The day began with Eucharist, with Bishop W. Michie (Mike) Klusmeyer presiding with the sermon offered by Archbishop Vicken Aykazian of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America. The archbishop spoke movingly of the pain of the Armenian genocide of 1915, and the pain of exile expressed in the texts;
“And yet, it is precisely at such moments that Christ can become most powerfully present to us. For myself, during this Genocide Centennial year, I felt His presence in the incredible outpouring of support and encouragement Armenians have received, from friends, co-religionists, national governments, and even from people we had never met before. All of them asserted their solidarity, their understanding, their recognition and appreciation of what the Armenian people endured.
Like you have done today, this outpouring of good will made us realize as never before that we are not alone. That the burden of pain and exile was not something my people alone have experienced. Others share that burden with us, in different ways. And most of all, our Lord shares that burden with all His children.”
But the archbishop closed by reminding us, that all of us are exiles;
“And yet we are also assured that a crown of glory is awaiting us. For the truth is that wherever we may live, Christ’s faithful followers—just like their master—have no real home upon this earth. “Foxes have dens, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head,” said our Lord Jesus (Mt 8:20). Our true homeland is God’s kingdom. And human life is the exile’s journey of return. Along that path we will experience all of life’s drama: its sorrow and pain, but also its joys and beauty. And all the while, we await the sound of our shepherd’s voice—the Shepherd who has never ceased searching for us, to gather us in, and deliver us home.”
Legislatively, it was a busy day in both the House of Deputies (HoD) and House of Bishops (HoB). Issues of governance, marriage, and evangelism with the potential of far-reaching affects were addressed and adopted by one house or another (and both).
Starting with the HoD
Resolution D004 to create a Task Force to study Episcopal elections was approved that would look at the different roles of various bishop types (diocesan, co-adjutor, suffragan, & assistant) and how differing needs might be discerned and the continuing lack of diversity amongst bishops and then “the Task Force will propose to the 79th General Convention a new process for discernment, nomination, formation, search, election, and transition of bishops in The Episcopal Church including, but not limited to: the roles and responsibilities of the Office of Pastoral Development; the selection of, roles and responsibilities of Transition Consultants; how adjoining dioceses may aid and inform the discernment of a diocese in transition; and any required Constitutional and Canonical changes necessary.” And they asked for $150,000 to fund the work.
Resolution D009, which arose from the work of TREC, was passed which would create resources for congregational revitalization. This would be done through creation of a network of experienced revitalization coaches, coordinated by a churchwide staff person and the creation of a revitalization venture fund to award grants to existing congregations undertaking revitalization efforts. The potential sticking point her is that also directs the churhc’s development office to raise $300,000 and asks for $700,000 from the church’s budget.
D005 would fund the planting of up to 30 new churches for a cool $5,000,000. This also includes a network and staff coordinator. (Editorial opinion here: I do hope we work closely with the ELCA which has a pretty well developed training and support program already in place that seems to work very well)
A012 would continue the Mission Enterprise Zones, first created at the last GC; allocating $3,000,000 for the effort.
And just before the close of today’s session, the HoD concurred with a resolution already passed in the HoB to continue and expand the Task Force on Marriage (A037) created at the last GC, with their main task being to “explore further those contemporary trends and norms identified by the Task Force on the Study of Marriage in the previous triennium, specifically regarding those who choose to remain single; unmarried persons in intimate relationships; couples who cohabitate either in preparation for, or as an alternative to, marriage; couples who desire a blessing from the Church but not marriage; parenting by single or and/or unmarried persons; differing forms of family and household such as those including same-sex parenting, adoption, and racial diversity; and differences in marriage patterns between ethnic and racial groups.”
These resolutions on church growth and revitalization could be the beginning of significant positive changes, but they also come with hefty price tags that aren’t necessarily accounted for in the draft budget – it will take sustained effort to keep these important efforts moving forward as they need to be.
House of Bishops
Most of the HoB’s time was spent dealing with two resolutions affecting marriage; A036 to amend the MArriage Canon and A054 to authorize rites for same sex marriages.
The final form of A054 passed by the bishops, seeks to respect the theological diversity of the church by ensuring that no one may be coerced into performing rites contrary to their conscience, but the key phrase in the the resolution is this; “Bishops exercising ecclesiastical authority or, where appropriate, ecclesiastical supervision will make provision for all couples asking to be married in this Church to have access to these liturgies. Trial use is only to be available under the direction and with the permission of the Diocesan Bishop.” And from debate in the HoB, it seems that the intent is to make space for same-sex marriages throughout the church. How that “will make provision” is given life though, will be the proverbial proof in the pudding.
And A036 reworks the canon on marriage, eliminating language referring to marriage being for a man and a woman, and allowing the use of any authorized rites (such as those approved in A054). There was much (civil) debate on this resolution with many resolutions offered (and rejected) that sought to preserve in some ways a more “traditional” understanding. Ultimately though,the reworked canon passed overwhelmingly with 129 “ayes,” 26 “nays.” and 5 abstentions.
Tobias Haller, who has long been a proponent of LGBTQ inclusion wrote this on Facebook in response;
“There has been some reaction in some circles to the resolution A054 on marriage that passed the House of Bishops and is now headed to the deputies that suggests we are in a status quo situation. This is very, very far from true. It is true that the proposal allows a diocesan to regulate the use of the liturgies within his diocese, which could include not authorizing them for general use. However, the resolution also requires that all couples in the diocese WILL be provided with access to these rites.
I have been at this a while, my friends. There was a time when the LGBT folks were on the side of “being tolerated” and given recently the “generous pastoral” response of the church. Now is our opportunity to do the same for those who find it difficult to accept these changes. Grace and toleration work both ways. This is not saying No to GLBT people; the bishop who disagrees with this will have to find a way to make the liturgy accessible to every couple. I’m sure many creative ways can be found to do this in the small number of dioceses in which this will be true. The glass is half full, and we are in a time of evolution. Give it a chance — this offer of toleration is a principle reason these resolutions passed by such a large majority in the House of Bishops, as a recognition of generous pastoral outreach to the conservative bishops who now feel like beleaguered outcasts in their own church. Same shoe, other foot, some might say — but aren’t we able to be better than that. People can change, but forcing them is not the best way.”
This was a significant day, but with a great deal more work to go yet. You can follow tomorrow’s work on Twitter @EpiscopalCafe.
posted by Jon White