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Two Papers on
General Convention 2006
Lionel E. Deimel
 

T he 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church meets in Columbus, Ohio, from June 13, 2006, to June 21, 2006. This triennial ingathering of the Episcopal faithful has been described by the Rev. Dr. Gregory S. Straub, Executive Officer of the General Convention Office, as a combination of legislative assembly, bazaar of goods and services, and family reunion.

Once More, Clearly and Charitably: Deimel and Wells on the Issues before Us

Christopher Wells, author of “Wounded in Common Mission” and I exchanged e-mail messages about my paper, “Saving Anglicanism” (see below). Ostensibly, we are on different sides—probably not really opposite sides—of the current disputes within the Anglican Communion. One thing led to another, and we decided to undertake a dialog aimed at greater understanding of one another’s position. We thought this might be interesting—perhaps even helpful—to those who will be called to act on resolutions at General Convention affecting Episcopal Church-Anglican Communion relations. Christopher and I have indeed found this a useful exercise. To read about it, and to read the dialog itself, click here.
N.B. Some material referenced here originally appeared on the Anglican Communion Institute Web site but is (as of May 2010) no longer available there. Links are now provided to local copies that should be substantially identical to the originals. Also, Christopher Wells subsequently revised and expanded his “Wounded in Common Mission” for publication in Anglican Theological Review. You can read his revised paper here.

Episcopal Church shield     Anglican Communion compass rose

General Convention is the decision-making body for the Episcopal Church. It is responsible for the church budget, for liturgy and music used by the church, and for mission initiatives. General Convention rates a certain amount of press coverage simply because it is one of the world’s largest deliberative assemblies. Most of what it does most of the time, however, is of little interest to the average Episcopalian, much less the average American. The Episcopal Church is not one of the larger churches in America.

In 2003, however, the attention of the world’s press was very much on General Convention, then meeting in Minneapolis. The reason was that the body was to vote on whether the election of partnered gay priest Gene Robinson to be Bishop of New Hampshire would be consented to. As had been the case for several conventions, whether the church would approve liturgies for blessing same-sex unions was also on the table. The Rev. Canon Gene Robinson did, in fact, become a bishop. The blessing of same-sex unions remained in an ecclesiastical gray area, being tolerated but not officially authorized by the church.

The vote on Canon Robinson touched off a firestorm in the Anglican Communion, as conservatives protested what the 74th General Convention had done. Whereas the provinces (churches) of the Anglican Communion have traditionally been considered autonomous, conservatives seemed determined to intimidate, if not order, the Episcopal Church to rein in its innovative behavior.

A milestone in the process of managing the commotion was the publication of the so-called Windsor Report in October 2004. This report was the product of an international panel, the Lambeth Commission on Communion, assembled to consider what should be done. The Windsor Report raised serious questions as to whether the Anglican Communion could survive as a fellowship of churches, and it advocated decreased provincial autonomy, along with a corresponding development of central authority. The report, along with other elements of the Communion, challenged the Episcopal Church to adopt this centralizing program as a sign of good faith that it intended to remain a part of the Communion.

The polity of the Episcopal Church requires that General Convention speak for the church. Neither the church’s nominal head, the Presiding Bishop, nor its Executive Council, a kind of convention in recess, can act independently of the will of the convention. Thus, it falls to the 75th General Convention to provide an official response to the Windsor Report and to related pressures being brought to bear on the church by conservatives. Although the churches of the communion are hardly of one mind as to what Anglicans usually refer to as “the way forward,” as a practical matter, the so-called “Windsor process” seems to be the only game in town.

Come and Grow 2006 (General Convention logo)To prepare the church for responding to the Windsor Report, the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion was created. It issued a report proposing a response consisting of 11 resolutions to be voted on by General Convention. This set of resolutions might be described as constituting a limited and reluctant acceptance of the vision articulated by the Lambeth Commission. Conservative Episcopalians see this as an inadequate response; liberal elements of the church are more ambivalent, and some fear that it may be a sell-out.

My reaction to the Special Commission’s report, “One Baptism, One Hope in God’s Call” was initially one of alarm. Upon further reflection, however, it did seem as though the Episcopal Church was not being encouraged to give away the store. I was nevertheless not completely satisfied with the recommendations. I began writing an essay arguing that conservatives have not played fair and that, under the circumstances, the Episcopal Church should be wary of granting concessions.

As I worked on writing the essay, it grew longer and longer. My colleagues in Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh suggested that I split it in two and that I work on analyzing the 11 proposed resolutions first, returning to the background discussion later. I took this advice, and, under PEP auspices, issued “What Should General Convention 2006 Do? Commentary on the Resolutions Proposed by the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion” on May 23, 2006. This document contains a brief introduction to the resolutions and comments on them point-by-point. I week later, on May 31, 2006, I finished “Saving Anglicanism: An Historical Perspective on Decisions Facing the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church,” which reviews how the church got into its present situation and warning that the proposed response to the Anglican Communion might be fundamentally defective. PEP helped promote this document without actually endorsing it.

The two documents may be read separately or the latter may be read as an introduction the former. In fact, I am unsure what the wisest course may be for the Episcopal Church. I do feel strongly, however, that bishops and deputies should not be making a decision without detailed knowledge of the events described in “Saving Anglicanism.” In that essay, I argue that Anglicanism, a special approach to the Christian Gospel, is of more importance than the Anglican Communion, which, I fear, in an ironic turn of events, may be abandoning authentic Anglicanism.

Click on a button below to download the corresponding report. Both essays are offered as PDF files designed for duplex printing. If you do not have software to view PDF files, click on the “Get Adobe Reader” button to download and install free software for the purpose.

 

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Saving Anglicanism: An Historical Perspective on Decisions Facing the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church  
 

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What Should General Convention 2006 Do? Commentary on the Resolutions Proposed by the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion  

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— LED, 6/4/2006

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