Friday, July 07, 2006

A View of General Convention written on July 4

The month of June has been a whirlwind for Susan and for me. On June 11 we left for Columbus where I served as Clergy Deputy from Southeast Florida. General Convention ended on June 21 and we returned home, basically to do laundry and pack. On Saturday, June 24 we departed for the Holy Land leading 28 adults on pilgrimage. We returned on July 3. As I was in Miami waiting to go through Passport Control, I checked my e-mails and had a lengthy one from a parishioner who was deeply concerned about the outcome of General Convention. Particularly upsetting to this person was the fact that dioceses such as Central Florida were repudiating the actions of the Episcopal Church and requesting alternative primatial oversight. This person felt that General Covention had acted precipitously and not responded adequately to the demands of the Windsor Report and that this had provoked the action by these dioceses. I answered in a lengthy e-mail on July 4th. As I know there are others who share this person’s grief and concern, I felt it would be helpful to provide a portion of my response on this blogsite. Here is some of what I wrote:

I want to begin by underscoring our observance today, July 4th - Independence Day. Although this General Convention emphasized the international composition of the Episcopal Church (which includes not only Haiti, but also Province IX and its many diocese of Central America and elsewhere), the fact is that our roots are distinctly American. We are not an English Church at prayer on American soil. We are a distinctly American Church. We were birthed with the nation in the pangs of the American Revolution. Our Constitution and Canons were forged in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the same period that the Constitution of the United States (1785-1789) was being drafted. We are, as a result, a democratic church with all of the benefits and foibles that come with democratic institutions.
I believe this has worked very well for us and it is one of the things that make me proud to be an Episcopalian. While we have in our theology, ceremonies and liturgies, been informed by our maternal English roots, our clear identity as American and democratic is something I treasure. I believe with all my heart that the Holy Spirit works well in our church and there is scriptural precedent (see Acts 1:15-26). Therefore, it is troubling to me to see so many who are now unhappy about the democratic processes of our church denying our nature, seeking forms of less democratic polity, striving instead for more centralized and authoritarian control. Who, I wonder, will be the alternative primate of Central Florida? Will it be Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, or another of his colleagues who continue to operate in ways that are autocratic and patently patriarchal and oppressive? I wonder how well John Howe [Bishop of Central Florida] will function under that type of Primatial Oversight? Or perhaps he will reject that too, then what?
It is clear to me that the Diocese of Central Florida and the other nine that have been “acting out” are the ones who have been behaving schismatically. It is they who have been working adamantly at the breakup and destruction of the church. Moreover, many of these dioceses have been engaged in this toxic and destructive behavior since the Episcopal Church ordained women (e.g. Fort Worth, Springfield, San Joaquin, South Carolina). The current conflict is not only about the place of gay and lesbian persons in the life of the Church, it is in many ways a continuation of a longer battle about the role of women in the Church and the changed Book of Common Prayer, now 30 years old!
While the 2006 General Convention in Resolution A159 clearly reaffirmed our abiding commitment to the fellowship of churches that comprise the Anglican Communion, stated clearly that we are in communion with the See of Canterbury and agreed to engage in a “Windsor Process” (
Click here: A159 - Anglican Communion: Commitment to Interdependence in the Anglican Communion) we were unwilling to subscribe wholesale to the demands of the Windsor Report or leave our convictions at the door. In this I believe we are showing appropriate caution and concern.
I find the Windsor Report both a flawed and disturbing document. I also found the response of the Special Committee appointed by George Werner and Frank Griswold and their report
One Baptism, One Hope in God's Call flawed. In the explanation I drafted for a substitute resolution I proposed to the 2006 General Convention for Resolution A160, I gave my reasoning as follows,
“The mandate of the Windsor Report included a direction to the Lambeth Commission to explore the ‘legal and theological implications flowing from the decisions of the Episcopal Church (USA) to appoint a priest in a committed same sex union as one of its bishops and of the Diocese of New Westminster to authorize services for use in connection with same sex unions...’ The Lambeth Commission on Communion failed to address issues of human sexuality and sexual identity as issues of justice and to include consideration of this in its exploration of the “legal and theological implications” flowing from the decisions of the Episcopal Church in 2003. Justice is not only a biblical mandate, but a significant theological concern and one of the four cardinal virtues. To paraphrase St. Augustine, without justice there can be no peace or unity of the church. The failure of the Windsor Report to adequately address the issue of justice with respect to issues of human sexuality and the place of gay and lesbian persons in the life of the Church produced a flawed document and has resulted in a distorted and unbalanced response to the actions of the Episcopal Church in consequence. In March 2005, the House of Bishops made a statement expressing regret and repentance, yet failed to articulate a strong rationale for the Episcopal Church’s decisions. The statement of the House of Bishop’s has been embedded in A160 and yet the language of “repentance” for a decision many feel was made prayerfully, scripturally and justly does not ring true. While the Special Commission on The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion to the 75th General Convention is to be commended for superior work in its report One Baptism, One Hope in God’s Call, this Committee also failed to adequately address the serious omission and flaw of the Windsor Report.”

The text of my proposed Substitute for A160, which never received consideration (it was buried by the House of Bishops) further clarifies my position:

Resolved, the House of ___________concurring, that the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church expresses regret and our sincerest apology for the pain others have experienced with respect to our actions at the General Convention of 2003; and be it further

Resolved, that we affirm that the actions taken at the General Convention 2003 were not intended to offend, denigrate, or breach the bonds of affection with our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion whom we hold in the highest affection and love in Christ, but rather represent the Episcopal Church’s response to what it faithfully believes is our reverent learning from a “new disclosure of truth” (Resolution #8 Lambeth Conference 1958): our experience of the faithful lives and ministries of gay and lesbian persons in the Church, our new understanding of the biblical demands of justice, the Lord’s Summary of the Law and the Baptismal Covenant of the Episcopal Church, and how these inform our relationship to gay, lesbian and transgendered persons in the Church; and be it further

Resolved, that this 75th General Convention communicate to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates of the Anglican Communion, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and our brothers and sisters of the Anglican Communion our love and affection as well as our conviction that for many in the Episcopal Church, questions about human sexuality and the place of gay, lesbian and transgendered persons in the life of the Church and Society represent a vital justice issue and as such have significant legal and theological implications that we believe cannot be ignored or isolated from conversations about the unity of the Church and the Communion and cannot be divorced from the Communion-wide listening process commended by Resolution I.I0 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

Since Lambeth Conference 1978 there has been a call for meaningful dialogue in the Church on human sexuality. This demand has been ignored and most especially in the Global South where, too often, gay and lesbian people are vilified and even persecuted. Archbishop Peter Akinola has recently called for the passage of a law in Nigeria that would criminalize any public displays of same sex affection.
Click here:

This is in violation of all statements regarding the treatment of gay and lesbian people in the church made at Lambeth Conferences in 1978, 1988 and 1998. It is certainly in violation of the tenets of our American Baptismal Covenant which require that we “seek and serve Christ in all persons loving our neighbor as our self” and that we “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.”
I feel strongly that this is a justice issue. My conviction about this has only increased since 2003 as I was subjected to outrageous comments for my support of the Robinson consent and as I have watched the so-called “orthodox” in this country and abroad behave in un-Christian ways and engage in malicious rhetoric and hate speech. Peter Akinola has led the pack and his behavior has been despicable.

Click here: Peter Akinola - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Beyond the fact that the issue is a matter of justice to me and to many others, as well as my recognition that the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Windsor Commission have deliberately refused to engage the question as such, in its call for a “covenantal relationship” subscribed to by the different provinces, the Windsor Report is calling for a realignment of the Anglican Communion that represents a cataclysmic shift in our polity - much more than the mere consecration of homosexual bishop. Despite the protestations of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the contrary, in its call for the Archbishop of Canterbury to be invested with “extraordinary powers” the Windsor Report is moving toward a centralized, authoritarian model of church with a central head. I find this unsatisfactory and especially since none of us has any say in the appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury which is, after all, an appointment of the crown and the government of Great Britain from which we declared our Independence in 1776.

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