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The Case For Discipline Part 3: Rejecting the Call

With the House of Deputy’s rejection of Resolution A161 and the substitute resolution which specifically employed Windsor language, it is clear that the Episcopal Church, as an official body, has rejected the call of the Anglican Communion to halt the development of rites for same sex blessings and the celebration of the same until such time as there is a change in mind of the communion.

Following the passage of A160 and after much debate, the Special Committee on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion (SCECAC) presented Resolution A161 to the floor of Convention. The resolution was an omnibus resolution. It included in various “resolve clauses” answering the remaining two Windsor requests. Here it is in full:

A161 Election of Bishops

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church regrets the extent to which we have, by action and inaction, contributed to strains on communion and caused deep offense to many faithful Anglican Christians as we consented to the consecration of a bishop living openly in a same-gender union. Accordingly, we are obliged to urge nominating committees, electing conventions, Standing Committees, and bishops with jurisdiction to refrain from the nomination, election, consent to, and consecration of bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion; and be it further

Resolved that this General Convention not proceed to develop or authorize Rites for the Blessing of same-sex unions at this time, thereby concurring with the Windsor Report in its exhortation to bishops of the Anglican Communion to honor the primates’ Pastoral Letter of May 2003; and be it further

Resolved that this General Convention affirm the need to maintain a breadth of responses to situations of pastoral care for gay and lesbian Christians in this Church.

Resolved that this General Convention apologize to those gay and lesbian Episcopalians and their supporters hurt by these decisions.

EXPLANATION
The Windsor Report has invited the Episcopal Church to "effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges" (Windsor Report 134). Within the parameters set by our Constitution and Canons, this resolution frames a response encouraging caution regarding "nomination, election, consent to, and consecration of bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." The resolution does not specify what constitutes a "manner of life" that "presents a challenge to the wider church;" we leave this to the prayerful discernment of those involved in nominating, electing, and consecrating bishops. Concerns we discussed were by no means limited to the nature of the family life; for example, the potential of bishops to serve effectively as pastors for all within their diocese, and their level of commitment to respect the dignity of and strive for justice for all people are also relevant. Finally, the Special Commission was not of one mind on the use of the words "exercise very considerable caution in," with some instead recommending the words "refrain from." As a group and in a spirit of cooperation and generosity, however, we decided to offer the resolution as it stands for debate at the 75th General Convention.


This resolution fails in many ways.

First, resolution A161 adopts the inadequate language of A160, referring to bonds which have been “strained” rather than breached (see my argument in part 2 of this series where I deal specifically with the language of A160).

Second, the resolution fails to specifically identify, “non-celibate candidates living in same sex relationships” in keeping with the Windsor Report (see part 1) and refers instead to any candidate whose, “manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church.”

As the explanation notes, the lack of specific Windsor language was purposeful. The generality was meant to provide space for diocesan nominating committees and conventions to “prayerfully consider” for themselves what sort of lifestyle might pose a “challenge” to the wider church.

One primary purpose of the Windsor Report and the Dromantine Communique was to deny the very space this resolution seeks to create.

Third, there is a certain level of condescension in the word “challenge.” The word suggests that the rest of the world is somehow not “ready” to embrace the prophetic call to include people living in non-celibate homosexual relationships that the Episcopal Church has already embraced.

The second resolve clause seems to place a moratorium on both the authorization of the development of public rites for same sex unions and the authorization of the use of such rites. However, the third resolve casts doubt on the meaning of the second. What precisely does it mean to “maintain a breadth of responses to situations of pastoral care for gay and lesbian Christians in this Church”?

If the subsequent actions of various bishops and dioceses are any indications, it means to authorize and develop public rites for the blessing of same sex unions.

The debate within the SCECAC is instructive. At one point, Michael Howell moved that resolution A161, in keeping with the House of Bishop’s “Covenant Statement”, be articulated in such a way that it might represent a moratorium not only the development of public rites, but on the celebration of the same. His motion was debated by the committee (see notes taken during this debate) and ultimately rejected by a vote of 7 yeas to 11 nays. One member of the committee, the Rev. Ian Douglas, noted that any language which absolutely forbade the celebration of non-celibate same sex unions would cause him to “walk apart.”

It was clearly the intention of the committee that “space” be provided for same sex blessings to take place as a “pastoral response.”

The debate on the floor of the House of Deputies was quite telling. Ultimately A161 was rejected by the House of Deputies. Here are the vote totals:

LAY: 38 yes 53 no 18 divided: Motion fails
CLERGY: 44 yes 53 no 14 divide Motion fails

Since a resolution must be passed by both houses to take effect, Resolution A161 died in the House of Deputies.

During the debate Deputy Christopher Cantrell offered a substitute resolution that employed the precise wording of the Windsor Report:

Resolved, the house of--------concurring, That the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church “effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until [and unless] some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges” (WR134) and be it further

Resolved that the 75th GC effect a moratorium on the authorizing of all public rites of blessing of same sex unions (WR 144), and be it further

Resolved that the 75th GC call upon those bishops who have authorized public rites for blessing same sex unions, “because of the serious repercussions in the Communion…to express regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached by such authorization” (WR144)

After a good deal of debate the substitute resolution was rejected as “unconstitutional” by the parliamentarian who claimed that General Convention does not have the constitutional authority to “effect” moratoria named in the substitute. Thus the entire substitute was also deemed out of order (see notes from the House of Deputies floor debate).

Lest this decision be seen as not reflecting the mind of the wider body, The Rev. Dr. Kendall Harmon rose to challenge the decision of the parliamentarian. Here are notes from his remarks:

Harmon: First, when a community wants to do something it can do it. The House of Bishops did it a year ago. Second Before we left for lunch the ruling was that the first resolve was not in order but the second and third resolves stand. Now the ruling is that the first resolve is out of order so they are all out of order. The problem is that all three resolves use similar language.


A successful challenge to a parliamentarian ruling requires a simple majority of the House of Deputies.

Dr. Harmon’s challenge failed.

A majority of the House of Deputies concurred with the decision of the parliamentarian and refused to consider a resolution that employed the precise language of the Windsor Report.

After the failure of A161, there was a general sense of chaos on the floor. It was recognized by many that if the defeat of A161 were to stand that this would represent a decision to “walk apart” from the communion.

Overnight another resolution was drafted by several bishops. It was, by the somewhat contested use of a special rule, introduced to both houses at the same time during a special session of General Convention by the presiding bishop accompanied by the presiding bishop elect. Both leaders urged passage of the following resolution:

B033: On Election of Bishops
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.


As was the case with resolution A161, resolution B033 fails to adequately answer the Windsor recommendations as accepted by the primates at Dromantine.

Most significantly, the second resolve in A161 which called on the General Convention to refrain from the authorization of public rites for same sex unions and the authorization of the development of the same is completely omitted from B033.

There is no official answer to the Windsor Report request regarding rites for same sex blessings.

Subsequently it has been argued that the General Convention had never authorized such actions in the first place and thus there was no need to specifically urge the Convention to refrain from them.

However, a brief perusal of C051 (see part 1 linked above) makes it abundantly clear that the General Convention had previously affirmed both the “exploration” and the “experience” of such rites as taking place legitimately “within the bounds of the common life of the Episcopal Church.”

Moreover, in March of 2005, the House of Bishops, while also asserting that rites had not been authorized nevertheless went on to place a temporary moratorium on both the development of Rites for same sex blessings and the authorization of the celebration of such rites.

The bishops understood this moratorium as a specific answer to the Windsor requests. In other words, despite the fact that the bishops disagreed with the assertion of the Windsor Commission and the primates that such rites had been developed and authorized, they at least made an effort to appear to comply.

B033 doesn’t even bother.

Moreover, the moratorium adopted by the House of Bishops in March 2005 was timed to last “at least until” the outset of the 75th General Convention. But, as we see, the moratorium was not adopted by General Convention and the House of Bishops did not extend it. The House of Bishops Moratorium on same sex blessings and the development of rites for same sex blessings has, therefore, expired.

The Episcopal Church has not simply refused to adequately answer the Windsor request articulated in paragraph 144 of the Windsor Report, it has refused to offer an official answer at all.

With the House of Deputy’s rejection of Resolution A161 and the substitute resolution which specifically employed Windsor language, it is clear that the Episcopal Church, as an official body, has rejected the call of the Anglican Communion to halt the development of rites for same sex blessings and the celebration of the same until such time as there is a change in mind of the communion.

With regard to the second Windsor request found in paragraph 133 of the Windsor Report, B033 largely repeats the inadequate answer contained in A161. While it calls on the proper authorities not to grant consent, it fails to specifically identify, “non-celibate candidates living in same sex relationships” referring instead to any candidate whose, “manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church.”

As I noted above, the explanation for this wording, as it is provided in resolution A161, is that the general rather than specific language is intended to provide space for diocesan nominating committees and conventions to “prayerfully” decide for themselves what sort of lifestyle might pose a “challenge” to the wider church.

Again, one primary purpose of the Windsor Report and the Dromantine Communique was to deny the very space this resolution seeks to create.

Conclusion: The Episcopal Church has failed to adequately respond to the Windsor requests as accepted by the primates of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Anglican Consultative Council.

First, in resolution A160 the Episcopal Church fails to recognized and/or express regret for breaching the proper restraints of the bonds of affection in the events surrounding the election and consent to the consecration of the bishop of New Hampshire. The Episcopal Church admits to and regrets merely “straining” the bonds of affection, rejecting the call of the Windsor Report to specifically recognize and take responsibility for the events surrounding the election and consent to the consecration of V. Gene Robinson.

Second, in resolution B033, Episcopal Church has refused to call the proper bodies to place a specific moratorium on the nomination, election and/or consent to the consecration of a candidate for the office of bishop who is living in a non-celibate same sex relationship. Instead B033 calls on the various bodies to deny consent to the consecration of any candidate whose manner of life poses a “challenge” to the wider communion. Unfortunately, the resolution leaves it up to diocesan bodies (rather than the Windsor Report) to determine what manner of life would pose such a challenge.

Finally, the Episcopal Church, despite the promising action of the House of Bishops in March 2005, has utterly refused to address the third Windsor Request contained in paragraph 144 of the Windsor Report. Not only did General Convention fail to produce a resolution responding to this request, but the legislative body specifically rejected two resolutions (A161 and the Windsor language substitute offered by Deputy Cantrell) which offered somewhat positive responses. It is now possible to both authorize the development of rites for non-celibate same sex unions and to experience such rites legitimately within the boundaries of the common life of the Episcopal Church (C051)

It is difficult to see how any observer could fail to conclude that the Episcopal Church has willfully chosen to walk apart from the Anglican Communion.

2 posted on 02/10/2007 5:22:23 PM PST by sionnsar (†trad-anglican.faithweb.com†|Iran Azadi| 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY) | UN: Useless Nations)
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3 posted on 02/10/2007 5:23:10 PM PST by sionnsar (†trad-anglican.faithweb.com†|Iran Azadi| 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY) | UN: Useless Nations)
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