A teleconference meeting of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council will take place on Dec. 7 to discuss a possible statement on Ugandan legislation that would imprison for life or execute people who violate that country's anti-homosexuality laws.This meeting was initiated by members of the Executive Council, which was unusual, in that the norm has been that the leaders initiated all meetings. Mark Harris hosted a robust discussion regarding the possibility of the Executive Council learning a "new way" to be the Church:
Sixteen members of the council requested the meeting with a handwritten petition that said a motion would be offered at the meeting "regarding the urgent human rights situation in Uganda"...
...The 16 members who signed the petition are the Rev. Canon Tim Anderson, Hisako Beasely, Sarah Dylan Breuer, Jane Cosby, Martha Gardner, the Rev. Floyd "Butch" Gamarra, Bruce Garner, Anita George, the Ven. Joyce Hardy, Stephen Hutchinson, the Rev. Cristobal Leon, Katie Sherrod, the Rev. Terry Starr, Deborah Stokes, Anne Watkins, the Rev. Sandye Wilson...
...Breuer said that the conference-call meeting is "an opportunity to discuss an issue that the entire church is passionate about [and] to let people know that our response has been considered by clergy, laity and bishops, and has been considered carefully and prayerfully," Breuer said. She added that she hoped such a consideration will show "there's broad consensus" about whatever stance the council takes.
...This Executive Council, with its particular makeup and with its symbolically important leadership in the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies, and with its feisty entering class of 2009, is in no mood to take past Executive Council patterns of action as normative. The fact that members, rather than the Presiding Bishop, would call a special meeting is significant. That they would do so concerning matters that in the past would have been either brought up in regular session of Executive Council or spoken to by the Presiding Bishop is also worth noting. And, to make matters even more interesting, the members of Executive Council are more and more participant members in a very different community of knowledge and authority - one based on knowledge and authority as shared rather than derivative of this or that matter of merit. All of which is to say that the Executive Council, formed as a mechanism for corporate organization is becoming a mechanism within an incorporated - that is to say incarnated - community...If you read Mark's commentary, and see some of the implications, you will understand why some of us were quite pleased by this development.
However, today we are offered a statement about the Ugandan bill from our Presiding Bishop. It is a good statement. It includes a mention of the American exportation of homophobia.
But, then, in response to my last post, Lee left this comment:
The request for an extraordinary meeting of Executive Council for Monday 7 December has been withdrawn by the majority of those who requested it.I must say that I am quite disappointed by this development. As Dylan put it in the above article, it is important "to let people know that our response has been considered by clergy, laity and bishops, and has been considered carefully and prayerfully."
I am concerned that the release of a staterment by the PB was cause for some members of Executive Council to think that there was no longer any need for them to make a statement. Speaking personally, I am much more interested in hearing from all four orders, not simply from our Presiding Bishop. The Executive Council is the authority on these matters, as they are our representative body. This feels very much like falling back into past patterns; letting the Bishops call the meetings and make the statements. That is not an image of, as Mark would say, an "incarnated community."
BTW, Mark has a more positive perspective on the PB's message.
We are talking about people being killed in Uganda. This is a human rights crisis. I am troubled by the delay in responses from our leaders, and even more troubled by what appears to be some behind the scenes manipulation regarding who would offer those responses.
Pray for those in danger in Uganda.
Pray for the Church.
UPDATE: Further information regarding why the special meeting was cancelled has now been released:
...One of the signers of the special-meeting petition, Sarah Dylan Breuer, told ENS Dec. 4 that "in conversations and information-gathering among members of council, the President of the House of Deputies and the Presiding Bishop to prepare for the [Dec. 7] meeting, a clear consensus quickly emerged about what needed to be said and how important it was to say it."
"Therefore the work of the special meeting was completed before the meeting began, and we withdrew our request for meeting," she added.
"Where two or three are gathered in his name, Christ shows up -- and that can be true in teleconferences and cyberspace as well," Breuer said of her experience leading up to the Presiding Bishop's statement and the withdrawal of the special-meeting request. "I see this process as a good example of how our polity can work creatively as well as 'decently and in good order' in the 21st century to act as the Holy Spirit leads. I am proud to serve under presiding officers so passionate about the good news of God's justice, and I am deeply grateful for the deftness and grace with which our Presiding Bishop and her staff made this process work."