Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Distraction From Durham and Tonight's Testimonies

Regarding the curious timing of a new statement by the Bishop of Durham which claims that the proposed resolutions of General Convention are not “Windsor compliant”, I refer you to Jim Naughton’s essay which includes excellent commentary as well as the text of Bp. Wright’s paper.

First of all, as was pointed out in tonight’s hearings, since the Bishop of Durham has clergy in his own diocese who are openly gay, it is rather questionable if he is really the one who can decide who is “Windsor compliant” and who is not, unless he is a “do as I say, not as I do” type of bishop, or one who would claim that gay priests are acceptable according to the spirit of Windsor (I doubt if Peter Akinola would accept such a splitting of hairs). If the truth were told, and we recognize that those who are demanding "Windsor compliance" are really calling for an end of all ordinations of those who don't live up to their standards, I think it would be difficult to find a bishop anywhere who is “Windsor compliant,” if we include those who continue the “don’t ask don’t tell” approach to the issue.

Second of all, one can quote a variety of bishops from outside the Episcopal Church on any number of issues to support whatever position one were to choose. For instance, to counter Bp. Wright, I could quote Bp. Eames:

…In short, I think we find ourselves in a situation where the North American churches have taken the Windsor Report, and the subsequent Statement of the Primates at Dromantine, extremely seriously, and have complied, in so far as it lies within the power of bodies less than their national synod, to meet the requests made of them…
Third of all, the Bishop of Durham needs to keep in mind that the Windsor Report is just that; nothing more and nothing less. The fact that he is an excellent biblical scholar, and was part of the team that drafted the document, does not give him the authority to now, at this late hour in our deliberations, issue ultimatums. As Susan Russell recently said;

…What we know is that we are here in Columbus ready to move forward in mission and ministry while others are intent on drawing lines in the sand issuing ultimatums and piloting an Anglican version of the ridiculously popular game show, "Deal or No Deal."

Here's what we know: the Episcopal Church is smarter than that, more faithful than that and more determined to live out its historic commitment to the Gospel imperative than that. That's what we know.
Now, regarding tonight’s hearings; my source was apparently misinformed. There were so many “testimonies” at tonight’s hearing on the Windsor Report and the Anglican Communion that when I finally left after 9:00, there were still 30 more speakers scheduled. The hearing room was filled to capacity.

I’ll mention just a few of the testimonies, using my notes, which are far from verbatim transcripts.

The first testimony was from Zoe Cole, who opposed the Special Commission’s resolutions, because she felt that they were a compromise, and a denial of the Holy Spirit that has spoken through us and our legislative process.

Kendall Harmon spoke of the need for clarity in regards to resolution A161. He stated that the Windsor Report asked for a moratorium, and characterized the resolution’s language as “fudge.” He asked for more honesty.

Michael Hopkins told us that it is difficult to take seriously Lambeth 1.10 or the Windsor Report when lbgt persons were excluded from the conversations that resulted in those documents.

Dylan Breuer spoke of her experience as a member of the commission that developed these resolutions. She told us that it wasn’t “politics as usual,” but a powerful experience of God’s grace. She called for Convention to accept the resolutions as proposed.

One speaker, whose name I missed, suggested that we continue a moratorium on consecrating bishops until the 76th General Convention in 2009. Although this doesn’t have a chance, I rather approve of the idea. Instead of only one group carrying the load of a compromise, let’s share it throughout the Church, and give the Communion a sign of our unity.

Bishop Henderson of Upper South Carolina, who chaired the hearing, would call up the speakers six at a time. As he read one list of six, a ripple of chuckles passed through the room, as he called up Robert Duncan, followed by Gene Robinson. Bp. Henderson said, with a grin, “I’m just reading from the list!”

Bishop Duncan quoted from the Bishop of Durham’s 11th hour ultimatum, and stated the question under consideration was “will ECUSA comply or not?” He suggested that there were two kinds of people coming to the Episcopal Church; those drawn by her catholic and evangelical tradition, and those who join because of her revolutionary nature.

As an aside, someone I spoke to after the hearing had initially confused Duncan and Robinson, having never met either one. When I asked how she could have made such a mistake, she told me that she had noticed that Bp. Duncan’s clerical collar was only fastened on one side, giving him a rather disheveled appearance. My friend was disheartened, as she imagined the possibility that Bp. Robinson had slipped in his recovery!

After Bp. Duncan had concluded his comments, and Bp. Robinson began his, Bp. Jack Iker of Fort Worth and his entourage stood and processed out of the room. Personally, I found this to be quite rude, but unfortunately, not a surprise.

Bishop Robinson asked us where we see Christ. He defined the “homosexual agenda” as being Jesus Christ; that through Christ he discovered that he was not an abomination, but a repentant sinner who is loved by God.

Martyn Minns told a bizarre story about an adulterous husband who refused to repent. Personally, I found it quite offensive to be called an unrepentant adulterer.

David Roseberry followed with a play on the “Can you hear me now?” commercial. He used his testimony as an opportunity to plug the clergy petition calling for Windsor compliance, which he proudly announced as having 1,064 priests’ signatures. Keep in mind that is roughly one eighth of the active clergy. If you count retired priests, it would be about one sixteenth.

Colin Coward told of being part of a group that was not allowed to testify before Lambeth in 1998. He is also the person who mentioned the fact that the Bishop of Durham has gay priests in his diocese who are out.

Lionel Deimel reminded us that if we pass these resolutions, we will have redefined the Anglican Communion.

About that time, I had to leave to catch the last bus back to the hotel.

It’s difficult to say what the legislative committee is going to do with all of this information. It appears that those who support the proposed resolutions are in the minority. Both progressives and conservatives oppose them, for different reasons. I doubt very much if the committee will have anything ready to present any earlier than Sunday.


UPDATE: It is being reported that the Archbishop of York testified after I left. Dang bus! I'll let you know when that is verified, and try to offer a summary of his comments.

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