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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Same-gender blessings

I know that several of you are waiting for progress reports, but at this point we have to be patient. A couple of things have moved along, but there is more yet to be done.

The issue of same-gender blessings has moved a little. You can always check the status at
Watch particularly C031 and C056. C056 was written in the Diocese of Missouri, adopted at the diocesan convention in November, 2008, and sent to General Convention. C031 was written in the Diocese of Vermont. Just today we made an initial contact with the Vermont people, and we hope to open a dialogue where we work together toward a common goal. The ultimate proposal might be under one of these numbers, or it might be assigned a new one. We'll try to keep you informed.

But of particular interest to Jay Kloecker and me and Lydia Speller, there was one minor but surprising event. The joint committee (bishops and deputies) on Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Music has been discussing same-gender blessings. Our Bishop Smith is co-chair of this committee. Early this morning I went to their meeting, and after some time spent on other issues, the Committee was presented with a draft resolution relating to S-G blessings by one of its subcommittees. What startled me is that the Missouri diocese's resolution (C056) has been adapted with only minor changes as the basis of the committee's draft. Our text has been augmented by additions taken from or based upon a resolution and commentary from Vermont (C031). The Vermont passages are substantially supportive and focus on some the issues for states where same-gender marriages or unions have been legalized.

Those of us who began working on these resolutions quite some time ago are both gratified and astounded that our wordings and our notions are still alive at the level of General Convention. Lisa, I'll try to anticipate your question: NO, we have not been able to obtain a copy of this draft resolution as yet. We have seen it, but we have not been able to have it on paper.

I must commend Bishop Smith for an additional suggestion that couldn't have been forseen at the time we drafted our resolution. Bishop Smith suggested that, whatever we as The Episcopal Church do on this issue, we submit it to one of the Instruments of Communion. Bishop Smith expressed a preference for the ACC and an opinion that the Primates would be the least desirable option for this. We would not be offering the Communion or the particular Instrument the right to veto, but the words discussed were "consultation" or "conversation" for the purpose of understanding our action. The notion is that we would NOT want to blind-side the Anglican Communion with a surprise unilateral action without some kind of communication. IMHO, I think this is a wonderful addition to the discussions on difficult issues. It hasn't been drafted into the text of the version that I have seen, but I would be supportive of just such an addition.

You might recall that our resolution was not extreme in nature. Rather, it was a middle-of-the-road proposal that we thought many folks of various opinions could live with - future further developments to follow as appropriate. We were interested in getting a process going, and apparently our language has resonated with the committee members. We also believe that a modest beginning, allowing people time to adjust to new situations, would be the way for initiating geniune lasting progress.

Once the committee reports this proposal out, it goes to the House of Bishops first. Assuming their approval (not a foregone conclusion), it would then be sent to the House of Deputies for concurrence. So, the first step is getting something through the bishops. The form of it is not likely to be as progressive as many deputies might like. The second step will be how many deputies will support it. My opinion is that middle-of-the-road folks will be happy. It's pretty certain that the quite conservative folks won't be happy. The balance will be in the hands of the progressive left. If they say "it is not enough" and vote against it, it will fail. If they say "some progress is better than none", it will pass. I don't see strong, strident proposals passing this year.

I really believe that progressives have a spiritual challenge coming out of this. 1) to be sensitive and caring about the heart-felt concerns of our conservative brothers and sisters by rejecting the "in-your-face" attitude, and 2) by recognizing that "all the baptized" includes not just GLBTs but all those conservatives, too.

The disposition of B033 is less developed at this point. One aspect of it (same-gender blessings) is dealt with by the above discussion. The options on the other aspects have been pointed out. There has been (twice) open discussion on the floor of the House of Deputies. There have also been personal testimonials before the World Mission committee. If there is any concensus, it is that doing nothing is not much of an option. What to do or how far to go is still to be decided. I expect strong words ("repudiation", "reject", "rescind") to be too much for B033. Calling it a mistake (as some who voted for it have done) is not likely either. It might be declared null and void, or it might be "overruled" by a new resolution that in effect undoes it. IMHO, that's more likely.

I did attend a meeting today with Tobias Haller and Nicholas Knisely. The topic was mainly how the mess about B033 developed in 2006. Not much of the discussion was forward-looking.

We shall see in the next few days. I'll post more about the Integrity events in my next entry.


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