Statement of the Presiding Bishop to the House of Bishops
Thursday, March 12, 2020
“Opportunity is always to be given to every communicant to receive the consecrated Bread and Wine separately.” (BCP p. 407)
“The Rector or Priest-in-Charge shall have full authority and responsibility for the conduct of the worship and spiritual jurisdiction of the Parish, subject to the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer, the Constitution and Canons of this Church, and the pastoral direction of the Bishop.” Canon III.9.6(a)(1)
Neither the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer nor the Canons of the Episcopal Church address a public health emergency such as the one we are facing. My message to you sent last evening, which is being made public today, is designed to send a signal to the Church that the Presiding Bishop is supporting bishops who make decisions to suspend the common cup because of this public health emergency. My hope is that this will obviate or mitigate any effort to take canonical action directed at any bishop for these actions in these circumstances. This is to help uphold the good order of the Church in this context in which the moral primacy of Jesus’ command to love thy neighbor must guide us.
The next 30-60 days at the least are simply going to be unlike anything we have experienced in recent history, even including 9/11. The dilemma of what we know and what we don’t know will continue to complicate our decision making and our lives.
In an email to me last night our brother Mark Van Koevering of the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington spoke of the decision to honor the Kentucky Governor’s request of religious leaders to suspend public worship with these words.
“I am loathe to cancel services, but I do support the Governor’s recommendation and think that I must humbly ask our faith communities to practice a Lenten fast of public worship this week as a sign of love for one’s neighbor especially the most vulnerable.”
Obedience to the moral primacy of love for the neighbor must direct us. My hope is that this will enable us to do that while maintaining the good order of the Church for the sake of following Jesus in God’s mission for God’s world.
God bless you and keep the faith.