Yesterday, the episcopal church passed a resolution that supposedly was a compromise between its beliefs concerning the rights of gays and lesbians and the concerns of the greater Anglican Communion for fidelity to Scripture and Apostolic tradition. You would think that I as a moderate Evangelical would be pleased -- and you would be dead wrong. As for the content of the "compromise" I will leave that critique to the eloquent statements on both the left and right. I did notice something, though, in the critique on the left by Bishop Chane that caught my eye:
The process that brought about the reconsideration of this matter failed to honor the integrity of the House of Deputies by bringing undue pressure to bear on that body.
I would like to expand on this. The whole point of this exercise was to respond to the Windsor Report of the Anglican Communion. When V. Gene Robinson became a bishop in 2003, it created a firestorm that threatened to rip the Anglican Communion apart. The Archbishop of Canterbury asked for a compromise and got it in the form of the Windsor Report. This report requested that the Episcopal Church show regret for this action and place moratoria on both blessing same-sex unions and having practicing homosexuals become bishops (but not priests). If the Episcopal church did not accede to the request they would in effect chose not to participate as a representative to the Anglican Communion. There was no response for three years. Why? Because according to the church, only the General Convention can do this.
Fast forward three years. Before I start I need to explain some process. There are two houses in the Episcopal Church, Bishops and Deputies. Different legislation comes from different houses. If it passes one house it needs to be approved by the other. If it fails to pass one house it is dead. Furthermore, any similar legislation cannot be taken up unless there is a 2/3 vote for reconsideration. Canon law allows for a joint session to be called by the Presiding Bishop under extreme circumstances. The response to Windsor was in A161 which originated from Deputies. It read as follows:
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.
This failed to realize that Windsor was already a compromise. Even so, there truly existed no middle ground here and it went down to defeat and was condemned by both the left and the right. A substitute to effect a moratorium was ruled unconstitutional. Motion to reconsider failed. At this point, it should have been dead. But then something happened. PB Griswold panicked. He said:
"If we don't have something substantial, it will be very difficult for the Archbishop of Canterbury to invite the Presiding Bishop to the Lambeth Conference. I do know the complexity of what the Archbishop dealing with, in communion terms, and he needs for something clear to come from the Episcopal Church."Well, duh! So, he engineered a joint session and proposed and got passed this:
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, that the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report's invitation to engage in a process of heaing and reconcilation; 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 consecreation 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.
While this was debated in the house of deputies PB-elect Schori made a statement that the church wasn't really of two minds but conjoined twins. Deputies was forced to suspend its rules to not reconsider like matters. So, in four hours the bishops were able to act in what constitutes a non-binding promise (at least that what dissenting bishops Chane says). PB-elect Schori apparently concurs.
The resolution that stands before you is far from adequate but it is the best we are going to do. I am fully committed to the full inclusion of gays and lesbians. I do not understand this resolution as slamming the door.
Furthermore, the "promise" was not able to be kept during the GC itself. The bishop-elect of the diocese of Northern California who was married three times and divorced twice was approved. This would seem to "consecrating someone whose manner of life present a challenge to the wider church"
Everybody waited three long years for this because the bishops need approval from the representatives of the people. What we saw was the bishops acting unilaterally when it became apparent that they would get kicked out of their club because the people on the left and right rejected the phony compromise based on principle. So, against the rules they reintroduced an even phonier compromise that consisted something that was always in their power to do. I can think of nothing else than to call this ecclesiastical tyranny.