The Chapel of St John the Divine in Champaign has been the flagship campus ministry of the Diocese of Springfield for many decades. Its building is uniquely beautiful, and its tradition of liturgy and music is exemplary, one of the jewels of the diocese.
It is with a truly heavy heart that I must share the news that I have entered into an agreement with the Rector and Mission Leadership Team of the Chapel to delegate my spiritual oversight–my ministry as chief teacher and chief liturgical officer–of the Chapel to the Bishop of Fond du Lac. I will remain the community’s canonical bishop, and Bishop Gunter’s delegated authority there is derived from my inherent authority. Nonetheless, Bishop Gunter will visit them annually, share with them in Word and Sacrament, and administer confirmation. The Chapel will continue to have all the privileges and responsibilities of an Incorporated Eucharistic Community of the Diocese of Springfield, entitled to representation at synod, with its clergy and members eligible for election and appointment to diocesan offices.
The reason for this unusual arrangement is that the leadership of the Chapel have determined that they are unable to receive my teaching on the subject of sexuality and marriage, which is nothing other than the teaching that is still held by the vast majority of Christians throughout the world, including the Anglican Communion, and has always been held in all Christian communities, as handed on by Christ and the Apostles. The Chapel wishes to host celebrations of marriage between persons of the same sex, which my ordination vows prevent me from permitting. Nonetheless, the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in 2018 restricted the historic prerogative of diocesan bishops to regulate the administration of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, and since I am unable to provide oversight of such celebrations myself, I am obligated to make other arrangements. I am grateful to Bishop Gunter for his willingness to step in.
I am profoundly sad–indeed, heartbroken–that the situation has evolved in this way. While there have always been and probably always will be differences among sincere Christians over various matters of faith and practice, the issues surrounding marriage are of such core significance that they have become church-dividing. It distresses me that there are those who vilify the historic teaching of the Church as unloving or un-Christlike, or as a failure to respect human dignity. I commend my recent pastoral teaching on this subject for further elaboration. And my sadness is compounded by the fact that I love the Chapel and its ministry, and particularly its musical tradition. I have a sense of loss that I feel very personally.
With faith that the grace of our God is ever-abundant, I am laying this burden down at the foot of the cross of Jesus, trusting that, in time, reconciliation will occur.