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The Episcopal Church, USA and homosexuality

The 2006 General Convention: Part 2
Responding to the Windsor Report

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This essay is a continuation from Part 1

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Responding to the Windsor Report:

The Lambeth Commission on Communion was formed in 2003 to find ways by which believers throughout the Anglican Communion could agree to disagree over the question of homosexuality and thereby prevent schism of the Communion. There existed, and still exists, a wide range of beliefs about homosexual orientation and behavior within the Communion. These are primarily caused by cultural differences among the various provinces. On 2004-OCT-18, the Commission's 92 page "Windsor Report" was released to the public. 1

The Commission found certain actions by the Episcopal Church, USA and Anglican Church of Canada to be unacceptable. They expressed regrets:

 "...that without attaching sufficient importance to the interests of the wider Communion,

bulletthe Episcopal Church (USA) proceeded with the consecration of Gene Robinson,

bulletthe Diocese of New Westminster approved the use of public Rites for the Blessing of same sex unions, and

bullet the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada issued a statement affirming the integrity and sanctity of committed same sex relationships." 1

Concerning the election and consecration of a gay bishop in a loving and committed relationship, the commission "invited" the Episcopal Church, USA to:

bullet"...express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached in the events surrounding the election and consecration of a bishop for the See of New Hampshire, and for the consequences which followed, and that such an expression of regret would represent the desire of the Episcopal Church (USA) to remain within the Communion.

bullet"...effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges." 2

Considering that it has taken three decades after the ordination of the first woman priest before a slim majority of Provinces allow female ordination, it would probably take many generations before a new consensus could possibly emerge in the Communion about homosexual bishops.

Concerning public rites of blessing of loving and committed same-sex unions they recommended:

bullet

"...a moratorium on all such public Rites, and recommend that bishops who have authorized such rites in the United States and Canada be invited to express regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached by such authorization."


bullet"...that provinces take responsibility for endeavoring to ensure commitment on the part of their bishops to the common life of the Communion on this matter." 3

On JUN-20, the delegates to the Episcopal Church's general convention were presented with Resolution 161 which would have accepted the Windsor Report's requests. It would have urged bishops and dioceses to refrain from electing bishops "whose manner of life presents a wider challenge to the wider church." It also directed the denomination to not develop rites for blessing same-sex unions. According to the Episcopal News Service (ENS): "It affirmed the need to provide pastoral care for gay and lesbian Episcopalians -- and at the same time apologized to gays and lesbians for those decisions." It was overwhelmingly rejected with a vote of 67 to 44 by the clergy order and 71 to 38 by the lay order. Both orders must approve a resolution before it is implemented.

The Rt. Rev. Dorsey F. Henderson Jr., bishop of Upper South Carolina, who is the chairperson of the Special Legislative Committee on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, proposed Resolution B033. 4 The text reads:

"Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report’s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further Resolved, that this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." 5

Presiding Bishop Griswold expressed concern that the delegates might not be able to compromise on a suitable statement. He said:

"If we don't have something substantial, it will be very difficult for the Archbishop of Canterbury to invite the Presiding Bishop to the Lambeth Conference. I do know the complexity of what the Archbishop dealing with, in communion terms, and he needs for something clear to come from the Episcopal Church." 6

The bishops debated to amendments that would have weakened B033. This ceased after Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori urged support for the original resolution. She drew an analogy between the Episcopal Church as part of the larger Anglican Communion and the fate of conjoined twins. The analogy occurred to her when Bishop Charles Jenkins of Louisiana talked about there being one church and two minds. She said:

"Ethically, one cannot proceed to separate two conjoined twins until one is reasonably certain both can survive on their own and live full lives. I don't think we're certain that the two offspring are capable of living separately and healthily. My sense is that the original resolution is the best that we're going to do today. But I can only support it if we understand that it's not slamming the door. It has to leave the door open for further conversation and consideration in the very near future....[She confirmed that she is] fully committed to the full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians in this church. I certainly don't understand adopting this resolution as slamming the door. I think if you do pass this resolution you have to be willing to keep working with all your might at finding a common mind in this church. I don't find this an easy thing to say to you, but I think that is the best we are going to manage at this point in our church's history."

B033 passed with a vote of 75 to 34 in the clergy order, and 73 to 32 in the lay order. Its passage was denounced by individuals on both sides: conservatives were very displeased because it did not accept the Windsor Report's recommendations. Liberals were very displeased because it treated homosexuals and bisexuals as second-class members of the church.

The Rev Dr George Byron Koch, Pastor of the Church of the Resurrection, West Chicago, IL, said:

"The 'conservative' side – whether you agree with it or not – truly does represent the long standing belief of the church about how God has ordered sexual relations. Physically, men and women are designed for sexual union. Men with men and women with women are not: they may devise means for intimacy, but it is not 'natural,' and the church has long understood this, and understood scripture to clearly say so. This is not by any stretch of the imagination an 'extreme wing' of the church." 

"The 'liberal' side – whether you agree with it or not – believes the long standing beliefs of the church on this subject are wrong, and that God has ordered sexual relations to include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender forms.  (transgender means needing an operation to change your gender because you believe you were born into the wrong gendered body.) They believe that the Holy Spirit is 'doing a new thing' in revealing this broader sexuality model to the church."7

Both the liberal and conservative wings of the Episcopal Church are totally convinced that their side is right. They regard the other side as being outside of the clear will of God. That mind set is what makes dialog and compromise so difficult.

ENS reported:

bullet"Deputies debated for 30 minutes before voting. Speakers in support of the measure said they found the resolution to be imperfect but it should be adopted anyway."

bulletJames Bradberry from the Diocese of Southern Virginia said his support of the failed A161 "was the only vote I've ever cast about which I am genuinely ashamed." He urged adoption of B033 because it would tell the Anglican Communion "we have struggled and done our best, and this is what we have to offer."

bulletPhilip Linder from the Diocese of Upper South Carolina said:

"Our presiding bishop and new presiding bishop[-elect] have spoken with clarity about what it will take for us to remain at the table of conversation with the worldwide Anglican Communion....We are a passionate body, but the Anglican Communion is passionate, too."

bulletThe Rev. Andrew Cooley of the Diocese of Colorado said:

"We are in a centrifuge that is spinning faster and faster, so the left and the right look the same. The center requires strength, courage and a deliberation to remain."

bulletTim Baer of the Diocese of Oklahoma said:

"I realized at this General Convention that I represent the mushy middle. I hope someday in the future the church I love so much will be beyond this debate and engaged in mission."

bulletThe Rev. John Spencer of the Diocese of Quincy said this resolution would not satisfy the requests made of the Episcopal Church by the Windsor Report:

"It's not even in the ballpark of the request. It's not even in the parking lot of the ballpark. [Adopting the language of this resolution] comes close to the height of hypocrisy". 6

The resolution fell far short of almost all of the requests cited in the Windsor report. The denomination:

bulletIgnored the request to express regret at the confirmation of Bishop Robinson's consecration. This would presumably require them to say that they had made a mistake.

bulletIgnored the request to express regret at the distress that their decisions caused to the larger Anglican Communion.

bulletImplied that the Episcopal Church wants to stay in the Anglican Communion.

bulletDid declare a non-binding suggestion for a moratorium on the future consecration priests who life exhibits certain,  not specifically stated, behaviors.
bulletIgnored the request for a firm moratorium on the recognition of loving, committed same-sex relationships.

bulletIgnored the request that their bishops be pressured to not allow same-sex rituals.

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This topic continues in Part 3

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References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "General Findings," Commission on Communion, at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/
  2. "On elections to the episcopate," Commission on Communion, at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/
  3. "On public Rites of Blessing of same sex unions," Commission on Communion, at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/
  4. Matthew Davies, "From Columbus: Major Windsor action draws mixed reactions," Episcopal News Service, 2006-JUN-21, at: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/
  5. "Final version...Resolution B033," at: http://gc2006.org/
  6. Pat McCaughan, et al,. "UPDATE: From Columbus: Convention responds to Windsor Report's call for moratorium," Episcopal News Service, 2006-JUN-21, at: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/
  7. George Byron Koch, "Future of the Episcopal Church and Church of the Resurrection, West Chicago," 2006-JUN-29, at: http://www.resurrection.org/

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Copyright © 2005 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-JUN-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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