Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Breaking the Bonds of Affection: Denver 2000 Revisited

Susan Russell, the former head of Integrity, has now publicly admitted that the the landmark resolution D039 from the Episcopal General Convention "Denver 2000" was indeed a political maneuver crafted by political organizers not to be as it was promoted at the time to be a compromise between two sides working hard to build trust and commitment, but actually to achieve long-term political results at the expense of that trust and commitment.

In a post on the late Pamela Chinnis, the former House of Deputies president who passed away this week, Susan writes on the landmark General Convention Resolution DO39, "The resolution was crafted knowing that the “8th Resolve” was going to be a bridge-too-far for this convention. And so when it came to pass in the legislative process that it was separated off and failed by a narrow margin, our strategists inwardly celebrated the victory ..."

It was in fact their intention to see the final resolve struck (which would have called for the creation of liturgies for same sex blessings) and instead lay the significant foundation for Minneapolis 2003 when the Episcopal Church took major actions to break what the Windsor Report would describe as the "bonds of affection" with the Anglican Communion, as well as within the church itself.

As we can see in this post, the "bonds of affection" were in fact broken in 2000, not 2003. I can remember conservative bishops at that time working so hard to find some way to bridge the enormous gap between the two sides and hold the church together. Who would not want to affirm that God loves all persons, but now we see it was premeditated and intentionally designed all along to be reinterpreted as an endorsement of communion-breaking actions, with the full support of the church hierarchy.

In fact, D039 led to a tremendous loss after Denver 2000 with the departure of major evangelical leadership with the formation of what would become the Anglican Mission in America (AMIA, now Anglican Mission in the Americas) and the emergency consecration of Chuck Murphy and John Rodgers by two overseas Anglican archbishops.  It was never the intention of the entrenched Episcopal leadership to ever do that theological work, which we can see now the AMiA and other global Anglican leadership recognized.

What had been hoped to be a stop-gap measure to prevent the church from splitting apart in schism, we now see in Susan's admission became the very catalyst that broke the church apart.



My goodness you give me a lot of credit! In point of fact it was not our "intention" that the 8th resolve would be struck (and it did actually fail by a very narrow margin) it was our EXPECTATION that it would be. A discrete but important distinction.

It was also -- and continues to be -- our commitment to work through the historic polity of the Episcopal Church to move the church forward through both legislation, education and inspiration.

And if you're going to pick a date for the "end of the world as we knew it" how about 1994 when sexual orientation was added to the non-discrimination canons? Or 1997 when TEC apologized for the mistreatment of LGBT folk both within and outside the church? Or 1998 when Walter Righter was exonerated? Or 35 years ago in 1976 when the church promised "full and equal claim" to the LGBT baptized?

Denver 2000 was absolutely a step forward toward the goal of the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments. As Pam Chinnis said in 1992 ... "One day we will overcome all barriers -- but not in my lifetime or in yours. However small the gains are, or seem to be, we were and are not willing to make peace with oppression." And I couldn't be prouder to stand with those who have -- like the Persistent Widow in Luke's Gospel -- returned again and again working for justice.

Thanks for the chance to clarify.
And for the "ink."
Hope you and yours are unscathed by the earthquake/hurricane one-two punch!

Unknown said...

Thanks for your post Susan.

I think that the work at Denver 2000 was seen by many as searching for a way to hold the church together through very difficult and divisive times. I remember that the more conservative bishops who voted for D039 were committed to finding ways to stabilize the church while we worked through the theological issues. They received a lot of criticism from some within their own wing for doing this, which proved costly, but were committed to extend the hand of fellowship to those with whom they disagreed.

What followed Denver 2000 for me and my own response to D039 was to become more active in the structures of the church and I did that by being elected an officer in Region VII of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and later elected to two successive terms as President. Much of my work as an officer was to attempt to build bridges between those who disagreed as we tried to find common ground and build trust to continue explore ways forward that were mutually compassionate.

At the time there was, or least there appeared to be, commitment to building relationships of trust as we walked through this journey together.

That's how I remember it.

So the fact that D039 in Denver was actually premeditated to trick the evangelicals who voted for it does feel today like a betrayal of that trust, only far earlier than I realized. I was frankly quite upset with the group that left us in 2000 to form the AMiA, feeling at that time they were abandoning ship far too soon. At that time I felt we had made great strides in finding a way to hold together, but now with this admission I need to rethink this view.

It seems in retrospect they were right - that any sort of theological pushback is now seen as "oppression" rather than for many of us who do care about the welfare of gay men and women in the church and wrestle with the theological and moral foundation for new progressive church teachings.

What makes D039 different than those other significant landmarks was that it was seen at the time as a compromise, a forging of a foundation for further conversations based on mutual respect and trust. Your post places this view in a completely different light, Susan, and for that I am sad.


Dale Matson said...

"stepping back to “compromise” for what we wanted to achieve in the first place was a carefully orchestrated strategy which paved the way for further movement forward in 2003. And at GC-2006. And GC-2009." I would call this a strategy of deception, an inch at a time.


With all due respect, relegating a percentage of the baptized to "stranger at the gate" status has always been oppression -- that isn't a perception that has somehow arisen since Denver 2000.

And frankly, I give my evangelical brothers and sisters more credit than to think they were "tricked" by D039. The seven resolves that were passed creating the foundation for the church to move forward toward full inclusion seem clear enough to me.

Mutual respect and trust goes both ways and there's a LOT of water under the bridge since Denver 2000 and D039. Suffice to say, folks on my side of the aisle continue to be saddened by those who purported to be working to find a way forward together while they were honing their "exit strategy." I stand by my tribute to Pam Chinnis and my gratitude for those who crafted D039 (2000) ... and C051 (2003) ... and C056 (2009) ... and for those working on resolutions for Indianapolis.

At the end of the day there's an ontological difference between feeling excluded because you're disagreed with and being excluded because of who you are. Believe it or not, I have sympathy for the former even as we work to end the latter.

Unknown said...

No, please don't give us credit, Susan. You shed light on the fact as you write in your blog that inwardly you celebrated the fact that the strategy even in 2000 when it appeared that there was so much work accomplished to build bridges, that in fact the real strategy was to hoodwink the evangelicals into thinking we were finding common ground.

This was not the case at all as the future leadership of the AMiA understood. I thought they had lost hope too soon - now, it seems I was the one who was wrong.

It saddens me to think that there never was a desire to find a common theology (when the bishops put together a theology committee and came out with a paper following 2000 it was completely ignored, I now remember) and to do what we could to keep the church in unity - instead we find there was a fierce political strategy of community activism from the very beginning and it never waivered. It is quite a legacy.

It is a legacy indeed - and one that I hope Tom Wright and our brothers and sisters in the Church of England soberly reflect and consider.



We agree about the "never wavering" part. And my "responding to the Holy Spirit's call to do justice" may be your "political strategy of community activism" -- but either way it is a legacy. And I know for a fact certain it is one that our brothers and sisters in the struggle are reflecting and considering in the CofE.

Dale Matson said...

I would call your strategy of moving "forward" consequentialist ethics.

Anonymous said...

I am simply a layman, but all this compromise with sinful behavior in the first place seems wrong. How did the Episcopal Church think that they would make some kind of compromise with the faction in the denomination that intends on practicing unlawful behavior? Of course, homosexuals are welcome into the church but only if they repent of their sin much as any sinner makes contrition and asks for forgiveness. Jesus came to heal the sinner and we all qualify. However, for the Anglican communion to hope to make a bond with those who willfully sin and consider themselves righteous, is, in itself sowing the seeds of destruction.

Felix said...

I hear far too much about "rights" and far too little about "responsibilities" in the current debate. During the 80's, I was approached, and ordination suggested. At that time, South Africa was going through critical political change, and I was involved. After much thought, I came to the conclusion that as a "leader" I would have to be seen as representing (albeit poorly) God, and that there was too much of chance I would actually chase those with an opposite political view from my congregation for all the wrong reasons, and that I could not therefore be a good Minister. I believe my decision was not unusual, and was one God would expect of those who truly wished to do his will.
In the same vein, I think that the limited group of Gay people wishing to receive self glory by forcing others to recognise them as leaders are putting their own wants before that of the needs of God's broader people, and run the risk of being judged and found wanting for this, if for no other reason. Personal glory (not Gay rights, there are far too many Gay people who are not power mad, and it is insulting to assume a small group represents a greater communities standpoint) is being held as far more important than God's church, and its ability to spread His gospel.

Allen said...

I have never understood that if Susan is so convinced that her priorities and lifestyle (not to mention photo ops like "Archlesbian of the Episcopal Church") are so mainstream, then why doesn't she leave the shelter of All Saints and become the rector of her own parish. I think that she inwardly knows that her style of engaging people will be off-putting to most people in the average pew in the wider Church. Therefore, one can only assume that she doesn't believe that she is a good person to unify the Church, a priority that should go along with her priestly vocation.

Allen said...

...oh, and let's not forget. For all of Susan's talk of "justice", let's hear an explanation of why it takes hundreds of thousands of dollars given by a secular organization to develop "rites" for same sex marriage. HUNDREDS of thousands to get the gay activists together to contrive a rite? Really? What was the amount, Susan? Over $300,000 wasn't it? Seems like the definition of "justice" really means "indulgence"; something we've been seeing, that this expenditure further confirms.

Anonymous said...

Most of the churches I have attended were chock full of sinners week after week. We never did succeed in getting rid of them. I am a very keen judge of other people's sins, and I can tell you that most of them are worse than mine. But these persistent sinners that keep coming to church - it's absolutely exasperating. They are so numerous that many of us have given up on cataloguing which types of sin were marring our otherwise perfect worship. Call us weak, but the magnitude of the project just defeated us. Nonetheless, once we stopped struggling with worrying about other people's sin and its hierarchical relationship to our own, and concentrated on collective worship together, things got really peaceful.
Our focus changed from cranky bishops or loony priests or weird pew mates to the Gospel. Maybe that's not a good thing, but I needed the rest.

Even when I worship in solitude, I find myself in the company of sin. Hard to imagine, but true.

Re the last comment: you may be quite right that Susan Russell is not a unifying presence in the Church. I don't know her well enough to judge. However, I have seen a number of people with views diametrically opposed to hers who have been very active in dividing the church. I agree that Unity is a good thing and that separation is to be avoided. I have seen plenty of vocal people all over the spectrum of the current debate who seem very little concerned with keeping Christians together.


Charlie Sutton said...

Back in the 70's there was a GC resolution that said that same-sex attracted persons were entitled to pastoral care equally as much as those with normal sexual attraction. Conservative bishops, clergy, and laypeople could not quarrel with this idea. None of us believed that a biblical response to those with an sexual attraction to members of their own sex should be shunned, mocked, or physically harmed because of this attraction. That would be using the wrong means to deal with the question of where same-sex attracted people fit into the Kingdom of God.

None of us are perfect; we are all sinners, and no one has chosen the particular area where temptation is strongest in our lives. To discourage sin by mockery and derision does not work. Lovng, gentle but firm pastoral care will help someone recognize sinful acts and attitudes, repent of them, bring them to the foot of the cross, and be forgiven and empowered to live more fully into God's plan for life. That is the way that God designed the Church to work, with fellow strugglers helping one another confess their sins, be forgiven, and (over time) be transformed.

The last paragraph is what the conservatives meant by "pastoral care." No one is to be excluded because of the nature of their temptations, and all are to be helped in dealing with them, through the sacraments and through personal relationship.

Those who wished to change the teaching of the Church on same-sex sexual attraction had something else in mind. Affirming that all are entitled to "pastoral care" to them was to be a doorway into demanding the right to follow their temptations and not resist them. Conservative Christians affirmed the acceptance of all, while asking all to confess sin, repent, and change through the power of the Holy Spirit. The sinner was to be accepted (who else is there, after all?) while sin was still to be called sin and repented of - regardless of its nature: sexual sin, pride, theft, etc, all were to be confessed and repented of.

The "revisionists" used a phrase that meant one thing in the traditional understanding of the Christian faith, and then insisted on applying it with a new meaning - "we do not need to repent; we will not be pastorally cared for until you accpt us AND our actions."

That was the original subterfuge, and I am not surprised in the least that it has continiued.

PS to Scout - we conservatives are not claiming to be perfect; we are simply trying to teach what Scripture teaches: We are all sinners in need of grace, and we all can find mercy and the power to be transformed through the grace of the Lord.

RWK said...

The conservatives were the poor political players from the 1970s on. They failed to be "wise as serpents" and when all you can see is a wrist slap for Bishop Spong and a complete exoneration for Righter, whom I personally got to be condescended to by, they were "as gentle as doves." I can say with all confidence now that the progressives were smarter, more organized and more determined. Congratulations, you won TECUSA, but you lost me and thousands of others.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Time to move on, true Anglicans! Let Susan and the others bury their dead.

Anglicanism has never been a real Communion. But there have been true Anglicans in communion and that's the opportunity you face today as you set about the task of strengthening true bonds of affection within true Anglicanism, and build affection that is first and foremost centered in Christ, the Son of God who came into the world to save repentant sinners.

Anonymous said...

Notice the phrasing:
"being excluded because of who you are".
That's not the issue. The issue is one of behavior, clearly, but you would never know it from Ms. Russell's phrase here. Dave

will said...

I'll never forget the last Episcopal mass I went to. It was shortly after Robinson became Bishop, and our rather new priest,sermon was based upon some chick flick where a man and woman not only love each other, but "complete" eachother. Why, asks the priest, can't two men or two women complete each other?
We are located in Central Indiana, and during the next basketball game. my 8 year old son is fouled. In anger he shouts out to two of the opposing players, "Why don't you two just go and complete each other.This church is just not acceptible to most traditional familys!

Patrick said...


While I agree with the substance of your comment, I do want to pick one nit -- you said the following in the voice of revisionists, "we do not need to repent; we will not be pastorally cared for until you accpt us AND our actions." The thing is that those on the "revisionist" side of this thing would *never* refer to seeking acceptance for their "actions". Instead, it is always put as a matter of "orientation." And, I'm convinced, this is not a matter of wily argumentation, but genuinely how they see it.

I don't think there's anything to be done about this -- other than to continually, again and again and again, make it clear that our position is not to condemn "homosexuals," but to reject certain unspiritual practices (such as same sex marriages, same-sex-sex, etc.) Just last night, I talked to a friend of a more liberal persuasion who was utterly convinced that conservatives condemn "homosexuals." It was only after I took her to half a dozen Evangelical websites and proved to her that that wasn't what Evangelicals believe that she would believe me.

Sorry to be a bit of a curmudgeon, but I just think this is very important.

Alice C. Linsley said...


Homosex is on a par with onanism in the Bible. Both represent a violation of the order of creation, with the seed of Man going where it is not intended. Both acts are equally condemned in the Bible. So non-celibate homosexuals should not feel that they are being singled out. At the same time, we shouldn't fudge on the fact that the punishment for both is the same - death.

Felix said...

Interesting debate developing - and some unexpected implications along with it. What I am hearing as I read all the responses is:
1 Conservative Anglicans accept that Homosexuality is a sin, as are many other things, and that God expects the sinner to receive pastoral care, but to have to recognise their sin.
2 All men are sinners and it is through Christs death on the cross for sin, and our admitting to sin and asking forgiveness therefore that we receive life through grace.
3 New age Anglicans (for want of a better descriptor)appear to want practicing gays to be recognised and accepted as children of God deserving of pastoral care and acceptance, but are insulted that the church or God may see homosexuality as anything but normal (in a Godly context) - and it certainly is not a sin.
4 The conclusion is surely that New Age Anglicanism teaches people who are gay that they are a special case, and their particular action is sinless, and therefore does not require salvation through grace. This perception can surely be expected to drive actions?
5 Whilst one understands a desire on behalf of the individual not to be seen as a sinner - one also realises that we do someone no favours if we do not offer them God's grace (whatever their sin is). The message for leadership may then be "And do not fear those who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."
Respectfully I must say - thank God that God is greater than our human folly, for this new age anglicanism threatens to steal God's most precious gift of grace from those it claim to represent.