11 July 2009

Quote of the day

This is the best statement of all the cyber ink that has been spilled today about GC09
The whole idea of the baptismal covenant is taken seriously here. The lay people are part of the structure, they are not left out … if you go to synod in the province, all you see on the platform is the purple colors.
So said one of the Anglican Communion visitors. Another visitor echoed Bishop Robinson's earlier statement. Dr. Jenny Te Paa, principal of the College of Saint John the Evangelist, Auckland, New Zealand, a guest of President Bonnie Anderson said:

I am a little surprised and saddened that too many Episcopalians are being affected by their sense of loss of face or vulnerability in belonging to the Anglican Communion. I am dismayed at the extent to which that seems to be prevalent.

I don't believe that that is so … it is not how I perceive the rest of the communion regard[s] the Episcopal Church to be honest.

Read the whole delightful story at Episcopal Life Online.

As tomorrow is Sunday, I will most likely follow TTLS's rule and rest from blogging posting only the weekly homily.

UPDATE: Dr. Te Paa's address to the convention is found here

A098: A curious thing I noticed

The Living Church has a good write up about the debate around A098, Holy Women, Holy Men Revision Principles, f or the Lesser Feasts and Fasts.

As I re-read the Blue Book section dealing with A098 I found a truly curious thing. We are going to celebrate the life of John Calvin. Does anyone else think that is really odd?

His spiritual descendants are the very people in the AC who are the schismatics and we are to celebrate his theology that is really at odds with classic Anglican theology.

Fianlly, some strong language on the ordination of all qualified

A much stronger version of D025 (Commitment and Witness to Anglican Communion) actually cleared the committee and will be sent to the floor of both houses. Even two of the five bishops on the committee support the revision. So that you can see how much strongr the revision is, I've pasted the corrections in for you.
Resolved, That this the 76th General Convention recognize that individuals gay 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 centuries and 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

Resolved, That this the 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 polity through our discernment processes carried out under Canon III acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church and the canons of its dioceses; and be it further

Resolved, That this the 76th General Convention acknowledge that, while the members of The Episcopal Church, like those in our sister Provinces as of the Anglican Communion, based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition and reason, are not all of one mind on this issue, and that Christians 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 name disagree about some of these matters.

Notice how much stronger the revision is than the original.

I'm sorry they didn't include bisexuals and transgendered persons as well, but at least we finally see those two words (gay/lesbian) in print in a good piece of legislation.

But the question really is, will the bishops go for it? I doubt it. To be blunt, I don't think they have the balls to stand up to Rowan and the bigots of the so called "global south." Let's all pray that I have to eat my words.

Make sure to read today's Convention Daily and in particular the article Restraint, or welcome by the Episcopal Church by Melodie Woerman.

UPDATE: Episcopal Life has posted on this issue.

D034 - the future of printed communication

Yes, Virginia, there is something going on at GC09 other than talking about sex.

Friday, 10 July, there was a hearing on the future of Episcopal Life. The hearing focused on the future of the print media. D034, Continuing Episcopal Life and Diocesan Partnerships, is just that. Although Episcopal Life is the national publication, at least thirty dioceses pays to have their diocesan newspaper included in Episcopal Life.

The heart of the matter is that we live in a society that sees print media as a dying art. With the advent of the World Wide Web, newspapers are folding nearly every day. Is it economically sound to continue to print Episcopal Life, or should that publication move to electronic print?

Episcopal Church director of communications Anne Rudig outlined a proposed budget for the department, based at the Church Center in New York, that would retain news coverage on the Episcopal Life Online website and change the print publication to a feature-focused quarterly magazine. "Historically, the department has been a news bureau model. I am moving ahead with a draft budget that would allow the office to move from a news model to a diversified strategic communications model," she said.

The Rt. Rev'd Jerry Lamb, San Joaquin, said
The newspaper has been a unifying tool as the diocese works to rebuild after former leadership left the Episcopal Church. I believe the printed edition of Episcopal Life is a core value of this church … We put into everybody's hand a piece of paper where everybody's got the same news instead of 15 blogs. I am very concerned it stay on a monthly basis.
Scott Guinn (RI) who is a member of the committee spoke against the resolution

It is not a good idea to legislate solutions … The future of monthly print publications is limited.
He added that a proposed five-month time frame for the end of the monthly newspaper is too short and there should be a survey to determine a long-term strategy.

I must say I don't understand the debate. Each month I receive The Lutheran Magazine published by the ELCA. It is a slick publication and contains information from all parts of the ELCA and news of the church universal as well. Why can we not have such a publication?

I am, obviously, firmly in the modern era where the media is concerned and the WWW is wonderful. But not all of us have the Internet savvy and not all of us love an on-line only world. It really is difficult to fall into bed at night with the computer in hand and drift off to sleep reading about the doings of the Episcopal Church. It's also dang hard to swat the flies with the computer! And, too, there is just something comforting about holding print media in hand.

Pioneers, all is well, and half assed members

Wow, I hope you were one of the lucky 1,600 people who attended the Integrity mass last night. According to all reports it was a standing room only event. I hope someone will post a lot of photos of the event and of our fellow bloggers. (Photo: Telling Secrets)

It must have been remarkable to be in the room with two pioneers in TEC. The Rt. Rev'd Barbara Harris was the first woman to be consecrated a bishop in this church. The Rt. Rev'd V. Gene Robinson was the first honest gay man to be consecrated a bishop in this church. And, both of them were present at the Eucharist. Bishop Robinson said, "If only we could bottle this energy."

You kjnow that the event was spectacular when even the Living Church extolled the mass
The planners of Integrity’s Eucharist thoroughly transformed the Pacific Ballroom in the Hilton Hotel into a place of lively worship.

Three large and colorful parasols marked a gospel station, and a large bronze baptismal font topped a brightly draped altar. A procession before the Gospel reading marched through every aisle between the movable seats, filling the room with incense. Bishop Robinson scattered baptismal water generously during the gospel procession.

After Bishop Harris offered her teaching—the program did not call it a sermon—Bishop Robinson and the Rev. Thomas Wilson of All Souls Church in Point Loma led a visually stunning Prayers for the Ministry of All the Baptized.
+Robinson made a statement on his blog that should give us some hope
My sense is that the place of the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion is not in danger. Strained and tense, sometimes, yes. But actually threatened, no. Are we in the same place regarding the issue of homosexuality -- of course not. But the bonds of affection are strong and deep, and God will see us through this difficult time. This is a strong belief exhibited by all the primates and bishops visiting this Convention from across the Anglican Communion. It confirms my own belief that it is time for us to stand up and be the Church God is calling us to be, and trust that the Anglican Communion will not only survive, but be a blessing to all.
But, as comforting as that should be to TEC, it doesn't mean we will see the end of B033. Bishop Harris made a good comment that many of us have been saying since 2006
[B033 was] the ticket for active members of the House of Bishops – Robinson excluded – to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference, and to make some false peace with others in the communion.
Both of her statements are absolutely correct. Tea with The Queen was worth the spilled blood of any member of TEC, and that's what we saw. And, it was just false hope, too. The Communion as we have known for about 120 years is dead; not just dead, it's decomposing.

But the best quote from the mass came from Bishop Harris who said
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. How can you initiate someone and treat them like they are half-assed baptized.
When I was a child, my parent's best friends were an elderly black couple named Clarence and Ellen Daniels whom I loved as much as I loved my parents. When I read +Harris' comment I laughed right out loud. I could hear Ellen's voice as I read Harris' words. Leave it to a black woman, a black grandmother to tell it like it is.

But, of course, she is absolutely correct. That's what the bishops have done for far too long and continue to do. And, mark my words, that's what they will do in 2009. For more on the mass, see We Could Have Danced all Night.

Sue Carter has an interesting take on the events in Anaheim. You'll find her column here but this is the interesting bit

It was the presiding bishop’s remarks at the convention opening on Tuesday that have apparently roiled elsewhere, but caused barely a ripple here. In telling the more than one hundred bishops and eight-hundred deputies collected, that “business as usual” was not going to get the job done, she added that that it was a “great Western heresy – that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God.”

In a gathering dedicated to stressing the cause of unity, the “individualistic focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy…that heresy is one reason for the theme of this convention.”

The people here got it, and I don’t sense any particular distress because of her remarks challenging that salvation depends on an individual reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus. The tapestry I see being woven is one of community and shared interests, of inclusion and reaching out. It remains to be seen if everyone gets stitched in.

The only people who will yell (and have yelled) about the collective aspect of salvation are the Calvinists for whom it is simply about "me, me, me; dammit, it's about me." For those who are in the catholic tradition, the notion that salvation is a collective process is absolutely orthodox.

10 July 2009

He knows when the sparrow falls

Tonight I'm feeling discouraged for several reasons. I could not attend GC for only the second time since 1979; I missed the Jakeite reunion; I lost my job today; I am convinced that the bishops will sell this church to the lowest common bigot in the communion.

When we've been kicked enough it's difficult to remember that God knows when the sparrow falls and he cares about us. It's difficult to forget about bigot foreign and domestic bishops and remember that we are the church - all of us together.

When I'm really down, I turn to something from my childhood - a song I "grew up on." And I turn to one of the greatest singers who's ever lived. I hope you enjoy this clip and that it makes you feel better about GC09.

This is for Lisa, too - Keep your faith, my friend.

B033 as seen though the eyes of a conservative

On Anglicans United, there is a good commentary by the Rev'd Todd H. Wetzel about B033. It's worth a read. Here is a quote
B033 will be overturned in the House of Deputies. It's a matter of perspectives. Relationships are tended to by the parish. The sacraments happen in parishes. Day in and day out, Sunday after Sunday we care for one another. The sacraments belong to us - they're ours to distribute as we will. Right? Not.

While I am part of a parish, my vision of the church need not be parochial. The parish is part of the church but it is not the sum total of the church - that's what it means to be catholic and not simply congregational. Of necessity, bishops exist to remind us of that simple but essential truth. That's why I believe the bishops will not concur with the Deputies in their desire to overturn B033.

Bishop are not like us. They're heads are in the clouds. Their role ought to challenge us to look beyond our feelings, our local relationships to the wider and greater Church - to the Mind of Christ. The Founding fathers of this Episcopal Church wisely required in our Constitution that both Houses concur on matters such as these.

If the House of Deputies were to uphold B033, they would clearly deny the feelings running so current in this Church. The heart would sorrow. But if the Bishops falter and find themselves in agreement with the House of Deputies in rescinding B033, it would be denying long standing catholic thought. The mind would falter.

Bishops and Deputies see things differently because their perspectives vary so widely. Bishops are not like the rest of us. Their heads are in the clouds.
He is absolutely correct, the bishops are out of touch with this church.

As Jesus told the authorities, "I have done nothing in secret," so the HOD has conducted all hearings on B033 in public - all were invited to listen and participate. The bishops didn't show up - except those who were forced to do so.

But, tomorrow the bishops will discuss B033 in executive session, a secret session, a closed to the Public session where they can be the fraternity they enjoy being and swear everyone to silence like the Skull and Bones Society. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if someone doesn't even break out the biscuits they bought last summer at Lambeth. I wonder, who will pour the tea? I'm sure one of the closeted bishops will be glad to play mother.

Go read Jim Naughton's post

An article you must read if you care about the future of this church

I had originally included this the previous post, but I feel it is so important we need to give it its own attention.

Otis Gaddis' article at the Daily Episcopalian is something you must read if you care about this church and the Christian church in general. Here is a quote:
There is a very serious link between our capacity to do effective work with young adults and where we are on affirming lesbian and gay people as equal members of the Church. I think it is necessary to place the work of this General Convention in the context of how young adults view the relationship between an institution’s understanding and treatment of lesbian and gay people and its moral legitimacy.

People are becoming much more supportive of gay rights generally and marriage equality specifically. Among young adults (those who are 18-34), 58 percent believe in full marriage equality. The trend in favor of marriage equality for college age adults is even stronger. As of 2008, 66% of college frosh supported marriage equality. In other words, the younger you go the higher the chance that a person views gay people as equal to everyone else.

And this shift is starting to change attitudes and perceptions of what is morally legitimate. An entire generation of people is coming of age where they are much more confident in the equality of their lesbian and gay friends than they are about the moral legitimacy of institutions and people who are against gay people. In other words, many of these same young adults see one’s views concerning marriage equality as a litmus test of the morality of social institutions including churches.

At the present time, TEC is morally illegitimate. But, thank God for the youth of this church; we are in good hands.

And here is the zinger, folks, and it speaks directly to what the our bishops needs to hear:
In other words, non-Christians may not know much about what we believe about Jesus, the path to salvation, or what we believe God desires of us in our relationships with others. But what they do know is that we are anti-gay.

As people begin to really study young adult views of Christianity and how gay and lesbian people fit into that story, I think we will find that young adults are not rejecting Christianity simply because it is perceived as anti-gay but that they are viewing gay people as the canary in the mine. Culturally, the gay experience has become a metaphor for the journey of self-discovery and a willingness to be true to one’s self in spite of persecution. And this is what young adults are, in part, looking for spiritually, places where they can connect to their true selves. If we listen they might tell us, “If a place is not only safe for gay people but is affirming of them, then perhaps it will be safe for me. Perhaps, I will be affirmed by this spiritual community when I find myself. Maybe this community is capable of helping me get there.
Do we as Episcopalians want to be known as the anti-homosexual church and therefore dismissed forthwith. Or do we want to be known as the church where God's love reaches everyone and a safe place for all God's children.

The future is here, folks, we need to step up and embrace it and proclaim it to the world.

The bishops, and the sound of toilets flushing

The Rt. Rev'd V Gene Robinson made a chilling comment on his blog, Canterbury Tales. In his report about the B033 hearing, he said
One alarming thing about last night's hearing was the fact that there were almost NO bishops present. Other than those on the committee (who HAD to be there), there were only five bishops present: Andrus (California), Beckwith (Newark) and myself, arguing for moving forward; Love (Albany) and Lawrence (South Carolina) arguing for continuing B033.

Other than these, no bishop was present to hear the two hours of voices from the Church appealing for progress.
Three years ago this was the bishop's resolution. Why were they not present to hear the debate on it?

Someone commented that "The bishops are tired of hearing about B033." I bet they are! But if they are tired of hearing about it, how do they think those who are forced to live it feel?

With few exceptions (and they are stellar exceptions) the bishops are out of touch with the church whom they were called and elected to serve. Apparently, once the mitre has been placed upon their heads the purple fraternity is more important than the people who just elected them. and pay their huge salary. There is very little accountability once the crozier is in hand. Perhaps we need to amend the constitution of the church to allow for a recall for dereliction of duty.

My own bishop, Mary, is a perfect example of this. In the "bishops walk abouts" wherein we learned the candidates' views on various issues. She declared herself committed to the full inclusion of GLBT members of the church. I heard her say that on three separate occasions. Yet, as soon as she was in a position to make the first move in that direction she sold the GLBT community right down the toilet.

Faith without Works is dead (James 2.20) and as far as I can see, the bishops' "faith" is as dead as Caiaphas.

Yesterday the ABC praised William Stringfellow, a gay man, as ‘the greatest Episcopalian theologian and perhaps the greatest American theologian of the twentieth century… not the least of the gifts which the Episcopal Church has given the rest of us.’ That folks, is an exact quote.

Yet, that same ABC asked TEC not to antagonize the bigots who want the GLBT community outside the front door of the church. I'm sorry, Rowan, but your actions make your words a total lie.

Jesus didn't wait for the religious structure of his day to come to one mind about the justice of God before he stepped into the deep, and TEC shouldn't wait, either.

09 July 2009

The same gender marriage conversation today

I'm about to shock the socks off my regular readers, so, sit down and buckle the seat belts. Now, read all my post first before you scream.

Matt Kennedy covered the "debate" on the following resolutions:
  • C004 Full Participation of LGBT Community
  • C009 Develop Rites for Same Gender Unions
  • C017 Supporting Same Gender Relationships
  • C019 Amend Marriage Canons to Reflect Civil Law (this is the resolution I support)
  • C025 Amend Canon III.9.5(c.1): Recording Marriages and Civil Unions
  • C028 Developing Additional Gender-Neutral Language for Marriage Rites
  • C031 Rites of Holy Union for Same Gender Couples
  • C056 Liturgies for Blessings
  • D046 Baptismal Ecclesiology
Matt did a first rate job of recording most, if not all, of the comments made by those who spoke. and I encourage you to read his post. Avoid the comments, but read the post.

I want to draw attention to just one dynamic comments by Hannah Anderson a 17-year old who spoke in favour of inclusion.
I am here as a volunteer because I love church and convention. I am going to start with a story. I went to TEC summer camp for 9 years. I made many friends. One was named Arthur. He was gay. But at ten-years old we did not see him as different, just as a friend. Although he was accepted among us he was not accepted at home.

In his suicide note in Jr High he said he could not live in a world where he was accepted only one week of the year. People like Arthur should have role models and welcome in the church so that they do not have to commit suicide.
And that, folks, hit the nail on the head. If one cannot be accepted at church, where can one be accepted?

Okay, now pick yourself up off the floor and go read the comments. This may be the only time I ever recommend a post on "that site." Just do not read the comments.

Oppressors feel harassed says ++Williams, be nice to them

Well, Rowan has been hard at work in his role as an "observer" carrying a big stick.

At a worship service today the Archbishop of Canterbury was in attendance as were hundred of GLBT Episcopalians wearing brightly coloured shirts that proclaimed: Here I am; send me.

That sounds really promising but the news is actually depressing. ++Rowan said in the meeting
I do realize that this engagement has been and still is costly for different people in different ways: some feel impatient, some feel compromised, some feel harassed or undervalued, or that their good faith has been ungraciously received. I'm sorry; this has been hard and will not get much easier, I suspect.
Just who is being harassed? The people who wish to legislate morality and exclude a significant portion of TEC from full rites of the church - a church that is not THEIR church but ours? Or, those people who are being legislated against? It is not the GLBT community who is the harassers.

Rowan continued that he hoped no decisions would come out of the Convention that would further strain Anglican relations.
Of course I am coming here with hopes and anxieties – you know that and I shan’t deny it. Along with many in the Communion, I hope and pray that there won’t be decisions in the coming days that could push us further apart. But if people elsewhere in the Communion are concerned about this, it’s because of a profound sense of what the Episcopal Church has given and can give to our fellowship worldwide. If we - if I – had felt that we could do perfectly well with out you, there wouldn’t be a problem. But the bonds of relationship are deep, for me personally as for many others. And I’m tempted to adapt what St Paul says to the Corinthians in the middle of a set of tensions no less bitter than what we have been living through and in the wake of challenges from St Paul a good deal more savage than even the sharpest words from Primates or Councils: ‘Why? Because we do not love you? God knows we do.’
And there it is, folks. I told you why he was here - to remind the bishops of their fraternity oaths and obligations reaffirmed back at Lambeth in 2008. Yes, coated with "love" but not matter what the coating is, it's plain.

There are about a dozen resolutions dealing with GLBT issues before the convention. The two that concern Rowan are B012 and D043 both of which would authorize blessings of same-gender unions. That is unacceptable to the bigots who have left TEC and those who run other anglicanisk churches.

Why is Rowan so concerned about TEC moving forward with equal rites, rights, and justice which might anger the oppressors who have left the communion, anyway? He's bloody daft, 'e is.

I don't believe Rowan came to listen and observe and I've said so ever since I learned he was going to attend GC09.

UPDATE: Elizabeth Keaton has the complete text of ++Rowan's remarks here.

"The Chruch of Tomorrow has come and today we should welcome it"

I told you that B012 might be the hot button at the convention but, so far, there has been virtually no opposition to the resolution.

At the first discussion there were no speakers from the floor who opposed the resolution. Instead, there were a string of people who told their own stories in support of same-gender marriage blessings.

The debate over homosexuality is hurting the church. Not the debate or the condition/activity, but the double talk that TEC is spouting - "The Episcopal Church welcomes everyone. Well, actually, well, you see, it's like this, well, you can attend but you can't have full access to all the sacraments of the church."

Bishop Shaw (Mass) stated that in his diocese Episcopalian high school students told him they would not invite friend to a church that did not welcome everyone in deed, not just in words.

A member of the youth delegation stated “in some places the church of tomorrow has come today and we should welcome it.

Two other youth delegates agreed.
Lucky Middaugh of Western Michigan and Elizabeth Anderson of Michigan, both representing Province V, spoke in favor of the measure. Middaugh said that the biblical prophets didn't understand homosexuality. "I do not believe God addressed this issue," he said. Anderson said it was "critical" to develop same-sex rites as a matter of justice.
Thank God for the youth of this church! I think that should be the theme of TEC. What I have decided is that the youth of our church understand the church and our future far better than we "oldies" do.

A priest from Connecticut, Janie Donohue, told the committee that most of her friends and family are not Christian. However, when same-gender marriage became legal there, those friends came to her to have their marriages celebrated. Donohue said that she found it difficult to explain the canons of the church which forbid her to do so, but at the same time, convey to her friends that such action is not a rejection by God.

She went on to submit that people who leave TEC because they believe TEC is too liberal do not actually leave the church. Instead, they find a church that espouses "conservative evangelical" theology.

But people who do not believe they are not accepted by this church actually leave the church -- completely leave. Her point is absolutely valid. No one stays where they feel unwelcome. (Run, do not walk, to The Wounded Bird for a confirmation of this very point. Tip of the biretta to IT.)

By the end of the hearing no one had spoken against B012, so one of the committee members, the Rev'd Robert Hennagen of Southwest Florida felt he must rehearse the same arguments against inclusion. "I want to say some things that [other people] would like to have said." Well, where were the other people? If this resolution is so odious, why weren't they therir to express their opinion?

Hannagen then quickly covered the same clobber saying "they were well known." He pointed out that just because something is legal doesn't mean that it is always right, and that the Episcopal Church has never officially said anything about whether a same-gender union is an appropriate model of Christian marriage.

I agree, just because divorce is legal doesn't make it right. And the Church has for nearly 2,000 years said divorce is not an appropriate model for Christians. There are scores of examples of inappropriate models of Christian marriage. On that ground, I would say that at least half of the House of Bishops are in marriages that are inappropriate models of Christian marriage. But no one is objecting to those unions.Why is it that same gender-marriage is the only one people want to legislate against both civilly and ecclesiastically?

The interesting part of B012 is that it isn't a Hail Mary pass or even an end run on the canons of the church. The resolution is a temporary response to a very real situation. It has four aspects
  1. It would eliminate a two class membership in TEC and create one uniform standard for all members
  2. It would adapt resources already available in the BCP and clergy will not make up their own liturgies
  3. It would create accountability through the exercise of the ordinary's guidance/direction
  4. It would allow data to be gathered for the use of the whole church.
There should be a fifth aspect: It will eradicate the “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” duplicity

Is the issue of same-gender marriage settled? Is it a done deal? Is the painful debate over no matter how one feels about the issue? Absolutely not.

But, the reality is that same-gender marriage is coming - that is the plain truth. How TEC responds now will chart the course for the future of TEC. Are we the church what exhibits God's love, or are we going to be a church of hypocrites?

I believe for the vast majority of TEC, the talk is over and we are ready to be that Church of God's love. Will it be painful? You bet it will, but dong the right thing is usually not an easy thing. But Jesus said he didn't call us to an easy life. He told us to pick up our cross and follow him. That we would be reviled for following his commandments
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."(John 13:34-35).
The cross of justice is not easy or soft. But it is what we are called to carry. We can do no less if we bear his name.

Yes, the the church of tomorrow has come today and we should embrace it - It does not requite a change of mind: it requires a change of heart.

For another blogger's take on the discussion, check out Fr. Jason Cox post at Bloggers on the Ground.

There is a resolution fr the House of Deputies, D043 that you should read. I touched on it here and IT posted the text of the resolution at Friends of Jake. The full "official" text of Designation of Inquiring and Discerning Parishes for the Blessing of Same Sex Unions is here.

Christian Holiness and Human Sexuality study guide released to little fanfaire

In a related matter, the Chicago Consultation has released their report Christian Holiness and Human Sexuality a study guide for parishes struggling with sexuality issues. It is available in PDF format here. It has been received with very little noise.
  • Chapter One: Scripture and Marriage - A. Katherine Grieb
  • Chapter Two: Scripture: Sexuality and Sexual Orientation - Wil Gafney
  • Chapter Three: Arguments from Tradition- Marilyn McCord Adams
  • Chapter Four: Ethics and Moral Theology - Ellen K. Wondra
  • Chapter Five: Ritual Considerations in Same-Sex Marriage - Louis Weilasdf
The document is a good read and will be helpful in understanding B012 and D043, both dealing with same-gender marriages in the church.

D043 says, in part
Resolved, That under the direction of their bishop or ecclesiastical authority, and consent of the priest in charge and vestry, parishes may be designated as Inquiring and Discernment Parishes where the blessing of unions of two consenting adults will be permitted with the same level of care, commitment, and integrity expected in Holy Matrimony, but not currently permitted under the rubrics of Holy Matrimony; and be it further
In the explanation we find this wonderful statement "Jesus calls us to be peacemakers, not to be right."

For my money, I think B012 has a better chance of prevailing simply because it deals with the states where same-gender marriage is a reality. It's easier to deal with a reality than it is to deal with the "likelihood" of what is coming. Well, not easier, but easier to explain back home. Additionally, there are many bishops who are outright belligerent toward the House of Deputies seeing that house as inferior and the House of Bishops as the Holy Apostles. Any legislation that comes from the "lower house" will be unacceptable to those prince-bishops.

As for the House of Deputies, I think they would support B012 because it is good and also, the deputies have a history of sort of acquiescing to the bishops.

The Consultation held a reception that was quite well attended according to Episcopal Cafe and several primates were in attendance at the event.

For the text of D043, visit Friends of Jake where IT has posted the text and the explanation.

08 July 2009

The Presiding Bishop's Opening Address

This is not a news service, but I feel strongly "led" to post the full text of the presiding bishop's opening address. It has been demonized by the schismatics, of course, but it is very, very powerful.
    Greetings to all the dioceses; visitors, ecumenical and interfaith from around AC. We give thanks to the diocese of Los Angeles for hospitality, and to the many volunteers. It is already a great convention.

    The decision-making we face here is an opportunity to choose the direction of our journey into God's mission. Will we turn our faces toward Jerusalem, or will we wander back out into the desert? How will we engage God's reconciling mission - in sharing the good news, healing the world, and caring for all of God's creation? How will we discover anew that we ARE in relationship with all that God has created, and that we're meant to be stewards of the whole?

    Lane Denson reminded us recently that stewards are wardens of the styes - keepers of the pigpens. We're beginning to notice that our global garden increasingly resembles an odorous sty. But it's not pigs who are the problem - pigs are neat and tidy if they have enough space. The problem is with their keepers, who see the pigs only as bacon and ham producing machines, rather than part of God's good creation and therefore deserving of appropriate respect.

    The crisis of this moment has several parts, and like Episcopalians, particularly ones in Mississippi, they're all related. The overarching connection in all of these crises has to do with the great Western heresy - that we can be saved as individuals, that any of use alone can be in right relationship with God. It's caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus. That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of all being.

    That heresy is one reason for the theme of this Convention. Ubuntu. That word doesn't have any "I"s in it. The I only emerges as we connect - and that is really what the word means: I am because we are, and I can only become a whole person in relationship with others. There is no "I" without "you," and in our context, you and I are known only as we reflect the image of the one who created us. Some of you will hear a resonance with Martin Buber's I and Thou and recognize a harmony. You will not be wrong.

    I said that this crisis has several elements related to that heretical and individualistic understanding. We've touched on one - how we keep the earth, meant to be a gift to all God's creatures. The financial condition of the nations right now is another element. The sins of a few have wreaked havoc with the lives of many, as greed and dishonesty have destroyed livelihoods, educational possibilities, care for the aged, and multiple forms of creativity - and that's just the aftermath of Ponzi schemes for which a handful will go to jail. If we want to be faithful, we need to be continually rediscovering that my needs are not the only significant ones. Living in Ubuntu implies that selfishness and self-centeredness cannot long survive. We are our siblings' keepers and their knowers, and we cannot be known without them - we have no meaning, no true existence in isolation. We shall indeed die as we forget or ignore that reality.

    There is another related element to this crisis, the one that has to do with the particular means and purpose of our gathering. How do we keep the main thing the main thing? How will we insist that this Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society remember that God's mission is our reason for existence, and that it has most to do with loving our neighbors? The structures of this church are resources for God's mission, but they are not God's mission in themselves, and if we get that mixed up, we will have turned our face toward the date palms of Jericho rather than Jerusalem.

    The temptation for us here will be to see one small part of God's mission, the part each one of use holds most dear, as the overarching reason for this church's existence. The reality is that God's mission will continue, whatever we do here, but it may not advance as effectively or penetrate as widely in the next few years if we get selfish or miss the mark. There are aspects of mission that are more appropriate and effective at the congregational and diocesan level. This church as a whole shouldn't be running, for example, Camp East of Eden for kids from all over the church, but it could provide some liaison and connecting gifts, and share some best practices for camping ministry. Much of that work is already being done by Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers, and the job of the whole church in that response is thus mostly about making connections.

    Some of the ecumenists in here will twitch at this word, but we should be in the business of subsidiarity - the church as a whole should not be doing mission work that can be done better at a more local level. The budget and the resolutions we will debate here should be about those things that affect the whole of this Church, and the vision of a renewed creation for all of God's handiwork. We should leave smaller things and more local issues to more local parts of the Church. We might also consider putting in that category the big picture issues we can't yet agree on - the ones for which we have many, more local, and varied understandings, recognizing the different contexts may require different responses.

    Jesus' critical decision to journey toward Jerusalem is about the city of God's dream, Yerushalayim, the city of peace, the city of shalom, the city of God's holy mountain, toward which the nations stream. We Christians often think the only important part of the Jerusalem story is Calvary, and, yes, suffering and killing in that place still seem to be the loudest news. But Calvary was a waypoint in the larger arc of God's dream - it's on the way to Jerusalem, it is not in Jerusalem. Jesus' passion was and is for God's dream of a reconciled creation. We're meant to be partners in building that reality, throughout all of creation. This crisis is a decision point, one which may involve suffering, but it is our opportunity to choose which direction we'll go and what we will build. We will fail if we choose business as usual. There will be cross-shaped decisions in our work, but if we look faithfully, there will be resurrection as well.

    Will the words we use in the coming days reflect the word of God incarnate in our midst? Will our words imitate God's effective word, speaking shalom to creation? That's our decision, individually and collectively - that is our opportunity to live Ubuntu. This is our moment of judgment, our crisis. We can make our decisions in hope, and we can speak the love of God to the world through this Church, and we can do it together.
The italicized portion is the part the schismatics focus upon. What she is not saying is, "we cannot be made right with God personally." What she is saying is, in my opinion, that we cannot be made right with God simply by reciting the correct formula or signing on the dotted line to a particular doctrinal position. That position would be consistent with the Roman and Orthodox churches which teach salvation involves God, the individual, and the church. "Salvation" is not a solitary, individualistic act.

Convention daily issues first issue

The Convention Daily has released its first issue for the 2009 convention. You really need to read it and it is in PDF here.

Are the AC primates beginning to get the picture?

One of our "gripes" throughout out the past six years is that the AC primates simply do not understand the polity of The Episcopal Church.

In a very smart move, the primates were invited to be observers at GC09 and fifteen primates accepted the invitation.This is the largest group of primates to ever attend a General Convention of The Episcopal Church. Here are a few noteworthy comments:

From The Most Rev'd Albert Chama, Northern Zambia
The governance of the Episcopal Church clearly shows that the bishops are not the sole deciders and that the House of Deputies has the upper hand. This is very different polity to elsewhere in the Anglican Communion.

... Tensions concerning human sexuality could be calmer if we knew more about the Episcopal Church's polity.

Archbishop Henri Isingoma, newly elected primate of the Anglican Church of the Congo, said

Sometimes we pick up on a final stage and don't understand the process.

The Most Rev. Idris Jones, former primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, said:

In terms of participation and democratization is this not the model the communion needs? Well, only if you've got an educated electorate.
++Jones comment is my favourite because it speaks to the heart of the matter - an educated group of people making decisions instead of a group of bible thumping men with far too much power who intend to keep and wield that power.

UPDATE: Reports are filtering out from the meeting between the leaders of the House of Deputies and the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev'd Rowan Williams.

According to The Lead he made one statement that speaks volumes about why the communion is in he state it is in:
Williams told the group that Episcopalians had to be aware that in some parts of the Communion, “bishops only want to hear from other bishops.
This is the problem in a nutshell. Prince-bishops only want to deal with other prince-bishops. They are too high and mighty, and full of themselves, to deal with the laity who are not capable of understanding scripture, tradition, or reason.

For 220 years or so TEC has been governed by a bicameral system which, like the British parliament, places the real power in the "lower house" and limits the interference of the "upper house."

I do not believe that there is a bishop in the AC who does not understand our polity - completely. When they say they do not, they are being disingenuous. As one of the eldest members of the communion, our polity is well known.

But some foreign prince bishops, and we know who they are, choose to ignore our polity because doing so suits their own selfish goals of power. By doing so they dismiss us as impudent colonials. William's statement today proves that opinion.

What HM The Queen actually said to the schismatics

Finally, the full text of the letter from The Queen's correspondence officer has been released. Please note that the letter is not from Her Majesty, but, rather, from the senior correspondence officer.

Dear Mr Perkin,

The Queen has asked me to thank you for your letter of 7th August, and I apologise for the delay in replying. Due to the high volume of mail received in recent weeks, correspondence has been dealt with in strict date order.

Her Majesty has noted the content of your letter and understands the commitment to the Anglican Church that prompted you and your brethren to write as you did.

I should explain however that the Queen, as Supreme Governor of the Church of England would not intervene in the day-to-day running of the Church of England. Although you have already sent a copy of your letter to him, I have, nevertheless, been directed to forward your letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury so that he may be aware of your approach to Her Majesty from this office.

Yours sincerely

Mrs Sonia Bonici

Senior Correspondence Officer.

Now, let's note what the letter did not say. It did not give the support to the schismatics in the COE that they claim it did. It merely stated that Her Majesty understands their concern. And, note what it did say: Her Majesty will not get involved and that the letter from the schismatics has been forwarded to the Archbishop of Canterbury. And, note the rebuke - The Queen wishes the schismatics to know that she has informed the ABC that they have attempted to circumvent the accepted process by going over his head. To use a good southern saying, The Queen told them, "you're barking up the wrong tree."

In response to the second plea for help sent to Her Majesty, this reply was received
The Queen was grateful for the assurance of your prayers and appreciated your message of loyalty. In return, I am to convey Her Majesty’s good wishes to all concerned for a successful and memorable event.
It is very important to note that the two letters from Her Majesty were received one year apart. All that is a far cry from the support they claim Her Majesty has given the schismatic movement. But, all we ever hear from the schismatics is "poor us" and falsehood.

As an UPDATE, it is reported that Her Majesty is not amused that her words have been twisted into support for the schism. The Telegraph has all the glorious details.

07 July 2009

Watch GC09 Live

For the first time, people anywhere can follow the General Convention of The Episcopal Church on the Media Hub website. You may also view "on demand" as the broadcasts will be archived.

According to Mike Collins, director of digital media,
The Media Hub is a pioneering way to keep track of all the actions, discussions, and ministry that happens at General Convention. It’s a way of connecting that just hasn’t been done before.

This is the first time people in the pews can follow along from home or work,” Collins said. “It's all on the Media Hub.
What can viewers expect from the Media Hub? According to the developers:
  • Full multimedia coverage of The Episcopal Church's 76th General Convention.
  • Live video streams plus video on demand.
  • Available in English with select programs in Spanish.
  • Following General Convention on Twitter at @gcmediahub09. Tweeting about GC? Hash: #gc09.
  • News stream, daily calendar, legislative tracker, live chat, flickr feed and more!
The Media Hub is sharable and the content can be embedded with partners, blogs, news outlets and friends

According to Collins,
Having produced coverage from previous General Conventions and last summer’s Lambeth Conference, I saw that people were going to multiple web sites for information.

We wanted to create something that had everything we could think of that someone else might use to follow along.

We're providing a lot of coverage in real time. That's legislation, forums, hearings...we aren't editing. This is live as it happens.
The Media Hub concept was developed by Collins, and the Episcopal Church web development team built the site: senior web developer Wesley Bliss, developer Gregory McQuillan and designer/front end developer Chris Clement.

This is truly and exciting addition to the convention.

Another victory for marriage equality

At 12.01 a.m. Tudesday, 7 July, 2009, Same-gender marriages performed in other states and countries became legal in the District of Columbia when Congress completed its 30 legislative day review of a marriage recognition law passed by the D.C. City Council in May.

Civil Rights supporters hailed this latest development as an historic landmark for same-sex couples throughout the country as it opens the way for the Council to pass a separate law later this year allowing same-sex marriages to be performed in the District of Columbia.

According to Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry,
I think there’s tremendous significance and opportunity in Americans seeing legally married gay couples treated with respect in our nation’s capital.
The measure that took effect Tuesday, the Jury and Marriage Amendment Act of 2009, immediately provides the city’s same-sex couples married in other jurisdictions with more than 200 rights, benefits, and obligations associated with marriage under D.C. law.

Conservatives in Congress are expected to introduce a bill to nulify this decision. But Wolfson is midly optimistic that justice will prevail.
One thing people really need to understand is that while we want to continue the advance in the District and other places, it’s only going to happen if we really build public support.
Read more here.

B012 - the one to watch?

The Rt. Rev'd Stephen T. Lane (Maine) has proposed a resolution from the House of bishops.

Titled Pastoral Generosity in Addressing Civil Marriage the text reads:

Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That this 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church acknowledge the pastoral concerns facing those dioceses in states where the civil marriage of same gender couples is legal; and be it further

Resolved, That in those dioceses, under the direction of the bishop, generous discretion is extended to clergy in the exercise of their pastoral ministry in order to permit the adaptation of the Pastoral Offices for The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage and The Blessing of a Civil Marriage for use with all couples who seek the church's support and God's blessing in their marriages; and be it further

Resolved, That in order to build a body of experience for the benefit of the church, each bishop in those dioceses where this pastoral practice is exercised provide an annual written report on their experience to the House of Bishops each March and to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music for its report to the 77th General Convention.

This could be the most hotly debated resolution of the convention. The resolution is explained this way:
There are now six states (Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont) where the civil marriage of same gender couples is legal, and other states may follow in the coming triennium. This has created unique pastoral challenges for The Episcopal Church because the definition of marriage held by these states and the language used in the Canons and the Book of Common Prayer of The Episcopal Church is not the same. In all six states, faithful Episcopalians are asking that their church provide the pastoral support and blessing of the church for their marriages*. Clergy in those same states are caught between the authority given them by the state and the discipline of The Episcopal Church as it's currently described. The rubrics of the BCP require that "marriage conform both to the laws of the state and the canons of the Church (BCP, 422).

This situation requires a generous and flexible response that offers clergy the ability to make appropriate pastoral decisions in consultation with the bishop and their members. There may be many clergy and congregations that have no desire to participate in the blessing of a civil marriage. But in those places where there is such a will, the freedom to explore that option is vital.

The Book of Common Prayer makes provision for special devotions that may be used when services in the Prayerbook do not address the needs of the congregation (BCP, 13). Such devotions are subject to the direction of the bishop.

There is also a need for the Church to hear the experience of those dioceses and congregations where good faith efforts are being made to respond to the pastoral needs of faithful same sex couples. This resolution would create annual reporting to the House of Bishops, with a summary report to be made to the 77th General Convention.

While this resolution addresses the special circumstances in states with full marriage equality, there is also a need to support other efforts to provide pastoral care (including blessings) to same sex couples in all dioceses of The Episcopal Church. [Emphasis added]
Keeping in mind that the clergy officiated marriage is actually two separate acts (state civil union and sacrament), there are only two logical choices for GC:
  1. Forbid clergy to officiate at all civil unions
  2. Allow clergy to officiate at all civil unions
Presuming that this resolution actually sees the light of the convention floor, this could be the hot button. But, to paraphrase the late Carl Malden, "What will they do?" I think it's safe to bet the farm that they won't do either of the above.

In a related matter, the Diocese of Niagra has given permission for the blessing of same-gender unions. Their theological reasoning is found here and it is well worth reading. The actually rite of blessing is found here.

* Actually, it is every diocese in TEC, not just the six herein named.

06 July 2009

Cpt. Pecock, are you free?

Mollie Sugden "Mrs. Slocombe"

Thanks for the laughs, Mollie,
and God's speed for your journey.

How to tell what resoution came from where

I am a "lifer" in TEC and I'm pretty knowledgeable about things Episcopal; however, I learned something today that I want to pass on to TTLS readers.

From the Integrity Known General Convention Resolution page:
The are 5 types of General Convention resolutions...
  • "A" resolutions from interim bodies--which are included in the "Blue Book" published before General Convention
  • "B" resolutions from bishops
  • "C" resolutions from diocesan conventions or provincial synods
  • "D" resolutions from deputies
  • "M" resolutions from diocesan conventions that "memorialize"--or express an opinion--on an issue to General Convention.
Resolutions are given 4-digit codes in the order they are received the General Convention Secretariat. Resolutions numbers with ### have not yet been assigned official numbers by the General Convention Office. Each resolution is assigned to a committee of General Convention and one of the houses. Resolutions type A thru D are actionable. Type M resolutions are for information only.
I did not understand the resolution numbering system until today.

The GC has an excellent site on the resolutions.
The list of resolutions can be narrowed down to focus on a particular Committee, House of Initiating Action, Legislative Source, or Topic. Check it out here.

As I learn more great GC09 sites, I'll post them on the sidebard "Following General Convention 2009":

05 July 2009

Trinity IV

Proper 9, Year B

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 and Psalm 48; or Ezekiel 2:1-5 and Psalm 123; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13
    Introit: Here, O Lord, my voice with which I have cried to thee: Be thoug my helper, forsake me not, nor do thou despise me, O God, my Saviour. Ps. The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?
“If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”

Today’s gospel reading describes Jesus going to the temple to pray on the Sabbath. He stands up and begins to read the words of Isaiah, and before you know it, his people are whispering and questioning not only his authority but also his wisdom.

He does not argue with them but instead makes a statement that we can all identify with. Those closest to us are usually the ones who have the most difficulty seeing beyond our person, our relationships, or our status; it is those who barely know us who tend to be struck by what they hear or see in us. Sometimes those closest to us can only see the box they have painted us into, while those who see only what they actually see in that moment see so much more – they are able to see God’s power working in us and through us.

Our lives are filled with people telling us what we should think and who we should listen to. In many cases we are misled by individuals who cannot wait to tell us about their own importance. They would have us believe that humility is a sign of weakness, and weakness is not usually something we strive toward.

Strength, on the other hand, is associated with power, and power is not only desired but sought after in this world of ours. There is power in our ability to pay our mortgage or rent, to pay our utility bills and buy groceries. There is power in the language we speak as we communicate our thoughts and ideas to others.

Power might also be perceived in the boastful claims of those who would say that only they have insight into what God intends in our lives. And sometimes power can distort our vision and convince us that we know best who exercises power most profitably and for the best end.

The gospel subverts power and challenges those perceptions. The power that God gave to Jesus was invisible to his own people. And yet, Jesus did not become boastful and lay out for them all the miracles he had performed. Instead, he shook the dust off of his feet and moved on.

Here are some key characteristics of Jesus’ ministryL

  • He kept it simple, being fully dependent on God to provide.
  • He survived on goodwill, not expecting to be recognized and not profiting from his efforts.
  • He showed humility.
  • He disassociated from rejection.

In our gospel reading today, Jesus was not looking for attention. He was simply observing the Sabbath in the tradition of his hometown. He was not healing the great multitudes as he had been; he only laid his hands on a few, curing them. And he was amazed at their lack of belief. He made a very powerful statement, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometowns.”

Paul experienced a similar reaction from the people in Corinth. He became aware that they were not only questioning his leadership but also his motives. Paul does not shy away from their charge, but meets it head on, questioning his own motives and leadership publicly in this very straight-forward and transparent letter. He admits that he has been weak, but he points out that there is power in weakness and improving the work of a disciple of Christ.

In both cases the communities remain unwilling to receive anything Jesus or Paul might offer. The communities are so busy judging the package that they miss the most essential part, that which could bring them closer to God.

Paul tells us that he was given a thorn in his side to keep him from being too elated or too boastful. He explains that this thorn keeps him from claiming the gifts of the Holy Spirit as his own creation or making him seem too important.

Have you ever had a thorn? You can’t ignore it. It is always there until it works itself out or until you take it out. In Paul’s life, a thorn kept him humble. Whatever your thorn is, maybe it is a gift that keeps you humble and opens up a space where God’s power can shine through.

Power, God’s power, is seen through our humility when boastfulness has not filled up the space. When God’s power is allowed to shine through us, all can see and experience it. We know those moments. We have experienced them in our lives. Humility is the secret ingredient in this wonderful recipe of living as our Creator intended. It is that simple.

It is a radical idea to see humility as the source of true strength and power. This kind of strength and power is exemplified in the person and life of Christ, and it gives us a new perspective on how we might envision ourselves and our ministry in the church.

This week the Episcopal Church’s seventy-sixth General Convention begins in Anaheim, California. We will have another opportunity to see God at work in the world. We will have many opportunities to hear about how God has transformed people, communities, and the church through simple acts of humility and compassion. We might even see God in action in our lives as the assembly focuses on the mission of the church.

And there will be equal opportunities for boastfulness and for those with agendas seeking power, not for the good of the whole but for a few.

We will also have opportunities to serve God in and through each other. We will consider our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals with a focus on poverty, and just as importantly, we will consider our commitment to alleviating the poverty right here in our own neighborhoods, our own communities, counties, and states.

For this important work, let us pray that the voices bringing forth the work of God will be heard at General Convention and will be supported so that they will not find themselves dusting the sand off their feet as a testimony to our lack of belief or our fear of the power that comes from God.

Here is a Franciscan Benediction to keep in mind as we strive to end domestic poverty.

    May God bless us with discomfort
    so that we may live deep within our hearts.

    May God bless us with anger
    so that we may work for economic justice for all people.

    May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer
    so that we may reach out our hand to comfort them

    And may God bless us with enough foolishness
    so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.

-- The Rev. Debbie Royals is a regional missioner for Native Ministry Development, based in the Diocese of Los Angeles. She is the Province VIII Indigenous People's Network chair and a CREDO health faculty member. E-mail: debroyals@yahoo.com.