Resolution D025 strongly affirms not only the Episcopal Church's commitment to its relationship with the Anglican Communion but also our Church's appreciation and support of the roles that gay and lesbian people have in the ministry of our Church-including all levels of ordination. This resolution passed with a 2-1 majority. I voted against it. As I said during the floor debate, I absolutely agree with every word of the resolution itself.In other words, wink, wink, B033 is not and never has been a moratorium - just as many actually said back in 2006. Only now, the doors of the closet is being blown off. Surprised?
Even so, I was convinced that the actual effect of D025 across the Anglican world would be to weaken the bonds of our worldwide Church and, more importantly, to compromise our international mission and ministry in the very places that need us so very badly--and we so need them. The problem for me with D025 was how it would be seen in its implications rather than being understood for what it actually says. Such is the nature of legislative reality, and this is the very reason why I do not believe the legislative process is the best process to address these issues. Still, I have great hopes that the Communion will recognize the resolution as it stands--a statement of where we really are as a Church at this time, all the while hoping to build upon and strengthen our ties with the larger Communion.
Resolution C056 calls for gathering theological and liturgical resources with respect to offering the Church's blessing for same-gender unions, which will be brought to the next General Convention in 2012 for study and consideration. The fact is that several states have legalized gay and lesbian unions, and others will likely follow suit. This resolution responds to that reality. It also allows bishops the exercise of personal discretion in providing for a "generous pastoral response" for gay and lesbian persons in the Church. I voted in favor of this resolution because I am convinced that it is both realistic and right. Monogamous same-gender unions are now a reality, and we should provide for the Church's response, with blessing or without. The resolution allows for either. Bishops must also have the ability to respond to what is actually true in all the various locales and contexts in which this Church ministers. It is important to remember, however, that no official rites of blessing that wholly sanction same-gender unions have been approved for the Church. In fact, it would take years to develop such rites.
It is not so much the actual content of these two resolutions that may be problematic. The potential for difficulty follows from interpretation of the resolutions. The plain reality is that very little is actually changed by either one of the resolutions in themselves. Both statements address what is already true in the life and witness of the Episcopal Church. The Convention is overwhelmingly of the mind that the Episcopal Church will be the stronger for the realistic and clear perspective of these resolutions.
In case we're not clear that D025 repudiates B033, here's what the Bishop Coadjutor himself said on the floor of the House of Bishops just last week at General Convention during the debate on D025:
Personally I agree with the resolution (D025) but we do need to face the fact that is is a repudiation of Bo33 and breaks faith with the Communion.But he doesn't stop there, he goes on to make his case that D025 (which Bishop Schori and Bonnie Anderson later tried to "explain" to the Archbishop of Canterbury that it wasn't really what it really was) is a repudiation of B033 and continues the thought on the floor of the House of Bishops during the debate on D025:
In light of the ACC meeting, they gave us a rare gift in not forwarding the Covenant to this Convention. Now we are shooting through their generosity. The Communion is too much to loose. We must look beyond our small church in the western world.This is the exactly opposite of what he now writes to the Diocese of Virginia;
"Resolution D025 strongly affirms not only the Episcopal Church's commitment to its relationship with the Anglican Communion ..."Just to be sure we're clear, let's remember that he said this in the House of Bishops:
"we do need to face the fact that it (D025) is a repudiation of Bo33 and breaks faith with the Communion. "Perhaps we need to do that one more time:
Bishop Shannon Johnston, July 22: "Resolution D025 strongly affirms ... the Episcopal Church's commitment to its relationship with the Anglican Communion ..."Well, which is it?
Bishop Shannon Johnston, July 13: "we do need to face the fact that it (D025) is a repudiation of Bo33 and breaks faith with the Communion.
One thing's for sure - it's not exactly going over very well back home. RSchllnbrg, rector of an Episcopal church in the Diocese Virginia, has all ready penned his parish's response:
Mr. Rogers vs. Pastor RogerThe Bishop of Virginia seems to have gone to a different General Convention:
Doesn’t God love you just the way you are?
Now don’t get me wrong here. I like Mr. Rogers and his neighborhood. My son and I used to watch him regularly. But there’s a difference between a kid’s show fit for three-year-olds and a theology that’s fit for the world. When Mr. Rogers (a former Christian minister before moving to TV) says "I like you just the way you are." It’s a comforting thought. It’s nice to feel accepted, welcomed. It’s nice to know someone out there is not mad at me for having trouble tying my shoes or for spilling my milk. It’s nice to know that he’s ready to welcome me every day (same time and channel) and he never tried to sell me anything. Mr. Rogers was a friendly face, a calm voice, and a constant companion you could count upon. We need more folk like that in each of our lives don’t you think?
Funny thing ... but I used to be called Mr. Rogers too. When I worked in the streets of New York City with homeless men, they asked me what they should call me. I was not yet ordained, so I asked them not to call me Father Roger. Instead, they called me Mr. Roger, but that doesn’t come out easily, so I became "Mr. Rogers" to many, many street people. In a way, I too had my own neighborhood where we accepted everyone.
Unfortunately for many in the Christian Church these days, this idea of easy welcome and unconditional acceptance has become Gospel Truth. That’s new. It’s different. But is it true? We are asked, "Isn=E 2t that what Jesus did?" At times, yes ... but he also held people accountable, and challenged the culture of his day. He stood up to power, told people to strive to be perfect which he explained included being forgiving, sharing, serving, living without lust, living in chaste relationships, and not getting angry, just to name but a few of the requirements he gave. Jesus loved people and forgave people. Yes. He also turned over the tables of the money changers in the Temple, told a repentant woman to "go and sin no more" after she had been caught in adultery (that too would be one of those sexual relationship outside of marriage). To forget these parts of the gospel or to focus only on how loving and welcoming Jesus was misses the point. The power of God can change your life for20the better. That’s a big part of the good news. It’s this part of the Gospel many church leaders have neglected. God changes hearts and lives. He takes our desires and reorders them, and so, reorders our priorities. Lately we’ve been told by modern church leaders that "God loves us just as we are." Actually I think God loves us a lot more than that, he loves us enough to not leave us where we are. He has something better planned for your life and mine.
When you turn to the news, for instance from last week’s General Convention of the Episcopal Church, you find that Mr. RogersE2 Neighborhood has come to a church near you (though not to Kingstowne). The bishops and delegates who passed resolutions to support ordaining people in sexual relationships outside of marriage or to support the blessing of same sex unions said they were doing nothing more than guaranteeing freedom and justice to all. In place of setting up any new ideas for the church, they claimed they were simply being honest about who we are. One delegate said (see interviews on page 4), "There’s no Communion without genuine relationship, and there’s no genuine relationship without truth-telling. So I see [this as] telling the truth about who we are ..." The Bishops of Virginia wrote a public letter this week to emphasize this very point of being honest. Bishop Johnston wrote, "I am convinced this is realistic and right. Monogamous same-gender unions are now a reality and we should provide for the Church’s response (or blessing) ...The plain reality," he continues, "is that very little has actually changed ... [we have addressed] what is already true in the life and witness of the Episcopal Church." What a pity if that’s true.
I agree. We need to be honest. But remember this, the sheer act of being honest is not a reason for celebration. You can be as honest as the day is long and still be completely wrong. It matters what you say and do as well. If I told you I hit my mother-in-law at 500 yards with a single shot from a rifle you might say I was at least being honest. You could even claim I was a good shot. You could not claim, however, that I was a good man [from GK Chesterton]. Merely being honest is not enough to warrant celebrations. Being faithful is. Jesus did not bless every relationship or welcome every idea. Some of our cultural values are simply at odds with the Gospel. Let’s be honest about that too. Let’s speak the truth that all people are welcome to come to God, no one is excluded. But everyone who comes to God (straight or gay or anything else) must let God shape their lives, correct their sins and transform their souls. If we tell people they have no need to change anything at all, that God loves them just the way they are, we are doing them a terrible disservice. Indeed, we are leading them away from God.
Just speaking for myself, I know I need help. I’m glad God accepts me as I am. But I pray daily that he will not leave me there. I know I need to be changed, to grow into the full stature of Christ. I know I have a long way to go. And I know there's only one who can help me get there, and it's not a Bishop who likes me just the way I am, it's a God who loves me for all he's worth.
"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you." -Romans 12:1-2
The most lasting impact of the 76th General Convention is likely to be an increase of initiative and energy in local congregations and dioceses. The sharp budget cuts in the three-year budget of the General Church will have a painful impact on some faithful staff members, but will shift the focus for mission to the local church, rather than the local church waiting for initiatives from the General Church.What the Bishop of Virginia forgets to mention is that he voted in favor of D025, which includes this part which counters his own policy in the Diocese of Virginia:
The emphasis on local ministry is a proper expression of the principle of subsidiarity, whereby mission should occur at the level closest to the people who are called to engage in that mission.
Local mission is also enhanced by resolutions which the secular press has incorrectly interpreted as necessarily damaging our worldwide relationship and as following the agenda of a gay and lesbian lobby. Instead, what the Convention did is to reaffirm that the ordination process is under the control of local bishops and dioceses, while stressing that access to that process is open to all baptized persons.
The Convention also invited local churches and dioceses (as well as churches elsewhere in the Communion) to collect liturgical and theological resources regarding same-gender blessings. Recognizing the unique pastoral needs of those dioceses in jurisdictions where same-gender marriage or civil partnerships are legal, the Convention affirmed that a generous pastoral response is needed.
The emphasis on the local did not deter the Convention from adopting both a denominational health plan for the whole Church and a mandatory lay employee pension plan, both of which, in the long run, will strengthen the local church.
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention recognize that 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 and are currently doing so in our midst; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm that God has called and may call such individuals, to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church ...
That's it! Virginia's policy now is wiped out and the Bishop of Virginia voted for it. Odd he doesn't mention that in his letter. Instead, he spins it to say that it's really about States Rights, er, Local Bishop Rites, er, Rights writing instead that "the ordination process is under the control of local bishops and dioceses, while stressing that access to that process is open to all baptized persons." But it is not a theological issue, but a justice issue - and the difference matters. Who isn't for justice?
From my perspective, the Episcopal Church has remained on the same course it has followed for at least 40 years - one that has "stretched every nerve" as we have sought to live into the Baptismal Covenant.He then goes on to explain how C056 is not what it really is, what Integrity says it is - which is that now rites and blessings may be developed and partnered with the "generous pastoral response" also contained in C056 - ladies and gentlemen, we have lift off!
What has not changed is a significant commitment to making the Church a safe place for all people all of the time. A major shift in our disciplinary canons (Title IV) was adopted by a voice vote in the House of Bishops with little or no debate. This new canon significantly raises the bar of conduct expected of clergy.
What has not changed is a genuine desire to live into the meaning of our baptism. Throughout my ministry in the Episcopal Church, I have seen the Church push the edges at Convention regarding who is to be included. The General Convention of 1970 opened reception of Holy Communion to all baptized persons. In 1973, a significant change in the marriage canon made possible, with the bishop's permission, the remarriage of divorced persons. In 1976, we approved the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate and then in 1979, we adopted a new Book of Common Prayer with the Baptismal Covenant. Through all this time, we have addressed issues of racism and encouraged racism training. And from the 1970s until the present day, we have been hearing the call of our own members who are gay and lesbian to recognize committed relationships and to fully include them in the life of the Church.
The Bishop Suffragan, who voted for both D025 and C056 writes:
Twenty-seven bishops, including myself, gathered using the Indaba process of discussion and sharing learned at Lambeth. Together, we drafted a substitute resolution that could enjoy broad acceptance. I participated in the writing group. The substitute did not call for rites to be presented for approval or for use. It did request the collection and development of liturgical resources.What Bishop Jones fails to mention is that the Resolution is still officially called "Liturgies for Blessings," and it actually reads: "... bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church." So with the development of "develop theological and liturgical resources" in a resolution entitled "Liturgies for Blessings" it authorizes license to now officially "provide generous pastoral response" which is coded language for rites and blessings of same sex unions and marriages, the Bishop Suffragan attempts to wink.
In the House of Bishops discussion on the substitute, we recognized constitutional problems with approval of liturgical rites of blessing. The rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer have the force of the Constitution of the Episcopal Church and they clearly say that marriage is intended for a man and a woman. We did not reject B033 (2006 Convention) which called for restraint in the confirmation as bishops of individuals whose manner of life would be problematic to the wider Church.
But the Bishop Coadjutor, who will take the reigns from Bishop Lee in just a few months, lets the proverbial cat out of the bag, "Monogamous same-gender unions are now a reality and we should provide for the Church’s response (or blessing)."
"Have we changed or are we trying to be faithful to a changing landscape in a rapidly changing world?" asks the Bishop Suffragan. "Having fully participated in this process, I sense that we are striving to be faithful."
But note this carefully, friends - the Bishop Suffragan says "we are trying to be faithful to a changing landscape," - note carefully he does not say we are trying to be faithful in a changing landscape.
One two-letter word make all the difference in the world. Don't blink.
We're not in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood anymore.
UPDATE: You can hear the Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of Virginia tell the House of Bishops at General Convention last week during the debate on the resolution D025 that "we do need to face the fact, the plain fact that this is repudiation of B033, it's just in other guise ..."