Thursday, 15 June 2006
InclusiveChurch letter from Columbus 1
Ten thousand Episcopalians have gathered in Columbus Ohio to worship, pray and talk together. The scale of the Convention is breathtaking; the Conference Centre is half a mile from end to end, and the daily Eucharist is in a hall large enough to accommodate all the participants. People from across the spectrum of the church are present, from the conservative dioceses such as Pittsburgh and Fort Worth to liberals from Chicago and New York; worship is bi-lingual in Spanish and English; and legislative sessions start at 7.30 a.m and go on late into the evening.
The daily Eucharist is perhaps the most powerful part of the day - particularly as the whole congregation is seated at tables of ten people. After the sermon we are asked to take part in a “Table Discussion” which is extremely effective, creating a mini-community among the vastness of the worship and a palpable sense of unity within the incredible diversity of the Convention.
We are here to extend the hand of friendship from InclusiveChurch, to build networks of friendship and to share our common experiences. Clearly the huge issue for this conference, apart from the election of a new Presiding Bishop, is how the church here responds to the recommendations of the Windsor Report. Episcopalians are aware that “the eyes of the world are upon us” and are deeply aware that what happens this week will affect the future of the Anglican Communion. There is no sense that they are acting lightly, carelessly or without serious thought.
We have met, among other people, Cate Waynick, the Bishop of Indianapolis; Jon Bruno the Bishop of Los Angeles; representatives of Affirming Catholicism USA, Via Media, Claiming the Blessing; clergy and lay people from across the US and beyond. Apart from the generous and open welcome InclusiveChurch receives, there is a strong sense that ECUSA recognises its place as part of the Anglican Communion; the issue, therefore, for this week is how it can square the recommendations of the Windsor Report and the concerns of its conservative members with the strongly expressed determination to support, affirm and encourage the faith and ministry of lesbians and gay men within the church.
But the only point on which there is clarity is that there is no clarity. A Special Commission was set up to draft a possible response to the Windsor report, which has recommended a number of resolutions for Convention to consider. In these resolutions, the church expresses “deep regret” at the pain caused due to its actions and calls for “very considerable caution in the nomination, election, consent to, and consecration of bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.” A further resolution asks the church not to proceed to “authorize public Rites of Blessing for same-sex unions, until some broader consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges.”
The legislative process calls for a Hearing to be held before the introduction of resolutions, which then have to be passed by a majority in the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies (which is made up of clergy and lay delegates from every diocese). The hearing regarding these resolutions was held last night; 1500 people attended and 70 spoke, including Gene Robinson (coincidentally following Robert Duncan the (conservative) bishop of Pittsburgh), Colin Coward of Changing Attitude and the Archbishop of York. While most of the contributions were unsurprising, there was clearly an undercurrent from some conservatives that the present situation cannot continue and that unity is being strained to breaking point.
In other words, the proposed resolutions go too far for some and not far enough for others. A startling and entirely inappropriate intervention from Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham, makes this clear. In a paper released to the Anglican Communion Network of (predominantly conservative) bishops a couple of weeks ago and widely publicised just before the hearing, he calls for ECUSA to use precisely the language of the Windsor report in expressing regret and imposing a “moratorium” on the appointment of bishops who might cause controversy; he accuses the Special Commission’s report of duplicity in its use of language and includes scarcely veiled threats should ECUSA not roll over and submit to the Windsor recommendations. While his paper was seized on by some to reinforce their positions, for most it was seen as a unacceptable example of arrogance from the Church of England - precisely the kind of thing guaranteed not to encourage the meeting of minds which is so urgently sought. The Archbishop of York, who is present for the whole week, made similar points but with a great deal more tact.
The resolutions are now to be discussed in detail. There is much to be negotiated. There is a danger is that the substance of the issue - the acceptance of lesbians and gay people - will be confused with the fallout of the process related to Gene Robinson’s appointment. Unclarity on both issues may continue for some while yet. A desire for closure on these issues may not be fulfilled. To be continued……
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on
Thursday, 15 June 2006 at 9:18pm BST
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
VGR certainly seems to think that CG won't go as far as Windsor requested (on the substantive issues). He doesn't expect they will repent of his consecration, or stop blessing gay relationships, or adopt a moratorium on appointing "gay bishops". (He also seems to falls foul of naming conventions when asked to comment on +Wright's statement). Listen here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/listenagain/ram/today5_bishop_20060615.ram
So when someone voices an opinion that agrees with your revisionism they are being affirming and inclusive, and when they disagree with you and try to warn you of the probable consequences of your actions (like the Primates begged us not to consecrate +Robinson, which would "tear the fabric of the AC at its deepest level) they are making an "inappropriate intervention". I'm surprised at your restraint at not calling +Wright's piece hate speech. What he is saying is simply that WR asked different questions than SCECAC's resolution's are trying to answer, which will be taken for what it is, an evasion that in truth is ECUSA deciding to walk apart from the AC.
Kendall Harmon has commented on this item, see
â€œBut the only point on which there is clarity is that there is no clarity.â€
A huge amen to thatâ€“so far. We shall see what emergesâ€“KSH.
â€œIn a paper released to the Anglican Communion Network of (predominantly conservative) bishops a couple of weeks ago and widely publicised just before the hearing, he calls for ECUSA to use precisely the language of the Windsor report in expressing regret and imposing a â€œmoratoriumâ€ on the appointment of bishops who might cause controversy; he accuses the Special Commissionâ€™s report of duplicity in its use of language and includes scarcely veiled threats should ECUSA not roll over and submit to the Windsor recommendations.â€™
I wish I had time to try to correct all the misinformation out there right now but I cannot. This statement by inclusivechurch is incorrect. The paper was not released to the ACN but to the General Convention as a whole through some bishops whom Bishop Wright felt would be genuinely helpful as a means to this end. The document was not given out â€œweeks agoâ€ but was produced in recent days for the purpose of General Convention and its ongoing conversationâ€“KSH.
The ten-at-a-table plus discussion is a great idea - hope it will be repeated/refined on future occasions.
The admonition to exactly use repeated Windsor word/phrases strikes me as worrisome and a bit childhish. Windsor is typically then treated as some sort of legalistic legislation, and the whole listening processes (around worldwide communion which has been notably impaired since at least ECUSA ordained women, if not even when ECUSA was born / and around sexuality/human nature issues) are transformed by fiat into some sort of judicial procedures. Going to court like this is just not the best way to listen, and using your special reading of scripture to bring other believers up on charges is a sign of impaired communion already, not a royal road to communion or a happy reliable way to restore space for reconciliation. It is all very Alice In Wonderland / Alice Through The Looking Glass. Alas. Lord have mercy.
The Bishop Wright unofficial paper seems interesting, and capable of doing what the conservative campaigners always try to do - i.e., define everything in their own favor before we have even finished or started talking about it with one another across our differences. In the olden days this would probably have been called poor form, even though it probably would still have been released. Maybe it should have been published as a minority report by its committee?
Nowadays, it fits right in with the realignment campaign which tries to play roles as both one of our obviously different believer parties, and as the definitive whole church entire in all times all place for all people. Alas. Lord have mercy.
What to do? Keep trusting God. Be ready to pick up whatever pieces fall out, and keep on keeping on. Refrain from the conservative invitations to betray good conscience, and try to keep a prayerful good sense of humor. From a biblical distance, all the hoo-ha about whether the world is flat or round is rather a tempest in a doctrinal teapot. Uh-oh. I forgot that the Bible was mainly God's way of punching people in the face to tell them how naughty they are. No wonder Windsor and Lambeth pronouncements are read similarly. Yes, I recall having had these sorts of conversations, but I never dared to call them listening.
Tom Wright , as member of the HoB of the CofE, has not only said, that the clergy may enter into Civil Partnerships , but he has been party to the modification of Church Law, so that a cleryperson's civil partner, is to be treated in the same way as a wife, husband or widow /er, of a minister.
And he often refers to the 1991 Issues in Human Sexualtiy as the offical teaching of the Church, by which he stands. That document authorised same sex realtions for all lay members of the CofE.
Furthermore, none of the HoB have said a word against our own gay bishops here in England-- keeping their heads down !
The problem is this.
First, there was plenty of conversation (and listening, unless you define "listen" as "agree with me") before 2003. We (TEC) then told the rest of the Communion to go f*** themselves.
The question at our current GC is, do we tell the rest of the Communion that we meant what we said? If we do so, we can't really expect to be welcome, can we? If a friend begged me not to do something, and I told that friend to go hump a camel, I would probably not be surprised when that friend indicated that I would not be welcome in his home until I apologized and promised that I wouldn't do it again.
Second, the two sides are very far apart on a number of things. The WR is a document of limited scope, that has the specific purpose of coming up with the least intrusive way possible of keeping the Communion together. It was unanimously agreed to by as balanced a panel as ++Cantuar could come up with, and its mandate included considering Lambeth 1998-1.10 as a done deal.
We are not being told to reverse the canonical processes that resulted from the last GC. We are being told that we have to apologize and promise not to do it again. If we don't, we won't be welcome.
Either choice is open to us. But I don't think that a compromise is possible here.
"We (TEC) then told the rest of the Communion to go f*** themselves."
This is a BALD-FACED LIE.
I am sick and tired of people telling me and my church WHAT WE SAID/MEANT, as if we weren't perfectly capable of *speaking for ourselves*.
KSH: "The paper was not released to the ACN but to the General Convention as a whole through some bishops whom Bishop Wright felt would be genuinely helpful as a means to this end."
Now *here*, in contrast, is a statement calling for translation!
"bishops...who would be genuinely helpful"? What was the criteria for *that*?
[Might we expect some similar criteria for TEC bishops who (+Wright feels should) get invited to Lambeth? Only the "genuinely helpful" *cough*AGREE re homosexuality w/ the Primatial-majority*cough* need apply?]