Daily Archives: July 16, 2009
Bishops in the US dealt a death blow to hopes for unity in the worldwide Anglican Church when they gave their blessing to services for same-sex partnerships.
After years of increasingly tense debate the decision will finally split the Anglican Communion, confirming the finality of the rift between Bible-based conservative evangelicals and liberal modernisers.
The bishops voted 104-30 at the Episcopal General Convention to “collect and develop theological resources and liturgies” for blessing same-gender relationships, to be considered at the next convention in 2012.
The bishops of the Episcopal Church agreed Wednesday to a compromise measure that stops short of developing an official rite for same-sex unions, but gives latitude to bishops who wish to go ahead and bless such unions, particularly in states that have legalized such marriages.
Over two days of debate, some bishops said they felt compelled to act because of their pastoral responsibility to gay couples who were increasingly coming forward to ask the church to bless their unions. Many also said they saw it as a simple matter of granting equal rights to gay men and lesbians.
The measure was written to defer to bishops who oppose adopting a liturgy for same-sex blessings and to those who say their constituents are not ready for such a step. But it opens the door to doing so in the future, saying they will “collect and develop theological and liturgical resources” for same-sex blessings, and report to the next convention three years from now, which could then design an official rite.
Even with the nuance, the vote was a momentous step for a church that has been mired in intrafactional warfare over homosexuality for more than a decade.
The House of Bishops on Wednesday adopted a substitute version of Resolution C056, calling for the church to collect and develop “theological resources and liturgies for the blessing of same gender relationships.”
The resolution permits bishops in states where same-sex marriage or civil unions are legal to “provide a generous pastoral response” to same-sex couples, which could include pastoral rites for the blessing of same-sex unions, effectively compounding the repudiation of the Windsor Report process and the proposed Anglican Covenant by repudiating Resolution B033 of the 76th General Convention.
After the resolution passed, the Rev. Susan Russell, president of Integrity USA, an LGBT advocacy group within the Episcopal community, called the vote “a big step forward on same-sex blessings.
“I trust the process and most of all I trust the Holy Spirit present in the process,” she said. “I have seen us do hard things well many times, and I was convinced this would be one of them. I just could not believe that this church isn’t bigger and better and stronger than many were giving it credit for. I am delighted to be moving forward.”
Progressives in the Episcopal Church were on the verge of claiming another victory Wednesday as leaders endorsed the creation of blessing liturgies for same-sex unions one day after they ended a de facto ban on the ordination of gay bishops.
The action by bishops at the church’s General Convention in Anaheim left conservatives with little to celebrate. They said the twin measures would further divide the 2.1-million member denomination and strain an already fragile relationship with the global Anglican Communion.
The exhaustion is more than physical. It is spiritual and emotional. The Holy Spirit’s presence is tangible, and I tend to be a weeper when that happens.
The House of Bishops afternoon session offered no relief. Before us was the resolution D-025, which the House of Deputies had passed late on Sunday afternoon. Some saw this as a repudiation of the B-033 resolution of last minute infamy or fame at GC 2006. Rather it was an opportunity to state clearly but gently who we are as The Episcopal Church in our recognition that God may call any one of us baptized to ordained ministry and that for each of us it is indeed a mystery. By implication some will claim that we rolled back B033. I believe that resolution remains in our consciousness and present in our common life until we act otherwise. The impact on the wider Communion remains a relevant issue to most of us, and as one bishop said ”“ B033 remains in place until we consecrate another Bishop that would appear to repudiate it.
The conversation around D-025 lasted two and a half hours. The tenor was respectful and mindful that we are not of a common mind. The relationship with the Communion partners was always in our minds, but so was the importance of being able to be transparent as to who we believe God calls us to be in the context of our mission and baptized membership. The vote of 98 to 25 probably shocked some. I was left once again deeply moved. Twice in one day and at such a magnitude was too much. And there’s almost a whole week remaining.
The current form of the Resolution is (Note: make sure to follow the link so you can see the changes):
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, that the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops Theology Committee, collect and develop theological resources and liturgies of blessing for same-gender holy unions, to be presented to the 77th General Convention for formal consideration, and be it further
Resolved, that the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops Theology Committee, devise an open process for the conduct of its work in this matter, inviting participation from dioceses, congregations, and individuals who are or have already engaged in the study or design of such rites throughout the Anglican Communion, and be it further
Resolved, that all bishops, noting particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church; and be it further
Resolved, that honoring the theological diversity of this Church, no bishop or other member of the clergy shall be compelled to authorize or officiate at such liturgies, and be it further
Resolved, that the Anglican Consultative Council be invited to conversation regarding this resolution and the work that proceeds from it, together with other churches in the Anglican Communion engaged in similar processes.
I am willing to meet her partway on the subject of her concern. Many of us in the evangelical world have devoted much effort toward remedying what we see as an unhealthy individualist focus in our ranks. If, for example, Bishop Jefferts Schori would take the time to browse through the pages of Christianity Today from the past half-century, she would find many calls for evangelicals to depart from the notion that all that matters is that individuals get saved and prepare for a heavenly reward. Much evangelical attention has been paid to systemic injustice, social structures, the central importance of “body life,” and so on.
In all of this, however, the presiding bishop would discover an important nuance. We evangelicals never downplay the importance of individuals””as individuals””coming to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. We never say that an individual’s very personal relationship to God is not important. What we do say is that individual salvation is not enough.
This is good news. While the media is likely to position this story in such a way to be sensational, the resolution includes some compelling components that are important to note:
1. In accordance with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, the resolution recognizes that discrimination of individuals based on race, age, gender or sexual orientation does not have a place in the discernment process of our ministry.
2. The resolution recognizes that God’s call to the ordained ministry in the church is a mystery.
3. The resolution recognizes that we are not all of one mind on the issue of sexuality.
4. The resolution was written in a way that would allow dioceses to consider anyone as a candidate to the episcopacy regardless of sexual orientation, but does not mandate that all dioceses do so.
5. The resolution does not rescind Resolution B033 (General Convention 2006) “to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on the communion.”
It does not suggest that the Episcopal Church will close its moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops.
Resolution DO25 passed in the HOD clergy order by a 2 to 1 margin, in the HOD lay order by a 2 to 1 margin, and in the HOB by a 2 to 1 margin. This demonstrates some consistency among lay and clergy that is important to respect.
Forward in Faith UK profoundly regrets the decision of the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church to repudiate the moratorium on the consecration of bishops in same-sex relationships. It is clear from this decision, and the general stance of The Episcopal Church, that the Instruments of Unity of the Communion no longer have any moral authority in that Church.
We strongly encourage the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting to enter into the fullest co-operation with the Anglican Church in North America and other bodies eager fully to participate in the common life of Anglicanism world-wide.