July 4, 2015

A Triumph of Clericalism

I thought one of the better and less controversial ideas floated by those who would reform the structures of The Episcopal Church was to make the office of President of the House of Deputies (PHoD) a paying position. This office is increasingly important and the office holder, by canon, plays a significant role in the church. Alas, the 78th General Convention, largely because of the House of Bishops, did not agree to giving a stipend to the PHoD. Surely, this was not simply an economy measure.

An Episcopal News Service story published today reviews the process of amending and adopting Substitute Resolution D013. The story makes it clear that the House of Deputies and House of Bishops had very different ideas about paying the PHoD for his or her work on behalf of the church. The story includes this paragraph:
“When someone volunteers to do a job, it is not an injustice not to pay them,” said Diocese of Milwaukee Bishop Steven Miller during debate in the House of Bishops on July 3.
One might argue that the President of the United States and, indeed, all bishops of The Episcopal Church, have stood for election in the same fashion as the PHoD. In other words, this is a stupid and self-serving argument.

As it happens, I was watching the debate in the House of Bishops when the matter of a stipend for the PHoD was being discussed. Because I was actually interested in Resolution A019, which was on the day’s consent calendar, I was not taking notes. I do remember, however, that one of the bishops expressed the concern that the PHoD was accumulating too much power.

I think that clericalism is the real reason the bishops do not want to pay the PHoD. Simply put, bishops do not want to cede too much power to a layperson or even a priest or deacon who might be PHoD. (Perhaps the real problem is episcopalism.) Frankly, we give bishops too much power in the church and ordinary clergy, and especially laypeople, too little.

I hope that, at the 79th General Convention, the House of Deputies will insist that their leader be paid.

July 3, 2015

Covenant? What Covenant?

Earlier this month, I wrote an essay titled “Time for a Definitive Response to the Anglican Covenant,” which called on the General Convention to hold an unambiguous vote on the Anglican Communion Covenant. I wrote, “This year we must provide a definitive response to the invitation to adopt the Anglican Covenant, and that response should be ‘thank you, no.’”

Well, the General Convention works in mysterious ways. In its collective wisdom, it has decided neither to say “thank you” nor to say “no.” Let me explain.

The two resolutions on the Anglican Covenant, A040 and D022, were assigned to the Governance and Structure Legislative Committee. Resolution A040 originated with the Executive Council. Although it would not have adopted the Covenant, it offered approval of most of the document. It also directed the church’s members of the Anglican Consultative Council “to express our appreciation to the 16th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC16, Lusaka 2016) for the gift of inter-Anglican conversation and mutuality in God’s mission engendered by the Anglican Communion Covenant process.” Resolution D022, submitted by deputy Lisa Fox, differed from A040 only in that it denied that the Covenant captured our church’s present relationship to the Communion or any desired future relationship.

Even before the June 26 hearing on the two resolutions, it was obvious that there was little fondness for the Covenant among members of the Governance and Structure Committee. At the hearing itself, six speakers addressed the Covenant resolutions. Two, including Bishop Ian Douglas, who was a member of the Executive Council Task Force on the Anglican Covenant, supported A040. The Rev. Mark Harris, who is not a deputy this year, also spoke. According to one observer, “Mark Harris didn’t like anything but thought we needed to figure out a plausible answer.” The two endorsers of D022, Mary Roehrich and the Rev. Canon Scott Quinn, spoke in favor of their resolution. Also speaking in favor of D022 was Michael Booker, a deputy from the Diocese of Missouri recruited to address D022 by proposer Lisa Fox, who was prevented by sickness from attending the convention as a Missouri deputy.

I was surprised and confused when both A040 and D022 were marked on the General Convention Web site as “HoD acted to Discharge - Already acted on at this convention.” It took some time to figure out what action was being referred to. It turns out that Resolution A019 was repurposed by the legislative committee as a substitute for either A040 or D022. Resolution A019, which was proposed by Executive Council began as follows:
A019: Affirm the Inter-Anglican Secretariat

Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That through our funding and active participation, this Church continues to bear witness to this Church’s ongoing commitment to the Anglican Communion and the work of the Inter-Anglican Secretariat.
Essentially, this resolution declared that we intended to remain in the Anglican Communion and to continue paying for much of its administration.

The resolution that was sent to the House of Deputies and approved by it on June 28 was this:
A019: Affirm the Inter-Anglican Secretariat

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church affirm our common identity and membership in the Anglican Communion; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention direct The Episcopal Church's members of the Anglican Consultative Council to express our appreciation to the 16th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC16, Lusaka 2016) for the gift of Inter-Anglican conversation and partnership in God's mission; and be it further

Resolved, That The Episcopal Church affirm its ongoing commitment to the Anglican Communion and the work of the Inter-Anglican Secretariat through our funding and active participation.
The final resolve is a minor rephrasing of the single clause of the original Resolution A019. Prefixed to this are provisions derived from A040/D022. The first resolve reproduces the text common to A040 and D022. Nothing is said about specific parts of the Covenant or, in fact, about the Covenant at all! The second resolve is nearly the same as the second resolve of A040 and D022. Here are the subtle changes seen in A019:
  1. “Inter-Anglican” has replaced “inter-Anglican.”
  2. The amended A019 substitutes “partnership in Godֹֹ’s mission” for “mutuality in God’s mission.”
  3. The amended A019 drops “engendered by the Anglican Communion Covenant process.”
Not until July 3, the last day of the General Convention, did Resolution A019 appear on the consent calendar of the House of Bishops with the recommendation that the bishops concur with the decision of the House of Deputies. The consent calendar was approved by the bishops, who thereby concurred with the House of Deputies in passing Resolution A019.

Analysis

What has The Episcopal Church done here?

In the final resolve, we have yet again affirmed our commitment to and support of the Anglican Communion.

Implicitly, in the second resolve, we are grateful for conversation within the Communion, though not specifically (or perhaps at all) for conversation related to the Anglican Communion Covenant. Moreover, in speaking of “partnership in God’s mission” rather than “mutuality in God’s mission,” the church emphasizes its autonomy rather than its “interdependence” with respect to other Communion churches.

The first resolve declares that The Episcopal Church recognizes its common identity and membership in the Anglican Communion without reference to the Anglican Communion Covenant.

It is especially important that we have not suggested that, for example, we are bound by Section Three of the Covenant. That section demands shared discernment regarding difficult issues. We have not consulted the Communion and asked if we can proceed to marry same-sex couples. To have asserted Section Three as part of our Anglican identity and to have taken the actions the 78th General Convention took would have been the height of cynicism and insincerity.

I argued that the 78th General Convention needed to accept or reject the Anglican Covenant. The convention found a third way, a way that avoids the embarrassment of explicit rejection while making it clear that we want nothing to do with the Covenant.

In the end, The Episcopal Church decided not to adopt the Covenant, not to reject the Covenant, but to ignore it to death. It is to be hoped that the churches of the Communion recognize that the Covenant project has failed and that the Communion can only survive by partnering in mission wherever possible and agreeing to disagree wherever conflicts are, for now, irresolvable.

No doubt, the Anglican Communion office will conclude that The Episcopal Church is still in the process of receiving the Covenant. It isn’t, and the General Convention has made no provision to consider the Covenant further.

Thanks be to God.

No Anglican Covenant logo

June 26, 2015

It’s Not Over

I was delighted to learn of the Supreme Court’s decision this morning declaring that citizens have the right to marry the person of their choice, whether that person is male or female. An early Facebook post I saw declared “It’s over.”

Although I would like to think that the fight for equality and freedom for all is indeed over in this country, I don’t believe that’s the case.

Shortly after I learned of the Supreme Court decision, I received a fund-raising e-mail message from Santorum for President. The letter says, in part,
The Supreme Court just launched an unprecedented attack on the religious liberty and the traditional family.

These unelected judges created - out of thin air - a "right" to same-sex "marriage," and ruled that all states must recognize these unions, regardless of their own laws.

This is a watershed moment in American history. It's the most egregious rejection of traditional values and the Bill of Rights since Roe v. Wade.

We can't let it stand!

Lionel, I'm running for President because I believe our traditional values are worth protecting. I believe that our religious freedom cannot and should not be violated by an overbearing government bending to the whims of a vocal minority.


This court ruling is the Roe v. Wade of the 21st Century. It's an attack on religious freedom, an affront to the religious liberty of millions of Americans, and a threat to the stability of our families.

We can't allow it to stand. And as President, I will do all within my power to overturn it.

If you'll join me in defending our families, our religious liberty, and our traditional values, I need your help right now, Lionel.
You can read the whole letter here.

It will be interesting to see if other Republican presidential candidates have a similar response to today’s ruling. I suspect that many of them will have more sense and will view the ruling as a gift to their campaigns—they can hide behind the court ruling rather than espousing a view held by fewer and fewer Americans.

Alas, Santorum is not the only far-right ideologue likely to continue fighting equal marriage.

Celebrate victory today, but be ready to defend freedom and democracy tomorrow.


Marriage equality achieved

June 25, 2015

Thoughts on Marriage and the General Convention

Ed Palattella has a story at House of Deputies News titled “Same-sex marriage: Episcopalians weigh whether now is the time.” There isn’t much in this piece that is new, but I was struck by several points.

Consider this paragraph:
The task force also proposes that the canons retain language that allows any member of the clergy to decline to solemnize any marriage, and recommends that language be “extended to include the choice to decline offering a blessing on a marriage.” Those provisions have failed to allay the concerns of those who argue that that the group’s theological analysis was insufficient, that it failed to adequately consider the viewpoints of Episcopalians who support only marriage between a man and a woman, and that it did not fully study how the Episcopal Church’s amendments to the marriage canons might affect the wider Anglican Communion.
Was the task force’s theological analysis “insufficient”? I don’t think so. We have heard this argument for years. The fact is that those who “support only marriage between a man and a woman” will never be convinced by any amount of well-reasoned theological argument. The inadequate theology argument is only a tactic to delay change for as long as possible.

Marriage equality symbol
Is it true that the task force “failed to adequately consider the viewpoints of Episcopalians who support only marriage between a man and a woman”? I don’t think so. Those “viewpoints” are traditional and well known. There was nothing to be gained by reiterating them.

A related complaint I have heard often is that the task force did not really contain any members with traditional views on marriage. Perhaps that is true, but what difference would have a more diverse task force have made? Might there have been a minority report saying what we all know it would say? Would the presence of conservatives have weakened the recommendations of the task force? Perhaps. It is clear, however, that Resolution A050 was not about clarifying the church’s understanding of “traditional” marriage; it was about exploring the case for extending that understanding. It is for the General Convention to decide what to do with the case for extension, and, for that purpose, it is important that the task force offer the strongest case possible.

Finally, did the task force ignore possible consequences within the Anglican Communion? Again, I don’t think so. The task force did consult ecumenical and Communion partners, though that activity was limited by its meager $30,000 budget. Like the most conservative of our own leaders and members, some Communion churches, particularly those belonging to the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, will go ballistic over any movement in The Episcopal Church toward the regularization of same-sex partnerships. But it is not as though we will be destroying strong friendships thereby. In fact, our moving forward on the recommendations of the marriage task force can have a beneficial effect on the Communion. Sympathetic Western churches, particularly the Church of England, will be encouraged to make similar decisions, and the persecuted LGBT Anglicans in Global South churches will be given much-needed hope.

Objectively, same-sex marriage has no obvious negative societal consequences, though it may engender irrational distress for some. On the contrary, it has many obvious societal advantages. Moreover, such marriages are increasingly accepted by Americans and are apparently accepted by a majority of Americans. If our church wants to be relevant to American life, it needs to get on board and provide appropriate ceremony and approval of major milestones in the lives of sexual minorities. There is only one compelling argument against doing that—that it is against God’s will. That case for that argument, however, is exceedingly weak and impossible to prove. It is time for the church to catch up with its social context, lest it become even less relevant than it is already.

June 24, 2015

Links to General Convention Information

I have collected a number of links for those who want to follow the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, Utah. Please offer corrections or additions in the comments, and I will modify this page.
Salt Lake City Date and Time

Background information
Current information
  • Episcopal News Service. Some General Convention stories will likely appear here, but many more stories will likely appear on the ENS blog.
  • The 78th General Convention. This is the home page for the General Convention. It contains many useful links, some of which are listed here.
  • General Convention Media Hub. Schedules and streaming video are available here.
  • Directory of the 78th General Convention. Gain access to an application called Guidebook that runs on computers, tablets, and phones. It includes schedules and other information particularly of interest to deputies. It will likely be helpful from those monitoring the convention remotely, however, particularly if you are doing so using your cell phone.
  • General Convention Resolutions. Check on the current status of all General Convention resolutions here.
  • House of Deputies News. This is a new site, edited by Jim Naughton, founder of Episcopal Café. It promises to capture the spirit of the convention.
  • Episcopal Café. This site is one of the best sources of information about The Episcopal Church, and it is a fair guess that a good deal of General Convention news will appear here, even if it does not appear first on Episcopal Café. You may want to go directly to stories tagged The Lead, which is where news stories appear.

General Convention logo

June 19, 2015

Enhanced Responsibility

While doing research for my recent post about The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Covenant (“Time for a Definitive Response to the Anglican Covenant”), I was reminded of the role the Anglican primates have played in the development of the Anglican Covenant.

Prior to 1979, Anglican primates only met regularly at 10-year intervals at the Lambeth Conference, at which they were bishops among other bishops. The 1978 Lambeth Conference had passed Resolution 12:
Anglican Conferences, Councils and Meetings
The Conference asks the Archbishop of Canterbury, as President of the Lambeth Conference and President of the Anglican Consultative Council, with all the Primates of the Anglican Communion, within one year to initiate consideration of the way to relate together the international conferences, councils, and meetings within the Anglican Communion so that the Anglican Communion may best serve God within the context of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
It is not clear just what the bishops at Lambeth had in mind, but the Archbishop of Canterbury Donald Coggan hosted the first meeting of the primates November 26 to December 1, 1979. It was designed to offer an opportunity for “leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation.” Since then, the primates have met about every two years.

The 1988 Lambeth Conference passed Resolution 18, “The Anglican Communion: Identity and Authority” The resolution offered a number of recommendations, two of which involved the primates. Resolution 18.2(b) asked that the primates be consulted in the selection of future Archbishops of Canterbury. Resolution 18.2(a) read
[This Conference] Urges that encouragement be given to a developing collegial role for the Primates Meeting under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury, so that the Primates Meeting is able to exercise an enhanced responsibility in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters.
It is perhaps not surprising that a conference of bishops was interested in giving some of their number more authority. In any case, what was being suggested seems far removed from “leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation.”

The 1998 Lambeth Conference doubled down on this idea. Resolution III.6 reiterated support for Resolution 18.2(2) from 1988 and otherwise recommended a stronger role for primates, including this item b:
[This Conference] asks that the Primates’ Meeting, under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury, include among its responsibilities positive encouragement to mission, intervention in cases of exceptional emergency which are incapable of internal resolution within provinces, and giving of guidelines on the limits of Anglican diversity in submission to the sovereign authority of Holy Scripture and in loyalty to our Anglican tradition and formularies;
It was particularly obvious at Lambeth 1998 that there were two camps vying for supremacy. The liberals were concerned about provincial autonomy and were content to coöperate when possible and to tolerate differences where the gulf was unbridgeable. The conservatives sought a more coherent Communion that put clear limits on diversity and provided some enforcement mechanism. Hence, Resolution III.6. The primates seemed to be the best place for the conservatives to place their hopes, since each province essentially had one vote. In the Lambeth Conference, churches like The Episcopal Church were able to send many more bishops than, say, African church with more actual members, thereby giving such churches more clout. Resolution III.6 made it natural for Bishop Robert Duncan and his allies to appeal to the primates when, in 2003, the General Convention granted its consent to consecrate Gene Robinson.

Even before the 2003 “crisis,” however, the conservatives were drawing up their battle plans. This is most easily seen in the collection of essays called To Mend the Net, edited by Archbishop Drexel W. Gomez of the West Indies and retired Bishop Maurice W. Sinclair of what was then called the Southern Cone. The Preface to these 2001 essays lays out the thrust of the volume:
Central to the purpose of this book is the presentation of a proposal for the exercise of the enhanced responsibility [emphasis in original] that successive Lambeth Conferences have asked the Primates Meeting to fulfill.
The issues supposedly requiring such enhanced responsibility all have to do with sex. In particular, the Preface cites the the move by the General Convention to make the ordination of women uniformly available throughout the church (presumably a reference to the 2000 Resolution A045); the failure, particularly of The Episcopal Church, “to respond positively” to the 1998 Lambeth Resolution I.10; and the “placing of non-marital sexual relationships alongside marriage for support by the [presumably Episcopal] Church.” The editors continue,
Such revision of the Christian ethic is unacceptable to a majority of Anglican Provinces and to an important sector within the member church most affected by it. Should it go unchallenged by the Primates’ Meeting, the immediate prospect is of a division within ECUSA leading in its turn to a split in the Communion with the various Provinces lining up on the different sides.
This statement seems prescient or prophetic or, as I suggested earlier, simply the militant traditionalist battle plan.

The primates did mount a challenge, at least to the consecration of a partnered gay bishop. In the emergency meeting of the primates in 2003, they recommended a study that would result in The Windsor Report in 2004. Windsor contained this in section 104:
Like the other Instruments of Unity, however, the Primates’ Meeting has refused to acknowledge anything more than a consultative and advisory authority. In part, it is the task of the present Commission to consider proposals made at the Lambeth Conferences in 1988 and 1998, and reiterated in To Mend the Net, for the primates to have an “enhanced responsibility [emphasis in original] in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters”.
Under the circumstances, it should not have been surprising when, in 2006, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams appointed Archbishop Gomez to head the Covenant Design Group, which was to draw up an Anglican Covenant as called for in the Windsor Report. This was yet another indication that Rowan Williams, though supposedly a liberal, held Communion unity, at however great a price, as a higher goal than being able to act on his personal beliefs.

Gomez certainly did not achieve everything he might have wanted in the final version of the Anglican Covenant. The Primates’ Meeting was given a good deal of power by the Covenant, but the Standing Committee was tapped to be the ultimate body responsible for recommending “relational consequences” for provincial misbehavior.

The enhanced responsibility given to the primates in the Anglican Covenant, though not as enhanced as the most militant of the traditionalists would like, is set out in Section Four. To date, two resolutions about the Covenant have been proposed to the General Convention that convenes in Salt Lake City next week. (See my post mentioned at the beginning of this essay.) Neither suggests that we want anything to do with Section Four. Because other Communion churches have adopted the Covenant, the Primates’ Meeting will have some enhanced responsibility with respect to them, but, over The Episcopal Church, not so much.

No Anglican Covenant logo

June 18, 2015

D022 Now on General Convention Web Site

When I first wrote about General Convention Resolution D022: Response to Anglican Covenant Process, the resolution, though approved for submission, was not yet on the list of all resolutions on the General Convention Web site. Apparently, it takes some time to process resolutions, getting them into the right format, assigning them to a legislative committee, etc. Today, however, the resolution has finally appeared. You can read the resolution on the General Convention site here.

Resolution D022 has, of course, been assigned to the Governance and Structure Committee, which will deal with the Covenant resolution from the Executive Committee, A040. That committee has a lot on its plate, including most of the resolutions from the Task Force for Reimagining The Episcopal Church (TREC). It will be a busy committee.

If you have not read my essay on dealing with the Anglican Covenant, “Time for a Definitive Response to the Anglican Covenant,” I invite you to do so now.

No Anglican Covenant logo