To: Clergy and people of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts
From: Bishop Gordon P. Scruton and Bishop Elect Douglas J. Fisher
We have been blessed by God's presence at work in our General Convention amid the pressures of many challenges facing our church and world.
It was a great joy to experience Confirmation from the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops of our election of Doug Fisher as our next Bishop. We are now free to proceed with his Ordination and Consecration on December 1st. Doug and Betsy will be moving to the Diocese in the middle of September to begin their ministry among us.
At General Convention, our church authorized a provisional rite and accompanying resources for blessing same-sex relationships. As your Bishop and Bishop Elect, we will encourage parishes who chose to do so, to use this provisional rite beginning on the First Sunday of Advent, 2012. Our Church has prayed, debated and sought guidance for this decision for a number of years. Same gender couples, committed in love, may now be blessed to enter into a life-long covenant of fidelity with one another and the Living God.
In the next several months we will consult with members of our diocese and develop details of a way forward so that clergy and congregations who choose to do so, may help couples celebrate this commitment with soulful discernment and faithful preparation.
We recognize that in most congregations there are people who have been eager for our church to provide a liturgy for same-sex blessings and also some who cannot in conscience support same-gender blessings. The resolution says that "(no person) should be coerced or penalized in any manner...(for) conscientious objection to or support for this resolution." Our desire is to continue to respect and value the comprehensive diversity of theological perspectives that has been our character as Anglicans, recognizing that none of us and no group among us knows the full mind of God or has the definitive interpretation of Scripture.
What was truly remarkable about the debate on this resolution in the House of Bishops was that almost all of the conservative bishops who spoke against this decision began by saying how much they appreciated the respect shown for them and their perspective in the resolution and in the process of developing the resolution. This was a decision reached in the context of respectful, grace-filled relationships and without rancor.
In humility we seek to focus on Christ and let Christ and God's mission hold us together in our differences, as we kneel together to be nourished at God's altar week by week. In humility we will also seek to maintain close and respectful relationships with those in the Anglican Communion and with our Ecumenical partners who differ from the direction discerned by our General Convention. May Christ hold us all together and continue to guide us for the sake of God's mission in this generation.