Bishop John Howard of the diocese of Florida is, by any ones count, a conservative on the issues that divide the Episcopal Church. It was therefore heartening to read his report on the recent House of Bishops meeting at Camp Allen last month. The entire report is well worth a read, but I found the following very hopeful and movong:
On a final, personal note, I would like to mention one of the most moving spiritual moments of the week for me. An old friend of mine who, like I, is a conservative, traditional bishop, had chosen to refrain from taking communion with the House since 2003. He did this quietly and without show; he simply felt he could not take communion with his fellow bishops because of the theological difficulties which have been with us in recent years. But during this meeting—at the very time one might suppose those theological difficulties would be most evident—my friend was at the communion rail every single day. Last week marked the first time that I have been privileged to receive communion with this old friend as a fellow bishop. It was a profound experience.
I asked my friend how his change of heart had come about, what it was that had brought him back to communion with the House of Bishops. He spoke to me of illness in his family and of turbulence in his vocational life. And he told me of how it was that as he stood in the need of prayer, it was the more liberal members of the House of Bishops who had called him and reached out to him. As my friend spoke, I heard a message of deeper and richer communion: communion formed not by agreement on all theological issues but by a common life of devotion to God and of care for one another.
My dear friends, Communion is not about having the "right answer" for every theological question. It is, as I have preached and taught across our diocese, about loving the Lord with everything that we have and everything that we are, and it is about doing the right thing by others. It is about loving others in the way we ourselves wish to be loved. This is the very summary of all the law and the prophets which Jesus has given to us. And it is in that command, and in the perfect communion of love offered us by Christ, that our church and, indeed, our world, find ultimate and permanent hope.