Wednesday, July 11, 2018

2018 General Convention, Day 9

Convention has reached the point where anxiety rises about getting all the work done that's supposed to get done. Most of the committees have wound down; mine finished its work this morning at 8:30, after meeting for an hour. By contrast the legislative sessions are getting more frenetic. Time limits on debate are more strictly enforced--both the total time on any given issue and the time allotted to each speaker. Amendments are discouraged, because, by this time, each house is in the place of being asked to concur with an action already taken by the other, and with a time certain for adjournment of Friday at 5:00pm, there's limited time for legislative volleyball between the two houses. So, for me, the good news is that I can sleep in a bit tomorrow, since there's no committee meeting. The bad news is that the presiding officers have exercised their option of scheduling a legislative session for this evening (I write around 5:30).

The most significant debate in the House of Bishops today was on Resolution B012. It actually began life several months ago in the Task Force for the Study of Marriage. Its stated objective was to remove the ability of bishops to simply proscribe the celebration of same-sex marriage in their dioceses. In that form, it was named A085. Then, a couple of weeks ago, three moderate bishops introduced a resolution, which was named B012, that was intended to be friendlier to the conservative theological minority. It still mandated that SSM be made available "conveniently" to all who ask for it, but gave dissenting bishops the option of assigning the parish making the request to the oversight of another bishop (aka DEPO). 

In the legislative sausage grinder, A085 was folded into B012, with the language about DEPO significantly weakened (though not obliterated) and with a great deal of ambiguity about whether even rectors can decline to host such a celebration, apparently running afoul of canons that give rectors full control over what happens on their church property. The House of Deputies passed B012 in this form. Within the last 24 hours, the original movers of the original B012, along with the bishops on Committee 13, in consultation with the Presiding Bishop's chancellors, produced a slightly cleaned-up version that clearly retains the authority of a rector over church property, and it came to the bishops in that amended form. It passed on an overwhelming voice vote, and now goes back to the Deputies to concur (or not) with the amendment.

I am very pleased the B012 passed, and hope the Deputies concur. It is significantly less problematic than other versions of itself that were floating around the General Convention ether a few days ago. I am grateful for the charitable work of so many in moing toward a viable compromise. 

However, I did not vote for it. I abstained, when it became clear that my vote would not be needed for it to pass. It is unconscionably wrong to erode the authority of a bishop to exercise the ministry of chief teacher and chief liturgical officer in a diocese. I'm grateful that there's a path--a painful one, to be sure, but a clear one--for keeping the spiritual fingerprints of both the diocese and its bishop off a liturgical act that purports to be what it simply cannot be, and which denies the first article of both the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, that God is "Creator of heaven and earth." As the Archbishop of Capetown reminded us yesterday, the male-female binary is part of creation. Marriage is not a human social construct. It is God-ordained. General Convention is presuming to deal with a matter well above its pay-grade.

So B012 was the "least bad" possible outcome. The church is a political animal, and politics, as has been said, is the art of the possible.

Among my concerns going forward is that both B012 and A068--the resolution on liturgical revision (it's not quite accurate to call it Prayer Book revision anymore), which is passed by the Bishops yesterday and concurred with by the Deputies today--will get spun in opposite directions by the two main sides (one much larger than the other), and we'll end up with a classic batch of "Anglican fudge." I'll probably have more to say about that in due course.

10 comments:

Dale Coleman+ said...

I can't imagine doing anything without my ordinary's explicit approval.

Dale Coleman+ said...

Any other process would be a flagrant misunderstanding of being in a Diocese
in an Episcopal Church.

chris seitz said...

If I were a rector I would not trust this, even as amended.

Note the parish has now been removed as a factor.

"Provided that nothing" language invites testing.

Is a rector "not making provision" operating within his authority as Rector? Why can't he allow a priest on staff to do it or call someone in?

I am more interested in what doesn't get said and why it isn't said explicitly.

As for the Bishop's role, I think this GC has gutted that.

Unknown said...

I am concerned with the language too. As a rector of an Episcopal church, I will not and cannot do such liturgies. I have already told my vestry that, given my conscience and understanding of my vows, if I were to violate them, I'd no longer be their rector and priest. The only question that I have - given these changes - is how does this open-up the possibility for civil lawsuits for those who won't do such "weddings"?

christopher seitz said...


Is this where things stand?
1. Bishops cannot regulate ss marriage. It can happen where it is requested by couples, with or without parish approval.
2. If approached rectors can say a) they do not do them as per conscience, b) they will not allow them as per canon III.9, c) they will let Fr Joe do them;
3. If c) or they agree, all OK, except in dioceses where Bishops do not approve;
4. In these cases, another Bishop oversees things; in such instances dioceses have parishes, clergy and Bishops and canons that do not OK them, and those who do.
5. +Albany is not going along so he gets disciplined, or what happens?
When the dust settles everyone wanting ss marriage gets it, except where a rector says no. What happens then? What happens if he/she and parish disagree? Etc.

2. If approached rectors can say a) they do not do them as per conscience, b) they will not allow them as per canon III.9, c) they will let Fr Joe do them;



3. If c) or they agree, all OK, except in dioceses where Bishops do not approve;



4. In these cases, another Bishop oversees things; in such instances dioceses have parishes, clergy and Bishops and canons that do not OK them, and those who do.



5. +Love is not going along so he gets disciplined.



So when the dust settles everyone wanting ss marriage gets it, except where a rector says no.

christopher seitz said...

I apologise for the bad editing. Meant this.

1. Bishops cannot regulate ss marriage. It can happen where it is requested by couples, with or without parish approval.
2. If approached rectors can say a) they do not do them as per conscience, b) they will not allow them as per canon III.9, c) they will let Fr Joe do them;
3. If c) or they agree, all OK, except in dioceses where Bishops do not approve;
4. In these cases, another Bishop oversees things; in such instances dioceses have parishes, clergy and Bishops and canons that do not OK them, and those who do.
5. +Albany is not going along so he gets disciplined? Or what?
So when the dust settles everyone wanting ss marriage gets it, except where a rector says no. What happens then? What happens when he and parish disagree? Etc.

Paul Hartt said...

I said earlier that the removal of "no canonical penalty" language from the original B012 was bad news. Now we are left with the mushy canonical language of the rector's control of the services of the parish. All the pressure is now shifted on the rector. It is precisely at the parish level that maximum discord and division will take place over the rector's decisions. Why was the "no canonical penalty" language removed? I think that I know why.

christopher seitz said...

Fr Hartt, I believe you are right to be concerned. The HOB stated it included an amendement, "simply to make clear as we can that this resolution is not in conflict with the provisions of the ministry canons of the church regarding the authority of rector or priest in charge of congregations. It’s a very, in some ways, technical amendment, but we thought it was important in consultation with the chancellors to add it.”

Hardly a robust and durable firewall.

Michael Berry said...

Ok, so after all this what is the bottom line? If two homosexuals want to get "married" in their home church the Bishop (who is supposed to be the successor to the Apostles and the ultimate liturgical authority in a Diocese)can't say No, but the Rector (who is the Bishop's representative and functions under the Bishop's authority) can say No?

Paul Hartt said...

When Catholic Faith is compromised so will be Catholic order.