COLUMBUS, OH: Episcopalians pass compromise resolution calling for restraint
By Hans Zeiger
COLUMBUS, OHIO (6/21/06)-The 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church today passed a resolution calling for the church to restrain from consent to bishops "whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." Following as it does a rejection of the same thing on Tuesday, the passage of the resolution was, in the words of one deputy, approached "the height of hypocrisy."
Resolution A161, effecting a moratorium on the ordination of homosexual bishops and the blessing of homosexual unions, failed in the House of Deputies on Tuesday, threatening alienation of the Episcopal Church from the worldwide Anglican Communion. In a last ditch effort to save Episcopalian-Anglican relations, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold convened a Special Legislative session on Wednesday morning, calling on Bishops and Deputies to consider an emergency resolution, number B033, that would express what the convention "actually" believed.
"This is the final day of General Convention," Griswold said. "What I believe we actually yearn for has not been adequately reflected through the workings of our legislative processes...We must now act with generosity and imagination so that our actions are a clearer reflection of the willingness of the majority of us to relinquish something in order to serve a larger purpose."
After Griswold's speech, Bishops held a heated session in which Griswold became insistent from the chair's seat on the need to quickly pass Resolution B033. When Bishops attempted to amend the resolution to loosen language in favor of homosexuals, Griswold reacted sharply: "We are trying to deal with something that does not fit easily into a legislative process. I hope we can find a way in which to maneuver through this that doesn't make us victims of the legislative process...If we aren't clear by lunchtime then we might as well forget the whole thing...If we don't have something substantial, we might have a very difficult time getting the Archbishop to invite the Episcopal Church to the Lambeth Conference."
"I'm excited that this is hopefully a way forward for all Episcopalians without unnecessarily closing any doors,"
Bishop Dorsey Henderson of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, a member of the Special Committee that originally considered the Windsor resolutions, and the author of Resolution B033, told VirtueOnline.
"I'm heartbroken with the gay and lesbian community and others that are hurt, but I'm convinced that in the longterm this is the best way forward for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion."
Another bishop, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Steenson of the Diocese of Rio Grande, told VirtueOnline, "I think that represents the best that the House of Bishops could have done under the circumstances. I personally don't think it's going to be judged compliant, but it's not our call anymore. It's the rest of the Communion that will make that choice."
Additional pressure on the House of Bishops came from Presiding Bishop-elect Katherine Jefferts Schori, who compared the divisions of the Anglican Communion to conjoined twins that cannot be separated until both are able to survive independently. While reaffirming her support for homosexuals, Jefferts Schori indicated that compromise was critical. "My sense is that the original resolution is the best we're going to do today."
Following Jefferts Schori's speech, a majority of the Bishops passed the resolution and sent it the House of Deputies.
Emotional debate on the House floor ensued within a half-hour time limit.
Dr. Louie Crew, a delegate from the Diocese of Newark and the founder of the homosexual church lobby Integrity, asserted what he perceived as the role of the Holy Spirit in leading the Episcopal Church to its present pro-homosexual stance. "This would be like trying to cut the tone from out under the Holy Spirit," he said.
Jerry Kabell of the Diocese of Eastern Michigan echoed Crew by defending the actions of the 2003 General Convention. "In doing so we were following the leading of the Holy Spirit. In doing this now in this resolution we are saying that we will refrain from following the leading of the Holy Spirit." Besides, Kabell suggested, the Episcopal Church could work well with many nations of the world without having to compromise its autonomy.
Then came Katherine.
Bishop Jefferts Schori entered the House of Deputies to give a version of the speech she had made moments earlier to the Bishops. "I am fully committed to the full inclusion of gay and lesbian members of this church...If you do pass this resolution you have to be willing to keep working with all of your might at finding a common mind in this church...I think that is the best we are going to manage at this point in our church's history."
Following Bishop Jefferts Schori's remarks, few were willing to insult the mood of consensus that seemed to build. "This resolution tears me apart," said Sally Johnson of the Diocese of Minnesota as she choked back tears. "As a gift to the presiding bishop-elect I think we should adopt it without amendment." The Rev. Philip C. Linder of the Diocese of Upper North Carolina added, "Let us rise to the call of reconciliation and sacrificial leadership.'
But as the debate continued, it became clear that the irreconcilable differences expressed on Tuesday had not been eradicated. All that had changed was a reduction of the proposal and an increase of pressure from the top.
The Rev. Canon Paul Lambert of the Diocese of Dallas opposed the resolution from the right. "It's less than what we can do. It's not as good as we can do. And it's sending a message that will continue to fracture our relationship with the Anglican Communion."
And the Very Rev. John R. Spencer of the Diocese of Quincy said, "This resolution is not even in the parking lot of [the Windsor Report] ballpark...It does not address the very specific manner of life which the 74th General Convention acted on...It is tossing half a karat to our friends in the communion as if they are not intelligent enough to see through" what he alleged was a reversal of the convention within 24 hours that "comes very close to the height of hypocrisy."
When a deputy proposed to amend Resolution B033 to limit the moratorium on homosexual bishops to three years, when the next General Convention is held, the Chair only recognized opponents of the amendment until the time limit was nearly expired.
In the final moments, Dr. E. Bevan Stanley of the Diocese of Newark was allowed to speak for the amendment. "For some 30 years the Holy Spirit has been guiding this church into the understanding of a new truth that culminated in the actions in 2003." While the Episcopal Church had been in tune with the movement of the Holy Spirit, other provinces of the Anglican Communion "have not participated in the conversations that have been mandated by the Lambeth Councils for the last 20 years."
In the end, the Convention voted against the "Holy Spirit" in order to stay in the Anglican Communion, weak as the intentions behind the vote may have been.
"On the Election of Bishops"
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 healing and reconciliation; and be it further Resolved, that this Convention 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.
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