Went to service at The University Church of St Mary the Virgin this morning. The following letter was inserted in every program.
Pastoral letter from the bishop of OxfordIn her sermon, Rvd Dr Harriet Harris mentioned that many people say debate should precede action, but she argued that from the baptism of the Gentiles things such as this have happened because people were seen to be called by God, given special gifts, and that the debate came later as people tried to understand and catch up to the will of God. I liked that idea.
to be used in churches in the diocese on Sunday 13 July
May I first of all say that I am acutely aware of the emotion and feelings which the appointment and withdrawal of Canon Jeffrey John as the next bishop of Reading have stirred for many people in the diocese.
In the diocese there had been various meetings of deanery synods, PCC's and other groups to express views and concerns about the appointment, and we had in place a summer programme in which further listening was going to be undertaken and ways of respecting opposition to the appointment were going to be identified. It is my view that Jeffrey has outstanding episcopal gifts, and that his appointment could and would have worked in the diocese. Most recently, nearly all the area deans of the Reading episcopal area had sent Jeffrey a letter of welcome.
Jeffrey decided to withdraw last Sunday after a meeting with the archbishop the previous day, at which I was present, in which concerns were discussed about the effect of the appointment particularly on the worldwide Anglican Communion. Jeffrey's letter to me, which i received with great sadness, and my reply, can be seen with other statements on the diocesan website.
The diocese can be proud of the courtesy with which its own discussion of the appointment has been conducted. This good foundation of fellowship must now be the basis for reflection and consultation, in order for the diocese to live out its unity and refocus on the vital strategy which together we need to effect: an imminent meeting of the area deans and lay chairs of the diocese will start this reflection off. Reflection is also needed before steps are taken to identify a new bishop of Reading: but it is certainly not true, as the Times speculated last Tuesday, that the see of Reading will remain vacant.
The courtesy must also continue as we play our part in the ongoing dialogue on sexuality - a dialogue for which Issues in Human Sexuality called, for which recent events have shown all the more need, which the archbishop in his statement last Saturday emphasised, and which the forthcoming Guide to the Debate will assist. All of us, whatever our views, need to enable lesbian and gay people inside and outside our churches who interpret recent events in terms of rejection, to feel the loving presence of the Holy Spirit.
As together we think through what has happened and discern what God is teaching us, please continue to pray that our life together may be strengthened and be a fitting instrument for God's love in Jesus Christ.
With every good wish and blessing
Diocesan Church House, North Hinksey, Oxford OX2 0NB
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