DAY TWO: General Convention, 2006 - Columbus, Ohio
By David W. Virtue
Beneath the apparent calm exterior that pervades General Convention, a simmering war is in the making.
Gays and their pro-gay supporters are not flaunting pink triangles as they did at GC2003 and the verbal confrontations are not to be heard. All appears to be sweetness and light in the halls, both houses of deputies and bishops and the exhibition hall. But don't be fooled, events are heating up and the groundswell of anger, frustration and intransigence is boiling and simmering just beneath the surface. The demands of the Windsor Report are beginning to rankle gays and liberals with its absolute demands for clarity if ECUSA is to move forward, and still have a place at the table of the communion.
The homosexual Bishop of New Hampshire V. Gene Robinson held a press conference and reiterated that their would be no going back on his consecration, that the Episcopal Church had come too far, that as a church it could only express regret for the pain it caused, but there would be no turning back or repentance. "It's time we took the bible back, its time we took our faith back and stopped having to apologize for being Christian or Jewish or Muslim without having to explain 'no we are not that kind of a Jew, we are not that kind of a Christian'."
"Most Episcopalians think that God's gay and lesbian children are every bit as worthwhile as the rest of God's children and they won't be willing to sacrifice gays and lesbians on the altar of unity," Robinson told The Associated Press in an interview prior to the meeting.
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign and the Rev. Susan Russell, lesbian leader of the LGBT Integrity organization and a priest said, "As an Episcopalian I have taken vows to respect the dignity of every human being and as an American citizen I have pledged allegiance to the flag symbolizing liberty and justice for all. Whether in the state or the church, manipulating LGBT lives violates both of these principles and so I believe it is imperative that people of faith opposed to legislating inequity step up and make their voices heard in this critical debate." Russell said that her organization (Integrity) will not accept a moratoria on gay bishops or same sex unions.
At a press briefing lunch at the conservative American Anglican Council came news from Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham, England had just sent a paper across the Atlantic with the title, "The Choice Before ECUSA" pointedly asking, "Will ECUSA comply with the specific and detailed recommendations of Windsor, or will it not?" It was a bombshell of hope to the conservative clergy, bishops and laity present. Wrote Wright; "...if the resolutions are not amended then, with great sadness and with complete uncertainty about what way ahead might be found, the rest of the communion will have to conclude that, despite every opportunity, ECUSA has declined to comply with Windsor; has decided...to 'walk apart' (Windsor 157). You can read Dr. Wright's statement and what the Rev. Dr. Peter Toon has to say about this important paper in today's digest or click here: http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=4224
VOL was told that Wright's paper was read by the Archbishop of Canterbury and was sent with his knowledge and tacit approval.
A second minor shockwave came when the bishop elect of Northern California, Barry Beisner did not get immediate consent from the committee on the Consecration of Bishops to the total shock of his supporters and this reporter. Beisner's besetting sin was his two divorces and three marriages. Representatives of the executive session emerged from behind closed doors and spoke with Beisner for several minutes regarding their decision to postpone consent until later. Following their deliberations with Beisner, a committee spokesman told the crowd of supporters that consent would be postponed. Friends of Beisner proceeded to offer hugs and words of encouragement. You can read VOL's story in today's digest or click here: http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=4225
When this reporter confronted Beisner with the question as to whether his divorces and marriages were a "wholesome example" to Episcopalians, he was told he would not answer any of my questions and might hold a press conference later. Don't hold your breath. The truth is that while Beisner was quite forthcoming about his divorces and remarriages, Mark Andrus, Bishop Elect of California dodged the bullet about the "confidentiality agreement" that he signed in the Diocese of Pennsylvania.
THEY ELECTED Bonnie Anderson to lead the House of Deputies, replacing George Werner. Anderson had been vice president of the House of Deputies and a lay deputy from the Diocese of Michigan. She was elected unanimously as the next president of the HofD. She was the only nominee put forward and was elected by acclamation. She is married and was past president of the Standing Committee in the Diocese of Michigan and currently serves on the Commission on Ministry. As a five-time lay deputy, she served on the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F) for four terms and served as its president for two terms.
But her track record is anything but orthodox and she won't sit well with the remnant orthodox in the ECUSA. Speaking at the 74th Episcopal General Convention in 2003 she spoke in favor of affirming the Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, despite the fact that he is openly homosexual, Anderson declared, "Your vote in favor of consent to the election of my friend Gene Robinson may have some repercussions for you at home. You may be afraid, afraid of schisms and afraid it will hurt your church budget. Don't be afraid, be of good courage. Fear is the absence of faith." Bishops vote to address Anti-Jewish Liturgy, Affirm Creation and Evolution
During its first legislative day, the House of Bishops approved a resolution (C001) to address anti-Jewish prejudice "expressed in and stirred by portions of Christian scriptures and liturgical texts." The bishops directed the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to collect and develop preaching, congregational education and lectionary materials, and to report back to the 76th General Convention in 2009 in Anaheim.
In other action, bishops also approved a resolution (A129) affirming both creation and evolution. While the theory of evolution provides a fruitful and unifying scientific explanation for the emergence of life on earth, the resolution said, "many theological interpretations of origins of life on earth can readily embrace an evolutionary outlook and that an acceptance of evolution is entirely compatible with an authentic and living Christian faith." The resolution also called upon dioceses and congregations to seek the assistance of scientists and science educators in understanding what constitutes reliable scientific knowledge.
When one of VOL'S special correspondents, Auburn Traycik, ran into Quincy Bishop Keith Ackerman in the hallways of the convention center here in Columbus today, she gave her longtime friend a big hug, which resulted in him having to brush a bit of makeup off of his jacket. Commented Bishop Keith: "I don't mind someone getting makeup on me, I just don't relate well to bishops who wear makeup."
On a more serious note, Bishop Ackerman, asked by Mrs. Traycik how he thought things were shaping up for ECUSA's response to the Anglican Communion, told her he believes fears are growing among some bishops since the remarks Tuesday of the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu. Though confusion remains over Dr. Sentamu's presence at the convention, the Archbishop followed some personal reflections in the House of Bishops yesterday by reading a statement from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams - one that Ackerman believes increased the gulp factor for some bishops.
He pointed particularly to Williams' assurance of "our loving concern for the Episcopal Church and our hopes that we in the Anglican Communion may learn again to walk with each other more trustfully." But the real kicker, the bishop thought, was Williams' declaration that: "We cannot survive as a Communion of churches without some common convictions about what it is to live and to make decisions as the Body of Christ; Windsor is not the end of the story..."
A VOICE VOTE by the House of deputies today on whether Evangelism and reconciliation was the first priority of the church was overwhelmingly voted down. A number of speakers felt that the Millennium Development Goals and global outreach should be the church's first priority. D031 passed. First priority was reconciliation and communion and to embrace diversity and to promote inclusion and power sharing and affirm the ministries of overseas dioceses.
A HOB discussion on A136 "Enriching our Worship" support touched on the delicate issues of liturgical language.
Quincy Bishop Keith Ackerman offered up that making a variety of liturgical texts available was one thing. "When we make texts go beyond becoming inclusive and expansive they become theologically limited. In reference to the Blessed Trinity, it is impossible to define the Trinity as functional rather than ontological. It is an extraordinarily dangerous thing to do that, it overlooks ecumenical counsels and to make sure the language was used to transcend a number of conflicts.
Words like "strongly encourage" we could get to a point of radical change of root metaphors and so reverse the belief of the church, so I would oppose strongly making them available.
Cathy Roskam, Suffragan Bishop of New York rose and said, "I agree with Keith, when we talk about Trinitarian matters and Trinitarian formulation. We have to be careful with backing into alternative theologies. The Enriching our Worship series has to do with pastoral care, it includes prayers for the chronically ill."
Springfield Bishop Beckwith rose and moved an amendment to strike the words "strongly" and "regular". The amendment carried. "Strongly and regular are removed", said Frank Griswold, Presiding Bishop.
THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION NETWORK is up and running. A press release said: "We are present at the convention to talk about a hopeful Anglican future in the United States," said Canon Daryl Fenton, Network Chief Operating Officer, "We are also here to provide encouragement and support to bishops, clergy and deputies from Network dioceses and parishes," he added.
BUT THE NEWS of the day ended late into the night with a hearing of the Windsor Report and a number of resolutions including: A160 expression of regret, A 161 election of bishops, A162 public rites for blessings same-sex unions and A163 pastoral care and delegated episcopal oversight.
Archbishop of York John Sentamu said, "It is a broken friendship which needs to be healed. Will it actually be sufficient to repair our friendships? I am doubtful. Scripture tradition and reason are the basis for the friendship. Do our friendships meet that particular norm? Do these resolutions show us the Christ who bears the marks of crucifixion? Truth and unity are not separable. Windsor wanted space to be created, and I am not sure your resolutions will create space for our communion to be together."
You can the full report on this hearing which drew more than 1,500 till late in the evening.
David W. Virtue DD
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