News for Week Ending 7/20/2009
Bermuda adopts women’s ordinationDisputes over the place of homosexuals in Anglican churches have brought renewed attention to differences over the ordination of women. Although ordination is widely available to women in the Anglican Communion, it is not universal, and the hostility of the newly created Anglican Church in North America to women’s ordination is notable. In this context, the synod of the Anglican Church of Bermuda has just voted to allow women deacons and priests. The move was reported July 6, 2009, by The Royal Gazette. The change in policy came quickly after Bishop Ewen Ratteray, a staunch opponent of ordaining women, was replaced by Bishop Patrick White. Although women will not be able to become bishops in Bermuda, Bermuda expects to follow the lead of the Church of England, which is in the process of approving women bishops.
Bermuda is part of the Anglican Communion, being a diocese that is extra-provincial to Canterbury. That is, Bermuda is directly under the episcopal care of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
General Convention moves cautiously forwardThe 76th General Convention of The Episcopal Church concluded July 17, 2009, in Anaheim, California. Although the convention had a long legislative calendar, the passage of two resolutions by wide margins in both houses dominated the news from Anaheim.
Many resolutions were proposed to revisit Resolution B033, which was passed during the final minutes of the 2006 General Convention. That resolution was widely viewed as a virtual, if not literal, ban on the consecration of additional gay bishops. After much discussion, the convention passed D025, “Commitment and Witness to Anglican Communion,” on July 14. The resolution expresses strong support for the Anglican Communion (the “Commitment” part) and reiterates General Convention approval of faithful, monogamous, same-sex relationships and the openness of the discernment process for ordained positions irrespective of sexual orientation (the ”Witness” part). D025 also acknowledges that the views expressed by The Episcopal Church are not uniformly accepted.
Although D025 has not rescinded B033, it has generally been viewed as having removed any advice by the General Convention to reject gay episcopal candidates out-of-hand. The resolution has been both applauded and condemned in the U.S. and abroad. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and President of the House of Deputies wrote the Archbishop of Canterbury to say that D025 represents an honest presentation of where The Episcopal Church stands. They indicated that B033 is still in place, while suggesting that its effectiveness will be diminished. (See ENS story here.) For his part, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams condemned the resolution even before it was passed. Comment from the archbishop after passage and after receiving the letter from Jefferts Schori and Anderson has not been reported.
Perhaps of even greater significance was the passage of Resolution C056, “Liturgies for Blessings.” Acknowledging “changing circumstances in the United States and in other nations” regarding the legal status of same-sex unions, C056 calls for the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to collect and develop, in an open process, theological and liturgical resources relating to same-sex blessings and to report to the 77th General Convention. Moreover, “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.” C056 is considered a modest step forward in the process of adopting officially a liturgy for blessing same-sex unions. It will trouble many in the Anglican Communion, but, like D025, it is seen as being an honest reflection of sentiment within The Episcopal Church. The Living Church reported on the adoption of C056 here. The Episcopal News Service story is here.
It is impossible to summarize other actions of the General Convention here. Pittsburgh Update expects to present additional information on the 76th General Convention next week, by which time legislative summaries should be available. The disposition of particular legislation can be checked here. Appointments and elections can be found here. Thinking Anglicans has been collecting (and, presumably, will continue to collect) reaction and opinion regarding the General Convention.
Despite its dealing with some very controversial issues, all accounts have suggested that the 76th General Convention was an exceedingly respectful and friendly gathering. (See “Mood of convention reflects ubuntu.”) It was also a convention where people from Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, Fort Worth, and Quincy were made to feel welcome. (See “Continuing dioceses: The church is alive and well.”)
Church budget/staff slashed by General ConventionThe Episcopal Church is not immune to the financial problems besetting the economy generally. Because both gifts and endowment income is down, the church’s budget for the coming three years has, according to The New York Times, been reduced by $23 million. The reduced budget will result in a 17% reduction in staff positions. Whole programs will be eliminated by the revised financial plan adopted by the General Convention, the next General Convention may be shortened, church bodies will meet less frequently, and the church’s contribution to the Anglican Communion Office will be reduced. Episcopal News Service posted stories on the budget here and here.
Ironically, the General Synod of the Church of England, meeting at the same time as the General Convention and facing similar financial difficulties, rejected a plan advanced by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to reduce the number of bishops and dioceses in the church. Opponents of the cuts called for more imaginative ways of reducing expenses. The story was reported by Episcopal News Service here.
Dissenting bishops issue ‘Anaheim Statement’Some of the most controversial votes in the House of Bishops at the recently concluded General Convention were lopsided. It is not true that those who chose not to endorse Resolutions D025 or C056 are comfortable with the direction taken by their colleagues, however. In a closed session on July 16, Bishop Gary W. Lillibridge, of the Diocese of West Texas, read a statement that is being called the “Anaheim Statement.” (Reports about the statement are available from Episcopal News Service and The Living Church. The latter story contains a list of signatories, which may not be complete. A more recent story from The Living Church lists additional bishops who have signed on. The statement itself can be read here.)
The Anaheim Statement acknowledges the direction in which the majority in the House of Bishops has chosen to go regarding human sexuality issues. Signatories pledge a commitment to the Anglican Communion, to the three moratoria (on consecration of gay bishops, on the blessing of same-sex unions, and on episcopal border crossings) demanded of Communion provinces, and to the Anglican covenant process. The bishops made no specific commitment to The Episcopal Church in their statement.