Saturday, September 23, 2006

A Statement of Congratulations to Mark Beckwith and the Diocese of Newark

Statement from the Reverend William H. Stokes
upon Mark Beckwith being elected as 10th Bishop of Newark

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church - Delray Beach, Florida, September 23, 2006 – The Church is blessed today by the results of the election in Newark. Congratulations to Mark Beckwith. We became friends during the nominating process. I am confident he will be an extraordinary Bishop of Newark. I am grateful to God for allowing me the opportunity to be a part of the process in Newark, and so, a part of the conversation about the life of the Church. The Diocese of Newark is a wondrous part of God’s reign. With an amazing diversity of people, the Diocese of Newark presents many exciting opportunities and challenges to which God is calling the clergy and the laity alike. All will have to join Mark in giving their best efforts and commitment to Christ and his work.

I am grateful to the Nominating Committee, the Transition Committee and the Standing Committee for their graciousness and the tremendous job they have done.

I wish to express my appreciation and affection for the other nominees - Michael, Carol, Bill and Petero who are faithful people, stellar clergy and whose vibrant and Spirit-filled ministries are an enormous gift and blessing to the Church. I would also like to acknowledge, not just my wife Susan, but all of our spouses, Paul, Marylyn, Mark, Cynthia and Maureen and our families. They have stood by us throughout a stressful process. They too are an incredible blessing and gift to the Church.

I feel a special need to acknowledge the courage of Michael Barlowe and his partner, Paul Burrows. Sadly throughout this process, the media and many others have labeled and defined Michael by only one dimension of his life. In doing this, they have dehumanized him and missed the extraordinary person he is. They have ignored the outstanding service he has rendered to Christ’s Church and the exceptional gifts and talents he brings to Christ’s ministry. Just as generations in the past have found it necessary to repent of injustices done to others - injustices often dressed in specious biblical mandates and supported with questionable theological absolutes - I am confident that this generation and this Communion will one day recognize a need to repent of its dehumanizing treatment of gay and lesbian persons. It is my prayer that, in response to the invitation of Resolution #8 of the 1958 Lambeth Conference*, the Church will be open to the movement of God’s Spirit in this.

I wish to acknowledge the incredible people of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Delray Beach who have loved me, taught me, challenged me and supported me and my family for nearly eight years. They were generous of heart and giving of themselves as I participated in the Newark process – a process about which they had great ambivalence.

My thoughts, prayers and best wishes to Bishop and Mrs.Croneberger. I give thanks for them and for their ministry in the Diocese of Newark. They have been facing life’s challenges. I pray that God will surround them with healing light and love during this time of transition.

Lastly, the Gospel reading appointed for this weekend is especially appropriate for us all on this occasion. Jesus’ disciples have been arguing on the road from Galilee about who is the greatest. Jesus has overheard them and in response says very pointedly to them, “Whoever wants to be first, must be last of all and servant of all.” May all of us in the Church understand ourselves as called to be last and servants of Christ.

I wish Mark and Marilyn God’s blessing and strength on this extraordinary day for them, for the Diocese of Newark and for Christ’s Church.

Resolution #8 from the 1958 Lambeth Conference

“The Conference acknowledges gratefully the work of scientists in increasing man's knowledge of the universe, wherein is seen the majesty of God in his creative activity. It therefore calls upon Christian people both to learn reverently from every new disclosure of truth, and at the same time to bear witness to the biblical message of a God and Saviour apart from whom no gift can be rightly used.”

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