HISTORY WILL DECIDE IF WE HAVE BEEN FAITHFUL
Fr. Todd Wetzel
July 16, 2009
What can be said about this 76th General Convention? First, this Convention like the many that precede it has been about relationships.
The Church is first and foremost about people and relationships are at its center. Here, relationships have been built, some rebuilt and a few restored.
That's important. These are the people that "run the show" back home and if they are to do so effectively that ministry is, in part, dependent on the web of relationship built and sustained at the General Convention.
We party well. Personally, I saw a lot of people in Ft. Worth in June at the Legislative Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America whose presence I miss here in Anaheim. I am not alone in missing them here but their absence is seldom mentioned.
Their absence has yet to be grieved. We engage in denial often.
Worship at this Convention has been artistic in its use of music, visual presentation, the preached word, dance and colorful vestments.
This is in line with long standing General Convention practice. We do worship well.
Resolution D025, a description piece of legislation, underscored our desire for the full inclusion of our LGBT brothers and sisters in the full sacramental life of our church while maintaining our desire to remain a constituent member of the Anglican Communion.
The resolution passed both Houses of the Convention with a two-thirds majority.
Pundits here were quick to point out that this resolution does not rescind B033, a resolution of the 75th Convention in 2006 that called for bishops and diocesan Standing Committees to exhibit "restraint" when considering ordination of gay and lesbian candidates to the episcopate.
While widely viewed as a "moratorium" the legislation did not use this word. Regardless of the spin, no one here doubts that B033 has been clearly set aside in practice, and its having been overturned in fact will be secured by a not to distant future consecration of a second adjudicating bishop in the church who is overtly gay or lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.
The Presiding Bishop said it succinctly, "We've shown restraint. It is time to move on." Our desire is to proceed with the full inclusion of LGBT persons in the episcopacy of this church despite the official disapproval of the Anglican Communion. C056 is the second piece of primary legislation to receive a better than two-thirds majority passage in both Houses of the Convention.
It calls for "the collection and development" of same sex liturgies for presentation to the 77th General Convention in 2012. The bishops looked informally and unofficially at some eight or more of these liturgies that have been used over the past decade or so and, for various reasons, found none of them satisfactory. The resolution recognizes implicitly that we are a church in which same sex blessings occur with increasing frequency.
The resolution signals our desire to regularize these local events as church wide policy as soon as 2012. Our decisions are based largely on the primacy of experience over Scripture and Tradition.
While many "conservatives" in the Church will view these events with alarm and decry their increasing disenfranchisement in the Episcopal Church, both actions do exhibit a remarkable restraint on the part of the clear majority of both Houses. They have the votes to advance the LGBT agenda further. Clearly, they did not desire to do so at this Convention.
They have shown that full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the sacramental life of this Church has already occurred. It's time to tell the truth. The desires of a small minority have overwhelmed the moral sensitivities of the many and the sexual revolution has gained a victory in the Episcopal Church. Our hearts often overwhelm our minds.
This has not come without cost. Budgetary legislation here recognized a critical drop in projected income for the next three years. Leadership has sought to lay the blame for this solely on the economy but this represents a blatant denial of the impact of shrinking rolls and the consequent parochial impact of diminishing income. Cuts in program, staff and mission will be deep and the impact will be devastating to the Church. We tighten our belts but we'll carry on.
It has been a typical Convention. This one was absent significant dissent given the now present ACNA on the American shore. Attendees were slightly bowed by diminishing financial support. But....we're still proud to be Episcopalians.
The Convention appeared better organized to me than in the past. I attribute this to the skill and force of will exhibited by the chairs in both houses and by staff supporting them many of whom will be without jobs come September.
The Convention Exhibits were well managed, if somewhat fewer than in years past, and the concession food was good. Anaheim was most pleasant and the city graciously welcomed and sustained us.
Overall, though our numbers are shrinking and we're slightly humbled by finances, this Convention displayed a Church still generous in spirit, willing to innovate and change, to take the hits and keep moving on. We're a nice bunch of people. History will decide whether we have been faithful.
---- The Rev. Todd H. Wetzel is Executive Director of Anglicans United and Latimer Press
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