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By Richard J. Mammana
The 79th General Convention included several elements of legislation and partnership related to the Episcopal Church’s ecumenical and interreligious relations.
Invited ecumenical and interreligious guests included clergy and representatives from these groups:
- American Jewish Committee
- Anti-Defamation League
- Armenian Church of America
- Christian Churches Together
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
- Islamic Society of North America
- Moravian Church in North America
- National Council of Churches
- Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
- Religions for Peace
- The United Methodist Church
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- World Council of Churches
These representatives offered video greetings to the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops.
Guests visited legislative hearings, exchanged questions and answers in a dedicated session with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, and participated in a triennial dinner hosted by the Rev. Margaret Rose, Presiding Bishop’s deputy for ecumenical and interreligious relations, and the Rev. Canon Chuck Robertson, canon for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church.
Full communion partners from the Moravian Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America also spoke to resolutions touching on relationships and shared public policy commitments. During the first week of General Convention, ecumenical and interreligious guests shared a daily lunch and listening session at St. David’s Church with visiting primates and general secretaries of other provinces of the Anglican Communion.
Legislative Committee 19 on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations met five times under the chairmanship of the Rt. Rev. Eugene Sutton of Maryland and the Rev. Winnie Varghese of Trinity Church, Wall Street. Membership included a substantial number of participants in ecumenical dialogues and coordinating committees, as well as long-serving members of the former Standing Commission on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations.
Connecting ecumenical relationships with the General Convention’s stated priorities across several triennia, Resolution A012 directed “that the Office of Ecumenical Relations shall include the Stewardship of Creation as a priority item for dialogue and action in the Church’s ecumenical relationships.”
Resolution D055 created “a task force with membership appointed by the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies to report annually to the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons,” with responsibility for developing responses to ecumenical and interreligious documents.
Resolution D043 resolved that “the Secretary of the General Convention send warm greetings to the Moderator of the Church of South India … and all CSI congregations within the geographical bounds of the Episcopal Church.” The Church of South India is a member church of the Anglican Communion formed in 1947 through the union of Church of England, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists. It has several dozen congregations in North America, some of which are constituent members of their local Episcopal Church dioceses. The Episcopal Church entered into a direct full communion relationship with the Church of South India at General Convention in 1976.
Two resolutions focused on the Episcopal Church’s relationships with European Lutherans. Resolution C059 urged future dialogue between the Episcopal Church and the Lutheran Evangelical Church in Bavaria (ELKB). The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe has six congregations in Germany, several of which are within the geographical boundaries of the ELKB. That church’s ecumenical officer, the Rev. Maria Stettner, expressed her hope “that we can begin to have full communion between Lutherans and Episcopalians in Bavaria.”
Resolution D085 followed the previous General Convention’s celebration of a deepening relationship with the Lutheran Church of Sweden and requested “a memorandum of understanding setting forth the terms and procedures of the full communion between the Episcopal Church and the Church of Sweden.”
“We continue to be humbled with the long and fruitful relationship between the Episcopal Church and the Church of Sweden and look forward to ways that we work together as partners in the Body of Christ,” said the Rev. Canon Elise Johnstone of the Diocese of Lexington, co-drafter of the resolution.
In other international church matters, General Convention voted in Resolution A035 to commend the World Council of Churches 2013 convergence document on ecclesiology, The Church: Toward a Common Vision, along with the Episcopal Church’s draft response to that text.
One closely watched resolution was A041 on Episcopal Church-United Methodist Dialogue. It received the 2017 full communion proposal “A Gift to the World: Co-Laborers in the Healing of Brokenness”,” and urged “all Episcopalians to utilize the many resources available to understand the substance of this dialogue and its goal of full communion.” Resources are available websites of the Episcopal Church, Episcopal Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers, and umc-tec.org.
“While this resolution simply commends the work of the dialogue, it gives notice of the work that will be done over the next six years as we prepare for a full communion vote in 2021,” said the Rev. David Simmons, president of Episcopal Diocesan Ecumenical Officers. “This resolution reaffirms our commitment to walk with our United Methodist brothers and sisters as we each face change in our own denominations.”
The Rev. Dr. Kyle Tau, ecumenical staff officer for faith and order and theological development for the United Methodist Council of Bishops, agreed: “In the midst of uncertainty and change, it is encouraging to gather with our ecumenical partners, to raise awareness about the progress of our dialogue, and look to future work with hope. We are grateful for this resolution commending dialogue and study across the church.”
Resolution A036 provided a triennial reaffirmation of dialogues and coordinating committees in which the Episcopal Church is engaged: dialogues with the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the full communion coordinating committees with the ELCA and the Moravian Church’s Northern Province and Southern Province.
The same resolution also “celebrates with joy and gratitude the deepening international relationship among the leaders of the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, and commends the members of these churches for the work they have done together and the statements and study documents they have jointly issued.”
In a matter with implications for interreligious relations, Resolution B016 joined the Episcopal Church with a 2016 action of the ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly on “Justice for the Holy Land through Responsible Investment.” This resolution directs “directs Executive Council’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility to develop criteria for Israel and Palestine based on a human rights investment screen and the actions of General Convention and Executive Council over the past seventy years.”
Two liturgical resolutions involved ecumenical engagement. One, a proposal to authorize the Armenian Rite for Holy Cross Day (B023), was referred to the Standing Liturgical Commission for further attention during the triennium.
Another, Resolution D078, provides alternative language for three eucharistic orders in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer; its ecumenical significance is most apparent in the omission of the Filioque clause (“and the Son”) from the text of the Nicene Creed, as agreed with Orthodox dialogue partners in 1976.
Richard J. Mammana is archivist of the Living Church Foundation, and the Episcopal Church’s associate for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations.
The Rt. Rev. Daniel H. Martins, Bishop of Springfield, reflects on the 79th General Convention, and especially on its decision regarding same-sex marriage:
The 1979 Book of Common Prayer (p. 423), in accordance with all of its predecessors, the official teaching of the Anglican Communion, the overwhelming consensus of the Christian community across both space and time, resting upon the bedrock of Holy Scripture and the words of our Lord Jesus, teaches that marriage, established by God in creation, is a lifelong covenant between one woman and one man. It is my sense that a solid majority among both the laity and the clergy of the Diocese of Springfield adhere to this understanding.
Our position is clearly a minority one within the Episcopal Church, and also runs against the cultural and legal tide in North America and Europe. So we are both a minority and a majority—a fairly small minority in our immediate environment and a quite substantial majority in the larger one. So it behooves us to behave well in both contexts—as the majority treating those who are the minority with the same grace and charity as we would, as the minority, hope those who are in the majority would treat us. Those who differ from us on this are not our enemies. The bond that unites us in baptism transcends our differences (though it does not make them trivial). I am, as ever, committed to the hope that we may “walk in love, as Christ loved us.”
However, this most recent General Convention has constrained the authority of bishops to simply prohibit same-sex marriage within the diocese. This is deeply lamentable. It undermines and erodes the ancient and appropriate relationship between a bishop and a diocese as chief pastor, teacher, and liturgical officer. It obscures the sacramentality of the Bishop’s identity and role, that all liturgical and teaching ministry in the diocese is an extension of the Bishop’s own liturgical and teaching ministry. The action of this convention flouts the notion that the Episcopal Church is true to its very name—“episcopal” means “pertaining to the Bishop”—let alone that it stands in the broad stream of Catholic Christianity. We have grievously erred, and are in need of repentance and amendment of common life.
Contrary to what you might read in various media, though, the resolution passed by the convention is not simply carte blanche for any cleric, congregation, or couple that wishes to celebrate a same-sex marriage. First, none of this takes effect until December 2 of this year, the First Sunday of Advent. This is certainly a minor detail in the long run, but, in the meantime, it does seem worth mentioning. Second, such an event would need the consent of the Rector. Here’s the specific language: “provided that nothing in this Resolve narrows the authority of the Rector or Priest-in-Charge (Canon III.9.6(a).” Since I am canonically the Rector of all unincorporated Eucharistic Communities, the general policy that I enunciated three years ago remains in force in those places.
The 79th General Convention became a crucible under the Texas sun, bringing a decades-long battle to its latest resolution.
By Kirk Petersen
Albany Bishop William Love, who passionately but unsuccessfully urged the House of Bishops to reject a resolution on same-sex marriage rites, said he has no plans to leave the Episcopal Church. Love’s anguished afternoon presentation July 11 raised concerns about further division in the church, which has seen tens of thousands of members and tens of millions of dollars lost to infighting and litigation since an openly gay bishop was consecrated in 2003.
The House of Bishops overwhelmingly passed an amended resolution B012 on July 12, which says if a bishop “holds a theological position that does not embrace marriage for same-sex couples,” the bishop “shall invite, as necessary, another bishop of this Church to provide pastoral support to the couple, the Member of the Clergy involved and the congregation or worshipping community in order to fulfill the intention of this resolution that all couples have convenient and reasonable local congregational access to these rites.”
In an exclusive interview with TLC, Love said, “I have not sensed that the Lord is calling me to leave the church. What I have sensed the Lord calling me to do thus far is to remain where I am, and continue to speak the truth as best I understand it, in as loving a way as I can, and just try to be an instrument through which he can work, in this time of confusion for the Episcopal Church.”
Same-sex marriage has been the focus of intense behind-the-scene discussions throughout General Convention and beforehand, and the issue took time to resolve.
On the first pass July 9, deputies passed the unamended version 96-10 in the clergy order and 97-8 in the lay order. Next, the bishops added a minor amendment to B012, so the House of Deputies had to vote on it again. On July 13, the final day of convention, deputies concurred with the House of Bishops, 99-3 in the clergy order and 101-5 in the lay order.
The amendment clarified that rectors and priests in charge have the authority to not perform same-sex marriages in their churches. All versions of resolutions on same-sex marriage have restated the canonical right of any priest to decline to participate in any marriage ceremony for any reason.
Love welcomed the amendment, but said, “I don’t believe we’ve done the clergy a favor by this.” He added that “up until now, the clergy in the diocese could actually use the bishop as the excuse as to why they can’t go along with or approve a request for a same-sex marriage in their parish.”
Now, he explained, clergy with traditional views on marriage will have to draw that line themselves. Love estimated that 80 percent of the 117 congregations in the Diocese of Albany hold traditional views, while 20 percent are “more in line with where the rest of the church is.”
The original version of B012 emerged from discussions between liberal and conservative bishops that were brokered by Christopher Wells, editor of TLC and executive director of its foundation. Bishop Lawrence Provenzano of Long Island, one of the sponsors of B012, has described himself as one of the most liberal bishops in the church. He told TLC that Wells “helped build the platform of trust.”
“Sitting in a conference room in the Mercer School of Theology in Garden City was Christopher, Greg Brewer, and Larry Provenzano. You couldn’t get those three people in a room. And John Bauerschmidt was linked in,” among others, Provenzano said. Brewer is Bishop of Central Florida and Bauerschmidt is Bishop of Tennessee. Both are among the eight Communion Partner bishops who have refused to authorize same-sex marriage rites in their dioceses.
“I’ve made it a vocation to sustain relationships with folks on all sides of these questions,” Wells said. “The conservatives don’t have any power anymore, so we just are putting this out there as a proposal, recognizing that we are theological minorities.”
The final version of B012 threaded a lot of needles, to the satisfaction of advocates on both sides.
LGBT people and their allies ensured that same-sex marriage rites will be available in every diocese where such marriages are allowed by civil law. They were unsuccessful in queuing the rites for a revised Book of Common Prayer, which left some complaining on social media about being “second-class citizens.”
Conservatives were horrified by the idea of enshrining the rites in the prayer book. Bishop Dan Martins of Springfield has said that including same-sex marriage rites in the prayer book would cross the line from erroneous practice to heresy. The rites will be considered in deliberations about prayer book revision, but any such revision has been taken off the fast track.
The Rev. Susan Russell, a long-time LGBT activist, backed the compromise. “I was vociferously critical of B012 as it was originally drafted,” she said, because it “fell dramatically short of providing the kind of access we wanted for couples in dioceses. The amended version, for me, solved that.”
She was unfazed by the last-minute amendment that clarified the prerogatives of rectors. “That’s canonical — whether we like it or not, that’s how the church works,” she said, adding that rectors have broad authority, and could forbid political rallies or any kind of activism in a congregation’s building. The new language “is not separate but unequal, it is inherently the same.”
There was much debate behind the scenes about the concept of DEPO, or Designated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight, the practice of bringing in a bishop from another diocese to oversee a priest or congregation in conflict with the diocesan bishop.
After the language that bishops unwilling to sanction same-sex marriage “shall invite, as necessary, another bishop of this Church to provide pastoral support,” Wells described that as “DEPO by another name.”
The deputy who introduced the language had, however, denied that it was the same as DEPO. Christopher Hayes, chancellor of the Diocese of California, said DEPO was intended for situations involving a “broken relationship” between a bishop and a priest, whereas B012 envisions bishops and priests continuing their relationships in every way except on same-sex marriage.
In any case, the compromise remains the same: outward delegation on the matter of same-sex marriage. Likewise, the result is the same: marriage rites for all and space for conservatives to persist as conservatives.
Martins, another of the eight Communion Partner bishops, said he found the language of B012 “to be sufficiently broad as to be able to find something like DEPO in it, even though we’re not using that term.” In the debate on the floor, Martins spoke in favor of the version that Love voted against. He said the compromise allows conservative bishops to continue in their roles as chief liturgical teachers in their dioceses, and to avoid direct involvement in same-sex marriage.
The long-term success of B012 may depend in part on whether the conservative bishops adhere to the spirit of its provisions. The phrase “shall invite, as necessary” implies a judgment call on what is necessary.
Love said he did not know exactly how he would respond to the provisions of B012. “I need some time to think and pray, to consult with the standing committee and get a clear sense of how we might best move forward.”
He said he would not change his belief that sexual intimacy is only appropriate within the marriage of a man and a woman. “Whether it’s diocesan canons or church canons, I would argue that God’s word trumps all of the above,” he said.
Russell acknowledged that no minds are likely to change on that core issue. “We live with that tension, because we’re Anglicans,” she said. “And for some of us, that’s why we’re Anglicans, because we want to hold that tension together.”
She expressed hope that, after General Convention, “We can stick a fork in the inclusion wars and move on with being the Jesus Movement.”
By G. Jeffrey MacDonald
As the Rev. Megan Castellan set out five months ago on a disciplinary reform project to reduce sexual misconduct in the Episcopal Church, she expected progress to take longer than it has.
“Even the most well-meaning people don’t like change if it means they have to give up power or perceived power,” said Castellan, an alternate deputy from Central New York and convener of a special House of Deputies subcommittee on Title IV and Training. “A lot of what we were asking for would be a tacit acknowledgment that the way things have been was wrong. For people who have been in power, that’s an uncomfortable statement to have to make.”
Castellan said July 11 that she has been pleasantly surprised by the achievements at General Convention, and more victories still were possible as the houses took up legislative proposals born in her subcommittee.
But much work remains to be done in coming years, she said, including bigger changes, such as creation of a churchwide court that would exclude bishops from of Title IV disciplinary proceedings.
“Bishops are compromised inherently by our structure because they want to be pastors to their clergy,” Castellan told TLC in an interview at the Austin Convention Center between legislative sessions on July 11. “[Bishops], by virtue of their office, will seek to be a pastor to their clergy. That’s good. That’s what they should do. But that is also in conflict with their role in Title IV, frequently.”
Castellan rattled off achievements that were priorities of the so-called #MeToo committee. She cited D016, which passed both houses. It creates a Task Force for Women, Truth, and Reconciliation. She pointed also to new protections for whistleblowers, including a prohibition on retaliation against those who bring Title IV complaints, in D076. The Committee on Safeguarding and Title IV recommended D076 be adopted.
One of the biggest milestones came, Castellan said, when the Committee on Safeguarding and Title IV approved D034, a resolution that temporarily suspends statutes of limitations. If approved by both houses, DO34 would allow misconduct cases dating as far back as 1996 to be filed between 2019 and 2021. Current canons prohibit hearing of cases that are more than 10 years old.
Systemic and cultural reform, not identifying perpetrators of sexual misconduct, is the focus of the #MeToo committee’s push, Castellan said. Holding individuals accountable will be a byproduct, she said, of a larger effort to clean up a system that has too often been compromised by conflicts of interest and dynamics that allow misconduct to go unchecked.
“I really don’t think it has anything to do with individuals,” Castellan said. “It’s going to take culture change — all of us changing ourselves and changing the culture of the church in order to create an institution where this stops happening. That’s really the goal.”
Changing Episcopal Church culture to become more just and equitable could take many years, she said, but the process has momentum. The House of Bishops helped advance the cause at General Convention, she said, by repenting on the first day, highlighting victims’ stories in a liturgical forum and adopting a covenant of resolve to do better.
“The force and effect of having bishops stand up en masse and confess sin to the rest of us was deeply moving,” Castellan said.
Setting up a churchwide court to hear misconduct cases could prove more difficult. The #MeToo committee “floated a trial balloon,” Castellan said, in the form of Resolution D033. The proposed legislation would have established a churchwide intake officer position to function as a resource outside of a complainant’s diocese. Such a resource could be useful, advocates say, when would-be complainants fear local consequences of speaking up.
D033 met resistance in committee. The panel referred it for further study and opted not to recommend adoption.
“It got a lot of traction, but people wanted more details,” Castellan said. “They wanted to know exactly how it would work.”
A resolution (A182) to study prospects for creating a churchwide Title IV court received the blessing of the Safeguarding and Title IV Committee. But even some who voted for it expressed concerns.
“I’ll probably vote for it because it’s just a study, but I think it’s a terrible idea” to have a churchwide court, said David Harvin, a deputy from Texas and member of the Safeguarding and Title IV Committee. He said bishops should be involved in disciplinary and related pastoral processes as essential roles of their office.
Castellan said she knows of no bishops who support establishing a churchwide court, but the idea has not prompted a lot of lobbying. It needs to be an “airtight plan” when it’s presented, she said. That includes explaining how it would free dioceses from burdensome Title IV proceeding costs in time and dollars.
“Moving to a churchwide disciplinary board would standardize the people who are doing this,” she said. “It would allow us to train them more intentionally. It would allow us not only to transfer the costs from the diocese to the churchwide network, but would also allow us to get a tighter grip on the sort of training these people are getting.”
By Matthew Townsend and Kirk Petersen
By the penultimate day of its deliberations, the 79th General Convention had settled several of the hot button issues anticipated in Austin — churchwide same-sex marriage, a salary for the president of the House of Deputies, and liturgical revision, to name a few. One topic, however, continues to elicit considerable debate: the church’s role in the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Between July 9 and July 12, eight resolutions on the matter have collectively consumed nearly three hours of legislative time.
The House of Deputies, which moved first on the resolutions, has seen most of that debate. In both houses, however, arguments have followed the same pattern as debates in the secular world — disagreements about which side is more at fault in the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
On July 9, deputies debated, amended, and adopted D019–Ending Church Complicity in the Occupation. The resolution called for developing a “human rights social criteria investment screen based on the social teachings of this Church and 70 years of Church policy on Israel/Palestine by General Convention and Executive Council as the basis for such a screen in the Israeli occupation of Palestine i.e., the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.”
Deputies approved the resolution 619 to 214, though disagreement — heated, at times — arose about whether the resolution would cause the Episcopal Church to divest from Israel, a fear of those opposed. Deputies speaking in favor of resolution emphasized the human-rights social criteria investment screen as a means to make choices about investment instead of pursuing wholesale divestment.
The vote flipped when D019 proceeded to the House of Bishops.
On July 11, after a discussion that some complained was too brief, the House of Bishops voted 78-48 to reject D019. Overall debate was limited to 10 minutes, and bishops rose to back both sides of the issue. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry extended the time to accommodate two bishops already at the microphone when time expired.
The House of Bishops resolves the vast majority of its resolutions by voice vote, either unanimous or lopsided enough to be obvious. But after both a voice vote and a show of hands left some ambiguity on D019, Curry called for the designated counters to tally the votes table by table.
The tendentious title of the resolution clearly rankled some of the bishops. Ed Little II, the former Bishop of Northern Indiana, said “all this resolution will do is make us advocates on one side of the conflict.”
On July 12, conflict again arose as the House of Deputies spent more than an hour debating seven resolutions related to Israel and Palestine.
The house adopted B016 (Adopt ELCA Action on Israel/Palestine), D039 (Regarding Occupation and Apartheid), C038 (Safeguard the Rights of Palestinian Children), D027 (Pursuing Justice in Gaza), and D038 (Civil Rights and Equality for All in Israel).
The Rev. Sunny Hallanan of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe spoke in favor of D027. “What I hear again and again in Europe is shock and confusion with the fact that the United States continues to support the horrific actions of Israel in Gaza,” she said. “Yes, Israel has the right to protect itself. But what is happening in Gaza is not self-defense.”
William Murchison of Dallas spoke in opposition of the same resolution, sharing concern that the house was attempting to “beat up on Israel, to beat it to a pulp, and to make excuses for its adversaries and its sworn enemies.” He said the problems of the Gaza Strip do not proceed from Israel.
After nearly an hour of exhaustive debate on several of the resolutions, Alma Bell of Maryland rose right before the vote on D027 to ask for a moment of prayer — offering the first substantial pause in the deliberations.
Since leaving the House of Deputies, these resolutions have gained a little more traction among the bishops.
Later in the afternoon, the bishops supported D027 after the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Assisting Bishop in the Diocese of San Diego, pointed out that the resolution had been amended to call for “independent, transparent investigations into the use of lethal force against unarmed civilians by the Israel Defense Forces, as well as by Palestinian forces.” D027 was approved by voice vote, with a significant minority voting no.
The bishops postponed a vote on B016-Adopt ELCA Action on Israel/Palestine because it referred to a resolution passed by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. General Convention rules forbid voting on a resolution that refers to an outside document unless that document is provided to the bishops and deputies.
The House of Deputies had already passed B016, and the bishops’ parliamentarian said that vote was valid because no objection had been raised in the House of Deputies before the vote. B016 calls for a “human rights investment screen” for investing in companies doing business in Israel and Palestine.
The Rev. Canon Michael Buerkel Hunn, chairman of the 79th General Convention’s Worship Committee, has apologized for language in a hymn, God of the galaxies (Sound the Bamboo, Christian Conference of Asia Hymnal, 2000), used during the Eucharist for the Care of Creation [PDF] on July 10.
One stanza referred to humans’ treatment of the earth with a word for sexual violation. The hymn’s text is by Shirley Erena Murray of New Zealand.
Canon Hunn’s apology:
I believe that when you make a mistake you apologize and do everything you can to try to make it right and also to make sure you don’t make that mistake again. So, today I want to say that I and the liturgy team made the mistake of including a hymn in our worship that caused pain to survivors of sexual trauma and others. The fact that language was used in any worship service, particularly in the worship of the General Convention is something I deeply regret.
I feel particular sadness for the pain that hearing those words in church caused to faithful Episcopalians. How I wish that hadn’t happened, but it did.
And I also feel sadness because this liturgy team of volunteers has worked hard to deliver culturally sensitive liturgy that reflects the beautiful diversity of our church. This mistake cast a shadow on their good work. They are gifted servants of the church and I want the church to see the good work they did.
As is the case with every General Convention there will be a process for feedback. We are also responding to feedback that we are hearing from social media and in other places.
All of that feedback, that criticism, will be considered as the next team plans the liturgies for the next General Convention.
In our church we confess our sins every day. We do that because we keep making mistakes. The forgiveness we seek is not cheap — but real change in our relationships — that real change is what I’m praying for — change in me and change in our church.
What we are doing now is confession — acknowledging the mistake. I apologize for the pain — the real pain — that was caused.
And what we will do is repent — turn in a new direction — make amends, try to heal the breach, and make the systemic changes necessary to make sure a mistake like this doesn’t happen again. I want this church to be different than this.
Adapted from the Office of Public Affairs
By Matthew Townsend
The House of Deputies has adopted a $133.8 million budget for the Episcopal Church’s 2019-21 triennium with little opposition and only a few hiccups along the way.
The budget, presented by the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance, was summarized in Resolution A295. As A295 states, the budget allocates $74.7 million for mission and ministry; $18.8 million for governance, the president of the House of Deputies, and the archives; and $40.3 million for financial, legal, and operational support.
In terms of income, the budget asks for 15 percent contributions from dioceses, exempting the first $140,000 of their income, paid monthly. The rate will be based on a two-year trailing average, and the total anticipated income from diocesan contributions stands at $83.4 million. Another $50.5 million in income is anticipated from other sources, bringing total anticipated income to $133.9 million.
The July 12 vote was by a wide margin. A few amendments were proposed to move funds between line items, but all were soundly rejected.
More reporting will follow pending House of Bishops action on A295.
By G. Jeffrey MacDonald
The House of Deputies has concurred with the House of Bishops in creating a staff position for liturgy and music. The position on the presiding bishop’s staff will cost $380,000 for the triennium, according to Resolution A195, and will focus on spreading the church’s liturgical resources in digital formats.
The staff person will support work assigned to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music in the creation, translation, and dissemination of digital versions of approved liturgies. These could eventually include resources collected via a liturgical renewal project approved by General Convention.
The vote was relatively close, with 44 percent of deputies voting against it. Because liturgy and music are central to the Episcopal Church’s life and identity, supportive deputies said, their digital distribution should be supported by professional staff. Others said the position is unnecessary.
“When staff are added, other church employees may be in danger of having their contracts closed,” said Fredrica Harris Thompsett, a deputy from Massachusetts and member of Executive Council. “I love music, but I think this is a luxury.”
By Matthew Townsend
Both houses of General Convention have approved a resolution that will move the Episcopal Church closer to liturgical revision, but not closer to a revised Book of Common Prayer. The steps to this decision have been unpredictable, and the result may be equally difficult to foretell.
The House of Deputies passed an earlier version of Resolution A068, Plan for the Revision of the Book of Common Prayer, by a comfortable margin on July 7. Things got complicated when the resolution moved to the House of Bishops on July 9, however, with bishops expressing concerns that the church was ill-equipped for the significant, years-long task of revising the prayer book.
“I’m a supporter of liturgical reform,” said Texas Bishop Andy Doyle. “But I actually have no belief that the present leadership of this church, as much as I love you all, is going to do this any better than we’ve done over the last 20 years.”
Doyle led the charge to produce a substitute resolution to A068 — one that significantly differed from the document handed to bishops. The plan to launch a formal process of prayer book revision — as laid out by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music with a $2 million tab for the first triennial installment — was nixed. The new resolution forms a Task Force on Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision that will report to the 80th General Convention in 2021. The price tag was dropped by about 90 percent. The SCLM is absent from the final resolution.
The task force is to represent the “expertise, gender, age, theology, regional, and ethnic diversity of the church” and propose “revisions to the Constitution and Canons to enable the Episcopal Church to be adaptive in its engagement of future generations of Episcopalians.”
The resolution bundles both progressive and cautious considerations. Emerging technologies are to be considered, dynamic equivalence translations of the BCP are mandated, and revisions are to “utilize inclusive and expansive language and imagery for humanity and divinity.” Bishops are to involve themselves in experimentation with alternative texts within their church communities, as well.
However, the 1979 BCP is memorialized as a “Prayer Book of the church preserving the psalter, liturgies, The Lambeth Quadrilateral, Historic Documents, and Trinitarian Formularies ensuring its continued use.” The resolution also declares that ecumenical commitments are to be kept in mind.
At its July 11 afternoon session, the House of Deputies concurred with this substitute resolution, an act recommended by the committee that drafted the original. The choice was not without opposition.
The Rev. Evan D. Garner of Alabama spoke against the resolution. “It is either time for us to revise the prayer book or it is not time for us to revise the prayer book,” he said. “I believe strongly it is not time for us to abandon a Book of Common Prayer. I appreciate the attempt by the House of Bishops to seek compromise, and I appreciate the committee’s report encouraging us to continue forward in our effort for liturgical revision and reform. But I think that this substitute resolution that is before us is a mistake.” Garner expressed concern about memorializing the 1979 Prayer Book while producing new liturgical materials.
In contrast, Joan Geiszler-Ludlum spoke in favor of concurrence. “A068 is a substitute but retains key pieces as it was reported out and considered in this house. It authorizes work to proceed on liturgical and prayer book revision. It empowers churchwide engagement. It incorporates inclusive and expansive language and imagery, along with expression, understanding, and appreciation for care of God’s creation,” she said.
If it sounds like the church has hopped off the express train to prayer book revision and is now on the local, that is one interpretation. Another is that by taking comprehensive prayer book revision off the table, General Convention has laid far straighter tracks to the desired goal: updated, inclusive, and approved liturgies. The new tracks laid with A068 may not have more stops so much as different stops, with opportunities to further consider how revised liturgies might be incorporated into the life of the church without the decade-long formality and expense of prayer book revision.
Memorializing the 1979 prayer book also implies that by the ride’s end, Episcopalians may still find the 1979 prayer book in their luggage, even if it is sharing space with new materials. What this means is also up to interpretation. Posts on social media express dread that this approach could lead the Episcopal Church down a chaotic path similar to that of the Church of England, the Church in Wales, or the Anglican Church of Canada, where venerable old prayer books coexist with modern materials. Other posts express hope that the A068 compromise will lead the Episcopal Church down an exciting path similar to that of the Church of England, the Church in Wales, or the Anglican Church of Canada, where venerable old prayer books coexist with modern materials.
In any event, differing interpretations of A068 suggest the resolution’s fruits, like the birth and rebirth of the resolution, may be unpredictable in nature. The makeup and work of the task force will undoubtedly affect the shape of those fruits.
But as General Convention demonstrates, when a thousand Episcopalians (and dozens of pigeons) enter a confined space and receive a copy of Robert’s Rules, the result is a bit like a billiard break: you can try to guess the outcome, but skill, luck, timing, and the hand of God will be at play. Energized coalitions, opinions on canon law, shrinking legislative calendars, and late-night amending parties can take hundreds of hours of task force or commission work and set them aside. This is visible in the search for a compromise on same-sex marriage and nearly occurred with the readmission of Cuba into the church. The Episcopal Church, like the U.S. government upon which it is modeled, is both democratic and bureaucratic, but democracy wins the day at General Convention.
Is revision of the Prayer Book dead? Will it come to a church near you sooner than expected? Stay tuned.
With reporting by G. Jeffrey MacDonald
By G. Jeffrey MacDonald
Episcopalians could see a lot more programming aimed at racial reconciliation in the next three years if a resolution approved July 11 by the House of Deputies receives funding.
Resolution D002 calls for $5 million in racial reconciliation grants to be allocated across three years to dioceses, agencies, and other entities affiliated with the Episcopal Church. Monies could pay for workshops, speaker series, or “sacred conversations.” Racial reconciliation and evangelism have been priorities of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry since he stepped into the top job in 2015.
Deputies acknowledged that the church might be hard-pressed to find $5 million for grants in the $133.8 million triennial budget, which has not yet been approved by either house. The proposed budget identifies only $1.75 million for racial reconciliation.
“There may not be $5 million in this budget,” said the Rev. Canon John Kitagawa, a deputy from Arizona. “But we could raise these dollars from Episcopal sources. … We must fund ongoing, sustainable formation training.”
D002 has now been approved by both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops.
By Kirk Petersen
Despite a long and emotional plea from the Bishop of Albany, the House of Bishops overwhelmingly approved a resolution designed to ensure that same-sex marriage rites are available for use in every diocese where civil law allows.
The House of Deputies passed a very similar version of Resolution B012 two days earlier, but because there was a minor technical amendment to the resolution, the deputies will have to vote again. The amendment protects the authority of a rector and priest in charge not to celebrate a same-sex marriage.
The deputies passed the earlier version 96-10 in the clergy order and 97-8 in the lay order, and there is no reason to think any votes will change based on the amendment.
On a voice vote in the House of Bishops, at least three distinct no votes were heard. Only the Rt. Rev. William Love rose to speak against the resolution, and said he disagreed with his fellow Communion Partner bishops who backed the measure.
“I don’t believe [the resolution] does what they said it has done,” Love said, to provide a way for theologically conservative bishops to act according to their conscience.
There has been a lot of discussion in recent years, Love said, about “whether sexual intimacy within a same-sex couple was appropriate. There are many in this church who have proclaimed that it is, and that this is a new thing that the Holy Spirit is revealing, and that the Episcopal Church is being prophetic in putting this forward, and that ultimately the rest of the body of Christ will come to understand that. I don’t believe, presiding bishop, that that’s necessarily true.”
He said the discussions have involved “listening to people’s personal experiences, people’s feelings, their emotions. What we have not had an honest look at, sir, is what God has said about this issue.”
Two minutes per person were allotted for debate, but Love repeatedly asked the chair’s indulgence, and spoke for about 10 minutes. He quoted passages from the Book of Common Prayer and the vows he took when he was consecrated a bishop in 2006.
Other Communion Partners bishops rose to endorse the resolution, despite their reservations. “I very much hope it passes,” said Bishop Daniel Martins of Springfield, but he fears the church is “eroding the bishop’s authority as chief liturgical officer and therefore eroding the bishop’s authority as chief teacher.”
Communion Partners is an organization of theologically conservative bishops and clergy, and includes eight domestic bishops who have declined to authorize same-sex marriage rites in their dioceses.
Under B012, bishops who oppose same-sex marriage “shall invite, as necessary, another bishop of this Church to provide pastoral support to the couple, the Member of the Clergy involved and the congregation or worshipping community in order to fulfill the intention of this resolution that all couples have convenient and reasonable local congregational access to these rites.”
The Rt. Rev. Mary Glasspool, Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of New York, said that she and her partner, Becky, have been together for 30 years and had moved to and from states with varying laws on same-sex marriage. “When we finally legally got married, it was not in a church — and I’m a cradle Episcopalian. We got married in my therapist’s office,” she said, producing chuckles.
“I don’t think we have unwrapped the gift of gay and lesbian relationships who are partnered together, and really celebrated them. … It’s time not only to support marriage equality but to honor the gift.”
By G. Jeffrey MacDonald
Victims of sexual misconduct in the Episcopal Church more than 10 years ago have long heard that the statute of limitations prevents any resolution of their cases.
But a key General Convention panel cleared the way July 10 for the church to revisit cases dating back as far as 1996. It was part of a raft of legislation emerging this week from the Committee on Safeguarding and Title IV in an attempt to crack down on sexual misconduct and cover-ups within the Episcopal Church.
Now en route to the House of Deputies and House of Bishops are resolutions to prohibit retaliation against complainants and notify the public of disciplinary hearings, among more than a dozen other measures.
“There was, quite frankly, in the church before a certain amount of cover-up, and we’ve heard lots of testimony from people that were hurt by that,” said Arizona Bishop Kirk Smith, a member of the committee. “Or they were afraid to bring a complaint or a charge because they were afraid they might lose their jobs or their careers might be hurt. We’ve got stuff now that would prevent that.”
Since General Convention began July 5, the committee has approved 32 resolutions, which are reaching the two houses. Most deal in one way or another with sexual misconduct in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which has in the past year highlighted experiences of sexual harassment and toppled prominent men in film, news, and other industries.
The House of Bishops has taken steps to raise the profile of the issue. Bishops began General Convention with a liturgical forum that highlighted victims’ stories of sexual misconduct in the church. Bishops also adopted a covenant to “listen to and take to heart the stories that reflect the biases deeply embedded in our structure.”
In the House of Deputies, #MeToo resolutions have reached the voting stage. Deputies on July 11 passed Resolution C060 creating a task force to study sexism in the church. Earlier in General Convention, deputies approved Resolution A016, which would create a task force for women, truth, and reconciliation in the church. Both await action in the House of Bishops.
“The church should be one of the safest places for people in danger of power abuses,” said the Rev. Laurie Brock, a member of the Safeguarding Committee and chair of a truth and reconciliation subcommittee of the Special Committee on Sexual Harassment and Exploitation. Creating a safer environment is not just a women’s issue, she said.
“This is a human issue,” Brock said. “This is a Christian issue.”
Resolution D034 would suspend the statute of limitations for a three-year period. That means cases dating as far back as the mid-1990s may be heard as long as complaints are filed between Jan. 1, 2019, and Dec. 31, 2021. Some members of the committee raised legal concerns and voted against the resolution.
“There is a reason for statute of limitations: evidence is lost,” said the Rev. Ted Clarkson, a deputy from Georgia. ”Memories do change over time. I think a 30-year-old claim coming up that becomes he said, she said is not fair.”
Committee-approved proposals aim to increase transparency in the church disciplinary system, known as Title IV proceedings. Resolution A118, for instance, would require that notification be posted on diocesan websites when a hearing (trial) is scheduled in a sexual misconduct case.
Posting relevant documents that are not deemed confidential can be time-consuming for diocesan staff, according to concerns expressed on the committee. But that’s not a reason to hold back, said Christopher Hayes, a California deputy and attorney involved in updating the church’s Title IV-related canons.
“It’s worth it to make this public,” Hayes said. “If something has gone to a hearing panel, we need to know.”
D064 requires that when a case is settled before the hearing stage, any signed account would need to be filed in an Episcopal Church database. This would allow search committees to be aware when vetting candidates for a position whether someone has a history of quietly resolving sexual misconduct cases.
Not all proposals heard by the committee are moving to the House of Deputies or House of Bishops. Some have been referred for further study, including one Resolution D091, which aims to curtail use of non-disclosure agreements in cases involving sexual misconduct. Such agreements have a role in certain employment situations and can be useful, said committee member Zoe Cole, a deputy from Colorado.
“We need to be specific about the ways in which these vehicles compromise reconciliation and healing in cases of sexual misconduct,” Cole said.
Overseeing relationships can be messy business, as committee members acknowledged more than once during deliberations. Resolution A124 fine-tunes the definition of sexual misconduct to include any unwelcome sexual behavior. It also asks the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution & Canons is directed to determine canons that need amending to clarify when a pastoral relationship exists or ends for purposes of a charge of sexual misconduct.
Committee members debated, for instance, whether all clergy relationships with parishioners are prohibited or if pastoral relationships include only a subset. The idea that all inter-parish relationships might be categorically banned for clergy (under some interpretations of the canon) was a stumbling block for some on the committee.
“As somebody who met my wife in church, I have a little trouble with this,” Bishop Smith said. “Somebody told me that one-third of bishops met their spouses in church, so there could be a lot of Title IVs,” he said..
Brock said the committee heard a wide range of voices, including those of victims and those who could testify to how Title IV canons are experienced in parish and diocesan life. The work will continue for a long time, she said, and points the church toward recognizing the dignity of every individual.
“This is about doing what Jesus taught,” Brock said.
By Matthew Townsend
La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba will soon be a diocese of the Episcopal Church. The House of Deputies of General Convention has unanimously passed Resolution A238, which calls for the diocese to be admitted to the church as soon as Executive Council acknowledges receipt of routine paperwork by the secretary of General Convention.
The House of Bishops having unanimously approved the resolution the night before, Cuba’s reentry into the church is now a foregone conclusion — so much so that official Cuban visitors were seated and offered voice in the House of Deputies, with a Cuba placard prepared for their table.
It is also safe to assume that the Cuban church’s paperwork is in the mail, as it were.
The path to admission was far more winding than initially thought. Concerns about canon law — or the lack thereof — threw the Episcopal Church in Cuba committee into days of extra work. Because there was no canonical mechanism to readmit an extra-provincial diocese into the Episcopal Church, the committee considered waiting for canonical changes to be completed before proposing reintegration. That would have meant a three-year wait.
However, after lengthy testimony from Cuban visitors, moving comments from committee members that they could not in conscience making Cuba wait, and reassurances from member Canon Paul Ambos that a course could be charted, the committee proceeded with A238.
After the vote, Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio was invited to address the House of Deputies.
“Right now, I know that the Holy Spirit is blowing upon this entire Convention and that it is moving here for all of us to work with it in this very difficult world,” Delgado said through a translator. “We meet like this, at convention, to put the family in order.
“I know that we have experienced many things outside of the houses. And the Spirit is moving everywhere, in the testimony and the plans you’ve all been expressing about the future. Right now, it’s so exciting not just for me but for my whole diocese. I want to thank the Lord and the Trinity for this prophetic moment that we’re experiencing. I want to express my love and my gratitude to each one of you, because you have opened the doors.”
Delgado said two churches were becoming one.
Three deputies spoke in favor of the resolution, with none opposing. “This is a mission issue, a moral issue,” said Benjamin Hill of Florida. “Let’s do what our heart is calling us to do and welcome the prodigal child back into the family; not a child that left, however, one that was cast from our family five decades ago. … For years they’ve asked to come home, out of isolation.”
“The Jesus Movement is based on respect, diversity, solidarity, inclusivity, and love,” Pragedes Coromoto Jimenez de Salazar of Venezuela said through a translator. “Most of all, we must put into practice what Matthew 22:36-40 states: to love God with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and love each other like we love ourselves.”
Dianne Audrick Smith also spoke in favor of the resolution. “We do well to follow [the House of Bishops’] example of doing the just and right thing of being inclusive of our brothers and sisters in Cuba, of recognizing that the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement is inclusive, just, and gracious,” she said.
Deputies voted in Spanish — shouting “¡Sí!” — and broke into spontaneous chanting of “¡Cuba Sí!” after Delgado and those from the Cuban church were invited onto the floor.
By Matthew Townsend
The House of Deputies passed several resolutions during its July 10 meeting that shared a common prescription: inclusion and equity.
Resolution B011— or Inclusive Language Policies for Episcopal Seminaries and Formation Programs — “encourages and requests, it does not mandate, that seminaries, training programs, and schools of formation for ordination adopt policies calling for bias-free and inclusive language for God and humanity,” said Canon Thomas O’Brien of the Christian Formation and Discipleship Committee. The resolution drew comments in favor and opposition, and a floor amendment that was equally disputed.
Allison Huggins of Connecticut rose in favor of the resolution, saying it was an “excellent step forward … which is necessary because God is beyond gender. Only using one gender for God limits God, and that is not in order for us, as humans, to do.”
The Rev. Les Singleton of Florida spoke against the resolution. “To quote Scripture, Psalm 137, ‘By the rivers of Babylon, we wept. How do we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?’” he said. “God and humanity can be addressed in so many different ways. I trust our seminaries to determine what is the best language and hope that in each seminary each professor is allowed for themselves to figure out how their students should be encouraged to direct God and direct man in their human speech.”
An amendment submitted by John Crossan of Delaware struck the entire first resolve, limiting the resolution to encouragement. “Language matters,” he said, “and our ability to speak freely, which is a foundational principle of our society, matters too.”
“The idea that this General Convention would ask our seminaries and diocesan formation programs to adopt policies that effectively stifle and police speech in all forms of digital, written, and oral communications … is absolutely chilling.”
The amendment passed 468 to 351; the resolution passed 507 to 313.
Likewise, the house passed Resolution C054-Inclusion of Transgender People, which asks dioceses to consider adopting a set of guidelines for the inclusion of transgender and non-binary people. Among them: “We will protect the rights and respect the dignity of transgender and non-binary persons, refusing to reject, judge, abuse, belittle or in any way dehumanize them”; “We will recognize and accept our responsibility to protect the privacy of transgender and non-binary persons”; and “We will provide a safe environment for transgender and non-binary persons, for those who support them, and for those who do not understand our commitment to these principles.”
“Pension equity is a justice issue,” Christian Clough of Chicago said in favor of D045. “At this convention, we are considering resolutions to address discrepancies in treatment and compensation of women, minorities, and other marginalized members of our church. Resolution D045 addresses this inequality as well, and also the ways in which lay employees are generally less secure in retirement because the generally lower compensation of lay employees — even those with comparable education, experience, and responsibilities — is compounded by an inferior pension plan.”
No deputies spoke against the resolution and it passed by a large margin.
A237 calls on the Church Pension Fund to “report on the current state of parity between the pensions of lay and ordained Church employees, domestic and non-domestic Church employees and Church employees of disparate incomes, with a particular focus on how those income disparities are manifested across gender and racial or ethnic lines, understanding that lower compensation directly affects pension benefits.”
The resolution also asks CPF to “consider supplemental models for the pension system that would benefit lay and clergy employees while the Church works toward true parity in wages and employment practices.”
These resolutions will proceed to the House of Bishops.
As the tenets of the Jesus Movement spread through the Episcopal Church, it stands to reason that even legislative committees would reflect these changes. One noteworthy addition at the 79th General Convention: the Racial Justice and Reconciliation Committee, led by Rochester Bishop Prince G. Singh and the Rev. Edwin Johnson of Massachusetts.
Young, energetic, and approachable, Johnson readily explains the shape and function of committee hearings to newcomers and visitors. The soft-spoken Singh adds a contemplative and empathetic presence to the group. As chairmen, the two complement each other, creating an apparently accessible and focused environment where both pain and possibilities coexist.
What has been the focus of this committee?
Singh: We have been looking at resolutions that have to do with everything from curriculum for racial reconciliation, healing, and justice to issues of language, like phrases such as anti-racism — which has been seen, in some ways, as a default or negative, rather than what do we follow.
There was some really good, substantive conversation around not just about the language but the whole idea of what is racismand what do we mean when we say anti-racism. Is it a moving target? Obviously, racism is changing.
[We’ve discussed] everything from content around the training and the competency of engaging people — and making this a part of spiritual formation in congregations and dioceses — to language.
What has the work of the committee been like? How have you navigated concerns and sensitivities?
Johnson: The work has been a blessing. It has been an absolute blessing. You mentioned the challenges, and there have been challenges. We come to this work with different, particular areas of interest. We come to this work with different areas of expertise. I think there’s a deep desire to make sure that everyone who has a stake in making this church what it can be can see themselves in the work of this committee. That’s why we keep the conversation as open as we can, that’s why we acknowledge dissent as much as we possibly can, as well.
What I’m really hopeful about is our committee is diverse and spread out enough that even through the work we’ve done together, those interpersonal ripples will go forth and do as much if not more work than the resolutions themselves.
What are some resolutions the committee has put forward?
Singh: One of the resolutions we passed that’s probably one of the boldest we’ve done has asked the church to dedicate $5 million in the next triennium in order to build competency in this work — because we realize that, end of the day, that the work gets done well only when there are competent leaders who are trained with the facilitation skills.
Taking some of the best practices and moving people to come together for a summit, for instance — just as we have one for evangelism — to come and build networks, build resources, share best practices, and then to do the work so that people who are struggling in places where nothing or very little has happened will find a way to move forward in this work. It is a very significant part of us being beloved community and becoming beloved community.
The priorities laid out by the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies have been received well by this committee. It’s a very competent group, a good cross-section of the church. But also, experience-wise, a lot of people have been doing this work for a long time, and people who started doing this work more recently. It’s a good combination.
Has the $5 million ask gone before Program, Budget, and Finance yet?
Singh: It has. It caught them a little off-guard — very much off-guard, in some ways. But in some ways, no. For instance, the House of Bishops voted unanimously to support that. We have some detailing to do, but everybody is conscious that the church has an opportunity to stand up at a time like this, when there’s so much racial tension in our country; and not only in our country but across the Episcopal Church, in many other countries.
During testimony today, I heard more than one person of color talk about that tension — and feeling isolated while working for racial justice, especially on the ground. It’s not a secret that the Episcopal Church is rather white in many contexts. Yet I’ve seen more people of color involved with this General Convention than any I’ve seen before. Is this a fair statement, and do you think something’s happening right now in the church?
Johnson: I think it’s a very fair statement, and I think a lot is happening. For one, the ways that different dioceses and congregations have thrown themselves into the work of social justice has both brought forth more participation from the people of color who are already here and has brought new people of color into our church. I think this greater amount that you’re seeing is a reflection of what’s happening in our church. Also, if we look at our country — our country is moving that way, overall. Thankfully, we’re not so far behind that we’re not seeing it. I think that’s a very positive trend, and I think the work we’re trying to do as a committee is to make sure that this doesn’t just manifest as a more colorful convention, but actually it manifests as something that changes the heart of our church.
What would you like to see the heart of the church change into?
Johnson: Ultimately, I would love to see the heart of our church be more centered around the experiences of those who are most vulnerable. I believe that if we can truly, as a church, not just think but live the fact that my liberation is tied in with the liberation of other people and that none of us are free until all of us are free — if we can get to the point where everything about us — the way we live, move, breathe, and meet — can really accomplish that, then we’ve been transformed. And I think we’re where Jesus wants us to be.
By G. Jeffrey MacDonald
The House of Bishops voted Tuesday not to revise the 1979 Book of Common Prayer but to forge ahead with a new “liturgical revision” project that will include “creation of alternative texts to offer the wider church.”
On a voice vote that sounded unanimous, bishops approved a complete overhaul of Resolution A068, the prayer book revision plan that passed the House of Deputies on Friday. The bishops’ vote for a radically different approach will take effect only if a conference committee between the two houses can negotiate an agreement.
The bishops’ alternative emerged through an amendment offered by Texas Bishop Andy Doyle. His plan calls for memorializing the 1979 book “as a Prayer Book of the church preserving the psalter, liturgies, The Lambeth Quadrilateral, Historic Documents, and Trinitarian Formularies ensuring its continued use.”
“It just made a lot of sense to leave it this way,” Doyle told his colleagues. “What I heard yesterday from many bishops in this house was a desire to continue to use the 1979 but not let that hold us back.”
The bishops’ resolution would create a Task Force on Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision that will report to General Convention in 2021. It would encourage bishops to engage in experimentation with worshiping communities, and it urges all dioceses to establish liturgical commissions to collect liturgical resources for sharing with the wider church. The plan calls for canons to be modified to allow for their adoption.
The substitution seemed to reassure the many bishops who expressed anxiety July 9 at the prospect of fumbling or doing harm in a grand revision project.
The amended version of A068 “honors what is good and creates a space for innovation,” said Bishop Rob Wright of Atlanta, who had spoken against the deputies’ revision plan on Monday. “I think it threads that needle.”
The text of the amendment includes a nod to Doyle’s promise that the initiative would build on the 1979 prayer book’s tradition, not replace it.
“Liturgical and Prayer Book revision will continue in faithful adherence to the historic rites of the Church Universal as they have been received and interpreted within the Anglican tradition of 1979 Book of Common Prayer,” the bishops’ resolution says, “mindful of our existing ecumenical commitments, while also providing space for, encouraging the submission of, and facilitating the perfection of rites that will arise from the continual movement of the Holy Spirit among us and growing insights of our Church.”
The new initiative would also open the door to a host of new resources, all vying for the imprimatur of the Episcopal Church. The resolution calls for “our liturgical revision [to] utilize inclusive and expansive language and imagery for humanity and divinity.”
What form the results will take remains to be seen, but that open-ended prospect is apparently part of the idea, at least insofar as “emerging technologies” are prescribed in the resolution.
The resolution calls on the Committee for Program, Budget, and Finance to appropriate $200,000 for the initiative. That’s a fraction of the $1.9 million that the House of Deputies sought for wholesale prayer book revision in the 2019-21 triennium. Even $200,000 might be a tall ask. Before bishops voted, they received a PB&F update saying that no funds had been earmarked for prayer book revision in the next triennium.
By Kirk Petersen
With boisterous expressions of gratitude and joy, the House of Bishops on Tuesday unanimously welcomed La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba back into the Episcopal Church, 52 years after the same body unilaterally expelled the church at the height of the Cold War.
“Bishop Griselda may take her seat at Table 7,” declared Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, drawing whoops and cheers from the bishops and the audience.
Technically it was a tad premature to seat the Rt. Rev. Griselda Delgado del Carpio, as the House of Deputies has not yet acted. But the proliferation of people wearing Cuba sí! pins indicates a substantial level of support.
In approving Resolution A238, the bishops bulldozed over concerns that readmission might be impermissible, as there is no canonical mechanism for admitting an extra-provincial diocese from the Anglican Communion.
A parade of bishops offered a variety of justifications for taking the step:
- While the canons spell out a number of circumstances under which a new diocese may be created, they do not explicitly state that those are the only circumstances.
- The 1966 expulsion was an action of the House of Bishops, never ratified by the House of Deputies, and thus Cuba technically never left TEC.
- The dioceses of Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, and Venezuela were admitted under the current canons, so Cuba should not pay the price for the church’s newfound canonical fastidiousness.
By the time the bishops finished speaking for the measure in English and Spanish, the outcome was not in doubt — only the margin. After there was no dissent during the voice vote, Curry said, “Let the record show that this house has unanimously voted” to readmit Cuba to the Episcopal Church.
When called to the podium, Delgado thanked the bishops through an interpreter “for the support right now, but really for the support all these years.” On the heels of a lengthy standing ovation, the bishops remained standing throughout her remarks.
Delgado said that through the years, Cuban Episcopalians “lived always with the hope we would return to our family.”
“¡Cuba nunca se fue!” Delgado said. “Cuba never left. It has always been part of the Episcopal Church.”
By Matthew Townsend
In its July 10 afternoon session, the House of Deputies approved a resolution that would see Episcopalians advocate for a reduction in gun violence — as shareholders.
Resolution B007, passed by a wide margin in the house, directs the Executive Council Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility to “develop and implement a shareholder engagement plan by which dioceses, church organizations, and individual Episcopalians investing in the publicly traded stock of gun manufacturers and retailers could act to effect change in these companies through the practices of shareholder advocacy to do everything in their power to minimize lethal and criminal uses of their products.”
Canon Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale, chair of the Committee on Stewardship and Responsible Investment, told deputies the resolution was proposed by Bishop Doug Fisher, representing Bishops United Against Gun Violence, leveraging shareholder engagement “in an effort to get gun manufactures and gun safety and market safer technology.”
Suzy Burke of Connecticut spoke in favor of the resolution, saying that her first love had been shot to death when she was in her first year of college. “To my deep regret, I concluded that if God existed, God would not have allowed this to happen — an easy leap for a lonely 17-year-old girl far from her home and church,” she said.
Joshua Farrier of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe also praised the resolution. “In large companies today, the responsibility that the company has is not a social responsibly. It is a fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders to make as much money as possible,” he said. “In other words, if we want to effect some sort of change within companies and how companies perform, we have to do it from within.”
Amendments aimed at broadening the strategy or setting a time limit were proposed from the floor but were defeated.
By Matthew Townsend
In a busy legislative session on July 9, the House of Deputies passed a substitute resolution that continues the 79th General Convention’s effort to shed light on the harassment and exploitation of women in the church.
Substitute Resolution D016 — or Seeking Truth, Reconciliation and Restoration — rolled together an original resolution by the same name and D020-Understanding the Truth of Sexual Harassment and Assault in the Episcopal Church. The deputies passed the vote with no more than a handful of dissenting voices — a barely audible “no” against overwhelming agreement. The resolution will proceed to the House of Bishops.
Before the vote, women testified for about a half an hour about suffering within the church — and the need for action that would drive the Episcopal Church toward confession and reconciliation.
The resolution, if passed by the House of Bishops in this form, will establish a Task Force for Women, Truth, and Reconciliation “for the purpose of helping the Church engage in truth-telling, confession, and reconciliation regarding gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence against women and girls in all their forms by those in power in the Church, making an accounting of things done and left undone in thought, word, and deed, intending amendment of life, and seeking counsel, direction, and absolution as we are restored in love, grace, and trust with each other through Christ.”
The resolution names specific tools for carrying out this work: surveying, auditing, multiple reports, and a truth and reconciliation process. The resolution seeks $320,000 for this work.
Judith Andrews, lay chair of the committee on Safeguarding and Title IV, addressed the house on the resolution’s development.
“The committee is grateful to the women and the men who testified before the committee, telling their stories in the church. Their stories and many others show the wide extent of sexual harassment and abuse in the church,” she said. “D016 provides us with the opportunity to take important steps to address the gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence against women and girls that exists in our culture and in our church.”
Resolution co-author Julia Ayala Harris of Oklahoma, an Executive Council member and two-time delegate to the United Nations Mission on the Status of Women, said the resolution’s intent to address gender-based violence and discrimination on an “overall structural, systematic, and cultural level.” She said the resolution draws from work already begun by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Methodist Church.
“I urge this body to support this resolution in order for us as a church to live with integrity as we follow Jesus. We are a community that can bring healing, blessing, and wholeness to the world, but first we must examine ourselves and become reconciled to each other.”
Zoe Cole of Colorado told the body that she had been involved with General Convention committees in the past — but the response to this one was different.
“We have never had so many people come to testify. I’m not sure the church has ever been safe for women,” she said. “Women have been told forever that we are not fully human in the body of Christ. We need to begin to tell the truth. This afternoon, as I listened to more testimony, I was overwhelmed by a sense of simply wanting to say, ‘Stop it. Stop it now.’ It is time to tell the truth.”
The Rev. Kelly Steele of the Diocese of Georgia also spoke in favor of the resolution, sharing her experience. “My husband and I got confirmed together within the Episcopal Church because of the Anglican via media. Since then, we’ve done everything at the same time: graduation from seminary with the same honors, nomination for ordination, internships, ordinations to the diaconate and the priesthood in the same diocese,” she said.
“My bishop and canon have been, thankfully, very helpful in keeping our experiences and compensation equitable, as we are the same age with the same exact credentials. But already, two years into our priesthood, my husband and I worry about our remaining decades in ministry. He has been warned that his career ‘would suffer because he’s yoked with a woman priest.’ And I’ve been warned that the church would ‘chew me up and spit me out.’”
“It is time for women to be at the forefront, to no longer be oppressed,” said Erica Pomerank of Colorado. She spoke of being ignored when her husband was present.
The Rev. Fran Holiday told the house that after 15 years of ordained ministry, “I have yet to find another woman colleague who has not suffered unwanted advances, sexual harassment, or some type of victimization as a cleric. The day of truth-telling as come. I ask this church to face up to our sins and to work for reconciliation.”
Mary Jones of Albany spoke against the resolution “as it is presently written. I do not support systems of injustice or oppression. I have been subjected to emotional and physical abuse by those men and women. My concern is that some who have not been complicit in abuse will be caught up in zeal that is not always grounded in wisdom or truth.”
The House of Deputies also debated, amended, and adopted D019-Ending Church Complicity in the Occupation 619 to 214. The resolution calls for developing a “human rights social criteria investment screen based on the social teachings of this Church and 70 years of Church policy on Israel/Palestine by General Convention and Executive Council as the basis for such a screen in the Israeli occupation of Palestine i.e., the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.”
Discussion took about 75 minutes of legislative time, with significant disagreement on whether the resolution amounted to divestment and disengagement from the conflict or if it would put necessary pressure on the Israeli government.
“The official position of the Episcopal Church is and has been supporting negotiations of a two-state solution. But passing resolutions adopting boycotts and divestment — which an investment screen is — will only distance us from that option,” the Rev. Hillary Raining of Pennsylvania said in opposition to the resolution. “If the Episcopal Church is going to play any role in this, we need to engage with both sides — not divest, not boycott.”
Newland F. Smith of Chicago said conditions for Palestinians had only worsened over the 20 years that the church has been calling for negotiations. “By calling for a human-rights social criteria investment screening, our church will take the next step to end its investment in corporations taking part in the military occupation of the Palestinian land, including East Jerusalem.”
The House of Bishops has not yet scheduled discussion of the resolution.
By Kirk Petersen
The House of Deputies overwhelmingly approved a resolution intended to ensure that same-sex marriage rites are available in every diocese of the Episcopal Church, even if a diocesan bishop does not approve.
Resolution B012, as amended moments before the vote, was approved by nearly identical margins in the lay and clergy orders. It passed by a margin of 96-10 in the clergy order, with four deputations divided, and by 97-8 in the lay order, with 5 deputations divided. Passage required 56 votes in each order.
The resolution now goes to the House of Bishops with less certain prospects. Same-sex marriage rites have wide support among diocesan bishops, of whom 93 have approved trial use since 2015, while eight have declined authorization in their dioceses. But many bishops feel strongly about maintaining episcopal authority, and B012 eliminates bishops’ having any say regarding same-sex marriage rites.
The deputies voted down amendments offered by opponents of same-sex marriage, but then approved an amendment with limited discussion, leaving some deputies uncertain about what they were being asked to approve. Spotty Wi-Fi access in the convention hall complicated matters, as resolutions and amendments are distributed via a Virtual Binder that requires internet access, at vbinder.net.
At a media briefing after the vote, deputy Christopher Hayes, who offered the successful amendment, explained that its purpose was to clarify the language of the resolution to ensure people would have access to the liturgies “in their local congregations, as broadly as possible throughout the church,” and at the same time “protect the theological consciences of those who disagree with that.” Hayes is chancellor of the Diocese of California.
Usually bishops have required a say in heterosexual marriage only when one or both members of the couple have been previously married and divorced.
To eliminate the possibility that a bishop opposed to same-sex marriage would use a previous divorce as a reason for blocking a marriage, the resolution says that bishops “shall in the case of remarriage after divorce invite another bishop of this Church to oversee the consent process.”
Hayes explained that this provision differs from DEPO, or Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight, the mechanism called for in B012 as it originally was proposed. Hayes explained that DEPO is for cases in which there is a “broken relationship” between a bishop and a congregation, and another bishop takes over all supervision of a church.
The revised resolution would leave the congregation under the supervision of the diocesan bishop for all matters other than same-sex marriage.