Kendall Harmon on D025

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Statement of Kendall Harmon on Resolution D025

The passage of Resolution D025 by the General Convention of 2009 is a repudiation of Holy Scripture as the church has received and understood it ecumenically in the East and West. It is also a clear rejection of the mutual responsibility and interdependence to which we are called as Anglicans. That it is also a snub to the Archbishop of Canterbury this week while General Synod is occurring in York only adds insult to injury.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the BBC, the New York Times and Integrity all see

what is being done here. There are now some participants in the 76th General Convention who are trying to pretend that a yes to D025 is NOT a no to B033. Jesus’ statement about letting your yes be yes and your no be no is apt here. These types of attempted obfuscations are utterly unconvincing. The Bishop of Arizona rightly noted in his blog that D025 was “a defacto repudiation of” B033.

The presuppositions of Resolution D025 are revealing. For a whole series of recent General Conventions resolutions have been passed which are thought to be descriptive by some, but understood to be prescriptive by others. The 2007 Primates Communique spoke to this tendency when they stated “they deeply regret a lack of clarity” on the part of the 75th General Convention.

What is particularly noteworthy, however, is that Episcopal Church Resolutions and claimed stances said to be descriptive at one time are more and more interpreted to be prescriptive thereafter. Now, in Resolution D025, the descriptive and the prescriptive have merged. You could hear this clearly in the floor debates in the two Houses where speakers insisted “This is who we are!”

Those involved in pastoral care know that when a relationship is deeply frayed when one or other party insists “this is who I am” the outcome will be disastrous. The same will be the case with D025, both inside the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

D025 is the proud assertion of a church of self-authentication and radical autonomy.

It is a particularly ugly sight.

–The Rev. Dr. Kendall S. Harmon is Canon Theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina

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Bill Carroll
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Amen to Kit's comment. D025 is an act of self-differentiation. The problem with B033 was the duplicity that gave into a relational bind. Other Anglicans are of course free to respond according to their own convictions. We need forms of interdependence that allow each party to be who they are. We also need some clarity about the boundaries. Different parties would draw these boundaries differently. It may be that the clarity of D025 allows different parties in the reasserter camp to gain more clarity about where they stand. We may be headed in some cases for a trial separation if not a divorce, but that's better than staying in a dysfunctional relationship, especially if we can avoid the extreme forms of hatred and lack of forgiveness that continue to have the former partner as a controlling element in our own life and all subsequent relationships. My prayer, as someone committed to the unity of the Church, is that we will find a way to "separate, so we won't have to separate." What we have seen in the Anglican Communion is a kind of emotional fusion. We need to be together as persons who have a firm sense of self. I think this is precisely what is wrong with communion conservative's appeal to MRI and subsidiarity.

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Bill Carroll
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I can see why it would seem this way to Kendall.

From my perspective, snub is too strong a word and MRI has never implied the kind of global synod that some communion-oriented conservatives want it to. Moreover, this is not so much a repudiation of Holy Scripture as received in East and West, as the next step in an evolving tradition of interpreting Scripture which is (in my view) faithful to the rule of faith and the trajectory that Anglicans were already on. Once you allow for remarriage after divorce and contraception, same sex unions and partnered gay clergy are a fairly easy corollary. The description of the ends of marriage in the 1979 Prayer Book, well rooted in Cranmer's Refomation view of marriage, lists procreation as the third and optional good. The prior two goods are mutual joy and help given in prosperity and adversity.

I agree with Kendall that it is not helpful to pretend that this doesn't represent an explicit departure from the stance embodied in B033. At the same time, it is important to understand how we have chosen to go beyond B033. There is no explicit repeal. Those who thought B033 was a proper, though voluntary, exercise of restraint for a season can embrace D025 at this time with a clean conscience. Those of us who thought B033 was a horrible, duplicitous resolution adopted by a bad process can rejoice that we have returned to the process outlined by the canons, with no additional requirments.

If I recall correctly, Kendall and I agreed that B033 was an evasion of the duty of fundamental honesty at the time it was passed. D025 restores honesty about where we are and is to that extent descriptive. It is also clearly prescriptive, in the sense that it calls us to follow the discernment process called for by the canons.

I assume that some of the bishops who voted for D025 may continue to exercise restraint as called for in B033. I don't think that's morally justifiable or consistent with the discipline of the Episcopal Church. But at least we don't have any policy of discrimination on the books, not even in the form of a nonbinding resolution. D025 is, in a sense, a de facto repeal of B033. But B033 never superseded the nondiscrimination canons of this church.

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Kit Carlson
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Kit Carlson

Those of us who are students of Rabbi Ed Friedman and his application of Bowen Family Systems theory to religious organizations know that "when one or the other party insists, 'this is who I am'" and then is willing to stay connected while continuing to be self-defined, then healthy functioning begins to permeate the ENTIRE system.

God willing, the resolution (a wonderful example of how to self-define and stay connected) will bring health to our dysfunctional system.

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William Gilders
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William Gilders

Let's be clear. What the Rev. Dr. dislikes about D025 and identifies as "a particularly ugly sight" is the affirmation that the LGBT baptized can have their calls to ordained ministry recognized.

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer printed in Forward Day By Day, the intention was for the Diocese of South Carolina. When I read Mattins, I prayed for all the LGBT Christians resident in that diocese. May God comfort, encourage, and sustain them.

As for the opening line of Fr. Harmon's piece: D025 does not repudiate Scripture. It repudiates a death-dealing interpretation of Scripture. That the Church has long "received" it is simply tragic, just as was the Church's past affirmation of slavery as biblically-sanctioned and the (still widely embraced) denial that women can serve as presbyters and bishops. May God sustain us in such necessary "repudiation"!

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Jeffrey L. Shy, M.D.
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Jeffrey L. Shy, M.D.

Every time I start to think compassionately about what the "winners" in this ongoing debate should do to extend the hand of charity and brother/sisterhood to the "loosers," I get hit again with a piece like this, of thinly veiled anger/hatred and threats. I am trying to be grateful that it allows me to practice humility and to turn the other cheek.

I feel that I need to take a deep breath and try to hear the pain behind the anger, but in the spirit of humility, I believe that those who are expressing anger should consider the danger to themselves of indulging in this kind of bitter rhetoric. The pharisaical tone sounds so very un-Christian. Do they see this?

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