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Updated: 2 hours 14 min ago

Albany Clergy Discuss Same-sex Marriage

Mon, 09/10/2018 - 6:33am

The Rt. Rev. William Love, Bishop of Albany, writes about his meeting Sept. 6 with diocesan clergy regarding General Convention’s Resolution B012, which requires all dioceses to provide for same-sex couples who wish to marry:

As I mentioned in my letter of invitation to the clergy, the purpose of the meeting was not for me to issue a proclamation at that time on how B012 will be carried out in the Diocese of Albany, but rather for me to share with them some of my thoughts regarding B012; to clarify my understanding of what it does and doesn’t say; and to give me a chance to listen to the thoughts and concerns of the clergy.

Ultimately, as the Bishop, I will make a decision regarding my response to B012 and how it will be dealt with in the Diocese of Albany. That decision will be made thoughtfully and prayerfully and will be openly shared with the whole Diocese prior to December 2nd.

While I know there are some who would like me to simply say today what I am going to do, it is not simply a matter of being for or against same-sex marriage. As a result of the complexity of B012, there are a multitude of implications not only for same-sex couples wishing to be married in their home parish, but also for the clergy and parishes involved; for my role and ministry as Bishop; for the Diocese of Albany and its relationship with the wider Anglican Communion and body of Christ.

Whatever decision I and or the rest of the Church make regarding B012, there will be consequences. There is no escaping that. My ultimate desire as your Bishop, is to be faithful and obedient to our Lord Jesus Christ, discerning not my will, but His will in knowing how best to lead the Diocese of Albany in such a way that He will be glorified and His Church and people be blessed. Please keep me and our Diocese in your prayers.

Read the rest.

Categories: GC2018

#GC79 Highlight: ‘¡No están solas!’

Wed, 08/01/2018 - 5:11pm

Photo essay by Asher Imtiaz, with reporting by G. Jeffrey MacDonald

About 900 Episcopalians traveled on 14 buses to a remote Texas field July 8 to send messages of hope and solidarity to more than 500 migrant women detained a federal facility.

The spontaneous mini-pilgrimage to the entrance was part of a day as emotionally intense as the scorching sun, which drove many to wear wide-brimmed hats and hold parasols. A small stage, wedged between two Little League baseball fields, gave a platform for Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to address the crowd. Others read Scripture verses such as Leviticus 34:19: “The stranger living among you must be treated as your native-born.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry leads a rally at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center.

From a field in Taylor, Texas, where the group was permitted to gather about a quarter-mile away, prayer vigil participants could see the hulking, almost windowless T. Don Hutto Residential Center in the distance on the edge of an industrial park. But it was not clear whether detainees were aware of the mass event outside. That changed, however, shortly after several hundred breached the perimeter of the permitted area and slowly walked down a one-lane road to the facility’s driveway entrance.

“They’re waving!” several demonstrators cried. “We see you!” Soon chants of encouragement gathered momentum, including “You are not alone!” and “No están solas!”

The event provided a Sunday morning opportunity during General Convention for participants to venture beyond the Austin Convention Center and nearby hotels where meetings have been concentrated. They rode in coaches chartered by Trinity Wall Street, a New York City parish with extensive grant-making and justice ministries. During the 32-mile journey, city outskirts gave way to tree groves and open fields, dotted occasionally by grazing cattle and farm equipment for sale.

A rally participant raises her arms in solidarity with the immigrants detained at the center.

The event had the air of a prayer vigil combined with a political rally. Protesters spontaneously broke into slogan chants and songs of solidarity. They sang “We Shall Overcome,” “This Little Light of Mine,” and “Amazing Grace.” Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town said he had tears welling up behind his sunglasses.

“It evokes emotions of my incarceration under apartheid,” Makgoba said. “I never thought it would be happening in democracies like yours.”

Categories: GC2018

#GC79 Highlight: New Life for Old Boots

Tue, 07/31/2018 - 3:52pm

Members of Episcopal Church Women used 100 boots as Texas-style table decorations at its 49th Triennial Meeting in Austin and as donations afterward. The Rev. Cathy Boyd, formerly of Austin, and Pam Link of Texas helped secure the boots, at the suggestion of the Rev. Cathy Boyd, the triennial’s chaplain.

“They served one purpose — thematic decorating — beautifully,” said Lisa Towle, president of the National ECW Board. “But because the boots were not in matched pairs, the question then became how best to use them. A wonderful answer emerged. We pray that they’re useful.”

ECW leaders worked with the Rev. John Moock (above) of Episcopal Veterans Fellowship to send the boots to the National Odd Shoe Exchange in Chandler, Arizona. The exchange is a clearing house for amputees and others who need only one shoe.

Photos from Episcopal Veterans Fellowship, ECW, and TLC

Categories: GC2018

Help for World Mission

Tue, 07/31/2018 - 9:03am

The Rev. Titus Presler, a veteran of world mission, writes about General Convention reviving the Standing Commission on World Mission, but without any funding:

[T]he resolution was adopted by both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, so Resolution A208 is an official action of convention. But: the $90,000 requested to fund the commission — travel and meeting expenses — was not included in the budget adopted by convention. The net result is that as of right now there will be no Standing Commission on World Mission.

How can this happen? you might ask. One could say that convention agreed that an SCWM would be helpful and useful, but in all the horse-trading that goes on among various priorities, not everything can be funded. Moreover, the Program, Budget & Finance Committee explained that in its budgetary deliberations it rejected numerous requests to reestablish various standing commissions both because funds are limited and because it felt it should honor the streamlining decisions of the 2015 General Convention. That is a reasonable argument, and I respect it. The continuing membership decline of the Episcopal Church has financial consequences, one of which is we can no longer afford the generously funded structures to which we had become accustomed.

So what now? There may still be an effort to secure funding for the SCWM that was approved in principle. Equally important, the Global Episcopal Mission Network — the church’s voluntary and freestanding network of mission-activist dioceses, congregations, mission organizations, seminaries and individuals — is well positioned to provide much of the overview and envisioning that an SCWM would be tasked to do.

GEMN’s membership is substantial and growing. Its annual conference is a major networking event for global mission, with speakers and workshop leaders who are recognized churchwide. Its website (www.gemn.org) provides a wealth of resources, and its Mission Formation Program is well respected. GEMN submitted a number of resolutions to this General Convention, and that advocacy role will grow. GEMN hosted the Global Mission Reception at this convention, reviving the World Mission Reception that the Church Center used to host in the 1980s and 1990s, and about 150 people attended this inaugural event. As president of GEMN and a former SCWM chair, I believe it is possible for GEMN to offer much that SCWM used to provide. We don’t have a canonical role, but the current and future energy of the church is increasingly found in networks such as GEMN. So I am hopeful.

Read the rest.

Categories: GC2018

Brothers Meet in Austin

Fri, 07/27/2018 - 11:03am

By Jim Goodson

While General Convention and Episcopal Church Women met at the Austin Convention Center, 92 members of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew gathered about 10 miles north for their triennial meeting. The brothers met July 5-7 at the Embassy Suites Arboretum.

Brotherhood President Jeffrey Butcher has crisscrossed the nation in the last six years, meeting with everyone from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to the brotherhood’s smallest chapters.

During his address to the brothers, Butcher cited one considerable challenge: moving the 139-year-old ministry from a dues-paying structure to pledges based in thanksgiving.

“The idea that we can run this entire operation with volunteers left the station 20-years ago,” Butcher said.

In addition to the hundreds of local ministries by the brotherhood’s 5,162 members in 358 chapters throughout the nation, the national group focuses on seven ministries: discipleship and mentoring, Boy Scouts and youth, restorative justice, veterans affairs, racial reconciliation, fighting human trafficking, and recovery.

The brotherhood has moved its headquarters from Ambridge, Pennsylvania, to Louisville, Kentucky, and in January 2017 its executive board hired Tom Welch as the first executive director in more than 12 years.

In a short but warm address, Bishop Curry praised the brotherhood’s focus on seven national ministries. “Think about what this says about our commitment to our communities,” he said.

“God bless the brotherhood,” Bishop Curry said with vigor after giving a summary of General Convention business.

After workshops on evangelism, scouting, and fighting human trafficking, brothers heard from the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, executive director of Forward Movement.

“Once I got a great car wash for $12 at a new place in town,” Gunn said. “I told everybody I knew about this great new car wash. I bet I told 100 people. But then I thought, Why don’t I tell that many people about my faith, which is the most important thing in my life?

It was the beginning of a personal ministry of evangelism.

Gunn noted that the Episcopal Church is losing one percent of its membership every year, and that this trend could easily be reversed.

“They used to say typical Episcopalians invite someone to church every 40 years,” Gunn said. “That was probably coined during the era of the Greatest Generation. Back in their day, you didn’t have to invite people to church. They just came — not only to church but to the Rotary Club, the PTA, and other community organizations.”

He offered a practical solution to stop the decline.

“If a significant number of Episcopalians invited two people per year to church, this decline could turn into a great revival of the Episcopal Church,” Gunn said.

“Our liturgy, music, and the fact that we kneel are among the unique things that set us apart,” he said. “Every time someone kneels, they are searching for Jesus.”

The Rev. Matt Marino of the Church of St. John the Divine in Houston led a rousing workshop on discipleship and mentoring.

“The youth of today have been advertised to and have seen more ads than any generation in history,” Marino said. “They have great BS detectors.”

Marino said he has seen denominations often spend $150,000 on a college chaplain, only to find their college ministries work better when the students manage ministry themselves.

Marino recommended materials by the Anglo-American author Simon Sinek and GO Ministries.

Jim Goodson is editor of the brotherhood’s newsletter, St. Andrew’s Cross.

Categories: GC2018

Cuba Rejoins the Family

Mon, 07/23/2018 - 1:58pm

By Matthew Townsend, with reporting by Kirk Petersen

La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba will soon be a diocese of the Episcopal Church. On July 11 the House of Deputies 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 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 make 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.

The previous day’s proceedings in the House of Bishops were similar. The bishops, with boisterous expressions of gratitude and joy, unanimously welcomed La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba back into the church.

“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 Delgado, as the House of Deputies had not yet acted. Concern about technicalities, however, had seemingly receded by then. In approving Resolution A238, the bishops bulldozed over concerns that readmission might be impermissible.

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.

Shortly after the vote in the House of Deputies, Delgado told TLC in Spanish that the vote had been an historical justice — especially for those that “suffered through the separation [in the ’60s and ’70s] and lived even then with pain, but also with hope. Everything that was done today is not what I have done. Almost all of the work was sustained by the many generations who came before now.”

It was those generations, she said, who helped bring the churches to reunification, to the “possibility of being a family.”

Categories: GC2018

Sexual Sins: From Lament to Resolve

Mon, 07/23/2018 - 1:53pm

By G. Jeffrey MacDonald

Graphic accounts of sexual harassment in the Episcopal Church were center stage on the eve of General Convention July 4 as bishops presided at a liturgy focused on lamentation, confession, and healing.

Raw material came from 42 letters received in response to the bishops’ call for stories in the wake of the #MeToo movement that has exposed sexual harassment and abuse in industries from film to news media.

On July 4, more than 300 people heard stories of suffering at the hands of people in power — a rapist priest, an abusive rector, a cleric’s wife with a fondness for young boys — who were never held accountable.

In a dramatic twist, 12 victims’ stories were rendered anonymously through the mouths of bishops who took turns reading them. First up was Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Diocese of Washington.

“I am a victim of clergy sexual abuse,” she read on behalf of a woman who said her abuser had become a bishop when she reported the abuse. Twenty-five years later, she’s still waiting for resolution.

“The Office of the Presiding Bishop has sought a legal model that called for the silence,” she said, “the silencing of the victor-survivor and avoiding any accountability or responsibility.” The church’s process of handling complaints internally is rife with conflicts of interest, the victim alleged, and needs to be handled by a third party rather than the Bishop for the Office of Pastoral Development.

The liturgy came as General Convention prepared to confront what has been a largely hidden history of sexual harassment and abuse in the church. More than 20 resolutions on the topic, drafted by the House of Deputies’ Special Committee on Sexual Harassment and Exploitation, worked their way through committees. More than a dozen won committee recommendations to adopt.

The July 4 event, called a Listening Session for Pastoral Response to #MeToo, was aimed at laying a groundwork for healing.

“People will commonly say, Bishops just don’t understand. Even though the bishops know these stories, they just don’t understand the impact,” said Bishop Dede Duncan-Probe of the Diocese of Central New York. “So a lot of what we heard is [victims] reflecting on how it has impacted them.”

Each bishop who spoke did so in front of a giant black, unadorned sacrificial altar. Two prominent white candles remained unlit during the entire service. At the time of each reading, two colleagues (bishops in most cases) flanked the reader, silently bearing witness. Silence punctuated each reading, followed by congregational responses of kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy).

“Of the 100 or some boys I met in the choir, I do not know a single adult today who was not abused in some way — emotionally, physically, sexually,” one bishop read on the victim’s behalf. “I have stopped counting the suicides, the substance abuse, the broken marriages, poverty, failed careers, prison sentences.”

No perpetrators were named in the event. Protocol called for the identities of those submitting stories to be known only to the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, Bishop for the Office of Pastoral Development. Those deemed to warrant disciplinary investigation are being marked as such, according to an Episcopal Church news release.

Wednesday’s liturgy marked the first time bishops had ever taken part in a liturgy centered on honoring and bearing witness to experiences of victims’ of sexual harassment and abuse.

“That wasn’t my story, so I had to channel and go to a different place to read that,” said Suffragan Bishop Anne Hodges-Copple of the Diocese of North Carolina, after she read a victim’s account. “But what we were doing was stirring up all of our own stories.”

Staged in a cavernous Austin Convention Center auditorium, the atmosphere included spare touches of church, such as illuminated stained-glass panels. Musical selections drew on those used by the Taizé community in France, which emphasizes simple verses, repeated again and again.

In a time of confession, bishops stood while all others remained seated.

“We lament,” the bishops said in unison, “and confess to you our arrogance in insisting that our claims to being right outweigh our willingness to build honest relationships in which we name how we contribute to the injustices within our dioceses and the larger church,”

Some in the audience said afterward that they could not tell whether the bishops were communicating their personal stories or reading others’ stories. The bulletin was accessible only to people who had brought tablets or smart phones, and it did not say explain the source of the readings.

“It took me halfway through to realize these weren’t your personal stories; you were reading other people’s stories,” said Sandy Skirving of the Diocese of East Carolina to her bishops as they left the Convention Center. “I had no idea.” Others said they were confused by the layout.

Bishops said future responses on sexual harassment will be considered carefully, but what is needed is not yet clear.

“It’s a process to get there,” said Bishop Sam Rodman of North Carolina. “I need to stay with what I feel in my gut. I need to pay attention to that gut-wrenching heartbreak and live with that for a while in prayer before I know what action will look like. But I do know that it means carrying the power that the church has given me in a different way.”

Convention’s Responses

Melodie Woerman of the ENS General Convention news team provided this summary of approved resolutions:

  • D016 creates a Task Force on Women, Truth, and Reconciliation to help the church “engage in truth-telling, confession, and reconciliation regarding gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence against women and girls.”
  • D021 removes from the materials that clergy file with the Office of Transition Ministry any reference to gender or current compensation, since statistics show women in the church are paid less than men of comparable experience.
  • D025 creates a task force on clergy formation and continuing education, especially regarding preparation for ordination.
  • D026 adds family status, including pregnancy or child-care plans, to the list of things for which no one in the church can be denied rights, status, or access to an equal place in the life, worship, governance, or employment by the church.
  • D034 suspends the current statute of limitations for victims of clergy sexual misconduct for three years between Jan 1, 2019, and Dec. 31, 2021. Cases dating as far back as 1996 will be considered.
  • D037 directs the Church Pension Group to expand its Clergy Compensation Report to include more specifics on items relating to gender.
  • D045 affirms that pension plans for clergy and lay employees need to be more equitable and calls on the Church Pension Group to study how to make that happen.
  • D074 amends the process for filing Title IV charges.
  • D076 protects people who file Title IV charges against clergy from retaliation and allows confidential filings for those who fear retaliation.
Categories: GC2018

‘We Live with that Tension’

Mon, 07/23/2018 - 1:48pm

Same-sex Marriage

By Kirk Petersen

After a great deal of discussion on legislative floors, in committee meetings, and behind the scenes, the 79th General Convention reached a compromise on same-sex marriage than enables pastoral delegation on the matter — increasing access to weddings for same-sex couples while maintaining space for conservatives to remain in the church.

The road to compromise was not without bumps and potholes. Efforts began in April after the Task Force for the Study of Marriage, charged by the 78th General Convention to consider expansion of trial-use liturgies for same-sex marriage adopted in 2015, issued its final report. The group drafted Resolution A085, which would have allowed for such liturgies to be used throughout the church, even without the support of the local diocesan bishop. The liturgies would be integrated into the Book of Common Prayer, as well.

A lone voice from the committee issued a minority report expressing concern about this plan and the conservative dioceses it would affect: the Rev. Canon Jordan Hylden, canon theologian for the Diocese of Dallas and a contributing editor of TLC. With talk of dioceses leaving the church, especially some among Province IX, an ad hoc group began seeking a compromise that would eventually become Resolution B012, Marriage Rites for the Whole Church.

The proposed mechanism of compromise: Designated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight, or DEPO, the practice of bringing in a bishop from another diocese to oversee a priest or congregation in conflict with the diocesan bishop. This would allow conservative bishops to hand off pastoral oversight of a parish seeking to use same-sex marriage liturgies to a fellow bishop, and recognize the theological divisions informing the conflict.

Once B012 was released into the wild, talk of A085 was largely abandoned. The awkwardly named Committee to Receive the Report on Resolution A169 — CtRtRoRA169, or “Committee 13” — revised B012 heavily before sending it to the House of Deputies, effectively removing designated oversight. In the first pass July 9, deputies passed a floor-amended version 96-10 in the clergy order and 97-8 in the lay order. The amendment was moved by Deputy Christopher Hayes, chancellor of the Diocese of California, and restored B012 closer to its original form, with an element of designated oversight restored.

The day after, the House of Bishops overwhelmingly passed the amended Resolution B012, which says that a bishop who holds “a theological position that does not embrace marriage for same-sex couples … 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.”

Because the bishops made an additional amendment to B012, the House of Deputies had to vote on it again. That amendment clarified that rectors and priests in charge have the authority to disallow same-sex marriages in their own 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.

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 — margins even more lopsided than the previous vote.

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 declined 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 many advocates on both sides. But as with all compromises in the church, especially on a hot-button issue like same-sex marriage, B012 did not meet with universal acclaim.

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 adding the rites to the 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 Daniel 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 longtime 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.”

Albany Bishop William Love, who passionately but unsuccessfully urged the House of Bishops to stop the advance of same-sex marriage rites into all dioceses, 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.

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.”

Love welcomed the final version of B012, 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.”

In addition to the question of clerical choice, there was much debate behind the scenes about the concept of DEPO.

Wells described the final language of B012 as “DEPO by another name.”

Hayes, the deputy who introduced the language, had previously denied that it was the same as DEPO. He 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.

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.

In addition to Bauerschmidt, Brewer, Love, and Martins, the bishops who have forbidden the use of same-sex marriage rites in their dioceses are Ambrose Gumbs of the Virgin Islands; John Howard of Florida; Michael Smith of North Dakota; and George Sumner of Dallas.

Both legislative houses also passed Resolution A227, Communion Across Difference, establishing a task force to “seek a lasting path forward for mutual flourishing” among proponents and opponents of same-sex marriage.

The long-term success of B012 may depend in part on whether all parties 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.”

Categories: GC2018

New: Aug. 5 TLC Online

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 5:18pm

The Aug. 5 edition of The Living Church is available online to registered subscribers.

The cover story reports on one topic that both houses ultimately adopted with great enthusiasm: the return of the Episcopal Church of Cuba’s return to the fold of the Episcopal Church decades after its Cold War-inspired expulsion by the House of Bishops.

Matthew Townsend and Kirk Petersen report:

La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba will soon be a diocese of the Episcopal Church. On July 11 the House of Deputies 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 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.

… 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.

News
  • Cuba Rejoins the Family
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Categories: GC2018

Deaconess Alexander Joins the Calendar

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 8:23am

General Convention has added Deaconess Anna Alexander, who began her ministry at Good Shepherd in Pennick, Georgia, to the Episcopal Church’s calendar of saints.

The Diocese of Georgia’s deputation celebrates Deaconness Anna Alexander as a new saint of the Episcopal Church.

“In a time when the races were separated, she brought people of difference races together,  because she followed Jesus of Nazareth and his way of love,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said. “And in a time when black children did not have many opportunities for education she made sure that they received them, because she followed the way of Jesus and his love.

“And in a time when women were not able to live completely into God’s call for them, she lived the fullness of God calling in her life anyway, starting schools starting churches, spreading the good news to any and all regardless of race, class or kind. All this she did because she really followed Jesus and his way of love. She was in her time a living model of a follower of Jesus Christ. And she is that for us in our time. For that reason, the Episcopal Church honors and gives thanks for Deaconess Anna Alexander.”

Born the youngest of 11 children to recently emancipated slaves on St. Simons Island, Alexander (1865-1947) started a church and school in the Pennick Community west of Brunswick.

Her feast day is Sept. 24.

Adapted from the Diocese of Georgia

Categories: GC2018

Bishop Love Reflects on GC79

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 7:40am

The Rt. Rev. William H. Love, Bishop of Albany, reflects on the decisions of the 79th General Convention:

On a positive note, an amended version of A068 was passed, thus preserving the 1979 Book of Common Prayer for at least the near term. There had been an attempt to change the 1979 BCP at this convention in ways that would have been unacceptable to those who maintain a traditional understanding of marriage. Resolution A068 not only preserved the 1979 BCP marriage rite and preamble, but also preserved the current psalter and liturgies; the Trinitarian formularies; the Lambeth Quadrilateral; and the Historic Documents. The resolution does allow for Dioceses under the direction and approval of their Bishop, to develop new rites and new language for trial use.

There had been an attempt at the 79th General Convention to radically change the bishop election process for each diocese by including the involvement of surrounding dioceses and the Presiding Bishop’s Office in unprecedented ways. While presented in a positive light, the potential for abuse led to the overwhelming defeat of the resolution.

One other potentially positive development coming out of the 79th General Convention was the passage of A227 which calls for the commission of a Task Force on “Communion Across Differences.” The Task Force (equally manned by traditionalists and progressives), is asked to find ways that both traditionalists and progressives can work together, to the extent possible, with a sense of integrity in The Episcopal Church. Time will tell how effective this will be.

Unfortunately with the passage of B012, authorizing same-sex marriages in parishes (regardless of the Bishop’s views and diocesan policies), the Task Force’s work has become much more difficult if not impossible. Of all the actions taken at the 79th General Convention, the passage of B012, is from my perspective as Bishop, the most problematic and potentially damaging within the Diocese of Albany as well as the wider Anglican Communion.

While I know there are some in the Diocese of Albany who applaud the passage of B012, the vast majority of the clergy and people of the Diocese, to include myself, are greatly troubled by it. There is much I need to say about B012 and how it will be handled in the Diocese of Albany, but before doing so, I need more time to think and pray, as well as consult with the Standing Committee and other trusted advisors.

What is being called for in B012 not only goes against the Marriage Canons of the Diocese of Albany, but also attempts to severely limit the bishop’s role and ministry as chief pastor, priest and teacher of all the people and parishes entrusted to his or her care regarding the sacrament of marriage. More importantly, it goes against my understanding of what God has revealed through Holy Scripture and over 2000 years of Church teaching about marriage.

Read the rest.

Categories: GC2018

Faith Beyond the Episcopal Church

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 2:02pm

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:

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.

Categories: GC2018

Bishop Daniel Martins on GC79

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 8:54am

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.

Read the rest.

Categories: GC2018

Lesser Feasts and Fasts Closer to Revision

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 4:13pm

Adapted from Sharon Tillman, ENS

The 79th General Convention has committed to revising Lesser Feasts and Fasts and the entire sanctoral calendar with the adoption of Resolution A065.

The Blue Book Report filed by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music contains the recommended revisions to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts to make the calendar of commemorations less confusing and more diverse. It is 650 pages long.

A legislative subcommittee substituted new language in the resolution to combine the proposed Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018, A Great Cloud of Witnesses (2015), and Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006 into one calendar for use in 2018-21.

But a move in the House of Deputies to revert to the SCLM version of A065 brought debate to a halt until July 12.

The Rev. Jack Zamboni, deputy from New Jersey, and a member of the legislative committee, spoke against the amendment. “One of the challenges for the committee, they also included a secondary calendar within that book that left us with tiers A and B, and it was the sense of the committee to get rid of tiers.”

The Rev. Scott Gunn, deputy from Southern Ohio, spoke in favor of the amendment. He asked for the house to accept the Blue Book report of SCLM [as the resolution]. “These are worthy saints, a balanced calendar, not a perfect calendar, but that this why we have an ongoing revision process,” he said.

In the end, the House of Deputies agreed to go back to the SCLM’s recommended text, and both houses approved the resolution near the end of convention on the morning of July 13.

Moving into the next triennium, Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006 is still in use, A Great Cloud of Witnesses 2015 is still available for use, and the new commemorations in Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018 are authorized for trial use.

Convention charged the SCLM with providing the 80th General Convention “with a clear and unambiguous plan for a singular calendar of ‘Lesser Feasts and Fasts.’”

Read the original.

Categories: GC2018

Compromise Reached on Same-sex Marriage

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 2:33pm

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.”

Categories: GC2018

‘It’s Going to Take Culture Change’

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 10:01am

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.”

Categories: GC2018

Israel-Palestine Divides the Houses

Thu, 07/12/2018 - 8:17pm

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).

Upon committee counsel that B019 (Impact Investing for Palestine) overlapped with B016, It took no action. Resolution D028 (Freedom of Speech and the Right to Boycott) was rejected.

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.

Categories: GC2018

Canon Hunn Apologizes for Hymn Choice

Thu, 07/12/2018 - 4:13pm

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

Categories: GC2018

Alternatives Ready for Eucharists

Thu, 07/12/2018 - 3:13pm

Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP | Flickr | bit.ly/2O3hlX7

Adapted from the Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg and Melodie Woerman, ENS

Both houses of General Convention on July 12 adopted a resolution that allows all congregations in the Episcopal Church to use optional, expansive-language versions of three Rite II Eucharistic prayers in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

Resolution D078 provides alternative language for Prayer A, Prayer B, and Prayer D.

The Rev. Laurie Brock, deputy from Lexington, proposed D078, and it was endorsed by the Rev. Beth Scriven of Missouri and the Rev. Scott Gunn of Southern Ohio.

Brock told deputies that the larger plan for liturgical and revision does not change that every Sunday worshipers hear words that are “mostly masculine.” She said that offering the revised versions of existing eucharistic prayers is “an immediate way to take the longing we have heard in this convention back to our pews, so God can be celebrated in all genders.”

In a more practical vein, she said the resolution “recognizes the reality that many of us are doing this on Sundays and would like to not get hauled up on Title IV for doing it,” referring to the canons for clergy discipline.

Here are some examples of the optional language included in the trial-use rites:

  • Priests may begin any of the three rites by saying, “Blessed be God: most holy, glorious and undivided Trinity.” The current opening acclamation of “Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit” is also an option. In either case, the people’s response is “And blessed be God’s reign, now and for ever. Amen.”
  • At the beginning of the Great Thanksgiving in all three rites, the priest may say, “God be with you,” instead of “The Lord be with you.”
  • The Sanctus can now be said using “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” in addition to “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
  • In Eucharistic Prayer A, celebrants now have the option of “you, in your mercy, sent Jesus Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the God and maker of all.” In the original version, that sentence ends with “the God and Father of all.”
  • Eucharistic Prayer B contains an optional wording for the sentence “Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through him, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” The option reads, “Unite us in the sacrifice of Christ, through whom we are made acceptable to you, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”
  • Eucharistic Prayer D offers the option of adding matriarchs after patriarchs in this sentence: “And grant that we may find our inheritance with [the Blessed Virgin Mary, with patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, … and all the saints who have found favor with you in ages past.”

The options offered in D078 are to be provided to the church at no cost via electronic distribution, the resolution says.

The SCLM is told to both monitor the use of the expansive-language rites and begin a dynamic-equivalence translation of the rites into Spanish, French and Haitian Creole languages.

D078 asks for $12,500 for the work involved. The triennium’s budget has already been passed, so the portion of the resolution becomes what is known as an unfunded mandate and is left to Executive Council to determine a funding source.

Read the original.

Categories: GC2018

Deputies Adopt Church Budget

Thu, 07/12/2018 - 1:23pm

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.

Categories: GC2018

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