Some stay and some go in response to Robinson consent
- Wednesday, August 6, 2003
Some stay and some go in response to Robinson consent
Episcopal News Service
The statement and show of support yesterday in the House of Bishops
by 19 bishops opposing Gene Robinson's confirmation was not a walkout
of convention or the Episcopal Church, said Bishop Edward Little of
Northern Indiana, one of those who voted against the consent to New
Hampshire's bishop elect.
"We had no desire to do any kind of public demonstration," said
Little, who participated in yesterday's debate on the Robinson
The statement, delivered by Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh and
signed by 18 other bishops who stood with him on the dais as he read
it, "is essentially a statement of disassociation from an action, not
from the body that approved the action. The bishops that stood there
said that we believe this action is contrary to Christian teaching
and we cannot accept it," said Little during Wednesday morning's
press briefing. Little is one of four bishops serving as briefing
officers during General Convention.
For those who feel the church has departed from the Christian
consensus on moral teaching, "it is a time of profound sorrow," he
said. Responses will probably vary, he said. As for his plans, he
will go back into session with the house. "My own response is to go
back to my work, to be clear about my convictions and stay connected."
Deputies sign protest and leave the house
Some deputies opted for more dramatic action today. After the
introduction of Robinson on the floor of the House of Deputies early
in the morning session, the Rev. Kendall Harmon, on a point of
personal privilege, read a statement protesting the convention's
action on Robinson. Joined by more than two dozen deputies at a floor
microphone, Harmon said they were rejecting and dissociating
themselves from the consent and were inviting others to sign the
statement that Harmon had drafted. After delivering the statement,
several dozen deputies removed their name badges and left the hall.
By issuing consent, the Episcopal Church was "overturning the
unambiguous moral teaching" of the universal church, said Harmon, and
that "must be corrected by the Anglican Communion."
Those signing this statement, said Harmon, were in agreement with the
statement delivered yesterday evening in the House of Bishops by
Duncan which calls for the intervention of Anglican primates under
the auspices of Lambeth Conference resolution III 6(b).
Some deputies will leave convention to return home, and others will
leave the floor for fasting and prayer. Others, he said, will stay to
make their witness to the church's traditional teaching.
"We are not leaving the church," he stressed. "It is rather this
church which has left the historic faith and has fractured the
American Anglican Council officials claimed more than 20 bishops and
deputies had signed the statement before Harmon's delivery this
The signers included Bishops Robert Duncan (Pittsburgh); Jack Iker
(Fort Worth); John-David Schofield (San Joaquin); Terrence Kelshaw
(Rio Grande); Peter Beckwith (Springfield); Andrew Fairfield (North
Dakota); John Howe (Central Florida); James Stanton (Dallas); Gethin
Hughes (San Diego); Keith Ackerman (Quincy); Ed Little (Northern
Indiana); Stephen Jecko (Florida); Don Johnson (West Tennessee);
William Wantland (retired, Eau Claire); William Skilton (South
Carolina); Daniel Herzog (Albany); John Lipscomb (Southwest Florida);
David Bena (Albany); Henry Scriven (Pittsburgh).
A need for pastoral sensitivity
The pain and distress of conservatives was felt by many progressive
bishops and deputies. Bishop Chilton Knudsen emphasized the need for
pastoral sensitivity to convention participants and church members
People have to "grieve before new life can begin," she said "and
there is terrible loss here. I am glad they are grieving and hope
they gather with the people with whom they can grieve."
Although the predominant response in her diocese is one of
celebration, she knows some members "who feel they lost their church
and are grieving." Her hope is to sit down with them and talk
and "will try hard to listen pastorally."
Knudsen said she was sympathetic to the dissenting bishops' request
for pastoral intervention, if it follows the "gentle and nonintrusive
offering" approach used in some dioceses with visiting bishops. "They
are transitional. They are not permanent," she said. "And I really
Colorado deputies warn of financial implications
Distress marked the response by Colorado deputies the Rev. Donald
Armstrong, rector of Grace Church and St. Stephen's in Colorado
Springs; and the Rev. Ephraim Radner, rector of the Church of the
Ascension in Pueblo, following Harmon's statement. Radner and
Armstrong told reporters outside the house that they had removed
their name tags and were leaving convention.
"We are leaving this convention and perceive it as an
unconstitutional convention and illegitimate," said Armstrong,
charging it had violated the church's historic faith and order. They
will be returning to their parishes, he said, and consulting with
members regarding their relationship with the national structure of
the Episcopal Church.
"Most of us will withdraw funding from the national church," he said.
Depending on how their bishops and fellow deputies voted on the
consent, there could be "financial implications" for them, he said.
Armstrong said he expected some of his parishioners to restrict their
giving so that "the bishop and diocese of Colorado will no longer get
that money, nor will the national church." Instead, those funds will
be spent on other Christian ministry, he said.
Armstrong said he didn't expect his 2,500-member parish to leave the
Episcopal Church. "We are staying in the Episcopal Church," said
Armstrong. As a member for 54 years, he wants to stay and "reclaim
the church for the faith once delivered."
Their decision to leave convention in advance of consideration of the
same-sex blessing resolution C051 is not premature, he
said, since conservatives see the consent on Robinson and authorizing
development of same-sex blessing rites to be equal triggers for their
action. "I would still find one or the other an apostate action," he
Fear and suspicion characterized many conservative deputies'
comments. Radner questioned the intent behind the bishops' voting
process on the Robinson consent yesterday that extended past the
The plan as he understood it was for the vote to be scheduled so the
results would be announced while the deputies were still in
session. "There was a plan that people would pray together, people
would go out together who were in objection," but that was "totally
subverted," he charged.
No ulterior motive in bishops' extended session
There was no attempt by bishops to upstage conservative plans,
maintained a Massachusetts deputy, the Rev. Ian Douglas at the
morning news briefing. The bishops' process allowed a half-hour for
table conversations, an hour for debate and up to an hour for them to
turn in their written ballots. "I wouldn't go with any conspiracy
theory that this was trying to be done out of session so that the
House of Deputies could not respond in total," he said.
Bishop Wendell Gibbs of Michigan, also a briefing officer, said the
bishops opted to continue the session as they didn't want to have to
wait until Wednesday morning to learn the results.
"I don't think there was any attempt to say anything negatively to
the other house," said Gibbs, pointing out that, when the deputies
were debating the Robinson consent, the bishops were in recess, and
many bishops were sitting in on the debate.