Bishop Wayne writes to the diocese about St. Stanislaus' discernment
Dear People and Clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri:
I want to let you all know some exciting news related to our Diocese. The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri and St. Stanislaus Kostka in St. Louis are in discussions that could lead to the church coming into union with the Diocese, should both parties agree that this is in their best interests and in best service to Christ. This process will take some time to work through and we do not yet know what the outcome will be, but the Diocese is enthusiastic about the possibilities of a union.
On the face of it, the Diocese and St. Stanislaus have many things in common—in sacramental practices, in Catholic identity, in commitment to the marginalized, in having cherished heritages.
The Mission of the Diocese of Missouri is the mission of all baptized Christians: to teach and to spread the Gospel and its knowledge of salvation to all people; and to make the love of Christ known in the world through our own actions as individuals, as congregations, and as the Diocese, by feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, caring for the sick, visiting the prisoner, and comforting those in times of trouble.
With regard to St. Stanislaus and their heritage, one connection of our Diocese is especially relevant. Since 1931, the Anglican Communion (of which we are a part) and the Union of Utrecht have been in full communion, sharing the sacraments and recognizing the ministries of one another. The Union of Utrecht consists of churches in 10 European nations with about one half million members in all and, like the Communion, it preserves the historic episcopate and recognizes the seven sacraments of the Western church. It recognizes the three Catholic orders of ministry. The titular head of the Union is the Archbishop of Utrecht, currently the Most Rev. Joris Vercammen. The Union regards the Episcopal Church of the Anglican Communion as its representative in the United States, and the existence of an Old Catholic Church in Poland holds an attraction for St. Stanislaus.
Canon I.16 of the Episcopal Church provides for a parish to come into union with one of its dioceses and yet retain its own liturgical practices and rites. I know that given St. Stanislaus’ rich heritage, the ability to retain their cherished Polish identity, along with practices and rites are surely an important matter. Alternately of course, St. Stanislaus could also choose any or all the liturgies available to the Episcopal Church, most of which are in the Book Of Common Prayer.
In terms of episcopal leadership, I, as the Bishop of Missouri would make regular visitations to St. Stanislaus, provide oversight for the parish and its clergy, and take responsibility for any parishioners seeking ordination. As part of my duties, I would also connect the parish with the larger Catholic and ecumenical world. The clergy of the parish and elected lay delegates would have a place in the annual Convention of the Diocese of Missouri.
The overarching purpose of the Diocese of Missouri in these conversations is to offer pastoral provision for a parish which needs the ministrations of a Bishop and a larger catholic provenance in order to thrive as a community in service to Christ. It is important to understand that the Diocese will seek to offer this pastoral provision without disparaging anyone’s identity in a prior Church body. Indeed, we will pursue these discussions with our eyes fixed firmly on a potential future in union together with the people of St. Stanislaus and without regard to past affiliations.
I certainly believe that St. Stanislaus would enrich the life of the Diocese of Missouri by bringing a distinct spiritual and cultural heritage. Bringing a Polish heritage into the predominantly Scottish and English heritages within the Episcopal Church would be a good thing. Working together in mission would be a natural for us both in many ways. St. Stanislaus could, for example, provide leadership for the Diocese in its desire to engage in mission and ministry with Spanish speakers.
I am asking the Standing Committee of the Diocese to pursue this matter with me in order to discern the best course of action. A next step will be an informal gathering that I will set between the Standing Committee and the board of St. Stanislaus. I had the opportunity to meet with the board and the parishioners at St. Stanislaus on August 25 and found it to be a rewarding experience. Developing these relationships will be important as we begin to explore this matter further. Should our Diocese and St. Stanislaus determine that a union is the proper course, I would then make an application to the Presiding Bishop on behalf of St. Stanislaus.
Many steps must be taken together as we pursue the possibilities of a new relationship. I am confident that with open hearts and minds, the proper path will be revealed. I look forward to continuing these discussions. The members of the Standing Committee and I welcome your thoughts on this potential union.
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. George Wayne Smith
10th Bishop of Missouri