Monday, July 09, 2018

2018 General Convention, Day 7

We've now reached that phase of convention where the big bits of legislative sausage are emerging from the committee grinder and are ready to be fried up in the pan.

Resolution A068, which calls for the beginning of the SCLM process for Prayer Book revision was passed, somewhat narrowly, by the House of Deputies yesterday. This afternoon, it floated to the surface in the House of Bishops. We spent about an hour on it in a committee-of-the-whole format--so, without actual parliamentary debate--including table conversation, questions and answers of the committee chair (Bishop Jeff Lee of Chicago), and statements from the microphones. Then it was time for recess.

My quick read--at this moment--is that it will either be substantially modified, or just be defeated, which is to say, way more spoke against it than for it. Of course, the energy behind the whole thing is is a desire for less (or no) masculine language for God, and a generally less patriarchal tone in liturgical diction. I've already shared my views on that subject. Most all but the handful of truly conservative bishops are conceptually in favor of this. However, there are countervailing forces, chief among which are concern about the cost, and concern that it represents a turn inward at a moment when TEC needs to be looking outward, that the process of liturgical revision will distract us from the Presiding Bishop's announced emphases on evangelism, racial reconciliation, and care of creation. So I'm not making any predictions, because I've been around long enough to know that the political winds can turn abruptly. One bishop could yet get up and push just the right rhetorical buttons during a two-minute floor speech, and incite a major shift of opinion. But it's by no means a done deal.

Many have suggested--and this would be my hope--that we follow the lead of the Church of England and the Anglican Church of Canada, among others, and create a new collection of liturgical resources, fully authorized, that would bleed off the energy around inclusive-expansive language texts, and leave the Prayer Book alone. It would certainly cost less, and be far less divisive churchwide. I expect something like this will come up in tomorrow's floor debate.

The other news today is that the House of Deputies passed an amended version of B012. There is still a lack of a clear consensus on just what it says or means. One reading of the language can quite plausibly be interpret to re-insert the concept of DEPO, though not the term itself, which was in the original version drafted by three moderate bishops. It's not as clear as I and my Communion Partner colleagues would like, but it's there, if interpreted generously (as a clause in the resolution encourages). It can also be plausibly read to reassure rectors that their canonical authority to decline to either preside at or even allow any wedding in their church for any reason is preserved intact. 

However ... the language of B012 is also capable of being spun in a way that would require a dissenting rector to step aside and allow another priest to come in and conduct a same-sex wedding if the demand is made. It actually sets up a canonical conflict. And the provision for dissenting bishops to turn responsibility for such an event over to another bishop is clear enough if you're just talking about "DEPO for the afternoon," but it's less clear about how a dissenting bishop might create even thicker insulation between him/herself and a parish that wishes to host same-sex weddings. This "alternative truth" narrative is being enthusiastically purveyed in social media by "progressive" voices.

So the fat lady has not yet sung on this one either. Tomorrow will be an interesting day.


3 comments:

christopher seitz said...

It bears repeating something said often but not widely heard. The canon I.18.7 was written to provide pastoral discretion for clergy in respect of couples for whom reservations arose, give the sacramental nature of ordination (whatever that may now mean) in the context of marriage preparation. Clergy will know how this can happen; I do.

In 2015 the canon was artificially bootstrapped into a debate, of a different character, and offered as a kind of consolation prize for those with misgivings about same-sex marriage, not individual couples, something for which it was never designed and that is inappropriate to its purpose.

We now find the same canon put to even further contrived application: now that all couples will have access to these new rites, it is a kind of last “opt-out clause” for rectors who nevertheless must see to provision being made for same-sex marriage whether they or their parish like that or not.

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