Bishop-elect Sumner's Letter to the Diocese
Sunday after Pentecost
Dear Brothers and Sisters, greetings in our Lord Jesus. Well, the stunned feeling is slowly wearing off! I want to express my sense of gratitude for your call to me in the electing convention. Not surprisingly, these were mixed with other emotions: a sense of inadequacy to this great task, a sense of how much I have to learn, a sense of sadness at leaving a remarkable community in Toronto. But all these reactions find their rightful place under the wing of God’s providence: what matters most is how God in His grace is calling us to serve together on behalf of His Gospel in the Diocese of Dallas.
Both the Search and Transition Committees conveyed a sense of excitement about what lies ahead for us. I want to offer my thanks to both. It was a privilege to get to know my fellow candidates, remarkable ministers of the Gospel all. I have been warmly welcomed by so many in the diocese, old friends and new. I appreciate the help I am being shown by people like Bishop Lambert and Dean Michell in getting oriented. While there is so much we have yet to learn about one another, our shared love for Jesus Christ and His Church means we are already friends.
We are moving on to the next step in the episcopal election process, namely the seeking of consents from our Church’s Standing Committees and Bishops. This is a moment when all the dioceses have a governance role to play. Throughout the election process I heard of the diocese’s desire to hold three goals together. I affirmed all these enthusiastically and unreservedly, and I again pledge myself to pursue them in concert as your bishop. First, Dallas wanted a theologically traditional bishop, expounding the Word of God and teaching the faith laid forth in the Book of Common Prayer. Secondly, as I stated repeatedly and in public in the Walkabout, I share wholeheartedly the clear desire and intention that the diocese remain within the Episcopal Church. Thirdly, I heard of a hope for a generous, charitable, and unifying spirit, according to which the bishop is pastor to the whole diocese. Toward this our shared purpose l will make the promises in the consecration service ‘to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church,’ and to ‘guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church,’ with firm resolve and sincerity of heart. Will it always be easy to hold these together? No. Can I accomplish them on my own? Hardly. But I do believe that with the leading of the Holy Spirit we all can live into this threefold vision together in the months and years to come. It is a vision worth seeking for the good of the Church.
Dallas has so much to offer our Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion. For example, since a major initiative in Church planting has been proposed nationally, whose input is more vitally needed than ours? We can find common cause with our fellow Episcopalians in social outreach and with fellow Anglicans in global partnerships. More generally, I hope that we are moving toward a less conflictual and more comprehensive day for our Episcopal Church, and we want to contribute to this.
There are so many things we look forward to working on: planting, reaching out, worshipping, and teaching. But at the outset we recall that ‘unless the Lord build the house, their labor is in vain who build it.’ (Psalm 127:1). I need your prayers in this interim time; I need you to be my teachers in the upcoming ‘learning curve’ time; I welcome all your thoughts about our common life; I look forward to seeing you all soon. May God keep all our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus,