Friday, February 23, 2007

Hail to the Chief!

House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson has issued her statement on the Primates Communique from Tanzania. Posted on the ENS website I recommend you read the text posted below while humming "Hail to the Chief."

As I read the Communiqué from the Primates' Meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I am deeply troubled by its implications for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

I continue to offer the Primates my affection, prayer and companionship along the way of the Cross and I respect their leadership of our Communion. Their Communiqué, however, raises profound and serious issues regarding their authority to require any member Church to take the types of specific actions the Communiqué contemplates and whether they have authority to enforce consequences or penalties against any member Church that does not act in a way they desire. The type of authority for the Primates implicit in the Communiqué would change not only the Episcopal Church but the essence of the Anglican Communion.

The polity of the Episcopal Church is one of shared decision making among the laity, priests and deacons and bishops. The House of Bishops does not make binding, final decisions about the governance of the Church. Decisions like those requested by the Primates must be carefully considered and ultimately decided by the whole Church, all orders of ministry, together.
Some are asking whether the Primates can ask our House of Bishops to take certain actions and put a deadline on their request. Yes, they can ask. There are larger questions that need to be addressed, including: Is it a good idea for our House of Bishops to do what they have asked? Is the House of Bishops the right body within the Episcopal Church to respond to the Primates' requests?

Our baptismal promise to seek and serve Christ in all people must be very carefully considered when we are being asked as Episcopalians to exclude some of our members from answering the Holy Spirit's call to use their God-given gifts to lead faithful lives of ministry. Our promise to strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of all people binds us together. The Episcopal Church has declared repeatedly that our understanding of the Baptismal Covenant requires that we treat all persons equally regardless of their race, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, disabilities, age, color, ethnic origin, or national origin.

To honor all of the Primates' requests would change the way the Episcopal Church understands its role in the Communion and the way Episcopalians make decisions about our common life. Our church makes policy and interprets its resolutions and Canons through the General Convention and, to a lesser extent, the Executive Council.

As president of the 800-plus member House of Deputies, it is my duty to ensure that the voice of the clergy and the laity of our Church will be heard as the Church discusses and debates the Primates' requests and that that process will not be pre-empted by the House of Bishops or any other group. I have already begun to work toward that end.

All Anglicans must remember that the second Lambeth Conference in 1878 recommended that "the duly certified action of every national or particular Church, and of each ecclesiastical province (or diocese not included in a province), in the exercise of its own discipline, should be respected by all the other Churches, and by their individual members."

This has been the tradition of the Anglican Communion. To demand strict uniformity of practice diminishes our Anglican traditions.

Our tradition of autonomous churches in the Anglican Communion, that come together because of our love of Christ and our common heritage, has allowed us to focus on mission and evangelism to our broken world which is in desperate need of the Good News of God in Christ. In recent times, however, we have spent too much of our time, talent and treasure debating if we ought to deny some people a place at the table to which Jesus calls us all. Instead, we must listen to each other – really listen and not just read reports – so that we can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit moving through all of us and calling us to be more faithful.


Anonymous said...

Greetings, Susan and all, from a gay Presbyterian fellow traveler down the freeway in L.A. I have followed this whole debacle with the kind of mingled horror and fascination normally associated with freeway accidents, and was feeling angry and depressed at how it appears to be playing out. Ordinarily I can say to myself, and anyone who cares to listen, that the train is already out of the station on LGBTQ full inclusion in all arenas, and it's not going to stop. Which doesn't mean we need to relax our vigilance, of course. Anyway, at our Ash Wednesday service, Frank was preaching a pretty firm line on justice from Isaiah 58, and told this story about Desmond Tutu, which I found extremely inspiring and applicable to our concerns:

"Each of us and all of us as exiles who refuse to accept the situation as it is and dare to dream and to exercise our prophetic imagination in spite of the evidence. Exiles are not other people. All people who dare to imagine and work for the realization of an alternative reality are exiles. If you aren't angry and deeply distressed, you are not paying attention! If you are not sometimes disillusioned and despairing- just keep living.

A beautiful picture of this happened at the height of apartheid in South Africa. A political rally had been called and canceled by the government, so Archbishop Tutu said, "Okay, we're just going to have church then." And church he had. They gathered together in that Cathedral and the police were massing by the hundreds on the outside and they were there to intimidate, to threaten, to try and frighten all the worshipers. I will testify, being on the inside, that I was scared. You could feel the tension in that place. The police were so bold and arrogant they even came into that Cathedral and stood along the walls. They were writing down and tape recording every thing that Archbishop Tutu said. But he stood there to preach. And he stood up, a little man with long, flowing robes, and he said, "This system of apartheid cannot endure because it is evil." That's a wonderful thing to say, but very few people on the planet believed that statement at that point in time. But I could tell that he believed it. Then he pointed his finger at those police standing along the walls of his sanctuary and said, "You are powerful. You are very powerful, but you are not gods and I serve a God who cannot be mocked." Then he flashed that wonderful Desmond Tutu smile and said, "So, since you've already lost, since you've already lost, I invite you today to come and join the winning side!" And at that the congregation erupted. They began dancing in the church. They danced out into the streets and the police moved back because they didn't expect dancing worshipers."

I want to believe we're on the winning side, and usually do. I want us to "just have church then". I want us to dance in the streets. And I believe we will.

Ed Murray, Music Director, Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles
P.S. You can read the entire sermon here:

Anonymous said...

"The Episcopal Church has declared repeatedly that our understanding of the Baptismal Covenant requires that we treat all persons equally regardless of their race, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, disabilities, age, color, ethnic origin, or national origin."

Susan: If three people walked into your office: a gay male, a bisexual male and a bi woman and wanted you to bless their committed relationship before they joined the Church as a family... you would. Is that a true statement?

RonF said...

What the members of the House of Bishops have been asked to do is well within their power. A Diocesean Bishop can readily deny (or unauthorize) the creation and use of any rite for any purpose within his or her diocese. Equally, they can deny a consent for the ordination of a bishop-elect for any reason. They need not consult with anyone to do this.

After all, if it had been intended that a Diocesean Bishop would exercise their authority always in the fashion that a consensus of the Diocese desired, then that would be the way our polity would be structured. But it's not. In spiritual matters, the Bishop is supposed to be our shepherd, and sheperds have to at times direct their flock to go in directions they don't wish to go, and in obedience to a higher authority.


pilgrim ...

No, no I would not.

See General Convention 2003 Resolution C051 and get back to me on what part of "monogamous" you don't understand.

Anonymous said...

But I am not talking bigamy, as opposed to monogamy, I am talking about polyandry. If divorce and remarriage (which is really nothing more than serial polygamy) can gain acceptance over lifelong monogamy, if homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexualism and lesbianism can gain acceptance alongside heterosexuality, then what is to keep polyamorous groups from gaining acceptance over time? See, even though TEC claims inclusivity for "GLBTs," I don't think the church is really committed to inclusivity for bisexuals, who by their very nature are multipartnered. That means that to be monogamous is by nature foreign to them, if that's the way they are created by God. So why shouldn't the same considerations and sacraments be extended to them as you are extending to others with diverse sexual orientations?

And Canon law can be rewritten; it happens all the time. They are not written in stone.

Anonymous said...

On what basis/authority do we require monogomy?

Anonymous said...

"Pilgrim" wrote: "I don't think the church is really committed to inclusivity for bisexuals, who by their very nature are multipartnered."

Where, oh where, do you get that information? Your question to Susan+, first of all, is so far from the point, and this statement only shows your biased ignorance. Give it up, pilgrim, give it up. Free yourself from the tyranny of prejudice -- give it up for Lent and watch how you'll grow. And thrive.

John Gibson said...

Oh for crying out loud, Pilgrim, quit being asinine. You remind me of people who used to warn, "if you let THEM into the schools, the next thing you know, THEY'LL want to take your women."


For "pilgrim:"

"...bisexuals, who by their very nature are multipartnered."


Ignorance Alert.

Please find an actual bisexual (email me off-blog if that turns out to be hard for you -- I can set you up) and engage in an actual conversation about how he/she understand his/her sexual orientation.

The fiction that bisexuality is "do not pass go do not collect $100" pass to promiscuity or polyamory exists primarily in the imagination of those who project their own fantasy world onto others.

To be bisexual is to recognize that one is "wired" to equally experience emotional and erotic attraction to opposite and same gender partners. How one chooses to ACT on those attractions are the "lifestyle" piece -- and the standards we -- the Episcopal Church -- call ALL people to ... gay, straight and anywhere-in-between ... are outlined in C051.

Mutual Respect.
The holy love that enables us to see Christ in one another.

You're playing the apples and oranges game, pilgrim, with a few red herrings thrown in.

Here endeth the game.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Ahem. Back to the topic.

Kudos to Bonnie for a wonderful and on-point message on our polity.

I am sure the Spirit's prophetic voice in our province and culture will use that polity to her advantage.


Caminante said...

Pilgrim, you need to do some serious reading on bisexuality and get past the stereotype that bisexuals are polyamorous.

Your statement, "That means that to be monogamous is by nature foreign to them, if that's the way they are created by God," is way off-base.

I am just reiterating what others have said but frankly, the more the merrier.

Fr Timothy Matkin said...

Although the General Convention can and should follow up with its own action, the House of Bishops is able to effect the requested moratoriums on its own.

How do we know this? Because it has already happened. Remember the moratorium on episcopal elections and consecrations from WR to themost recent General Convention? It worked, and a new moratorium focusing on the bishops' roles in these matters can work as well.