10/05/2007

The Round that Misfired: The first bullet point and the unecessary discussion.

In an earlier post I wrote, concerning the eight bullet points of the then yet to be written House of BIshops' Statement, "Perhaps the issue is that they were working on eight or so bullet points that would constitute an "acceptable response to" the ABC and Primates. In
this case the JSC is advising the bishops of The Episcopal Church on acceptable language. While this is a bit pushy, it is at least understandable. This way the bishops know what sorts of things are being looked for and why."

The actual document's eight bullet points seem to be precisely what I supposed: mutually agreed on points between the Joint Standing Committee and the House of Bishops.

It is no wonder that the JSC approved the actions of the House of Bishops.

In the service of this process, one key mistake was made. B033 "calls upon Bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees 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." The "bullet point" goes no further. The "discussion" does. It says: "The House acknowledges that non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom B033 pertains." There is no reason the discussion had to go there. If "everybody knew" that "gay and lesbian persons were included" what need was there for this interpretation of the text?

Several Points:
  • The bullet points, called the Summary, do not require this additional bit of information.
  • The acknowledgment occurs in the "discussion" section and one might ask if that has the force of the summary (that is if the summary does not include it is it what was agreed on?)
  • The acknowledgment is interpretive by the House of Bishops and cannot be held to be binding on the church, although its effect is to single out gay and lesbian persons to a priori and prejudicial treatment, regardless of the holiness of life they may exhibit in their lives.
The Joint Standing Committee, Bishop Mouneer not withstanding, has declared themselves satisfied. And why shouldn't they be? It is of some interest to note that Neela Banerjee, writing for the New York Times, quotes Canon James M. Rosenthal of the Anglican Communion Office, who said, "“This is one voice, and other voices need to come in and say whether
the Episcopal Church has indeed satisfied” the primates’ demands.”

So the JSC is not the end of the matter. The Archbishop of Canterbury is hard at work getting more opinions. They will surely follow and some will be unpleasant.

It is getting to be rather difficult to know if any of this makes any difference any more. Those who are intent on having some new entity to which they can relate will find a way to do so. There will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. There will be wreckage in the fast lane, just as the strange prophet of excess, Hunter S. Thompson said. No Province will be safe, not in the East, the West, the North or the South.

The rest of us will be The Episcopal Church, a lumbering community of folk who don't move fast enough in doing justice and don't stop long enough to love mercy. But at least, on a good day, we try. On bad days we screw up just like everyone else. It's called being human.

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