By Richard Helmer
The conversation in the House of Deputies this morning on 2006 B033 brought to the fore how deeply this resolution wounded the House of Deputies and The Episcopal Church as a whole.
Calls from those addressing the House in conversation this morning included one for us as a body to be somehow dispassionate; to engage in emotional detachment as we consider the aftermath of B033. But I think that was to ask us to ignore what B033 had really wrought by way of abusing credibility and tender hearts. B033 had not only cut the House to the heart, it had severed the House’s heart from its head, even within individual deputies, a number of whom spoke close to the edge of tears about their profound regrets for voting in favor in 2006. This kind of division – head from heart – is not mere disagreement or argumentation on issues or the finer procedural points of resolutions, but seems to me much deeper. . .and in some ways quite profoundly diabolical. It flies in the face of a Gospel that calls us towards wholeness.
The suffering of our LGBT sisters and brothers around B033 has been and remains compelling and palpable. But their suffering, and hence ours as a whole, is not the only reason B033 festers like an unhealed wound in the House. B033 undercut our own integrity as a Church, for it violates at a very foundational level our own non-discrimination canons when process for Holy Orders is considered. It also smacks of domination from the outside, striking close to the heart of our birthright as a people born free to make our own prayerful decisions, the DNA of a Church wrought in the midst of a great experiment in democratic principles, the mutuality of the members of the Body, and the hopes to pursue a faith in our God – a faith unfettered by fear.
I found disturbing in this morning’s conversation the suggestion that B033 somehow bought our continuing relationship with the Anglican Communion – a relationship that, just the same, remains tenuous at best – or at least so it was claimed. But the suggestion to me implied that B033 was a ticket to grace, a punch-card to get in the door (and we might get kicked out at any moment, if we misbehave, of course).
This witnesses only to the absurdity of the way the Windsor Report has been used and abused to try to force us to toe a particular line – and almost utterly without honoring our God-given freedom to consent through prayerful due process. It has the hallmarks of attempting to make our relationship with the greater Communion a coerced marriage of sorts, and continues to poison even the best motivations behind efforts towards forging an Anglican Covenant.
The frankly bizarre assertion that B033 somehow “worked” as it ought – that it enabled us as a Church to retain a seat at the tables of influence in the greater Communion, and that it somehow brings us towards a healthier state of affairs – was soundly and succinctly contradicted by other members of House. They replied quite simply that relationship in the Communion cannot be bought or codified by resolution. It is rather forged in the incarnational work of person-to-person and community-to-community mission, and in the creation of common, tangible ministry from rebuilding broken lives to feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and healing the sick.
As the House moves forward now to consider B033’s fate, one thing is very clear to me: The House of Deputies will not stand again for any last-minute arm-twisting from the House of Bishops. We will long remember the way in which B033 moved through the House of Deputies in the endgame of the last Convention, with in-person pleas from the Presiding Bishop and rules suspended on the back of impatient and frayed nerves. As John Kirkley wrote shortly after returning from Columbus, the passage of B033 was really an “exercise in spiritual violence.”
Through this violence, B033 left a festering wound in the House of Deputies, and indeed the wider Church. In the words of a number of deputies I have spoken with in recent days and voices on the floor this morning, it sold our Church’s birthright for a bowl of pottage.
How we proceed from here will very much decide how quickly we are able to heal, recalling and articulating not only the truth of who we are -- a renewed connection between head and heart as members of one Body, -- but our integrity as a Church discerning our path in the light of the Gospel and the Truth who is Jesus Christ.
With the hearing last night on B033 before the Commission on World Mission and this morning’s conversation in the House as a whole we have taken steps forward in healing this festering wound of B033, but we are far from finished in this journey. More importantly, through, God is far from finished with us. And that is what gives me the most hope for the coming days.
(The presentation on B033 that was made to the House of Deputies on Thursday before its first discussions is below.)
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Episcopal Elections & the Anglican Communion
House of Deputies
76th General Convention
Thursday, July 9, 2009
I. History and Context
The Lambeth Commission on Communion, called into being by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams issued the Windsor Report in October 2004. The mandate of the commission was “… consideration of ways in which communion and understanding could be enhanced where serious differences threatened the life of a diverse worldwide Church. In short, how does the Anglican Communion address relationships between its component parts in a true spirit of communion?” (WR, p. 5).
The Windsor Report underscored an understanding of the Anglican Communion where churches are “autonomous only in relation to others” (WR, par. 76, italics in original) with equal stress on autonomy and relationship. The Windsor Report further asked all churches of the Anglican Communion to address themselves to three proposed moratoria:
1. To refrain from electing or consenting to the election of any candidate whose manner of life would further strain relations within the communion, specifically with reference to any candidate who is living in a same-sex union (WR, para. 124ff);
2. To refrain from authorizing the development of Rites of Blessing for same-sex unions (para. 136ff.);
3. To refrain from interventions by bishops in Anglican jurisdictions not their own (para. 147ff).
The Episcopal Church received the Windsor Report and called for the Special Commission on The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion to assist the 75th General Convention in responding to the Windsor Report. The Special Commission produced a report, “One Baptism, One Hope in God’s Call,” which proposed a number of resolutions that were passed by the General Convention including:
– A159 on Interdependence in the Anglican Communion
– A160 on Expression of Regret, for pain caused to the Anglican Communion
– A165 on a Commitment to the Listening Process
A161 on Election of Bishops, as reported out by Special Legislative Committee #26, mandated refraining from consenting to the election of a bishop whose manner of life would present a challenge to the wider church and further strain inter-Anglican relations. This failed in the House of Deputies, which raised the prospect that General Convention would end with no clear response to the Windsor Report’s concern about consents to episcopal elections.
In the waning hours of the 75th General Convention, the House of Bishops drafted and passed B033. Then, suspending the rules of order, the House of Deputies concurred.
The question before the Anglican Communion then was: Did the actions of the 75th General Convention respond adequately to the Windsor Report? In the fall of 2006 the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates gave
a qualified assessment that The Episcopal Church had responded adequately to the Windsor Report.
While the Joint Standing Committee gave a positive evaluation of The Episcopal Church’s compliance with the moratoria proposed by the Windsor Report, some bishops and archbishops from other provinces in the Anglican Communion continued to intervene in churches beyond their jurisdictions thus not complying with the third moratorium.
In February 2007 the Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam dissented from the assessment of the Joint Standing Committee and requested further assurances of compliance with the Windsor Report from The Episcopal Church. Both the House of Bishops and the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church refrained from acceding to the Primates’ requests.
In May 2007 the Archbishop of Canterbury invited the bishops of The Episcopal Church to attend the Lambeth Conference but, as recommended by the Windsor Report, the Bishop of New Hampshire was not invited.
In September 2007 the House of Bishops, meeting in New Orleans, took up these matters with both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Joint Standing Committee being present. The House of Bishops reaffirmed B033 and pledged not to authorize rites for blessing same-sex unions.
The Joint Standing Committee stated that in the action of the House of Bishops, The Episcopal Church had “clarified all outstanding questions” relating to its response to the requests of the Windsor Report and questions on which the Primates Meeting had sought clarifications.
The Archbishop of Canterbury solicited opinions from Primates and members of the ACC throughout the communion about the Joint Standing Committee’s evaluation. Three types of responses were received, as announced in March 2008: about one-third concurred, about one-third felt The Episcopal Church had not responded adequately, and one-third did not respond. At this time the Archbishop of Canterbury established the Windsor Continuation Group to take these matters forward and to report back to him after the Lambeth Conference.
The Indaba Process at the Lambeth Conference was designed to encourage purposeful discussion among the bishops about difficult issues. While there was no parliamentary process with resolutions, the Lambeth Indaba Reflections, the only official document of the conference, among other issues, affirmed the Windsor Continuation Group’s interim report calling for maintaining the three moratoria.
Similarly, the 14th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, meeting in Jamaica in May 2009, voted to reaffirm the moratoria.
The 76th General Convention now has the opportunity to assess where The Episcopal Church is with respect to resolution 2006-B033.
II. Issues and Options
The actions of the 75th General Convention, calling on 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, gave no timetable for the duration of such restraint.
The Lambeth Commission on Communion’s 2004 Windsor Report gave no indication of what would constitute consensus around the Communion and negate its call for The Episcopal Church to maintain a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate living in a same sex union.
It falls to this 76th General Convention to decide whether we should continue urging a policy of restraint or to give new guidance to our church in its discernment, nomination, election and consent to election of persons as bishops for the whole church.
Several options are before us.
This convention could take no action at all, effectively leaving the resolution of the 75th General Convention in place. Or it could, likewise, resolve to reaffirm the action of that convention. None of the resolutions currently submitted to the convention and before the legislative committee on World Mission advocates that stance.
The resolutions before us could be summarized as offering three options. All three choices include a continued commitment to full participation in the life of the Anglican Communion in the spirit of Ubuntu, mutual responsibility and interdependence.
The first option calls on this convention specifically to repeal the action of the 2006 convention on “manner of life” and reject the interpretation of that resolution given by the September 2007 meeting of the House of Bishops. At least five resolutions submitted to this convention by dioceses call for this action.
A second approach would attempt to effect a conclusion to this time of restraint by affirming the existing canonical process for the election, consents, and ordination of a bishop in this Church. This new statement would disavow any extra-canonical restraints and affirm that this Church can only be bound by the rules set forth in the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.
A third approach avoids rejecting a previous action of convention or referencing the non-discriminatory provisions of the canon – and instead offers a general statement of where The Episcopal Church is today. Such a statement would acknowledge that we are not of one mind on this issue, but affirm that same sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships are ministering in every order of our church today and that such individuals, like any other baptized member, may be called to any ordained ministry.
Thus, five choices are offered to this Convention.
• This convention may choose not to take new action.
• This convention could choose to reaffirm the action of the 75th General Convention.
• This convention may specifically disavow the action of the 75th General Convention.
• This convention may move beyond the previous action by reaffirming the non-discriminatory provisions of the Title III canons.
• This convention may choose to draft a new statement affirming the full participation of partnered gay and lesbian Episcopalians in all orders of ministry.
Committee #8 on World Mission hopes that the use of a Committee of the Whole today and tomorrow will provide its members an opportunity to listen to a broad spectrum of voices in this House without the interruption of the legislative process. It is the committee’s intention to listen with open hearts and open minds as it prepares to bring legislation to this House for its full consideration.
To begin this process, of respectful listening, Deputy Jennings will explain how we propose that you may utilize the time remaining in this Special Order outside of the legislative format to share your experiences and understandings of where our Church is today.
Questions for Facilitated Conversation
1. What is your story with respect to resolution B033?
2. What is our story as a Church with respect to resolution B033?
3. What is God calling us to do now?