THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH
YEAR 2000 GENERAL CONVENTION
Topics covered in this essay:
Developments leading up to the 2000 General Convention:
||1999-SEP: U.S. Conference: The Anglican
Consultative Council (ACC) concluded in Dundee, Scotland on
1999-SEP-24. An announcement was made at the Council that a group of
Anglican bishops will meet in New York later in 1999 for a "consultation"
on homosexuality. They expect to have bishops at the meeting who
represents "all shades of opinion" on the matter.
||1999-OCT-8: Gay rights in parts of Africa: The Bishop
and Primate of the Episcopal Church in the USA, Frank T Griswold,
issued a statement in his capacity as the Presiding Bishop on Human
Rights for Homosexual Persons. He "read with alarm and deep
concern accounts of statements by the presidents of Kenya, Uganda, and
Zimbabwe which have become a provocation for the harassment and
persecution of homosexual persons...Within the Anglican Communion we
are seeking to discern a common mind on the issue of homosexuality in
the life of the church. However, regardless of one's views on the
matter, there should be no debate among us about human rights for all
people - which are enshrined in the United
Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
||2000-FEB-9: Irregular ordination of two bishops: According to PCUSA News, a group of conservative
Anglicans from around the world have become increasingly concerned
about the liberal drift of the Episcopal Church in the U.S. They are
distressed at the 30% decline in U.S. church membership over the past
three decades. A main sticking-point is the belief among some
Episcopal bishops that gays and lesbians be given equal rights. On
2000-JAN-29, two U.S. priests, John H. Rodgers and Charles H. Murphy,
were consecrated as bishops in St. Andrew's Cathedral in Singapore.
The ritual was performed by two archbishops from Rwanda, an archbishop
from South East Asia, and two retired U.S. bishops from Tennessee and
South Carolina. The new bishops intend to start "Anglican
missions" in the U.S. -- in effect create a duplicate Episcopal
Within the Anglican tradition, the world has been divided into
autocephalous [self-governing] provinces, each consisting of a
country, or group of countries. Provinces are then divided into
individual dioceses -- each under the control of a single bishop.
Having two bishops attempting to exercise control in a single
geographical area is to invite chaos.
A spokesperson for George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said
the move was a cause of "grave disappointment...it is his
[Carey's] view that such consecrations are irresponsible and
irregular, and only harm the unity of the communion."
The conservative group, the American Anglican Council (AAC), was not
directly involved in the consecration. On 2000-JAN-31, they said that
the creation of the two bishops is "the beginning of a new
reality for the Episcopal Church...The leadership of the Episcopal
Church had utterly failed to recognize the magnitude of the crisis
that is tearing apart our church." 4
||2000-FEB-14: The Episcopal Church's Standing Commission on
Liturgy and Music issued a report dealing with same-sex unions.
Ironically, it was released on St. Valentine's Day. It includes essays
on Scripture, decision-making, church tradition, and blessings. The
report says, in part, "We are not ready, theologically or
scientifically, to say a defining word about the life of homosexuals
in the church...In the context of reverence - and humility - it seems
best not to take absolutist positions on a national level."
It recommends a form of local option in which area dioceses would
"find their own way in the matter." 5 This
recommendation is only a suggestion; local dioceses are not at this
time free to follow this advice.
||2000-FEB-21: Bishops' meeting in Portugal: A week-long
meeting of bishops from around the world will be held in Portugal,
starting on 2000-MAR-22. The leader of the Anglican church worldwide, George Carey, the Archbishop
of Canterbury, issued a letter on FEB-17 to Anglican bishops. According to a ReligionToday news
summary, Carey said that he holds traditional view of
human sexuality and the family. He believes that "a vast
majority" of bishops worldwide do so as well. However, he
wants to consider the ideas of "faithful Christians, some of
whom are homosexual themselves," who are challenging the
Church's teaching on human sexuality because "they have felt
excluded from the Church for many years." He called the
ordinations of two American Episcopal priests as bishops "illegal."
He wrote that they "breach Anglican rules and practice."
The ordinations in Singapore were done "unilaterally, without
consultation, and in secret." Carey expects that the
unauthorized ordinations and homosexuality will be the main topics for
discussion at the Portugal meeting.
||2000-FEB-20: Irregular consecration of two bishops: The Archbishop
of Canterbury, George Carey, issued a letter to the primates of the
Anglican communion which described "the recent consecration in
Singapore of two priests of the Episcopal Church of the United States
as bishops by the Archbishop of South East Asia and the Archbishop of
Rwanda." He stated that: "neither the constitution of
the Province of South East Asia nor that of the Episcopal Church of
Rwanda, to whose primates John Rodgers and Charles Murphy have sworn
an oath of canonical obedience, have been followed. In addition,
Anglican polity requires that ordained ministers should be properly
authorised to pursue their ministry in the Province within which they
wish to work, and according to the Canon law of that Province. It
appears that this is not the intention in this case, and it is
doubtful in the present circumstances whether such authorisation would
be forthcoming." Archbishop Carey is withholding recognition
of Rodgers and Murphy as bishops. 6
||2000-MAR-20: The American Anglican Council, a
conservative reform group from Dallas TX issued a statement stating
that they believe that the worldwide Anglican Communion faces "a
grave moment" in which "nothing less than the
integrity of the Gospel and the future of the church is at stake."
Their concern centers around ordination of sexually active
homosexuals, and the blessing of homosexual unions in the U.S.
However, they feel that these are symptomatic of a much deeper
problem. A second conservative group, Georgia-based Concerned
Clergy and Laity of the Episcopal Church, states: "Today,
there are two religions in the Episcopal Church. One remains faithful
to the biblical truth and received teachings of the Church, while the
other rejects them." The presiding bishop of the Episcopal
Church in the U.S.A. (ECUSA), Frank Griswold, disagrees. He feels that
the church is in crisis; a recent survey shows member satisfaction. He
criticizes conservative elements within the denomination of pushing an
anti-homosexual agenda. 7
||2000-MAR-22: Follow up: Irregular consecration of two bishops: Bishop
John Rodgers now heads an Association of Anglican Congregations on
Mission in Chicago IL. He now oversees about six churches. Bishop
Charles Murphy heads First Promise and oversees a few American
churches that he has aligned with the Province of Rwanda. 7
The Episcopal Church held its 73rd General
Convention in Denver, CO. Some developments were:
||2000-JUL-7: Judy Collins cancels concert: According to the Episcopal
News Service, Judy Collins cancelled a concert to be held in
conjunction with the 73rd General Convention of the
Episcopal Church. She allegedly did this to
protest what she regards as the church's discriminatory policies
against homosexuals. Collins said that she was "shocked"
to learn that "the Episcopal Church, of which I'm a member and
in which I was married, does not have an official national church
policy allowing ministers to officiate at same-sex unions or ordain
openly gay people." Her cancellation is to protest the "indecision
of the Episcopal Church to fully accept all persons into the Christian
Michael Hopkins, president of Integrity (a national Episcopal
group of gays and lesbians) said that his group respects Collins'
"right to make this decision." They appreciate "the
message of the full inclusion of lesbian and gay persons that she
intends to send to the church...the Episcopal Church, we believe, is
on a journey to the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people, a
journey we, as Episcopalians, are proud of -- despite the fact that it
remains incomplete. We especially regret that this action affects the
Presiding Bishop's Fund, one of the church's finest organizations,
which helps countless thousands of people throughout the world,
including gay and lesbian persons."
Bishop Steven Charleston, dean of the Episcopal Divinity School
in Cambridge, MA delivered a sermon in Denver CO, at an Eucharist
for Integrity. He asked: "When is it time for the
church to stand up and say, 'Enough is enough?' The time is now!"
He stated that the church's fundamental issues in the field of human
sexuality "can be named in two words: It is power and it is
fear. That fear must be expunged from our church once and for all, and
that power must be shared." 1
||2000-JUL-10: Committee approves sexuality resolution: Special Committee 25
was established to handle all of the resolutions that involved human
to the Episcopal News Service, the Committee prepared a
"compromise measure that acknowledges traditional teaching on
marriage while supporting 'relationships of mutuality and fidelity
other than marriage.'" The Standing Commission on Liturgy
and Music (SCLM) will be asked to draft rites that express support
for "lifelong committed relationships" the next
General Convention to vote upon. The rites are to be prepared for
inclusion in the Book of Occasional Services, as opposed to The
Book of Common Prayer. Some members of the committee felt that the
Church should have first developed a rationale and theological basis
for recognizing and blessing same-sex marriages before suggesting that
ceremonies be written. The terms "homosexual,"
"gay," "lesbian," and "same-sex" do not
appear in the resolution. 2|
||2000-JUL-10: Over 70 gay protestors arrested: According to the Episcopal
News Service, Soulforce staged a protest in front of the Colorado
Convention Center. Some of the speakers that day
||Jimmy Creech, chairperson of Soulforce, who pleaded that the
church: "Open your arms; open your doors; open your
hearts. Stop the debate. Be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus
||Leanne Bryce, a former lesbian youth minister from St. Aidan's
Episcopal Church in Boulder, CO was fired when a union ceremony
became known. She accused St. Aidan's rector and the bishop
of Colorado of putting her through "a public inquisition,"
and of calling the couple "debased, demonically possessed."
She decried the "heartbreaking intolerance perpetuated by
the institution [the Episcopal Church] we love."
||Otis Charles, retired bishop of Utah, said that he had not
previously had "the courage to live the truth of my life.
the time has come to say that we [lesbians and gays] are fully a
part of the church. We refuse to be silent; we refuse to be
||2000-JUL-10: American Anglican Council says gays can be
"healed": According to the Episcopal
News Service, the American Anglican Council (AAC) announced
a new advertising campaign. The AAC is a conservative reform movement
within the denomination. Their ads will feature a man and a woman who
consider themselves healed of homosexuality. The series is called
"God's love changed me." James Stanton, bishop of
Dallas and the president of the AAC, said the campaign consists of
"compelling stories of change -- living proof of God's power
to change lives." The program included the testimony of a
church member who said that, through God's power, he was able to
overcome homosexuality. [Editor's note: The
ads are deceptive, because they imply that persons with a homosexual
sexual orientation can change to a heterosexual
orientation. There is a near consensus among gays, lesbians,
bisexuals, human sexuality researchers and mental health professionals
that a person's sexual orientation cannot be
changed. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and
heterosexuals can change their behavior; they can decide to become celibate;
bisexuals can decide to stick with the opposite sex. But sexual
orientation is fixed. The only change that a homosexual or
heterosexual can make is to become celibate.] |
||2000-JUL-14: Committee 25 prepares two resolutions: The
committee distilled many resolutions down to
two -- each of which contained multiple parts:
||The first resolution called for a pastoral teaching and study
guide on the "sin of heterosexism" and a
continued dialog on human sexuality. The former was rejected; the
latter was accepted.
||The second resolution contained eight parts. It affirmed
traditional marriage and called for a liturgical rite to support
"relationships of mutuality and fidelity other than
marriage" It said that the church expects all lifelong,
committed relationships to be characterized by "fidelity,
monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful honest
communication and holy love." The clergy approved the
call for the liturgical rite by one vote, but the laity rejected
it by two votes. In the Anglican movement, a resolution has to be
passed by three groups: the Bishops, clergy and laity. [Author's
note: A majority voted in favor of the resolution to provide a liturgical rite.
However, a 2/3rds majority is required; it was almost achieved. Considering the rate of change in society over
homosexuality, a similar resolution might well pass at the next
General Convention in 2003.]
||2000-JUL-25: Reactions to the convention:
||The American Anglican Council (AAC), a conservative
renewal group, had a "profoundly bittersweet view" of
the convention. A representative said: "While we are greatly
heartened that the House of Bishops and Deputies prudently decided
not to split the Episcopal Church over issues of human sexuality,
it is sadly evident to us that two strikingly different churches
exist under the same roof. "...one church embraces the
culture as its guide and stands at the fringe of Anglicanism
[seeking to] legislate sexual license at the expense of marriage
and traditional morality...[the] other church, comprised of
orthodox and mainstream Anglicans like the AAC, believes in the
transforming power of God and the hope of salvation that comes
from the gospel." They did not explain how recognition of
same-sex unions would legislate sexual license.
||A gay couple wrote: " 'Pastoral care' for couples
without sacramental celebration is a meaningless endeavor for the
church. Social service agencies can provide pastoral care."
||Integrity, the Episcopalian gay-positive support group
commented: "With the passing of this resolution by both
houses, the question is no longer whether our relationships exist
or are of God. The question is how they should be celebrated."
||2000-OCT-4: Aftershock: Conservative congregations leaving Episcopal Church: According
A total of 24 congregations have left the Episcopal Church and joined
the new Anglican Mission in America, led by two irregular
bishops: Charles H. Murphy of South Carolina and John H. Rodgers of
Pennsylvania. Murphy predicts that as many as 80 congregations could
be aligned with the AMiA by early 2001. 8|
J.H. Thrall, "Singer, an Episcopalian, protests 'discriminatory'
policies," Episcopal News Service, 2000-JUL-7 #00245
David Skidmore, "Committee send sexuality resolution to deputies,"
Tom Beckwith, "Dozens arrested in gay group protest at Episcopal
convention," Episcopal News Service, 2000-JUL-10, #00246
Chris Herlinger, "Consecration of dissident Americans as bishops
called an 'affront' ", Ecumenical News International, distributed
by PCUSA NEWS on 2000-FEB-9.
- Religion Today news summary for 2000-FEB-15
George Carey, "Letter to the primates of the Anglican communion,"
ACNS 2037, issued 2000-FEB-20
"Anglicans confronted with fractured American church,"
Maranatha Christian Journal, 2000-MAR-22, at: http://www.mcjonline.com/news/00/20000322b.htm
"More conservatives abandon Episcopal church," at: http://www.religiontoday.com/
Copyright © 1997 to 2003 incl. by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2003-JUL-25
Author: B.A. Robinson