ANGLICAN CHURCH IN AMERICA
Diocese of the Northeast
Rt. Rev. Brian Marsh, Bishop

October 12, 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This pastoral letter comes to you after a very busy period of time. Our diocesan synod was indeed a blessing and I want to thank all who participated in that wonderful gathering. Since my last major pastoral letter of June 3, many events have come to pass that require our prayerful discernment. Accordingly, I commend the following to you for your thoughts and prayers. I request that this letter be shared with every parish in the diocese.

OF UNITY AND CONVERSION

Few of us would argue against the principle of Christian unity. The unity of God's people is something that we earnestly pray for and eagerly seek. Indeed, on the Day of Pentecost when the church was born, all were gathered together in one place and "with one accord." It is that quality of being in accord with each other that makes the church a healthy, functioning home for God on earth. That spirit of accord is also one that we should endeavor to create and celebrate in our parishes.

We all wish in our heart of hearts to be of one accord, in unity with each other in a bond of love that replicates the very bond of love between the Father and the Son.

I am very happy to report that most churches in our diocese are indeed of one accord, particularly as it relates to our desire to worship God in the Anglican tradition. While we are far from perfect, we do recognize the necessity of continually aspiring to join with each other in closer bonds of unity. It is clear that God has called us to be together in unity and serve His church faithfully.

Above all, we must remember that unity begins at home. Just as a family should stay together in unity, so should our parishes and diocese remain unified, committed to each other and to our common life and mission. We all know that divorce and separation causes pain and disruption to family life. Similarly, any splits or separations within the Christian family will cause pain and disruption to the lives of God's children. It is vital that we stay together.

What does seem clear to me is this: breaking our diocese and parishes apart for the sake of some imagined unity makes no sense. We must be of "one accord" as we seek a way forward. For that reason, I discourage any parish "votes." Any such votes seem certain to produce winners and losers. Children are often placed in difficult decisions during divorce proceedings when asked to vote whether to go with their Mother or Father. How wrenching such decisions must be for the hearts and souls of vulnerable children. We must never allow this to happen to us. Rather, I ask that all parishes seek to reach consensus about the future direction of their parish. Consensus requires a parish to be of one accord. This is the Godly thing to do. Just as all of God's children are loved by God, we must love each other and seek to prevent hurt and separation. This is certainly a much more challenging task than taking a simple vote. But I do not believe that God asks us to take a simple path; God asks us to take His path. That will mean that we treat all of God's children with love and respect. It will mean treating all parishes with love and respect, creating Christian communities where no one is voted in or out. God, I believe, would have it that way.

Since the Apostolic Constitution was released nearly a year ago, many of us have sought to discern our way forward with regard to its provisions. Should we accept the Vatican’s offer to become Roman Catholics and enter an Ordinariate or should we maintain our present course? Entering an Ordinariate requires that all who do so convert to Roman Catholicism. Archbishop Donald Wuerl, the Catholic archbishop in charge of Ordinariates in this country, has made this very clear; entering an Ordinariate requires that all who do so must convert to the Roman Catholic Church.

Should any individuals be moved to seek entry into the Roman Catholic Church or Ordinariate, there are three basic options: one, you may simply join a Roman Catholic parish; second, you may write your bishop a letter seeking entry as an individual into an Ordinariate; or third, should your parish as a whole wish to join an Ordinariate, you may write to me and make that request. Should your parish be of "one accord" in seeking to join an Ordinariate, that path is clearly open. To date, I have received several letters from parishes that are indeed of one accord in seeking to remain with the ACA and the Diocese of the Northeast. These parishes have decided against entering an Ordinariate. I have not asked for such letters, but the parishes felt moved to send them along. I received one letter from a group that does seek admission to the Ordinariate. That body had reached a complete accord in its desire to accept the Vatican's offer. I asked that they send a letter to me in that regard. Upon receiving the letter, I forwarded it on to Archbishop Falk. He was, until recently, the person who collected all such requests.

As I have traveled around the diocese, I have noted that there are presently few parishes seeking entry into the Ordinariate. There may be one or two. If so, I simply ask that the parish reach full consensus with ALL parishioners before requesting admission. As I mentioned in my June pastoral, those parishes that do not wish to join an Ordinariate need do nothing.

You also should know that, as your bishop, I remain committed to Christian unity, which certainly includes the traditional Anglican Church bodies whose practices and beliefs are consistent with our own.  I remain also firmly committed to the Anglican Church in America. But, even more, I remain committed to the people of the diocese I have been called to serve. May we seek always to be of one accord in our lives within God's holy church.

Your Brother in Christ,

+Brian