Friday, July 17, 2009

From the Floor: C056

We are here, on this last day of General Convention, discussing C056 on “Liturgies for Blessings.” We have not set as much time for this as we did on D025; but we have set aside more time than for most resolutions. It will take that time and more, because we have already had a call for a vote by orders.

The voices are largely the same. Oh, there was the deputy who asked whether passing this resolution, which allows “an open process for the consideration of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships,” and functionally allows bishops who wish to “provide generous pastoral response,” which we all understand to mean blessings in some form for same gender relationships. Would this violate the Canons and the rubrics of the Prayer Book? It was noted that the resolution sought to change neither; but for those who want no such blessings at all that is beside the point. But the ruling of the Chancellor and the Legislative Committee is that no.

There is also recognition that we are asked to concur – that is, we are receiving this from the House of Bishops for agreement, for acceptance of changes and adjustments that they reached with their own hard negotiation. We have been reminded of that, and it is no small point. If it fails here it is done. If it is amended here, it will be sent back to the bishops, but for lack of time it will be largely done.

So, we are hearing about how many GLBT parishioners will find this compassionate and inclusive. We are hearing how many Episcopalians have already left, with implication that many more might leave, over this issue. We are hearing of the call of the Spirit for compassion and justice. We are hearing that this violates the tradition of the Church, and the efforts at unity in the Communion written in the Windsor Report and its requested moratoria. We are hearing that we are following the world and not the Scriptures; and that the world is, at least in this, reflecting the movement of the Spirit better than the Church. And everyone, everyone, is arguing that his or her position is a commitment to the mission of the Church.

Once again, the voices are fervent, pleading, with perhaps an edge of anger. No one is casual; and once again no one is dismissive of those with whom they disagree (although, once again I doubt that those who listen don’t feel dismissed).

We are asked to consider what we might mean now, at the end of Convention and with this resolution and D025, by “ubuntu,” or “I am because we are; and because I am we are.” What does that mean? How are we accountable to one another, both within our own body and within the larger Communion? How are they accountable to us? We do not have that answer; but those who disagree with the resolution are clear that they feel the majority have not been and will not be sufficiently accountable to them, or to the wider Communion. And, of course, those who agree with the resolution, with the majority, feel the majority of the Communion have not been sufficiently accountable to us, sufficiently sensitive to our specific circumstances. So we are told we are prideful, ignoring the voices of Windsor and of Primates, violating the calls for moratoria. We are conversely told that the Communion is prideful, having violated the moratorium on provincial boundary crossings, while we held off on the possibilities of confirming the election of a partnered gay bishop or of blessing a faithful gay couple.

We will deal with this resolution, and will most likely pass it. It will certainly not heal the breach, either within the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion. Conversely, I don’t think it will make matters much worse. Those who have gone will not return if this fails, nor will those in the wider Anglican Communion who have broken communion move to re-establish it. Those bishops who believe pastoral generosity cannot extend to any blessing for gay or lesbian coupled will not have to, and probably will not, participate in the collecting of resources. In their dioceses, and in those congregations that oppose them, blessings will not happen. In those dioceses that do support this collecting, this experimentation, blessings will happen, perhaps more openly than they might have otherwise, than they might have already.

And yet I can’t say that nothing will change. There will be incremental changes. Some bishops will feel they have institutional support they did not have before to allow experimentation. Some couples will be prayed for, blessed in a tangible way, that would not have been otherwise. Within “civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal,” something more open may be done. No one is really confused: with this act we are as the Episcopal Church inching toward recognizing these couples as capable of faithful, loving, and specifically holy relationships. May God bless us and keep us, every one.

C056 has passed. It has passed, in a vote by orders, by wide margins in both laity and clergy. It is done.

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