Monday, June 26, 2006

Lorne Coyle Reports to the Diocese of Central Florida

Report of the Central Florida Deputation to the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, June 12 -- 21, 2006, Columbus, Ohio, delivered by the Rev. Canon D. Lorne Coyle at the Cathedral of St. Luke, Orlando, Florida, on June 25, 2006, to the Diocese.

General Convention came up short.

The 75th General Convention came up short in responding to the requests of the Windsor Report. The Convention's responses were weak at best.

Yes, it did signal regret for "straining the bonds of affection within the Communion" by the consecration of V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. But Windsor asked it to regret "breaching", not "straining". It's as if I were to hurt my wife, Jane, and then, when she told me how I had hurt her, I said, "well, I'm sorry...but I didn't really hurt you that much." Yes, the Convention did signal openness to developing an Anglican Covenant. But Windsor was looking for a genuine set of articles to which all its 38 provinces will subscribe. To that, General Convention commits no obedience. Windsor called for a moratorium on the blessing of same-sex unions. But General Convention didn't even reply to that. Windsor requested a moratorium on the consecration of actively gay priests as bishop. To that General Convention offered a mushy resolution offering to "exercise restraint" on the consecration of bishops whose "manner of life" might offend others. That resolution, which was rammed through both houses of General Convention without any regard for the rights of the minority, was denounced within hours by bishops on both sides of the aisle. I predict that resolution will be officially Dead On Arrival when the Diocese of Newark announces its list of candidates for bishop within the next week.

The Convention came up short as well with its choice of a new presiding bishop. Katharine Schori is a weak choice, not because of her gender but because of her Jesus. Within 24 hours of her election, she preached a sermon to the entire Convention in which she said, "Jesus, our mother." Now, understand that using feminine metaphorical language to describe the gentle love of Jesus is fine: Jesus himself did so as recorded in Luke's Gospel, "Jerusalem, often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings..." But that metaphor in no way gives any preacher license to describe Jesus as a female. Moreover, in her own diocese Bishop Schori caused this resolution to be passed, allowing same-sex blessings, "...the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada, desiring to support relationships of mutuality and fidelity which mediate the grace of God between persons for whom the celebration and blessing of marriage is not available, does hereby recognize that ceremonies to celebrate the relationships of such persons...may be conducted by clergy in the diocese..."

In short, the trajectory established in 2003 by the Episcopal Church remains unchanged. It comes far short of what the rest of the Anglican Communion understands, much less what the Gospel teaches.

While General Convention came up short, our Lord Jesus Christ never does. Neither will the parish I serve, Trinity in Vero Beach, nor will the diocese I serve, that of Central Florida. Just as the trajectory set by The Episcopal Church in 2003 continues unchanged, so the divergence of this diocese from that trajectory remains unchanged. This week I will ask our Vestry to pass a resolution detailing our full compliance with the Windsor Report and send copies of that to our Presiding Bishop, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network. We invite other parishes to do likewise. Our deputation will ask our Standing Committee and our Diocesan Board to pass similar resolutions. As the first member of the Anglican Communion Network, we will send four delegates to their conference in Pittsburgh at the end of July. And while we await the responses of the Primates of the Anglican Communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury to our Convention, we are planning for our own Special Convention on September 23 in Lakeland, Florida. We can do little to affect the Primates or the Archbishop or even the General Convention; we can do much to affect the course of this diocese and our parishes.

Remarkably, we had a great sense of peace in the midst of the chaos in Columbus. I attribute that to the grace of God. I do so because a priest whom I trust sent me a prophecy he received before we went to Columbus. I will read you part of it:

The Lord says, "don't worry. There is no need to ask where will I go and what will I do? It's already settled...The Lord has planned this from the beginning. This is not an accident...You will not fail in this endeavor...God is shaking the Church...and God is going to make the Church and Scripture come back together again. God is going to use you mightily: just be open, open to his direction. The Lord wants you to know that his peace will come upon you. You are going to be overshadowed with this unusual peace...and it is going t bring confidence to those around you...And you will not be afraid to stand up in the camp of the opposition and boldly proclaim the plan and the purposes and the heart of God concerning the issues that face [us]."

The Lord fulfilled his prophecy and gave us that peace and that boldness. We made a winsome witness to the Gospel of grace and love. I am profoundly honored to have served you and our Lord in this moment. I am terribly proud of our deputation, each of whom worked tirelessly during the Convention. Perhaps the greatest compliment was offered by another deputy: "Showing the greatest fortitude and leadership were the deputations from South Carolina, Fort Worth, and Central Florida." I am privileged to have served among giants.

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