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Anglican Unscripted Episode 45, July 18, 2012. July 27, 2012

Posted by geoconger in 77th General Convention, Anglican.TV, Property Litigation, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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Post General Convention 77 commentary floods the frames of this episode. Kevin and George discuss TEC’s “provisional” local rites for the blessing of same-sex unions, Humankind’s desire to identified by Acronyms, Bishop Lawrences actions, and Jesus’ discussion with Peter about the Rock. Alan Haley discusses the blood stains GC77 brought by charging nine Bishops for doing their duty. And finally, this week Peter Ould is giddy about Sports and humble about Women Bishops. comments to anglicanunscripted@gmail.com

TEC endorses temporary local option on gay blessings: The Church of England Newspaper, July 22, 2012 p 6. July 22, 2012

Posted by geoconger in 77th General Convention, Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
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The Episcopal Church has approved provisional local rites for the blessings of same-sex unions. By a 3 to 1 margin in its House of Deputies and a 2 to 1 margin in its House of Bishops, the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church meeting in Indianapolis from 5-12 July 2012 endorsed the resolution entitled “Authorize Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Sex Relationships.”

Supporters of the resolution have hailed the vote as a victory for “justice” and “inclusion” while critics charge the church has turned its back on the undivided witness of the universal church.  However, one deputy noted the vote was more symbolic than practical.

The Archdeacon of Albany (New York) the Ven. David Collum told the convention that the “resolution would not change what is happening on the ground.”  Those who support gay blessings and gay marriage are already using these rites, while those who opposed gay blessings as un-Scriptural will never use these rites.”

“What will happen is that more will leave the Episcopal Church,” he said, adding that “this really is about the majority wielding power – saying ‘we don’t care’ to the minority,”

Crafted by the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Church Music, the resolution underwent extensive revision before it was first presented to the House of Bishops for action.  Language calling the liturgy “trial rites” was withdrawn and the texts were renamed “provisional rites.”  The change was made committee chairmen Bishop Thomas Ely of Vermont and the Assistant Bishop of Maryland Joe Burnett said, so as to avoid the provisions of Article X of the church’s constitution, which requires a supermajority of bishops to pass the resolution.  While the resolution for “provisional rites” was adopted by the bishops on a vote of 111 to 41 with 3 abstaining, a vote for “trial rites” would have required 153 yes votes.

A second change made in the resolution was the addition of a conscience clause, a conservative member of the committee, the Very Rev.  David Thurlow told CEN that stated no member of the clergy shall “be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities, as a result of his or her conscientious objection to or support” for the resolution.  Language was also introduced allowing bishops to opt out of the liturgy.

The effect is that for the next three years, same-sex blessings are lawful in dioceses where the bishop permits their use, and unlawful where the bishop has forbidden their use.

The Bishop of Washington, the Rt. Rev. Marianne Budde urged adoption of the resolution saying gays and lesbians “only want the church to honor their relationships.” she said.

Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina argued the concept of gay marriage was theologically incoherent. “I do not want to lose the symbolism of the holy marriage feast of Christ and his bride” by wrenching marriage from its traditional moorings.

The day after the bishops endorsed the resolution, the House of Deputies – consisting of four lay and four clergy deputies from each of the church’s 111 dioceses – took up the resolution.

Before debate began, President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson recognized Dean Thurlow of South Carolina who was given permission to read a minority report that “takes issue with the theology” being introduced.

For “2000 years the one holy catholic and apostolic church — the undivided church — has had clear teachings on marriage,” he said, which were now being repudiated.  This was a slap in the face to the church’s ecumenical and Anglican partners and a repudiation of the pledge not to take action on gay blessings “until the Anglican Communion had reached a consensus” on this issue.  It was also a “clear departure from the doctrine and discipline” of the church and propounded a “new theology of marriage” that was “inconsistent with Scripture, the Book of Common Prayer and the Constitution and Canons” of the church.

“Consider what is at stake,” Dean Thurlow said.

Debate proceeded for a half hour, with each side taking turns at three minute intervals.  Conservatives raised technical objections to the resolution in addition to the theological concerns voiced by Dean Thurlow.

Canon Neal Michell of Dallas asked the resolution be returned to the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Church Music as it had “not done all the work” assigned to it by the 2006 General Convention. The committee had been “asked for theology.  Preparation of the rite is only one part” of their mandate, he argued, and “theology must be addressed” before the resolution is adopted.

A deputy from Dallas, stated that “no question was more important” to the convention than the gay-blessings resolution.  “However this implies an additional obligation to follow our own procedures,” he said, adding there had been “gamesmanship all round” this resolution.

He objected to the substitution of “trial” for “provisional” rites so as to avoid the super-majority voting threshold, noting there was no such thing as a “provisional” rite according to the canons. “If we are going to do this, let’s do it right,” he said.

However the Rev. Ernesto Medina of Nebraska stated that he believed gay blessings were an appropriate “pastoral response” to the needs of same-sex couples who sought the validation for their lifestyle from the church.  “There is never anything wrong with celebrating love,” he said, and nothing wrong with “celebrating a blessing.”

Deputy Ian Hallas of Chicago also rose and spoke in favor of the resolution.  He said he “will be part of my sister’s civil ceremony.”  As emotion welled in his throat, he said his sister’s same-sex relationship “speaks to the ideal relationship that all of us ought to have.”

“I want to return home from this convention with this gift for my sister,” and ensure that she has “the same rights, the same privileges as myself.”

After further debate and a number of amendments proffered by conservatives to delay a vote, a vote by deputations, with the four deputies from each diocese voting amongst themselves to set the diocese’s vote.

The vote in the lay order was 86 yes, 19 no, 5 divided, with 78 per cent in favor.  In the clergy order the vote was 85 yes, 22 no, 4 divided, with 76 per cent in favor.  The resolution takes legal effect on the first day of Advent.

The day after the vote, the Diocese of South Carolina deputation announced that six of its eight deputies and its bishop, Mark Lawrence, would be withdrawing from the convention. While they were not leaving the Episcopal Church, their disquiet over the outcome of the vote necessitated their withdrawal to think through the consequences of the vote.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Good TV — WFAA on the Episcopal Wars: Get Religion, July 19, 2012 July 19, 2012

Posted by geoconger in 77th General Convention, Fort Worth, Get Religion, Press criticism, The Episcopal Church.
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While GetReligion is on the topic of local television news religion reporting, let me draw your attention to a thoughtful, intelligent broadcast from Dallas/Fort Worth station WFAA. Quality local TV news reporting on religion? And on the convoluted Episcopal wars too? Is such a thing possible?

Yes — Tune into this broadcast from the ABC affiliate Channel 8 entitled: “Episcopal blessings create theological divide over same-sex unions” to view an example of solid religion reporting. The uneven quality and quantity of reports on the Episcopal Church’s recent decision to authorize local rites for same-sex blessings also makes this story stand.

The recently concluded General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Indianapolis (5-12 July 2012)  did not draw reporters outside of the church press. The local Indianapolis newspaper was present and I saw someone from Reuters at one point, and GetReligion’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey filed a great report for Christianity Today. But unlike the last few Episcopal shows there were no satellite trucks from CNNFox or the networks and the national newspapers and religion reporters from the wire services were absent.

However, there has been a great deal of high-powered commentary from Time, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Power Line — I even was pulled in by ABC (the other one, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation) to add local color to their commentary on the fun under the Indiana sun. The WFAA report I would like to single out because it gives local context and meaning to the story. As TMatt has pointed out, as a medium local television news has its limitations and one should not expect a New Yorker-style 5000 word report — but let’s take a look.

FORT WORTH — St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church is at the center of another theological divide.

When the General Convention of the Episcopal Church authorized the blessing of same-sex unions last week in Indianapolis, the local church took out a series of half-page advertisements.

Sunday’s ad encouraged Episcopalians to “stand firm on the word of God in faith and morals.” Wednesday’s ad calls the blessings “false inclusivity and pluralism.”

Church rector Dr. William Dickson could not meet with News 8 because of scheduling conflicts. Instead, church member Rob Sell spoke on behalf of St. Andrew’s. He was not part of the decision to place the ad, but said it speaks to Episcopalians who have reservations about the direction of the national church.

“We’re not looking down our nose at anybody,” Sell said. “We simply want to adhere to classical, historic, Christian doctrine.”

The report then presents the voice of a supporter of the changes.

Across town, one of the churches that remained with the national group cheered the decision to bless same-sex unions.

Katie Sherrod was at the Episcopal General Convention last week. She and her bishop at St. Luke’s in the Meadow Episcopal Church voted to authorize the blessing of same-sex unions.

“We are as Christian as they are,” Sherrod said. “We simply have interpreted scripture differently than they have.”

There were eight days of discussions before the vote was taken, and there were emotional arguments made by gay and lesbian church members who sought the church’s blessing. The Fort Worth Diocese deputies unanimously voted to authorize the blessing.

“We’re moving forward toward a church that buys into the fact that God loves you — all of you. No exceptions,” Sherrod said, adding the bishop would consider the blessings on a case-by-case basis.

The story closes with further background information on the convention and ties the story together at the close by noting:

St. Andrew’s and several other local Episcopal churches left the general convention four years ago when they sensed a change in theology. There is an ongoing legal battle over church property that has yet to be decided. There are two, independent Fort Worth Dioceses operating with separate bishops.

This story works on several levels. The reporter demonstrates his skills and a command of his craft by placing what could be an arcane dispute into a recognizable local context — how a conservative Episcopal congregation has responded to this news. After tethering the story to a local landmark, he then allows the actors in the drama to speak for themselves. But in selecting which quotes to use in his story, he eschewed quick and easy soundbites about homosexuality for thoughtful quotes that express theology. Now this is my assumption, of course, and it may be that he happened on just the right people to speak to these issues — but I remain impressed nonetheless that the subtly and nuance of the theological arguments were preserved in the story.

Again let me say that this report is far from an exhaustive of definitive treatment of the issue — but judged by the standards and limitations of the medium in which it was presented, this is a gem of a story.

Well done, indeed!

First printed in GetReligion.

ABC Radio National – Religion & Ethics Report: July 18, 2012 July 19, 2012

Posted by geoconger in 77th General Convention, Interviews/Citations, The Episcopal Church.
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It was the church of George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, George Bush Sr and seven other United States presidents. The Episcopal Church is the US branch of the Anglican Church and it was once very influential. More than a third of Supreme Court justices have been Episcopalians. It was one of the first mainstream churches to ordain women; the first to consecrate an openly gay bishop. But over the past 20 years, the church has lost more than a third of its members, falling from 3.4 million in 1992 to 2.3 million in 2012. Now, following its convention in Indianapolis, the Episcopal Church appears on the brink of collapse. Beliefnet.com reports 46 members of the synod have spoken out in support of seceding from the Episcopal Church; six bishops have petitioned the Archbishop of Canterbury for permission to leave the Church but remain part of the worldwide Anglican communion. Not all the tension is over liberal policies on sexuality. There’s also deep disagreement on fundamental matters of Christian doctrine. Author, journalist, and Episcopal minister from Florida, George Conger, explains the developments at the convention that sparked the latest crisis.

Listen to the broadcast here. Or download the file.

New Zealand and US churches to vote on gay marriage: The Church of England Newspaper, July 15, 2012. July 15, 2012

Posted by geoconger in 77th General Convention, Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand & Polynesia, Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
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The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia and the General Convention of the Episcopal Church of the USA are set to debate resolutions authorizing rites for the blessing of gay marriages at their respective meetings this week.

Meeting in Fiji the 160 bishops and delegates to the ANZP synod will review three motions on gay marriage, gay liturgies and diocesan autonomy.  Motion 20 brought by members of the Diocese of Waiapu entitled “Episcopal autonomy in discernment for ordination” asks the church to permit local dioceses to set their own standards for ordination.

The diocese was concerned that there had been pressure to “withhold discernment for ordination because of a person’s sexual orientation and the living out of their orientation.”  The motion asked that dioceses be permitted to decide the worthiness of potential ministers, allowing a local option for gay clergy.

Delegates from Waiapu also put forward Motion 21 asking the synod to “move forward with the provision of an authorized rite for the blessing of same-gender relationship” as well.  Passage of the two motions is uncertain, observers of the proceedings tell The Church of England Newspaper.

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church is reviewing a series of resolutions on gay marriage.  While the debate in committee has been spirited, the weight of opinion within the convention appears to favor authorization of trial rites for the blessing of same-sex unions.

On 6 July the House of Bishops rejected a proposal brought by the Diocese of Maryland to begin the six year process for revising the Book of Common Prayer to create gender neutral marriage rites.  While Bishop Mary Glasspool of Los Angeles urged the church to move ahead, the bishops gave their backing to a resolution that calls for a task force to study the theology of marriage and report back in 2015.

However, the principle vehicle to introduce same-sex unions for the Episcopal Church at the 77th General Convention meeting 5-12 July in Indianapolis is Resolution A049 “Authorize Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Gender Relationships.”

A vote on the resolution is scheduled for later this week.  While A049 is likely to garner a majority of votes in the two Houses of General Convention – bishops and deputies – it is not likely to be approved.  While a revision to the marriage liturgy in the Prayer Book requires support by two successive meetings of General Convention by both bishops and deputies, a trial rite can be passed at one meeting.  However, the rules governing resolutions proposing the adoption of trial rites have special terms.  In the House of Bishops a majority of all bishops entitled to vote – both serving and retired – must endorse the measure.  Those bishops not present at the meeting must still be counted in calculating what constitutes a majority.

With approximately 305 members, A049 must secure 153 votes in the House of Bishops to be adopted.  As of 7 July 2012, 167 bishops were present at the 77th General Convention, meaning 15 bishops voting against the measure can block implementation of trial rites for the blessing of same-sex marriage.

Episcopal House of Bishops endorses ‘provisional’ rites for same-sex blessings: Anglican Ink, July 9, 2012 July 10, 2012

Posted by geoconger in 77th General Convention, Anglican Ink, The Episcopal Church.
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The House of Bishops has authorized the use and study of provisional rites for the blessing of same-sex unions.  By a vote of 111 in favor, 41 no, and 3 abstaining Resolution A049 was passed by the bishops during the afternoon session of the 5th legislative day of the 77th General Convention on 9 July 2012.

The text of the resolution at this stage of the legislative process states the bishops “authorize for provisional use I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing for study and use in congregations and dioceses of The Episcopal Church.”

The language of the original resolution asked the church to “authorize for trial use” the gay-blessing liturgy.  However, the committee removed the language designating the liturgy as a trial rite, renaming it a “provisional” rite.  One conservative bishop told Anglican Ink that he and other like minded bishops had lobbied the Standing Committee on Liturgy to remove the designation “trial rite” in the committee stage of the proceedings.  He said he believed that calling it a “trial rite” would indicate that gay marriage rites would be “inevitable”.

The resolution was further amended by the committee to permit bishops to adapt the materials to suit local needs and introduced a conscience clause to permit clergy to decline to preside at gay blessings.

South Carolina deputy, the Very Rev. David Thurlow told AI the committee had also honored conservative concerns by introducing a conscience clause. The convention honors “the theological diversity of this church in regards to matters of human sexuality, and that no bishop, priest, deacon or lay person should be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities, as a result of his or her conscientious objection to or support for the 77th General Convention’s action with regard to the Blessing of Same-Sex Relationships.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.