COLUMBUS, OH: Repenting via Resolutions. Can it be done?
By Peter Toon
I have sat through several hours at the General Convention listening to the conversations within "The Special Committee on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion," as the members have been working hard to craft resolutions in response to The Windsor Report. Their work goes on even as I write and they meet next early Sunday morning from 7.30.a.m. to 9.00 a.m.
At one level this has listening and observing has been fascinating and at another level it has been disturbing.
My comment here relates primarily to Resolution A160 which relates to "regret" being offered from the Episcopal Church to the whole Communion.
My sense of fascination lies in beholding the attempts by the 19 members to respond to the requests of the Report in such a way as to try to include the views of most of the known groupings within the Convention. So I have witnessed many attempts to choose words, tenses of verbs and phrases, a colon there, a semi colon here, and to insert this or that amendment, in order to try to craft a resolution to gain approval in the House of Deputies and House of Bishops.
We need to recall that Resolutions belong to a particular, even a peculiar form of language, and have to be fitted into that form; and in that form they can either aim (a) for absolute clarity or (b) to encompass a variety of possible interpretations. Resolution A160 seems to fit into the second of the alternatives, allowing for some variation in understanding. In the second place, as some of the Committee accept, to express regret or repentance via Resolutions is a very strange and most unsuitable way of bring reconciliation in church affairs.
My sense of disturbance is caused by (a) the apparent fact that only one member out of nineteen truly believes that the Episcopal Church acted wrongly in proceeding with the election and consecration of Gene Robinson and, in doing so, acted against the express concerns of all the Primates of the Anglican Communion.; and (b) the further apparent fact that virtually all the members of the Committee believe that only regret for the results of the action are needed and are very ready to express such regret for the various and many effects of the action in consecrating Robinson - even though it is not wholly clear that they do regret the crisis and the major problems caused..
What this means, I fear, is that what is going to be offered to the General Convention to vote on (on Monday probably and in the House of Deputies first of all) is a Resolution A160, which has been composed from the basic belief that what is asked for, and what is to be provided, is apology for, regret for, and repentance for the results of proceeding hastily and without proper regard to the member churches of the Communion, in the consecration of Gene Robinson. Regret for the deed itself, for the consecration as an event, is not intended or offered by the Committee in this Resolution.
Of course, the Resolution may be amended in one of the Houses in order to cause it to express regret for the consecration itself, but if this happens, there will be determined opposition from not a few members.
One final word. The hero in all this - from the standpoint of both the vast majority in the Anglican Communion and The Windsor Report (as interpreted by its own authors) -- is the lone voice and single vote in the Committee, Dr. Michael W. Howell, a gracious and intellectual man, who is a professor, of African-American parentage, and a classic evangelical Anglican.
--The Rev. Dr. Peter Toon is President of the Prayer Book Society U.S.A.
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