Saturday, January 24, 2009

Day Two: Diocese of Virginia Annual Council

Russ Palmore is making a report on the litigation and it's no wonder that these dear folks have no idea what's going on. One would expect that at a diocesan council there would be the opportunity for questions, but he just made his report and sat down after a standing ovation. It would be difficult to open up negotiations - or even to talk about negotiations - after a presentation like that.
UPDATE: Again, one of the extraordinary faux pas of Russ Palmore's report to Council was his apparent loss of memory about the Standstill Agreement between the Diocese of Virginia and the CANA churches after the vote and filing of the 57-9 petitions with local courts. The Standstill Agreement still does not appear in the diocese's online documents and for some reason is consistently and constantly omitted from the diocese's public legal presentations to the laity and clergy of the Diocese of Virginia. Perhaps because it includes a piece of information that completely changes the justification for filing lawsuits against nearly two hundred lay volunteers and their rectors after the Diocese inexplicably called off the Standstill and walked away from the negotiating table, the next step in the protocol process instituted by the Bishop of Virginia's own Special Committee.

Here is an excerpt from the Standstill Agreement (2b) (dated Dec. 18, 2006):
2 The Congregations ...

b. will not initiate any civil legal action against The Diocese/TEC, but may report their congregations determinations by filing a petition/report with the relevant VA Circuit Courts pursuant to Va. Code 57-9 without violating the agreement. The congregations' Va. Code 57-9 filings will state that notice has been provided to The Diocese/TEC. The congregations will not take any further steps to bring the Va. Code 57-9 filings to judgment. Upon the Diocese's request, the congregations will seek a stay of their Va. Code 57-9 filings. If the Diocese seeks to intervene in the Va Code 57-9 filings, the congregations will not oppose such intervention and upon the Diocese's request will jointly with the Diocese move to stay the filings. In not opposing the intervention, the congregation of course reserve the right to contest the Diocese/TEC's alleged interest in the property.
Read the entire Standstill Agreement here.

This was where the CANA Congregations stood when the Diocese of Virginia, followed shortly be a completely separate filing by Katharine Jefferts Schori (perhaps just in case the diocese did not take her warnings seriously). Why Russ Palmore forgot to mention this rather crucial part of the timeline when making his report to Annual Council in front of 700 delegates is, well, odd.

You decide. Of course, Council did go ahead and unanimously pass a 2009 budget that included a line item that authorizes taking out a $4 million "line of credit" to finance the diocese's litigation, even as it cuts staff and programs and will retire their bishop early to balance the budget.

Alas.
After the litigation report from Russ Palmore (who actually wrote the Protocol, by the way), we heard a report on the building of a chapel at the Roslyn Conference Center in Richmond and named in honor of Bishop Lee. The chapel plans are beautiful and when built, the chapel will sit on a hill at the Roslyn Conference Center like a beacon of glass. At the end of the presentation, Bishop Lee received another standing ovation as did his wife during Bishop Jones' report that followed. Surely an era is coming to an end, in more ways than we ever could have imagined.

Bishop David Jones is now giving his report, which included a short update on his activities with the "continuing" diocese in Pittsburgh that is being fashioned around old-friend around here at the Cafe, Jim Simons.

He's making the pitch for more financial support and not only that, but that the parishes should give a percentage right off the top to the diocese. How interesting that the Suffragan is giving the money talk. Why is the bishop doing the money talk? And he's using the rationale that the people here need to give the next bishop "the tools he needs" to do stuff.

Okay, here's the rewritten resolution by the Resolutions Committee proposed resolution affirming the "integrity" of what they are calling "committing relationships" which, of course, means - same sex partners living together.

R-1a - The are now discussing R-1a called Involvement in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America and the Anglican Communion

The resolved includes affirmation of being in the Anglican Communion, as well as to affirm "pastoral care" for everyone (which is code words).

They are now discussing including recommending ssu liturgies at General Convention as an added resolve.

Church of the Messiah Fredericksburg and St. Matthew's Richmond, and a church in Stafford have risen to oppose the amendment since it doesn't have anything to do with the rest of the title of the resolution. Now a member of the Commission has also risen in opposition.

The Amendment FAILS.

Church in Aldie rises to strike final resolve that was added by amendment.

10:30 a.m. Russ Randle asks to table the amendment and vote is taken and a count is now underway.

Kate Chipps does not understand what is going on and so the Chancellor has taken the podium to explain what they are doing.

The motion to table the amendment is passed.

10:37 R-2 Comprehensive Marriage Ministry Strengthens Congregational Vitality is referred to the Executive Board.

You can follow along with the original resolutions here. There have been some changes and we'll try to give you what those changes are as we go along. We're watching in particular R4a (the text is below).

R3-a Advocate for the Poor in 2010 Budget Hearings and Strive to Protect the Poor from Disproportionate Suffering is now on the floor and is being discussed with an amendment. It has also been modified by the resolutions committee. The final resolve now reads that parishes should work with the Virginia Interfaith Center which is interesting.

Amendment is passed.

10:46 a.m. Another amendment is proposed by Holy Cross, Dunn Loring. This amendment wants Bishop Lee to appoint a Task Force to lobby the Commonwealth of Virginia.

I wonder where they'd get the money to finance a Task Force and lobby the Commonwealth government?

Very interesting, Patrick Getlein has taken the podium to explain what the Interfaith Center for Public Policy is as a lobbying center. This is also the group that has gathered together regarding providing support for the diocese's litigation against the Virginia congregations that have voted to separate.

The amendment failed! Fascinating.

10:57 Discussion now begins on R-4a:

R-4a Integrity of Committing Relationships
RESOLVED, that the Diocese of Virginia recognizes our responsibility to respond to the pastoral needs of our faithful gay and lesbian members in a spirit of love, compassion and respect, and in doing so seek to fulfill our baptismal commitment to respect the dignity of every human being; and be it further

RESOLVED, that accordingly the 214th Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia affirms the inherent integrity [and blessedness] of committed Christian relationships between two adult persons, when those relationships are "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." (Resolution 2000-D039 of the 73rd General Convention of the Episcopal Church).

Endorsed by:
Region V
The Vestry of St. Anne's Episcopal Church, Reston
The Vestry of the Church of the Holy Comforter, Richmond
The Vestry of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Richmond

A new "Whereas" is proposed and has been taken by the chair. A delegate has risen opposing the amendment that its content is beyond the competence of the council to make an judgement. The amendment fails.

St. Anne's Reston - thanks the committee. Is thankful that this resolution changes the diocesan policy on intimate relationships. Wants to propose another amendment in the second resolve second sentence "and blessedness" - integrity alone is insufficient. So it would read:
RESOLVED, that accordingly the 214th Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia affirms the inherent integrity of and blessedness of committed Christian relationships ...
Russ Randle rises to oppose the amendment. He says he will support this whole resolution, but not this amendment. Says this will adversely affect mission relationships with the Sudan.

Another Delegate has raised the issue that the second resolve is out of order and opposes the amendment.

Lauren Stanley supports "blessedness" - that "holy love" and "blessedness" goes together. She says that this will not be a problem for the Sudan. She said that the people don't care.

Front Royal supports the amendment on blessedness.

Another delegate said we should judge no one and embrace everyone. She opposes it because it signals out a particular group for blessedness and not everyone.

St. Anne's Reston is in favor of the amendment.

Vote: They are taking count. "Blessedness" has a particular sacramental meaning and this word will emphatically change the Diocese of Virginia's stance on same sex "blessings."

11:14 a.m. While the tellers count the bishop is introducing his staff, who get a standing ovation. Bishop Lee is introducing other folks as well as we await the outcome of the vote on including the word "blessedness" into the proposed resolution.

A call for the resolution to be tabled has just been requested from the floor but was ruled out of order by Bishop Lee.

We are told that the vote is very close.

VOTE: 211-206 - the amendment passes to add the word "blessedness." BB NOTE: This is one major example where five or six people make a difference.

The call is again made to table the resolution.

The table fails - about 1/5 or even 1/7 voted to table.

An attempt is now made to refer this resolution to the Windsor Dialogue Commission.

St. Anne's Reston back at the mic to oppose the referring of this resolution to the commission.

11:23 a.m. St. Michael's Arlington also opposes referring the resolution to the commission.

Susan Eaves, chair of the Commission, is confused - she is clarifying that the commission is finished its work. It doesn't exist any more. Is also confused also over people not wanting to talk about these issues. She says that all the decisions reside with the bishop.

Caroline Parkinson - opposes the referral because so much is referred.

Roger from Church of the Spirit - Speaks about Bishop Lee's affirmation of what is the diocesan policy on relationships and marriages, and asks a question to Bishop Lee.

Bishop Lee says he stands by what he said in the past and the council has its own voice. Bishop Lee would not permit Roger to ask a follow up.

Another delegate said the vote revealed that there is no consensus and that they need more conversation.

St. Paul's Memorial Charlottesville - This is an issue that can't be solved by talking about it. He says that the "rights" need to be extended to gays and lesbians.

St. Paul's Bailey Crossroads - calls the question, says this is just another way to table.

Now a vote on the motion to defer.

11:30 a.m. The motion to refer fails.

St. Dunstan's McLean - concerns are that it seems like a small appeasement or something small we're giving to gays and lesbians in the diocese. WANTS a larger context about what is sacred in relationships and not half-based. He has concerns about the second resolve "two adult persons" does this include a man and woman living together? Seniors living together? What is a covenant relationship in the Anglican Communion? He wants to see a resolution with theological depth.

Another Delegate is opposed to the resolution and requests the second resolve be removed, but supports the first resolve. He has served on the Windsor Dialogue Commission.

Discussion is now underway to remove second resolve.

11:33 a.m. Aquia Church Stafford - He asks whether we are doing this as a church? Only the last speaker talked about Holy Scripture. Before we get into the whole complex issue of sexuality, we need a comprehensive view of theology - can't move into "blessedness" without the underpinnings of theology. Excellent points, excellent.

St. Michael's Arlington is against the amendment to strike the second resolve.

Rector St. Paul's Bailey's Crossroads - says that Set Our Hope on Christ is the theology. Why has our church paid so little attention to it?

Another member of St. Paul's Bailey's Crossroads - also speaks out against the amendment, says it's time to take those steps that it's integrity and blessed. Let's just take a step and do it!

All Soul's Mechanicsville - opposes amendment because it affects those who are living together and go to Episcopal Churches and take communion and we're all ready affirming those relationships of men and women living together without marriage by not talking about it.

Roger from Church of the Spirit, Alexandria: Question on D039 does not include the theology of committed relationships have integrity - that's a new thing, that's a new theology, that is not a spirit of D039 and as someone has been listening for twenty years since the diocese has been doing the listening thing for a while - we're going to have this as new theology while quiets the voices of those who don't agree. How will they be listened to because council has spoken and we've created something new here. Words have meaning, if it is a will of council to do something new then do it, but don't say it's in the spirit of D039.

Bishop Lee is now lining everyone up behind two mics representing the two sides. Debate continues over whether to remove the second resolve. That resolve reads:

RESOLVED, that accordingly the 214th Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia affirms the inherent integrity [AND BLESSEDNESS) of committed Christian relationships between two adult persons, when those relationships are "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." (Resolution 2000-D039 of the 73rd General Convention of the Episcopal Church).

The debate continues.

Church of Our Savior Charlottesville - Look at the words, he can envision relationship between two adults same sex or different sex and can envision one of those individuals being married to someone else. Excellent point.

Lauren Stanley says that the language is in line with D039.

St. James Louisa - supports removing second resolve. There's nothing in this resolve about lifelong, but could be monogamy of one relationship after another.

Kate Chipps - wants to vote and get on with our lives.

Bishop Lee calls for a vote.

Amendment fails.

Call the question. Ready to vote.

The Resolution is passed.

There's no call for prayer, nothing. Monumental moment for the Diocese of Virginia.

Discussion is now underway regarding a special meeting of General Convention of the Anglican Covenant:

Russ Randle encourages adoption.

St. Anne's Reston opposes adoption.

Here is what they are voting on:
R7: The Anglican Covenant

Resolved, that the Diocese of Virginia urge the Presiding Bishop to call for, and the majority of bishops to consent to, a special meeting of the General Convention at a “time certain" before the 2012 convention in order to consider adoption the Anglican Covenant. "

The call is for a special meeting of General Convention to consider the Anglican Covenant.

We are now awaiting the results of this vote.

Resolution Fails -171 to 210.

R-9a is a resolution to refer R-5 and R-6 to the Windsor Dialogue Commission (which the chair thought was done with their work) and that it would be included

12:05 p.m. St. Anne's Reston has risen to amend the resolution to delete the first resolve and add three resolves that would restore R-5 and R-6. The text is here.

The council is weary and it's six minutes passed it's published ending time.

St. Luke's Wellington - against the amendment. Bishop Lee clarified that the commission has not been discharged.

Christ the King Harrisonburg - moves to table the amendment.

Council votes and tables the amendment.

St. Anne's Reston - wants clarification. Is there a time limit to table? Chancellor says that the time limit is indefinite.

St. Gabrielle's says that the second Where As is contradictory to what was just passed in R4a. Consensus is now clarified regarding gay and lesbian relationships in the church.

Lauren Stanley moves to take from the table the amendment. It is second. No debate. The vote to take the amendment off the table.

Motion fails.

Andrew Murrow of St. Mary's Arlington - second Where As is a paraphrase of what PB said at the Press Club.

Kate Chipps said that what we did a few moments ago was for the Diocese of Virginia, not "The Church."

Falls Church Shadow - proposing amendment - majority vote does not signal a consensus to amend to say "Where as the church and the diocese ... "

Now voting.

Bishop Lee calls for the tellers.
Whereas, many members of the Diocese are pained that gay and lesbian members are not fully accepted by our Church; and

Whereas, the Church and the Diocese have not reached a consensus about the place of gay and lesbian persons within the life of our Church; and

Whereas, we are in the midst of episcopal transition; be it therefore

Resolved, that R-5 and R-6 be referred to the Windsor Dialogue Commission; and be it further

Resolved, we commend to the entire Diocese the listening process that has been set before us at this Council.
What is before the Council right now is to add the words "and the Diocese"

12:17 p.m. While the voting continues, Sarah Bartenstein, President of the Standing Committee is at the Podium.

This is a very sad moment in the history of the Diocese of Virginia. I wonder if Bishop Lee ever imagined that his episcopacy would end like this. He does a masterful job with the resolution debates, he's just amazing in how he holds it all together.

"It seems that transition is very much on our minds these days," Sarah says from the podium. Yes, that is true.

By the way, Meade Memorial was made a parish. It was nearly lost in all the other items on the agenda. That's very good news for that longtime church in mission status.

Sarah is now paying tribute to Bishop Lee. She is glad that Bishop Lee will be with the diocese before and after General Convention. She announces a special service:

Washington National Cathedral
May 30
Celebration of Bishop Lee's Ministry

Back to the Resolutions. Vote on Amendment 234-136 carries - "and the Diocese of Virginia" is added to the resolution.

St. Anne's Reston - Proposes an Amendment - Asked the commission return next year.

And that a commission be charged to make a report to the 215th annual council. There's been a move to table the amendment. That fails. Bishop Lee calls for discussion.

Rick Lord of Holy Comforter Vienna with Sue Eaves - the Windsor Dialogue Commission has made two reports, one last year and one this year. They speak against this amendment.

Now voting.

The amendment fails.

Now back to R9s. The question is called.

R9s is adopted.

Constitution and Canons - call for a comprehensive review of diocesan (and regional) structures. They are against C-1.

Council votes no against C-1.

THE BUDGET:

The council is now going over the reductions in the budget. I don't see anyone running to the mics to discuss the budget, but for one comment. The budget is passed.

Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, returns to the podium. He is going to "table" his fourth meditation. Instead, he's going to give closing reflections on what he's seen happen over the past several days, including the hospitality he's been shown, the outward-lookingness of people, the encouragement that people show one another, the wide-variety of items on the agenda, also impressed with the ministries that the diocese provides, more than most Welsh dioceses do.

Now he's telling the council that he doesn't want them to think that The Episcopal Church and Canada are pariahs - but that all are in the firing line. He feels that The Episcopal Church has behaved "graciously" unlike other members of the Communion.

Regarding the Covenant, he says the Church in Wales has problems with the Covenant and hasn't adopted it. He says he is concerned that the current draft still has "punitive" clauses that encourages spying on one another.

He said that he would resist the founding of another province with every fiber of his body. He got a standing ovation for that one. He says it's "total nonsense." He says that if it's possible for that to happen to The Episcopal Church, it's possible for any of us, he says. He says he's a minority in the primates. And he commended Bishop Lee's work.

Bishop Lee has now taken to the podium.

This is his final address to Annual Council. He is commending the people gathered. "I'm leaving with a sense of thanksgiving," he says. And now the final blessing.

Sine die.

3 comments:

RSchllnbrg said...

BB:

You might not have known but I spent part of one year serving Meade Memorial. Was a lot of fun, though it was a rather odd place for a white guy from rural New Hampshire to end up. But all was well. Still have friends over there ... God bless 'em.

So you have to figure the entrance of Meade as a parish at least gives us one high point of the Council meeting.

kc said...

I'm unclear - what was the final outcome here?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your masterful
summary of events!