Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What Should GC 2006 Do?

Lionel Deimel, of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh has provided us with an issues guide subtitled Commentary on the Resolutions Proposed by the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

We have previously discussed some of our initial responses to the 11 resolutions proposed by the Special Commission. Dr. Deimel gives us some in-depth analysis that is worth considering. Here just a few of his insights that leaped out at me:

Resolution A159 Commitment to Interdependence in the Anglican Communion -

In the first resolved, note that the Communion is referred to as a "fellowship of churches."

In the second resolved, Lionel points out a significant choice of words;
...Preambles of constitutions—the Episcopal Church constitution has not always had one—establish context, however, not rules, and this resolve rightly refers to the reference to the Communion in the preamble as descriptive, not prescriptive. Even the Windsor Report (in §128) acknowledges that General Convention acted consistent with its constitution.
This refutes the argument sometimes heard that if the Episcopal Church were no longer part of the Anglican Communion, it would cease to exist, due to the wording of the Preamble. It's always been a weak argument anyway, for reasons that Lionel outlines, but this clarification in a resolution will be helpful.

In the final resolved of this resolution, in which members from other Provinces are offered voice in our Standing Commissions, Lionel suggests the possiblity that we recommend a reciprocal voice being given to our members in the Commissions of other Provinces as well.

The commentary on the explanation to this resolution is relevant to some of our recent discussions, so I want to offer it in its entirety:

There is little sentiment within the Episcopal Church for simply walking away from what has been a longstanding and, in many ways, mutually beneficial relationship. It is to be hoped that the Episcopal Church will never be forced to choose between its ability to pursue its understanding of its mission and unity with the wider Communion. There are surely forces acting to fracture the Communion, however, and, in the end, we may be powerless to prevent schism. If we can do so while preserving our integrity, we should make every effort to remain in the Anglican Communion and, if a break is to come, leave it to others formally to precipitate it.
Resolution A161 Election of Bishops -

Lionel makes the same observation that we previously noted:

...This resolution leaves to the imagination exactly what “manner of life” might present “a challenge to the wider church” and “lead to further strains on communion.” Whereas this resolution may discourage the consecration of gay bishops—some will argue that it will have no such effect—it could have a similar effect on those, say, opposed to women’s ordination, whose consecration would arguably impede the reception process of women’s ordination in the Communion.
Resolution A162 Public Rites of Blessing for Same-Sex Unions -

Lionel points out that there is a misrepresentation of history in the WR and in this resolution. The Primates Pastoral Letter of May 2003 did not warn us to not proceed with blessings. He offers some citations from the Letter for your consideration. He also notes some confusion within this resolution, and emphasizes that it is especially important that we strive for clarity at this GC.

Resolution A163 Pastoral Care and Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight -

I emphatically agree with Lionel that the final resolved, regarding respecting diocesan boundaries, needs to be strengthened. Give it some teeth!

Resolution A165 Commitment to Windsor and Listening Processes -

Lionel reminds us of an historical point that is worth remembering. The "Listening Process" is an extension of the “need for deep and dispassionate study of the question of homosexuality,” first proposed in a resolution at Lambeth 1978, then reaffirmed and expanded at Lambeth 1988, and then further expanded at Lambeth 1998. That's 28 years of mandated listening, and we still have Archbishops addressing the issue through incarceration.

Resolution A166 Anglican Covenant Development Process -

We are reminded that any agreement to a Covenant must come from General Convention, not through our Primate. We're into the democracy thing, and are quite confident that the Holy Spirit can work through our voting process. We do not have a high regard for the "Prince Bishop" model, which seems to still have some appeal in other parts of the Communion.

Resolution A168 Human Rights for “Homosexual Persons” -

Lionel suggests that this is the place for us to "take a stand supportive of the homosexual community in Nigeria"... I wholeheartedly agree.

Dr. Dreimel's paper should prove to be an excellent resource for all bishops and deputies participating in General Convention next month. Make sure you steer your diocesan deputation towards it.


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