Daily Archives: July 18, 2009
One thing of which I stand in awe is how the early church was able to put into words God’s revelation of the Trinity and develop a creedal language 1600 years ago that has lasted down to the current age.
The revelation and the creedal language tell us of a Trinity that is mysteriously and intimately intertwined, with an unbounded reciprocal love. We do not understand its complexity, but we do see the results of that love; it is an outpouring of love for all of creation, especially an outpouring of love toward humanity, a love whose ultimate expression is in the love of Christ for humankind.
Likewise, the love of one human being for another, as creatures created in the image of God, is a complex and mysterious thing. Such love can take the form of friendship, or of what the New Testament calls agape, or of sexual love, to name but a few examples. Just as with the reciprocal love of the Trinity, we rarely understand human love, and sometimes are even frightened by it, as in the case of sexual love, because it is so personal, indeed, so intimate.
But we do see the results of such human love, as when the love of two people for one another causes them to reach out in love and concern for others. By saying that we will limit that love and concern for one another and, by extension, to others, simply on the basis of chromosomal make-up is fearful at best, and at worst a human obfuscation of the very mystery of the outpouring love of the Trinity.
I contend that we already have a theological rationale for moving forward in areas of human sexuality. In fact, we have had it for 1600 years, but only in this generation have the scales begun falling from our eyes. In ways that we frequently do not understand, we have a tangible glimpse of the divine love of the Trinity.
We need to witness to this generation, bringing good news now.
Proclaiming the good news is never a future event; it is always a present honor and responsibility. If we as bishops always want to wait for a more opportune time, I fear that we are forgetful of our ordination vow to boldly proclaim the Gospel of Christ, enlightening the minds and stirring up the conscience of our people.
But while traditionalists feel they’re being steamrolled, these votes simply acknowledge the reality of what already is happening in many Episcopal churches — including those in West Michigan.
“We have gay clergy functioning in the diocese,” said the Rev. William Spaid, an assistant to Bishop Robert Gepert of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan. “It’s just not a big issue here.”
Some area clergy conduct same-sex blessing ceremonies as well, Spaid said. He didn’t expect the decisions will create a mass exodus of members or churches, adding, “People that wanted to leave left six years ago.”
Time will tell on that one. But certainly the church will suffer further losses — part of the price of moving forward.
This is a categorical repudiation of the communion-wide moratorium on the election to the episcopate of anyone living in a same sex partnership. Bishops and dioceses are neither asked nor expected to observe such a moratorium. They are encouraged instead to observe “standards” recognizing same-sex partnerships as reflecting “holy love.” As conceded by today’s letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, some bishops and dioceses will respect the moratorium; others will not. And those that do respect the Communion teaching will do so only because they reject the “guidance” provided by General Convention “standards.”
This explicit recognition that some bishops and dioceses will conform to Communion teaching while others will not requires that the Communion now look to individual dioceses and parishes for communion commitments. The General Convention has decided it cannot speak with one voice in committing to the Communion’s moratoria. The Communion has no choice but to acknowledge those who are ready, willing and able to make these commitments.
Episcopal Church officials voted on Friday to allow bishops [and those who so desire in their dioceses] the latitude to bless same-sex unions — the second vote this week in favor of gay rights and one that may further divide the worldwide Anglican community.
On the last day of the church’s trienniel national convention in Anaheim, officials stopped short of creating liturgical rites to bless same-sex unions, but approved a compromise measure that allows bishops, especially in states where same-sex unions are legal, to bless the relationships. The key portion of the legislation says bishops “may provide generous pastoral response” for such unions.
The vote came three days after the church passed a resolution allowing for the ordination of gay bishops. Both moves have prompted strong reactions among the larger worldwide Anglican Church, of which the Episcopal Church is a part.
The Episcopal Church turned an important corner at this General Convention and Integrity applauds the hard, faithful work of the bishops and deputies who brought us closer to the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments. We came to this convention committed to moving the church beyond B033 and forward on equality for the blessing of same-sex unions–and we are beyond gratified that we have realized both of those goals.
Thirty three years after promising a “full and equal claim” to the gay and lesbian baptized, the Episcopal Church has affirmed equal access to ordination processes for all orders of ministry for all the baptized, has approved a broad local option for the blessings of our relationships, and has called the church to work together toward common liturgical expressions of those blessings.
It is a great day for the church and a greater day for the witness to God’s inclusive love.
[Greg] Rickel, in a blog on Wednesday, anticipated that the latest General Convention actions will cause some pain. “It does not go back to B033, but instead looks forward,” he said of the resolution adopted.
“Several things are important to me here. First, I think it is time for this Church to be honest about where it finds itself now. Second, it must acknowledge that not everyone is in that same place, in fact there are many and varied places people find themselves in this debate.
“Third, this resolution does, in fact, open up access once again to gay and lesbian people, to the discernment process for the episcopate. To interpret this any other way would be dishonest.”
In response to the Primates’ request for clarification, the JSC generously (and erroneously given the reality on the ground in many dioceses) concluded that the New Orleans HoB commitment meant that the use of any rites or liturgies which includes a blessing on a same-sex union would not have the bishop’s authority “until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action”.
The passing of C056 is General Convention’s further action. It clearly gives the use of such rites the authority of the House of Bishops and of General Convention. It thus represents a determined rejection of the moratorium repeatedly called for by all the Instruments of Communion.
As outlined above, the rest of the Communion has ”“ in faithfulness to Christ’s call to seek reconciliation – walked patiently with our brothers and sisters in TEC for many years, constantly inviting them to turn around in freedom and relocate themselves within the story of God that we collectively tell as a Communion, a story in which mutual subjection out of reverence for Christ, synodality, and mutual interdependence play key roles. At every stage attempts have been made to interpret TEC responses to requests as generously as possible. Now, however, TEC has spoken resoundingly and clearly through its supreme governing body of General Convention and addressed the question it avoided addressing in 2003. Sadly, through C056, we hear their firm and unequivocal answer to the Windsor Report and to the pattern of life set out in the affirmations and commitments agreed by ACC in the Covenant. An answer already made evident in the passing of D025: “No! We choose autonomy over mutual interdependence. We will now, in freedom, believing ourselves to be led by the Spirit, continue our prophetic witness and walk apart”.
108 total votes received lay
108 total votes received clerical
55 needed for a majority lay
55 needed for a majority clerical
78 yes received
23 no received
7 divided received (counted no)
74 yes received
27 no received
7 divided received (counted no)
2/3rds majority in both orders
For a decade now, the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) has been bitterly divided over the issue of ordaining openly gay clergy. The matter reached a new intensity this past week when the church’s triennial convention ended the ban on gay candidates serving in ordained ministry. After years of protesting ECUSA’s liberal policies and doctrines, seceding conservatives have now organized a rival church — the Anglican Church in North America, or ACNA — which claims 100,000 believers, compared with two million in ECUSA. This week’s dramatic decision is sure to widen the rift even further, causing what church historians might officially label a “schism.”
The presiding bishop of the mainstream Episcopal grouping, Katherine Jefferts Schori, predictably condemns ACNA, protesting that “schism is not a Christian act.” But it is not wholly clear who is seceding from whom. In approving gay bishops, ECUSA is defying the global Anglican Communion, which had begged Americans not to take a move that could provoke believers in other parts of the world. The Anglican Communion, though noticeably “progressive” in its American and British forms, is a world-wide church of 80 million. Indeed, the majority of Anglicans today live in African and Asian countries where progressive views are not so eagerly embraced. For American conservatives, it is Bishop Jefferts Schori’s church that has seceded from global Anglicanism.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of this particular case, it is anything but rare.
Resolution D025 was passed on July 14 by the 76th General Convention meeting in Anaheim, California. In addition to underscoring the Episcopal Church’s support of and participation in the Anglican Communion, the resolution affirms “that God has called and may call” gay and lesbian people “to any ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church.”
The presiding officers emphasized that D025 has “not repealed” Resolution B033 that was passed by the 75th General Convention in 2006. B033 urged restraint in consenting to the consecration of bishops whose “manner of life” might present challenges for the rest of the Anglican Communion. That challenge was widely understood to refer to gay bishops in partnered unions. The full text of the letter to Williams is available here.
In a separate letter, Jefferts Schori wrote to the primates of the Anglican Communion — including a copy of the letter to Williams — acknowledging that “with so much misinformation circulating through the press and other sources, it is crucial to me that I provide the Archbishop and all of you with accurate information.” Thirteen primates were present in Anaheim, the largest number ever to attend a General Convention.