The Bishop Of Vermont on the New Orleans Bishops Meeting

The Presiding Bishop asked me to serve on the writing committee that drafted the response. Along with seven other bishops, much of my time was devoted to this task. Three versions were presented over the course of two days before the final version was adopted. Beyond what you can read in our final version, I’m writing today to offer some personal commentary on this response.

I want you to know that I voted to support this document, although there are certain aspects of it which trouble me. Time will tell whether our response will be a helpful contribution to the current conversation; I sincerely hope that it will.
Arguably, the two most sensitive matters before us were consents to episcopal elections (Resolution B033 of the General Convention) and the authorization of public rites for the blessing of same sex unions. Addressing both of these matters, the House of Bishops reaffirmed the actions of the 2006 General Convention, and here I remind us all that the General Convention is the primary decision making body of The Episcopal Church.

Regarding episcopal elections (BO33), I believe our statement, “non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom B033 pertains,” went too far in the direction of trying to interpret a General Convention resolution, yet I can attest that some wanted an even stronger interpretation. The efforts to seek common ground are clearly evident in our writing on this matter.

The second matter addressed public rites of blessings for same-sex unions. Again, we rehearsed the actions of General Convention, which in 2006 took no action to authorize such rites. We acknowledged as well that “the majority of bishops make no allowance for the blessing of same sex unions.” Of course that means some bishops do. I am one who makes allowance for such blessings, and I intend to continue the current pastoral approach we have in place in the Diocese of Vermont for the blessing of holy unions. This was clearly addressed and understood in the House of Bishops.

Read it all. Ok, now follow the bouncing ball with me as we once again explore the Alice in Wonderland world of the Episcopal Church.

You may remember that back in 2004 the diocese of Vermont took some dramatic action:

Episcopalians in Vermont, in a “pastoral response” to the nation’s first and only civil unions law, have unveiled liturgical rites that gay couples can use in the state’s 48 Episcopal churches.

The worship guidelines, which look and sound like liturgies used for heterosexual weddings, are believed to be the first anywhere in the Anglican Communion that convey church blessings on gay civil partnerships.

The services are contained in a 36-page manual that was distributed to clergy, last month. A committee began drafting the rites in October, and they are expected to become of official in 2006.

The “blessing of holy unions” is backed by Vermont Bishop Thomas Ely. “It would help our people to have the experience of common liturgy where there’s consistency in teaching, in language.”

Read that very carefully. Got it? Liturgical rites that same sex couples may use, with an accompanying diocesan manual. And these rites are backed by Bishop Thomas Ely.

What was is that Tanzania was concerned about?

[The Episcopal Church is asked to] “1. make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention (cf TWR, §143, 144).”

Please observe carefully in that section the very important little word OR. It is not only through General Convention that the Primates in Tanzania did not want to see authorized blessings, but also at the diocesan level. So how are liturgical rites backed by the bishop not seen to be contrary to this? Only in a world where words mean what you want them to mean. [/i]


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Statements & Letters: Bishops, Episcopal Church (TEC), Sept07 HoB Meeting, TEC Bishops

15 comments on “The Bishop Of Vermont on the New Orleans Bishops Meeting

  1. Larry Morse says:

    Bishop Ely’s message is at the very least intransigent, but clear. There is a tone in it, however, that, makes me wrathy, the tone of we-are-going-to-stuff-this-down-everyone’s- throats-and-no-one- can-stop-us. This is more than intransigent. This is clearly picking a fight. And I might add that this is commonly the liberal attitude, a take it or leave threat, that is as illiberal as one can get. Wall-a-day, I have said it before, but if I were neutral about the role of homosexuality iin the church before, I would be very hostile now.

    Why is Vermont now so far over on the Left? Is it the result of all the rich flatlanders moving in from the cities? Larry

  2. Br. Michael says:

    And note it is on top of the ABC saying, in so many words, that he will do nothing to help the Primates stop it. Now there is nothing to stop the liberals from dropping the pretense that they weren’t doing what everyone knows that they are doing.

  3. KevinBabb says:

    “Regarding episcopal elections (BO33), I believe our statement, “non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom B033 pertains,” went too far in the direction of trying to interpret a General Convention resolution…”

    Why wouldn’t the HOB be competent to provide legislative interpretation of a resolution that originated in HOB, and was passed in that House before being sent to HOD, where it was passed without amendment? Who better to interpret the resolution than the originating House?

  4. robroy says:

    But Kendall “backed by” Bp Ely is not the same as “authorized by” Bp Ely. One has eight letters and the other has twelve.

  5. steveatmi5 says:

    Following the link to the document linked under current pastoral approach is very important. This is certainly diocesan authorization for the use of liturgy for a certain purpose.

  6. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) says:

    The Episcopal Church is playing three-card-monte (find-the-lady) with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Little wonder Os Guinness has called it “the most corrupt church in America.” You couldn’t find a better example than the Bishop of Vermont.

    Or perhaps the Bishop of Los Angeles, or perhaps …

  7. Charley says:

    The horse is dead and is in fact starting to smell. Beating it more just makes more stink come out of the carcase.

  8. robroy says:

    #7: Touche.

  9. Franz says:

    To # 1 —
    Vermont _has_ changed, and the current state of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont, to at least some extent, merely reflects that change. This is a State that went from being solidly Republican (“as Maine goes, so goes Vermont”), to holding the dubious distinction of saddling its citizens with the highest per-capita tax burden of any state in the Union. The influx of flatlanders since the sixties as had something to do with it.
    As for the reasons the Diocese has gone so wacky? Poor leadership on the part of the past four or five bishops for one.

  10. Craig Goodrich says:

    The point here of course is simple honesty. I think when (not if) TEC is ejected from the Communion by the Primates, it will be at least as much due to TEC’s repeated efforts to be cleverly legalistic and duplicitous (+NT Wright’s term) in their dealings with the Communion as it will be to teaching a heretical sexual ethic.

    Recall that ++Aspinall, a liberal clearly open to “full inclusion” and all that, ripped into TEC not for its apostasy but for its disingenuousness. I believe the bulk of the “moderate” Primates are starting to feel the same way; they’re heartily sick of 815’s constant weasel-wording and bad faith.

  11. wchogan says:

    some Vermonters still believe in the Bible

  12. The_Elves says:

    Not to ignore the focus on +Ely’s duplicity about SSB liturgies in Vermont, was anyone else struck by how proud he seemed that Vermont donated $5000 to Katrina relief? That’s less than $1 per Vermont Episcopalian according to the latest attendance chart.

    Not to say Vermonters may not have donated lots at other times and through other channels, but the bishops were specifically asked to bring $10,000 or more from each diocese to New Orleans. So it’s a bit sad to see +Ely so proud of a $5,000 gift. Especially when one diocese often considered hostile to TEC is reported to have brought $100,000. Food for thought.

  13. Charley says:

    No. 8, I meant to append to my statement: and reflects more on the person doing the flailing than it does the horse….

  14. Reason and Revelation says:

    In the end, the breaking point for the Anglican Communion should not be about accepting homosexual conduct but about accepting blatant disingenuous statements and word games. Doesn’t Massachusetts have some sort of rite that has been passed around at diocesan councils, also? Someone with authority in the Communion should come right out and say VT and Mass and LA (where Bruno presided over a SSB and isn’t stopping anything) continue to AUTHORIZE rites. If the AC were to accept the Alice in Wonderland, then its credibility would be shredded as a serious organization.

    Alice in Wonderland is an excellent analogy. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

  15. Larry Morse says:

    Franz, I graduated from Dartmouth in ’56 so I was right across the river from VT. I was a New Hampshire-ite anyway. My point is that I got to know Vermont pretty well then, all those centuries ago. For a spell, I wanted to live there, since I’m a farmer now, but I went back looking at land, and I tell you I don’t recognize the place Talk about MONEY! Where are all the Vermonters I used to know? What I see is French horn players from the Cleveland symphony walking around in LLBeans shirts and jeans, pretending they belong in the country since they dress right, but they are always carrying the Wall Street Journal and I have yet to see a callous. The poet Donald Hall, is a long time New Hampshire-ite and his comments on the precious newcomers in Vt are hilarious. Larry