Updated again Saturday evening
Here’s a very surprising story from the USA about the Episcopal Church.
Episcopal Café Secret theology committee studies same sex relationships
The House of Bishops Theology Committee is refusing to release the names of members of a sub-committee it has appointed to study same-sex relationships. The existence of the panel was first reported in the Blue Book, which contains information relevant to General Convention, 2009. However, the Rt. Rev. Henry Parsley of Alabama, chair of the Theology Committee has refused several requests to disclose the names of its members.
The anonymity of the panel raises serious concerns in the Church that prides itself on the transparency of its representative form of governance. In addition, the work of this secret panel has already been cited by some bishops as a reason to delay further legislative action on the issue of same-sex relationships until the panel finishes its work in 2011…
The Chicago Consultation has issued a press release:
CHICAGO CONSULTATION CALLS FOR HOUSE OF BISHOPS THEOLOGY COMMITTEE TO RELEASE NAMES OF SCHOLARS STUDYING SAME-SEX RELATIONSHIPS
…However, we are saddened that the House of Bishops Theology Committee has chosen to begin this important scholarly work without making public the names of the bishops, theologians and scholars who are serving on this panel. The theological study of human sexuality is essential to our common life, to our mission and evangelism, and to our ability to live out our baptismal promises. Such important work deserves to be no less than a model of the transparent governance that the Episcopal Church has upheld for centuries.
As theologians, priests, bishops and laypeople from across the Episcopal Church, we call upon the House of Bishops Theology Committee to release at once the names of those serving on the panel it has appointed to study same-sex relationships. We commit to praying for them by name and to providing our assistance as they continue their work…
EpiScope reports this statement From the HOB Theology Committee:
The following is a statement from the chair of the HOB Theology Committee.
By the Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley, Jr.
Chair, Theology Committee of the House of Bishops
In response to questions that have been raised about the panel of theologians appointed by the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops to prepare a paper on same-sex relationships in the life of the church, I wish to assure those concerned that the panel very intentionally represents a robust range of views on the subject and includes gay and lesbian persons.
This project has been designed in full communication with the House of Bishops. It has always been the committee’s intention to publish the names of the panel when the work has reached the appropriate stage. We believe that for a season the work can best be accomplished by allowing the panel to work in confidence. This supports the full collegiality and academic freedom of the theologians and provides the space they need for the deep dialogue and reflection that is taking place among them.
This project is designed to articulate theologically a full range of views on the matter of same sex relationships in the church’s life and to foster better understanding and respectful discernment among us. It will also be a contribution to the listening process of the larger Communion. It has several stages and is scheduled to be complete by early 2011. We are grateful to the distinguished theologians for their generous service to the church.
We wish to invite any member of the church who wishes to address the panel to send comments to the Theology Committee. We will see that these are communicated to the theologians to enrich their reflection and dialogue.
Comments should be directed to the chair of the committee, Bishop Henry Parsley, at email@example.com.
ENS has a full report now, see Bishops’ Theology Committee chair declines to release names of same-gender study group.
Saturday evening update
Here’s a further twist to this strange tale. Frank Lockwood reports at Bible Belt Blogger that
Facing criticism for withholding information from its 2.3 million members, the Episcopal Church has quietly removed from its new IAmEpiscopalian.org website assurances that the church is committed to openness and transparency in government.
For months, the site had proclaimed on its home page: “Our controversies and conversations have been public. Our governance is transparent. You are free to see our imperfections…” (See a copy of the original message here.)
But sometime this week, after the church was repeatedly criticized for concealing key governance decisions from the people in the pews, the “transparency” and “openness” message disappeared.
Mark Harris doesn’t think this change is related to the above story. But even if it isn’t the original story is still very surprising. It even made the Church Times this week, see Name gay study group, say activists.