January 18, 2012
My dear friends in Christ,
I write you this week with some sadness but also with a sense of gratitude that we have reached a settlement with Mount Calvary Church, Baltimore, on the issues of property and use of those buildings. Since 1842 the people of that parish have witnessed faithfully as members of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. On January 22 they are to be officially received into the Roman Catholic Church. Twenty-four of the 28 members present (of a congregation of 45) voted last year to make this move, and I want them to know they go with our prayers and our very best wishes.
As your bishop I have been praying these months for our departing brothers and sisters while at the same time working with our Standing Committee and chancellor as responsible stewards of all that has been given to this Episcopal congregation and this diocese. I am grateful that we have arrived at a fair and just settlement so that our brothers and sisters may respond to the call they have heard.
All of us in the Episcopal Church are seeking to serve Christ in all persons every day. We promise to do that in our Baptismal Covenant. Our church’s polity is democratic. We elect everybody from vestry members and rectors to bishops and the presiding bishop. We vote on resolutions at Diocesan Convention and the tri-annual General Convention of the Episcopal Church. So when Episcopalians at Mount Calvary gathered to discern their future as servants of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ they naturally followed the democratic process that has been part of their 170 year history and the charism of our communion since we formed ourselves in 1785 out of the Church of England.
Episcopalians and Anglicans throughout the world, along with our Eastern Orthodox sisters and brothers worldwide, see ourselves as fully part of Christ’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. We know our roots. Theologically and liturgically the Roman, Anglican and Orthodox traditions hold much more in common than there are differences. Our polities, or the way we govern ourselves, differ. We are all still seeking the Kingdom of God that Jesus told his disciples is here. Together we are members of the Body of Christ here on earth.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins today with the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter and ends next Wednesday on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. I work on your behalf for Christian unity at our regular Ecumenical Leaders Group meetings in Maryland, and that includes the bishops of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore. We collaborate on issues and ministries that are rooted in the gospel of Jesus. Unity may be defined differently by some around the table at that leaders group meeting. But I believe doing Gospel work together is certainly the kind of unity the Holy Spirit can work with.
Our brothers and sisters at Mount Calvary have not “converted” to Roman Catholicism. They have chosen to walk with different friends in the same one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of which they have always been a part. Let us pray for them on their journey. Let us hope that their work in the future will continue to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to respect the dignity of every human being, and help build up the Kingdom of God here on earth.
Blessings and peace,
The Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton
XIV Bishop of Maryland
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