Category : General Convention

Gavin Dunbar’s report on The Episcopal Church(-TEC)’s General Convention of 2018

General Convention 2018 is now over, thank goodness. What it all means is far beyond human comprehension, and I make no attempt to comprehend it. But there are some matters worth reporting.

In a dog’s-breakfast compromise motion initiated in the House of Bishops, a proposal for comprehensive revision of the 1979 was scuppered. Sort of. In rather odd language the motion
“memorialize[s] the 1979 Book of Common Prayer as a Prayer Book of the church preserving the psalter, liturgies, The Lambeth Quadrilateral, Historic Documents, and Trinitarian formularies ensuring its continued use” (Resolution A068). Aside from the grammatical difficulties, I don’t understand how “memorializing” something “ensures it’s continued use”. Isn’t that something you do for the dead?

To put a positive spin on this resolution, it insulates the 1979 BCP – including the remnant Cranmerian texts of Rite I – from further revisions, which in the current climate could only have been disastrously bad. In particular it preserves the preface to the 1979 Marriage rite, and its teaching (in accord with the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10) that “Holy Matrimony is Christian marriage, in which the woman and the man enter into a life-long union” that is “intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another…; and, when it is God’s
will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord” (pp. 861, 423).

Yet the very same motion authorizes “the ongoing work of liturgical and Prayer Book revision …upon [sic] the core theological work of loving, liberating, life-giving reconciliation and creation care”. In a remarkable move, it sidelined the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, and established a Task Force on Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision, with membership appointed jointly by the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies, “ensuring that diverse voices of our church are active participants in this liturgical revision by constituting a group of leaders who represent the expertise, gender, age, theology, regional, and ethnic diversity of the church” (sic). (There was a kafuffle about inadequate provision for participation by Spanish-speaking Episcopalians from the Central American dioceses – but based on prose like this, the English-speakers should have been complaining too.)

The inclusion of “theology” in the categories of diversity raises a hope that is quickly dashed by the requirement that such revisions “continue in faithful adherence to the historic rites of the Church Universal as they have been received and interpreted within the Anglican tradition of [sic] 1979 Book of Common Prayer” – wording which carefully excludes the actual historic
and pre-1979 Anglican tradition of Common Prayer. So much for theological diversity.

They are to be “mindful of our existing ecumenical commitments” -but not in accordance to them, language that was thought to be objectionably limiting – “while also providing space for, encouraging the submission of, and facilitating the perfection of rites that will arise from the continual movement of the Holy Spirit among us and the growing insights of our Church”. I quote this dreadful prose in full with the same horrified pleasure one has in pulling off a scab. Moreover, they are to “utilize the riches of Holy Scripture, and our Church’s liturgical, cultural, racial, generational, linguistic, gender, physical ability, class and ethnic diversity in order to share common worship [sic]”; all of which means the revisions must “utilize inclusive and expansive language and imagery for humanity and divinity” – i.e. not the language prioritized by Scripture and tradition.

To no one’s surprise, they “shall incorporate and express understanding, appreciation, and care of God’s creation”. There is more, but you get the picture. If the 1979 BCP has been
preserved in aspic, and the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music deprived of control of liturgical revision, two very modest wins, the floodgates have been opened to liturgical and theological folly. The one hopeful note is that little or no funding has been provided for this untethered experimentation.

One other relevant decision: Resolution B012 makes same-sex marriage rites available for all congregations that wish to use them, subject to authorization by their rectors or priests-in-charge. While that opens every diocese to same-sex marriage, it also protects the conscience of every rector who can withstand the vilification that will fall on those who avail themselves of this right. So there you have it: “the future of God’s mission through the Episcopal Church of the Jesus movement” (sic).

–The Rev. Gavin Dunbar is rector of Saint John’s, Savannah, Georgia

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, --Book of Common Prayer, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, Liturgy, Music, Worship, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Theology

(Wash Post) The Episcopal Church (TEC) will revise its beloved prayer book but doesn’t know when

The church has already authorized many alternate texts, which churches can use as supplements to the Book of Common Prayer, with gender-neutral language. To address the strong demand at the conference for the lessening of male imagery for God in Episcopal services, the conference authorized more of those texts and voted to make them more widely available.

In the past, priests needed the approval of their bishops to use the supplemental texts; now, any priest can choose to use them, [the Rev. Ruth] Meyers said.

Read it all.

Posted in --Book of Common Prayer, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, Liturgy, Music, Worship, TEC Bishops, Theology

(AS) Bill Murchison–Is Anti-Semitism Creeping Back Under Episcopal Church Auspices?

I return to the so-called Israeli question: the acid test of logic, saying nothing of decency and generosity. The infection of anti-Semitism appears to be spreading. As if “the Jews” somehow — as used to be asserted by the brain-deprived — league and conspire and plot and plan to take over the world. I think we must not tax my fellow Episcopalians — at this present time —with outright anti-Semitism; that is, with the desire to put the Jews in their place. At General Convention, they affirmed, formalistically, Israel’s right to exist within secure borders. Then, without a sideways glance at Palestinian vows to eradicate Israel, and at the street violence constantly to be feared, and often witnessed, the Episcopal resolutions slammed Israel for measures intended to keep the peace: measures sometimes violent, sometimes ham-handed but generally efficient.

The problem is not American in isolation. It is international. It is political. In the July/August issue of Commentary, Melanie Phillips, the British journalist, asks whether the Jews of Europe should ponder leaving — given the recrudescence in their homelands of squalid anti-Semitism, practiced by the left. The same left, more or less, that dominates the national hierarchy of the Episcopal Church. “The symbiosis,” she writes, “between hatred of the Jewish state and hatred of the Jews is now part of the DNA of the progressive world.” It arises “because the West is in trouble. And a society in trouble always turns on the Jews.”

The Phillips thesis delves deeply into the moral flabbiness that seems, in 2018, to characterize judgment of rights and wrongs in the relationships of nations and people jostling each other in the communist twilight, seeking to distinguish friend from adversary and competitor.

A certain clarity in foreign policy — so he claims — lights up the mind of Donald J. Trump. More than anything else, it underscores the unclarity, the confusion muddying up 21stcentury life.

Read it all.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, General Convention, Israel, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(ENS) TEC General Convention lets its ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ agreeing to give church full access to trial-use same-sex marriage rites

Read it all and you may find the full text of the key resolution here.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, General Convention, Marriage & Family, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(ENS) At TEC General Convention, the Marriage rites resolution is heading back to House of Deputies after a small amendment by the Bishops

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, General Convention, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, TEC Bishops, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(TLC) At the TEC General Convention In Austin, Many Bishops are Reticent on Prayer Book Revision

Bishop Wendell Gibbs of Michigan was one of several who said a grand book revision might be dated even before its completed, especially in an era when advances in media technology are challenging the value of traditional books.

In a nod to the need for church growth, Bishop Rob Wright of Atlanta asked whether a carefully revised book will represent misplaced resources if it lands ultimately “in pews that are empty.”

“I wonder if this isn’t just classic work avoidance,” he said.

Some concerns raised on the floor brought theological issues to bear. Bishop Shannon Johnston of Virginia recalled how a theological imperative made the 1979 revision important and worth doing at the time.

“What drove it coming into being was deeply theological — primacy of baptism and centrality of Eucharist,” Johnston said. In 2018, “a lot of the language I hear driving this is demographics and sociology.”

The bishops’ prayer book debate contrasted sharply with the House of Deputies discussion on July 6.

Read it all.

Posted in --Book of Common Prayer, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, TEC Bishops

(ENS) TEC General Convention Deputies Say Yes to Prayer Book Revision

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, --Book of Common Prayer, Atonement, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(TLC) Same-Sex Marriage Resolution Ready for Houses of TEC General Convention 2018

After hours of sometimes wrenching testimony and debate, a General Convention committee has approved a revision of Resolution B012 that would ensure same-sex marriage rites are available throughout the Episcopal Church while postponing the emotional issue of adding the rites to the Book of Common Prayer.

The resolution revokes the authority of eight bishops to say whether same-sex marriage will be permitted in their dioceses.

It states: “Resolved, that all congregations and worshipping communities of the Church who desire to incorporate these liturgies into their common life … where permitted by civil law, shall have access to these liturgies, allowing all couples to be married in their home church.”

The resolution extends the trial use period that was mandated by the 2015 General Convention indefinitely, and specifies that the same-sex marriage rites should be considered as part of the comprehensive prayer book review that the same committee has also recommended.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, General Convention, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, TEC Bishops, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) US TEC bishops seek to halt Prayer Book revision and deter more from departing

A compromise that would avoid making changes to the Prayer Book’s references to marriage has been proposed by bishops in the Episcopal Church of the United States, in an effort to avoid the departure of members who hold a traditional view, including immigrant and non-US Episcopalians.

The resolution, prepared for discussion at the 79th General Convention, due to begin in Austin, Texas, yesterday, seeks to widen access to marriage in the eight dioceses where gender-neutral rites approved for trial use in 2015 have not been authorised by the bishop. It proposes that these bishops provide “delegated episcopal pastoral oversight” to their congregations, on request.

Unlike the resolution put forward by the Task Force on the Study of Marriage, however, it does not propose any changes to the Prayer Book (News, 25 August 2017).

“While the great majority of Episcopalians celebrate the gains that have been made in our Church for LGBTQ+ persons, many of us also regret the schism, division, and departure of members who have faithfully served our Church for many years,” the proposing Bishops, of Long Island, Pittsburgh and Rhode Island (all of whom have authorised use of the rites), wrote.

Read it all.

Posted in --Book of Common Prayer, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, General Convention, Marriage & Family, TEC Bishops, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Wa Post) Is God male? The Episcopal Church (TEC) debates whether to change its Book of Common Prayer

The terms for God, in the poetic language of the prayers written for centuries, have almost always been male: Father. King. Lord.

And in the Episcopal Church, the language of prayer matters. The Book of Common Prayer, the text used in every Episcopal congregation, is cherished as a core element of Episcopal identity.

This week, the church is debating whether to overhaul that prayer book — in large part to make clear that God doesn’t have a gender.

“As long as ‘men’ and ‘God’ are in the same category, our work toward equity will not just be incomplete. I honestly think it won’t matter in some ways,” said the Rev. Wil Gafney, a professor of the Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School in Texas who is on the committee recommending a change to the gendered language in the prayer book.

Gafney says that when she preaches, she sometimes changes the words of the Book of Common Prayer, even though Episcopal priests aren’t formally allowed to do so. Sometime she switches a word like “King” to a gender-neutral term like “Ruler” or “Creator.” Sometimes she uses “She” instead of “He.” Sometimes, she sticks with the masculine tradition. ” ‘Our Father,’ I won’t fiddle with that,” she said, invoking the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to say in the book of Matthew.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, Liturgy, Music, Worship, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CEN) [The Church of England Evangelical Council] CEEC–Why The Episcopal Church is on the brink

Three proposals before General Convention this year would significantly alter this situation and make it hard to see how there will be any ongoing place for this Communion witness within American Anglicanism. One would remove, with immediate effect, the diocesan bishop’s freedom to refuse trial use in their diocese (there is also a proposal to introduce a new transgender re-naming rite across all dioceses).

More serious still is a first reading to write the current trial same-sex marriage liturgies into the Prayer Book, which would require confirmation in 2021 before taking effect. Alongside this there would be a rewriting of the Church’s Prayer Book Catechism to state that “Holy Matrimony is Christian marriage, in which two (2) people [replacing “the woman and man”] enter into a life-long union, make their vows before God and the Church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help them fulfill their vows”. Given that all those ordained in TEC have to “solemnly engage to conform to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal Church” and that doctrine and worship is expressed in the Catechism and Prayer Book these proposals, if accepted, will make it practically impossible for clergy holding an orthodox Christian doctrine of marriage to remain with integrity in The Episcopal Church.

Finally, it is also noteworthy that the proposals coming to General Convention extend further TEC’s revision of traditional sexual ethics. There has for some time been a liturgy for “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant”, which was produced for same-sex unions before there was a marriage liturgy.

It is now proposed to add to this a liturgy for “The Blessing of a Lifelong Relationship” in response to “study of contemporary trends and the expressed experiences of Episcopalians who desire to form and formalise a lifelong, monogamous and unconditional relationship, other than marriage, in particular circumstances”.

This would be the first authorised Anglican liturgy to bless non-marital heterosexual unions. It is these very significant proposed developments eliminating the Christian doctrine of marriage from TEC’s doctrine and liturgy and effectively excluding its adherents from their church – which led to William Nye’s letter and for many Anglicans it is these, rather than the letter, which should be the headline news and real cause of serious concern within the Church of England.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, General Convention, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture, Uncategorized

(JE) The Episcopal Church (TEC) Prepares to Tighten Screws on Traditional Marriage Proponents

Further evidence this week of the continued longevity of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’ law: “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.”

Officials in a handful of domestic Episcopal Church dioceses which have opted out of the denomination’s same-sex marriage liturgies are warily eying the denomination’s upcoming General Convention and the changes it may bring.

Bishops and deputies will gather this July in Austin, Texas for the triennial governing convention. A multi-year process of revising the church’s Book of Common Prayer, last revised in 1979, is widely expected to begin at this gathering.

Interestingly, the addition of same-sex marriages conducted within the Episcopal Church has not significantly lessened a decline in the overall number of church weddings, which have dropped by 44 percent in the past decade (14,805 marriages in 2006, compared with only 8,343 in 2016, the most recent reporting year).

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, General Convention, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(ENS) The Episcopal Church General Convention will again grapple with same-sex marriage questions

The eight bishops who have prohibited same-gender marriage in their dioceses are Albany Bishop William Love, Central Florida Bishop Greg Brewer, Dallas Bishop George Sumner, Florida Bishop John Howard, North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith, Springfield Bishop Dan Martins, Tennessee’s [John] Bauerschmidt and Virgin Islands Bishop Ambrose Gumbs, according to the task force.

Love, Brewer, Sumner, Martins and Bauerschmidt prohibit clergy canonically resident in those dioceses to use the liturgies inside or outside of the diocese, the report said.

“At this point it’s very unclear whether canonically resident clergy could actually use the liturgies [anywhere] without the permission of their own bishop,” Bauerschmidt told ENS before the report was released “So, that’s not so much my idea, but I think it’s implied by the 2015 resolution.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, General Convention, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, TEC Bishops, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) US Episcopal Prayer Book marriage rite could be made gender-neutral in 2018

It remains unclear what the 14-strong Task Force will recommend, but one option presented in the minutes is a first reading of proposed changes to the BCP in 2018, so that revision could take place in 2021, “including consultation with ACC [Anglican Consultative Council] and the Lambeth Conference”. The latter takes place in 2020.The 2018 Convention would be presented with a new form of the introduction to marriage and catechism.

“For conservatives this would be concerning,” the March minutes state. “Yet these proposed revisions would be ‘two people’, not explicitly ‘same sex’.”

The minutes ask: “Is there a way to disagree that does not require schism?” and note that “Many want to be in a Church where people have theological differences but still pray together.” But they also suggest that the experience of the C of E should serve as a cautionary tale.

“The Church of England allowed certain divisions regarding women’s ordination that we should be careful not to emulate, as they have become deeply entrenched,” they say. “Creating carve-outs for pockets of the Church under one ecclesiastical structure could lead to difficulties down the line.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, General Convention, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(Covenant) Jordan Hylden+Keith Voets–Is Christ-centered comprehension possible on marriage in TEC?

The bishop-elect of Dallas, George Sumner, observes that comprehensiveness, while often a point of pride for Anglicans, is in fact a difficult achievement, not to be taken for granted (“After Comprehensiveness,” Anglican Theological Review, Fall 2004). He writes:

We see that Episcopalians are fighting over same-sex relationships, and we assume that Anglicanism is comprehensive, and so we ask, what is the intellectual superstructure that allows us now to remain comprehensive? This is surely a mistake; we assume what needs to be shown. Comprehensiveness assumes that common and more central doctrines form a framework, an encompassing context into which lesser disagreements may be placed and so relativized. Such larger, often tacit, agreements keep a tradition in contention from descending into sheer incoherence. Anglicanism shows comprehensiveness when it achieves these goals of showing the more basic agreement, and so of putting disputes in context. Only pride would assume that such success is the essential quality of our tradition.

If what we mean by comprehension is some kind of embrace of a “larger truth” on this issue, Sumner writes, that is the kind of muddled nonsense we must avoid.

Even for Anglicans up is not down, and black is not white; we too should make our yes a yes. We are not exempt from the law of noncontradiction. Either same-sex relationships are a blessing from God, or they are contrary to God’s will. While our tradition may prove comprehensive in many respects, if there is such a disagreement we cannot be comprehensive with respect to it. To deny this is to make of comprehensiveness a kind of transitional object by which we lull ourselves to sleep.Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, General Convention, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Sexuality, TEC Conflicts, TEC Polity & Canons, Theology, Theology: Scripture