News for Week Ending 7/6/2015
Church of England Consecrates Second Woman BishopThe Rev. Canon Alison White was consecrated Bishop of Hull, a suffragan See by Archbishop of York, John Sentamu on July 3. Among the more than 60 bishops attending were two women who are bishops in other parts of the Anglican Communion (New Zealand) or who were from Churches in full communion with the Church of England (Norway). White’s husband is the acting Bishop of Newcastle. They are the first episcopal couple in the Church of England. There were two brief interruptions during the service. The first came when an opponent of women bishops held up a sign and shouted a protest, and the second when the Archbishop stopped for a minute of silence to remember those killed in terrorist attacks last week. More photos are available here.
General Convention adopts marriage equalityIn perhaps the most anticipated action, the 78th General Convention approved marriage equality. On the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision making marriage available to all couples regardless of sex throughout the United States, the convention, on July 1, 2015, adopted Resolutions A054 and A036, the former providing suitable liturgies and the latter changing Canon I.18 to allow for same-sex marriage. Convention also created an expanded task force that would include a wider variety of theological voices to study a number of issues related to marriage.
Twenty bishops signed a protest (the Salt Lake Statement) of the Convention’s decision to allow same sex marriage. Five of the 20 were resigned (i.e. retired) bishops, and 8 came from international dioceses within the Episcopal Church . They made it clear they intended to remain in the church. The House of Bishops responded to this with a “mind of the house” statement affirming their respect for the bishops in the minority. Paul Lambert, the Bishop-in-Charge in Dallas was one of the 20 signers of the Salt Lake Statement, and he has already issued a statement saying there will be no same sex marriages performed in that diocese.
General Convention ignores Anglican CovenantThe 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church discharged two submitted resolutions concerning the Anglican Covenant, neither of which involved adoption of the Covenant, and modified a third resolution that reaffirmed the church’s support for the Anglican Communion without mentioning the Covenant. Moreover, no provision was made for further consideration of the Covenant, which has been declared dead by many commentators despite adoptions by some Anglican Provinces. For the resolutions discharged see here and here.
Convention Creates Task Force on General Theological SeminaryFor the last year, General Theological Seminary in New York City has been torn by controversy between its faculty and Dean, the Very Rev. Kurt Dunkle. (See Pittsburgh Update stories here, here, here, and report to General Convention which completely ignored the turmoil. Convention responded by passing a resolution (D075) creating a task force of 5 to explore the relationship of GTS to General Convention, and to report at the next General Convention “with recommended action, including the possibility of ending this relationship.”
‘Alcohol Culture’ in Episcopal Churches Subject of ResolutionsIn the wake of the arrest of the then suffragan bishop of Maryland, Heather Cook who killed a bicyclist while driving under the influence and texting, the General Convention decided to deal directly with its reputation as “Whiskeypalians.” Convention passed three resolutions directly related to alcohol use. One (A159) admitted the Church’s complicity in alcohol abuse and directing diocese to work with the Church Medical Trust to make counseling available. A second, D014, requires those involved in sponsoring and reviewing those seeking ordination to ask about addictive behaviors. The resolution with the most wide-spread impact (A0158) updated the alcohol use policy for the church. This policy applies to all church activities from the parish up. It includes requirements that events not be focused on alcohol (such as a wine tasting), that there be a server whenever alcohol is offered, and that other beverages must be available. The detailed policy may be found here.
Church Expands Its Efforts on Anti-RacismGeneral Convention also made a larger commitment than in the past to anti-racism, restructuring and renewing the Executive Council Anti-Racism Committee, and authorizing the creation of an internet integrated anti-racism curriculum for youth. The resolution renewing the Anti-Racism Committee also directed funding of $131,500 over the next three years.
Convention Addresses Refugee IssuesThe issues of how to respond to the growing refugee problems around the world resulted in several statements by General Convention. Resolutions urged a more compassionate response to refugees from Central America, deploring actions by the Dominican Republic to deport those of Haitian descent, and for peace and justice in the Middle East, especially Syria.
Reorganization of Church Takes a Moderate CourseGeneral Convention choose a traditional Anglican “middle way” approach to the report of the Task Force to Re-Imagine the Church. The original proposal cut the size of Executive Council in half and wanted to restructure General Convention into a unicameral body reduced in size (See Pittsburgh Update.) It also enhanced powers of the Presiding Bishop, defined the roles of the officers of the Church, and gave the Presiding Bishop control over those officers. The Convention’s own committee on structure rewrote much of what was proposed, preserving a two-house structure. Both Executive Council and the House of Deputies remain at their current size. There will be a study of unicameral church governing bodies. The convention also took the first steps to approve a constitutional change that would allow the House of Bishops and House of Deputies to meet together, discuss and vote for specific issues. The pertinent resolutions are A02, A04, A006, A118
All Standing Committees except for the Standing Commission of Liturgy and Music and the constitution and canons committee were eliminated with the idea that Executive Council could create ad hoc task forces and committees to handle the work. Constitution and Canons was expanded to include church structure and governance. The Commission on Liturgy and Music will have its hands full over the next three years as the Convention directed the commission to propose a plan for a comprehensive revision of both the Book of Common Prayer (A169) and the Hymnal (D060), continued work on the expansion of the replacement for Holy Women, Holy Men (materials for commemoration of people whose lives or work advanced the Gospel, and additional revision and new services (D036) in the Book of Occasional Services (A059).