Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
News for Week ending 7/13/15
General Convention’s Lack of Action on Divestment in Israel Stirs ControversyIn a post-General Convention retrospective, Deputy the Rev. Winnie Varghese touched off a flurry of comments by criticizing the recently concluded Convention for failing to adopt even a resolution asking for study of Church holdings to determine if any of its money is invested in companies supporting oppressive Israeli policies. The convention passed resolutions committing to finding a two-state solution through negotiation and positive investment in Palestinian infrastructure, and to continue support of Christians in Israel and the occupied Territories. The stated reasons for what the convention did and did not do included information given legislative hearings that a resolution raising even the possibility of divestment might hurt the position of the Anglican Archbishop of the region, and that the Episcopal Church had no investments in the companies listed. Neither statement satisfied critics. Some have suggested that the efforts backfired and made the position of Archbishop Suheil Dawani of the diocese of Jerusalem more difficult.
Bishop McConnell Issues Pastoral Letter on Same Sex MarriageFollowing General Convention’s votes to authorize new trial liturgies for marriage and to change canons to allow marriage of same sex couples, Bishop Dorsey McConnell of Pittsburgh wasted no time in issuing a pastoral letter for his diocese outlining a continuation of the local option that has allowed those clergy and parishes who wished to celebrate and bless marriages of same sex couples. McConnell voted for the resolution, A054, that authorized the liturgies, but against the canonical changes (A036). (See Update story on these resolutions here.) The Lead picked up his announcement and commenters have positively contrasted McConnell’s response with the initial statements by a several of the other bishops who opposed A036 and who have already announced they are not allowing same sex marriages within their diocese. (See here for one such statement.) Note, this link to a statement by Bishop Bauerschmidt of Tennessee has been removed by the Christian Post.
Retrospectives on General ConventionBoth those who attended General Convention and those who followed it from afar have begun offering reactions to the recently ended convention. The convention passed a long list of resolutions that require some kind of response or action from dioceses and parishes. Grace Burton-Edwards has compiled a list of most of these. Jayne Ozanne has offered an interesting response from the perspective of an observer from the Church of England. The conservative blogger the Rev. Tony Clavier offers a more negative reaction; Bishop Dan Martins of Springfield raises traditionalist concerns in two blog posts here and here. Mark Harris focuses on the positive energy generated by the new presiding bishop elect, and the General Convention Facebook page is filled with a variety of responses.
Australian Anglican Primate Suggests Church Get Out of the Marriage BusinessIn the wake of the decisions supportive of same sex marriage at the conventions in various provinces of the Anglican Communion, the primate of the Australian Church has suggested that the church would do better to separate civil marriage and church ceremonies entirely, leaving marriage to civil registries. He commented that perhaps people would then be able to marry by filling out forms on-line. The church would then be free to continue defining marriage as it saw theologically appropriate and churches would deal only with those who wanted the blessing of the church. The Archbishop also suggested this was the way Churches could preserve a traditional definition of marriage as being limited to one man and one woman.
Tuesday, July 7, 2015
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).