Last week, the Chicago Consultation hosted a gathering of bishops, activists and General Convention delegates at Seabury Western Seminary. The group’s three goals, as stated on its Web site are:
• To strengthen the movement toward the blessing of same sex relationships.
• To advance the inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians in all orders of ministry.
• To strengthen the Anglican Communion’s witness against racism, poverty, sexism, heterosexism, and other interlocking oppressions.
In planning for General Convention, the group began to ponder the issue of Resolution B033 passed in the waning minutes of the General Convention in 2006. It states:
Resolved, That the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report’s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further
Resolved, That this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.
There is general agreement within the Chicago Consultation that something has to be done about that second "Resolve", but the group is looking for input on which tack should be taken in attempting to get rid of it, or at a minimum, to reduce its influence.
The CC has considered three strategies, but there may be others.
1. Outright repeal
This is the strategy embodied in a recent resolution passed by the Diocese of Maine:
RESOLVED, that the Diocese of Maine calls for the repeal of B033, passed at the 75th General Convention and be it further
RESOLVED that the Diocese of Maine calls upon the 76th General Convention to refrain from restricting the field of potential candidates for future episcopates on the basis of gender or sexual orientation and to reject interference from outside the Convention that would attempt to affect its parliamentary process or negate the polity of The Episcopal Church, and be it further
RESOLVED that the Diocese of Maine maintain its commitment to participation in the Anglican Communion and to the listening process described in the Windsor Report. And be it further Resolved to direct its deputation to the 76th General Convention to submit a resolution to this effect. ("RESOLVED that the 76th General Convention will refrain from restricting the field of potential candidates for future episcopates on the basis of gender or sexual orientation and will reject interference from outside the Convention that would attempt to affect its parliamentary process or negate the polity of The Episcopal Church.")
Straight forward and plain spoken. Some, however, worry that such a resolution cannot pass the House of Bishops, whose members are fresh from the Lambeth Conference at which Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, urged a continuing moratorium on the consecration of GLBT people in committed monogamous relationship from the episcopacy. So, what about
2. Clarifying the nature of B033
This approach is embodied in a resolution passed by the Diocese of Rochester.
Resolved … that this 76th General Convention affirms that standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction are not bound by any extra-canonical restraints—including but not limited to the restraints set forth in Resolution B033 passed by the 75th General Convention—when considering consents to the ordination of any candidate to the episcopate.
In a way, this resolution simply seeks to call the Church’s bluff. B033 does not compel bishops or Standing Committees to vote against a gay candidate for the episcopacy; that would require a change in the canons, rather than a simple resolution. However, both the Episcopal Church—particularly its House of Bishops—and the Anglican Communion, have frequently behaved as though B033 had the force of law. This resolution makes it clear that it does not.
But some worry that this approach, while it certainly undercuts the authority of B033, does not go far enough in stating opposition to that resolution. So what about…
3. Sunsetting B033
This strategy has yet to be embodied in a resolution. It is based on the notion that the best way to get past B033 without bogging down in a fight over whether we are technically repealing it is to pass a more recent resolution with different content.
GC2006 “call[ed] upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.”
GC2009 can just as easily “call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to” fill in the blank “when considering whether to consent to the consecration of candidates to the episcopacy.”
Integrity maintains a data base on all known resolutions regarding the full inclusion of all of the baptized in the life of the Church. They are also sponsoring a survey that addresses some of the issues raised above.
Which approach makes the most sense? Which one can work? Your thoughts are welcome.