[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.”
Category : — Statements & Letters: Bishops
Twenty-nine bishops have endorsed affirming their desire to remain part of the Anglican Communion and Episcopal Church while being faithful to the calls for restraint made by the wider church.
Styled as the “Anaheim Statement,” the letter of dissent to the actions of the 76th General Convention pledged the bishops’ fealty to the requests made by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the 2008 Lambeth Conference, the primates’ meetings and ACC-14 to observe a moratoria on same-gender blessings, cross-border interventions and the ordination of gay and lesbian people to the episcopate.
In the hours after its release, the statement drew support from 23 diocesan bishops, four suffragan and assistant bishops, and two retired bishops and included bishops who voted on both sides of D025 and C056 — resolutions that rescinded the ban on two of the three Windsor Report moratoria.
We are coming into the home stretch of this General Convention. We finish late Friday afternoon. Today a balanced budget for The Episcopal Church was passed in both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. There were no amendments to the budget, although some were proposed in the House of Deputies. There was virtually no discussion on the budget in the House of Bishops. It was a moment of legislative whiplash which, I suppose, reflected the feeling of futility that nothing could be changed. The lack of debate also honored the extraordinary work of the Program, Budget and Finance Committee that had the onerous task of balancing the budget that at one point was $24 million dollars in deficit. Many cuts were made, which means that lots of departments across the church have been reduced; and many staff jobs have been eliminated. There is a lot of hurt and loss to all of this — and I don’t think any of us really know the implication and impact of this yet.
“Mission” is our Presiding Bishop’s echoing metaphor. She describes mission as the heartbeat of the church. She invited — no, she challenged, us to hear the mission heartbeat in our bodies and souls. It will be more imperative than ever to respond to this challenge with deeper commitment — given that there are fewer financial resources to carry it out. Thus the Episcopal Church mirrors the experience of the dioceses — which is, to be sure, also the experience of congregations.
Yesterday, the House of Bishops passed a resolution that said a whole array of things — but mainly was focused on same-gender blessings and offering generous pastoral sensitivity for dioceses which perform them. The original amendment was almost brought to a vote the day before, but several bishops who were in the minority of the two-to-one vote the day before that (on affirming GLBT people for all levels of ministry) stood up to say that they felt marginalized and vulnerable. The legislative process was abandoned for the rest of the day — and a group of self organized bishops agreed to meet informally in order to try and move things forward.
This was the hardest moment of Convention for me. It turned out that it was the hardest moment of Convention for the 26 bishops who met that night and early the next morning — and for 26 different reasons. I felt that there was a movement afoot to scrub the decision of full inclusion; others said that the church was moving too fast for them. We expressed our thoughts and feelings in an Indaba-like atmosphere (which we had learned at the Lambeth Conference a year before). As the discussion progressed, we decided to move beyond creating a process of winners and losers, and instead to intentionally come up with a statement that included the ideas and feelings of as many as possible. We wanted to build a tent that was high and wide enough for as many as possible to gather underneath.
The resulting resolution (which five of us wrote) reflected the diversity of perspectives. When presented on the floor of the House of Bishops, there were more amendments — and amendments to the amendments; but they were, for the most part, attempts to better articulate what we were about rather than efforts to discredit or distort.
The final resolution passed by a three to one margin. It recognized our diversity. Instead of trying to restrict dioceses — the intent of the resolution was to trust the integrity and practice of bishops in their respective jurisdictions.
I think it was an important step forward.
Your deputation will be coming home tomorrow — and over the weekend. Many of us from General Convention will be present next Thursday, July 23 — from 10am-12 noon, and 7pm to 9pm, at St. Agnes Church, 65 Union Avenue, Little Falls, to tell our stories of Convention and to entertain your questions and hear your concerns. Each session will essentially be the same — and anyone who wishes to is invited to come.
–(The Rt. Rev.) Mark M. Beckwith is Bishop of Newark
A: The most significant thing that happened was on Tuesday, after the House of Bishops stopped the debate on same-sex blessings and decided to have a smaller group of bishops meet to discuss it further. They said anyone could come, and it turned out it wasn’t a small group at all. There were 25 to 30 of us, and it turned out to be the most significant interaction I’ve had with the bishops since I’ve been elected.
It was profound and it was inspiring. People stood up and spoke their own truth, both the pain and the joy. Everyone spoke honestly about what they needed to go home with, what they could live with and what they couldn’t.
Q: So how do you explain the vote counts? The bishops passed both of these measures resoundingly, and we are starting to hear of many moderate-to-conservative bishops who voted “yes” on both ordinations and gay blessings.
A: Everyone acknowledges they know where this is going, that gay marriage is becoming a reality. But we’re trying to bring our people along. One bishop said to me he voted “no” so he could go home and do this work, as he explained it, “so I can bring my people along.” He used the Nixon in China analogy. This was a bishop who voted “no” on my consent in 2003.
“The majority voice has spoken at this General Convention,” said Lillibridge later. “But I think it is important to also hear from the significant minority that represents about one-third both in the House of Bishops and House of Deputies.”
He said that in the Diocese of West Texas, the focus will remain on being a part of The Episcopal Church and continuing as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion.
“Out of all of this,” said Lillibridge, “what I want to bring home to the diocese is the deepening of our conversation regarding the issue of human sexuality as well as the relationship between minorities and majorities as we all seek to work together.”
This is the statement (read by Bishop Gary Lillibridge on behalf of the group)
The Anaheim Statement, General Convention, 2009
At this convention, the House of Bishops has heard repeated calls for honesty and clarity. As the conversation has proceeded within the HOB, repeated attempts to modify wording which would have been preferable to the minority in the vote were respectfully heard and discussed, but in the end most of these amendments were found unacceptable to the majority in the House. Many in the majority believed the amendments would make the stated position of this House less honest about where they believe we are as The Episcopal Church.
It is apparent that a substantial majority of this Convention believes that The Episcopal Church should move forward on matters of human sexuality. We recognize this reality and understand the clarity with which the majority has expressed itself. We are grateful for those who have reached out to the minority, affirming our place in the Church.
We seek to provide the same honesty and clarity. We invite all bishops who share the following commitments to join us in this statement as we seek to find a place in the Church we continue to serve.
* We reaffirm our constituent membership in the Anglican Communion, our communion with the See of Canterbury and our commitment to preserving these relationships.
* We reaffirm our commitment to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this church has received them (BCP 526, 538)
* We reaffirm our commitment to the three moratoria requested of us by the instruments of Communion.
* We reaffirm our commitment to the Anglican Communion Covenant process currently underway, with the hope of working toward its implementation across the Communion once a Covenant is completed.
* We reaffirm our commitment to “continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship” which is foundational to our baptismal covenant, and to be one with the apostles in “interpreting the Gospel” which is essential to our work as bishops of the Church of God.
When I spoke to Bishop Lawrence midday, there were 12 bishops who had signed, and my understanding is that as of tonight that number is higher. I do not yet have all the names of those signing it–KSH
Update: Just got off the phone with Bishop Lawrence, and he said Bishop Lillibridge read the statement and it now has over 20 names
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.”
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.
As I stated in my Bishop’s Address at our Diocesan Convention in March, I see little reward or benefit in expending our resources and energies in unfruitful expeditions trying to stem the tide of revisionism in The Episcopal Church. Certainly I ask those who are intercessors to pray that God would “stay the hand of the revisionists” at General Convention. And we who attend will, under God, carry out our roles in faithful witness to the truth as we have received it in Holy Scripture and in the traditions of the Church. But the creative thrust of the diocese””beyond the gospel imperative to preach the gospel, make disciples, and plant churches as missionary outposts of the Kingdom of God””needs to be elsewhere than in political machinations of the General Convention. As I’ve stated before, God has called us to help shape the future of Anglicanism through mutually enriching missional relationships and through inter-diocesan, inter-provincial accountability. Certainly, Kendall as our Canon Theologian will monitor the developments at General Convention 2009, but I believe it is in keeping with our declared vision as a diocese to focus on what we believe God is calling us to do, not on the strategies and battles he called us to engage in yesterday.
Before I conclude, let me address an issue that I find is sometimes confusing to many within the diocese, as well as those who are watching us in the reappraiser wing of North American Anglicanism, specifically in what is called “The Inside Strategy.” Among the writers and bloggers of North American Anglicanism there has emerged what some call the inside and the outside strategy in battling with heterodox teaching and practice in the Church. Some who were once Episcopalians have left because they were convinced that anything resembling orthodox belief and practice was lost. Many of these are now gathering at the ACNA convention. They are sometimes referred to as engaging in the outside strategy. That is, in the cause of orthodoxy in North American Anglicanism they have left previously official churches, such as the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church in the United States. According to this understanding it is believed the best way to revive or reform Anglicanism in North America is to work outside the established churches of the Anglican Communion. In distinction from those outside there are those who remain within TEC and the Anglican Church in Canada. Since they are staying, but still hold to the same understanding of the faith as those who have left, it is assumed by some that they must be carrying out an inside strategy of reformation. We in South Carolina are then said to be carrying out such an agenda””battling for orthodoxy, seeking to win back the day in The Episcopal Church in some maneuvering of ecclesiastical politics. While some within the Church may indeed be doing this, it is certainly not my intent. The stakes at present are much higher than what is happening in Episcopalianism or the continuing Anglican bodies in North America.
If we could be said to be carrying out an “Inside Strategy” it is not towards TEC: it is toward the Anglican Communion. Put simply, we remain inside the structures of the Communion to help shape the emerging Anglicanism of the 21st Century so long as we are able. It is ironic that as one of the few dioceses of The Episcopal Church with documented growth in every significant metric of measurement””membership, average Sunday attendance (ASA), spiritual vitality, finances, missional relationships through the last decade””we can influence the developments within global Anglicanism more effectively than we can influence our own Church! When conferences are held for bishops and leaders in TEC about growth and reaching new generations, why are experts brought in from non-Anglican sources and the prior architect of growth in the one diocese in TEC that has documented growth, Bishop Salmon, is not invited to speak? Why are the rectors in this diocese who have so clearly effectively reached their communities with the gospel never once referenced or consulted? Even the Presiding Bishop had to revise her statement that no diocese in TEC had seen growth, when documentation was cited that South Carolina had seen significant decadal growth. But, irony aside, getting back to my main point, our “Inside Strategy” is not to tilt at windmills in Quixotic fashion thinking we can turn back the clock to some prior age; it is to help shape the future that is emerging in global Anglicanism from within the Communion.
The Lambeth Conference is a gathering of bishops from the entire Anglican Communion which met for the first time in 1888. It meets every ten years to discuss issues of common concern in the mission of the church today. In the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury: “The chief aims of our time together are, first, that we become more confident in our Anglican identity, by deepening our awareness of how we are responsible to and for each other; and second, that we grow in energy and in enthusiasm for our task of leading the work of mission in our church.”
The conference gives bishops a chance not only to get to know each other personally, but also to share stories from different parts of the world and the cultural contexts they come from. This year’s conference was attended by 670 bishops out of approximately 800 bishops in the Anglican Communion. Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda did not attend.
One of the issues that came up among others was homosexuality, especially the blessing of same sex marriages and ordination of openly gays and lesbians. Lambeth’s position was that homosexuality is a sensitive pastoral and divisive issue that has to be handled with care. Lambeth discussed this issue in a very responsible manner by emphasising the importance of the family bond in the Communion whereby members of one family do not have to agree on all issues but still remain a family. Contrary to the forecast by the media that the Anglican Communion was about to break up, the 670- bishops present expressed their allegiance to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Communion. It was also made clear and agreed upon, after long discussion in small groups where all the bishops were able to make an input, that the ordination of gays and lesbians and blessings of same sex marriages was to stop forthwith and the discussion about these matters was to continue.
There are so many excellent statements being published by various bishops and Primates. We will not be able to post them all. But Bp. MacPherson’s letter from Salt Lake City, posted at Brad Drell’s blog, is worthy of a stand-alone entry. Bp. MacPherson is the President of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice. As his letter indicates, that gave him a big role in the proceedings. This elf is thankful for his bold and consistent witness, that his position of leadership has not caused him to compromise. –elfgirl
In the course of the session during which the charge was addressed, the Presiding Bishop’s ruling to depose was challenged, and I was amongst those to support this challenge, and this being based upon the irregularities stated above. This action failed as a two-thirds vote of the House was required to overturn. This was subsequently followed by a request for a roll call vote was asked for by nine bishops, myself included.
A question now is where this will lead, and this is unknown at the moment. What we do know is the Diocese of Pittsburgh will face many challenges, and sadly, challenges that will be disruptive to the ministry of the Church and proclamation of the Gospel in word and action. Our prayers for Bishop Duncan, his family, and the people of the diocese, are important and urged.
I must stop for now as I the remainder of the meeting is before me, and my flight home to follow shortly thereafter. I will however, close with a concern. The concern that I have is the fact that by this action, a dangerous precedent has been established as applied to the interpretation and execution of the Constitution and Canons of the Church. The danger in this is that it can, and unless terminated, will lead to the living out of a polity and governance in a manner that is not a part of our heritage nor the intent of the Canons as established by General Convention.
Received via e-mail from the Diocese of Central Florida, here is an update from Salt Lake City by Bishop John Howe:
Bishop Howe provided a recent update on the House of Bishops’ meeting in Salt Lake City and granted his permission for me to share that update with the Cathedral community.
My Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I suspect that by the time I have finished composing this post you will have already learned that the House of Bishops has this afternoon voted to depose Bishop Robert Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh for “abandoning the communion of this Church by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of this Church.”
The vote was 88 in favor of deposition, 35 against, and there were 4 abstentions. I voted against. I want to share with you my impressions of what has just happened.
First, the background of “where we are” was reviewed last night primarily by the Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor, David Beers. He apprized us of his interpretation and advice to the Presiding Bishop regarding the meaning and interpretation of the Abandonment canon. He told us that he had conferred with a number of Diocesan Chancellors in rendering his opinion, and that the Parliamentarian of our House agrees with his interpretation and advice.
In particular, it is his contention (and the PB told us in her letter last week that it would be her ruling) that the House may move to depose without the necessity of the PB first imposing inhibition on the Bishop in question (an action that would require the consent of the three most senior active Bishops), and secondly, he contends that “a majority of all those entitled to vote” refers to those PRESENT at the HOB meeting, and not to ALL the Bishops of the House, whether present or not.
My own conviction is that on both of these points Mr. Beers’ interpretation is incorrect, as both I and our Standing Committee have previously stated (following similar depositions last spring).
This afternoon I offered this argument: “I want to compare what Mr. Beers said last night to the argument that many have advanced in favor of ordaining persons directly to the priesthood – without the requirement that they become deacons first. Cogent arguments can be made for that position, but that is not what our canons stipulate. They say a person SHALL be a deacon first, and only afterward may they be ordained priest. You can wish it were otherwise, and you can speculate all you like about intent, but if you want to change things – change the canons.
“Similarly, our canons are clear – not at all ‘ambiguous’ – however much you might not like them. ‘A Bishop SHALL be inhibited, with the consent of the three senior Bishops,’ before deposition can be imposed. The way to change that is to change the canons. Bishop Bob Duncan has not been inhibited, and he cannot be deposed.”
However, in today’s meeting both that ruling and the one regarding how much of a majority is required for a deposition were upheld by a vote of the House. (It would have required a 2/3 majority to overturn them, and the votes were not even close to a simple majority.)
I told the Diocesan Board last week that I was contemplating the possibility of disassociating myself from the vote altogether, in that I believed it was canonically illegitimate. However, with the PB’s rulings being upheld by the House (and having no other, final, authority to determine the matter), I saw no other course but to vote No with regard to the deposition.
The discussion and debate today lasted across both this morning’s and this afternoon’s sessions, for a total of approximately six hours. There was a good deal of sentiment expressed that any action by this House should not occur until after the Diocese of Pittsburgh has voted for a second time to remove its accession to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, a matter which is scheduled to be before its Convention within the next couple of weeks. A number of people argued that until/unless that decision becomes final “abandonment” has not actually occurred, either by the Bishop or by the Diocese as a whole.
Others, however, argued that in allowing and urging the Diocese to withdraw its accession, and thus to attempt to remove itself from The Episcopal Church, Bishop Duncan has long since violated and “abandoned” his loyalty to The Episcopal Church. Some of the Bishops who are also lawyers argued that the case law of Pennsylvania would make it more difficult for The Episcopal Church to press its case if we delayed our action until after Pittsburgh’s Diocesan Convention.
My sense of the discussion today is that it was respectful, painful, and deeply tinged with sadness. There was a good deal of recognition and concern that many, both within The Episcopal Church and across the Anglican Communion, will see today’s action as precipitous, pre-emptive, and vindictive. Some expressed the concern that this may well solidify the previously undecided in Pittsburgh to join in the support of Bishop Duncan, by making him, in effect, a “martyr.”
In the end there was a Roll Call vote, and, as I stated above, 88 voted in favor of deposition, 35 against, and there were 4 abstentions. A simple majority was needed to depose (under the PB’s ruling), but in fact slightly more than 2/3 voted to depose.
I understand that Archbishop Greg Venables of the Southern Cone has already declared that Bishop Duncan is a member in good standing in the Province of the Southern Cone, and the widespread expectation is that a) the Diocese of Pittsburgh will, indeed, vote to remove itself from The Episcopal Church, and align with the Southern Cone, and b) once it has done so it will ask Bishop Duncan to continue serving as its Bishop. And then, of course, the real battles will begin.
Bob Duncan is my friend, and Pittsburgh was my Diocese from 1972 to 1976. Bob and I have not always agreed, but we have been on the same side of most of the “issues,” and I believe him to be a fearless and courageous contender for the Faith. I believe this is a very sad day for the Church, and I find myself in mourning.
As always, thank you for your prayers.
Warmest regards in our Lord,
The Right Rev. John W. Howe
Episcopal Bishop of Central Florida
Bishop Duncan’s Statement on his “Deposition”
“I offer my deepest thanks to the company of saints all around the globe who have sustained me, my wife and all who are dear to me in these days.”
It is a very sad day for The Episcopal Church. It is also a sad day for me, a faithful son of that church.
Nevertheless it is also a hopeful day, hopeful because of the unstoppable Reformation that is overtaking the Christian Church in the West. It is also a hopeful day for me personally as I am unanimously welcomed into the House of Bishops of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, an act applauded by Anglican archbishops, bishops, clergy and people all around the world.
The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will move forward under its new Ecclesiastical Authority, its Standing Committee. That body will carry the diocese through to our realignment vote on October 4. With the success of that vote, it will be possible that we be joined together again as bishop and people.
I offer my deepest thanks to the company of saints all around the globe who have sustained me, my wife and all who are dear to me in these days.
The following is the statement by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on the actions of the House of Bishops today, Thursday, September 18, 2008
The House of Bishops worked carefully and prayerfully to consider the weighty matter of Bishop Duncan. The conversation was holy, acknowledging the pain of our deliberations as well as the gratitude many have felt over the years for their relationships with, and the ministry of, Robert Duncan. The House concluded, however, that his actions over recent months and years constitute “abandonment of the communion of this church” and that he should be deposed. Concern was expressed for the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in the face of leadership which has sought to remove itself from The Episcopal Church. In the days and months ahead, this Church will work to ensure appropriate pastoral care and provision for the members of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, so that mission and ministry in that part of Pennsylvania may continue in the name of Jesus Christ and in the tradition of the Episcopal Church.
[color=red]last updated: 3 July 2008, 12:30 GMT (8:30 a.m. Eastern)[/color]
What’s new: Response from +Hiltz of Canada, new GLOBAL petition to indicate your support of GAFCON, long commentary on GAFCON from Forward in Faith, etc…
Now that the responses to GAFCON are coming in fast and furious, we thought it would be helpful to create a roundup post to track them. As always, feel free to post comments that include links to articles and statements of interest.
[b]New entries July 2 & 3:[/b] (apologies these are in no particular order… it’s a busy day)
+Benn (Lewes, UK)
Forward in Faith: Letter from Jerusalem
Church of England GAFCON Briefing (one of the Melbourne GAFCON bloggers)
A summary of GAFCON designed for parish newsletters (Produced by the Chelmsford branch of Anglican Mainstream, note this is primarily geared to CoE parishes)
— end of new July 3 links —
I. GAFCON Communique and other important Conference Materials (see also section VI. below for more conference materials)
Jerusalem Declaration Acceptance Statement (Matt Kennedy’s liveblog)
The Offical GAFCON website is here.
II. International Response and Commentary
III. US Response and Commentary
IV. Bloggers and Various other Commentary
The GAFCON links post which we elves had posted during most of the GAFCON conference — links to all those who were blogging from Jerusalem
Bobby J. Kennedy: GAFCON: What’s in it for me? (Another view from Western Louisiana)
Fr. Lee Nelson (Fort Worth, GAFCON attendee): My Thoughts on the Jerusalem Declaration and the GAFCON Statement
REFORM Ireland (GAFCON attendee): Moving Forward
The Rev. Grant LeMarquand (Trinity Seminary, Ambridge)
Cherie Wetzel (Anglicans United, Dallas, GAFCON attendee)
V. Mainstream Media Reports
Timothy Morgan: Misunderstanding GAFCON (Christianity Today)
Travis Kavulla: Remaking Anglicanism (National Review)
Telegraph July 1 (coverage of All Souls Langham Place, comments by ++Jensen and ++Orombi)
NPR: All Things Considered, June 30, Barbara Bradley Hagerty (Comments by ++Venables, Naughton, +Minns, +VGR)
VI. Miscellaneous Conference Materials
Dr. Stephen Noll: COMMUNING WITH CHRIST, A WORKSHOP ON ANGLICAN ECCLESIOLOGY
Given at GAFCON 2008
GAFCON: ”˜The Way, the Truth and the Life’ Publication [PDF Document]
— T19 thread
— SF Discussion
VII. All Souls Langham Place London Post-Gafcon meeting
1. Presentation by ++Orombi
2. Presentation by ++Venables
3. Interview with JI Packer
4. Panel Discussion
5. Apb. Peter Jensen Presentation
6. Petition to declare support of GAFCON for CoE members (COE members only!)
[color=red]last updated: 3 July 2008, 12:30 GMT (8:30 am Eastern)[/color]
It has been a joy to participate in the GAFCON experience in Jerusalem, and I welcome and endorse the proclamation that has been issued at the conclusion of our week of deliberation and prayer.
It is a positive contribution to the future direction of the Anglican Communion, as well as a very encouraging affirmation and validation of the realignment that has been taking place in the Communion over the past few years.
We stand in solidarity with the GAFCON movement and principles, and we in Fort Worth look forward to the continuing saga of this exciting development in our life together as faithful Anglicans.
May the Lord continue to bless and guide us in the challenging days ahead of us.
The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth
Given that there are new articles and press releases, etc. being released frequently, and the potential significance of the story, we thought it would be helpful to provide a roundup of all the Virginia court ruling links in one place. We’ll keep updating this periodically:
Primary Source documents: Court Ruling and Press Releases or Letters
A letter from Virginia Bishop Peter James Lee
Articles / Analysis / Commentary: (in the order we came across them)
Va. judge sides with breakaway Episcopal parishes, By Julia Duin
Judge’s Initial Decision Favors Breakaway Churches, By Michelle Boorstein
[note BabyBlue has an important bit of background on this article here (Patrick Getlein used to be the Communications Director for the Diocese of VA)]
Big Win for Va.’s Breakaway Anglican Parishes in Property Fight, by Sheryl Henderson Blunt
Episcopal News Service:
Virginia judge issues preliminary ruling on application of state statute, by Mary Frances Schjonberg
“The Lead” (one of the primary reappraising TEC blogs)
Thinking Anglicans (a reappraising blog from the UK) which provides a roundup of links and some commentary
The Living Church: Favoring Parishes, Virginia Judge Cites ”˜Division of First Magnitude’
Reuters: US judge rules for Episcopal Church secessionists, By Michael Conlon
Brad Drell (Louisiana attorney and Anglican Blogger at Drell’s Descants)
David Trimble (an attorney in KY, and Anglican blogger at Still on Patrol)
Hills of the North (a Georgia attorney)
Bishop David Anderson of the AAC (via Anglican Mainstream)
Note: BabyBlue’s blog is, of course, one of the best places to keep up with the news as it happens, since BabyBlue is directly connected to the story, being a member of Truro, one of the ADV congregations.
Feel free to add other links in the comments. We’ll update this as we are able.
[received via e-mail]
Diocese of San Joaquin: March 12, 2008
Contact: Fr. Van McCalister, (559) 244-4828, Diocese of San Joaquin
The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, a member diocese of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone of South America, was disappointed by today’s decision of the Episcopal House of Bishops but he was not surprised by it.
“It is a shame that the disciplinary process of The Episcopal Church has been misused in this way,” Bishop Schofield said in responding to the news that the Episcopal House of Bishops voted to depose him. “The disciplinary procedures used by the House of Bishops, in my case, were intended for those who have abandoned the Faith and are leading others away from orthodox Christianity, as held in trust by bishops in the Anglican Communion ”“ and which The Episcopal Church had previously upheld also.”
“The question that begs to be answered by the House of Bishops,” said Bishop Schofield, “is, why bishops who continue to teach and publish books that deny the most basic Christian beliefs are not disciplined while those of us who uphold the Christian Faith are?” He added, “At least I am in good company. It is a privilege to know that I am standing along side of one of the outstanding theologians of our time, J. I. Packer, who is under similar discipline by the Canadian Church and who, also, has placed himself under the authority of the Southern Cone.”
“I have not abandoned the Faith,” Schofield observed. “I resigned from the American House of Bishops and have been received into the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone. Both Houses are members of the Anglican Communion. They are not ”“ or should not be ”“ two separate Churches. It is the leadership of The Episcopal Church that is treating itself as a separate and unique Church. They may do so, but they ought not expect everyone to follow teaching that serves only to undermine the authority of the Bible and ultimately leads to lifestyles that are destructive.”
“The fact remains,” Schofield observed, “that a canon law specifically designed to protect the people of God from wrong teaching and schismatic movements has been used in a clumsy way. I do not think it is a coincidence that the canon that was used, was the one that involves the least due process. The decision to act against me was not made by the House of Bishops as a whole. It was made behind closed doors by a small review committee and, only then, presented to the larger body for an ‘up or down’ vote.” The bishop added, “Tragically, what drives this action of The Episcopal Church is neither the Christian Faith nor the Communion they say I have abandoned. In the end, it appears as though the real motivation behind all of this is the use of raw power and coveting property. If this is so, then any attempts by The Episcopal Church to seize our property directly ignore Saint Paul’s warning not to take a fellow Christian to a civil court. [1 Corinthians 6:1-8]”
Bishop Schofield resigned from the House of Bishops as of March 7, 2008. “I am still an active Anglican bishop, and I continue to be the bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin,” Bishop Schofield affirmed.
Here’s an excerpt:
Today we stand at a critical juncture in history. It would be myopic to imagine that the rest of
Christendom, let alone the Anglican Communion, is not watching and praying as we deliberate.
Pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us in the momentous decisions that lie before us.
It is only natural to experience fear, for what we are considering takes the Diocese of San Joaquin
into unchartered waters. The leaders of the General Convention have expended enormous energy
to spread their mantra: “Individuals may the leave the Church, but Parishes and Dioceses cannot.”
No one seems to know who dreamed up this idea. What we DO know is that it is simply not true!
During the time of the Civil War in the 1860’s when this nation was torn apart, dioceses in those
states called the Confederacy withdrew from what was then known as The Protestant Episcopal
Church. During the war years they held their own conventions, developed their own Constitution,
had there own House of Bishops, elected a Presiding Bishop, and consecrated a bishop for one of
their dioceses. Nothing could be clearer. The southern dioceses had departed and had created a
separate church. Today we might call it their own Province.
Unlike many of the Protestant denominations, however, it didn’t make sense to Episcopalians to
maintain the separation when the war ended. Not only were the southern bishops and their dioceses
welcomed back, the newly consecrated bishop was recognized, and no punitive action was taken
against anyone. Presumably the southerners had taken their property with them when they left.
And, they would not have been the first to do this.
Centuries before, King Henry VIII, with the help of Parliament prevented all English money from
going to Rome. This action was followed up by taking all the property of the churches, including
the monasteries and shrines ”“many of which he dismantled and sold. Today, were you to go to
Ireland in search of a name or a tombstone of anyone buried before 1540, your search would have
to be in Anglican ”“not Roman Catholic”“ churches and cathedrals. Somehow the Pope never asked
that they be returned to him…and they weren’t.
Colonial churches, especially those in Virginia, whose existence pre-date not only The Episcopal
Church but the United States itself, were never given back to the Lord Bishop of London nor to the
Archbishop of Canterbury when, after the American Revolution, Anglicans identified themselves
as Episcopalians. They took their property with them.
History is replete with instances in which dioceses, too, have moved from one Province to another
”“ no matter how it was accomplished. Liberia moved from The Episcopal Church to the Province
of West Africa, Venezuela moved from the West Indies to The Episcopal Church. Mexico has
moved back and forth from The Episcopal Church more than once.
Historically, Provinces, such as The Episcopal Church, are not, and never have been, an essential
part of Catholic Order. On October 14th this year, Rowan Williams, our present Archbishop of
Canterbury, wrote to Bishop John Howe of Central Florida: “…Without forestalling what the
Primates might say, I would repeat what I’ve said several times before ”“ that any Diocese compliant
with Windsor remains clearly in communion with Canterbury and the mainstream of the
Communion, whatever may be the longer-term result for others in The Episcopal Church. The
organ of union with the wider Church is the Bishop and the Diocese rather than the Provincial
structure as such.” Later, in the same letter, Archbishop Williams strengthened what he had said
already by adding: “I should feel a great deal happier, I must say, if those who were most eloquent
for a traditionalist view in the United States showed a fuller understanding of the need to regard the
Bishop and the Diocese as the primary locus of ecclesial identity rather than the abstract reality
of the ”˜national church’.” (Emphasis added) Abstract realities do not own, nor have they ever
There is no question that what we are considering today will be called Schism. We will be told that
unity trumps theology. We shall be told that we are doing is destructive and against history and
Catholic Order. Once again, the words of J.I. Packer are most helpful. He notes: “Schism means
unwarrantable and unjustifiable dividing of organized church bodies, by the separating of one group
within the structure from the rest of the membership. Schism, as such, is sin, for it is a needless and
indefensible breach of visible unity. But withdrawal from a unitary set-up that has become
unorthodox and distorts the gospel in a major way and will not put its house in order as for instance
when the English church withdrew from the Church of Rome in the sixteenth century, should be
called not schism but realignment, doubly so when the withdrawal leads to links with a set-up that
is faithful to the truth, as in the sixteenth century the Church of England entered into fellowship
with the Lutheran and Reformed churches of Europe, and as now we propose gratefully to accept
the offer of full fellowship with the Province of the Southern Cone. Any who calls such a move
schism should be told they do not know what schism is.”
For those of us who are facing the unknown, Provinces and Property seem to be among the top
concerns. As bishop, I would like to suggest to you that a ”˜NO’ vote at this convention will not
provide the imagined protection needed to get on with our lives uninterrupted. Many do not realize
that for 40 years, with the first twenty under Bishop Victor Rivera, and now nearly twenty years
with me, as bishops we have been able to provide a buffer for our people from the innovations that
abound in dioceses all around us. A quick trip north, south, east or west is all that it takes to wonder
if we’re in the same church with those folks. Years ago, it was the moderate Bishop John
MacArthur of West Texas who first stated clearly that “we are two churches under one roof.”
Archbishop Williams stated at one point that “perception is a fact.” I think that is a very helpful insight to remember. What we believe to be true (even if it is not) is held to be true. I read The New York Times article at the conclusion of the HOB meeting and was very disappointed. The headline and paragraphs of the article were the exact opposite of what happened at the meeting. I found it interesting that some were interviewed for the article that were not even present for the meeting; and that participants at the meeting were not interviewed.
My point is simple. Read the direct sources prayerfully for yourselves. Please read The House of Bishops’ response “to questions and concerns raised by our Anglican Communion partners.” Also read the article: Anglican Communion’s Secretary General reflects on House of Bishops meeting. You will be better and more clearly informed.
From the New Hampshire Episcopalian
Go West, young man (and South)
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
As you read this, I will be beginning a three month sabbatical leave, as prescribed for clergy in this diocese every five years. To say the least, the last five years have been busy for me at times busy and exhilarating, at other times difficult and challenging. I am ready for a rest.
Most memorable for me in these last five years was the day of my election not just because of being elected, but because of the feeling of the presence of the Holy Spirit in that church on that clear June morning in 2003. To have been called to this ministry by the very peers with which I had served for nearly thirty years was an indescribable blessing. I cannot remember a time when I have felt so humbled, so unworthy and so wanting to fulfill the hope you placed in God working through me. Whether or not I was ever confirmed by the larger Church mattered less than the confidence you expressed in me.
The drama over your election of me as Bishop continues to play out. In the end, God will have GodÂ¹s way. Episcopalians in America and Anglicans around the world continue to seek GodÂ¹s guidance in dealing with the challenge that my election represents. On a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis, I remember the phrase so often repeated in the Old and New Testaments by the God who loves us: ‘Be not afraid.’
Now it is time for me to rest a while. I intend to do so. I also will be doing some things that I have wanted to do, and which this time will permit me. For a month, I will be traveling in the Pacific. I will be traveling to several parts of the Anglican Communion to learn about the Christian life in different contexts. I hope to make a contribution to the ongoing life of the Communion by meeting personally with some of the Anglican Church Primates who are willing to receive me to hear about the challenges that they face in THEIR contexts, to learn about the spread of the Gospel in far off places, and mostly to build relationships with some who do not know or understand OUR context for ministry. The Primates have no way of knowing who I really am, beyond what the press has said. I hope that my building relationships with some of them might, in some small way, contribute to reconciliation in the Anglican Communion. These Â³stopsÂ² include Hong Kong, a remote diocese in the Solomon Islands (Province of Melanesia), Australia and New Zealand. My partner Mark will join me ‘down under’ for some ‘down time’ in Australia and New Zealand, two places weÂ¹ve always wanted to visit, but have never had the opportunity.
Upon my return, I have been offered someoneÂ¹s house on beautiful Squam Lake to do some writing. Church Publishing has asked me to work on a book, tentatively entitled ‘In the Eye of the Storm.’ In addition to having the opportunity to write about the Gospel, for which I am so passionate, this will also afford me the time away to read, reflect, and pray. Although Jesus usually went to the mountain to pray, Squam Lake doesnÂ¹t sound like a bad substitute! This time will afford me a quiet and thoughtful Advent, not to mention time to spend with my children and grandchildren. I look forward to returning to this ministry that I so love with joy and energy and focus.
Thank you for making this time of refreshment and renewal possible. It is one of the many blessings that come with this ministry, and I deeply appreciate it. My promise to you is that I will not fill it up with activity, but use it to get the rest and refreshment I need and crave. I will return to my work on January 1, ready to embrace and celebrate the months and years ahead with you, my brothers and sisters. Pray for me, and be assured that my prayers of thanksgiving for your lives and ministries will ascend every day that I am away.
Your brother in Christ,
What an amazing turn of events! The overall response of the Joint Committee to the House of Bishops message is positive ”“ yet the Evangelicals in the Church of England demand that the ABC denounce the church in the US over the possibility of consecrating a partnered gay to the episcopate – and our blessing of same sex unions! They threaten to divide the English church over this – just as TEC is threatened.
We simply have to be more vocal about this….the C of E blesses same-sex unions. The partnered homosexual clergy in the C of E are entitled, under British law, to register their relationships in order to gain the legal benefits accorded them. The C or E House of Bishops issued a statement to that effect in November or December of 2005.
Following that C of E HOB statement a condemnatory letter issued from Nigeria – reminding the English church that TEC and others were being ostracized for that sort of thing. But outrage at the C of E does not seem to have any staying power — either in other parts of the Communion or in TEC. When Bishop Mark Sisk and I asked the ABC about same-sex blessings – about what the difference is between what happens in the Cof E and what happens in some places here he answered, “They ( in England) are not public.”
Q: What has been the situation in this diocese?
A: I have said to the diocese that there will be no permission for blessing of same-sex unions until the General Convention of this church has made a decision.
That is not because I feel that faithful persons in a chaste, loving relationship should not have the grace of God acknowledged by a blessing, but I also am bound as a bishop of the church to be responsible and faithful and obedient.
Q: You said in New Orleans that “sometimes traveling as a body means slowing down the pace, in the hope that all can make the journey.” What should gay and lesbian Episcopalians understand when you say that?
A: I want them to hear that the commitment to the journey of full inclusion continues. We don’t know what it will ultimately look like. But we want them to know we’re still on the journey.
What I have found is that many gay and lesbian Christians are concerned not just about their sacramental inclusion, but about the church. Many have shared that they’re willing for us to pause and have that conversation. There are some who are pretty angry, and I understand that.
Here’s an excerpt from Bp. Paul Marshall’s convention address to the Diocese of Bethlehem this weekend:
Comment is needed in the aftermath of the late meeting of House of Bishops. I need to say something different from what other bishops may be saying in their conventions because the Bethlehem deputation in 2006 did not vote for the General Convention Resolution that the bishops were seeking to “clarify” for the primates. Something we were not favor of in the first place has been intensified.
Every single news report I have read about that meeting does not resemble the meeting I attended. Let me just say that I remain perplexed by the action and more perplexed by the process in New Orleans, but as always, I think God is providing a spiritual opportunity for me.
I find that as just a few years ago I had to learn to be a gracious “winner,” if such a term is ever appropriate, when the church was moving my way, now I must learn to be a gracious “loser,” if such a term is ever appropriate, when that course is reversed or halted. For some of you those poles are reversed, and it is your turn to be a gracious winner. Some of you may well feel keen disappointment and even rejection as a result of my colleagues’ clarifications. As those of you who accepted the invitation to meet with me two weeks ago know, I believe that your pain is deep and proportionate. I will not presume to say that I can feel anyone else’s pain, but I certainly recognize and grieve its existence, as do many, many people in this diocese.
Beyond that, I must also say that I believe we have held together as a diocesan community during a turbulent three decades not because our range of opinion and conviction is narrower than that found elsewhere in the Episcopal Church. We have held together because of discipline, the tough discipline we practice of keeping our focus on Christ rather than ourselves, the tough discipline of genuinely honoring the conscience of every member of this diocese and welcoming the gifts the Holy Spirit bestows on the Church through each of the baptized. In previous years in this room I have had to reassure those who might be considered conservative of this fundamental principle of our life. I find myself today needing to reassure those who might be considered liberal or progressive of the same thing, that the only disciples of Jesus excluded in this diocese are those who exclude themselves.
I do not know how to predict if what the Archbishop of Canterbury and our domestic leadership wanted of and got from the majority bishops of this church will be effective or productive, and having no power in the matter have chosen to cease from worrying about the behavior or witness of any bishop other than myself.
So here is where I am. My understanding of my relationship with Christ means that I am not personally able to sacrifice individual lives or the dignity of any follower of Jesus to even the most benign dreams of world-wide ecclesiastical empire, but will do my utmost to stay in real and effective communion with Anglicans in every place on the globe.
As the designated chief sinner of the diocese, I will continue to try to honor each of you as God’s works in progress, living stones built into a marvelous temple for the praise of God the Father. As Habbakuk was taught in last Sunday’s first lesson, we do not know how things will turn out but we do know that the future belongs to God and we are to keep busy letting people know that there is a vision. We need to do that communicating, the prophet was told, in letters
so big that joggers may read them. Translation: it must be unmistakable in our words and deeds that we trust the God who made each of us and that we are moving ahead in that trust.
In saying that I do not mean to say that we should pretend that our varying understandings do not exist. On the contrary, I meant something active and powerful and traditionally Anglican ”“ that is, in honoring and exploring our differences, we may generate the way through them to a place nobody would have imagined.
Let me dwell on this for just a minute. I just spoke of 400 years of Anglicanism in Virginia, now let me go back a mere 40 years, to a non-Anglican in California. In 1967, Dr. Ralph Greenson, “psychiatrist to the stars” and medical professor in Los Angeles, wrote about the tendency of his colleagues not to communicate with each about their disagreements in theories or practice. Remember, these are psychiatrists who weren’t communicating. Listen to his observations from 1967. Where you hear the language of his vocation, insert the language of our life as disciples. Ask whether Greenson’s words do not speak to our situation:
Those who wish to suggest innovations or modifications of technique do not usually confer with others who are more traditional in their viewpoint. They tend to form cliques and to work underground, or at least segregated from the mainstream… As a consequence the innovators are apt to lose contact with those groups”¦ that might help validate, clarify, and amend their new ideas. The secluded innovators are prone to becomes “wild analysts,” while the conservatives, due to their own insularity, tend to become rigid with orthodoxy. Instead of influencing one another constructively they each go their separate ways as adversaries, blind to whatever benefits each might have gained from an opening and continuing discussion. (The Technique and Practice of Psychoanalysis I, p. 2)
To put his observation in spiritual terms, we grow when we risk exploring each other’s perceptions and applications of biblical truth to test and strengthen our own grasp of God’s will for us. I would say that it is quite one thing to think that one possesses truth and quite another thing to experience oneself as being possessed by truth. Whether it is an old truth or a new truth, they who believe they own the truth will become rigid and defensive. They who believe they are possessed by truth, new or old, find themselves in joyful service to the truth, and willingly engage others so that all members of the conversation can be productive and balanced. Rigidity and disconnection are the enemies of spiritual growth in conservatives and liberals alike.
The value of the worldwide Communion, when it is working well, is that those who see something new and those who cherish something old, are in a position to grow in a conversation that is truly catholic. At the moment, at least, that possibility still exists and, like many, I hope that the long-promised conversation may actually get started.
We elves and some of our friends have been busy analyzing TEC bishops’ statements. We’ve found a troubling pattern. We hope this analysis will be helpful, and encourage you to circulate this widely. (please credit T19 if you do circulate this)
Important Update: In the course of discussing this with readers, I’ve realized I made a mistake in lumping together the five bishops who included the “breadth of response” language in their responses to the New Orleans statement. In particular [b]+Ed Little[/b] should not just have been lumped in the list as if he was trying to exploit some loophole. Upon re-reading his statement, that would be clearly UNTRUE. Please see my comment #44 below. Apologies for the confusion and not giving +Little’s statement more careful attention. It shouldn’t have been just lumped in the batch. –elfgirl
Some TEC Bishops try to exploit a perceived loophole and hide the truth
In my work the other night compiling and organizing various TEC bishops’ letters and statements following the New Orleans HoB meeting, one phrase began to leap out at me as it was repeated and emphasized by quite a few TEC bishops. Some among the TEC bishops, notably +Jack McKelvey, seemed to be claiming that the public same sex blessings occurring in their dioceses fall under the Primates’ allowance of a “breadth of private pastoral response.”
Two examples should suffice, though at least 5 bishops, and perhaps others, have highlighted this phrase in their discussions of the New Orleans HoB meeting:
We also articulated, again as requested, the fact that this church has never authorized the blessing of same gender unions. We spoke clearly to the fact that a majority of dioceses already function on this matter in the way that we do in this diocese. We also made reference, as the Primate of Australia suggested we do, to the fact that the Primates themselves have affirmed that pastoral care for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters requires the Communion ”˜to maintain a breadth of private response to situations of individual pastoral care.”
We quoted the Primates in their May 2003 statement saying that we have a pastoral duty, “to respond with love and understanding to people of all sexual orientations.” They further stated, “. . . It is necessary to maintain a breadth of private response to situations of individual pastoral care.” This will be honored in the Diocese of Rochester and I believe in many dioceses throughout our church.
+Larry Benfield of Arkansas(a diocese which had just recently, under +Benfield’s predecessor +Larry Maze, begun to allow public SSBs to be conducted by its clergy; +Benfield may be changing the policy in the diocese, it is not yet totally clear.) also specifically cited “breadth of private response” language, as did +Henry Parsley of Alabama and +Ed Little of Northern Indiana.
So, what were the Primates actually affirming in May 2003, and is the TEC HoB’s adoption of this phrase consistent with the original usage or intent? It appears that this is a key question. Let’s trace the history of this language and the intent behind the original language, first looking at the actual use of this phrase in New Orleans.
1. TEC HoB Usage of the Phrase “Breadth of … response” in New Orleans
On Sept. 24, in the midst of the TEC HoB meeting, TitusOne Nine published the proposed draft of the TEC response to the primates. That draft response included this section:
5. Because we are a liturgical church our actions concerning blessings are expressed in public liturgies. No rite of blessing for persons living in same sex unions has been adopted or approved by our General Convention. We wish to make it clear that the House of Bishops has not voted to authorize such liturgies. Even in the absence of such public rites, we acknowledge that the blessing of same sex unions, no matter how public or private, is unacceptable to some of our brothers and sisters in our own House, in our church, and in the Communion. The issue remains perplexing for us as we seek to balance these concerns about rites of blessing and the pressing pastoral need that confronts us. We wish to offer respect for these differing viewpoints.
We are grateful that the Primates have articulated their support for meeting the individual pastoral needs of gay and lesbian persons. In 2003 they wrote “there is a duty of pastoral care that is laid upon all Christians to respond with love and understanding to homosexual persons.” The Primates have written that there must be a breadth of private and pastoral responses to individual situations. It is the case that for many decades, the Episcopal Church has explored the most faithful ways of ministering to and with gay and lesbian people who are part of our common life. We acknowledge that in some of our dioceses this includes the blessing of same sex unions.
Note how here the proposed text explicitly acknowledges the public blessings of same-sex unions occurring in various dioceses and tries to claim that such blessings fall under the “breadth of … pastoral responses” envisioned by the Primates. The TEC bishops suggest and appear to want to believe that the only matter of concern to the Primates was the official authorization of liturgical rites for same-sex blessings at a national level, in spite of the fact that the Dar es Salaam CommuniquÃ© explicitly stated the Primates’ concern about TEC’s “pastoral provision” in various dioceses.
In the final statement from New Orleans, that section re: Same-sex blessings was modified to read as follows:
Blessing of Same-Sex Unions
We, the members of the House of Bishops, pledge not to authorize for use in our dioceses any public rites of blessing of same-sex unions until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action. In the near future we hope to be able to draw upon the benefits of the Communion-wide listening process. In the meantime, it is important to note that no rite of blessing for persons living in same-sex unions has been adopted or approved by our General Convention. In addition to not having authorized liturgies the majority of bishops do not make allowance for the blessing of same-sex unions. We do note that in May 2003 the Primates said we have a pastoral duty “to respond with love and understanding to people of all sexual orientations.” They further stated, “…It is necessary to maintain a breadth of private response to situations of individual pastoral care.”
Again, the TEC bishops are trying to claim that the Primates’ 2003 statement would encompass and allow the current practice of public same sex blessings occurring in many TEC dioceses.
As noted, the language in question goes back to the May 2003 Primates’ CommuniquÃ© following the Primates meeting in Gramado, Brazil. Let’s look at that more closely…
Read it all (you can also download this)
Another bishop acknowledges that blessings freely occur, even if they’re not “authorized:”
With regard to the question of same-sex blessings, we also reiterated what has already been said many times before, that most bishops/dioceses do not provide for these. The fact is, no bishop can “authorize” rites in any institutional sense apart from the action of General Convention. That such blessings do occur in some places and at some times is a pastoral reality. These blessings are “outside” the official umbrella of the authorization of General Convention. However, they are within the provisions of the resolution of General Convention 2003 which affirmed that such pastoral actions are “within the bounds of our common life.”
A Brief Reflection on the Recent Statement from the House of Bishops
The Rt. Rev. Joe G. Burnett
[Note: the full text of the Bishops’ Statement follows this reflection.]
At the conclusion of our recent meeting in New Orleans, some one hundred and fifty bishops approved a document entitled Response to Questions and Concerns Raised by our Anglican Communion Partners. This approval came on a voice vote with only one audible dissenting vote. Anytime such a document receives this level of support in our diverse community of bishops, you can be sure that it either represents a wide consensus, or that it reflects the fact that most, if not all, of those present and voting are not completely happy with the results, but have chosen to compromise on one or more elements. My own sense is that the latter reality is in play here. And my guess is that individual members of our own diocese will find themselves in a similar place, i.e., in agreement with some parts of the statement, but not with others.
As I think about what we said in New Orleans, I am reminded of an old saw about preaching: “Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. And then tell them what you told them.” In many ways, our statement was part three of that homiletic counsel. We told them (our Anglican Communion partners) what we have already told them twice before.
Our statement of Response is in three parts: (1) an introduction and preamble; (2) a “bullet point” summary; and (3) an elaboration and explanation of the bullet points. Also, this statement is carefully worded and nuanced. An accurate interpretation of any one part must be undertaken in terms of the overall content of the whole.
In short, here is my interpretation, followed by a couple of closing comments.
First, we said nothing new in terms of our strong desire to remain part of the Anglican Communion, or in terms of our responses to requests that have been made of us by our Anglican Communion partners.
Our description of General Convention resolution B033 was just that””a description””along with a word about what we believe the resolution means to most bishops. I say “most,” because some of the bishops feel bound by this resolution, and some do not. I count myself in the latter group, as I believe it is canonically and constitutionally inconsistent for bishops and/or standing committees to surrender, categorically and in advance, the sacred duty to give or to withhold consent to any Episcopal consecration.
With regard to the question of same-sex blessings, we also reiterated what has already been said many times before, that most bishops/dioceses do not provide for these. The fact is, no bishop can “authorize” rites in any institutional sense apart from the action of General Convention. That such blessings do occur in some places and at some times is a pastoral reality. These blessings are “outside” the official umbrella of the authorization of General Convention. However, they are within the provisions of the resolution of General Convention 2003 which affirmed that such pastoral actions are “within the bounds of our common life.”
In keeping with this theme we also reaffirmed our message to the church from our Spring 2007 meeting in which we called for justice and dignity for gay and lesbian persons throughout the world, and, in particular, across the Anglican Communion.
Second, we reaffirmed our intention to live within the constitutional and canonical framework of The Episcopal Church. We did this not only by affirming our Presiding Bishop’s plan for “Episcopal Visitors,” but also by acknowledging that changes of policy on various issues could only occur by action of General Convention””and quite apart from any “consensus” in the wider Communion.
Third, we strongly urged an end to extra-provincial incursions by uninvited bishops. We insisted on fulfillment of the promise to implement a “listening process” around the Communion on matters of human sexuality. And we encouraged the Archbishop of Canterbury in his “expressed desire to explore ways for the Bishop of New Hampshire to participate in the Lambeth Conference.”
Finally, I offer two thoughts””one hopeful and one not so.
Here is the hopeful thought: Since our meeting I have been heartened by the generally positive response to our statement by the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates””many of whom, by the way, share our frustration that we have been prodded by a few (who do not have the authority to do so) to go through these machinations. I hope this process will lead to a more productive unity with those who really do cherish the broad traditions of Anglicanism. We shall see.
My not so hopeful thought, however, has to do with my nagging sense that in our fervor to preserve the institutional ties within our Communion, in some cases with provinces and persons who have already declared themselves out of communion with us, we have yet again postponed our full commitment to a truly inclusive church. If that is the case, then I seriously doubt that what we have said and done in New Orleans will either preserve the Anglican Communion as we have known it, or promote the gospel of Jesus as we have received it.
As always, I stand ready to visit and discuss these issues with clergy groups and or parish groups across our diocese.
Grace and peace,
On the matter of the concerns before us from the Primates and the rest of the Anglican Communion, I want to offer a few reflections. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, was with us to both hear from us and to share with us. In addition were members of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates. They listened to us, were fully a part of our work, and spoke to us. I believe that we came away with a better understanding of one another. Of greatest importance, is that we understand what it means to be in communion, and on an even deeper level, what it means to be the Church. We are in challenging times, and also times of great opportunity, if we can truly listen to one another and walk together. My analogy is that when people are trying to walk and talk it is often the case that one is walking ahead of the other which makes it impossible for the other to hear or be heard. My hope and my prayer is that this meeting will make it possible for us to walk together and to truly listen, one to the other. Some of you may feel that we gave up too much; others may feel that we did not go far enough. I understand these feelings. It is critical that you know I have never seen the House of Bishops work more respectfully or more prayerfully. All bishops were engaged, across the theological spectrum.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As most of you are well aware, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church met September 19th -25th in New Orleans. Immediately following was a meeting of The Common Cause Partnership, held in Pittsburgh, September 25th – 28th. I attended both meetings, the second of which as an observer. Rather than come out with some statement immediately upon my return, I felt it necessary to take a few days to pray and reflect on all that occurred, as well as deal with all the diocesan business that was awaiting me upon my return. I would now like to share some of my thoughts and observations. I greatly appreciate your patience.
Regarding the House of Bishops’ Meeting, there were some hopeful things that occurred, as well as some frustrating and disappointing things, all of which I will speak more about in the following response. The main task confronting the bishops going into the meeting was how to respond to the February 2007 Dar es Salaam CommuniquÃ© from the Primates of the Anglican Communion.
Essentially we were asked to make a clear response to four areas of concern:
1) Will the House of Bishops make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will
not authorize any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through
2) Will the House of Bishops confirm that the passing of Resolution BO33 of the 75th
General Convention means that a candidate for Episcopal orders living in a same sex union
shall not receive the necessary consent; unless some new consensus on these matters
emerges across the Communion?
3) Will the House of Bishops allow participation in the pastoral scheme proposed in the Dar
es Salaam CommuniquÃ© which would provide an alternative Primatial Vicar for those
dioceses requesting it?
4) Will the House of Bishops respond favorably to the urging from the Primates for representatives of The Episcopal Church and of those congregations in property disputes to suspend all legal actions against one another?
The statement made by the House of Bishops in response to the four areas of concern just mentioned can be found on the Diocesan Website: http://www.albanyepiscopaldiocese.org/news/other/071002.html. As you might expect, there has been a great deal of debate and speculation these past several days regarding the bishops’ response and how it will be received by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates of the Anglican Communion.
While some believe that the Bishops’ Statement adequately addresses the Primates’ concerns and will thereby be favorably received, helping to mend the “tear in the fabric” of our common life in Christ, others argue that it is more of the same, falling far short of the clear unequivocal response requested by the Primates. Unfortunately, the recently released Joint Standing Committee (JSC) Report on the House of Bishops’ response only adds to the confusion.
On the one hand the JSC report states, “We believe that the Episcopal Church has clarified all outstanding questions relating to their response to the questions directed explicitly to them, and on which clarifications were sought by the 30th of September and given the necessary assurance sought of them.” However, as stated by Archbishop Mouneer Aris, Primate of Jerusalem and the
Middle East, “It is very unfortunate that not all the members of the JSC were present when a response to the House of Bishops of TEC was drafted. The lack of discussion and interaction will not produce a report that expresses the view of the whole committee.” He went on to say, “the House of Bishops has not responded positively to either the Windsor Report or the Dar es Salam Primates’ recommendations.”
Ultimately, Archbishop Rowan Williams and the other Primates will decide for themselves as to the adequacy of the Bishops’ Statement. A copy of the JSC report has been sent to all the Anglican Communion Primates and members of the Anglican Consultive Council with the request that they respond back to the Archbishop of Canterbury by the end of October.
Given the seriousness of the situation we find ourselves in, with the very future of the Anglican Communion, The Episcopal Church and ultimately the Diocese of Albany at stake, I urge each of us to keep the Archbishop of Canterbury along with the other Primates and members of the ACC in our prayers as they attempt to discern God’s will in how best to move forward. This truly is a critical time in the life of the Church. As we have all been reminded, the very fabric of the Anglican Communion has been torn. The decisions that will be made in the coming weeks and months could very well determine whether the fabric can be mended or whether it will be completely ripped in half, leading to the breakup of the Anglican Communion. I believe such a development would be tragic, delivering a major blow to all of Christendom.
In John’s Gospel, we read Jesus’ prayer for unity, “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one”¦I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world”¦I ask you to protect them from the evil one”¦Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth”¦I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:11, 14, 17, 20-21, 23) May our Lord ’s prayer for unity be our prayer. We are not just talking about the future relationship of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. The spread of the Gospel and the salvation of countless souls are at stake. The current environment within the Episcopal Church, with all the attacks and infighting is not very conducive to bringing people into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
It is time to call a truce in the current battle, to give us time to rethink the road I am afraid the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion may very well go down if we are not careful. There is enough guilt, blame, pain and hurt to cover all sides. It is easy to point fingers at one another, blaming the other for the mess that we are in, but the reality is, we are all guilty. We have all contributed to the broken state of affairs in the Church ”“ conservative, liberal, orthodox, revisionist — whatever classification or label we might have. We are all in need of asking for forgiveness and offering forgiveness. Part of the House of Bishops inability to work more closely with one another and with the wider Anglican Communion is a result of past hurts and offenses that have never healed, been forgiven, or honestly dealt with. With that said, however, there are hopeful signs with the current governance of the House of Bishops that some healing can start taking place.
Genuine theological differences are another major contributing factor to the House’s inability to offer a more clear response to the Primates’ request. While the final statement made by the House of Bishops was much better than it started out, it fell far short of what I and several other Windsor Bishops had hoped for. It does however show the division within the House over the issues we are struggling with. Much of the apparent ambiguity in the response was actually an indication that the House is not all of one mind, but in fact is divided, despite various statements to suggest otherwise.
In the March 2007 Statement from the House of Bishops, the following remark was made: “In truth, the number of those who seek to divide our Church is small”¦The fact that we have among ourselves, and indeed encourage, a diversity of opinion on issues of sexuality should in no way be misunderstood to mean that we are divided, except among a very few, in our love for The Episcopal Church”¦”
During the House of Bishops Meeting, I along with other conservative bishops challenged the above statement. At the very least I believe this statement is inaccurate and fails to acknowledge the pain, frustration, embarrassment and anger that thousands of theologically conservative and orthodox Episcopalians are experiencing throughout the Episcopal Church. I’m not sure what is more frustrating, the fact that the statement was ever made, or that some actually believe it in light of the growing exodus of some of our largest parishes to include Christ Church, Plano (the largest Episcopal Church in the nation); Falls Church, VA; Truro Church, VA; the Pro Cathedral of St. Clement, El Paso; as well as numerous other smaller churches around the country, not to mention the tens of thousands of individual Episcopalians who have left the Episcopal Church in the last few years to go elsewhere because they cannot support the current direction of the National Church and because they are tired of fighting. In discussing the March statement, I pointed out that not only did I believe it was inaccurate for the reasons just mentioned, but to suggest that the number of people upset about the current state of affairs in the Church is “small” or “a very few” is insulting, insinuating that their views are insignificant. I stated, “I don’t consider myself or others who share similar theological views to be insignificant.” Fortunately, attempts to put similar statements in the September HOB response were not approved.
In the various attempts these past several years, as well intentioned as some of them may have been, to correct past injustices and make The Episcopal Church more inclusive, reaching out to the marginalized in society (particularly within the homosexual community), the Church has unfortunately become more exclusive, creating a new class of victims ”“ the traditional orthodox believers. Clergy and laity alike, who acknowledge the authority of Holy Scripture, recognizing it as the revealed Word of God, and who believe the faith proclaimed in the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, as well as the traditional moral teachings of the Church, now find themselves under attack not only from the world as Jesus warned they would, but even more disturbingly, from within the Church itself. I believe the growing exodus of thousands and thousands of Episcopalians out of the Episcopal Church to CANA, AMiA, and the various other Anglican bodies that are springing up bear witness to the truth of this statement. The average Sunday attendance in The Episcopal Church across the United States is now under 800,000.
If we are to stop the current downward spiral of The Episcopal Church and the unraveling of the Anglican Communion, it is essential that the leadership of the Episcopal Church (Lay and Ordained) as well as the leadership of the wider Anglican Communion acknowledge the reality of the crisis we are in and then commit ourselves to work together to identify and honestly address the issues that have brought us to this point. While some are working toward this goal, much more still needs to be done. One thing is certain, if there is to be a turn around in the Church, there must be a viable place for the conservative orthodox voice. I was pleased at the September meeting that more conservative orthodox bishops began speaking up. I was also encouraged by the greater sense of cooperation between bishops of highly differing views. The warm reception that I, as a conservative bishop, have personally received by the vast majority of the bishops has been greatly appreciated and ads to my sense of hope for the future.
Some of the major problems we find ourselves confronted with include how to work through the very real theological differences in understanding of Holy Scripture and its authority in our lives; how to live out one’s human sexuality in a manner that is pleasing to God; how to best minister to those who find themselves to be homosexual; and what it means to live in communion with one another, exercising appropriate discipline when necessary while at the same time not falling into Satan’s trap of dividing ourselves into opposing camps at war with one another. As Jesus himself said, “Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house.” (Luke 11:17) The more we divide the weaker and less effective we become in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
While not compromising Himself by conforming to or adopting the ways of the world, Jesus didn’t isolate himself from people living sinful lives, as we currently seem to be doing by saying who we will and won’t associate with. But rather, he ate and drank and socialized with them. His presence amongst them brought transformation and healing into their brokenness. It is time that we recognize that we are all broken and that our enemy is not the person who thinks differently than we do, but Satan and the powers of evil who are intent on confusing, dividing and destroying us. If we are to overcome the chaos, confusion and division that threaten our Church, we must unite with one another in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Unity for unity sake is of little value. True meaningful unity within the Church can only occur in and through Christ. As you have heard me say over and over again, we must keep our focus on Christ as we go through the midst of the current storm we find ourselves in. Jesus is “the Way, and the Truth and the Life.” (John 14:6) If we come humbly before the Lord, seeking His guidance, He will lead us, giving us the grace we need to work with those of a different mind, while we work toward a common understanding. I am not suggesting that it will be easy, but just the opposite. It will take tremendous effort, great humility, forgiveness, patience, understanding, and grace, depending not upon ourselves, but rather upon our Lord Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us. Apart from Christ we will fail, but in and through Christ ALL things are possible. It is for this reason that I have hope and am unwilling to write this person or that person or this group or that group off. I am constantly reminded of Paul’s Damascus Road experience and how an encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, turned one of the greatest enemies of the Church into one of the greatest saints of the Church.
A member of our Diocese recently emailed me and asked, “Can you give me any good reason (s) why I should remain a member of TEC (The Episcopal Church)?” In response to my friend who asked this question and to all the others who are thinking it, I offer the following reasons:
ï® The Diocese of Albany including each of its parishes is The Episcopal Church within the 19 counties and 20,000 square miles that make up its borders.
ï® The Bishop and leadership of this Diocese are Christ centered, and are committed to helping the Diocese live out The Great Commandment and The Great Commission, sharing the love and Good News of Jesus Christ, proclaiming Him as Lord and Savior, The Way, the Truth and the Life.
ï® The Lord is doing a mighty work in the Diocese of Albany, pouring out his Holy Spirit on the various ministries of the Diocese, particularly in the ministry of healing.
ï® At its best, The Episcopal Church as a member of the Anglican Communion has much to offer the larger Church, through its rich history, liturgy and tradition as well as its unique position uniting the best of Catholicism and Protestantism into one faith.
ï® The Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion, although far from perfect, are worth fighting for. There is no perfect Church this side of Heaven. And yet even in our brokenness, God’s strength can shine forth.
ï® You are a unique child of God, created in His image and likeness. We love and need you. I say this to all the members of this Diocese, regardless of where you find yourselves on the theological spectrum.
While being very conscious of the length of this letter and your time in reading it, there are a couple more things that I need to comment on. Regarding that which was asked by the Primates of the Anglican Communion, while I can’t speak for the entire House of Bishops, I will speak for myself as the Bishop of Albany and a member of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church.
1) I will not authorize or permit any Rite of Blessing (public or private) for same-sex unions in this Diocese for the following reasons:
ï® There is no Biblical president or support in either the Old or New Testament for such blessings. To do so would be encouraging individuals to live in a lifestyle that I believe is contrary to God’s Word as revealed in the teachings of Holy Scripture and 2000 years of Church tradition, and is therefore not in a person’s best interest to do so.
ï® I recognize that many in our Church see this as a “justice issue.” I strongly believe that the Church has a responsibility to fight injustice protecting the dignity of all human beings, and to reach out and minister to all people including those who find themselves to be homosexual. The Church needs to reassure all people of God’s love for them and His gift of salvation made possible for all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, accepting Him as Lord and Savior. While God loves ALL His children, He does not necessarily approve of or bless all of our behavior. For this reason and the reasons listed above, I believe the Church would in fact be doing a great injustice to our homosexual brothers and sisters in Christ, by blessing same sex unions, even when those unions are within the confines of a loving and committed relationship.
ï® As a member of the Anglican Communion, I believe The Episcopal Church has a responsibility to the other members of the Communion who have clearly stated that such blessings are not appropriate and in fact to authorize them would cause great pain, suffering and damage throughout the wider Communion.
2) While the interpretation of Resolution BO33 of the 75th General Convention seems to be
somewhat debatable, depending on who you talk to, as the Bishop of Albany, I will not
consent to any candidate for Episcopal orders living in a same sex union or anyone
involved in sexual relations outside of marriage between a man and woman, unless some
new consensus on these matters emerges across the Communion. I make this
commitment for the same reasons listed above. I would remind us that in 1991,
the General Convention passed Resolution B020, addressing “human sexuality issues.” It concluded by saying, “these potentially divisive issues”¦ should not be resolved by the
Episcopal Church on its own.” Unfortunately, we failed to heed our own warning which
proved to be very prophetic.
3) In regard to lawsuits, I believe every effort should be made by the Church to avoid going
to court over property issues. Once you go to court, everyone loses, the Diocese, the
Parish, the local community and the Church at large. There has to be a more Christian
manor of resolving legal disputes than the one currently being employed by the National
Church in dioceses across the country. I applaud those bishops who have tried to deal
with these issues in a pastoral way.
Finally in reference to the meeting of the Common Cause Partnership in Pittsburgh, as mentioned at the beginning of this letter, I did attend the meeting as an observer. I believe I have a responsibility as your bishop to be as informed as I can be regarding the current situation facing our Church. As I stated at the Diocesan Convention in June, it is my hope and prayer that we never have to decide between the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion. We are currently a member of both. God willing, we will stay that way. You will recall at the Diocesan Convention, I stated if either The Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion took any action that would require us to choose between one or the other, I would call for a Special Convention, at which time we would come together as a Diocese to decide how best to respond to whatever confronts us. To date, there is no need for such an action. Again, I pray there never will be.
With that said, as much as I love The Episcopal Church (even with all its current frustrations) and as much as I love the Anglican Communion, I love the Lord Jesus Christ most of all. As your bishop, I will do everything within my power, through the grace of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to remain Christ centered, seeking His will in all that we do, as we move forward living out The Great Commandment and The Great Commission. May we never loose sight of who we are as children of God and the mission entrusted to us by our Lord Himself, to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything He has commanded. In so doing, our Lord promised he would never leave us, but would be with us to the end of the age.” God’s peace.
Faithfully Yours in Christ,
(The Rt. Rev. Bill Love is Bishop of Albany
On the issue of same sex unions, I argued that our statement be reflective of what is true right now in the Episcopal Church: that while same sex blessings are not officially permitted in most dioceses, they are going on and will continue to go on as an appropriate pastoral response to our gay and lesbian members and their relationships. Earlier versions of our response contained both sides of this truth. I argued to keep both sides of that truth in the final version, providing the clarity asked for by the Primates.
Others made the argument that to state that “a majority of Bishops do not sanction such blessings” implied that a minority do in fact sanction such blessings, and many more take no actions to prevent them. All this without coming right out and saying so. That argument won the day. I think it was a mistake.
Another issue to which I spoke was this notion of “public” versus “private” rites. I pointed out on the floor that our very theology of marriage is based on the communal nature of such a rite. Presumably, the couple has already made commitments to one another privately, or else they would not be seeking Holy Matrimony. What happens in a wedding is that the COMMUNITY is drawn into the relationship ”“ the vows are taken in the presence of that community and the community pledges itself to support the couple in the keeping of their vows. It is, by its very nature, a “public” event ”“ no matter how many or how few people are in attendance. The same goes for our solemn commitments to one another as lgbt couples.
I suspect that these efforts to keep such rites “private” is just another version of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” If avoidance of further conflict is the goal, then I can understand it. But if speaking the truth in love is the standard by which we engage in our relationships with the Communion, then no.
Let me also state strongly that I believe that the Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and Primates MISunderstood us when they stated that they understood that the HOB in fact “declared a ”˜moratorium on all such public Rites.’” Neither in our discussions nor in our statement did we agree to or declare such a moratorium on permitting such rites to take place. That may be true in many or most dioceses, but that is certainly not the case in my own diocese and many others. The General Convention has stated that such rites are indeed to be considered within the bounds of the pastoral ministry of this Church to its gay and lesbian members, and that remains the policy of The Episcopal Church.
Read it all. I applaud this truthful witness, and what I believe to be an accurate explanation that the bishops were misunderstood. Why can’t we have more people in this church who are willing to tell the truth?–KSH.