Episcopalians of widely varied opinions gather to discuss House of Bishops meeting
by Janet Kawamoto
A wide range of viewpoints and reactions to the recent meeting and statement of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church was expressed by attendees at a meeting of clergy and laity hosted Oct. 2 at the Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda.
The bishops of Los Angeles-J. Jon Bruno, Chester Talton, Robert Anderson and Sergio Carranza-talked about their experiences at the House of Bishops meeting, held Sept. 20-25 in New Orleans, and then opened the floor for questions and comments.
Several attendees spoke in opposition to the statement released by the bishops at the end of the New Orleans meeting, but the opposition came both from gay and lesbian Episcopalians and their advocates, and from conservative church members. In different ways, the speakers made it clear that they felt alienated and disenfranchised by recent actions of the Episcopal Church.
Other speakers thanked the bishops for refusing to step back from their commitment to full inclusion for gay and lesbian Episcopalians in the Church, but some deplored the language that "clarified" the General Convention 2006 Resolution B033-a last-minute compromise that pleased few deputies or bishops---by making it clear that gay and lesbian Episcopalians are the primary persons whose "manner of life presents a challenge to the wider Church" as diocese elect new bishops.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan D. Williams attended the House of Bishops meeting, as did several members of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates' Council of Advice. Bishop Bruno said that the Archbishop spoke to the House, chiding its members for past actions of The Episcopal Church in approving the election of Gene Robinson, who is openly gay and living with his partner, and not stopping the blessing of same-sex unions in spite of opposition for other Anglican churches around the world.
Although the bishops listened respectfully, Bruno said that he was one of the first to the microphone to respond---and, he said, Archbishop Williams was not particularly pleased by what he heard.
"We stood up and told him exactly what we thought," said Bruno.
It was clear, the bishops said, that Williams did not understand the polity of the Episcopal Church, in which General Convention, not the House of Bishops, holds authority over matters of doctrine, discipline and worship. He was urging the bishops, Bruno said, to take actions that they had no power to take.
After a period of discussion, Williams apologized for his words. "He did listen," said Bruno, who expressed his admiration for Williams' learning and intelligence. "He is a great man, and we were 100 percent respectful."
After their three-day session with the Archbishop, the bishops continued to work, although several conservative bishops-Jack Iker of Fort Worth, Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, and Keith Ackerman of Quincy (Massachusetts)---left at the conclusion of the conversation with Williams to attend a Pittsburgh meeting of bishops who are attempting to forge a new Anglican presence in the United States (see story below). The remaining bishops continued to talk: "The discussion was more in depth," said Bruno.
A committee of bishops, including Bruno, worked on a draft document that was eventually refined and submitted to the House, along with a number of other drafts from other bishops.
The four bishops also expressed their appreciation of the opportunity to do relief work in the Katrina-devastated parts of New Orleans. "It was very inspiring to go into a community that's been devastated, being with people who lost everything," Bishop Anderson said.
"We met a woman with very lively eyes," he said. They were Gospel eyes. She told us, 'We lost everything, but it's the best thing that ever happened to me.'"
The bishops also thanked the Nixon Library and its director, the Rev. John Taylor, who is also vicar of St. John Chrysostom Church in Rancho Santa Margarita, for hosting the meeting in the recently completed "East Room."
More about the October 2 meeting will be published on the Episcopal News website in coming days.