Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That
thisthe 76th General Convention reaffirm the continued participation of The Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion; give thanks for the work of the bishops at the Lambeth Conference of 2008; reaffirm the abiding commitment of The Episcopal Church to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion and seek to live into the highest degree of communion possible; and be it further
thisthe 76th General Convention encourage dioceses, parishescongregations, and members of The Episcopal Church to participate to the fullest extent possible in the many instruments, networks and relationships of the Anglican Communion , including but not limited to networks involving youth, women, and indigenous people; networks and ministries concerned with ecumenical and interfaith work, peace and justice, liturgy, environmental issues, health, and education; and companion diocese relationships; and be it further
thisthe 76th General Convention reaffirm its financial commitment to the Anglican Communion and pledge to maintain its full asking forparticipate fully in the Inter-Anglican Budget; and be it further
thisthe 76th General Convention affirm the value of "listening to the experience of homosexual persons," as called for by the Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988, and 1998, and acknowledge that through our own listening the General Convention has come to recognize that the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships "characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God" (2000-D039); and be it further
thisthe 76th General Convention recognize that individualsgay and lesbian persons who are part of such relationships have responded to God's call and have exercised various ministries in and on behalf of God's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church over the centuriesand are currently doing so in our midst , often without the church's recognition of their lifelong committed relationships and the blessings bestowed by such relationships; and be it further
thisthe 76th General Convention affirm that God has called and may call such individuals, like any other baptized members,to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church, which call is tested in our politythrough our discernment processes carried out under Canon IIIacting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church and the canons of its dioceses; and be it further
thisthe 76th General Convention acknowledge that , while themembers of The Episcopal Church , like those in our sister Provincesas of the Anglican Communion, based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition and reason, are not allof one mind on this issue, and thatChristians of good conscience , based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, may disagree about this issue, the validity of the Church's sacraments comes from the action of the Holy Spirit in and through them, not from the frail humans celebrating them in God's namedisagree about some of these matters.
"Resolved, the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report’s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further
"Resolved, That this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint . . ."
Gay Jennings: B033 wasn’t a moratorium. It was an urging. What the new language does is simply state where the Church already stands. Our discernment processes are governed by the Constitutions and Canons of the Episcopal Church. . . . I did not ever understand B033 as having the weight of our canons. . . . It was still always within the purview of bishops and standing committees to grant or not grant consent.(End of Update)]
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm . . . ; give thanks for . . . ; reaffirm . . . and seek to live . . . ; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention encourage . . . ; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm . . . and pledge . . . ; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm . . . and acknowledge; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention recognize . . . ; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm . . . ; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge . . .
And that is it. Do you see my point? All that this Resolution accomplishes is to propose certain actions be taken by the 76th General Convention ("reaffirm . . . encourage . . . affirm . . . recognize . . . acknowledge . . ."), which will have been taken by the very act of passing the Resolution. It thus expresses the current mood of that gathering, in the sense that a "mind of the House" resolution does: "This is what we think right now . . .". And as such an expression of the moment, it acknowledges implicitly that other people, gathered under different circumstances at a different time, might well think differently.
"Ah, but ---" you say: "the Resolution expresses not just the momentary mood of the 76th General Convention, but also, since the General Convention is the 'highest' body within ECUSA, it expresses the will of ECUSA itself." And there you have fallen into a giant figure-of-speech trap, called synecdoche: you are letting the part (this particular General Convention, whose deputies cannot be instructed or guided by anyone but the Holy Spirit) represent the whole, the Episcopal Church (USA), which is an infinitely more complex amalgam of individual dioceses. Indeed, it is a common assumption on the part of the activists who seek to control it that General Convention is the Episcopal Church (USA). But a moment's reflection on the matter would suffice to show that such an assumption cannot be true.
Think for a moment: can the Episcopal Church --- The Episcopal Church, as it likes to be called --- actually be defined for only two weeks out of every 156? If General Convention is The Episcopal Church while it is in session, then just who, pray tell, is The Episcopal Church the other 154 weeks of each triennium? Is it the Executive Council, delegated to carry out "the program and policies adopted by the General Convention"? But the membership of the Executive Council --- none of whom is elected by the member dioceses of the Church --- is comprised of people elected by General Convention and the nine Provinces, plus five members who sit ex officio, so how can it be said to represent The Church? It represents General Convention and the Provinces, plus the staff at 815 to various degrees, but it cannot be the Church all by itself: its authority is circumscribed by that of General Convention, which is not the Church, either. This is the fallacy inherent in synecdoche --- letting the part represent the whole (and vice versa).
So if we reject the false apparatus of synecdoche, we come back to the fact that about 840 people, gathered in the House of Deputies in July 2009, have expressed a sense of their collective mind that as a body, General Convention ought to do certain things --- each of which can be accomplished simply by passing the Resolution. What, therefore, is so contentious about all this? Why cannot the House of Bishops just concur in the Resolution and be done with it?
Ah, now we come to the heart of the matter. The House of Bishops of course could simply concur, and the Resolution would be both enacted and carried out simultaneously. General Convention 2009 could thereupon adjourn and go home, and nothing would be any different. Individual Bishops and Standing Committees in each diocese would still determine who is ordained to holy orders in that diocese, regardless of any "mind of the House" resolution passed by General Convention. Bishops and Standing Committees are bound to obey only Canons enacted by General Convention (and some dioceses have not even acceded to that proposition). Whatever else it may be, Resolution D 025 is not a Church Canon, and so it commands obedience from no one.
What has happened here is something that transcends General Convention, the Bishops and the Standing Committees as a whole. All the actors are playing parts which differ markedly from their real-life roles in the Church. For what the 75th General Convention did, by enacting Resolution B 033, was to put in place a fig-leaf, designed to cover over the real (and possibly offensive, to the majority of the Communion) desire of the assembled Deputies to tell the rest of the Anglican Communion where they could get off. Its passage was sold at the time by an emotional appeal to the Deputies to "make a gift" to the newly elected Presiding Bishop, thereby ensuring that she would continue to be received in the hallowed halls of the Communion.
The LGBT community within ECUSA saw this as a sell-out, a form of "feudal morality" imposed on it by those desirous not to cause any affront to the rest of the Anglican Communion. But as we have just seen, nothing was imposed on anyone. There was only a "calling upon" bishops and standing committees to exercise a certain restraint. However, the very idea that the two Houses of General Convention would join even in such a "call" was offensive to the LGBT community in ECUSA.
Now they have redoubled their efforts for this Convention, and they are determined not to let the same form of "feudal morality" be imposed upon them again. They have set their sights, however, upon a chimera --- the "repealing" or "rescinding" of a finished and completed act: the "call" that was made when B 033 was passed.
Only people with a profound and tragic sense of victimhood would perceive a one-time, non-obligatory "call" upon someone else as something to be "repealed" after it had happened. It was a form of "voter's remorse": "Yes, we did this to make a gift to our newly elected Presiding Bishop, but now we ought to take it back." (The deputy who pleaded with her colleagues to enact B 033 as a "gift" to Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori was the same confused Deputy who in today's debate pleaded with the Deputies to enact D 025 "as a gift reflecting our messiness to the Anglican Communion, but as an authentic statement about who we are.") The point is not to dwell upon a single, isolated incident of the past, even if it was an incident that involved a whole General Convention. That General Convention is dissolved forever into the ether; it can never reconvene or express its mind again.
But the point is equally not to create another single, isolated reference point which will in the end be just as ephemeral and non-binding as B 033. Those who think that Resolution D 025 is the solution to the problem are just as misguided as those who voted for B 033: in the final analysis, neither Resolution accomplishes a thing other than to express an inclination of the moment, a certain "mind of the House". "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions", or expressed in parliamentary terms, "the road to oblivion is papered with 'mind of the House' resolutions." Such resolutions are not only toothless, but cease to have any meaning once they are enacted. "So the 76th General Convention thought this on July 17, 2009: so what? What do the Bishops and Standing Committees, who will be giving the actual approvals for ordination, think? That is what I would like to know."
A kind of parliamentary fig-leaf thus becomes, through mutual and blind assent to unspoken premises, a perceived point of crisis in the lives of Episcopal LGBTs. None of them wanted it in the first place, but having voted for it, now they do not want a vote to remove it to be a source of condemnation for their having allowed it to be put in place three years ago. Having wholly manufactured the crisis in the first place, there is nothing anyone on the outside can do to rescue them from it; that is the nature of fig leaves. The first wisdom for those on the outside must come from realizing that no matter how sympathetic one might be towards their goals, they have gone about it the wrong way, as though General Convention were the be-all and the end-all to ECUSA's polity, and that nothing in one's power to do could grant them what they believe they must have. "As you sow, so shall you reap." The Episcopal LGBTs have only themselves to blame for their self-imposed predicament, and must live with the invited consequences of their tactics.
Now contrast, if you will, this current posture in which the activists of General Convention find themselves with what happened at the Lambeth Conference of 2008. Unlike General Convention 2009, which is all about doing as a group that which we came here to accomplish, Lambeth 2008 was all about listening --- to each other, but especially to the wise and marvelous teaching of Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Let me refer you to this earlier post, in which I quoted from one of his teaching sessions, as follows (I am going to quote both his remarks and my comments on them, because they are of a piece):
Archbishop Rowan now continues to emphasize the special calling of bishops:So the only way of being a successful apostle is to be incapable of distancing oneself from the weakness of others. Bearing apostolic witness we have to speak of a new humanity in which we bear others burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ. Represent Jesus Christ and your defences will be down, and you will share in the weakness and loss of all, and your assumed loss will be part of the pain God takes upon himself in his infinite love. Paul sees the Church as being called to living the death and resurrection of Christ in the world.Note well, TEC (and all other) Bishops: you have to learn "to be incapable of distancing oneself from the weaknesses of others." So much of what passes for deliberation these days in TEC's House of Bishops , and all of the litigation TEC is embroiled in, shows exactly the opposite face to the Communion, and to the world as a whole. Think again about the oxymoron of a church that fully endorses abortion, and ponder on the Archbishop's words.
Having set up the assembled bishops for their special role, Archbishop Rowan now delivers the clincher:Therefore bishops can never, however much they’d like to be, become the spokesperson of a single nation, or cause, or group, however worthy they may be.
"We have been taken hold of by Christ." This is the message that is wanting at General Convention. Instead, what we have in its place is this message (I have added the emphasis):Some will call it dithering — we have to find ways to make it prophetic. It would be much easier to turn the church into an association of people who sign up to particular ideas, or reflect the nation in some vague way.Such as abortion, gay/lesbian civil rights, liberation theology---you name it, it has been promoted in the name of our church and social justice. Just in case anyone is still wondering about the message of this study, Archbishop Rowan now says it a third time:What we actually have to do is express in our living the whole new humanity that is being gathered up in Christ. Therefore we can never simply be servants to one subgroup. We have been taken hold of by Christ. We may of course want to affirm this person or that, but we cannot without also some note of challenge as well as affirmation. Therefore bishops have to prioritise living and proclaiming the life of a Christ who gathers lost humanity into one in himself.
"If you don't want GLBT folks as bishops, don't ordain them as deacons, better yet, be honest and say 'we don't want you, you don't belong here' and don't bestow on them the sacrament of baptism to begin with," said Harris to applause. "How can you initiate someone and treat them like they are half-assed baptized."
From there Harris moved on to the sacrament of marriage: marriage is a civil contract to which the church adds a blessing. It is the firm belief of many that the church should get out of the business of marriage. Let same- and-opposite sex couples get married, where it is legal; it's now legal in six states. "Let the church then administer the sacrament of blessing on all such couples and their lives," she said.
Rather than speculating about the suitability or unsuitability of a person's manner of life, Harris said she would prefer the church to work to protect people from hate crimes. . . .
Harris concluded where she began with Peter's bold assertion: "God has no favorites. Whoever fears God and does what is right, is acceptable to God . . . all of us the baptized let us honor the sacrament of our baptism and our baptismal covenant, the only covenant we need."