All church politics is local, too

Posted 14 July 2009 by

This was the only race I ever lost in my life, but in the process, I learned two extremely valuable lessons. During the campaign, my father had left me to my own devices, but when it was over, he pointed out that I had taken my own neighborhood for granted. He was right: I had received a tremendous vote in the other sections of the city, but I hadn’t worked hard enough in my own backyard. “Let me tell you something I learned years ago,” he said. “All politics is local.”

—Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr., Man of the House
I write this post while the General Convention of the Episcopal Church meets in Anaheim, California. As an Episcopalian, I am interested in what they are doing across the street from Disneyland. As what has become typical, we get to deal with sexual politics.

There are two resolutions that are getting more attention than they deserve. The first is Resolution 2006-B033, passed at the previous General Convention in 2006. The second is Resolution 2009-D025 from the current General Convention. The text for both is at the end of this blog post.

When B033 was passed, the cries were from some parties that it did not address the issues that General Convention needed to address.

B033 states that the convention “call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidates to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.” Such language is vague, for it does not address the moratorium on consecration of homosexual bishops called for in the Windsor Report, and it is unclear in its use of “manner of life,” a phrase that could be interpreted in a variety of ways.

The resolution’s failure to address the Windsor Report’s recommendation of a moratorium on same-sex blessings is its greatest weakness. The 74th General Convention in Minneapolis had acknowledged that such blessings are taking place in the Episcopal Church but it did not approve or prevent them. Thus it would seem that blessings of same-sex couples will continue in many places, with or without the permission of diocesan bishops. (“Convention Stumbles and Falls on Windsor Report,” The Living Church, July 12, 2006)

The view of B033 appears to be changed in 2009.

The House of Bishops’ adoption of Resolution D025 on July 13 was an honest act that fairly stated the mind of the majority of the House of Bishops, progressive bishops argued. But members of the minority stated the vote ends the Episcopal Church’s compliance with the pledge made by the 2006 General Convention in Resolution B033 to abstain from consecrating more gay bishops, ends the Windsor Process, snubs the Archbishop of Canterbury, and places the Episcopal Church outside the Anglican Communion. (“News Analysis: Passage of D025 May Place TEC Outside Communion,” The Living Church, July 14, 2009)

In 2006, enacting B033 did “not address the moratorium on consecration of homosexual bishops called for in the Windsor Report.” In 2009, enacting D025 “ends the Episcopal Church’s compliance with the pledge made by the 2006 General Convention in Resolution B033.”

What a difference three years made.

In my opinion, all of it is much to do about nothing. All those making peals of joy and cries of despair should stop and look at what is going on.

First and foremost, it is canon law that controls how the Episcopal Church handles the process that may lead to ordination. Resolutions B033 and D025 do not amend relevant canons. “Urging restraint” is not the same as “thou shalt not.” “Discernment process” is not the same as “right to ordaination.”

Actually, the relevant canon says this specifically:

“No right to licensing, ordination, or election is hereby established” (Title III, Canon 1, Sec. 2).

Why does all this hoopla bother me?

First, the pro- and anti-gay ordination sides treat ordination as if it is like earning teacher certification. Take the right courses. Do the required student teaching. File the right forms. While you may not have a teaching job when finished, you will have teaching certification. You are a teacher.

Ask any bishop or diocesan Commission on Ministry about the process in the Episcopal Church. For that matter, anyone who is ordained in the Episcopal Church. Nothing is automatic. Nothing is assured while in discernment. This is true for every people of every race, gender, and sexual orientation.

Second, both resolutions are really an expression of wanting to remain within the Anglican Communion, not about with whom a bishop sleeps. B033 could not enforce its call to show restraint because nothing in the canons prohibited it. D025 does not make any diocese call a gay man or lesbian as bishop.

If the truth sets us free, why can’t people deal with the truth?

Integrity/USA should stop saying that B033 has been superseded with D025. Where does D025 say that? Even without B033, what makes you think consideration won’t be given to the rest of the Anglican Communion when giving consents? The Episcopal Church is bending over backwards for those parts of the communion having problems with gay bishops. Besides, not all that many priests are elected bishop, no matter what the orientation.

The various groups against gay people becoming bishops need to deal with the fact that the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire is not the first gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. There is the Rt. Rev. Otis Charles, who came out after he retired.

For that matter, Bishop Robinson is not the first gay bishop in the Anglican Communion. There is a wonderful line in “The Bishop’s Gambit” from the BBC sit-com Yes, Prime Minister about this. When this program was recorded, the Prime Minister of England made the nomination to be a bishop from two names submitted to him by a commission. When discussing the process in the program it was said, “With the Church you always get the choice of a knave or a queen.” Go to about 3:00 minutes in the following video to see a humorous description of the process in the Church of England.

Those opposed to the ordination of gays and lesbians need to deal with the Sermon on the Mount. In it, Jesus says a man has already committed adultery in his heart if he lusts after a woman. Yet, straight men are somehow better than gay men? Everyone has sinned, including sexually, yet a few have received God’s call.

We all need to start dealing with reality. Remove the rose-colored glasses. Stop the histrionics. Talk and write calmly. Promise only what you can deliver. Speak your opinion only as your opinion. Deal with straights and gays the same way. Apply all of the Lambeth resolutions and the Windsor process equally.

And admit no one really knows the final answer to this. A little wisdom from Gamaliel may be in order.


Resolution 2006-B033, passed at the previous General Convention in 2006.

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report’s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further

Resolved, That this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.

Resolution 2009-D025 from the current General Convention:

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm the continued participation of The Episcopal Church as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion; give thanks for the work of the bishops at the Lambeth Conference of 2008; reaffirm the abiding commitment of The Episcopal Church to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion and seek to live into the highest degree of communion possible; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention encourage dioceses, congregations, and members of The Episcopal Church to participate to the fullest extent possible in the many instruments, networks and relationships of the Anglican Communion; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm its financial commitment to the Anglican Communion and pledge to participate fully in the Inter-Anglican Budget; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm the value of “listening to the experience of homosexual persons,” as called for by the Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988, and 1998, and acknowledge that through our own listening the General Convention has come to recognize that the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committedrelationships “characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God” (2000-D039); and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention recognize that gay and lesbian persons who are part of such relationships have responded to God’s call and have exercised various ministries in and on behalf of God’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are currently doing so in our midst; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm that God has called and may call such individuals, to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church, and that God’s call to the ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church is a mystery which the Church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment processes acting in accordance with theConstitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge that members of The Episcopal Church as of the Anglican Communion, based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition and reason, are not of one mind, and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters.

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