By Greg Jones
With the passage of D025 and C056, many are wondering: What does it all mean?
In a nutshell, it seems to me that what D025 and C056 mean is that The Episcopal Church has told the truth about who and where it is on the controversial issue of fully including gay Christians living in nuptial unions into all orders within the priesthood of all believers. It also tells the truth about where the Episcopal Church is as regards our desire to remain in full communion with the other churches of the Anglican Communion.
The truth on both questions is this: we are not exactly sure yet.
We are not exactly sure what the future will bring for us on both things. We recognize that within our own body is a degree of opinion that varies from staunch support/opposition to staunch ambivalence. As such, D025 essentially upholds a degree of local option on the question of ordaining Christians in same-sex marriage-like unions. It does not in any way guarantee that all or any dioceses will be open to calling and ordaining such persons. (Yes, God calls through the Church.) It does say, however, that the discernment for such is entirely entrusted to dioceses provided they conform with those national canons which are pertinent. In other words, the resolution affirms the status quo ante (before 2006) of how discernment for clerical orders is done.
Does D025 have the effect of 'over-turning' B033? Hard to say in actual fact. B033 was not a 'rule' or a canon, it was a form of urging. Likewise, D025 is not a law either -- it simply reaffirms the sufficiency of the canons vis a vis discernment processes. When it comes right down to it, if a priest were elected to the episcopate whose 'manner of life' was likely to cause difficulty globally, D025 would not have any necessary effect on whether or not said person was consented to by the Standing Committees/House of Bishops and/or General Convention.
Does D025 have the effect of 'looking like' a repudiation of the so-called 'moratorium' sought by Windsor? Of course it does. And likely, in a way, so does C056, which has to do with marriage equality -- which similarly brings us back to a kind of status quo ante 2006. Again, it is a resolution which suggests that we support local pastoral options, and are continuing to examine what if any liturgical/canonical revisions would be made at the General Convention level down the road a stretch.
Both of these resolutions, however, will be perceived globally as some kind of repudiation of the Windor moratoria. The real question though is, "Does this matter?"
If D025 and C056 represent an effort for the Episcopal Church to tell the truth about where we are (as messy as that is) then truth-telling is called for as to the state of the Anglican Communion.
The fact is that those who most demanded the Windsor moratoria did not accept that we had abided by them -- and they have never made any sincere attempt even to look like they were abiding by the moratorium that applied to them. Indeed, when it comes to facts on the ground, the movement that has never done a single thing to abide by Windsor, has many more of them. If The Episcopal Church has one openly partnered gay bishop, and an ongoing practice of local option regarding blessing same-gender couples' unions, the GAFCON movement has created dozens of separatist/schismatic bishops, and have created a continent-sized new province which is actively soliciting recognition by the Church of England synod to be fully recognized as a province in full communion with the See of Canterbury.
Moreover, if we are telling the truth, whereas The Episcopal Church has essentially gone not forward but "back to where we once were" -- with D025/C056 largely looking like a return to the kinds of resolutions which passed in 1991-2000 General Conventions -- the GAFCON movement has gone way off into an anachronistic future whereby the faith is expressed according to the epistemological, theological, cosmological mindset of late 17th century Britain. Notably, we have seen the full-fledged launch of what will likely be an alternative Anglican communion devoid of those developments in Anglicanism which have arisen since the Oxford Movement.
To be sure, The Episcopal Church is not an exemplary model of the Gospel and the catholic church either. I still hold that we are now, perhaps more than ever, a church convinced of the priority of our autonomy - and I find that troubling at times.
Then again, on the other hand, I also recognize that while neither salvation nor discernment of God's will are individualistic endeavors -- there is a part of the process which requires the individual (person or church) to perceive God's vocation even against the opposition of other perso's who likewise are seeking to be faithful.
I do believe that the witness to Christ given by many gay Christians (in various orders of ministry) is a fact in our midst. Their witness to so many of us in the Episcopal Church is also available to many around the Anglican Communion -- and I do believe that people will increasingly come to see that they are proclaiming Christ -- born, crucified, risen and ascended. By being a place where such witness is fostered, the Episcopal Church is, I believe, doing the hard thing (in fact) by standing for a discernment of God's will which does not yet meet easy and widespread approval.
In this, of course, it will remain to be seen whether we are doing something prophetic, or not. If we have decided to stake our selves, our souls, and our bodies on this sense that God is indeed calling for a new thing, (thereby we are perceiving ourselves to have a prophetic vocation), then of course we must do what we believe God is calling us to do. We may of course know that it won't be well or widely received by all. We must of course know that there will come pain and reaction. We must know that -- unlike the people whom Jonah spoke to -- the whole place will not immediate change their ways. We must be willing to receive the reaction against what we perceive to be true -- and to do so graciously and humbly.
Indeed, if we are acting in any way prophetically by passing D025 and C056, we must be prepared to turn the other cheek when the slaps come, and continue to maintain the posture of faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, who was born, died, rose, ascended and will come again as part of the fulfillment of God's plan before the worlds began, to make all things well.
The Rev. Samuel Gregory Jones ('Greg') is rector of St. Michael's in Raleigh, N.C., a trustee of General Seminary and the bass player in indie-rock band The Balsa Gliders — whose fourth studio release is available on iTunes. He blogs at Anglican Centrist.