You all know what I think about most British bishops. But there is one who, since I met him a few years back, I have had a lot of respect for. He is Bishop Mark Strange of of Moray, Ross and Caithness. He seemed like a good bloke and he has never done anything to make me think otherwise. Today my reckless admiration for one of the bosses has been proved warranted beyond any doubt. This is a letter to his people posted today on his diocesan website:
I am very conscious of the footsteps that I walk in. Every time I enter the cathedral I am aware of the picture that hangs at the rear of the nave. It depicts Samuel Seabury, the first Bishop for the newly independent American states being consecrated by Arthur Petrie, Bishop of Moray and his two colleagues. I am very aware of that history and I have always considered the Episcopal Church in America as our closest family, sharing a strong common history in our prayer and worship.
I am also very aware that the inclusion of both ourselves and the Episcopal Church in America into the Anglican Communion moved the Communion into a new place. For the first time the churches that came together were not daughters of Canterbury but independent churches connected by fraternity and bonds of friendship. I am clear that this membership was not to do with rules and regulations but by a mutual respect, liturgy, scripture, tradition and the orders of Bishop, Priest and Deacon.
Now I am confronted by a different situation, a Church which has followed its own accepted processes to bring about a change in its Canons, a change which it believes is done in response to the love revealed to us all by Jesus Christ. This Church has been reprimanded by those who see things differently. In the drive for unity in the Anglican Communion we risk removing our diversity and our ability to respond to the particular needs of mission in our own communities, the ability to hear the voice of God in our own situations.
Where do I stand? I stand with those who seek to reveal the love of God to all of God’s children and at this moment I hear that in the voice of The Episcopal Church in America, as its Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has said “Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all. While I understand that many disagree with us, our decision regarding marriage is based on the belief that the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians are true for the Church today: All who have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ.”
I support that commitment.