Friday, July 17, 2009

PB writes ABC

16 July 2009

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Rowan Williams
Lambeth Palace

Dear Archbishop Williams,

We are writing to you as the Presiding Officers of the two Houses of The General Convention of
The Episcopal Church. As your friends in Christ, we remain deeply grateful to you for your gracious
presence among us recently during our 76th General Convention in Anaheim.

As you know, The General Convention voted this week to adopt Resolution D025,
“Commitment and Witness to the Anglican Communion”—a multilayered resolution that addresses a
range of important issues in the life of The Episcopal Church that clearly have implications for our
relationships within the Anglican Communion.

Because this action is already being variously interpreted by different individuals and groups, we
want to offer our perspective to you with the hope that some background, context, and information will
be helpful in understanding this action of our General Convention. If you have not already had an
opportunity to read it, a copy of the resolution is attached.

We understand Resolution D025 to be more descriptive than prescriptive in nature—a statement
that reaffirms commitments already made by The Episcopal Church and that acknowledges certain
realities of our common life. Nothing in the Resolution goes beyond what has already been provided
under our Constitution and Canons for many years. In reading the resolution, you will note its key
points, that:

􏰀 Our Church is deeply and genuinely committed to our relationships in the Anglican Communion;
􏰀 We recognize the contributions gay and lesbian Christians, members of our Church both lay and
ordained, have made and continue to make to our common life and ministry;
􏰀 Our Church can and does bear witness to the fact that many of our gay and lesbian brothers and
sisters live in faithful, monogamous, lifelong and life-giving committed relationships;
􏰀 While ordination is not a “right” guaranteed to any individual, access to our Church’s
discernment and ordination process is open to all baptized members according to our
Constitution and Canons; and
􏰀 Members of The Episcopal Church do, in fact, disagree faithfully and conscientiously about
issues of human sexuality.

It is important to understand the process through which this Resolution came into being.

In 2006, the 75th General Convention adopted Resolution B033 which “called upon Standing
Committees and Bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of
any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider Church and will
lead to further strains on communion.”
While adoption of that resolution was offered with a genuine desire “to embrace The Windsor Report’s
invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation” within the Anglican Communion, it has
also been a source of strain within the life of our own Church.

This year at least sixteen resolutions were submitted asking the 76th General Convention to take
further action regarding B033. These resolutions fell into three categories—those calling for the repeal
of B033; those restating or seeking to strengthen our Church’s nondiscrimination Canons; and those
stating where The Episcopal Church is today. From these options, our General Convention chose the
third—along with reaffirming our commitments to the Anglican Communion—with the hope that such
authenticity would contribute to deeper conversation in these matters.

The complex and deliberative nature of our legislative process involving bishops, lay deputies,
and clerical deputies prevents the General Convention from acting rashly. However, it does lead
eventually to a profound consensus. Sometimes this consensus takes years to achieve. As Resolution
D025 itself states, we are still not all of one mind. Passage of this Resolution represents another step in a
conversation that began with the 65th General Convention in 1976 which stated that homosexual persons
are “children of God and have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance,
and pastoral concern and care of the Church.” The discussion of these issues has continued consistently
through every General Convention for the past thirty-three years, and we understand it to be an
important contribution to the listening process invited by the successive Lambeth Conferences of 1978,
1988, and 1998.

Some are concerned that the adoption of Resolution D025 has effectively repealed Resolution
B033. That is not the case. This General Convention has not repealed Resolution B033. It remains to be
seen how Resolution B033 will be understood and interpreted in light of Resolution D025.

Some within our Church may understand Resolution D025 to give Standing Committees (made
up of elected clergy and laity) and Bishops with jurisdiction more latitude in consenting to episcopal
elections. Others, in light of Resolution B033, will not. In either case, we trust that the Bishops and
Standing Committees of The Episcopal Church will continue to exercise prayerful discernment in
making such decisions, mindful and appreciative of our relationships in the Anglican Communion.

In adopting this Resolution, it is not our desire to give offense. We remain keenly aware of the
concerns and sensibilities of our brothers and sisters in other Churches across the Communion. We
believe also that the honesty reflected in this resolution is essential if indeed we are to live into the deep
communion that we all profess and earnestly desire.

Please know that we continue to hold you in our prayers even as we invite yours for us.
We remain,


Your sisters in Christ,

Bonnie Anderson, D.D. The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori
President of The House of Deputies Presiding Bishop and Primate

Church Times

Father Jones over at the Anglican Centrist posted this article from the Church Times. It is a good piece. I have highlighted the part that states my position. By the way, I think the highlighted portion is at the heart of our messy ecclesiology.

THE SCHISM in the Anglican Communion has been spoken of as an established fact for many years. As a consequence, events such as this week’s vote in the US General Convention effectively to end the moratorium on gay bishops make little different to perceptions of how the Communion now operates. In one sense, the Episcopal Church had little to lose. The moratorium of three years ago was accepted as a painful means to help keep the Church together. But a swath of US conservatives has since left to form the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), thus undermining the moratorium’s purpose. Dr Williams appeared in Anaheim to remind the Convention, by his presence if not so much by his words, that a global relationship still existed; but that relationship, at least from the Episcopal Church’s perspect ive, has of late involved too many warnings and threats. If they were to be hanged anyway, why not for a sheep as for a lamb?

However people view the outcome — and many will welcome the unambiguous acceptance of gay and lesbian people — Tuesday was not the US House of Bishops’ finest hour. Presented with a straightforward motion from the House of Deputies, the Bishops favoured amending it to something more ambiguous. In the event, they simply tacked a phrase about “mystery” to the main motion. Neither was there much theological depth to the debate. Speakers dwelt instead on what might be acceptable to their dioceses, their consciences, or the Communion as a whole.
The answer to the last question cannot yet be known, not least because, on the issue of sexuality, the Communion no longer thinks, nor now acts, as a whole. The Windsor process is not completed: it did not restrain the Americans; neither can it be invoked to censure them. Besides, those provinces that object to gay bishops have been out of communion with the US Episcopal Church since the consecration of Gene Robinson in 2003. The Episcopal Church has not really broken the Communion any more than it was already.

The decision exposes the flaw at the heart of attempts to order the Communion on the basis of single issues. There is no less reason to join together at the eucharist, share theological ideas, engage in jointly funded enterprises, and so on, this week than last. A few Episcopalians have said more clearly what they have believed for some time; many still disagree with them. Nothing much has changed. “Impaired communion” is a useful phrase, but it hides a tangle of relationships that range from complete agreement to utter incomprehension. The point about Anglicanism is that, up to this point, all have existed within the same body, united by an Anglican mix of reticence and charity.

Of course, the accommodations this has required (not the same as compromises) have been too much for some. But unless the Communion can embrace ACNA, whose views are no different from many African provinces, and the US Episcopal Church and its web of global sympathisers, it is not trying hard enough. The great challenge of the 21st century is how people of different faiths can live together. If Christians cannot find the love that transcends differences within their own Church, how can they speak about unity to others in parts of the world where it is a matter of life and death?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bishop of Atlanta Addresses D025 And C056

I spent 5 years in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. Neil Alexander was my bishop there and I have deep affection and respect for him. His is an important voice in TEC.

This is an excerpt from his blog to the diocese:

Human sexuality - Several dozen resolutions on some aspect of human sexuality were submitted to the Convention by dioceses, parishes, and individuals across the church. The Convention, working through its legislative committees on World Mission and Prayer Book and Liturgy, combined most of these resolutions into two.

The first of these -- Resolution D-025 -- has been widely reported in the press. The press coverage has essentially said that the Episcopal Church has approved the ordination of gay and lesbian persons. Well, no, this Convention took no such action. What this resolution did was simply to reaffirm our own Canons. Back in 1994, the General Convention created a Canon that opened access to the ordination processes of the church -- for all holy orders -- to all baptized persons. This has been our canonical position for fifteen years and it is consistent with the baptismal theology of the Book of Common Prayer. Discernment for holy orders is serious business and should be. In the Episcopal Church we take such discernment with the utmost of seriousness. There is no "right" to ordination for anyone. Our Canons are clear that all baptized persons are to have access to discernment processes. Whether any persons actually gets ordained is a much more complicated set of questions. To summarize: the principal thing this resolution does is simply to affirm that when our church makes decisions on who can and cannot be ordained, we will discern those decisions in accordance with our Canons. The Canons on these matters have not changed since 1994.

Some will ask, does this ignore the request of the Windsor Report for a moratorium on the election and consent to gay or lesbian partnered priests to the episcopate? Some would say so; I don't think so. I don't find the moratorium concept at all helpful, but unless and until a diocese of the church elects a gay partnered person to the episcopate, and the church gives its consent, there is, practically speaking, a moratorium in effect. And again, the only thing this Convention has said is that when any such decision comes before the church, the decision will be made according to our own Canons. The Convention simply clarified that "state of the question" to those who have been asking. The Convention changed nothing.

A very positive dimension of the resolution was its very strong affirmation of our desire as a church to participate fully in the mission and ministry of the Anglican Communion at every level of the church's life. (On this matter, we are very much ahead of the curve in the Diocese of Atlanta with official partnerships in Ecuador, Brazil, and Tanzania, and less formal but no less important relationships in Honduras, Haiti, Guatemala, and other places.) We also commit ourselves to full financial support of the Anglican Communion. We provide a disproportionally large percentage of the Communion budget and we have committed ourselves to continuing to do so. Let no one question our commitment to the Anglican Communion!

A second resolution - C-056 - is the Convention's response to a large group of resolutions, mostly from dioceses, concerning same sex blessings and gay marriage. At the heart of the resolution are the difficult pastoral needs particularly in those states in which some form of gay marriage or civil unions is the law of the land. There is also the felt need, by many in the church, to work more carefully through the theological and liturgical issues related to the church's pastoral and liturgical response to our members who are living in committed, same-sex relationships. I believe the Convention is looking at this in a creative way. First, we name the "tension" between those parts of the church in which gay unions or marriage is provided for by law and those parts of the church that serve in civil jurisdictions where no legal provisions pertain. Recognizing that tension is important. Secondly, the resolution asks for more theological and liturgical work to be done on the matter and the results of that work be brought to the 2012 Convention. It is impossible to tell at this point what sort of form that work will take. This provision strengthens the resolution, in my judgment, because as a liturgical and sacramental church it is essential to do theological and liturgical work hand-in-hand, and not as separate endeavors. Thirdly, this resolution invites the Anglican Communion to join us in this theological and liturgical exploration. I am confident that this invitation for collaboration will be welcomed by a number of provinces in the Communion. C-056 passed the House of Bishops late in the day on Wednesday and is expected to reach the floor of the House of Deputies on Thursday.

The obvious question is: does this mean the General Convention has "approved" rites for same-sex unions or gay marriage? The answer to that is "no." What the Convention did was to pave the way for more extensive theological and liturgical work to be done in the upcoming triennium. The next Convention will receive a report that will be both theological and liturgical in scope and will almost certainly contain some "model rites" for the church to consider. The 2012 Convention will have to decide whether to proceed further and, if so, in what manner.

With respect to the Anglican Covenant, the House of Deputies has approved a resolution that commits the Episcopal Church to continued participation in the covenant process that grew out of the Windsor Report. It will come before the House of Bishops on Thursday and will almost surely get the bishops' full support.

Full Text-Two days to go

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Thoughts on D025

I remember a professor in college making a presentation about conflict. He asserted that the most difficult conflicts are marked by the collision of two goods. He used abortion as an example. Life is good. We view it as valuable and sacred, especially those we love. On the other side, we view freedom as valuable and sacred as well. Freedom grants the human being a certain dignity beyond that of other creatures.

This bind via the collision of two goods has never really quite left my thoughts. So often, we seek to reduce positions and choices to right or wrong, good or evil, sacred or profane. Some aspects of life certainly shake out into well-defined categories, but many are marked elements that are more complex.

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church is confronting issues that, to my mind, are of the more complex variety. I do not believe we are talking about choices between good or evil. We are wrestling with what it means to be faithful.

Some argue that adherence to a particular understanding of revealed truth is paramount. Others understand the implications of the revealed truth of the scriptures and history of the Church in a different way. Taking the Bible and the theological tradition of the Church seriously is incredibly important. Application of the Gospel of grace to real life is important as well. Our difficult conversations about human sexuality within the Christian Church are best framed as a quest for faithfulness. Conflict arises as we entrench around our particular good.

At this point, Resolution D025 has more or less made it through both houses. There were some minor changes that will send it back to the deputies, but most argue it will clear that house. It is a very descriptive resolution that marks the present situation. We want to maintain relationships at all levels of the Anglican Communion and the majority at General Convention does not see sexual orientation, within the confines of monogamy and fidelity, as a barrier to discernment to any one of the three-fold orders of ministry within the Episcopal Church.

Some have conceptualized our conversation as a choice between two goods on a macro level. One good is the relationship that exists among the constituent churches of the Anglican Communion. Another good is the right relationship among people of the Episcopal Church.

Some bishops have argue that D025 changes nothing. It describes where we are and does not mean the end to the “restraint” of the last several years. Others argue it is a new day. We will see in time what it means in practice.

I continue to pray for the deputies and bishops. They are charged with a difficult task. I pray for their faithfulness and the faithfulness of the Church they represent.

Monday, July 13, 2009

D025 Passes House of Bishops

Resolution D025

General Convention 2009

We are in the midst of the nitty gritty of GC. A number of resolutions that will provoke discussion are in process. The deputies passed D025 and it awaits treatment by the bishops. It basically affirms TEC’s desire to remain within traditional Anglican relationships and supports the participation of gay and lesbian persons within the entire range of the ordered life of TEC. It will certainly be controversial. There will be many prognosticators offering interpretations of what it will mean in practice.

It certainly describes the situation of TEC. Most want to remain within the historic umbrella of Anglicanism, and many see the acceptance of gay and lesbian persons as connected with Gospel imperatives and sacramental theology. Agree or disagree, this is where we are at the moment.

Resolution C056 is making its way through the legislative process. It would authorize the development of rites for the blessing of same-sex unions to be formally considered at the next GC. The resolution came out of committee with widespread support for discussion.

The debates continue and the process lurches forward. It will be interesting and will fuel much more conversation. Whatever we do will have implications in this country and throughout the Anglican world.

To follow along go to General Convention Media Hub.