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resolve calling for liturgical rites to support
July 12, 2000
BULLETIN: Clergy actually passed the final resolve
calling for liturgical rites to support non-marital
(ENS - DENVER) After a recount of the votes by
orders in the July 11 deliberations on the final
resolve of resolution D039, it was announced at the
House of Deputies opening session on July 12 that the
clergy had actually passed the resolve. The
controversial resolve called for the preparation of a
rite to "support relationships of mutuality and
fidelity other than marriage."
The first seven resolves of the resolution
drafted by Special Committee 25 were approved
overwhelmingly in a voice vote July 11, but deputies
left their legislative session that evening believing
the controversial final resolve had been voted down by
both lay and clergy orders. The recount proved
otherwise: one of the 20 divided votes originally
recorded in the clergy order was actually a yes vote,
said the Rev. Rosemari Sullivan, General Convention
Secretary. That yes vote brings the total number of
yes votes in the clergy order to 55, which represents
the necessary order for the majority and means the
clergy accepted the resolve..
Because the resolve failed to pass in the lay
order, however, it still will not be included in the
final version of resolution D039, which will be voted
on in the House of Bishops later July 12.
July 12, 2000
GC2000 - 072
Bishops follow deputies in dropping last resolve of
By David Skidmore and Joe Thoma
(ENS-DENVER) Fearing a divided house and a
divided church, bishops followed the lead of the House
of Deputies on July 12, and voted down an attempt to
develop liturgical rites for same-sex unions..
In a marathon session, running from mid-morning
to late afternoon, the bishops revisited ground seeded
in 1991 when differences over homosexuality forced six
days of closed sessions and a nine-year healing
process. In the end, they voted to reject an amendment
that would have restored the last resolve, stripped
from resolution D039 by the House of Deputies. The
vote followed a strenuous, and in some instances,
acrimonious debate. But, despite the impassioned
tones, the discussion remained generally cordial..
The 85 to 63 vote against the amendment by Bishop
Clark Grew (Ohio), however, did not settle the fate of
the resolution developed by Committee 25. Though four
abstentions were officially recorded, no vote was
recorded at all for over two dozen bishops. A late
substitution motion by Bishop Vincent Warner (Olympia)
means the bishops will take up the matter as the first
order of business on Thursday, July 13..
Adopted overwhelmingly by deputies in a voice
vote July 11, the resolution's first seven resolves
affirm both the church's traditional teaching on the
sanctity of marriage and recognize that within the
church there are both married and non-married couples
who are living in "life-long committed relationships."
Both marriages and other committed relationships
recognized by the church are to be characterized by
fidelity, monogamy and mutual affection and respect,
the resolution states. The resolution also
acknowledges that some members "acting in good
conscience" will behave in contradiction to the
church's traditional teaching on sexuality..
Dropped by deputies was a final resolve directing
the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to
prepare liturgical rites supporting committed
relationships "other than marriage." It was this last
resolve that Grew's amendment attempted to restore to
the resolution during the bishop's afternoon debate..
Warner's motion, introduced as a substitute for
Grew's amendment, calls for the bishops to continue
studying the theology of "long-term committed loving
unions" of unmarried persons, both homosexual and
heterosexual, and to report the findings to the next
General Convention. The report is also to include
"proposed rites in support of such unions,"
if indicated by the study. In addition to voting
on the motion, the bishops must still vote on the
overall resolution. At that point, if they approve
the motion and the resolution, it must return to the
deputies for concurrence.
Concern about consequences
Debate centered on the consequences of adopting
or rejecting Grew's amendment. Conservatives warned of
parishioners leaving not only their congregations but
the Episcopal Church if any movement were made toward
approving liturgical rites for same-sex couples. For
those supporting the full inclusion of gays and
lesbians, the issue was one of justice and pastoral
Bishop Otis Charles, identifying himself as the
only openly gay bishop in the church, observed that
"the church is full of good gay and lesbian people who
are committed, who love the Lord, who serve the Lord,
and are going to continue to serve the Lord." Without
the provision for liturgical rites, said Charles, gay
men such as himself "are still living in untruth
because I cannot openly, fully, completely stand in
your midst as a man who loves another man and let that
be part of our experience together."
Every time he blesses a committed same-sex
relationship, said Charles, "it becomes a political
act. I don't want to be that way in the church. I want
to be one with you."
For several bishops, though, approving rites for
gay and lesbian couples was a step fraught with the
risk of alienating not only a sizable number of church
members but the rest of the Anglican Communion..
The issue addressed by Committee 25's final
resolve is "where this church is deeply, deeply
divided," said Bishop William Wantland (Eau Claire).
"I would call on this house to keep in mind not just
the impact in our own church, but what this says to
the rest of the Anglican Communion."
Wantland, a veteran of two decades of sexuality
debates in the house, also mentioned the potential
consequences for the Episcopal Church's relations with
the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the
Presbyterian Church, and the United Methodist Church,
all of which adopted resolutions opposing same-sex
unions in the last year and a half..
Bishop Frank Gray (Southern Virginia) had little
hope of resolving the issue. "We are hopelessly at
odds on this," he said. "We are not of one mind. We
are of two minds."
Bishop Robert Ihloff (Maryland) said the
leadership of the church has an obligation to keep
their dioceses from splitting over issues such as
sexuality. "It was distressing for me to hear, on the
floor of the House of Deputies, people who would leave
the church if the eighth resolve were passed," he
said. "That threat is left on the doorstep of our gay
and lesbian brothers and sisters and those of us who
Ihloff also said he was concerned about the
"casual way in which the church blesses everything
under the sun," including blessing boats, yacht clubs
and races. "The most frivolous is the blessing of the
hunt, which is a big part of Maryland. If we can bless
hounds and persons in the hunt, where the hounds at
least in their heart of hearts have only one object,
and that is to tear apart another living being, then
we need to look at the compassionate heart of Jesus,
where I think blessing is already being given to our
gay and lesbian brothers and sisters."
Bishop John Croneberger (Newark) spoke of the
love and acceptance in his immediate family, including
his lesbian daughter. "What do you do when you can't
go home" to that sort of loving family, he asked. "The
only thing I ask is, remember Psalm 123, which we read
on Sunday: 'Have mercy on us, oh Lord, have mercy; for
we have had more than enough of contempt.'"
Threats of schism
One group in the church understands God's
purposes through the Holy Spirit "in line with a
reasonable understanding of holy scripture," said
Bishop Andrew Fairfield (North Dakota). But another
group, he said, sees God's purposes revealed through
"a reaction to contemporary experience." This, said
Fairfield, is the fault line that is running through
Sharing what he called a "personal issue of
trust," Fairfield noted that the house was not
following the principles it endorsed at its recent
meetings in San Diego and Lake Arrowhead. "We said we
were going to do one thing, and it was not forcing the
issue," he said. But the last resolve being proposed
by Grew "forces the issue of membership."
Bishop Keith Ackerman also raised the specter of
schism. What really frightens him is that many of
those supporting restoration of the provision for
same-sex rites are doing so "not because they are for
it but because they want the church to split," he
said. "They really do." His comments prompted an
audible gasp from the visitors gallery. "That is just
sad, inappropriate, and unfortunate, and I do not
share that," he said..
Fairfield's characterization of the theological
fault line running through the church prompted a
response from Bishop Catherine Waynick (Indianapolis)..
"I would urge us to be careful not to characterize one
another as either paying attention to scripture or
paying attention to experience," said Waynick, a
member of Committee 25. "I would expect all of us take
both into account while reading the scripture."
Waynick also urged the house not to be "driven in
our deliberation or decision by the fear of
disagreement. Our call is not to come to agreement on
every troubled issue that comes to us in our journeys.
Our call is to love one another in spite our
The prospect of parishioners streaming out church
doors was cited by Bishop Bert Herlong (Tennessee).
"As many as six, eight or maybe ten congregations
could leave the Diocese of Tennessee," he said.
Herlong said he agreed with Wantland that relations
with the rest of the communion "will be further
jeopardized if we arrogantly proceed on a course of
blessing same-sex unions."
Even moderate bishops wondered whether supporting
same-sex blessings might be premature, and argued for
approving the resolution without the last resolve.
Bishop Frederick Borsch (Los Angeles) said that the
seven resolves approved by the deputies represented a
significant step forward, one that is pastoral and
worth commending. "This is a truly pastoral outreach
of this church," he said. While it may lead to a
future "that is a little murky," it "speaks to the
best of our church."
Voting their consciences
In a press conference following the vote, Bishop
Catherine Roskam (New York) said that despite the
strong opinions expressed, the day's debate continued
to demonstrate bishops' commitment to avoid "the old
way of relating." In recent years, some discourse
among bishops has been marked by rancor. "Standing on
different sides of an issue doesn't mean we're
divided," said Roskam, the only briefing officer to
attend the press conference. "We're united in love."
Roskam voted to reinsert the eighth resolve, and
said its intent might eventually come to pass. "This
is the way the spirit is moving in the church," she
said. "But I'm just one person up here," and other
bishops might feel differently, she said.
Bishops' votes on the resolve did not follow
geographic lines or other classifications, she
observed. Some of the votes against reinserting the
passage came from bishops of largely urban dioceses
and some bishops from rural areas voted to reinsert.
Some of the no votes could be taken as "not yet"
votes, she said. "We come here and vote our
conscience," Roskam said. The bishops "deliberated
this issue with a great deal of integrity."
Roskam pointed out that Bishop Leo Frade
(Honduras) spoke for the resolution, challenging the
popular assumption that Third World people and people
of color don't support issues of sexuality. "The
stereotypes � don't hold," she said.
When asked how large a population of gay and
lesbian people would be "advantaged" by the adoption
of the resolution, Roskam replied that in allowing
people full access to the church and its sacraments,
"we're not advantaging anyone." She quoted research
that says 10 to 20 percent of the overall population
is gay, but her "armchair" estimate is that "the
percentage is larger in the Episcopal Church, because
we have been a welcoming church."
--David Skidmore is director of communications for the
Diocese of Chicago. Joe Thoma is director of
communications for the Diocese of Central Florida..
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