Resolutions intended to respond to the Windsor Report have slowing been
working their way to the legislative floors at General Convention in
Columbus. Today, the House of Deputies will be debating resolution A161,
which has become the critical resolution in that response. Much of the
important material in the 11 resolutions proposed by the Special
Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion has been
crammed into the current version of A161.
Here is the version of A161 that emerged from the Special Commission:
the House of _____ concurring, That the 75th
General Convention of the Episcopal Church regrets the extent to which
we have, by action and inaction, contributed to strains on communion and
caused deep offense to many faithful Anglican Christians as we consented
to the consecration of a bishop living openly in a same-gender union.
Accordingly, we urge nominating committees, electing conventions,
Standing Committees, and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise very
considerable caution in the nomination, election, consent to, and
consecration of bishops whose manner of life
presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further
strains on communion.
The current version (as of 9 am,
according to the official church Web site) is:
the House of Bishops concurring, that the 75th General Convention of the
Episcopal Church regrets the extent to which we have, by action and
inaction, contributed to strains on communion and caused deep offense to
many faithful Anglican Christians as we consented to the consecration of
a bishop living openly in a same-gender union. Accordingly, we
are obliged to urge nominating committees, electing conventions,
Standing Committees, and bishops with jurisdiction to
Changes are indicated with italics and strikeouts.
considerable caution refrain from the nomination,
election, consent to, and consecration of bishops whose manner of life
presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further
strains on communion .;
and be it further
Resolved that this General
Convention not proceed to develop or
authorize Rites for the Blessing of same-sex unions at this time,
thereby concurring with the
Report in its exhortation to bishops of the Anglican Communion to honor
the Primates’ Pastoral Letter of May 2003; and be it further
Resolved that this General Convention affirm the need to maintain a
breadth of responses to situations of pastoral care for gay and lesbian
Christians in this Church.
Resolved that this General
Convention apologize to those gay and lesbian Episcopalians and their
supporters hurt by these decisions.
- There have been questions about how, given our polity, a
moratorium of any kind can be implemented. This is the reason for
the language that, to some, may seem odd.
- The Special Commission used the words “exercise very
considerable caution.” That language was a compromise, but one that
attempted to be conciliatory without being subservient. The current
text—which can be modified by the House of Deputies or the House of
Bishops—is, arguably, obsequious and disingenuous.
- The second and third resolves deal with issues that were
originally in resolution A162.
- The final resolve admits that that we are sacrificing our
homosexual sisters and brothers for some notion of Anglican “unity.”
There is also a lapse in continuity here. The previous resolve should
probably end with “; and be it further.”
for some opinion:
On Thursday, June 15, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold asserted that—I
apologize if this is not an exact quotation, but it is what I wrote
down—“God’s concern is the world, not the Church.” That observation
should inform what General Convention does at this critical time.
The actions of the 74th General Convention (and the years
of discussion and steps taken that brought the church to where it found
itself in 2003) were driven by pastoral concerns, by a willingness to be
open to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and by an understanding that there
is no such thing as “the clear meaning of Scripture.” Being a Christian
does not absolve one of the need to do hard work to discover what
God would have one do in a particular time and place.
What is clear in Columbus is that the Episcopal Church, at least as
represented by those participating in General Convention, believes in
what was done at the last General Convention. Elements of the Anglican
Communion reacted badly—I choose the word advisedly—to our actions. We
have been asked to repent, and to declare moratoria on the consecration
of openly gay bishops and on moving forward on the blessing of same sex
The question we should ask is: Are we to follow our notion of what God
is calling us to do in his world, or are we to try to “preserve” the
Anglican Communion, a part, albeit a small part, of Christ’s Church? Is
our concern the world or the Church?
There is no time for a long argument, as significant choices will be
made by General Convention later today. I will try to offer a short
First, I ask whether we really value (or should value) the Anglican
Communion above our own Episcopal Church? Whereas those who are most
insistent about our being submissive to the will of the Communion call
us arrogant, is it not the case that their theology is more similar to
that of the more fundamentalist elements of the Southern Baptist
Convention than it is to anything that we would readily acknowledge as
Anglican? I am sorry that we are not in communion with the Southern
Baptist Convention, but I am not so sorry as to deny my own
understanding of the Gospel for the sake of “unity” with it. Why should
I do so for other churches whose theology is antithetical to my own,
merely because they embrace the word “Anglican”?
Second, the resolutions of the Special Commission were indeed
conciliatory. They fully satisfied neither the most liberal nor the most
conservative elements of the Episcopal Church. Why are we suddenly about
to throw in the towel and raise the white flag of surrender? (I ask your
indulgence for that mixed metaphor.) Are we not tired of being lectured
to about how we are about to destroy the Anglican Communion? The nature
of the Communion is being changed by others without our advice or
consent. Why do others get a vote and we do not? To resist the pressure
we are experiencing from minority elements within our church and from
reactionary and authoritarian elements outside it is, I assert, the most
conservative step we could take. We are being called to save the
Anglican Communion—certainly Anglicanism, anyway—not to capitulate to
those intent on destroying it.
Third, one reason I am an Episcopalian is that I have a say in my
church. I grew in New Orleans, which is heavily Roman Catholic. Why, I
thought, does the Pope have dictatorial sway over what Christians
believe and do? I have a say in the Episcopal Church. I do not have a
say in the Anglican Communion. I have no representative I have had a
part in selecting, and neither I nor my representatives have consented to be
governed by it. The Anglican Communion is of value only insofar as it
allows for consultation without acting like an Anglican Pope. Do we
really want to change that relationship?
Finally, it is one thing to sacrifice oneself for a cause. It is quite
another to volunteer to sacrifice someone else. Over a period of many
years, the Episcopal Church has progressively eliminated discrimination
against those whose sexuality differs from what is statistically most
common. For the sake of a unity of questionable value, are we now going
to ask our gay sisters and brothers to bear a burden because we do not
want to, because we cannot stand up for our church and our beliefs? As I
wrote in “Saving Anglicanism”:
We should consider making a more
principled, straightforward, and courageous response. We should consider
the novel ideal of proclaiming the Gospel as we understand it and
defending the approach to theology that most theologians in our church
actually use. In simple, clear sentences we could express our sorrow for
the hurt that others have experienced and express our sincere desire to
remain in communion with all our sister provinces. We could remind
others of Bishop Desmond Tutu’s explanation for how we have always
maintained communion—“we meet”—and insist that removing the Episcopal
Church or its representatives from Communion discussion is hardly
characteristic of the Anglican way. Before the Communion creates more
rules, we could insist that existing ones be observed. Before we cede
authority to others, we could insist that those to whom we have ceded no
authority refrain from intimidation. And we could declare that that
name-calling, misrepresentation, and subversion are unbecoming a
Christian and unacceptable in a bishop.
Resolution A161 should be defeated or substantially changed. I pray
that, if this is not done by the House of Deputies, it will be by the
House of Bishops. The life of the Episcopal Church hangs in the balance.
We could, in other words, insist that we
have as much right to make claims on the Communion as it does on the
Episcopal Church. Most importantly, however, we could declare our
commitment to save Anglicanism at all costs and to save the Anglican
Communion if at all possible.
June 21, 2006
Resolution A161 was defeated in the House of
Deputies yesterday. The complex sequence of parliamentary actions that
led it its defeat is too complex to chronicle here. In the end, it seems
as though conservatives voted against it because it did not go far
enough, and liberals voted against it because it went too far. Details
are available elsewhere.
Although newspapers around the world reported
today that the Episcopal Church had rejected the requests of the
Windsor Report, the game was not quite over. The House of Bishops was
unhappy with the rejection of A161 by the House of Deputies. The
Presiding Bishop explained to his episcopal colleagues that they might
not be invited to the next Lambeth Conference. He called a joint session of the two houses today and
asked a group of moderate bishops to draft another resolution. That
resolution was presented today with the endorsement of both the current
and incoming Presiding Bishop.
The new resolution, designated B033,
reads as follows:
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring,
that 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 by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the
episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church
and will lead to further strains on the communion.
This resolution was passed by both houses, though not without discussion
and controversy in the House of Deputies.
Arguably, B033 strengthens the original language of A161 regarding the
election of gay (or otherwise “objectionable”) bishops. It replaces
“exercise very considerable caution” with “exercise restraint by not
consenting.” The intention is to impose a moratorium (or, in some minds
perhaps, to seem to impose a moratorium); this was not so
clear in the original wording. Also, whereas the original wording
applied to “nominating committees, electing conventions, Standing
Committees, and bishops with jurisdiction,” B033 addresses only
“Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction.” Of course, people
are less likely to elect a gay bishop, say, if they do not expect his or
her election to be consented to.
significant as what was done is what was not done. General Convention
passed (generally altered) versions of most of the 11 resolutions from
the Special Commission, but no moratorium
related to the blessing of same-sex unions—one of the big three Windsor
Report requests—was enacted.
So, did the
Episcopal Church surrender? Well, just a little. I am pleased that the
House of Deputies rejected A161, which had become a very badly written
resolution. I am not pleased that the House of Deputies surrendered to
the entreaties of the Presiding Bishop under very severe time pressure.
Bishop Griswold, if he did not actually violate the polity of the
church, certainly pushed the constitutional envelope by directly
intimidating the house of which he is not a member. I suspect that the pleas of Bishop Jefferts Schori, who is starting with
a clean slate, as it were, helped to pass B033. (She, of course, had no
business trying to influence the House of Deputies, either.)
One has to wonder what
General Convention might have passed under different circumstances.
General Convention has spoken vis-à-vis the Windsor Report, but it is
hard to argue that we now know the will of General Convention in the
abstract. Did we satisfy anybody? Probably not. Both deputies and
bishops feel intimidated, and a number of bishops were angered to the
point of issuing a
statement complaining about the content of B033 and the processes
that passed it. Bishop Chane announced that he does not consider himself
bound by B033, as, indeed, he is not.
Certainly, the Archbishop of Canterbury does not seem satisfied (or
perhaps has lost all ability to make any decision on his own). He issued
statement acknowledging the work of General Convention but implied
that others would have to evaluate “the significance of what has been
decided before we respond more fully.”
course, the Network of
Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (NACDAP) quickly announced a
statement, signed by 16 bishops (10 bishops with jurisdiction, 1
assistant bishop, 1 suffragan bishop, and 4 retired bishops)—all the
usual suspects—that they “continue as The Episcopal Church in this
country who uphold and propagate the historic faith and order we have
come to know through the Anglican heritage of apostolic teaching and
biblical faith; who desire to be fully a constituent member of the
Anglican Communion; and who are ready to embrace and live under the
Windsor Report without equivocation.” I must point out, of course, that
Bishop Duncan and his cronies are not the Episcopal Church.
Additionally, the statement essentially calls the actions of General
Convention disingenuous. On that point, I have to agree.
July 18, 2009
Although the Internet has some
characteristics of a library, is decidedly unlike a library in
the way that holdings can disappear or change without warning. Some of
the links in the forgoing have been changed to display their original
content, which is no longer available at the URLs originally cited. Here
is a list of original and current links:
Additionally, I should note that the URL of
the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes,
now points to
http://www.theacna.org/, the site of the Common Cause
Partnership/Anglican Church in North America.
The 2009 General Convention passed
Resolution D025, which essentially nullified B033. See my blog post, “What
D025 Has Done.”