Tuesday, December 4, 2007
To the Clergy of the Diocese of Toronto.
From: Bishop Johnson
As you know from the media, the Essentials Network met last week in Burlington to prepare for a formal separation from the Anglican Church of Canada. Please note that this is the “Network” branch of Essentials, and it is clear to me that it is not the intention or desire of the majority of those who are involved in the mainstream of the Essentials movement itself. (ed: divide and conquer?)
I am saddened but not surprised by this development. I do understand that some people may choose to leave their denominational tradition because they feel led to a different path. I, myself, left the denomination of my birth and early development to become an Anglican – and I have never regretted that decision. What I cannot countenance is a primate and province of the Anglican Communion in another part of the world claiming missionary jurisdiction here, not as another denomination but in competition as the “real” Anglican Church. A few clergy who have relinquished voluntarily their orders in the Anglican Church of Canada, or will soon do so, are actively engaged in this. This is not acceptable....
We have worked together in this diocese to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to build communities of hope and compassion, and to create space where faithful people of very diverse theological and cultural perspectives can all contribute to enriching our ministry and deepening both our understanding of and our engagement in God’s mission here today. We have done so, even in the midst of differences and ambiguity and discomfort, because we know we have been called together by Jesus Christ. We have been initiated into his life through baptism that unites us with him and with each other in a holy fellowship that is more than of our making, so much more!
...I list below ten cogent points from another bishop’s letter to his clergy that I think bear repeating as we respond to the Network’s actions:
• Pray for the unity of Christians, for a spirit of charity towards those with whom we may disagree, and for God’s forgiveness of our mutual failure to honour the prayer of Christ in St. John’s Gospel “that they may be one.”
• Give particular support to those conservative and traditional Christians who remain with their church and grieve the departure of friends.
• Teach our members about the genius of Anglicanism and its balance of Scripture, reason and tradition within the boundaries of common prayer.
• Emphasize in our preaching and leadership the centrality of mission and its priority over ecclesiastical politics.
• Challenge the false stereotypes that foster polarization - e.g. the ‘heartless conservative’ or the ‘unbiblical liberal.’
• Give thanks that our church, for all its messiness, is honestly and openly facing issues some other bodies cannot.
• Press forward in ministry and evangelism at the local level.
• Deepen our study and immersion in Scripture. Place ourselves under the authority of the Christ it reveals. Avoid both an empty relativism and a harsh literalism.
• Encourage both local media and the non-churchgoing public to understand the deeper roots of this development.
• Take the ‘long view’ - i.e. remember the consistent triumph of the Gospel over the historic fragmentation of the church, and the persistence of faith through the failures of human discipleship.
... Let us continue to worship, proclaim and embody the Good News of Jesus Christ in our Diocese! Please know that you are in my prayers during this holy season of expectant waiting, as I trust I will be in your prayers.
(The Rt. Rev’d) Colin R Johnson,
Bishop of Toronto