Monday, September 18, 2006

Consents and Covenant Considerations

I received an email from a reader who pointed out a couple of interesting things about the election of Mark Lawrence as bishop of South Carolina.

Consider some of his answers to the clergy survey. I specifically draw your attention to questions 17-21. The choice of responses were: strongly agree - agree - unsure - disagree - strongly disagree. Here are Mark Lawrence's responses:

17. There should be room in the Episcopal Church for priests and bishops who accept homosexual conduct as a valid, non-sinful choice. Disagree.

18. There should be room in the Episcopal Church for priests and bishops who consider homosexual acts to be sin. Strongly agree.

19. The church should not divide over this issue. Strongly disagree.

20. If the Diocese of South Carolina does not become separate in some formal way from ECUSA, I intend to resign my orders as an Episcopal priest. Unsure.

21. If the Diocese of South Carolina separates in some formal way from ECUSA, I intend to transfer from this diocese to an ECUSA diocese. Strongly disagree.
There are a few troubling things to be seen in these responses. According to the bishop-elect, there should be no priests and bishops who support gay and lesbian Christians in TEC. The church must divide over this issue. If the diocese separates from TEC (which it cannot do; as my reader pointed out, individuals can separate, but there is no process by which a diocese can), he will remain in the diocese. He will support schism.

One would think that the Standing Committees and Bishops will have a difficult time giving consents to this election. Although I would be hesitant to use the unfortunate resolution B033 passed by manipulation at our last convention, it would seem to me that anyone advocating for schism would fit the description of one "whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." Some of us were deeply opposed to this wording, but the majority wanted it. The question is, now that an opportunity has arisen to show that this was "not just about gay bishops," will they use it?

In other news, Dr. Williams wrote a letter to the Primates, in which he makes fairly clear that he has decided that the development of an Anglican Covenant is the way forward. And guess who he chose, out of 37 possibilities, to be the chair of the new "Covenant Design Group"? Someone neutral who will be among us as a reconciler? Someone with compassion that will seek to bind our wounds? Not quite. Dr. Williams has chosen Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies. In case you have forgotten who Abp. Gomez is, here is a portion of his Synod address from last year:

...The Church in the Province of the West Indies, through its Provincial Synod, has endorsed the Windsor Report and the Lambeth Resolution 1:10. However, as a Province, we have to determine our future relationship with ECUSA and the Province of Canada. Our present position is that we exist in a state of impaired relationship at the formal level with both Provinces. However, if these Provinces, through their Convention or General Synod, refuse to accept the prevailing Anglican consensus as represented by the Windsor Report, we will have to move beyond a state of impaired communion. As we seek to determine our ongoing relationship with these Provinces, we will have to pay special attention to those dioceses and parishes who are at variance with the official position of their Province and espouse the Anglican consensus that we cherish in this Province...
The person in charge of developing any future Covenant has already made up his mind who will be in, and who will be out. The end result is quite obvious; the North Americans will become second-class Anglicans. I doubt, however, regardless of the form of "punishments" dreamed up for us on foreign shores, that any Covenant will have any effect on our status within the Kingdom of God.

There's a couple of meetings starting this week. The one at Camp Allen requires that all bishops attending affirm that the Windsor Report is law. Since I cannot imagine any self-respecting bishop allowing recommendations to become mandates, I doubt much will come out of this meeting, as those attending seem most likely to be bishops who are either fearful or weary of the current unpleasantness, and are heading for any port in a storm.

The Global South Primates Meeting will also commence this week. Do you think anyone will challenge the recent statement by the Church of Nigeria regarding their encouragement of the incarceration of all supporters of "the evil of homosexuality"? I wouldn't hold your breath.


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