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  • U.M. Cornet
    CALLED OUT INFORMATION SERVICE 2 Stories... ... resolve calling for liturgical rites to support non-marital relationships July 12, 2000 GC2000-062 BULLETIN:
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 13, 2000

      2 Stories...

      resolve calling for liturgical rites to support
      non-marital relationships

      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
      sexuality resolution

      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
      support them."

      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
      the church..

      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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