s People”). I support all four measures.
Some of you may know that I am particularly invested in the invitation to the Archbishop of Canterbury to meet personally with the leadership of our Church before further steps are taken. The House of Bishops unanimously offered the invitation and offered to pay for transportation and housing.
The most important parts of the meeting were the two days spent on mission. A stunning report from Dr. Ian Douglas on the mission of God and the Church’s participation in it is here. I have never felt so keenly motivated about our part in rebuilding southern Sudan and attending to those in need at home as I did after hearing this presentation. I hope you will read it.
Bishop George Packard, bishop for chaplaincies, alerted us to the needs of the families of troops deployed in Iraq. I ask each of the parishes ministering with such families to contact me directly so that I can connect you to the resources the Church has established for them. Bishop Packard, a Vietnam field-grade officer, spoke about the difference in wounds our troops are sustaining in this war, and the long-term care they will need.
Contrary to some press coverage, the Bishops did not attempt to answer the two questions put to them by the Primates’ meeting in Tanzania (whether we will abstain from consecrating gay bishops and refuse to authorize blessing rites).The entire Church will be consulted before those questions are addressed in September.
Because the deadline for nomination of members of a proposed international “pastoral council” was last week, we had no choice but to act on that. We advised the Executive Council of the Church that to participate in that proposed plan would violate our own constitution and our theology of the Church. What the Executive Council will decide is not yet known. Please understand that the provisions for the pastoral care of congregations and dioceses alienated from either their own bishop or from Bishop Jefferts Schori remain in effect, and her generous offer to appoint a primatial vicar remains solidly in place.
We received reports on the progress in rebuilding the dioceses of Mississippi and Louisiana, the hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina. Sadly, most of the work is still to be done. The bishop of Louisiana told us that if fifty houses were built each day (and that is not the case), they would still be many decades behind. Pray, please, for the young people of our diocese who will be working with Mother Demery Bader-Saye on Katrina rebuilding this summer. In September, bishops and their spouses will also form work groups in New Orleans.
I remind you of my own position on our life together. Our primary task is to tell the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ and to be of service to those in need. A recent article in the Morning Call well represents the ability of members of our diocese to stay focused on mission. In one of her recent reflections, Mother Barbara Crafton wrote of the cruelty of spending our lives “waiting for just the right time to serve, and to die still waiting.” We shall not wait.
I cannot close without recalling the Main Thing. April 1 is Palm Sunday and the center of our religious year begins. We ask God in the prayers that day to assist us to contemplate the mystery of our salvation. These are not just words, and I beg that each of us lay aside all distractions for those eight days and focus entirely on Jesus.
As has been my custom since coming here in April of 1996, I will celebrate Maundy Thursday in one region of the diocese, Good Friday in another, and the Great Vigil in yet another, and on Easter Day will lead the praises in the Cathedral to demonstrate our unity in the great truth of Holy Week. The passion, death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus are why we exist, the center of what we do, the ultimate meaning for each of our lives. May God richly bless you as you adore the cross and bask in the light of the resurrection.