COLUMBUS, OH: Deputies Reject Windsor Call For Restraint
By Hans Zeiger and Auburn Traycik
COLUMBUS, OHIO (6/20/06)-The House of Deputies of the 75th Episcopal General Convention today rejected a resolution urging that the whole church "refrain from" the consecration of bishops "whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church," as well as from authorizing rites for homosexual unions.
The action on Resolution A161 may mean that the General Convention will make no response at all to the 2004 Windsor Report's requested moratorium on the consecration of further actively gay bishops and on same-sex blessings.
"Nothing's over until 6 p.m. tomorrow, but the direction is pretty clear," said the Rev. Martyn Minns of the American Anglican Council (AAC). The Episcopal Church (TEC) is "not willing to embrace the minimum requirements of the Windsor Report" on the homosexual issue.
The "House of Initial Action" (HIA) for A161 was the House of Deputies, and that house having defeated it, the House of Bishops cannot take it up. A move to reconsider A161 also failed in the Deputies.
With the convention due to conclude tomorrow, early indications were that a scramble is now on to produce some sort of response to Windsor in the House of Bishops. One rumor was that Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold was "frantic" about it.
The powers that be could turn to a related resolution for which the House of Bishops serves as HIA, Resolution A162, on public same-sex blessing rites. That resolution, now pending in the House of Bishops, had been targeted for discharge if the new A161, which addressed both gay bishops and blessings, was adopted. It may be (though it has not been officially confirmed) that both subjects can be addressed in A162 - if the bishops amend it. With the failure of A161 in the Deputies today, though, there is a question about whether any call for restraint can get through both houses. Other Windsor-related resolutions, already acted on by one house or another, could be targeted as vehicles for adequate response.
A161 was produced as a result of painstaking work by the Special Committee on the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion, which tried valiantly to produce a compromise palatable to all in response to Windsor. The Windsor requests were made in the wake of the 2003 Episcopal General Convention's approval of gay cleric Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire and same-sex blessings, which created a crisis in the Anglican Communion.
As presented, A161 would have had the convention "urge" that the church "refrain from the nomination, 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; agree that the convention "not proceed to develop or authorize" gay blessing rites "at this time"; affirm "the need to maintain a breadth of responses to situations of pastoral care for gay and lesbian Christians"; and "apologize to those gay and lesbian Episcopalians and their supporters hurt by these decisions."
"Hold your nose if you have to, and then vote yes," the Rev. Daniel Martins, a deputy from San Joaquin and a member of the Special Committee, told the House of Deputies.
Clearly, however, while some saw the resolution as a way forward, it drew opposition from those on both sides of the issue, but both for different reasons.
During debate on A161, the Rev. Kendall Harmon, canon theologian of the conservative Diocese of South Carolina, said, "The problem is that the language of the resolution is totally unclear...The water in this resolution is murky...and I can't see...All the language of this resolution moves away from the clarity of Windsor."
The Very Rev. Dr. Peter Cook of the Diocese of Western Louisiana called A161 a "non-response response" to Windsor. Noting the resolution's "evasive" language, he said "this resolution in this form will not entitle us to remain members of the worldwide Anglican family."
But the Rev. Jane Gould, rector of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Massachusetts, told deputies, "I do wonder whether we're being faithful to the spirit when we exclude a group of people based on who they are."
And the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers of Seabury Episcopal Seminary in Chicago rejected the appeal of Special Committee member Becky Snow to "accept crucifixion." "I cannot do that to my gay and lesbian colleagues," said Meyers.
One clerical deputy said he opposed A161 because he thought it was the result of "coercive messages" from other parts of the Communion rather than unhindered dialogue. It assumes that the 2003 General Convention was not careful or prayerful about its pro-gay decisions, he said.
An attempt by the Rev. Christopher Cantrell, deputy from the conservative Diocese of Fort Worth, to put forward a substitute which clearly called for the moratoria requested by the 2004 Windsor Report was ruled out of order. VOL is seeking clarification on the reasons for this, but it appears to have been due to language seen as calling for the convention to exceed its canonical or constitutional authority. Challenges to the ruling were unsuccessful.
Fr. Minns said the deputies' defeat of A161 "shows that the Special Committee was asked to do an impossible job," and that "the gap is unbridgeable. It reveals that within this convention there are two different churches with two irreconcilable truth claims."
However he said "these two churches were united in their desire for clarity." What is clear, he believes, is that TEC will not meet minimum requirements of Windsor.
"Unhappily," he added, "this decision seems to show that ECUSA has chosen to walk apart from the rest of the Anglican Communion."
The vote totals on Resolution A161 were as follows.
In the lay order 109 votes were cast; 38 in favor, 53 against, 18 divided (divided counts as a no).
In the clerical order 111 votes were cast; 44 in favor, 53 against, 14 divided.
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