Monday, July 13, 2009

Reflections on the Voting on D025 - or Getting Past B033

From the floor of Deputies:

We have come on Sunday of all days to discuss the ordination of bishops in the Episcopal Church – or, really, the ordination of partnered gay and lesbian bishops, for there is no other issue in general regarding the ordination of bishops. Indeed, we aren’t really discussing that, either. We’re actually discussing D025, titled, “Anglican Communion: Commitment and Witness to Anglican Communion.” The real issue is a resolution from 2006, B033. That was the resolution that called for bishops and Standing Committees of dioceses to “exercise restraint” in consenting to the election of a bishop whose “manner of life” would displease Anglicans elsewhere.

The legislative committee on World Mission considered three sorts of resolutions. Some would simply repeal or rescind B033. Some would make a positive statement about not allowing discrimination in admission to discernment for any office, ordained or lay. Some would make a broader statement. They chose D025 as the broadest response.

Interestingly enough, D025 doesn’t speak to 2006-B033. It doesn’t repeal or rescind it. Rather, it speaks of openness in discernment. It also speaks of maintaining as best we can our relationships with other Anglicans around the world, including financial support. It also speaks of the ministries we already see of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons in the Church, and the way that folks in those ministries have demonstrated the gifts of the Spirit.

As when we heard so many voices two days ago, there aren’t really any new points being made. Once again the points made are made with passion, and with clarity. One could speak of “the usual suspects;” that is, voices from dioceses that have been pushing the Church toward inclusion support the resolution. Voices from dioceses that have been anxious, both about Scriptural issues about inclusion of glbt persons and about relations with those parts of the Anglican Communion that are unhappy with us, do not support it.

Interestingly enough, folks from both ends speak of sacrifice, and about who within our own ranks will be lost – some literally, driven to leave the Episcopal Church because it is too slow in embracing all the baptized or because it is too fast in incorporating all the baptized. Several times reference has been made to the image of a plane, requiring two wings to fly. The image is clear, of course, as is the concern: just who can we “afford” to lose – and I put that in quotes because any loss isn’t good or even acceptable, even if comprehensible.

And yet now and again there is something more positive. There has been a person who read the story of Jesus healing at the pool at Bethesda, and ended by calling for the House to “sin no more so that nothing more bad may happen to us;” but although she self-identified as being against the measure, I have to admit I wasn’t clear on how she meant that. There has been a person supporting the measure whose tone was not simply earnest but hopeful. There was the person who stated, “In the first place readiness for many has nothing to do with our baptismal vow,” which seems a rather odd thing to say; or, better, an odd way to say that baptism in and of itself doesn’t qualify one for ordination, which I think is what the person meant.

We’re operating under a special order, and not simply the Rules of the House of Deputies. So we’ve had thirty minutes of testimony before anyone might offer an amendment.

There has been a call for a vote by orders. When we vote, then, the clergy deputies of our diocese and the lay deputies will confer separately, and will each offer a single, separate vote. In an interesting constitutional maneuver, there has been a request to divide the resolution into two parts. That is, each part would be voted on separately, and could stand or fall independently. Essentially, the point chosen would separate our affirmation of our life in the Anglican Communion from our affirmation of the glbt persons in our midst and are accession to our Constitution and Canons in opening discernment for ministry. So, the first part could pass (and it almost certainly would), while the second part could fail (which I doubt it would, but it would be much closer). Moreover, there has been call for a vote by orders on the motion to divide.

And of course all this takes time. We’ve already clarified that the time for these voting machinations aren’t taking time from time for debate or amendment. We haven’t discussed how much energy it’s taking from the members of the House.

I will spare you the machinations. I expect they will in fact carry on for a while. Suffice to say that something will happen, and many of you will see it in the news before you see my comments here. But I want to tell you two things. First, everyone is quite serious. No one is casual, and no one is flippant. The house is intent, if not yet intense.

Second, it is hard to hear in the midst of so much talk of sacrifice those voices that speak of mission. No one considers mission irrelevant. Every person thinks this will in one way or another affect our ability to do God’s work. But few are actually speaking of that.

But then few are actually speaking. Most of us are paying attention, voting when called upon, and hoping: hoping that we can indeed focus again on mission. Most of us indeed seem to want “to get past this.” We’re just not agreed on what we’ll find past this when we get there.

And now we’ve voted – and while we wait for the results of the vote by orders, we’re trying to get on with the business of the house. There is certainly other business to do, and even important business. Still, our attention is divided while we wait….

The motion has passed, and passed with a margin of roughly 70% to 30 %. The rules of the House of Deputies do not allow for applause, and there is none. That may be due as much to exhaustion as to the rules. Rather, there is prayer and departure, for the legislative day has ended.

I was a visitor in the House of Deputies in 1976 when the change to Canons allowed for the ordination of women to the priesthood. I was an exhibitor in 1979 when the Prayer Book was approved. I was a visitor in 1982 to see the debate and approval of the Hymnal. I was sitting in the Alternate gallery in 2006 when B033 was approved. And now I was a Deputy, voting on this. I have a feeling that this is another event in the life of the Church that I will be talking about in years to come..

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