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Episcopal Church Executive Council: opening remarks from the Presiding Bishop

February 27, 2016
Office of Public Affairs

[February 26, 2016] The following are the opening remarks of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church, currently meeting through February 28 at the American Airlines Training & Conference Center, Fort Worth, TX.

Thank you all.  President Gay Clark Jennings and I have worked together closely since November 1 and I am very grateful for the growing relationships with her and with members of the Executive Council.

I want to start by talking about the staff of The Episcopal Church.  This has been a tough time for them and all who have been involved in the personnel matters that we will discuss in executive session.  I am impressed by them.  I have been moved by them. They love Our Lord, they love our Church, and they have taken some body blows.  But they keep on working.  We have a remarkable group of people who work for The Episcopal Church.  I look forward to working with them for nine years.

I wanted to give you a quick update on my health.  I am doing fine and I am more than grateful to Almighty God and you.  I could not believe I got sick.  I was preaching at Bruton Parish and then I couldn’t remember anything.  But as a preacher, I kept talking.  It turns out it was a subdermal hematoma.  I hit my head. They can figure out when I hit my head – it was approximately November 1. And I remember falling and hitting my head as I tripped. The symptoms are delayed about 4 – 5 weeks.  If the symptoms hadn’t been delayed, imagine what the sermon would have been like on November 1!  The care was wonderful. 

Things are reasonably back to normal. I have been doing my rehab and that’s all gone well.

I have been very blessed.  I have preached several times and am feeling fine. Thank you for your prayers. And I thank this church for praying.  It means a lot to be prayed for.

Now about the Primates meeting. I won’t go through all the details of the Primates meeting. Certainly before that meeting, there was anxiety throughout the Anglican Communion about what the outcome would be. It is fair to say that no one knew what the outcome would be. 

We all gathered, and clearly the issue was the role of The Episcopal Church and our actions.  It’s important to say that there were some, not large in number, not the majority, but some who felt that the Episcopal Church should be disciplined and needed to be expelled or possibly removed if we did not change our marriage policy.  That was before the meeting. Most were silent.

The agenda was set, and the first item was The Episcopal Church and our actions on marriage.  Archbishop Beach spoke for 10 minutes, and Archbishop Fred Hiltz of the Anglican Church In Canada spoke for 10 minutes, and I spoke for 10 minutes.

At that point in the meeting, I told them that my election reflected that The Episcopal Church said loudly at General Convention that our commitment was to the work of evangelism and racial reconciliation. I told them that I wanted to be the Chief Evangelism Officer.  The Episcopal Church is about following the way of Jesus, the way of God’s love.  That set the tone and there was some frank talk, always respectful, and some tough conversation happened. We spoke in groups, we spoke with each other, we were able to have one- on-one conversations.  It was good to have those conversations.

The long-standing relationships between The Episcopal Church and Anglican Provinces, and the companion relationships that our dioceses and churches have with churches around the word, and it’s extraordinary and it made a difference.

Then there was a time when the Primates said that we were committed to “walking together.”  That’s not an insignificant statement.

The resolution that was made public was approved. Remember that there were some who wanted to see The Episcopal Church either suspended or removed if we didn’t change course. That perspective didn’t dominate the meeting – that’s my opinion but it didn’t dominate the meeting. There was profound disagreement with our actions, but that disagreement did not sever our relationship.

Many believed that marriage is part of core doctrine.  No individual church can change core doctrine.  Many felt that the expansion of who may be married on our part was a change in church doctrine.  Therefore it was in part on that basis that many felt that we had overstepped our authority as a province. I didn’t agree with that but I respect that that was the understanding of many.  For me, marriage is not part of core doctrine. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is core doctrine.  The doctrine of who Jesus Christ is – wholly God and wholly human – is doctrine.  The articles of the Creeds are doctrine.  The Holy Scriptures and the Old and New Testament are core doctrine.  Other sections of the Chicago– Lambeth Quadrilateral are core doctrine. Marriage is a sacramental rite, it is a solemn and sacred matter of faith and practice.  But it is not core doctrine.  

Their action was surgical, specific, and mediated. Because we are seen as having deviated from doctrine of the Anglican Communion, for three years we are suspended on ambassadorial and leadership positions. 

What the Primates said applies to the Primates. It does not apply to ACC.

No one knows what will happen after the three years.

Rabbi Friedman and others taught us that when we are in conflict, don’t try to find quick solutions.  You must find the points of clarity and stay in relationship with each other.  I think Rabbi Friedman called that maturity. That is a sign of potential maturity – capacity to disagree profoundly and deeply, and yet to stay on relationship in Christ.

It may be that we stumbled, it may be that we actually did find a mature place to disagree.  Many Primates made their feelings clear, and we were equally clear that we are a house of worship for all people, and we were clear that we are not going to change.  We were not voted off the island. The result was an expression of profound disagreement and deep displeasure but not a breaking of relationship.

We are part of the Anglican Communion. 

My prayer is that we will always be a house of prayer for all people.  And that we will show the same love and honor for all people, for our church members who are gay lesbian bisexual and transgender, for those who agree and for those who disagree, and for our brothers and sisters who are part of the Anglican Communion.  If we take that Gospel high ground, we may be able to bear witness to that love of Jesus by helping our church and the Anglican tradition to truly become “a house of prayer for all people.”

Thank you for being this church that tries to welcome all, the same way Jesus welcomed all.  I am proud of our church.