Dear Bishop Richard,
I learned today of your intention as an Anglican bishop to participate in the consecration of a new bishop to serve in Scotland, a bishop who will minister in opposition to the Scottish Episcopal Church because of that Church’s recent decision to permit the marriage of same-sex couples.
Your letter to your brother and sister bishops in Australia is admirable in taking responsibility for this decision, and addressing some possible outcomes. I know you understand that this action comes with grave consequences for your fellowship with the other Australian bishops, and has serious implications for our Scottish brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion.
Now, I am neither a bishop nor a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church, so the politics of what has been described as a cross-border intervention have less direct resonance for me than they may for others. But I acknowledge that my own counsel to other bishops, faced with what they have understood to be a first-order gospel issue, has been to act on principle, in contexts as diverse as the ordination of women or the support of refugees and asylum seekers.
My prayer for Anglican bishops worldwide has been that they – that you – might be articulate, aware, and heard as you explain your actions. Recently I wrote of my hope that, in this tender and furious matter of sexuality, Anglican bishops might recognise that “acting with integrity and honesty would be a good start.” (Peter Sherlock, “Making Decisions”, in Kaleidoscope of Pieces, ed. Alan Cadwallader, Adelaide: ATF Press, 2015)
I acknowledge that, while we disagree on this matter, you are indeed acting with honesty and integrity. I know you wrestle daily with the scriptures, and take your episcopal calling with the utmost gravity it demands. I pray that we may remain in fellowship – before, during, and after the consecration ceremony later this year.
And so, please be assured of my prayers and love in Christ for you, for the people of Tasmania whom you are called to serve, for your colleagues in the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, and especially for Scottish Episcopalians.
But if I may, I ask that in all that lies ahead, you might find ways to invite same-sex attracted people into the heart of your deliberations. Modelled always on the witness of Jesus, who brought the margins to the centre, may you not merely listen, but wrestle with us about the costly questions of sexuality and theology, and be willing to learn from us as we, too, wrestle with the high price of unity in Christ.
Yours in Christ,