Council to Primates

Well, it’s hard to see how Executive Council could have done anything else. Clearly, the Primates of the Anglican Communion have no authority to impose deadlines or new structures upon the Episcopal Church or any branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion. I wonder how the Church of England would have responded to similar requests — my guess is, exactly as we have…although the processes would have been quite different.

I would have preferred Council to have re-stated, as clearly as possible, what General Convention 2006 did say — requesting bishops and standing committees to withhold consent from any bishop-elect whose “manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.”

I would also have preferred Council state, even more clearly, that General Convention has not authorized a rite for the blessing of same sex unions, nor does such a rite exist in any of our official formularies. “Local option” falls under the general rubric of “pastoral care” and “pastoral provision” which even the Windsor Report allows.

It seems to me that, if Executive Council is “the General Convention” between General Conventions, it could have at least taken that responsibility rather than “pushing this down the road” to General Convention 2009.

Having said all that, I heartily approve of Council’s reassertion of Baptism as our ultimate source of communion and of the acknowledgment that, at the end of the day,  all this church  has to offer the Communion or the wider church and world is “who we are,” not who or what others would like us to be.

16 Responses to “Council to Primates”

  1. thomas bushnell, bsg Says:

    wow, you like B033? even with its deliciously dishonest language? wow. i’m stunned. (if the dishonesty doesn’t appall you, it should, with the bizarre talk of a “manner of life” that “presents a challenge”; do divorced-and-remarried clergy count? what about people who treat waiters badly? what about people who talk uncomfortably about the rights of the poor to a decent wage? some of them certainly “present a challenge”.

    no, we are all supposed to know what it means without speaking the words. we are supposed to know that, while it appears to be written in gentle broad and generic terms, it’s really only about nasty queers, and the rest of the folk who might present a challenge need not worry. if B033 had just said what it meant, that is, “we urge people not to ordain nasty queers to be bishops anymore”, it would at least be honest.

    it would also not have passed. surely that means something, right?

    i don’t see any of the bishops laying themselves down for this unity. just sticking it to other folks.

    no, “restating” B033 would be dishonest, because B033 does not mean what it says. and to restate what it means is too offensive, so the executive council wisely did what it did.

    i wholeheartedly approve.

  2. ecubishop Says:

    I guess I just don’t see how we can continue to cite General Convention as our ‘highest decision making authority” and ignore its resolutions.

    B033 is not perfect, but it makes a contribution toward resolving the debate about whether bishops and standing committees are only supposed to certify that proper processes were followed in diocesan elections or actually serve as a kind of “checks and balances” system.

    I have always believed it is the latter. Elections of bishops are, first and foremost, a diocesan responsibility; but bishops also play a larger role in signifying and symbolizing the unity of the church across time and geography.

    Since this is true, the larger church has a responsibility in certifying episcopal elections.

    In the future, a diocese may well elect a partnered gay or lesbian person to be its bishop. As in the case of Bishop Robinson, the wider church will have a say in that.

    This time, bishops and standing committees will have to make into their discernment process B033. How that will play out…only time will tell.

    (PS: I interpret “manner of life” much more broadly than sexual orientation)

  3. thomas bushnell, bsg Says:

    respect for the gc, among other things, means respect for its canons, which B033 has no power to supersede or affect in any way. the primates got that, understood it, and their ultimatum was designed to avoid it. they wanted an assurance that B033 would be more than just a piece of advice, of no actual legal effect at all.

    respect for gc does not include giving effect to the homophobic attitudes and scapegoating which lay behind B033; sometimes all obedience requires is simple obedience to legal requirement. B033 sets up none, and has only the force of its own reasoning.

    any bishop who withholds consent to a gay electee in the future cannot point to B033 as some kind of excuse for a bigoted action. this makes B033 of no moral force whatsoever.

  4. ecubishop Says:

    The canons absolutely allow bishops and standing committees to withhold, as well as to grant, consent to episcopal elections. Always have…always will…

  5. thomas bushnell, bsg Says:

    of course, the question is what a particular vote says about the moral character of the person casting it. sometimes voting “yes” marks one as a scoundrel, and sometimes voting “no” does so. in neither case does a resolution like B033 play any role in the process.

    what i am insisting on is that, if a gay candidate is again elected in the near future, any bishop who withholds consent simply because they candidate is gay, is a moral scoundrel, and B033 does nothing to change that. it cannot turn an act of cowardice and evil into a good thing!

    this makes B033 even more vicious than many have realized. if it were canonical legislation, it would be bad, but what it is is actually worse.

  6. ecubishop Says:

    Well, it must be nice to have things so clear. Some of us live in a much more nuanced and complicated world. “Moral scoundrels” and “cowards” are not categories I would be prepared to ascribe to my sisters and brothers in the House of Bishops. (And, like so many others, you seem to persist in laying all this upon bishops. Standing Committees — made up of lay and clergy — will have the same “opportunities” to define themselves, in your judgmental categories, as scoundrels and cowards).

  7. thomas bushnell, bsg Says:

    i think it would be crystal clear to you if the issue were race, would it not?

    (and yes, standing committees are under the same obligations to exercise their own discretion, and not be swayed by such things as B033.)

  8. thomas bushnell, bsg Says:

    following on my previous follow up (and i’ve said enough, so i’ll shut up now):

    it is crystal clear to me that i, and other gay people, are deserving of exactly equal treatment as straight people, in every respect, in every way. there is, indeed, no ambiguity about this in my mind. this applies across the board, in every area of society and church.

    if it is unclear, or filled with gray, then that must be because you are not convinced of this. i am saddened, and i hope i have misunderstood, because i thought you were convinced of such. i have been writing on the assumption that we do agree that equal treatment is a moral obligation.

  9. ecubishop Says:

    My brother,

    Of course I am convinced of that fact. I am also convinced that the unity of the church is another “good” to be valued, worked and prayed for. I am convinced that the Bible and the moral and ethical consensus of the Christian church across the ages carry weight as well.

    Change does not come easily, and many equally valid claims and positions must be worked out in communty, over time. This cannot be easy for the marginalized and excuded. It never has been.

    But “the moral arm of the universe is long…and it bends toward justice.”

  10. Linda in Iowa Says:

    With all due respect, it is unfair for non-GLBT persons to place the burden of the “unity of the church” more heavily on us than on themselves. If GLBT persons who have received the amazing, God-given gift of a faithful, committed relationship with another person, must become celibate or else be denied the ALSO God-given gift of vocation to the episcopate…. (for the sake of the unity of the church) — then non-gay persons should be subject to the same requirement. Otherwise this is nothing more than hypocrisy and oppression of a minority to ensure the comfort of a majority. I hardly think that’s the kind of “unity” Christ prayed for!

  11. ecubishop Says:

    The kind of unity Christ prayed for is a long, long way off. We may never get there, but we are called to try. Until that time, we live in an imperfect world and church in which mutual and sometimes competing “goods” will always be in tension.

    So, we take two steps foward, one step back…sometimes one step forward and two steps back…in one area while we take one step forward, two steps back and vice versa in another area. It’s frustrating…painful…maddening sometimes.

    It’s called “the way of the cross.” Which, we are promised, is also “the way of life.”

  12. Linda in Iowa Says:

    If we truly want to follow the way of the cross, we should ALL follow it — on equal terms. If we want celibate bishops, they should ALL be celibate. It is wrong to impose a “cross” on those of us who are gay/lesbian that our non-gay brothers and sisters are unwilling to bear themselves.

    There is indeed life in pouring out ourselves — but not in pouring out someone else while preserving one’s own privilege. The Church has learned or more accurately, is still learning) that lesson regarding race and gender — but clearly it has not yet learned it in regard to sexual orientation/identity. We have a long, long way to go. And the cross is being carried much more heavily by some than others.

    What was that Caiaphas said about it being “expedient” ….. ?

  13. ecubishop Says:

    The cross has always been “carried much more heavily by some than others.” For example — the prophets, Jesus, some of the apostles, all of the martyrs.

    Did they always do it “cheerfully?” Even “willingly?” Nope.

    Did history eventually exonerated…and then celebrate their heroic witness?


    What is the vocation of gay and lesbian Christians today in this regard?

    Only they can answer that.

  14. Linda in Iowa Says:

    It is true that only we gay and lesbian Christians can answer for what our vocations are today. That is precisely why B033 was so wrong. It placed yet another millstone around our necks. We’ve been told all our lives by the Church that we are “less” than our brothers and sisters. We didn’t need another iteration. It was an act of spiritual violence against us, of which the church needs to repent — not to continue to attempt to defend, excuse, or justify.

    As a good friend of my mine likes to say: You never get to a good destination by travelling down an evil road. B033 is not a road to a good destination.

    Our non-gay brothers and must should not enjoin involuntary celibacy on us unless they are ready and willing to take it on themselves. If our non-gay brothers and sisters graciously ‘go first’ rather than reserving their own privilege for themselves, that will be a witness of true integrity. But I doubt there would be many votes in either House for that!

    I believe we could all benefit from regular re-reading of Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. It is too easy to excuse present injustice by invoking “eventual progress” and future justice.

  15. Linda in Iowa Says:

    sorry – typos in the 2nd paragraph….

    The first sentence should begin:
    Our non-gay brothers and sisters must not enjoin…..

  16. thomas bushnell, bsg Says:

    I believe Linda is saying that this talk of “two steps forward and one step back” is rather hollow and empty when those in privilege take care to make sure they are never taking any of the backward steps, but always seem to find others to take them instead.

    Indeed, some bear the cross more heavily, but woe to those who pile burdens upon the backs of others!

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