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The Presiding Bishop's Leadership
>From 2000-2003 I struggled with +FTG when we were on opposite sides of
several vital issues. Some of those struggles were quite public,
occasionally even personal, as in his initial responses to my witness
in Uganda, as part of the Standing Commission on Anglican and
International Peace with Justice Concerns. (See footnote)
We also struggled in Executive Council, most notably when we were on
opposite sides of whether to move the Church Center to GTS, an
initiative which I saw as a mission opportunity, one which he
I am sure that +FTG has been just as frustrated with me as I with him
on a few occasions.
Given the complexity of +FTG's assignment and of mine, we will likely
struggle on opposite sides of some issues in this triennium as well.
This preface is to illustrate that I am not star-struck by the
opportunity to hang around a Presiding Bishop. I could not exercise
the duties of my own office if I were overawed with his.
However, I do stand in awe of the backbone that +FTG is manifesting in
that office, especially in response to the course TEC charted
at GC 2003:
* +FTG made certain that dozens of bishops from opposing dioceses in
the communion were present as our guests during GC, free to bear
their own witness, and free to observe the openness of our processes.
We could not have had a more transparent process culminating over
30 years of conversations that had brought us this far. We made
these decisions with the whole world watching. Following Lambeth
98, +FTG urged all Anglican bishops to "come and see." He himself
participated in an ongoing series of discussions with other
* +FTG invited one of the major opponents to preach at the major
Sunday Eucharist (Archbishop Fearon, far far to the right of his
primate Archbishop Akinola), which turned out to be the very day
that the House of Deputies voted on consents.
* +FTG could have ducked the vote on consents, as he ducked the
vote on the sexuality resolution at Lambeth 98, on grounds that
he wanted to listen and be objective, sensitive to the views
of the majority who are opposed. (His abstention on consents
would, by the rules, have been counted as a 'no')
* +FTG could have even voted against consents, as his predecessor
+John Allin voted against women's ordination in 1976, to go on
serving until January 1986. +FTG has vote in consents not as PB,
but as Bishop of Europe.
* +FTG could have pleaded, quite accurately, that he does not have the
power of other primates, when the primates met in London in
October 2003, but instead owned that it is his responsibility, part
of his oath as PB, to uphold the constitution and canons of TEC
and the actions of our GC. When they begged him at least to try
to stop the consecration, he replied, quite publicly at a press
conference, that barring the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, he
intended to be in NH to preside over the consecration himself.
* +FTG could easily have ducked this consecration. He has gone
to very few consecrations in his tenure, and he could have delegated
this one to +Chilton Knudsen as the Province 1 President, or to the
vice-president of the House of Bishops. Instead, he presided with
great dignity and magnanimity toward all.
* +FTG has done a splendid job of informing himself of the legal
parameters of the matters before him and the rest of us on Executive
Council. We were briefed about such matters for at least an
hour and a half in executive session at Council meeting in October,
and it was the most impressive hour and a half that I have
experienced in now more than 3 years on that body.
* +FTG has not spoken beyond the bounds of his own authority. He
has very limited authority to take on misbehaving bishops in their
own jurisdictions. The canons and constitutions of all dioceses
and of TEC set up the parameters for bringing presentments, and
the PB's office is not the initiator.
How ridiculous he would look if the PB responded to all salvos
hurled at him. That would reveal a weakness which is not his as the
Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. The strongest are those
who know that they don't have to prove your strength at every
* +FTG has not returned bluster for bluster, nor has he cowed in fear
as the blusterers have so wanted him to do. We are going forward
with the exciting new initiatives that GC directed us to do.
* +FTG has never returned meanness for meanness. I have never heard
him speak unkindly about those who so steadily heap unkindness
upon him. In the recent interview with beliefnet, he spoke
poignantly about how the current challenges are strengthening
his spiritual life. See
* +FTG has not whined or complained when with great dignity he has
stepped down from some ecumenical assignments very dear to him.
* +FTG has brought fresh joy to many on the staff at 815 since GC
2003. One of my friends there told me today of the excitement she
and others are finding work at 815 to be like living on the edge,
and what's more important, they are enjoying the challenges,
they are living with great expectations of where God might be
leading our Church.
Very few who work at the highest levels of the bureaucracies of
other churches could say that they are excited by 'living on
the edge.' This is the experience of Christians in the first
* +FTG manifests a genuine sensitivity to the feelings of those of us
who weep as well as to those of us who rejoice.
* +FTG might have tried to deflect some of the heat directed at him
by suggesting that +Gene could somehow go through a test period to
see whether he really is a full-fledged bishop. That has not
happened. Mark Andrew was welcomed and fully included with the
spouses at the Baby Bishops training. +Gene is as fully a bishop
in the House of Bishops as he is in the Diocese of NH.
* ..... I could name many, many other reasons that +FTG's current
leadership impresses me. He challenges me to be a better Christian.
Jesus said in John's gospel last Sunday, "I have not treated you as
slaves, but as friends." That puts lots of responsibility on each
disciple. If Jesus is our friend, we do not need to have the bishop
step into every fray and sort the good folks from the bad folks and
make every church fight stop and give the rewards to the good people.
+Gene's consecration puts on every Episcopalian the responsibility of
taking that good news to those who need to hear it. The backlash
we're facing is a marvelous opportunity for us all to be evangelists,
a marvelous opportunity to open ourselves to those unaware that God
can say something new, that God really does love absolutely everybody.
There is also good news in this for those who voted against consents,
for they can rejoice to be part of a church where they can speak
positions contrary to those of the majority and remain Episcopalians
in good standing. We all are part of a church in which we all as
faithfully as we can try to be like Jesus rather than to force others
be like us or agree with us.
See my initial report at
http://rci.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/natter_old2/msg00058.html; the PB's
early private letter to me, which the Archbishop of Uganda leaked to
the world, at
and the PB's more irenic subsequent clarification, at