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Retired bishops keep their vote: TLC 7.16.09 July 17, 2009

Posted by geoconger in 76th General Convention, Living Church.
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First published in The Living Church magazine.

The House of Bishops has rejected the second reading of a constitutional amendment that would have stripped retired bishops of their vote in meetings of the house.

During Thursday morning’s business session of the House of Bishops at General Convention in Anaheim, Calif., the bishops voted 72-39 to refer resolution A052: Amending Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution, to committee. Moves to strip retired bishops of their vote in the House of Bishops began in the 1940s, and failed at the 1979, 1988 and 1997 General Conventions.

The present amendment had its first reading at the 2003 General Convention and was adopted. The House of Bishops amended and adopted the resolution at its second reading in 2006 with the House of Deputies concurring.

The resolution was presented by the Committee on the Constitution with a recommendation to concur. The Rt. Rev. Charles Keyser, assisting bishop in the Diocese of Florida, objected.

“This convention has been about inclusion and enfranchisement,” he said. “Now one of our first orders of business has been disenfranchisement.”

Bishop Keyser urged the house to address the concerns over retired bishops’ voting practices by judicious amendment of the canons, “fixing this not with a shotgun, but a surgical approach.”

The Rt. Rev. Geoffrey Rowthorn, retired Bishop of the American Convocation of Churches in Europe, urged the house to reject the constitutional amendment. Some of the members of the house seemed to be in dread of the “retired bishops’ gang,” who “rode into town” to “vote on the wrong side” of contentious issues.

Bishop Rowthorn said fears of a political manipulation by conservatives of the bishops’ proceedings were misplaced. Of the retired bishops present for the vote on Resolution D025, which ended the church’s ban on gay bishops, “22 had voted yes, and 4 no,” he said.

The Bishop of New Jersey, the Rt. Rev. George Counsell, noted he had voted in favor of the amendment in 2006 but would now vote against, as he believed the issue was “not jurisdictional but theological.”

The Rt. Rev. Dabney Smith, Bishop of Southwest Florida moved the matter be referred to a standing committee for review. The motion passed on a show of hands, 72-39, effectively killing the amendment for the fourth time in 30 years.

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