I’m going to write more about “General Convention in General,” but here’s a legislative wrap up (coming later in the day than I’d meant it to but I’ve decided to give up waiting for the official GC2009 resolution web pages to come back up online – will just add the links to the citations later.)
Heading to Anaheim, Integrity had two primary “agenda items:”
- Move the Episcopal Church beyond B033 and reopen ordination processes to all the baptized;
- Move the Episcopal Church forward on the blessing of same sex marriages and unions.
- D025 – Supports inclusive ordination processes for ALL orders of ministry
- C056 – Authorizes “generous pastoral support” for blessing marriages, unions & partnerships and collection of liturgical resources for consideration at GC2012
D025 -- Ordination
It can – and has – been said that D025 does not “repeal” B033 – and that is, of course, true. There will still be bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees who will choose to “exercise restraint” when consenting the election of a bishop whose “manner of life” would cause concern to the wider Anglican Communion. (And we all know that is code for “partnered gay or lesbian bishop.”) Nevertheless, the inclusive and expansive language of D025 states “this is where we are in 2009” – and frees bishops and standing committees to focus on the theological orientation rather than the sexual orientation of qualified candidates to the episcopate.
Furthermore, by stating unequivocally that “God has called and may call any individual in the church to any ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church, in accordance with the discernment process set forth in the Constitution and Canons of the church” – D025 actually states for the first time as an official resolution of the Episcopal Church that the extra-canonical requirement of celibacy of gay and lesbian candidates for ordination is not the mind of this church.
From the letter by the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies to the Archbishop of Canterbury:
Nothing in the Resolution goes beyond what has already been provided under our Constitution and Canons for many years. In reading the resolution, you will note its key
- Our Church is deeply and genuinely committed to our relationships in the Anglican Communion;
- We recognize the contributions gay and lesbian Christians, members of our Church both lay and ordained, have made and continue to make to our common life and ministry;
- Our Church can and does bear witness to the fact that many of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters live in faithful, monogamous, lifelong and life-giving committed relationships;
- While ordination is not a “right” guaranteed to any individual, access to our Church’s discernment and ordination process is open to all baptized members according to our Constitution and Canons; and
- Members of The Episcopal Church do, in fact, disagree faithfully and conscientiously about issues of human sexuality.
C056 -- Blessings
What the Episcopal Church adopted in Resolution C056 is a broad local option for the blessings of the marriages, unions and partnerships of same sex couples and a call to the church to work together toward common liturgical expressions of those blessings.
The Rev. Sam Candler (Atlanta), chair of the committee that presented the resolution, called it "an elegant blend of theological care, ecclesiastical breadth and pastoral generosity."
The Rev. Dan Martins (Northern Indiana) had this to say about C056: “If there was ambiguity surrounding D025--and I have contended that there is -- there is none here. This convention has abrogated every positive gesture it has made toward the Anglican Communion since 2003. Everything we did three years ago in response to the Windsor Report is down the drain.”
In other historic action, the General Convention adopted resolutions supporting the enactment of anti-discrimination and hate crimes legislation protecting transgender people at local, state and federal levels. Both houses also adopted resolutions adding "gender identity and expression" to its nondiscrimination policy for hiring lay employees and calling for the revision of church paper and electronic forms to allow a wider range of gender identifications. In review:
C056 – Authorizes “generous pastoral support” for blessing marriages, unions & partnerships and collection of liturgical resources for consideration at GC2012
C048 – Urges support of fully inclusive ENDA legislation pending in Washington
D012 -- Support for Transgender Civil Rights
D025 – Supports inclusive ordination processes for ALL orders of ministry
D032 -- Non-discrimination clause including gender identity and gender expression for lay employees
D076 -- Support for immigration equality for gay couples
D090 -- Church paper work to be made more accessible to flexibility in gender identity and pronoun preference
C023 – Urging support for repeal of DOMA (“Defense of Marriage Act”) passed in Deputies and was referred by Bishops to Executive Council – where we expect affirmative action will be taken to take the voice of the Episcopal Church to Washington on this important issue.
Finally, Integrity applauds the amazing work of ALL our allies in advancing resolutions on a broad range of critical gospel issues. Unlike our last two General Conventions, where the resolutions regarding human sexuality so consumed our legislative process that there was precious little left for anything else, this 76th General Convention worked long, hard and diligently to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God” – acting on everything from lay equity in pension plans to ending torture; on labor issues and human rights violations; on universal health care and climate change; on human trafficking and ending the blockade in Cuba.
One of the most moving moments for me came on the last day of legislation when Frank Wade reminded us that our actions in the House of Deputies were -- in their own way --offerings being laid at the altar of our God who calls us to this work of justice, compassion and love. The reminder that “liturgical” and “political” are words that share a root – and that both the work of the people – was a holy container for this holy work we have been about for the last ten days in Anaheim.
There are miles to go before we rest – before the kingdom come on earth IS as it is in heaven. But BIG steps forward were taken by The Episcopal Church at this General Convention. And for that, we rejoice and are glad!