Yesterday, 220 years after its constitutional documents were adopted, The Episcopal Church (TEC) at its triennial assembly (the General Convention) in Anaheim arguably brought to an end its ambiguous double-life as both Anglican and Episcopalian. To put it another way, it finally conceded the logic of American denominational identity, which most of its mainline Protestant neighbors have long accepted, that it is a national church, bound by historical bonds of affection to other churches in the Anglican tradition but in no way obligated to look beyond the concerns of its members in discerning the future direction of its mission and ministry.
Daily Archives: July 26, 2009
So, The Episcopal Church has decided to go its own way, making official its view that whatever heterosexuals may do, so may gays. The dissenting bishops, which included John Howe of the Diocese of Central Florida, essentially said that in their dioceses, they will not go along with the new policies, and there is no plausible way they can be compelled to do so. These bishops also expressed a commitment to “our communion with the See of Canterbury.”
That is a reference to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. The dissenters are pinning their hopes on the chance that Williams will declare The Episcopal Church is no longer in fellowship with his office. That would have little practical effect, because each constituent part of the Anglican Communion is independent, but it would have a lot of symbolic meaning. For one thing, it would mean that even so cultured and thoughtful a leader as Williams might refuse to go along with The Episcopal Church’s decision.
The Americans have put Williams in a difficult position. The Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefforts Schori, wrote to Williams following the convention, explaining why her church has not broken faith with their fellow Anglicans, but that is wishful thinking.
Williams has 36 other Anglican churches around the world to deal with, a majority of which think that The Episcopal Church has done a radical and unsupportable thing. As one conservative, Bishop Tom Wright of Durham, England, wrote in The (U.K.) Times, last week’s action marks a break: “In the slow-moving train crash of international Anglicanism, a decision taken in California has finally brought a large coach off the rails altogether. Both the bishops and deputies (lay and clergy) of (The Episcopal Church) knew exactly what they were doing.”
But ousting The Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion would be an unprecedented step, very un-Anglican, and it’s more likely Williams will play for time, hoping to find some way to keep all his constituent Anglican churches in the same orbit.
After attending the Episcopal Church’s general convention in California last week, a local delegate says she supported the decision to allow the blessings of same-sex unions, noting the inclusive atmosphere in which the decision was made.
Jennifer Adams, rector at Grace Church in Holland, said the voting body made a sincere effort to listen across lines, honor the breadth of opinions and remain unified.
“I don’t pretend that everything is done,” she said, “but the decisions allow us to move forward and beyond, and won’t allow this particular issue to have the power it does.”
The Church of the Redeemer in Squirrel Hill is a gay-friendly parish that had felt marginalized in the original diocese.
“We are really happy in this new configuration,” said the Rev. Cynthia Bronson Sweigert.
But she stays in touch with friends in the Anglican diocese, and they compared notes on their diocesan conventions.
“We had all experienced a convention that was much more positive and happy than in the past,” she said. “Schism is a negative thing. I really agree with that. But yet, it feels like an abstraction. The reality is that we were in an unhappy marriage for so long that we needed to divide before there could ever be any hope of reconciliation.”
Bishop Johnson said he believes that God is at work in all of it.
“We don’t always know for certain just how. I don’t, and Bishop Duncan doesn’t,” he said.
“But we have to believe that we’re called to do the work that our Lord wants us to do, each in his own way, and not look back.”
Who are we kidding?
What an amazing concept. Something is in effect until it is not. That is exactly what the leadership and many other bishops of the Episcopal Church are saying. They, in effect, are stating that General Convention 2009 did not effect B033, which says that the Episcopal Church will abide by the moratorium on ordaining a partnered homosexual person bishop, asked of it by the Anglican Communion, while at the same time it passed resolutions which enable the ordinations of gays and lesbians to all orders of ordained ministry without obstruction. In effect, what was done was a further step in ordaining a gay or lesbian to the Episcopate of the Anglican Communion. And the only real response to the world’s analysis is, the moratorium is not over until it is over. My goodness! A response truly worthy of Yogi Berra, “It’s not over till it’s over.”
How interesting that the Archbishop of Canterbury, all the major world press, both secular and religious, bishops and priests in the Communion and at home, agree with Integrity, Inc., the gay and lesbian voice in the Episcopal Church about the meaning of the two key resolutions of B056 and B025. Some of the bishops, including the leadership of the Episcopal Church, believes everybody misinterpreted what General Convention did in these two resolutions, which not only remove all obstacles to gays, lesbians, transsexuals, bi-sexual and now transgender people to the ordination processes, it allows bishops to respond both pastorally and liturgically to gay and lesbian sexual relationships. In other words to bless noncelibate same sex relationships.
Does the Episcopal Church really expect people to think that nothing has changed, nothing moved? The train is moving forward as rapidly as it is able and to all others, who might believe differently due to theology or biology, the Episcopal Church says, give us a chance to change you, or get off the train. They are confident that everyone will fall in line eventually. But the sooner, the better.
–The Rt. Rev. James M. Adams is Bishop of Western Kansas
The Episcopal Church in the United States has done it again. Having marched out of step with the majority of the worldwide Anglican Communion, American Episcopalians have declared their intention to walk even further apart.
The world knows about the ordination of a bishop in a same-sex relationship and the ways in which that has torn the fabric of the communion, as the primates have said, at its deepest level. (This, by the way, is also a classic description of schism.) It also is widely known that people have their same-sex unions “blessed” in many parts of the Episcopal Church and such people also can be candidates for ordination.
All this continues despite the clear teaching of the 1998 Lambeth Conference that it should not.
The common wisdom the past week has been that whatever challenges health care faces, the president will at least get something because he has a Democratic House and Senate and they’re not going to let their guy die. He’ll get this or that, maybe not a new nationalized system but some things, and he’ll be able to declare some degree of victory.
And this makes sense. But after the news conference, I found myself wondering if he’d get anything.
I think the plan is being slowed and may well be stopped not by ideology, or even by philosophy in a strict sense, but by simple American common sense. I suspect voters, the past few weeks, have been giving themselves an internal Q-and-A that goes something like this:
Will whatever health care bill is produced by Congress increase the deficit? “Of course.” Will it mean tax increases? “Of course.” Will it mean new fees or fines? “Probably.” Can I afford it right now? “No, I’m already getting clobbered.” Will it make the marketplace freer and better? “Probably not.” Is our health-care system in crisis? “Yeah, it has been for years.” Is it the most pressing crisis right now? “No, the economy is.” Will a health-care bill improve the economy? “I doubt it.”
The White House misread the national mood. The problem isn’t that they didn’t “bend the curve,” or didn’t sell it right. The problem is that the national mood has changed since the president was elected. Back then the mood was “change is for the good.” But that altered as the full implications of the financial crash seeped in.
One day I was called on to officiate at two funerals. The families involved were old friends of ours, but they lived in different parts of London and did not know one another. In both cases, the wife had died after a long and happy marriage. One couple had just celebrated, and the other was just about to celebrate, their diamond wedding.
What was striking was that both husbands said the same thing to me, in virtually identical words: “I loved her as much as the day we first fell in love.” To hear that once, after 60 years of marriage, would have been rare. To hear it twice on the same day seemed like more than mere coincidence.
Both couples were religious. Prayer and going to the synagogue, celebrating Sabbath and the festivals, and giving time and money to others, were integral to their lives. They knew that in Judaism the home is as sacred as a house of worship. Did these things, I wondered, have something to do with the strength and persistence of their love?
The Rt. Rev. George E. Packard, Bishop Suffragan for Federal Ministries (Chaplaincies), is concerned about what message General Convention may have sent in approving D025.
“I voted against D025 with the reasoning that if the choice was between consoling ourselves on the one hand and not kicking sand in the face of our Anglican Communion partners on the other, I choose the latter,” he said. “There’s an anti-war play which tries to portray the damage done to war-torn society as the lead character places a box of butterflies on a table. One by one he lets them go except for the last one, which he burns with a lighted match. The point is that the invaded culture is fragile and easily harmed. It’s a horrific scene and the audience was so traumatized at the debut that the script was rewritten so that only paper butterflies would be incinerated.”
Bishop Packard added: “I maintain this consolation resolution is not the benign legislation we think it is. For my Lambeth friends, I judge it is the real thing, terribly unsettling, no paper butterflies here. Why do this if we already know the way things are among us? What is gained by stating it? There’s so much we could lose. I hope I’m wrong.”
Bishop Packard voted for C056, and was among nearly 30 bishops who volunteered to discuss their conflicting concerns outside of a plenary session.