"I try not to think too much about General Convention - I don't want to give myself an ulcer. Every time I stop and really think about what could happen - the damage they are in a position to do and the likelihood that there are enough fools there to do it - it just makes my stomach churn." - From the daughter of a prominent ECUSA Bishop
DAY ONE: General Convention, 2006, in Columbus, Ohio
June 13, 2006
By David W. Virtue
w/ Auburn Traycik and Hans Zeiger
[b]NOTE:[/b] The entire text of our first digest of news and commentary from GC 2006 can be found here:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Day 1. The House of Deputies, meeting for the first time today, opened with prayer. The House of Bishops did not. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold got down to business with the calling of the roll, and, (drum roll please), the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church USA got underway here in Columbus, Ohio.
At the first press conference we were told this was a "pro forma" day with no big news, but the promise of fireworks in the days to come seems certain.
Bob Williams, of the Episcopal News Service indicated that a name change was in the works and that ECUSA will now be known as The Episcopal Church. Since there are 16 countries that make up the Episcopal Church, he said, it would be better to refer to The Episcopal Church, or TEC, rather than ECUSA which is in just one country. In the House of Deputies, outgoing president George Werner repeated the same news. "There are 16 other nations. The Episcopal Church is global." This seems to be a part of their strategy to emphasize their global involvement and concern with the wider Anglican world. It also sends a subtle message that, should the Anglican Communion decide to expel ECUSA, it would not just be throwing out the U.S. Church, but poorer places like Haiti and Ecuador.
ONE SURPRISE attendee is the second most powerful person in the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of York, the Most Rev. John Sentamu.
Now there is some confusion as to why he is here and who he represents. Lambeth Palace has made it very clear that he does NOT represent the Archbishop of Canterbury, but Nan Cobbey, writing for Episcopal Life, quotes Frank Griswold as saying that Sentamu "will represent the Archbishop of Canterbury." So he is here at the invitation of Frank Griswold as a "guest" representing nobody and nothing. A Church of England source here at General Convention confirmed that Sentamu does not represent Dr. Rowan Williams and is here on his own at the invitation of Griswold. VOL is told that, surprisingly enough, Sentamu is a member of the Primates' Meeting, and is being positioned as the Church of England's Archbishop in the Anglican Communion.
The question is, will Sentamu have anything to say if the language of repentance, as called for by the Windsor Report, is not adhered too; will we hear his voice raised in anger and frustration at ECUSA's intransigence? He spoke briefly to the House of Deputies where he joked, gave an overview of his life, and read a statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury. (See today's digest).
ECUSA's orthodox wing wants a clear call for repentance, not just regret for hurting the rest of the Communion by consecrating Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. Not only are they concerned about its effects, they - along with the Windsor Report - seek a moratorium on all future consecrations.
However, ECUSA's gay and pro-gay lobbyists are just as determined to ensure that there is no backtracking on the homosexual agenda, even if it means that the American Episcopal Church will have to leave or be forced out of the global Anglican Communion.
At the first convention press briefing of the American Anglican Council, Tennessee Bishop Bertram Herlong said, "I wasted an hour in the HOB today," which brought laughter from the 150 or so orthodox clergy, laity and bishops present.
In other news, it was disclosed that only about half of the Anglican Communion Network bishops were present at the roll call at the opening session of the HOB. It was not clear whether this was deliberate and a portent of things to come, or just the way things worked out. Present in the first session were Jim Adams (Western Kansas), John C. Howe (Central Florida), Donald Parsons (Quincy ret.), William Wantland (Eau Claire ret.) John Lipscomb, (Southwest Florida), Keith Ackerman (Quincy, IL) and Jeffrey Steenson (Rio Grande). Present but not sitting with the bishops was Peter H. Beckwith, Bishop of Springfield (IL). Absent among the Network bishops were Bob Duncan (Pittsburgh), Steve Jecko (Assistant Bishop of Dallas), Jim Stanton (Dallas), Jack Iker (Ft. Worth), John-David Schofield (San Joaquin), and Terry Kelshaw (Rio Grande ret.) A spokesman assured us that there was nothing untoward about their absence.
On a more serious note, Canon David Anderson, president of the conservative AAC group, asked the question, "Have the bishops embarked on the consent for the consecration of bishops, when one of [the bishops-elect] has signed a non-disclosure legal document not to reveal what went on when he was a priest in the Diocese of Pennsylvania?" Anderson was referring to a story written by this writer on Alabama Suffragan Bishop Mark Andrus, who was elected as the next Bishop of California. "Why is that not germane to the confidentiality process," asked Anderson. "How could they approve [of him] without them being privy to such an important non self-disclosure statement?" The Diocese of Pennsylvania Standing Committee refused to give consent to Andrus the first time when around when he was chosen as Suffragan Bishop of Alabama because they knew what really happened.
Anderson wondered aloud if the committee wasn't playing fast and loose with some of the wording. "We must deal first with the Windsor Report, what the Episcopal Church believes, before we begin the process of consents. By doing that the bishops have already made a decision about the Windsor Report," he said. "The Windsor Report took a year to produce.
Anderson then ripped the Anglican Consultative Council and the Episcopal Church over the funding of the ACC by ECUSA. "If the proposed escrowing of ACC funds from ECUSA is withdrawn or is taken back off the table would that mean the ACC or Anglican Communion Office then have decided that ECUSA had somehow met the Windsor Report requirements? Is there a monetary quid pro quo that will take place? Has a deal been cut? In the Diocese of Newark Dr. Louie Crew had gotten a resolution passed at their diocesan convention that none of the money in escrow be released for payment to the ACC "until we are assured that all bishops with jurisdiction in the Episcopal Church will be invited to attend as full and equal participants at the Lambeth Conference and that the ACC members from The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada are reinstated as full members with seat, voice and vote.
The Rev. Richard Crocker, Truro Church in Virginia, noted that there was an attempt, yet again, to take the vote away from retired bishops. The task force proposing an ambitious revision of disciplinary canons known as Title IV (resolution A153: "Proposed Title IV Revisions") faced tough questioning from the Canons Committee. The present adversarial system would be replaced by a multi-layered approach that stresses mediation and reconciliation. Much of the concern from the committee deals with the fact that laity could also be disciplined under the new system. Crocker noted that the Title IV issue on Disciplinary canons was a hot button issue, but he said most were against it. "Only the two who proposed the resolution seem to support it," said Crocker.
Another AAC spokesperson noted that gay and lesbian rites now being proposed were getting closer to marriage. "In 2003 no one was talking about it, now it looks like we are."
The Church Pension Fund is discussing a medical plan for the whole church across the nation, it was also noted.
On a brighter note, the new Bishop-elect of Albany looks like a shoo-in for consecration. The solidly orthodox Very Rev. Bill Love, rector of St. Mary's in Lake Luzerne quickly got the endorsement of the Committee on the Consecration of Bishops. He's a humble and gracious man, but he will have his work cut out for him in dealing with the Via Media crowd. Other bishops to be considered for confirmations include the Rev. David Reed as suffragan bishop of the Diocese of West Texas; the Ven. Dena Harrison as suffragan bishop of the Diocese of Texas, and the Rev. Todd Ousley to be bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Eastern Michigan.
A claim in a USA TODAY story that Episcopal priest, the Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor, a professor of religious studies at Piedmont College, Georgia had renounced her orders was totally untrue, said the communications spokesperson for the Diocese of Atlanta, Nan Ross. The report incorrectly said she had resigned. The link can be found here: http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2006-06-12-god-gays-cover_x.htm
NOEL - The National Organization of Episcopalians for Life is highlighting life as its theme at its NOEL's exhibit booth at General Convention (GC) . This is emphasized by the distribution of highlighters carrying NOEL's logo and website. NOEL head Georgette Forney says that offering the highlighters to people opens the door for conversation with them about NOEL's mission. Those who are pro-NOEL and pro-life take the time to say hello and chat or thank us being here, she said. For the most part, she added, the others are ignoring us with the exception of three people who challenged her on abortion, stem cell research, and abstinence issues. Stay tuned tomorrow for our legislative news....
"THE BATTLE IS ALL BUT LOST"
To see ourselves as others see us is always an interesting, if sometimes painful, exercise, though in this case National Review magazine does not seem to be saying anything that others within the "official" Anglican fold have not.
In its June 19 edition, National Review writes:
"The Anglican Church marches steadily forward from its origins as an elegantly anglicized variant of the great Catholic tradition. The most recent advance has been a declaration by the Rt. Rev. Richard Harries, the Bishop of Oxford, that a careful reading of the Bible reveals Scriptural support for homosexual unions. Concerning those unions, His Grace remarked in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph that: 'They are congruous with the deepest Biblical truths about faithfulness and stability.'
"All this is in the context of a different [Church of England] bishop's making waves on a pastoral visit to Kenya, when the African medical noted this membership in the group Changing Attitude, whose website declares it to be 'Working for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender affirmation with within the Anglican Communion.'
"Third World Anglicanism now seems set fair to split from Canterbury over the issue of homosexuality. Here in the First World, while some conservative congregations keep up a valiant rearguard fight for traditional morality, the battle is all but lost. Solzhenitsyn's famous observation that 'nations are the wealth of mankind, they are its generalized personalities' applies to churches, too, and you don't need to be an Anglican to regret the degrading of an old and beautiful Christian tradition."
ON A HUMOROUS note, a vote for the cucumber sandwich, without crust, as the official food of the Episcopal Church lost by a vote of 335 for and 464 against. One wag suggested that the sandwich be accompanied with a bourbon chaser, while another suggested a Bloody Mary. A press representative of the Peanut Butter and Jelly function, the PPJ&F, proclaimed that the peanut butter and jelly sandwich as the official food of the press room of the 75th General Convention
David W. Virtue DD
BREAKING NEWS...PRIEST RESIGNS FROM CLAYTON CHURCH, IS DEPOSED
Bishop Swing removes John Bennison from priesthood after consultation with Bishop Bruno of Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California June 12, 2006: The Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, announced today that action has been taken to resolve a clergy misconduct claim that was recently brought to his attention, but which occurred some thirty years ago. Within the last few weeks Bishop Bruno was made aware of the misconduct and call for the resignation and removal of the Reverend John Bennison of Clayton, CA. There was an appeal made to the Episcopal Church's national offices, as well as to the Bishop of the Diocese of California where Bennison is canonically resident.
Because the admitted misconduct by Bennison occurred in a parish in the Diocese of Los Angeles, Bishop Bruno had the authority under church canons to bring charges against Bennison and hold an ecclesiastical trial. Bennison was functioning under the auspices and authority of the Rt. Rev. William Swing, Bishop of the Diocese of California.
Bishop Bruno and his staff reviewed church records and consulted with the Presiding Bishop's office and Bishop Swing, who has canonical authority over Bennison. Following a conversation with Bishop Bruno, the Reverend John Bennison agreed to resign, voluntarily submit to discipline by Bishop Swing and to be deposed. Bishop Swing advised Bishop Bruno that Bennison's deposition was effective at 8:00 AM Monday.
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