The Episcopal Church, USA and lesbian,
gay, bisexual & transgender (LGBT) topics
The 2009 General Convention
2009-JUL: General Convention:
The Church's 76th
convention was held during 2009-JUL in Anaheim, CA. As usual, the most divisive and controversial topics and resolutions dealt with sexual orientation on which a consensus is a hoped for goal far in the future. Some progress is being made, partly influenced by the departure of several conservative dioceses from the denomination, a feeling of isolation on the part of the remaining conservative groups, and a continuing entry into positions of authority by youth and young adults with more tolerance and understanding towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual (LGBT) concerns.
Loss of membership and financial contributions are a continuing problem for the denomination.
Recognizing that homosexuality was once again going to be a major source of debate, Archbishop Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion attended the meeting. He said:
"Along with many in the Communion, I hope and pray that there won’t be decisions in the coming days that could push us further apart." 1
Many provinces of the Anglican Communion were outraged when Bishop Gene Robinson was elected Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, and when his election was confirmed by delegates at the 2003 General Convention. Later, an emergency report of the Anglican Communion asked the Episcopal Church, USA to refrain from the consecration of any new openly gay or lesbian priests as bishops until there is a consensus towards the LGBT community. That, of course, will take many decades, if not a century.
At the last convention in 2006, a resolution was approved that urged restraint before any further lesbian or gay bishops were consecrated. It was not an absolute moratorium, although many church leaders interpreted it as such. That resolution was significantly weakened by resolution D025 at the 2009 General Convention.
A You Tube summary of the General Convention
with some probably unintended but very amusing errors in the subtitles:
Resolution D025: "Commitment and witness to Anglican Communion:"
The final, approved text of the resolution states:
" Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm the continued participation of The Episcopal Church as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion; give thanks for the work of the bishops at the Lambeth Conference of 2008; reaffirm the abiding commitment of The Episcopal Church to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion and seek to live into the highest degree of communion possible; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention encourage dioceses, congregations, and members of The Episcopal Church to participate to the fullest extent possible in the many instruments, networks and relationships of the Anglican Communion; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm its financial commitment to the Anglican Communion and pledge to participate fully in the Inter-Anglican Budget; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm the value of "listening to the experience of homosexual persons," as called for by the Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988, and 1998, and acknowledge that through our own listening the General Convention has come to recognize that the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships "characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God" (2000-D039); and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention recognize that gay and lesbian persons who are part of such relationships have responded to God's call and have exercised various ministries in and on behalf of God's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are currently doing so in our midst; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm that God has called and may call such individuals, to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church, and that God's call to the ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church is a mystery which the Church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge that members of The Episcopal Church as of the Anglican Communion, based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition and reason, are not of one mind, and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters." 3
Resolution C056: "Liturgies for Blessings:"
A second resolution, C056 was passed authorizing the development of liturgies to bless relationships of same-sex couples. As a temporary measure, local clergy now have permission to bless same-gender relationships, particularly in those states where same-sex marriages, civl unions etc. are legal.
The final, approved text of the resolution states:
" Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge the changing circumstances in the United States and in other nations, as legislation authorizing or forbidding marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian persons is passed in various civil jurisdictions that call forth a renewed pastoral response from this Church, and for an open process for the consideration of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships; and be it further
Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops, collect and develop theological and liturgical resources, and report to the 77th General Convention; and be it further
Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops, devise an open process for the conduct of its work inviting participation from provinces, dioceses, congregations, and individuals who are engaged in such theological work, and inviting theological reflection from throughout the Anglican Communion; and be it further
Resolved, That bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church; and be it further
Resolved, That this Convention honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality; and be it further
Resolved, That the members of this Church be encouraged to engage in this effort." 4
Reactions to the resolutions:
Rev. Susan Russell, outgoing present of Integrity -- an Episcopal gay-positive organization -- was interviewed on the PBS program "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly." She said:
"I think the overwhelming message coming out of this convention, not only for LGBT people but for all who are looking for a community that that embraces peace, justice, tolerance, compassion, and the good news of God in Christ Jesus, is that the Episcopal Church welcomes you."
At a press conference:
Bishop William Love of the Diocese of Albany, NY said: "It is very sad for me because I am a lifelong Episcopalian, I’m a lifelong Anglican, but first and foremost I am a lifelong Christian, and it is breaking my heart to see the church destroying itself in the manner in which we seem to be doing.
Bishop Peter Beckwith of the Diocese of Springfield, IL said: "I would concede that if indeed that it is the right thing to do, we should do it now. I do not believe it is the right thing to do."
Bishop Nathan Baxter, of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, said: "While I am very, very much concerned about our covenant with the Communion and our mission, I am also concerned about our covenant with our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters."
Bishop Shannon Johnston of the Diocese of Virginia said: " The Communion, for me, is too much to lose. There is too much at stake with mission and our ability to apprehend larger, wider truths that go way beyond our own small church and setting in the Western world." He personally favored the resolution that called gays and lesbians to any ordained ministry. However, he voted against it because of the damage it would do to the unity of the Anglican Communion. He said that his vote: "... was quite wrenching, because it took two of the core values of the church and juxtaposed them against each other, mission and inclusivity on the one hand and then the unity of the church on the other, which is no less a core value of the Gospel."
Bishop Jon Bruno of the Diocese of Los Angeles, said of most of the provinces in the Anglican Communion: "I think I would explain it to them that the context that we live in is totally different and that they have to be tolerant of our context as well as we are tolerant of their context. I still want to be in relationship with them fully."
Bishop David Anderson left The Episcopal Church and joined the American Anglican Council -- a conservative group opposed to LGBT equality. He has been consecrated as bishop by the Anglican Church of Kenya. He said: "I think it signals to the rest of the Communion, the Anglican Communion, that the Episcopal Church wants to be a member only on its own terms, and that if terms are applied to it, then they will go their own way and have things the way they wish, and others can be with them or not."
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