Friday, July 17, 2009

Going Dark

Consummatum Est

My vacation now begins. I shall fast from blogging for the balance of the month. Still checking email. Actually, it checks me.

On the Eve of the End

Don't you just love double entendres?

The title of this post refers to the fact that General Convention ends tomorrow. But still ...

After thinking that C056 would come up today, and then finding out that it's scheduled for a "time certain" at 9:30 AM tomorrow, the rest of the day was kind of anti-climactic.

The low-light: By a relatively close vote by orders (only 55% of the clergy deputations), the Deputies called on Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, and urged "all Episcopalians" to join in that effort.

The high-light: After an emotional (and worse still, emotion-based) appeal to give the eighteen members of the "official youth presence" not only the seat and voice they already enjoy, but the vote as well, sanity and rationality suddenly (and temporarily, no doubt) invaded the House and the resolution was discharged to the Standing Committee on Constitution and Canons for further study during the triennium. Once we start using demography rather than geography to govern the church, there will be toothpaste all over the counter that we will never get back into the tube.

The no-light: After an hour of quite tedious debate, we passed a budget. It is severely straitened in comparison with its predecessor, in view of drastically reduced income projections. This means that quite a number of jobs will be lost at the Episcopal Church Center in New York City (aka '815'). While I feel appropriate sorrow for those whose lives will be adversely affected by these cuts, they are, on the whole, a good thing for the church. The 815 bureaucracy has been bloated for decades. Since bureaucracies are inherently incapable of self-reform, they require a kick-start from outside. The drying-up income stream is providing us just that.

Over in the House of Bishops, a minority report is circulating that is already being referred to as the Anaheim Statement. We may look back on this as the activation of what has been referred to as the "Communion Partners strategy." Communion Partners Bishops (full-disclosure: my bishop is one) and Communion Partners Rectors (full-disclosure: I am one) is a still fairly loose coalition of bishops and clergy whose discerned call is to remain in fellowship with the Episcopal Church but to clearly differentiate themselves from its institutional leadership, such that, in the event that TEC is placed on "associate" status within the Anglican Communion, they will have an umbrella under which they can gather to escape whatever sanctions are imposed and remain in unhindered communion with the See of Canterbury.

At any rate, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it. I have a huge reservoir of goodwill toward my friends who are in the ACNA. I wish them well. And I am not called to be with them. I am called to bear witness in the Episcopal Church--to do my job as well and as faithfully as I am empowered to. It will not be a cakewalk. It will hurt. It hurts already. Bring it.

One of the curious aspects of my convention experience this time has been the number of people--strangers, mostly--who come up to me and shake my hand and look me sincerely in the eye and say something like: "I don't agree with your positions, but I'm sure glad you're here. We need your voice." I generally smile as graciously as I can and thank them. Here's the response I wish I'd given, and will do so on any future such opportunity: "And as one whose views are aligned with the majority position in the Anglican Communion, I sure wouldn't want to lose you becasue of your dissenting views. I'm glad you're with us. We need your voice. Please don't leave." The biggest irony in Anaheim is that the convention theme--Ubuntu: You in me and I in you--is being understood totally from a constricted provincial perspective. The universe in which the "spirit of Ubuntu" is ackowledged to operate is limited to "this church." If we were able to get beyond our own collective narcissism, and hear the rest of the Anglican Communion saying "Ubuntu" to us, we would see what hypocrites we are.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What to Say?

In all likelihood, C056, the resolution on rites for blessing same-sex relationships passed by the House of Bishops yesterday, will show up on the HOD legislative calendar sometime today (which will probably include an evening session), and certainly by tomorrow morning. Debate time is already limited to one minute per speaker, and there will be lots who want to speak, so I don't know whether I'll even get the chance. But if I do, here's what I plan to say:

Madam President, if I had a dollar for every person who has come up to me during this convention and said something like, "I don't usually agree with you, but I'm sure glad you're here; we need your voice," I could finance a day at Disneyland. want my voice? Here's my voice: If there was any ambiguity in D025--and I have contended that there is, at some cost to my credibility--then there is absolutely none in this resolution. When we pass it, we will in that moment be undoing every shred of work that this church has done over the last four years in response to the Windsor Report. Time does not permit me to enumerate all the work that will be nullified by this action. We are utterly rejecting Windsor and the hope for life in communion that it represents. On this day my church is covering itself with shame, and I am profoundly sorrowful. What you are about to do, do quickly.

Jesus is Lord and God is good. But my next post will be from the bottom of a well. May the holy prophet Jeremiah pray for us.

Some of the Dust Has Settled

I'm writing late on Wednesday night, after the astonishing vote in the House of Bishops approving the development of rites for the blessing of same-sex unions and implicit permission given to bishops in civil jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is permitted to adapt current liturgies to such circumstances.

If there was ambiguity surrounding D025--and I have contended that there is--there is none here. This convention (when the Deputies concur with the Bishops tomorrow) has abrogated every positive gesture it has made toward the Anglican Communion since 2003. Everything we did three years ago in response to the Windsor Report is down the drain. The resolution on the Anglican Covenant that the HOD approved only today is of no import with respect to the rest of the Communion.

This is a dark day. It is a day that will live in infamy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Letting the Dust Settle

I've taken a good bit of friendly fire over the last 24 hours (see comments on recent posts) over my ... shall we say ... "less than inflammatory" assessment of B025.

OK. It was an attempt at spin control. Not a very successful one, apparently. Far be it from me to argue with the Bishops of Sherborne and Durham and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Before I repent in dust and ashes, however, I'm going to let some of the dust settle. Even some "progressive" voices (see here and here)--those whom you would most expect to be driving the point home that we are in a "post-B033 era"--do not believe that this convention's action is tantamount to a lifting of the moratorium imposed by B033. The Presiding Bishop herself is quoted as saying that the call to "restraint" (remember: restraint in consent, not in election) remains in effect.

Let me reiterate: I voted against B025--twice, actually (since the Deputies had to concur with the Bishops' amended version)--and was lined up to speak against it on the floor when the time for debate expired. It is a lamentable piece of legislation. And it may indeed yet turn out to be the end of the world--at least the Anglican world as we know it and have grown comfortable with it.

But we don't know that yet.

Not yet.

Latest on D020

Here's the text of the substitute for D020 that Committee 13 passed yesterday morning:

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church commend the Anglican Covenant proposed in the most recent text of the Covenant Design Group (the "Ridley Cambridge Draft") and any successive drafts to the dioceses for study and comment during the coming triennium; and be it further

Resolved, That dioceses report on their study to the Executive Council in keeping with Resolution 2006-A166; and be it further

Resolved, That Executive Council prepare a report to the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church that includes draft legislation concerning this Church's response to an Anglican Covenant; and be it further

Resolved, That dioceses and congregations be invited to consider the Anglican Covenant proposed draft as a document to inform their understanding of and commitment to our common life in the Anglican Communion.

It's considerably weaker than what I originally proposed, but considerably stronger than what I actually expected would emerge from the committee. I am, as I said earlier, "not dissatisfied" with the result. It passed by the convention, it would be a positive gesture toward the covenant that is particularly necessary now in light of what else we've just done. I think the final "Resolved" clause is particularly helpful.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Another Update

As expected, the Committee on World Mission (#8) recommended concurrence with B025 as amended by the HOB. There was little debate. One member moved another amendment, but when the committee was reminded by the (HOD) chair that to amend it would place the whole resolution at risk of a fatal encounter with the adjornment of convention, the proposal was soundly defeated.

In other news ... the committee overwhelmingly approved a substitute for my D020 resolution on the covenant. It's one I and the other sponsors were allowed input on as it was developing last night, and I am grateful for that. It's not everything I might have dreamed in an ideal world, but I am ... how shall I put it? ... not displeased. When I have access to an electronic copy, I'll post it.

A Brief Note

Alas, I got back to my room too late to blog coherently last night, and this morning D020 (my resolution on the Covenant) is being considered by Committee 8, so I want/need to be there.

The big news yesterday, of course, is that the House of Bishops concurred (essentially) with D025, and by a surprisingly (IMO) wide margin--something like 2:1. They did amend it, but the amendments are not substantive in either direction, nor are they clarifying, so I don't anticipate it will have any trouble passing the HOD when it comes back.

What does this mean? It's too early to tell, really. It's being spun different ways. You already know my take. In the HOD, the President's chancellor said during debate, "This does not repeal B033." I know of at least one self-identified "conservative" deputy (not from a diocese known for being so) who voted Aye for that reason. In the HOB, there is a reported exchange between the Bishop of Kentucky and the Presiding Bishop to the same effect. I hope reactivity can be kept low. In any case, it's not convention that decides to end a moratorium; it's the Standing Committees and Bishops-with-jurisdiction who decide to do so by giving consent. Let's see the big picture.

Monday, July 13, 2009

General Convention Journal, Day Seven (Sunday)

(Comments on D025 are below. Scroll down if that's what you're after. I'll give it a bold heading.)

The only Sunday falling within the dates of convention is, appropriately, less hectic (unless you're on Committee 26 in 2006, but that's another story). The first item on the schedule was a joint Eucharist with General Convention and the ECW Triennial (which always meets concurrently, reflecting a bygone era when women were not eligible for election as deputies). This event includes a sort of Grand UTO Ingathering, and all the bishops vest and process in together, so there's a lot of eye candy.

That said, I chose not to attend! Instead, I sprang for a nine-mile cab ride to the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in nearby Placentia. I needed a break from the General Convention bubble, and I've known the rector there for a long time. As it turned out, there were probably a dozen or so other attendees who, like me, had temporarily escaped from Anaheim. Blessed Sacrament (as you might infer from its name) is an Anglo-Catholic parish, with a robust liturgical tradition. As the Mass was about to begin, there weren't very many people in the church, and I thought to myself, "Summer Sunday, lots of people on vacation." But they just kep trickling in, and by the time we all stood to sing the Nicene Creed, I looked around and the church was full. And I have to say, they have an over-the-top impressively low median age--lots of babies, children, young families, and young singles. And they don't seem to pander in any way in order to attract such a youthful demographic; the liturgy was Rite Two "with an attitude." All the music was quite traditional, and everybody sang heartily. So much for some of the stereotypes about what churches have to do to attract young people.

Now, the beauties of the electronic age revealed themselves in all their splendor yesterday morning. I mentioned in a Facebook comment that I would be attending Blessed Sacrament. One of my FB "friends," a former parishioner from Stockton, happend to be in Orange County, and Blessed Sacrament is the church they frequent when they're in the area (although they had another place to be yesterday). So, thanks to my iPhone, we were able to stay in touch and I had a delightful rendezvous and lunch with the family, plus they gave me a ride back to Anaheim! Thank-you 3G.

By this time it was 2 PM, so back to business. After a brief meeting with a few Communion Partners rectors for such meager legislative strategizing is available to a marginal minority party, it was on to the floor of the HOD.

The time soon arrived for what they call a "Special Order"--an item deemed sufficiently high-profile as to not be required to wait its turn in the normal work flow, but is escorted to the head of the line. There was special rules for debate. I won't give you the play-by-play, because that is amply available elsewhere from some of the "live blogger" sites. So let me just cut right to the chase and give you my own personal take on what we did.

I voted against the resolution, and was in line to speak against it when the time for debate expired. I can actually support about 95% of it, but the pendultimate Resolved clause it problematic:

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm that God has called and may call such individuals to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church, which call is tested through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church;

("Such persons," of cource, refers to partnered GLBT folks.)

The reason this language is problematic is that, in the minds of many, it will be interpreted as "moving beyond" B033, and thus abrogating its effect. In this time of continued strained relationships within the Anglican Communion, we need to avoid throwing gasoline on the embers, and this resolution has that potential.

However, after some conversation last night, and some sleep, I would characterize D025 as "the best of the worst." Yes, it walks right up to the repeal of B033, looks it in the eye and shakes its hand. But it stops short of a full embrace. It affirms that we will follow nothing but our constitution and canons in the discernment of vocation of candidates for ordination (candidates for the episcopate is actually the implied subtext). But B033 doesn't touch on discernment; it calls for restraint in consent to certain elections. This may seem like a small distinction, and it is certainly a subtle one, but I believe it is highly significant. It is precisely the difference between B033, which passed the convention three years ago, and the ill-fated A161, the defeat of which occassioned the necessity of B033. D025 says, "We will follow our own procedures in disernment, and partnered gays will have full access to that process." But it remains mute on B033's call to "show restraint by not consenting." It is not a full-on abrogation of B033. It flirts with doing so, but doesn't pull the trigger. So there you have it.

Along the way, my name was placed in nomination from the floor for election to Executive Council. The words "snowball" and "hell" keep occurring to me, so I'm trying not to get worried.

In the evening, it was my privilege and delight to be part of a three-person roundtable discussion sponsored by The Living Church at a nearby restaurant. The subject was "The Promise of Catholic Communion," and I was assigned to talk about the political dimension of Catholic Anglicanism. It was a stimulating time spent with some very bright people. In due course, I hope to post a written-out version of the notes from which I spoke.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

General Convention Journal, Day Six (Saturday)

I awoke (at a more decent hour, finally) without any specific plans, but something told me that Committee 8 (World Mission) was where the action would be, and I was right. When I arrived, they were in the process of "perfecting" (a technical paliamentary term) Resolution D025. If you follow my Twitter stream (also available here), you saw some of the play-by-play. This one will come to the Deputies first. We've already been forewarned that there will be a "special order" for debate, as is always the case for highly controversial issues, with stricter time limits (two minutes per speaker, total of one hour), and minimum time-into-debate requirements before procedural motions and amendments/substitutes are in order. Here's my take: I'm going to speak and vote against it. Peel way all the irenic verbiage, and it's an unmistakable swipe at B033. That said, it's not the worst possible outcome for the matter. I can agree with about 95% of it, everything except the penultimate Resolved clause. If this is as bad as it gets, I will be somewhat pleasantly surprised. I can guarantee that Integrity & Friends will not be overjoyed by it. As someone said to me, "It doesn't give B033 a middle finger; just a polite wave goodbye." Either way, though, B033 will still be gone, so I must oppose this resolution.

An unexpected moment of muted drama came when a resolution was put before us that would have changed the Rules of Order to require all, rather than a majority, of three deputation "halves" (i.e. either the clergy or laity) to ask for a vote by orders. (A vote by orders is a parliamentary maneuver that has the effect of making it more difficult for a resolution to be adopted. It requires a majority vote by a majority of all the clergy deputations and a majority vote of a majority of all the lay deputations. A divided vote [i.e. 2-2] is recorded as a Nay.) Since the "minority party" in the House will certainly want to call for a vote by orders on a handful of critical resolutions, this attempt to raise the bar was not welcome, and I am happy to say it was defeated by super-majority of 72%-28%.

For lunch, a friend and I walked briskly up the western (outer) edge of the Disney theme parks to an area styled Downtown Disney--a Main Street-like arcade of shops and eateries. We both thought the exercise would be salutary, and it was. We were warm, though; temps were in the mid-80s (yes, I know, it's a "dry heat"; point conceded). Our meal was tasty and served promptly, but, like everything else around here, horrendously overpriced.

The afternoon legislative session was fairly routine. The highlight ("lowlight," actually) was a presentation by representatives of five other Anglican provinces (Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Canada, and New Zealand). The final speaker--Dr Jenny Te Paa, a theologian of some renown and a member of the original Lambeth Commission that produced the Windsor Report)--went on for a good fifteen minutes and effectively said, "Episcopal Church, be yourself! Do what you know you're called to do. The rest of the Communion needs your witness and nothing is going to break up because of you." In my opinion, this was a rather blatant abuse of the courtesy of the floor. Three years ago, when the Archbishop of York was present for several days, and the Bishop of Durham was conspicuously present by proxy, there were angry cries against "foreign interference." This year, when the House of Deputies is subjected to what amounts to an hour of propoganda from Integrity & Friends, what do we hear? A standing ovation and a request for transcripts of their remarks. Disconnect, anyone?

This was the evening customarily dedicated to dinners put on by the various seminaries. The Nashotah House event was cocktails and "heavy hors d'ourves," which, of course, it's easy enough to make a meal of. I'm not much of a "mixer," but I ended up having three fairly long and significant one-on-one conversations, two with people I have known from the past, and one with someone I've only met personally at this convention. I'm amazed and gratified by the feedback I'm getting that my writing--including my writing on this humble blog--touches people's lives positively.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


From Fr Nathan Humphrey's blog (on Facebook), reflecting on the PHOD's sermon yesterday:

This General Convention seems a bit more sedate—at least on the surface—because almost all of the conservative “troublemakers” are conspicuously absent. Does this make the spiritual practice of “unity” easier? Or infinitely more difficult as a result.

General Convention Journal, Day Five (Friday)

I got up and out earlier than usual to see whether the Committee on World Mission would be discussing, and attempting to "perfect" B020. When I arrived at the committee room at about 7:45, they were considering other matters, so I came back to my hotel room and took care of various home-related matters by phone.

The first legislative session of the day began at 9:30. After plowing through a few items on the Consent Calendar, we adjourned once again into a Committee of the Whole. For this, there was only enough time allotted for about 30 speakers, and only two minutes apiece. So there was a lottery: Last night anyone interested in speaking took a number. I intended to do so, but got distracted and forgot. So the chair of our deputation, who did not particularly intend to draw a number, was virtually given one unsolicited. When he learned I had forgotten, he gave his to me, which I dutifully accepted. When the time came, the "winning" numbers were projected on the screen and, sure enough, #31 was on the list, about in the middle of the pack.

Most of the speakers had carefully prepared remarks, but I had to wing it. In the midst of a bath of emotion, my plea was for some coolness and objectivity. B033 has accomplished exactly what it was intended to do: It got our Presiding Bishop a seat at the Primates' Meeting, it got our bishops to Lambeth, and it got our delegates to the Anglican Consultative Council seats in that assembly. It has secured the Episcopal Church's place in the Anglican Communion...but only for the time being. The situation is still tenuous. Archbishop Williams warned us only yesterday that our friends in other provinces are waiting with bated breath, hoping we don't take another step away from communion with them.

Of the 30 speakers, only about eight spoke in favor of retaining B033. My favorite images from that side of the discussion: An airplane needs both a left wing and a right wing to be able to fly. Get rid of either one and it can only fly into a death spiral. And ... we need to asked ourselves the question partners in a marriage often need to ask: Would I rather be right, or would I rather be married?

At 11 we broke for the midday Eucharist. I headed for the exhibit hall, which I have not been able to spend enough time in yet, but was waylaid by an old colleague from San Joaquin and someone whom I have "known" well online, but never met in person. I then repaired with a diocesan colleague to the hotel restaurant for an egregiosly overpriced lunch. When choices are limited, gouging happens.

As I looked at a free hour before the next session, I changed out of my clericals and hoofed it hard down Harbor Boulevard in search of a Target that someone told me was there. Sure enough, about a mile south of the convention center, there was Target. I stocked up on sugar-free snacks and headed back--again, at a demanding clip--and arrived at the HOD just in time to go back into action.

The afternoon was spent churning out legislation. A rhythm seems to develop at this point in the convention cycle. I continued to vote against all resolutions requiring program funding and, more particularly, against all resolutions that purport to affect public policy. (Blessedly, there are much fewer of these than there used to be.) The main drama of the day occurred over giving consent to an episcopal election for one of the (two) dioceses in Ecuador. I didn't see this one coming, and am not familiar with the details. But it is a bitter dispute between two impassioned factions in the diocese--one wanting the bishop-elect consented to, and the other claiming foul play in the process. Adding to the tension for members of the house was the fact that the debate was taking place in Spanish, with repeated requests from the interpreter to Slow Down. We didn't resolve the issue and will have to return to it later in the convention.

Since this is the evening of the unofficial but hugely popular Eucharist sponsored by Integrity--always a bit of a sacred cow at General Convention--there were no evening committee meetings. So it was back out to dinner with colleagues, and back to my room to blog!

Tomorrow's schedule is the same. If I were uber-consicentious, I would be studying tomorrow's calendar (to the extent that we have been given it) and getting prepared for things I might want to weigh in on. Realistically, that isn't going to happen, because I can barely stay awake at this moment.

Friday, July 10, 2009

General Convention Journal, Day Four (Thursday)

Apparently, I'm still not acclimated to the time zone because I was wide awake at 5:30 and actually decided to get up. There was an email waiting for me from a BBC radio producer about the possibility of a phone interview on Saturday. We'll see what develops, and I will post details when I have them.

Having opted out of attending any early morning committee meetings, I spent some time drafting the remarks I would make at the afternoon hearing on B0202 (see previous post).

In the runup to the 11:30 Eucharist, I wandered around the convention center area. It's amazing how I run into people I have known, either in past periods of my life, or through my presence in Anglican internet circles. But it just keeps happening, every day, every time I go outside my room, practically.

The space for the daily liturgies is, for me, not particularly conducive to my accustomed eucharistic piety. Some of that is because of the nature of the room (vaster than any cathedral nave in the world) and some if because I don't particularly like "what they've done with the place." But because the Archbishop of Canterbury was scheduled to give the homily, this is not one I wanted to miss. The music was eclectic (and loud), with a decided tilt in the direction of soul/gospel. The liturgy was a straight Rite II (with the exception of a not-quite-trinitarian final blessing), but celebrated in "Spanglish" by the Bishop of Los Angeles (who seems a little fond of catechizing about his idiosyncratic ways).

The picture is a little grainy because it was taken from a great distance and then severely cropped, but there is Rowan Williams himself, giving what by any measure was a sermon, though the program styled it a "meditation" and earlier announcements had said merely that he would be leading the convention in the "bible study." Whatever. It was a sermon, and an excellent one. The homily was prefaced, however, with some remarks that, once they are put through the sort of rhetorical amplifier that comments by Brits usually need to be put through, were quite pointed:
One thing you learn as ABC is that that everything you say is scrutinized. Today will be no exception. But because I do not like hidden agendas and because I believe they are part of a culture of suspicion. I will say two things quickly and directly so that we can reflect on the bible readings given to us today

1. Than you for the invitation to join you and to share my mind with you. Thank you too for your willingness to engage in the wider life of our communion. I realize this has been and is costly for different people in different ways., Some feel compromised, harassed, ungraciously received. I am sorry. This has been hard and will not get easier. But it is something for which we are grateful to you and to God

2. I am coming here with hopes and anxieties. I hope and pray that there will not be decisions in the coming days that will push us further apart. If people elsewhere in the Communion are concerned about this it is because of a profound sense of what TEC can give us world wide. If I felt we could do well without your presence there would not be a problem,. But the bonds of relationship are deep. The words of Paul are helpful here. In the middle of his tension tensions and the way of challenges were for Paul sharper than those we face. He writes: “Why? Because we do not love you. God knows we do.”
(Hat tip to Matt Kennedy for the transcript.)
There can be no doubt about how Archbishop Rowan feels about some key decisions facing this convention. This is a virtual slap upside the head.

After a hurried lunch, I came back to the Hilton for the D020 hearing (see previous post). Then it was time for another legislative session. The first substantive agenda item (after disposing of a dozen or so resolutions considered so non-controversial that they are placed on the "Consent Calendar," and cannot be debated) was supposed to be the election of new members of the Church Pension Fund Board. But there were embarrassing technical difficulties with the voting machines (a device resembling a TV remote at each Deputy's place), so we deferred that item and moved on to the first Committee-of-the-Whole session. After a slightly slanted account of the history of 2006 resolution B033, we were instructed to pair up with another Deputy whom we do not already know and spend 30 minutes sharing and discussing, 1) What is my story of B033? 2) What is the church's story of B033? 3) What is God calling us to do now? My partner was a female ordained Deputy from East Tennessee. We had a nice talk. She's basically in favor of the "inclusion" agenda, but very sensitive to the pastoral difficulties she and others will face back home should the convention push ahead in that direction, and, hence, conflicted within herself.

Bishop Little and Sylvia then hosted the Northern Indiana deputation in their suite for about 90 minutes, as we all shared informally our experience of convention. Then I went out for dinner (tasty Indian food, unfortunate service) with two other Deputies.

One of the developing undercurrents at this convention is a growing sense of friction between the two houses. I encourage you to take a look here for some incisive comments.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

D020 Update

The hearing for my resolution took place at 2 PM (PDT) this afternoon. I signed up first, so I spoke first. Here are the notes I spoke from:

As the principal sponsor of this resolution, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to it.

First, a word about timing:

If you check your calendar, you’ll see that the deadline for pre-filed resolutions was before the most recent meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council.

My co-sponsors and I wanted to get something in the pipeline before the deadline because we believed it important that this convention address the emerging Anglican Covenant in some way.

We gambled by referencing the most recent draft at the time: Cambridge Ridley.

As you know, ACC signed off on Secs. 1-3, but referred Sec. 4 to a sub-group for further refinement.

I can understand how some might see D020 as either moot or premature because of this—i.e. the Covenant is as yet “incomplete.”

Consequently … were I a member of this committee, I would move to amend the resolution to refer specifically only to Sections I, II, & III, rather than to the whole document, and I encourage you to do so.

Finally, I need to stress that this resolution is not, nor is it intended to be, a de facto acceptance by the Episcopal Church of an Anglican Covenant. The Covenant is still a work in progress, so there is as yet nothing to “accept.”

What D020 does do is commit us to voluntarily, for the next triennium, using the spirit and language of Secs. I-III of Cambridge-Ridley as a point of reference in our corporate actions—something that we will hold ourselves accountable to while our partner churches in the Anglican Communion also discern how a Covenant might enhance our common life in Christ.


Being limited to two minutes, I had to edit myself on the fly, so here's what I did not say:

Either in its current form, or as amended in the way I have suggested, D020 represents an expression of good faith on the part of TEC to persist in the spirit of several 2006 resolutions that were overwhelmingly passed in response to the Windsor Report; including A159 on interdependence in the Anglican Communion and A160, wherein we expressed our regret for not having properly considered the impact of certain decisions were had made three years earlier would have on the “bonds of affection” within the communion.

I would suggest that these bonds of affection remain “strained” even now, so any step we might take to ease the strain would be like healing oil on the wounds of the communion we profess ourselves to be a constituent member of.

I was questioned quite extensively. People wanted to know what the word "provisional" means (I said "temporary"), whether amending it to "receive" rather than "commit to" would gut its intent (it would), and whether the clause calling for a Task Force might be redundant (it probably is).

Christopher Wells followed me, and masterfully lifted up (as best as can be done in two minutes) sections of the text that are particularly rich and challenging (as only Christopher can do). Then Bruce Robison drove our points home eloquently. But there were at least eight other "pro" speakers, including four Deputies from Albany and their Bishop. A priest from Texas and one from Colorado were both exceptionally able and vigorous advocates.

On the "con" side were a priest from Long Island ("the souffle isn't done yet so let's not try to eat it"), the Bishop of Wyoming ("this would distract us from some other important things we need to get done"), a seminary professor from GTS ("massively premature"), and a theologian and professor visiting from Oxford ("even the C of E won't be able to adopt a covenant because it would abrogate Parliament's authority"). All these objections are easily answerable, but we've had out crack to it will have to be up to our allies on the committee.

I never expected this resolution to actually pass convention intact, and I still don't. I wanted to make sure the Covenant got serious discussion in Anaheim, and that goal has already been met. As for what will eventually get reported out to the floor, my guess is that a sub-committee will draft something that affirms our participation in the covenant process, and commits us to studying the final Covenant draft (with re-worked Part IV) when it becomes available. So D020's moment in the sun will be brief before it melts under the relentless heat of majoritarian hegemony. But the church will have to some extent been kept honest in the meantime.

Convention Journal, Day Three (Wednesday)

What in General Convention parlance is known as the First Legislative Day got going at 8 AM. There wasn't much to actually do, but it was necessary to jump through several hoops by way of "organizing" each House--electing a Secretary, Treasurer, and a bunch of other officers, sending two emissaries to the House of Bishops to let them know formally that we are ready to do business (and receiving parallel emissaries from the HOB). I was kind of impressed by all this stuff at my first convention in 2003, but am less so now. It's a pretty boring way to blow an hour, but I understand that it has to be done.

Adapting the Anglican dictum regarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation--"All may, many should, none must"--I applied it to the question of attending the first daily Eucharist, and opted to troll the Exhibit area instead. One of the exhibitors is Sue Grisham from the Diocese of Chicago. Her vocation is to raise the church's consciousness about animal rights. It's not a passion I particularly share, but I certainly honor the strength of her commitment. She and I "met" in 2003 when I successfully amended on the floor a resolution of hers that spoke of animals as "our neighbors" whom we are bound to love. Since I was planning a steak dinner that evening, I was trying to reconcile loving my neighbor with eating my neighbor and it wasn't working for me. But I'm glad to say Sue and I have had a cordial relationship since then, and I was glad to tell her that I could support her agenda when it comes to the "pupply mills" that are alarmingly numerous in Indiana.

I also had a good visit with David Kalvelage and his assistant at the booth operated by The Living Church, a publication I have read consistently for 30 years and which I feel a special kinship with since my good friend Christopher Wells is taking the reins there as Executive Director this coming September.

Toward the beginning of convention, time is weighted in favor of committee meetings and away from legislative plenaries, since the committees are the engines that feed legislation to the Houses, and they need time to crank up their output. Once again I sat in on Committee 13's deliberations on the sanctoral calendar project (Holy Women, Holy Men). Last night they kicked the matter to a subcomittee, and this morning the subcommittee recommended moving ahead, with some minor technical corrections, into a sort of "trial use on steroids" period, wherein certain congregations (presumably those with a daily Eucharist) would be proactively asked to provide feedback during the next two years. Then, in the final year of the triennium, the SCLM would evaluate the feedback and propose deletions of some names (presumably), and alterations in the propers. In 2012, those additions that survived intact (i.e. no changes in propers) would be up for an official second reading and, if passed, inclusion in the BCP calendar. Those that are omitted would be omitted, and those where changes are suggested would remain in trial use for yet another triennium. My own personal mission with respect to this project will be to work on the collects and pester the SCLM, piecemeal, with proposed emendations that restore the word "Lord" to the standard doxological conclusion of most of them, as it the norm in Christian liturgical prayer. Privately, during a break, some key members of the committee indicated to me that there is a widespread perception of weakness in the collects, so I am cautiously optomistic about getting some traction.

After a discussion of some technical issues regarding how the new volume will be printed, the subcommittee's report was adopted, thus sending HWHM to the HOB, which is the designated "House of Initial Action" on all resolutions having to do with liturgy. The Deputies will see it only if the Bishops approve it. My general impression--and this is more intuitive than anything else--is that the committee did what they did without a huge amount of enthusiasm, but realized they don't have the time during this convention to pick through the 112 newbies individually and hear testimony and hold debate. I'm fairly certain that if somebody had made the motion, John Muir and John Calvin would have been shown the door peremptorily. But they just didn't want to open that can of worms, and rather than slap the hand of the SCLM, whose members have poured hundreds of hours of labor into this, they crafted the "enhanced trial use" proposal. I would have hoped for re-referral, but I'm willing to give this idea a chance.

After lunch, there were more committee meetings scheduled, but I took the opportunity for the sort of down time that introverts need and caught up with some parish duties by email and a VPN connection to the St Anne's server.

Both Houses re-convened at 4:30, and this time there was actual legislative work to do (i.e. resolutions that had emerged from committee meetings earlier in the day). We gave consent to two episcopal elections (South Dakota and Long Island) that had occurred within the time frame that feeds the question to General Convention (rather than Standing Committees). We gave Forward Movement (official purveyor of tracts) its triennial mandate and funding, authorized the production of AIDS education materials, and approved a set of Mission Budget Priorities for the coming triennium; these are 1) Networking the members of the Body of Christ (vagaries re collaboration and communication), 2) Alleviating Poverty & Injustice (MDGs, etc.), 3) Claiming Our Identity (jazzing up awareness of an identification with the Episcopal "brand"), 4) Growing Congregations and the Next Generations of Faith (evangelism, lifelong learning, spiritual discipline, etc.), and 5) Strengthening Governance & Foundations for Ministry (leadership development, collaboration with seminaries, structural issues).

With the exception of the episcopal election consents, I voted No. Here's why: With the exception of basic and specialized services from agencies that are quasi-independen--like the Church Pension Group, and the Church Deployment Office--I have very little confidence in anything that comes out of 815. Were I the dictator, we would sell the building, fire the staff, and move HQ to some place in the middle of the country close to a major airport, have a General Secretary who shares office space and a receptionist with an insurance agent and a solitary CPA or lawyer, and a Presiding Bishop who is in charge of an actual diocese and just shows up to wield a gavel at HOB meetings. Eventually I'll get my way, not because I persuade anyone, but because of economic necessity. In the meantime, I vote No on anything with funding implications. But nobody should worry; I'm invariably a lone voice!

One item I feel positively about is a resolution from the Committee on World Mission regarding the Five Marks of Mission. These were enacted many years ago by two successive meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council, but have never been formally adopted by the Episcopal Church. If the House of Bishops agrees, they soon will be. They are:

1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.
2. To teach, baptize, and nuture new believers.
3. To respond to human need by loving service.
4. To seek to transform unjust structures of society.
5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

The resolution calls for these Five Marks to guide the preparation of funding priorities, not for the immediate coming triennium (the priorities for which have already been set), but for the one following. These five marks, and the order in which they appear, are something I can heartily endorse. I voted Yes, along with an overwhelming majority. (Oddly, the deputation to our left, from the Diocese of Olympia, voted No because of their principled opposition to one convention presuming to bind the will of a following convention.)

The only potentially controversial item on the afternoon's agenda was a proposal to adopt a Special Order to adjourn into a Committee of the Whole on Thursday afternoon. This will be for the purpose of discussing the 2006 resolution B033, which effectively created a moratorium on the consecration of any more bishops who are in partnered same-sex relationships. There would be no resolution on the floor and no vote taken. The Committee on World Mission would make a brief presentation, and then Deputies who had drawn "winning" lottery numbers would be allowed to speak for up to three minutes each. In the time alloted, this means that no more than about 20 or 30 individuals would be able to speak.

The presumptive purpose of this exercise would be to give the HOD an opportunity to epxress its mind informally on an issue about which some quite passionate convictions are held. My inner skeptic (yes, I have in inner skeptic in there somewhere, though I am not by nature skeptical) sees it as an attempt to exert extra pressure on the Bishops. The "Integrity & Friends" coalition sees--rightly so, IMO--the Bishops as the only force standing between them and complete political victory at this convention. They believe they have a lock on the HOD, and I suspect they're right. But they fear (and others hope) that the Bishops heard a persuasive "come to Jesus" talk at last summer's Lambeth Conference, and are more keenly aware than the deputies of what's at stake in further "straining the bonds of affection" in the Anglican Communion that are still not recovered from 2003. So I tend to see the Committee of the Whole maneuver as a way of turning up the heat under the Bishops' feet, and perhaps turn just enough of them to concur with whatever the Deputies do. Despite my No vote (and those of a few others), the motion carried handily. So we shall see.

I am told that the Committee on World Mission will hold a hearing on D020 tomorrow at 2 PM. I will be there to testify. If you are so inclined, be in prayer.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Convention Journal, Day Two (Tuesday)

I'm still not totally adjusted to the time zone, so this will not be as vebose as I might like it to be.

Since I'm not on a committee, the morning was leisurely for me. I got myself properly registered and then spent some time "casing the joint." Of course, it's impossible not to run into and exchange pleasantries with old friends and acquaintances from the 35 years that I've been an Episcopalian, and especially the last 20 that I have been ordained.

Convention began in earnest for me, though, with a hastily arranged strategizing lunch with the co-sponsors of my resolution on provisional acceptance of the Anglican Covenant (D-020) and some sympathetic members of the committee that will be considering it. I'm still not what you would call optomistic, but I am perhaps less pessimistic than I have been about it's chances of emerging from the committee in something resembling intact form. Political tactics are not my strong suit, so I appreciated everyone's input.

Everyone then reported to the hall where the daily liturgies will be celebrated for welcoming speeches from the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies. I was mildly suprised that the PB launched directly into the language of "crisis" to describe what we're facing. I would have expected some more of the usual "all is well"-speak, so on this I have to give her some credit for truth-telling. I give her less credit on her ability to articulate something I recognize as a gospel vision, but no surprises there.

We were then introduced to an activity that we will be invited to participate in a few more times during our stay in Anaheim--learning the techniques of something called "public narrative." As near as I can tell, it's basically a community-organizing practice adapted for the church. There's a lot that appears valuable at first glance, but I don't think it's an appropriate use of the time that the Bishops and Deputies are expecting to devote to the actual business of the convention.

Then we adjourned to our separate Houses. In the HOD we were oriented to the rules and procedures of the House, and finished about 5:30.

At 6:00, I had a brief meeting with some of the other Communion Partners Rectors. With the massive departures of members of the "right flank" of TEC over the last three years, we're now it. And there were about six of us! Needless to say, we don't have any grand strategic vision, and are mostly trying to provide one another with a modicum of support and encouragement in a larger environment that is singularly depressing.

At 7 I reported to the meeting room of Committee 13, Liturgy and Music. They were holding an open hearing on the set of resolutions dealing with the sanctoral calendar, and the proposed volume Holy Women, Holy Men (a replacement for Lesser Feasts & Fasts). I gave my spiel, suggesting that it needs more time in the oven, and that introducing 112 new commemorations in one lump is like asking the church to drink from a fire hose. I was not alone in my sentiments among those who testified. However, listeing to the committee begin its deliberations following the testimony, they appear to be leaning toward making a few tweaks in response to complaints (John Muir and John Calvin seem to be on the chopping block), but then sending the resolution out. So I may have to yet speak from the floor.

I left the meeting room before they were finished because it was getting late and I was getting hungry and other members of the deputation were waiting for me in order to catch dinner together. This was accomplished at Bubba Gump's Shrimp Company, where I fell on the diet wagon in a big way, succumbing to the garlic bread, white rice, and key lime pie. I can resist everything except temptation. Tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Convention Journal, Day One (Monday)

After 11. 5 hours of travel (drive 70 mi. to Dune Park Station--South Shore Electric, CTA Organe line to Midway [lugging 50 lb. suitcase up three flights of stairs], SWA to DEN and SNA [with only a long enough layover in Denver to find the next gate and board], SuperShuttle to the Anaheim Hilton), I got settled in around 4 PM. Caught an early dinner with some colleagues from the diocese (our bodies were on eastern time and we were famished). Forced myself to stay up to a locally reasonable hour in order to help get acclimated to Pacific Time. Welcomed another diocesean colleague (Christopher Wells) and had drinks while he ate dinner.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

False Premises

In an episode from the final season of the (late lamented) TV series The West Wing, Vice-Presidential candidate Leo McGarry is being prepped by an aide (I forget the character's name; the actress was Kristen Chenoweth, hardly forgettable) for a meeting with members of the media. She hits him with a mock question, and he begins to respond, and she cuts him off emphatically, "No! Don't accept the premise of the question." The premise, of course--invariably unspoken--sets up the logic by which the question must be answered. But that logic, and the answer it yeilds, are only as good (and true) as the underlying premise. I tried to shine a light on this dynamic in my previous post. But some of the responses I have received, both in the comments and privately, indicate that it's a subject that deserves further exploration.

Let's get back to the question of justice, which has been the consistent foundation of the arguments offered by those who are advocating that the traditional understanding of marriage be stretched into something that includes same-sex couples. (I understand that, in Episcopal Church politics on the eve of General Convention, there is more in play here than gay marriage, but--let's face it--it all boils down to that. Whether we're talking about actual marriage or marriage-like relationships being liturgically blessed and recognized as sacramental in nature, the premise is the same, and the matter of partnered lesbians and gays being consecrated to the episcopate then becomes simply a corrollary.) The talking point is something like this: Marriage is a sacramental relationship between two people, a relationship that participates in and is a sign of the mystery of God's redemptive love. So it is fundamentally unjust to extend the privileges of marriage to heterosexual couples and not also do so to homosexual couples. It amounts to invidious discrimination. Anyone who is baptized is potentially a candidate for any other sacrament.

Taken on its face, there is a certain inexorable logic to this line of reasoning. But the quality of that logic is only as good as the premise upon which it is founded. Is the "premise of the question" worthy of acceptance? Let's take a look. Here's what I see as the premise underlying the "justice" argument: Human beings are instinctively inclined to form (what biologists might call) "pair bonds." For the majority of people, the field of potential mates toward whom this inclination is configured is limited to members of the opposite sex. For a minority, it is limited to members of the same sex, and for a still smaller minority, it can be someone from either sex. (Yes, I know I'm not accounting for those who consider themselves "transgendered," but I'm not writing a book here.) Thus, an entire class of people--that is, those whose ability to form pair bonds is oriented toward members of their same sex--is thereby discriminated against by being denied the same opportunity for liturgical blessing and sacramental recognition (which includes such homey privileges as coming up for an anniversary blessing during the Sunday Eucharist) that is accorded to heterosexual couples.

However, this premise rests on a shaky foundation. It slices off and isolates one facet of what marriage is--a relationship of mutual companionship--and invests it with a life of its own, decontextualized from the whole institution of marriage. It neglects the Church's theological conviction that marriage was "instituted by God in creation" (BCP, p. 423, emphasis added); marriage is no mere human social construct that we are free to tamper with as seems expedient, but is part of the given fabric of who we are as human beings. Moreover, it is inherent to the given character of marriage to be ordered by the gender polarity (what some have called sexual dimorphism) that is also "from the beginning"--i.e. "male and female created he them" (Genesis 1:27). The fact the people (with the rarest of possible exceptions) come in two varieties--male and female--is not an insignificant datum of biology, but rather a highly significant datum of Divine design.

Then there is what we might call the "cosmic" dimension of marriage, laid out for us in Ephesians 5 (21-33) and referenced conspicuously in the aforementioned preface to the Prayer Book marriage rite. Christ (ascended and glorified but still very much the "man" Jesus) is the bridegroom and the Church is his ... wait for it ... bride--not generic partner or companion, but bride.

Perhaps the most obvious reason for not uncritically granting the premise that any pair-bond between non-related mutually consenting adults is an appropriate candidate for the institution and sacrament of marriage is what is arguably still the principal social end of marriage, which is to provide a stable environment for a pair-bonded couple to raise the biological offspring of their relationship to adulthood with as few risks as possible. Individual exceptions notwithstanding (heroic single moms and single dads, devoted adoptive same-sex parents, dysfunctional and/or abusive two-parent couples raising their own kids), secular society knows, and the Church knows, that the traditional norm is still the best thing we've got going for turning out well-brought up adults. It deserves to be privileged. We all benefit from the good parenting done by couples who bring up the children they brought into the world.

So if the premise behind the "justice" argument cannot be sustained, then the ensuing logic also falls apart. Yes, it is discriminatory to extend the privileges and responsibilities of marriage only to opposite-sex couples. But such discrimination is neither arbitrary nor invidious. Rather, it is rational, and well-founded. Therefore, it is not unjust. In moral theology, justice is about giving someone what is legitimately due them. When I make a payment on my auto loan each month, I am "doing justice," because that amount of money is legitimately due the company that made the loan. Continuing to reserve the institution and sacrament of marriage to opposite-sex couples is also "doing justice," because such preferential treatment is what is "legitimately due them" in the light of the entire ambit of the Christian tradition--scriptural, theological, and poetic/mystical. And this is neither insult nor injury--i.e. not unjust--to other sorts of pair-bond relationships because marriage is not something that is legitimately due such relationships. If I were to decide, for whatever reasons, that I wanted to become a citizen of, say, Poland (after all, I do live in Warsaw!), the Polish government would not be abrogating justice, but, in fact, serving justice by denying my request for citizenship. Since I don't know that I carry a drop of Polish blood, nor do I know anything of Polish language or culture beyond the fact that I like their sausage, there would be good rational reasons for doing so. Marriage is not an abstraction that can shape-shift to suit our desires. It is a concrete reality with its own inherent character. Bending the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples would make it something else entirely. The demands of justice require us not to do so.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A Matter of Justice?

It's five days now until Bishops and Deputies gather in Anaheim for the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. As a Deputy from the Diocese of Northern Indiana, I am on the receiving end of a lobbying blitz that I'm sure will continue until well after the opening gavel falls in both houses of convention. Aside from a handful of blurbs supporting candidates for Executive Council and the Church Pension Fund Board of Trustees, it all emanates from the gay-rights advocacy organization Integrity, and its allies (like the Chicago Consultation). I have to tip my hat to them: It is an extremely well-orchestrated campaign, utilizing every tool from a "graphic novel" to YouTube videos to successive emails that build on one another to a slick anthology of academic papers. It is a well-planned, well-executed, and obviously well-funded effort. They are hoping to "shoot the moon"--abrogate 2006's B033 (moratorium on consecration of partnered gay bishops), change the language of the marriage canons to accomodate same-sex couples, grant permission for bishops to authorize emending the language of the Prayer Book marriage rite toward the same end, and task the SCLM with drafting trial rites for the blessing of same-sex relationships. They are quite clear about "local option" not being enough; they want same-sex committed relationships (legal marriages where permitted by civil law) to be on an equal footing with traditional marriage, completely in the mainstream (and therefore at the discretion of every priest, without needing permission from the Bishop).

Conspicuous by its absence from the pre-convention scene is any sign of a politically organized (to say nothing of energized) right flank of the Episcopal Church. Many of the key players in such efforts in the past have decamped to the emergent ACNA, and those who have not are largely lying low, if not in response to sheer demoralization, then in recognition of the undeniable reality of their political position and prospects at the moment--i.e. powerless and bleak.

The consistent talking point from "Integrity & Friends" (and they are remarkably disciplined about staying on message) is this: It's a matter of simple justice. "All the sacraments for all the baptized" is the mantra, and they wrap themselves liberally in the banner of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. "Justice delayed is justice denied."

This is a serious moral argument. God is certainly (among other things) a God of justice. The narrative of Holy Scripture holds justice in high regard, particularly as one reads the Old Testament prophets. God is repeatedly portrayed as on the side of any segment of society that is oppressed or exploited, and ready to exact a price from those who do the oppressing and exploiting. In the Christian moral tradition, justice ranks very high among the virtues to which all the Faithful are bidden to aspire--in the second tier of the "big seven" (behind Faith, Hope, and Charity, and alongside Courage, Temperance, and Prudence). "Do justice" is indeed a moral obligation for a Christian disciple.

Two questions, then, suggest themselves: First, is the moral demand of justice paramount, or must it be held in tension with other equally-ranked moral demands? Second, and more to the point, is what "Integrity & Friends" are asking for in fact a matter of justice at all?

So ... do the demands of justice trump every other concern? To answer in the affirmative would be to side with every nation-state, every tribe, every gang, every family that has ever gone to war unilaterally, or prosecuted a vendetta, or otherwise used coercion on behalf of a cause it considers just. Both the Montagues and the Capulets considered their cause just. The same goes for the Hatfields and the McCoys. It was in the interest of justice that George W. Bush and Tony Blair ordered the invasion of Iraq. The spilled blood of Mercutio is emblematic of the countervailing moral imperative of peace. Is it not telling that the same circles within the church that have virtually made "peaceandjustice" a single word are now clamoring for justice that is coercive and seems to care little for peace within the Body of Christ?

The reality of the Christian moral vision is that the values of justice and truth are always going to exist in a dynamic tension with the values of peace and unity. It is always a mistake to simply drop one end of the rope and let the tension disappear, because it will inevitably come back to bite those who do so. I understand the importance of justice. There are indeed times to take stands and let chips fall. But such times need to be discerned with utmost caution. My challenge to those who contend that, at this moment in the church's life, peace and unity must take a back seat to (perceived) justice and truth is to make a coherent case for why this is so. Is justice truly served when peace is shattered? Is justice authentic when it is bought at the price of unity? Forget not that the "chips" that you are so eager to have "fall where they may" are real people, real disciples of Jesus.

But is it--"it" being what Integrity & Friends call "full inclusion"--actually a matter of justice in the first place? "Justice" is a rich concept in Scripture and in the tradition of Christian theology. In the Old Testament, it translates the Hebrew word tsadiq, which can also be rendered "righteousness." I'm not a Hebrew scholar, but what I gather is that it is difficult to precisely and concisely summarize the etymological ambit of this word. But in any case, it's meaning is dynamic, and always rooted in a context of relationship--relationship in community. To "do justice," then, is to "do right by" the entire community. Of course, this cannot be radically separated from "doing right by" individuals and sub-groups within the larger community, but neither can the doing of justice be reduced to mere fairness, a sort of egalitarianism rooted in the ideal of "equal access for every individual."

Once again, there is an inherent tension between the percieved "rights" of individuals and the well-being of the whole. Advocates of "full inclusion" are quick to hold up the names and faces of real same-sex couples who feel themselves to be injured by the church's general refusal, so far, to give liturgical/sacramental sanction to their relationships. This certainly tugs at the heartstrings, but evades the question at hand, which is the question of tsadiq--justice, righteousness, "doing right by" the whole community of the Church, including the many tens of thousands of still loyal Episcopalians who are scandalized by the proposals of Integrity & Friends, as well as the many tens of millions of Anglican brothers and sisters all over the world whose position has already been made abundantly clear. So, yes, from a biblical perspective, "it" is indeed a matter of justice, and it would be fundamentally unjust for us to move in the direction that Integrity & Friends bid us move.

But I'm no scholar, and this is no theological treatise, so let's lay the sophisticated and nuanced stuff aside and just look at the popular American notion of "justice" that I suspect is really in play here--i.e. fairness, equality. Whether we're talking about gay marriage, blessing of relationships that are "marriage-like," or the consecration of bishops who are living in such a relationship, the underlying premise of the "do justice" argument is that there is no legitimate distinction that can be made between heterosexual and homosexual committed relationships. And if you grant such a premise, the conclusion is, of course, inescapable: Do justice and do it now!

I have neither the time nor, perhaps, the intellectual horsepower to marshall a comprehensive rebuttal to this premise. But for present purposes, it should suffice simply to point out--an assertion that cannot be plausibly contradicted--that this is precisely the meta-question currently on the meta-floor, and that the jury is very much still out on it. There is a coherent theological and anthropological argument, grounded in Scripture, against a presumption of parity between same-sex and opposite-sex relationships. This says nothing about anyone's instrinsic worth, whether they are loved by God, or what their eternal destiny is. It does say something about ordered relationships within the Body of Christ, about "doing right by" the whole.

There is also, I would grant, a coherent--though, for many, not yet persuasive--argument to the contrary. This is why I, along with others, call for continued patient conversation and the avoidance of precipitate action. The fact is, there is nothing approaching a consensus on these issue, even within the Episcopal Church. Majority view? Apparently. Consensus? Not so much. And that says nothing of the rest of the Anglican Communion, the mind of which is settled for this generation in the 1998 articulation of Lambeth I.10.

The advocates of the majority view tell us that we must cease creating victims by our discriminatory policies. Until they can demonstrate how their proposals will not just create different victims in different places, their pleas ring hollow.