By Philip Turner and Ephraim Radner
We write to bring to the attention of the Bishops, Priest, Deacons and Lay Persons of The Episcopal Church (TEC) a matter of grave concern. It is a matter that, left unaddressed in the decision-making of General Convention, now threatens the integrity and public witness of everyone who calls him or herself an Episcopalian: is our church prepared to permit in its midst clergy and lay leaders who, however much they represent a minority opinion, are committed to a traditional reading of TEC’s Prayer Book and Constitution? Or will TEC instead seek to drive such persons out, by invective, discrimination, and abuse of the disciplinary canons?
in the build-up to the General Convention this July, other matters provide a new basis for the dynamics of vituperative exclusion. Calls are being made, for instance, that newly elected bishops actually be asked “are you or have you ever been associated with the ACI?”; a positive response being seen as grounds for refusal of consent. More intricately, formal proposals are being pressed at the upcoming General Convention to change TEC’s canons so that same-gender marriage and not just blessings are permitted. Should these efforts succeed, the General Convention by simple say-so will have rendered the stated doctrine of marriage in the Book of Common Prayer without binding authority. Anticipating this outcome many claim that Bishops will have to permit same gender blessings and marriages in their diocese or face discipline, just as did those who suggested that TEC’s Constitution be read in a way contrary to the current Presiding Bishop’s. There is good reason to believe that this change in doctrine and practice will become mandatory in all dioceses. Indeed, as we write, the blogs are filled with invective and statements to the effect that “It’s time for those who disagree to leave.”
Invective aside, we do not believe that TEC’s constitution, in respect to doctrine and worship, permits making obligatory for a Diocesan Bishop anything other than the Book of Common Prayer. Obviously, this is an arguable position, but the argument in support is powerful. It is based on a careful reading of TEC’s constitution. Any contrary opinion must be based on the same sort of close reading if it is to claim a serious right to be heard. This dispute touches the ecclesial fate of all, and it deserves better than name-calling and threats of discipline and deposition for those who disagree. Sadly, patience for careful reading and discussion has evaporated. Threats of discipline and legal action against questioners, no matter the care and rigor of their questioning, are now mounting in frequency and these threats have behind them a history of being carried out.
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See also for background:
Misrepresenting ACI’s Concerns About The Constitutionality of [New] Liturgical Material (Apr 21, 2015)
The Episcopal Church and the New Episcopal Church (Apr 20, 2015)
What Then Shall We Do? A Note on the upcoming General Convention of the Episcopal Church (April 30, 2015)