I have closely followed every General Convention since 1976, and I have attended every General Convention since 2003 (making this my fourth). In every one of them, there was some major issue (always related in one way or another to sex or sexuality) about which I and those I hang out with in this church have been highly anxious about, fearing dire consequences if a certain action was taken. And every time, the feared action has been taken, wounds have been licked, and, most of the time, the dire consequences have, in fact, ensued. And somehow I still am where I am--actually, with a much more entrenched "insider" role than I ever would have imagined--and it's only on odd-numbered days (or is it even? I can't remember) that I can coherently explain why.
Today, that event for this General Convention happened. The House of Bishops voted (by roll call, 111 to 41, with three abstentions) to authorize the use of a standard liturgical form for same-sex marriage. The House of Deputies is certain to concur. I believe this is a huge mistake, on several levels. It's not scriptural, it's not traditional, and it's not reasonable. It's an ecumenical nightmare and an inter-Anglican train wreck. I'm very sad about it this evening. My sadness is not as profound as it was in prior years with their events. I'm kind of used to it now, and I'm able to shake off the sting a little more readily than I once could. But I'm still sad.
Yes, it's a dark cloud. But there is a silver lining. It could have been worse. In the Committee 13 debate this morning, we were able to greatly strengthen the language that not only gives bishops the authority to prohibit use of the rite in their diocese, but offers both clergy and laity concrete safeguards to protect them from retribution or canonical impairment because of this position on same-sex marriage--in the case of clergy, refusal to preside at this rite. I have been abundantly clear in the Diocese of Springfield that this form, or anything like it, will not be authorized for use.
So now we await the dire consequences, which are sure to come. The Episcopal Church will quietly lose more members (or sometimes noisily). The majority of the Anglican world will distance itself even further from us. Ecumenical relations will grow still colder. The lives of Christians who live on the frontier with Islam will be placed in even greater jeopardy. And, somehow, God will remain faithful beyond anything we can ask or imagine.
We did a few other things today as well, most of them relatively meaningless. More public policy statements, unfunded mandates, and "requests" that dioceses and congregations encourage this and advocate for than and study the other thing, which will actually get done ... virtually nowhere. That's the reason they all pass on overwhelming voice votes, because all bishops realize that they are completely at liberty to utterly forget about these resolutions the minute they get up from the table when the house recesses.