Mainstream Episcopals response to General Convention and appeal to Anglican Communion

I use the word “Mainstream” somewhat tongue-in-cheek, since both sides in the Episcopal Church’s debate on sexuality have adopted that word to describe themselves.

Conservative Episcopals from around the country met in Dallas on Oct 7-9 to meet, pray, and discuss the appropriate response to the denomination’s General Convention in August. The two actions of the GC that have caused the most debate were the approval of a non-celibate gay Bishop, and the approval for Episcopal churches to bless homosexual unions.

Over 600 parishes from 105 diocese were represented, including 46 bishops, about the same number of deacons, 800 preists, over 100 seminary students and over 1400 lay persons.

There was speculation leading up to the meeting that it might result in a schism in the Episcopal Church, with the conservatives petitioning the worldwide Anglican Communion to recognize them as the true Anglican presence in North America, to the exclusion of the Episcopal Church USA.

I promised Polycarp and others that I would be back here after the meeting to debate what happened. Here is the document/petition released as a result of the gathering.

In the part of the petition aimed at the Archbishop of Canterbury and the national primates who are meeting in London in a few weeks, they ask:

As a side note, I’m pleased that they have appealed to the worldwide church instead of taking unilateral action.

What I’m looking for in this thread is 1) reactions to the “Call to Action” released from the conference 2) speculation as to what the reaction of the ECUSA might be (I have my thoughts about that) and 3) speculation about what will happen when the Archbishop and Primates meet later this month.

(Okay, I know how the word is being used here but I wanted to bump the thread before it left the front page anyway.)


He-he, he called the bishops “primates!”


Well, I guess the Neanderthals were primates, too.

Unsurprisingly, this thread hasn’t exactly caught fire. Religion debates are hot, political debates are hot, but church politics elicits a big “meh” from the SDMB.

I’ll try again next week, after the Archbishop’s meeting in London. I think it’s unlikely that Rowan will take any serious steps to oppose ECUSA – my prediction is a weak plea for the two sides to work out their differences within the established structure of the church. If that is the extent of the official response, look for the AAC (conservative American Anglican Council) to look for help more directly from other conservative bishops from around the world (especially Africa and the Pacific).

Here’s the whole thing, with commentary:

“our Lord’s Great Commandment”? Pardon me, but I thought there were two of them. Which one are they ranking behind Matt. 28:19? (BTW, the phrase “Great Commission” appears nowhere in the Bible. It is a statement of the relative value some humans have assigned to a certain Biblical passage, not that which God has assigned.)

How so? Simply by being first? I’m not sure which church in the AC was first to ordain women, but was it ‘breaking fellowship’ or leading the way out of darkness? And how do you know the same isn’t true in the present instance?

Them’s serious words, because they’re saying, ‘We know this is a sin - we don’t have to wait for further wisdom on this matter. We have no uncertainty here, despite our human limitations.’ That, my friends, is hubris in a nutshell.

Where to start? Ordaining women used to be regarded as unbiblical, and is still viewed as such in many places.

And for those who are initiating schism to accuse the EC majority of ‘schismatic actions’ - WTF???


They might have heeded Rowan’s words:

Another thing Rowan had to say:

This isn’t irrevocable, but it’s certainly significant. It is nothing less than a call for the Anglican Communion’s assistance in splitting the Episcopal Church in two.

More Rowan (from the first link):

I don’t see an “and issue inflammatory calls for schism” in there anywhere.

The American Anglican Council and I clearly have different ideas about how one goes about glorifying God in a situation like this.

I’ll put my marker down for a much stronger response to your group’s actions than you anticipate.

You see how seriously Rowan took the action of the ECUSA in elevating one openly gay priest to the level of bishop. By openly calling for division (under whatever name), the AAC’s actions make that action look like a triviality by comparison. The AAC has left him no choice but to condemn them strongly, and I think that’s what we’ll see.

IOW, after appealing to the AC, the AAC would then ignore the advice of its titular leader? Sounds like they’ve decided what answer they want, and they’ll keep on asking the question of different bodies until they get the answer they’re looking for.

If that’s their plan of action, then shame on them.

Thank you! Now we have a debate.

I don’t know what you mean. They are referring to Matthew 22:37-38

Emphasis mine. Then of course, as you said, the Great Commission is Matt. 28:19. This happens to be the last commandment Jesus gives before His ascension, which may explain the “relative value” that is traditional given to it. If you’re going to touch upon the most important commandments from Jesus, it makes sense to start with these two. I don’t know which other one you are thinking of.

Being a woman is not a sin. The church has debated about whether or not it is appropriate for women to be ordained preists, and I think it has come to the right conclusion. Certainly there are many women in the Bible given a high place of honor. There is no comparison with men or women who reject the biblical model of marriage and sexuality and embrace homosexuality (or any other sexual sin). By rejecting traditional doctrine and the scriptural guidance, they have broken fellowship with the wider body of Christ.

I’ll give you the first part – they are saying ‘we know this is a sin.’ That’s why they have taken the stand they have taken. I think a better example of hubris is taking something that is condemned in the bible, something that the church has rejected through the ages (as recently as 1998, in the case of the Anglican church), and saying that you believe it to be okay after all. Rejecting the biblical model of marriage, endorsed by Jesus in Matt 19:4-6.

Again, the ordination of women is debatable. There are reasonable scriptural arguments on both sides. But the issue is not gender or even sexual orientation; the issue is the authority of scripture in faithfulness and the role of human sexuality. It is ECUSA who has separated themselves from the Church by these decisions, not the other way around.

Um, yeah, well said. They list the positive steps they are taking in this situation, but you’d rather ignore those.

I also agree with you that Rowan would have preferred this convention not take place. Before talking to some of the delegates who attended, I was apprehensive myself. But I think it was important for the Episcopalians represented in Dallas to meet, pray, support and comfort each other, and to have some kind of message prepared for Rowan before the meeting next week. I was thankful that they didn’t take any unilateral action – no declaration of independence from ECUSA or anything like that. I think the declaration strikes the right note by appealing to the AC.

I would be shocked to see that happen, at least to see such a condemnation come from the whole assembly of bishops. Too many of them share the AAC’s dismay with the ECUSA. Frankly I have a hard time seeing the bishops agree on much of anything, which is why I expect a weak statement.

I don’t know what the plans are if Rowan rejects their appeal. He is the titular head, but still only the foremost among equals. The AAC would probably align itself in some way with more simpathetic bishops in the AC. The votes that ECUSA took in August may ultimately cause tension and division far outside of North America, in addition to what we’ve seen already here at home.

Maybe you should have kept reading that passage from Matthew 22, through verses 39 and 40. It continues:

Its omission seems particularly relevant in this instance.

I’ll respond to the rest tomorrow.

And the ECUSA has come to the conclusion that to desire physical and spiritual union with someone of one’s own sex, rather than someone of the opposite sex, isn’t a sin either. And high time, IMHO. :slight_smile:

Funny, the Pope was just saying something like this to Rowan the other day - only he was referring to the ordination of women, not recognition of homosexuality as legitimate.

So it seems to me that the comparison is right on.

You say that the ECUSA has rejected traditional doctrine and scriptural guidance. There were both of these in the case of women’s role in the Church. Scripture said that women should be seen and not heard in the congregation; tradition agreed. We have since looked at other Scriptures and begun a new tradition.

So it is here. We have acknowledged that sexual orientation is not a trivial, surface thing in the human psyche, that we can change by willing to do so; nor can we expect such change to be the outcome of long and heartfelt prayer. Under these circumstances, the guidance of the Second Great Commandment is essential. To love our neighbor as ourselves, when our neighbor is gay, requires us to acknowledge the reality of their experience, and not to dismiss it as something we know better about than they do. And it further demands that we not require them to pay an absurdly unreasonable cost for that reality, by requiring them to choose between living lives of deceit (by masquerading as straight, and frequently messing up the lives of others by involving spouses in the consequences of that charade), or being pariahs (if they choose to live openly as gays) or foreclosing their own sexuality to protect our sensibilities (if they choose to buy into the ‘homosexual orientation = call to celibacy’ dishonesty that straight Christians have ‘offered’ them as an alleged way out of the dilemma we for so long imposed on them).

As you can see from the preceding, I entirely disagree with you on that.

I would say nobody’s rejecting that model. Nowhere in Jesus’ earthly ministry did He say one word about homosexuality, either to acknowledge or to condemn it. Matt. 19:4-6 is an instance of that. That’s all.

‘the authority of scripture in faithfulness’: the problem is that Scripture wasn’t written by mathematicians, and it decidedly lacks the internal consistency of a mathematical system. At some point, we as Christians have to decide what to do when the implication arrows run head-on into one another, as they did over women’s ordination, and as they do over recognition of gay sexuality. In the case of women’s ordination, it wasn’t a matter of someone finding a bunch of little, specific verses saying that women should speak up in church; there were no such verses. It was a matter of acknowledgement of the truth about women, that women had known all along but we men denied: that women are as intelligent and as spiritual as men, are as capable of leading a congregation as men are, and can be called to the priesthood, just like men are. And in the light of that, the deeper spiritual principle of loving our (female) neighbors as ourselves, and allowing them to be true to their calling, trumped the specific verses about women keeping quiet in church. That was how that worked.

This matter is directly analogous. It could not be more so.

I’m looking for the positive steps you say I hurried past, but I don’t find them. Instead, I find that they have raise the issue of Lambeth 1998, which Polycarp already responded to in the second page of the I’m Proud of My Church thread that preceded this one:

They “proclaim God’s transforming power for everyone seeking sexual purity and wholeness”, which I assume means they believe that God will ‘heal’ gays of their gayness, if they will give their hearts to Him. The only problem with this is, the landscape is littered with the lives of gays who fully bought into this, and found that God wouldn’t change what they were.

Nothing wrong with this…

That statement was hardly necessary. In light of the statements that members of the minority made after the ECUSA voted back in August, Rowan could have written the AAC’s statement in advance. Hell, I could have; the wisdom of a Rowan Williams was hardly necessary in this instance.

The only need to issue such a statement was to act pre-emptively. Yes, the AAC is ‘appealing to the AC’, but even the appeal is an action in and of itself - and given the extreme nature of the ‘request’, it’s a pretty strong one.

In light of the gay bishop-elect, some questions

Will the Anglican Communion schism over the ordination of Bishop Robinson?

Both of these threads had some rather substantive discussion on the issues that are arising in this thread.

Thanks, RTF, for linking to the previous threads. I wanted to do that last night but the board was not cooperating.

First, when the AC statement refers to “the Great Commandment” I don’t know if the omission of the second great commandment was intentional or not. My own omission of it was unintentional :smack:.

Yes, and that’s exactly the root of the problem. What do they base that conclusion on? From Genesis through the New Testament, the scriptural model of marriage (the appropriate context for sexual union) is a man and a woman. Every time homosexuality is mentioned, it is condemned. Jewish culture forbad it. The church through the ages, with few exceptions, has declared it a sin. Under what authority does the ECUSA come to decide that it is okay?

And you wouldn’t say that the Pope is the one who broke communion with the AC by maintaining historic doctrine, would you?

Given the high regard held for the Pope on this board, this quote isn’t likely to win me a lot of arguments – but I wanted to inject that I was touched by the letter sent to the AAC last week on the pontiff’s behalf:

Getting back to women’s ordination - I was not around for that fight, so my familiarity with the arguments is weaker than it should be. But the issue now is different. Womanhood is never condemned in scripture; homosexuality is. Should women be ordained? Maybe and maybe not; I can respect both arguments. It’s a matter of church polity. But we’re not talking about who should and should not be ordained, we’re talking about accepting behavior traditionally identified as sinful.

I agree with you so far.

What is ‘absurdly unreasonable?’ We expect unmarried heterosexuals to be celibate, sometimes for life; some would call that unreasonable. We expect married people to stay married to the same person for their entire life, some would call that unreasonable. We expect people who are sexually attracted to close relatives, children or animals to stay celibate also. And it stinks. I don’t know why God gives people desires that He tells them not to act upon. But it’s not unique to gays.

If the content of the message to the AC was already anticipated, then nothing was changed by putting it in writing, except to force the AC to address it and not dismiss it as sour grapes from a “tiny but vocal” minority (which is how I saw it described in the newspaper by a liberal preist).

You’ve seen enough debates on this board to know that that is disputed. Homosexuality as a inate sexual orientation was not known to the Biblical authors and they never addressed the orientation. What was condemned were certain behaviors, which arguably are not condeming all homosexual behavior."]Here’s a good essay on the topic. Basically, the entire arugement against homosexuality based on the Bible is weakly based on five verses that are easily shown to be inconclusive at best.

Fixed link

Always happy to help. The board definitely runs more smoothly in the early a.m. hours, US East Coast time.

No prob.

Well, I’ve told you what I base it on. Feel free to take potshots. [quuote]From Genesis through the New Testament, the scriptural model of marriage (the appropriate context for sexual union) is a man and a woman.
And all through that time, the Scriptures put women in a secondary, subservient role.

All of what, half a dozen references, with about half of those in Leviticus? (Unless you’re planning to obey the levitical law, I’m tossing those out up front.)

And the Church, through the ages, declared that women had no business being anything but subservient to men.

I honestly don’t understand what you are asking here. Under what authority does any church body decide anything?

A-HA! There we are.

Why would I say that? No, really.

Christians are frequently going to disagree about genuinely serious matters, in addition to numerous trivial ones. If we’ve “broken communion” with one another every time this happens, then IMHO we should admit that our faith is a failure, and let each worship Christ in his own way.

The Pope is one thing. But I ain’t gonna touch anything with Ratzinger’s name on it.

You said that before, and I responded rather clearly that I was drawing an analogy between the ordination of women, and the validation of homosexual relationships.

You’re welcome to draw different analogies, but doing so doesn’t rebut the validity of the one I’ve drawn.

Unmarried heterosexuals: I was one of them into my late 30s, and as such, I lived the celibate life. But I had the hope (ultimately fulfilled, thank goodness) that that circumstance would come to an end, which is something that you would deny gays.
Married couples: one can argue whether it’s sufficient, I suppose, but we married folks do have a legitimized outlet for our inborn sexual desires. Again, more than could be said about gay couples.
Persons sexually attracted to close relatives, children, and animals: Depends on how close: in many states, first cousins can legally marry. Never seen a prohibition in the BCP. Parent-child and brother-sister incest has plenty of reasons for the taboo: besides the obvious inbreeding problems, most such incestuous situations are all about the strong exploiting the weak. Ditto for sexual attraction to children. Needless to say, male-male and female-female relationships aren’t especially vulnerable to exploitation.

Most significantly, though, in my mind, is the equating of inherently different things. IME, it is rare for someone to have a call to a celibate life - for the sake of serving God, or for any other reason. And such callings are very much an individual thing: God doesn’t seem to wave his arm at a particular group of people and say, “everyone with red hair, green eyes, and a wart on their left cheek is called to celibacy.” But that’s what’s been proposed here - that somehow if you’re gay, the Lord is calling you to live the celibate life, even if He hasn’t shared that with you yet.

If one is playing to the newspapers, it’s important to rebut such statements in the newspapers. But if one is trying to work within the Body of Christ, then one might want to have some consideration for those who have an actual responsibility to work their way through this thorny matter.

I have a great deal of faith in Rowan Williams. I genuinely believe that if anyone can resolve this matter in a way that honors Christ, yet satisfies enough of the parties involved that things don’t start coming apart, he is the one who can do it. But even Rowan, for all his wisdom, isn’t Superman. And the more complicated things are made, the more difficult such a resolution will be to reach. And I can’t regard the language of the AAC’s resolution as being anything but a pile of complications, of which the underlying demand for a new Anglican province in the USA is but one, even though it’s certainly the biggest.

Here’s the Primates’ statement.

CNN story.

I’m still ruminating over it, so I don’t have a lot to say yet. But there’s the links, in case anyone else wants to jump in.

Ah, spiritual blackmail! Ain’t it grand?

Using GLSEN as a cite to dispute this issue would be like use Jerry Fallwell or Pat Buchanan as a sourse to refure evolution. Can you come up with a cite a little less biased perhaps?

First impressions after reading:

  1. Please stop Gene Robinson from being Bishop. Please stop blessing same-sex unions.

  2. We’ll throw you a bone and actually appoint a committee to study the issue.

  3. Nobody blow anything up til then!

Anyone read it different?

Actually, Priam, I read it as follows:

  1. Please, Gene Robinson, step down before we blame this whole thing on your stubborn insistence on being treated as a human being equal to straight people.

  2. Please, Westminster Diocese, stop treating gay people as human beings fully equal to straight people before we blame this whole thing on your stubborn insistence on doing so.

  3. Both of you were pretty darn arrogant to start treating gay people as fully equal human beings before we told you you could.