Saturday 18 July 2009

Is this the Schism (finally)?

There’s been a lot of shouting about the Episcopal Church choosing to walk apart and abandoning the Communion but if you read Resolution D025 most of it is about staying in the Communion. It doesn’t even mention the moratorium on bishops whose ‘manner of life’ is a problem to the wider Communion. So is it an end to the moratorium or not?

It’s a long resolution and it can be interpreted in different ways. The clearest bits are the ones that say the Episcopal Church is NOT walking apart. The questions come about the resolve which says that God may call partnered gay and lesbian people to any ordained ministry, and that the Church will use its usual discernment process to discern their call.

The Presiding Bishop has stated in a letter to Rowan Williams and the other Primates ‘This General Convention has not repealed Resolution B033. It remains to be seen how Resolution B033 will be understood and interpreted in light of Resolution D025. Some within our Church may understand Resolution D025 to give Standing Committees (made up of elected clergy and laity) and Bishops with jurisdiction more latitude in consenting to Episcopal elections. Others, in light of Resolution B033, will not.’

So once again this resolution ‘holds the tension’ and provides a big tent within which people of many different theological stripes can come together. It’s classical Anglicanism – both/and not either/or and that drives some people crazy!

The Presiding Bishop describes D025 as descriptive not prescriptive and that’s probably what she’ll say about C056 as well which allows bishops to make a ‘generous pastoral response’ to those in same-gender relationships. It also calls for collecting and developing theological and liturgical materials for blessing same-gender relationships. It does not go as far as developing a rite for public blessings.

Just like D025 the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. How bishops interpret this will depend on their local circumstances. America is a big country and things vary a lot from place to place so local discernment makes a lot of sense.

All this reminds me of the ‘coming out’ process for LGBT people. However cautious and careful you are there comes a point when you just have to be yourself and stop worrying about Mum and Dad (and Grandma and your cousins). It’s not that you don’t want to be part of the family anymore, but it really isn’t family if you’re trying to be something you’re not just so you can come home for Christmas. The Episcopal Church has finally had the guts to say who they are and we’ll wait and see what that actually means.

As far as I’m concerned they’re welcome for Christmas (and Thanksgiving!)

Revd Caro Hall
Priest-in-charge, St Benedict's Episcopal Church, Los Osos
Board member, Integrity USA

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