This evening, I picked up the TEC-Pittsburgh Bishop Price’s report to diocesan Convention. Yes, many months have passed, but I still feel the need to see how TEC’s convention went: which of my friends were elected to offices, how things are shaping up (for better or worse) for the year ahead, etc. It only takes a Facebook comment or two from a friend on the “other side” for me to be aware that Convention is a-coming, so off I go to hit the website.
And tonight, I found Price’s address… his early remarks, which I will attend in a moment, were followed quickly with ideas about moving forward, ending suspicions and hostilities among factions in TEC. I’m very sorry to hear that my friends in TEC-PGH are not experiencing the unity and peace we have had in ACNA-PGH. Of course, knowing the range of folks who stayed in TEC, one can expect anything but boredom; nonetheless, I am sure many are battle weary.
But why, oh why, if he wanted to foster an atmosphere of reconciliation, did Bishop Price open up with remarks including the following:
“Certainly the lawsuit initiated by Calvary Parish and its rector, the Rev. Harold Lewis, is a huge reason. We need to be eternally grateful to that wonderful parish and its rector.” I suppose, in the TEC world of lawsuits, that one can become hardened to the point of ignorance of the Scripture’s command against Christians suing other Christians in the courts. I suppose, considering our lawsuit loving American culture that it is easy to forget that churches suing churches make for public relations nightmares. But at the very least, does Bishop Price not understand that some of the very people sitting before him were people originally named as defendants in that lawsuit? Does he not understand that individual priests and laity, people just trying to love Jesus, some of whom stayed in TEC and were in the room with him had liens against their very homes and were personally sued because of an act of conscience taken in good faith? Does he not understand that some of the hurt and suspicions he has noticed among the factions of the TEC diocese are in fact rooted in part in that lawsuit? Wonderful? Grateful? He’s either woefully ignorant or out of his mind.
But the bishop goes on:
“We are not without our challenges, however. Although all the dioceses have their former bishop still living in the diocese, Bishop Duncan has been elected Archbishop of the Anglican Province of North America, which gives him greater visibility and clout on the global scene. I continue to interact with him regularly in ecumenical circles, and our shared use of this Trinity Cathedral also throws us together from time to time. This interaction has been cordial thus far, but there is a surrealistic dimension to it.”
Yes, I imagine this is pretty surreal for you. The House of Bishops to which you belong waved its magic wand, but the victim refuses to go poofing away. But why on earth did you need to include those words “thus far” in describing your interactions with Archbishop Duncan. Why not simply be gracious without qualifying the word “cordial”. The only time I’ve heard Archbishop Duncan speak on the subject, he had nothing but kind words for you.
Bishop Price, if you are working to end an atmosphere of suspicion, you are shooting yourself in the foot. I suggest you consider leading by example. Try to see the best in your nearest ecclesiastical neighbors and stop qualifying your compliments. If you want to end suspicions among your own flock, stop describing their former colleagues and life-long friends with qualifiers. If things have been cordial, simply say so. We, in return, will strive to offer you the same dignity and good will.
Finally to my friends in TEC, please know that the one matter on which your bishop was most grievously wrong was this one:
“What this has revealed is that while there is lingering anger, hurt, and tension generated by the losses this diocese suffered in 2008, not the least of which are losses of friendships and long-standing relationships…” He’s right that there’s been a lot of loss. But anger comes from passion, hurt comes from caring. We, many years ago, agreed to give one another the power to hurt us by being vulnerable, by caring for one another. In unspoken agreement, we submitted our hearts to one another in friendship. And as far as I am concerned, those friendships and long-standing relationships are far from lost. In fact many are strengthened, as only disagreement can reassure friends that their relationship goes beyond the surface. And like a bone grows back stronger in the place where it was broken, only friends who have given and received forgiveness and shared the agony of a sincere reconciliation can truly share the strongest bond. I may not see many of you as often as I used to, but friendship is one thing that must not be lost to lawsuits, divisions, and the opinions of bishops.
(For the curious: the rest of Bishop Price’s remarks are here: http://www.episcopalpgh.org/2010-price-convention/)