GC2012: The Episcopal Church Boldly Goes Where No Man Has Gone Before
By Michael Heidt
July 13, 2012
The 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, one of the largest bi-cameral legislative bodies in the world, is over. What did it achieve? The church's leader, Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, gave the world a clue in her sermon at the event's opening Eucharist. "We must boldly go," she preached, "where Jesus has gone before."
She would have done better to stick with the Star Trek original because by end of business on Thursday, July 12, the Episcopal Church had passed a series of resolutions taking the small denomination into uncharted space.
By overwhelming majorities in both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, the Episcopal Church scored an historic first, brokering transsexualism into church law. With the passage of the "transgender twins," resolutions D019 and D002, it's now against church law to exclude people who have had sex-changes from the life of the church at any level. Watch out, world, for the first ever "trans" bishop.
In similar vein, both Houses gave a resounding thumbs-up to gay-marriage, breaking with Scripture and twenty centuries of Christian tradition, to authorize rites for same-sex blessing. I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing is due to hit the pews on the first Sunday of Advent, December 2, 2012. Realizing that a small minority of bishops and dioceses are against this unprecedented step, the gay-marriage resolution, A049, contains a conscience clause. No one has to use this innovative liturgical resource, at least not yet.
Far-sighted observers of the Anglican Communion and its North American franchise may remember that similar language, nearly word for word, was employed in the legislation that introduced another first into the church in the halcyon days of the 1970s. No bishop had to ordain women then; now they do. Bets are off on the likelihood of the gay-marriage conscience clause remaining for any appreciable length of time.
Some will inevitably argue, correctly, that such a thing goes against the church's non-discrimination policy, enshrined in Title I, Canon 17, Section 5 of the church's law. This states that, "No one shall be denied rights, status or access to an equal place in the life, worship, and governance of this Church because of... sexual orientation." It's a small step from that to passing a resolution at a future Convention mandating same-sex blessing.
But for now, the few remaining traditional bishops and dioceses in the Episcopal Church don't have to celebrate gay-marriage, and these made a fight-back, of sorts, at the Convention. A Minority Report, condemning the transgender and same-sex innovations, was read from the floor of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. By the time the report had reached the Deputies, on the last day of the Convention, 14 bishops had signed on to it.
The report, "Indianapolis Statement," which stands for all the things that the Episcopal Church is busy legislating against, such as Scripture, the teaching of the Prayer Book and apostolic tradition, amounts to a dissent, and a brave one at that. But where will it lead?
This was made abundantly clear; the signers of the Indianapolis Statement announced their goal to both Houses, stating that their intent was to "keep conservatives in the Episcopal Church and liberals in the Anglican Communion." Well you can't get much more inoffensive than that; hardly the stuff on which to rally North American Anglicanism for the historic faith of the Gospel. Good luck, traditional bishops, with keeping your liberal enemies "at the table," but don't be surprised when your irenic colleagues use the not inconsiderable sum of $12 million, earmarked in the church's budget for legal costs, to sue you for disloyalty.
Returning to the business of the Convention; much was made of the church's need to turn the denomination's 50,000 member shrinkage per annum around. As the church's Chief Operating Officer, bishop Stacey Sauls, reminded prelates in the House of Bishops, the days of doing "business as usual" are over. To that end, the Episcopal Church passed a "missional" budget dedicating 42% of its triennial income of over $111 million to administration and governance, $1million is set aside for church planting. Mission and growth? You do the math.
But maybe, just maybe, the emptying churches in Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori's declining dominion will start to fill with the massive North American transsexual demographic, as the Episcopal Church draws its circle ever wider to include people who opt for gender reassignment surgery. Who knows, perhaps the heady lure of provisional same-sex blessings will add some much needed ballast to the Episcopal Church's bottom line.
Don't hold your breath. The same failed anti-gospel policies of pansexualism and gender politics that have proved so spectacularly successful in driving normal Christians out of the church, that have resulted in millions of dollars spent on litigation, and brought schism to the Anglican Communion, to say nothing of the wreckage of decades of ecumenical endeavor in the wider church - these same policies were all in play at this year's General Convention.
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church claims to have "re-imagined" the church, and in a final press briefing she warns us, "Watch out, world. We're coming."
The world knows what to expect, yet another three years of church killing, liberal snake oil masquerading as Christianity. Don't be surprised if anyone except the deliberately blind are fooled.
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