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GC2009: Thoughts on Resolution B033 - Todd Wetzel

Thoughts on Resolution B033

Commentary

By Todd H. Wetzel in Anaheim
July 10, 2009

Resolution B033 originated in the House of Bishops at the close of Convention in 2006. It signaled that they were not ready to sever the ties with the Communion. The Deputies were not so certain but reluctantly went along. It meant putting the ordination of practicing homosexuals and the development of rites for same sex unions on hold because doing so would offend the overwhelming majority of our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion. Not surprisingly, the move to reconsider B033 at this Convention (2009) originated with the Deputies. Bishops and deputies see things from differing perspectives.

I attended the Lambeth conference in 1998. I attended again in 2008. I've done numerous mission trips to East Africa, Northern India, Central and South America. I stand in a wide and international web of relationships that humble, enlighten and delight me. I am an Anglican.

For me, the Anglican Communion is neither a concept nor an institution. It is names, faces, addresses and stories of courageous faith, forthright evangelism and very real and present love. Archbishops, bishops, priests, deacons and laity, the Anglican Communion is very much a part of my constitution - it informs my faith, delights my heart and stretches my soul. While my experience is atypical for a priest and would be extraordinary for most laity, it represents something of the norm for most bishops (though I am not a bishop).

When you become a bishop you begin to see the Church "from 35,000 ft. up," to quote Bishop Gary Lillibridge. Most have or will attend a Lambeth Conference. At least one overseas mission trip is part of the resume of a bishop. Most have managed one or more companion relationships with an overseas diocese. It can be said of most bishops that while their heart is in the diocese, their head is often (and rightly so) in the clouds. It is, in large measure, what makes a bishop a bishop - they see the church locally, nationally and from a global perspective. The word "episcopoi" means "overseer."

Most of us (and that includes deputies) belong to a parish - our hearts are there. The parish largely defines the limits of our daily Christian experience. Our parish priest is a creature of the diocese reminding us that faith is not bounded by the local community - there is help received and accountability owed to a larger body called the diocese over which the bishop is the spiritual director in much the same way that the priest is the spiritual director of the parish. The bishop both connects us to and embodies a vision of the Church catholic both in space and time.

It is the bishop's special responsibility to keep us connected to the church-catholic. Geographically and relationally through collegiality with other bishops both national and international. Theologically through submission to fellow bishops in study and teaching again both national and international and by searching the riches of our time tested Faith. Bishops are not like the rest of us. Their heads are in the clouds.

B033 will be overturned in the House of Deputies. It's a matter of perspectives. Relationships are tended to by the parish. The sacraments happen in parishes. Day in and day out, Sunday after Sunday we care for one another. The sacraments belong to us - they're ours to distribute as we will. Right? Not.

While I am part of a parish, my vision of the church need not be parochial. The parish is part of the church but it is not the sum total of the church - that's what it means to be catholic and not simply congregational. Of necessity, bishops exist to remind us of that simple but essential truth. That's why I believe the bishops will not concur with the Deputies in their desire to overturn B033.

Bishop are not like us. They're heads are in the clouds. Their role ought to challenge us to look beyond our feelings, our local relationships to the wider and greater Church - to the Mind of Christ. The Founding fathers of this Episcopal Church wisely required in our Constitution that both Houses concur on matters such as these.

If the House of Deputies were to uphold B033, they would clearly deny the feelings running so current in this Church. The heart would sorrow. But if the Bishops falter and find themselves in agreement with the House of Deputies in rescinding B033, it would be denying long standing catholic thought. The mind would falter.

Bishops and Deputies see things differently because their perspectives vary so widely. Bishops are not like the rest of us. Their heads are in the clouds.

----Fr. Todd H. Wetzel, Executive Director of Anglicans United & Latimer Press * www.anglicansunited.com

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