The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Monday, September 10, 2007

Episcopal Church getting busy

All who live in Bessemer should attend the Bessemer Neighborhood Association meeting tonight at 7:00 at Broken Vessel Church on Dartmouth Avenue. There is great concern about City Council action (or inaction) that may lead to a water rate increase and this issue will be discussed. We need more citizens to become involved and to be outspoken about issues like this if we are going to be successful in making Bessemer a better place to live, so come on out.

Contentious Times in Episcopal Land

The local Episcopalians will soon elect a new suffragan, which is a little like an assistant bishop. The six candidates were all together last week in Birmingham meeting Episcopalians from across the state.

The way the church works this is not a popularity contest, but rather “the focus is discernment of what God is calling the diocese (of Alabama) to do.”

I am thinking that God wants the diocese to elect Rev. Marc Burnette, the rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham to the position. Based primarily on Burnette’s comments from Sunday’s Birmingham News, Burnette seems to realize that God’s “people” includes all people and wants to work toward keeping the church united, but also admits that “if they need to leave, they need to be free to do what they need to do,” referring to the faction threatening to split off over the full inclusion of gays.

It may well be that all 6 of the candidates feel the same way, but Burnette was the most quoted, with comments in 6 paragraphs. All 6 candidates were together, so I am not sure if he might have just been the most outspoken, or why he got so much press, but I am thinking it means he is the leading candidate.

Here’s his long quote. “It’s painful. We are family. We are determined to keep that posture. The desire is not for separation. The U. S. Episcopal Church action is very difficult to understand for some people. There is a sense of carrying out the call to be in fellowship with all God’s people, to genuinely be inclusive. Jesus taught radical inclusivity. The fact is, some people don’t want to stay together. Jesus is about table fellowship. Nobody’s turned away. The church has always been that way. That is church. That’s Jesus in action. If we teach that, then we’re being faithful with Jesus. We hold a space for everyone. If they need to leave, they have to be free to do what they need to do. The Episcopal Church is here for the long haul.”

He also said “My position is I believe in communion. I want the communion to be healthy and whole. I’m for inclusion of all God’s people. Those two are harmonious positions for me.”

The other candidates are Rev. Robert Childers of Grace Episcopal in Anniston, Rev. Alicia Schuster-Weltner, canon for congregational development from the Diocese of Atlanta, Rev. John McKee Sloan of St. Thomas Church in Huntsville, Rev. Pat Wingo of St. Thomas Church in Birmingham, and Rev. William Waldo of Trinity church in Excelsior, Minn.

The Diocese of Alabama will elect its suffragan bishop on September 30. The new official will be consecrated and take office on January 12.


Anonymous said...

I pray that Marc Burnette is not elected to be Bishop Suffergan of the Diocese of Alabama. His current parish, St. Andrew's, has lost many long standing members during his tenure and is in a state of both organizational and financial crisis due to the loss of supporting members. Many who have left expressed their concerns to him and were ignored. Contrary to his claims, he knows nothing of reconciliation, much less communion.

Anonymous said...

I would second the above comment. I believe the reason Marc was the featured candidate has more to do with the reality that Marc and Greg Garrison, the News reporter, have an established relationship as Marc is the only candidate living in Birmingham where Greg works.
Marc is definitely not the strongest candidate and would be a huge disappointmnet as Bishop Suffragan due to his inexperience.

Anonymous said...

Like I said I based what I said on the Bham News article. I have no idea if the other candidates support the American Episcopal church's full inclusion of gays, and if they don't it indicates a lack of understanding of God's love for all people. We sure don't want someone elected who would support the Global South and African Anglicans effort to divide the church. There are enough misguided Episcopalian bishops in this country already.


Anonymous said...

I can’t disagree with “anonymous” more and take issue with the misstatements in his/her post above. As a long-standing member of St. Andrew’s, I appreciate this opportunity to make some corrections.

St. Andrew’s is an inner city parish and thus more subject to people coming and going than a suburban church where families tend to be more settled. Many in our midst marry, move and take new jobs elsewhere. Nonetheless, our annual diocesan report does not reflect any loss in membership over recent years, as new people tend to arrive as often as others leave. Rather, the parish was identified by the diocese as one of a handful of “G.R.O.W.” parishes in an effort to provide leadership training to us and other growing churches in Alabama.

Nor is it having a financial/organizational crisis. Under Fr. Marc Burnette’s watch, the parish raised over a million dollars FROM WITHIN ITS OWN RANKS to renovate the buildings and grounds. This is a financial coup worthy of note. Organizational changes have been healthy ones that support our mission and were long overdue, as confirmed by our former rector.

It is true that some have left, but it is not true that their concerns were ignored, either by the Rector or the parish as a whole. Marc Burnette showed backbone and compassion by listening to them at length, to the point that these concerns were the focal point of parish life and discussions for some time. Some good points were raised, and some changes have been accomplished as a result; other concerns were apparently not resolved to the liking of everyone, so they left. No one’s concerns should be trivialized, but it takes more courage to stay and fight for what you want than to leave and snipe behind someone’s back. The Church’s teachings on reconciliation should drive the resolution of differences, and there is much to be learned about this topic for those willing to stay and listen.

As for his having a relationship with the News reporter, I asked him about this. He said he was one of the two candidates who happened to return Greg Garrison’s phone call within the press deadline. Others apparently chose not to respond or did not do so within the deadline.

We could do no better than to elect Marc Burnette as Suffragan Bishop, although the other five candidates are fine persons who will no doubt support God’s call for inclusion as well.

Anonymous said...

I am glad to hear this about Marc. We have been discussing visiting St. Andrew's and now I feel we must. I hope to meet you soon.