Live from Intrepid on the floor of the Annual Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia:
We are getting a report on the commission about ssbs ... They were a united group with close spiritual bonds. They had a modified indaba process and created a friendship among members. Perhaps biggest accomplishment was staying focused on what we were asked to do.
"We were asked not to opine on whether ssb should be authorized ..."
"We established an opine free zone"
The underlying issues remain potentially divisive.
Our guidelines needed to address key issues.
We needed to be mindful that some clergy might not want to participate in ssb
We carefully studied resolution 14s which reminded us that asked for canonical recommendations but we were convinced that the authorization of ssb was solely at the discretion of the diocesan bishop.
We also determined that no changes to diocesan canons are necessary or desirable
As with heterosexual marriage we believe national canons are the appropriate level
To establish diocesan canons would be cumbersome and preemptive process of that national process.
We talked our task with open minds, we did the research, and followed our work to it's logical conclusion.
We have come up with our best recommendation for consistent and enforceable guidelines for providing pastoral care for same sex couples looking to have their relationships blessed.
We have submitted these guidelines to Bishop Johnston for his use. They are for the bishop to see as he sees fit. We have no recommendations for canonical changes for this council.
More to come
This is what I have said from the start. The authorization of services is at the permission of the ordinary of the diocese, the bishop. When the bishops say they need to hear from the diocese or the national church or the decision is based on legislation it is a dodge. The authority has always been in the hands of the bishops to allow or disallow such practices ... And so to choose whether or not to stay in communion with the rest of the consensus fidelium or to step outside the boundaries of the orthodox church. The commission has put the ball back in the hands of the bishop ... Something I brought up in a previous council meeting when I asked why we were bothering with listening sessions when Bishop Johnston had already said he believed in ssbs and said he would work for them personally.
Russ Palmore is reviewing the litigation now
Eleven congregations voted to secede. They immediately filed petitions to have state courts grant them ownership of the properties where they worshipped. We followed later with our own petition.
(BB NOTE: Again, Russ Palmore's statement is not accurate. The eleven churches immediately filed petitions recording their votes - they did not take the next step to file petitions to have the state courts grant them ownership of the properties - that is absolutely false. The votes were filed. At that time we thought, following the Diocese of Virginia Protocol negotiated by Russ Palmore and Bishop Lee, we were heading into negotiations to come to a financial settlement withthe the diocese. There was no reason to ask the court to intervene - we thought we were headed to resolution as was demonstrated in the prototype of the All Sants Dale City Resolution. This was covered in the Standstill Agreement drafted by Bishop Lee and agreed to by the voting churches. This Standstill Agreement is still not publicly available on the Diocese of Virginia's website - it's as though they don't want the people of the diocese to know about it - it will interfere with this timeline, I don't understand why they won't put the Standstill up on their website, it's public - you can read it here and here.
They wish to take Episcopal property to a new entity ... Under a statute that is extremely unusual. No Episcopal congregations had ever attempted to use this statute. It has always been the rule of the Episcopal church that properties held as a trust for the church as a whole. Most of the churches knew this and participated in council twenty five years ago when we wrote this canon into the diocesan canons, and they originally followed these canons. Every year until 2006 their Vestries took an oath to uphold the doctrine of the Episcopal church.
They asked the courts to rule that only a majority controlled the properties ... It would be fair to say that the diocese and the Episcopal church has experienced stumbling blocks.
Trial is still necessary under modern Va church property laws. While we cannot predict with certainty, I and the lawyers for the Episcopal church believe our claims are well supported ... Perhaps recognizing this the departing churches have tried some interesting new tactics.
In the mean time you may hear that the diocese has not been willing to negotiate. That is wrong. As Bishop Shannon mentioned we are willing to negotiate ... Our willingness to negotiate continues. We have been in touch with one of the other congregations about settlement. We will be reasonable but reasonableness is a two way street.
(BB NOTE: This is very good news - reasonableness is indeed a two-way street and it's clear, as we can see in the recent resolution between the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey and a CANA/ACNA congregation that such resolution is now possible.).
This is not a path the diocese wished to travel. Yet when I look down that road I see more stepping stones than stumbling blocks.
Working on resolution R2A now.
Well that was fun. Odd debate ... And then a vote to be taken in orders. Very few of us clergy holding up red cards (an odd misnomer since they are decidedly pink) to vote against resolution 2.
My delegate asked why we were doing it this way. I thought it was clearly a way to identify the few of us left in the room ...
Resolution 12s now ...
Resolutions heartily recommends approval. Discussion? None. People are tired and hungry. It passes without opposition.
Intrepid is a delegate at the Annual Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.