Anglican Church in North (ACNA) America Archbishop Duncan wrote a pastoral letter to the clergy and people - of either Pittsburgh or of all of ACNA. It is a letter of comfort and hope and a good pastoral assurance.
When all this is well behind everyone involved there will still be people gathered in Christian community, and still divisions among us. But I think the Archbishop's words of comfort are are a reminder for all of us that the call to follow Jesus Christ as well as we can will yield a hundred-fold and that we need not despair. Works for ACNA and it works for The Episcopal Church. Sometimes, in human terms, one side or the other "wins." But in God's good grace winning isn't everything, it isn't even something. What counts is following.
Elizabeth Kaeton commenting on another post said, "It's still just flat out sad." Amen to that. Perhaps that is what is most difficult about the legal battles. They are meant to be won or lost. It turns out, mostly, that God loves absolutely everybody (to quote Louie Crew), but has a preference for the poor. So I'm a bit back in the line, but that's OK, I'm still in the line even if others go first. Winning is showing up for the banquet, not where you get to sit.
Still there it is: in human terms these things end in winners and losers. But in God's grace, the winning has already been done, and we are the beneficiaries.
So.... read the pastoral letter and remember that sometimes this (or something like it) will need to be written from any of the parties in these difficult times to all the "clergy and people."
My only reservation about the letter is the phrase, "Our God reigns." It never was "our" God, and it never was "theirs" either. The reign of God will not for many of us be a simple gift of joy. Were it not for God's grace preventing, that reign would be our ruin.
Here is the Letter.
7th October, A.D. 2009
A pastoral letter to be read in all the churches on Sunday, October 11th, A.D. 2009 and in Saturday services preceding.
TO ALL THE CLERGY AND PEOPLE:
Beloved in the Lord,
We lost. In human terms we lost. Bishop and Standing Committee, together with Board of Trustees, thought we understood the document that was signed on our behalf in 2005 that ended the first phase of the Calvary lawsuit. But yesterday, the judge found against us on the basis of that document.
The team that has provided extraordinary legal counsel to us, and to others in similar cases across the country, has issued the following statement: "We believe the opinion and order is contrary to applicable law, disregards the agreed assumption of valid withdrawal by the Diocese from TEC, violates the assurances given us that the issue of the 'true diocese' was not part of this proceeding and denies us due process of law." Accordingly we reserve all of our rights to appeal.
We will take a time for further counsel and prayer, seeking God's guidance on whether to file an appeal. After that, we will, of course, fully comply with the court's order to facilitate an orderly transfer of DIOCESAN assets to the Episcopal Church Diocese. We have mostly lived without benefit of these assets since January. We have demonstrated that we can live without them. It will be sad not to have the resources left by previous generations to draw on, but God will be faithful. Two hundred and fifty years ago the first Anglicans at Fort Pitt had nothing. One hundred and forty five years ago the Anglicans who first organized our diocese had nothing. God was faithful to them. He will be faithful to us.
The court's decision has nothing to do with PARISH property, including the funds held in trust for you. The stipulation of 2005 spelled out a mediated process for parishes wishing to leave the "diocese." Your bishop, your standing committee, your diocesan council and your board of trustees will all work with your parish leadership toward this end. We invite the leadership of the Episcopal Church Diocese into working with us for the good of all congregations, both Episcopal Church and Anglican Church congregations.
The gospel for this Sunday is Mark 10:17-31, the rich young man. In the passage Jesus promises that those who are willing to leave everything to follow him "will receive back a hundredfold." Jesus is speaking to us and to our situation. Now is the moment we are called to trust Him at His word. I am willing. Your leadership is willing. Are you?
Our future is so bright in the Anglican Church in North America: Converted individuals, in multiplying congregations, fueled by the Holy Spirit. Do not despair. "He who has called you is faithful, and He will do it." (I Thessalonians 5:24)
On Friday night November 6th I invite as many of you as can to join together, physically or by internet or in spirit, in St. Stephen's Church in Sewickley (beginning at 6 p.m.) to thank God for his goodness to us, to offer up the immense transition of this last year, and to celebrate the prospect of our life in our new Anglican Province. The best is still ahead. Our God reigns.