The way the bishops dealt with C056 shows the fruit of their work with each other and with colleagues from other provinces in the Anglican Communion. When B012 which allowed for ‘generous pastoral responses’ in dioceses where marriage is legal for same gender couples came to the House of Bishops it was deferred for ‘private conversation’. It did not re-appear until Thursday by which time it had been superseded by C056 and was therefore tabled.
C056 was an ‘omnibus’ resolution which contained bits of many different resolutions that the Prayer Book Music and Liturgy committee had received. By the time the committee brought it to the House of Bishops it had already been the subject of considerable prayer and hard work and attempted to address many of the concerns which had previously been expressed among the bishops.
In the first debate several amendments were proposed. These included trying to limit a ‘generous pastoral response’ to the dioceses where civil marriage is available to lesbian and gay couples. This was opposed by Bishops Mathes and Robinson on the basis that pastoral response should not be geographically limited. Bishop Sutton of Maryland said that he and suffragan Bishop Rabb do not agree on these matters but they can still minister together – he hoped they might model that possibility for the Church. His view is that ‘generosity for the few is not generosity’.
Bishop Frade of SE Florida said that he himself had been a political refugee, and many people (including LGBT) come to SE Florida for refuge. This resolution would solve issues that he has in providing pastoral responses for people who are faithful but for whom nothing is provided. Bishop Alexander of Atlanta was excited about the possibility of collecting the liturgical and theological work that had been done and taking it further in consultation with each other.
The sticking points came in whether a liturgy should be developed for the 2012 Convention – that might make it likely to be adopted before people were really ready to take that step – and how to define the kind of relationship that might be blessed.
Bishop Daniel of East Carolina said it was important to hear every voice in the house and not just an ‘ominous silence’ from those who might not agree. In response to his invitation, Bishop Beckwith of Springfield said that in his view this was another instance of allowing the church to be changed by secular culture instead of vice versa. He believed that this resolution took the Episcopal Church further from the recommendations of the Windsor Report.
Bishop Sauls of Lexington stood to offer what he said was the most important thing he would say this Convention. In the past the Church had decided to allow divorced persons to be married even though it was thought to be the moral equivalent of adultery. It did so even though it went against the sexual ethics of the time, and even though it went to the core of the theology of marriage (more so, he said, than same sex couples who live in a ‘moral equivalent’ relationship). The Church had made this decision out of a sense of grace, compassion and pastoral mercy, LGBT people are asking for nothing more, he claimed than ‘members of this House’ have granted themselves.
After that a lengthy amendment was proposed and the debate was deferred until copies could be made available. Then the Bishops again deferred the debate and in the next twenty four hours held two informal meetings for those who wanted to discuss the issues further. Given the pressures of the Convention schedule, these discussions had to be held late at night and early in the morning.
About 26 bishops attended and the result was a new version of the resolution which was crafted by five bishops. Bishop Gene Robinson characterized these discussions as ‘the holiest and most moving moments of the Convention’ and he described a ‘deep desire to hear and shoulder one anothers burdens.’ ‘If this is what indaba was like at Lambeth, he said, ‘I am even more sad I was not there.’
There was a move by a couple of bishops to take this out of the realm of legislation and instead issue a Pastoral Letter. Their intention seemed to be to provide a more fluid response than is possible within the confines of resolutions. Their colleagues disagreed and almost immediately the question was called and the resolution passed 104 for, 30 against and 2 abstaining.
There is a statement by the more conservative bishops which was published today. Here it is:
The Anaheim Statement, General Convention, 2009
At this convention, the House of Bishops has heard repeated calls for honesty and clarity. As the conversation has proceeded within the HOB, repeated attempts to modify wording which would have been preferable to the minority in the vote were respectfully heard and discussed, but in the end most of these amendments were found unacceptable to the majority in the House. Many in the majority believed the amendments would make the stated position of this House less honest about where they believe we are as The Episcopal Church.
It is apparent that a substantial majority of this Convention believes that The Episcopal Church should move forward on matters of human sexuality. We recognize this reality and understand the clarity with which the majority has expressed itself. We are grateful fo
r those who have reached out to the minority, affirming our place in the Church.
We seek to provide the same honesty and clarity. We invite all bishops who share the following commitments to join us in this statement as we seek to find a place in the Church we continue to serve.
* We reaffirm our constituent membership in the Anglican Communion, our communion with the See of Canterbury and our commitment to preserving these relationships.
* We reaffirm our commitment to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this church has received them (BCP 526, 538)
* We reaffirm our commitment to the three moratoria requested of us by the instruments of Communion.
* We reaffirm our commitment to the Anglican Communion Covenant process currently underway, with the hope of working toward its implementation across the Communion once a Covenant is completed.
* We reaffirm our commitment to "continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship" which is foundational to our baptismal covenant, and to be one with the apostles in "interpreting the Gospel" which is essential to our work as bishops of the Church of God.
According to Bishop Mathes, this statement was contributed to the Bishops’ conversation in a loving and appreciative way, not in a spirit of divisiveness.
Asked how this would play out in dioceses, Bishop Konieczny of Oklahoma said that it was a commitment to recognize each bishop in the particular situation within which they find themselves. Bishop Mathes said that he had been lobbied to support C056 in advance of the House of Bishops debate, but he had needed time to discern with his colleagues in the House and in the same way he needed to discern what this would mean in his own diocese. He said that the diocese of San Diego has conducted a study on Holiness in Relationships (http://www.edsd.org/Holiness.htm) and that this would be used in their discernment of how to apply C056.
**Update: C056 now has now been voted on by the House of Deputies and we are waiting results of that vote later today. Stay Tuned!
Caroline Hall for IntegrityUSA