6/22/2006

What Happened On Wednesday?

Wednesday was a fine day for a media frenzy. The Blog of Daniel has been following the ways in which the media has consistently gone for the bait and gotten caught in the surface story. There was plenty of bait to go around.

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preached at the final Eucharist on Wednesday morning. It was a short homily in which a whole new set of images was invoked to talk about the call of the Gospel and the need to press for a world in which fear is cast out. It was refreshingly concrete. It closed with an invocation of Jesus our mother, echoing Julian of Norwich. The whole thing was a homiletically well crafted piece. I think we will be in for a preaching treat. Only the “Jesus our mother” remark made the press.

Yesterday I predicted:

“The big guns will be in the house today. What I do know is that if the big guns get paternalistic there will be hell to pay. It may not be a good thing to insult the maturity or integrity of this large body of people who have been working hard for a long time with resolutions that concern our work in the Anglican Communion. That work, unlike the resolutions regarding mission and program, concerns high level interchange, not local contextual realities. Most deputies have little connection to the wide range of people and organizations that are central to the Communion. Most will never meet or see the Archbishop of Canterbury, most will never go to a Lambeth Conference, almost none will participate in any of the “instruments of unity.” And yet these people are asked to bear the brunt of the struggle to maintain a way forward in Anglican Communion processes. These Deputies are asked to surrender some vague edges of autonomy to some not too clearly understood or seen “higher” power.The House of Bishops would do well to remember that Lambeth may be a fine time for them, but it is not nearly as important as money for local ministry or canons for ministry, or a budget for missionaries. The Archbishop of Canterbury would do well to understand that emissaries that seem to come from the monarch or the patriarch bearing messages of caution and dictates for action are not well received by this rag-tag body of deputies who got sent here to be the Episcopal Church assembled to empower mission, not the local branch of the Anglican Communion convened to receive marching orders.”

Well, I was right, regrettably. The Presiding Bishop called for a special joint session of bishops and deputies. On one can remember this ever having been done before, although I think such a joint session was called at the Special Convention in South Bend. It was an extraordinary meeting. One political observer of many conventions said, “If you want to know what it means when we say ‘The Episcopal Church,’ you know now. Episcopal means bishops. When they call the shots, everyone caves.”

The Presiding Bishop came and spoke. His speech can be found HERE. He announced a proposed House of Bishops’ resolution, B-033. He did not tell us how to vote, but we all knew the bait was being set. You can read that speech HERE. He left, and we proceed with other matters until the Bishops voted on the matter and sent the bill to us for what was assumed to be rubber stamp approval. The read of the house, however, was that B-033 was bad – bad for the realignment crowd, bad for the progressives, worse for the Gay and Lesbian community.

The whole thing put progressive in the worse sort of position. If we joined with the right in killing this resolution there would be no formal response at all to the Windsor Report’s central requests. If we went with the resolution several upcoming elections, notably in the Diocese of Newark (whose candidates have yet to be announced), would become hostage to this resolution, and of course for some time to come there would be hostages.

What the resolution says is, “This Convention therefore call(s) upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.” Interestingly, the resolution does NOT say, “requires” or “instructs” but instead says “call(s) upon.” It does NOT say electors can not elect, but that Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction (the two groups that must consent to an election) “exercise restraint by not consenting.” It does NOT say anything about gay and lesbian candidates.

The trouble is, of course, that this broadly based threat will be read by gay and lesbian persons, women, people of particular theological or ecclesial persuasions, and for that matter a whole host of interesting but peculiar people, as insulting, demeaning, and damning. And they will be right to so think. Candidates of all sorts will be held hostage by the vehemence of the attacks to come.

So the rumblings were heard all around the hall. And they must have been heard back in the House of Bishops too, for in the midst of the debate on B-033 the Presiding Bishop Elect, Bishop Schori, came to the House of Deputies and was given permission of the chair to address the deputies. Again an unheard of intervention by one house in the workings of the other. Again Bishop Schori spoke eloquently and powerfully. She did not tell us how to vote, but the bait previously set by the Presiding Bishop was firmly set now. And the episcopate worked its will.

Deputies now had to face into grim reality that the big guns had been brought to bear. If they did not vote for B-033 gay and lesbian persons and their progressive friends would be considered spoilers and would lose all political leverage for the future. If we did vote for B-033 we were making gay and lesbian candidates and others hostages to a bad piece of legislation. Only the fact that legislation can be changed by any General Convention made for a little light. Bad legislation can be reversed the next time we meet. Still, it means hostages for three years.

So we voted and passed B-033. The house was not informed as to how the Bishop’s voted. Immediately following bishops from the left and the right disassociated themselves from the resolution.

The House of Bishops, having initiated this resolution and brought out the guns to bear, now retreated into various forms of righteousness, leaving the House of Deputies to hang out without any protection at all. It was dirty, and insult and finally a shame on us all.

On Tuesday the House of Deputies had done a stunning thing: it had rejected a bad resolution (A161) that deserved to die a horrible death. A deeply divided house had found a voice for a moment. On Wednesday expediency ruled, and the House of Deputies lost its voice to Episcopal oversight.

I am not at all sure of the outcome, but my sense is that the internal strains on the relation between the bishops and the deputies will need some work. We were used and then abandoned. At the end of the afternoon we had said something in response to Windsor, something immediately rejected by the Network and by a number of progressive bishops. There was deep gloom or grey resignation as the afternoon wore on.

So, what is the score card for this General Convention as regards the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion?

  1. We have elected a Presiding Bishop, a stunning affirmation of both the courage of our electing bishops, our new Presiding Bishop, and a sign to the Communion that we mean to be the Church we are called to be.

  2. We became a more serious active part of the Millennium Development Goals process, something the Windsor Report thinks important.

  3. We passed a budget to get on with the Church’s work, one that included funding for the Anglican Consultative Council, thus signaling our desire to continue in the Listening Process and other Anglican Communion activities.

  4. We passed a statement of regret, (A 160), a statement on interdependence in the Anglican Communion (A 159), a statement committing ourselves to the Windsor listening process, and a new statement (B 032) asserting that it is independent churches that constitute the Anglican Communion. We did pass, at great cost to our common life and good faith concerns, B 033, on restraint from consent on Bishop elections.

  5. We did not act on same sex blessings, thereby leaving the matter as it stood at the last Convention, namely that we were not going forward with the development of Public Rites, but that those blessing locally were within the community of the church.

So what we have is a new day, a new Presiding Bishop, and the same old problems. Bishop Schori deserves our prayers and blessings as she undertakes this work.

The message back to Canterbury needs to be this: we need you to stick by us. With us, support Katharine in her ministry as Primate. Look at what we have done: we damn near killed ourselves trying to address the Windsor Report and related matters. We put up with being told by English prelates how to act, vote and respond, to the point that stretched our patience and our honor. We internally ripped ourselves apart trying to be true to our claim that we want to continue with the churches of the Anglican Communion.

The media world will move on. But we remain. And the Archbishop’s advisors need to know we are doing all we can, given that we are indeed The Episcopal Church and not another thing.

Time for Church.

19 comments:

  1. Thom Jensen22/6/06 9:02 AM

    Thank you, Mark, for all of your good work these past two weeks. Many of us have relied upon your eyes and your wisdom to understand. Now come home to the folks who love you. You deserve that hammock at the beach and some time for sighing.

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  2. DF in Massachusetts22/6/06 9:27 AM

    Thanks, Mark.

    I'm really disappointed that the bishop of my diocese, Bishop Shaw, sold-out and supported this. Especially as he led us to believe by his speech at a huge Pride Interfaith Service in Boston on June 10 that this is exactly what he wouldn't do.

    Very duplicitous of him to mislead us simply to get good press for himself and be able to party at Lambeth in 2008.

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  3. Mark --

    It was most delightful to meet you -- otherwise I will just reference my remarks below (except for correctiing the spelling of "sever" which was supposed to be "severe").

    My considered reflection is that this is cover for The Episcopal Church so that something can be presented to ++Rowan so that when his puppeteers announce that it is not good enough TEC can then say that we tried & then just move on, ignoring B033 ourselves, since it has no legal status whatsoever & any bishop or standing committee acting in compliance with it would lose the case in court (as at least one diocesan chancellor has pointed out).

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  4. Thank you. I actually appreciate the efforts of all who have represented us. I wasn't there and I am not going to attempt to second guess what has occurred.

    Now I'm going to go find a safe place to hide from the fallout.

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  5. God bless Bp. Schori, she's gonna need it.
    God bless us, we're going to need it.

    Like Annie, I can't wait to curl up in a safe place to start to heal. I can't wait to go to church on Sunday.

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  6. It is quite disturbing following the convention. Extremely disturbing from one in a post-colonial world and finding the same tools in fight. Maybe more about that later.

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  7. Mark, Thom's welcome back to Delaware is echoed here in rural Oxfordshire--next time you're through this part of the world, I'll buy you a drink at the Bat and Ball down the road. You deserve it for all your work and generous insight.

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  8. Thanks for your comments and I agree from "The Other Side."

    I have never seen a worse hash than the politics of GC 2006. Gross power play by the "815 Institutionalists" to try to display a middle way when there is none. The HOD had spoken clearly and "democratically."

    There are two Churches and it is time to separate.

    JAM

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  9. JAM says "There are two Churches and it is time to separate." Amen. I only wish it could be done graciously. Alas, there are probably way too many lawyers involved at this point . . .

    Peace,
    JB

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  10. Mark, it's been a pleasure to "listen" to your thoughts, just as it was to listen to your preaching in Lewes. Thanks for your thoughtful posts.
    It's my sense that, as Prior Aelred mentioned, the outcome of B033 may be that dioceses will receive some breathing room on Windsor Report matters once other Anglican institutional bodies such as CAPA reject the Episcopal Church's response to be "in compliance" with the Windsor Report. It truly amazes me that an advisory report has taken on such canonical authority.

    All of those notions aside, the question remains -- both theologically, ethically, and politically -- how shall we live into a process where we won't come up with the wrong outcome for the appropriate reasons. Is it possible for marginalized people and their allies not have to vote/choose upon something they believe is wrong but do so "for the good of the Church?" It seems to me this decision on B033 could have been averted if bishops had not played their ecclesiological trump cards on the floor of the convention. It also very much feels like this was a "last ditch effort" to appease powers residing across the Atlantic Ocean. I fear we won't have come close to accomplishing that goal. So, my arguments have become circular.
    Peace.

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  11. I completely agree that the way B033 was introduced and hamhandedly pushed through by episcopal intimidation was a complete disgrace. It left neither the Social Justice delegates nor the Scriptural Orthodoxy delegates much in the way of dignity and integrity to take back home from a convention that was already both exhausting and frustrating for all sides.

    Moreover, this cynical but fatuous maneuver will accomplish little with respect to the Communion. +Wright and +Exeter have both told us that the original motions, which were in some respects stronger and in all respects more comprehensive, were not acceptable responses to Windsor. B033 shares the weaknesses of those measures while adding several new ones of its own.

    So I completely agree with you on this point, Mark, which is not at all usual.

    But as to the ABC cutting the church some slack, I'm not sure he can: As NT Wright emphasized, the WR itself was a compromise document, and strict compliance with its recommendations (or "invitations") is regarded by most of the Communion as a minimum first step towards putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.

    In any case, I suppose we'll soon see... Peace.

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  12. "There are two Churches and it is time to separate."

    Then go.

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  13. Mil Gracias Marcos!

    Leonardo Ricardo

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  14. There are two Churches and it is time to separate.

    JAM, then somebody tell +Duncan. He is stressing, emphatically, that he is the Episcopal Church---for the time being, adding the word "Windsor" as the modifier: e.g. "Windsor Bishops".

    But I predict that over the next couple of years, that modifier will switch to "Lambeth Bishops": originally, referring back to the "Lambeth Commission", but we ALL know they REALLY mean.

    (Chapman Memo all the way, kiddies: everybody look for your +Duncan-deputized "missionary bishop" invading your diocese any day now...)

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  15. In one of the papers over here earlier this week (either the Guardian or the Independent; I can't remember which, we get a ton of them in the Common Room), it was noted that +John Sentamu applauded the lack of promise for a moratorium on the consecration of bishops in same-sex relations. He was asked by a conservative (but un-named) ECUSA bishop to withhold his approval, lest it would look like 'interference'.

    Is anyone willing to name that conservative bishop, and raise a challenge as to why it's okay to interfere if the conservatives invite you to do so, but not okay when it's in approval of a measure that the conservatives don't like? It seems to me that a tiny bit of even-handedness is necessary and called for here.

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  16. Judy Avery25/6/06 9:52 AM

    Mark -- from an old friend from your Ann Arbor days.

    Last night I had a couple friends, one Episcopalian and one not, ask what I thought about the doings of General Convention. Well, actually asking what the heck had happened. (Other, of course, than that new PB that we're delighted about.) By good fortune one of them had her laptop in her lap, and I sent her here. She immediately left the conversation to dig deeply into the only explanation of what went on that I've found that makes any sense.
    Thanks muchly for your commentary.

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  17. I just discovered this wonderful blog. Thank you, Mark, for the terrific commentary. I am sad about the events of Wenesday in some respects. Someone pointed out to me that to leave the Anglican communion would be to abandon our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Nigeria. But what we did seemed to lack integrity, and I'm not convinced it was the answer.

    Here's what we sang in church today. These famous words can be used by anyone crusading for any cause, especially the first stanza. But the subsequent stanzas speak so well to the current situation.

    Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
    In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
    Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
    And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.


    Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
    Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
    Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside,
    Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.


    By the light of burning martyrs, Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
    Toiling up new Calv’ries ever with the cross that turns not back;
    New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,
    They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.


    Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
    Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
    Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
    Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.

    James Russell Lowell. 1845

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  18. Widening Gyre26/6/06 9:46 AM

    Mark,

    Might be too late to get noticed on this thread (was out of town over the weekend) but my wife brought up an interesting point about what happened Wednesday.

    First, I agree with your comments about the "intervention" of the Bishops into the Deputies' House. But remember, the Deputies still had to vote. So the question is why did so many who obviously voted down A161 vote in favor of B033?

    I suggested to my wife that the mushy middle (who I have long believed lacked any core theological grounding on this or most any other issue) caved when push came to shove because of their vague attachment to the idea of "unity."

    She disagreed. She suggested that based on her (and my) experience over the past three years in our diocese she was convinced that most of the mushy middle were deferential to their bishops, end of story. So if the bishops voted in favor, they would too because their overriding principle was "we support our bishop."

    I think she is more right that I was. I have run into a number of folk who have been very critical of my attempts at finding a middle way through this not because they thought my position was incorrect or ill advised, but simply because it was not the position of our bishop--and we never disagree with our bishop because that is bad form. Seriously. A senior warden told me that early on after GC 2003.

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  19. Yes. Clericalism is alive and well in the Episcopal Church.

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