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STATEMENT FROM THE RIGHT REVEREND BRIAN R. SEAGE, BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF MISSISSIPPI:
I am profoundly disturbed by the act of violence against Hopewell Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi, and the alienation and bigotry it represents.
We have a painful past in Mississippi, and it is a history which, sadly, involves violence under the cover of darkness, along with Molotov cocktails and even dynamite aimed at places of sacred worship and people of faith. Mississippians have shown an intolerance for such acts and we should repudiate those acts in the strongest terms.
Martin Luther King, Jr., said “No one is free until we are all free.” Likewise, no one is free from the shadow cast by violence of this sort until all of us are free from that shadow. No person among us is an island. We are all connected, one to another, even if we choose not to see that connection – connected as Americans, people of God, and human beings.
The level of political discourse in recent months has been troubling. Instead of seeing either side of the aisle as a threat to a way of life, we should see our fellow human beings as seeking to enjoy the blessings our Constitution and system of governance offer.
I hope and trust that law enforcement officials will seek, find, and prosecute the perpetrators of this act. Mississippi and her people are better than this.
Mississippi has lost one if its great leaders with the death of Duncan M. Gray, Jr. today. Bishop Gray was a bold but gentle, visionary but grounded, and beloved but humble figure.
He served this Diocese well as Bishop for nearly 20 years. However, his 64 years of ordained life – before, during and after his episcopate – were marked by courage, a yearning for peace and justice, and a dedication to the Gospel which he so clearly proclaimed. His life was profoundly impacted by his dedication to his Lord.
His life and ministry have been concurrent with Mississippi’s struggles to bring about reconciliation, equality and justice for all races. He was on the front line of many of those struggles. He was faithfully accompanied by his wife, Ruthie, who predeceased him. Together they reared two sons and two daughters – all of whom were a source of great pride, and testimony to their parents’ dedication to one another and integrity. His son, Duncan III, ultimately followed his father as a priest and Bishop of Mississippi.
For all his courageous and faithful service, he will be remembered by many clergy, both past and present, simply as a gentle mentor, a wise leader, and a good friend.
Now as much as any time, I am aware that I walk in the steps of a great Bishop. May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.+
Statement by the Rt. Rev. Brian R. Seage,
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi,
While Traveling on a Mission in Africa
HB 1523 Press Release 040516
April 05, 2016
By The Rt. Rev. Brian R. Seage
Governor Phil Bryant’s approval of House Bill 1523 is deeply disappointing. An anxious majority of both the State House and Senate, with the Governor’s support, have effectively created an additional class of citizens in Mississippi.
I applaud the people of Mississippi who came together to object to this needless piece of legislation. I applaud and thank the representatives of the business community who made their opposition known and will continue to serve all God’s people. I thank all those in government who chose to step up and courageously serve and represent all the people of Mississippi.
Ungrounded fear is never a solid foundation for legislation. That seems to be the case here. Our beloved state has struggled to move beyond its troubling past but, unfortunately, this legislation has placed Mississippi back in the crosshairs of critical public opinion.
A voice of reason on the floor of the State Senate noted last week that the provisions of this law do not allow any type of action – in the choices of businesses or other institutions – which is not already permissible under the law. That may be true, but the tragic component of this law is that the Legislature and Governor have codified discrimination.
The State of Mississippi will likely find itself in federal courts once again, spending large sums of funds which could have been spent on building the future. Those efforts to defend a culture of fear will likely be futile.
The gracious arms of our Lord are open to all who seek him. As the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement, we continue to open our arms to our brothers and sisters who are adversely affected by this bill. Likewise, our arms are open to those who supported this legislation. New life may be found when we cast out our fear and ground our actions in the love of Christ.
Statement by the Rt. Rev. Brian R. Seage,
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi
HB 1523 Press Release – In Light of Senate Passage
March 31, 2016
By The Rt. Rev. Brian R. Seage
I am profoundly disheartened by the Mississippi State Senate’s approval of HB 1523, which codifies discrimination against many Mississippi citizens.
I would respectfully encourage Governor Bryant to veto the bill, if it reaches his desk.
Our baptismal covenant requires that each of us will respect the dignity of every human being. It does not provide an exception to that respect.
The Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi stands as one with our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community and the Human Rights Campaign. We respect their painful journey as they have sought full inclusion in our society. Many of them share a Christian faith that is deep and profound. We should embrace their quest for equality and justice rather than placing obstacles in their pathway.
I am aware that some Christian bodies say this legislation is needed. I disagree. It addresses a conflict which does not exist. The Episcopal Church embraces all persons who seek to follow our Lord, and we honor all persons who yearn for equality in this society. Our doors remain open to all God’s children.
Statement by the Rt. Rev. Brian R. Seage,
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi
HB 1523 Press Release
March 24, 2016
By the Rt. Rev. Brian R. Seage
The Mississippi State Senate has on its calendar an unwise, unnecessary and imprudent bill. I would urge that it be allowed to die at the coming deadline for legislative action.
House Bill 1523 would codify discrimination, rather than prevent discrimination as claimed in its title.
One of the hallmarks of our system of laws is a wise principle of separating religious beliefs and practices from the statutes which are enacted into law. This “Trojan horse” would provide protection under sectarian religious pretense for those who would choose to discriminate against citizens who have the same rights as any of us. The bill would clearly violate the “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment to our nation’s Constitution and would likely lead to our state spending its limited funds for an unsuccessful defense in federal courts.
I am aware that the world is changing and familiar norms are fading, partially because of the Supreme Court and partially because of evolving awareness and understanding. I know that such change is painful for many, but we must be mindful of the pain of those who have suffered under old structures. Our baptismal covenant asks us to “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.” This is often a challenge, but God calls us to do no less.
I pray that our time and energy will be invested in building a just society that recognizes the gifts of all its people, molding an educational system that is second-to-none, providing healthcare to the needy, and developing an economy that encourages and rewards all our people. During this Holy Week my prayers continue for our elected leaders. I give thanks for their commitment and passion. May the miracle of Easter bring blessings and hope to all.
Thank you for taking the time to read this note. I suspect the attacks in Paris reminded you of the uncertain world in which we live. I share those sentiments. Shortly after the attacks our Presiding Bishop produced a video, which I shared, calling us to pray for the victims, families and people affected by this horrible tragedy. I appreciate Bishop Curry’s pastoral leadership. Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe issued a statement Saturday thanking us for our prayers and support. I urge you to continue to pray for everyone affected by the events in Paris and wider issues.
Several days have passed since the attacks and I would be remiss if I didn’t identify a growing concern — namely, a rising tide of “anti Muslim” sentiment. We are called as people of faith, in our baptismal covenant, to “respect the dignity of every human being.” Muslims throughout the world are speaking up on social media and denouncing the perpetrators of these attacks with the hashtag #NotInMyName. Many Muslims, in France and elsewhere, are continuing to raise their voices in prayer for the victims of this horrendous crime and for their families and loved ones. On Sunday following the attacks, Imams in Paris gathered at the Bataclan concert hall (site of the worst attack) to sing the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, in solidarity with the city and the nation.
My dear friends, I beg of you to love, hold dear, and pray for the beautiful people who have been harmed by these terrorist acts an those who represent the Islamic faith in its true nature and form. We are all part of the human family. Terrorists do not define the Muslim men and women who have been part of our country and world since the earliest of days. As you pray personally or corporately, I invite you to offer the following prayer from our Book of Common Prayer (pg. 840 #7).
For the Diversity of Races and Cultures
O God, who created all peoples in your image, we thank you for the wonderful diversity of races and cultures in this world. Enrich our lives by everwidening circles of fellowship, and show us your presence in those who differ most from us, until our knowledge of your love is made perfect in our love for all your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
May the Peace of the Lord be Always with You,
Most of you are used to my blogging being 140 characters or less! However, after a historic day at the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church it seems like a little longer blog might be more appropriate. So allow me to use the next couple of paragraphs to give you a run down on my experience at #GC78 thus far. Let me begin by saying that this is my first General convention. That’s right I never attended as a deputy or a visitor prior to being elected bishop in 2014. I arrived on Monday blank slate with no idea what to expect.
I started by checking in with my assigned committee, dispatch of business, on Tuesday. The dispatch committee is chaired by Wayne Wright from Delaware and the Vice-chair is our neighbor to the north, Don Johnson, from West Tennessee. This committee is responsible for keeping the house on track in regards to daily agenda and calendar. Dispatch is also responsible for the supervising elections including the coming election of our new presiding bishop. The other members of this committee are outstanding and really know what they’re doing! Thank God for their wisdom!
Convention stuff began on Wednesday with an introductory remarks from the presiding bishop and the president of the house of deputies. After lunch both houses met in the house of deputies for a forum with the 4 candidates for presiding bishop, Ian Douglas, Michael Curry, Dabney Smith and Tom Breidenthal. The 3 hour forum provided opportunity for each to speak and answer questions. I was impressed with each of the candidates. My day came to a close after viewing a movie about Howard Thurman.
Convention officially started on Thursday. We worshiped together at a prayerful celebration of the Holy Eucharist followed by business in the House. In the evening I attended a hearing with the Task force on marriage. I got up early on Friday in order to work out with SALT Masters swim team. This team works out on the University of Utah campus. It was a great way to start the day but I quickly learned that Salt Lake City sits at a much greater altitude than Jackson (gasp)! Upon arriving at the convention center I learned about the Supreme court passage of the marriage equality act. A very joyful mood could be sensed. In the evening I attended the UTO banquet with our ECW contingency.
Saturday began with an early meeting with the dispatch committee. The major focus of the meeting was related to the election of our next presiding bishop. It is our responsibility to facilitate the election and count ballots. After our morning Eucharistic celebration the bishops boarded buses and we were driven to St. Mark’s Cathedral where we would be sequestered until we elected a new presiding bishop. After roll call, saying prayers and singing hymns the ballots were cast, collected and taken to a room for counting. It was really strange to be one of the tellers for the election! After counting the ballots the house was reassembled and the report was made. On the first ballot Michael Curry of North Carolina was elected.
The announcement of Michaels election was not only historic but extremely emotional! I think for me the most incredible moment was signing the testimonials. The first to sign the testimonials was a group of bishops of African American descent. I had to wipe away tears when Eugene Sutton of Maryland helped Barbara Harris make her way to front in order to be one of the first to sign the testimonial. We signed the testimonial while singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” It was an amazing moment. I feel blessed to be part of it.
Michaels election was then reported to the House of Deputies who after following their procedures and rules consented to the election. After receiving word of their consent we boarded busses and went back to the convention center for him to be introduced to the House of Deputies. It was another amazing moment.
Yes, I voted for Michael. He’s been an amazing friend to me and our diocese. Most important, however, he has unique gifts for reaching people and inviting them to meet and know Jesus. While talking with other bishops I said, “he’s like a ‘jam band.’ You never know for sure how he’s gonna perform a song or sermon but you wanna listen because you know it’s gonna be amazing.”
We are blessed with the love of our Lord. We are blessed to have Michael as our new Presiding Bishop. He is full of joy and passion for presenting Jesus to the world. Thanks be to God!
STATEMENT FROM THE RIGHT REVEREND BRIAN R. SEAGE, BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF MISSISSIPPI
The decision of the United States Supreme Court in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges marks a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. The United States, over the last 240 years, has sought to become a haven of liberty, justice, and a home for those seeking to exercise the rights bestowed on them by our Creator.
I applaud the decision. It stands alongside previous courageous decisions the Court has made, such as Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia. The LGBT community has patiently awaited full inclusion in society and recognition of human rights granted to all people through our Constitution. This is certainly something they should celebrate. It is also something that we should all celebrate because, as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “No man is free until we are all free.” There is now a recognized layer of freedom for all that did not exist before this ruling.
I understand, though, that there are some who do not celebrate this decision. They may see this as a threat to much-beloved institutions of our society. Those fears are to be acknowledged. We need to walk with those who dissent from this opinion as they face these fears. Many people of good conscience disagree, and we must keep the doors of our churches and institutions open to them. They, too, are our brothers and sisters.
The court’s ruling raises questions as to the meaning of potential actions by the Episcopal Church’s General Convention being held in Salt Lake City. I would offer a way of viewing those considerations.
First, there are issues of justice, which the Supreme Court has addressed quite fully in its decision. These are issues of equality under the laws of the United States. The Church has already taken significant steps to address issues of justice and we may speak even more clearly in the days ahead.
There are also theological and sacramental issues, which the Court could not address. The Church is the appropriate province for those discussions. We may be asked to state – in our canons or our constitution – whether there are adequate theological foundations for the church to create and offer a sacramental liturgy of Holy Matrimony for those persons in same-sex relationships. These are not simple, one-dimensional discussions. Support of equality under the law does not preclude appropriate discussions from the viewpoint of sacramental theology. The mind of the Church, gathered in General Convention, may make that decision.
These are times which are both exciting and challenging. I hope that all people of faith will hold God’s reconciling mission in their prayers in the weeks ahead.