At the General Convention of the Episcopal Church yesterday, the House of Deputies overwhelmingly approved a resolution overriding a three-year hold on election of LGBT bishops. The 2006 resolution was a response to the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson, who I’ve talked about before.
trying failing to explain what this is all about, how about if offer words from two sources that are intimately familiar with the particulars? First up is a press release from IntegrityUSA, the LGBT advocacy group for the Episcopal Church.
In a special session today, the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church approved a resolution, 151 to 66, which effectively overrides the three-year ban on gay bishops within the church. The gently-worded resolution, DO25, affirms Episcopal membership in the Anglican Communion while declaring that all orders of ministry, including the episcopate, are open to the LGBT baptized of the church. The resolution now goes to the House of Bishops where it is not expected to receive an overly warm reception.
“We were reminded today of the Archbishop of Canterburyâ€™s recent words to us that ‘there is no unity without truth.’ Today the clergy and laity of The Episcopal Church voted for both truth and unity by a wide margin,” said The Rev. Susan Russell, President of IntegrityUSA.
DO25 is the first resolution the House of Deputies has considered regarding the consecration of LGBT bishops within the Episcopal Church since the last general convention in 2006. At that gathering in Columbus, OH, in the waning hours of the 10-day event, then-Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold pressured both governing bodies of the church to pass resolution BO33 which placed a moratorium on the consecration of additional gay bishops and on same-gender blessings. The action was in response to the election in 2003 of The Right Rev. Gene Robinson, Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church.
Anglican bishops, primarily in Africa and South America, were outraged over Bishop Robinson’s consecration and threatened the Episcopal Church’s continued membership in the Anglican Communion. BO33 was an attempt to mollify that outrage, but caused problems at home with the LGBT faithful and their supporters. At this year’s convention, numerous resolutions have been proposed to rectify or revoke BO33 and LGBT issues have garnered more attention than any other matter before the legislative body.
“We call on our bishops to affirm that we are a church ready to move forward in mission and ministry by joining the deputies and concurring with this vote,” Russell said.
D025 re-anchors our orders at every level in the centrality of our baptism in Christ Jesus; our reliance on the Spirit in the midst of community to draw out the best gifts of all our members, gay or straight, celibate or living in covenanted relationship. Without rancor, it also affirms our love for the Anglican Communion â€“ a reflection of our heart for Anglican ministry around the world and our commitment to upholding it in every way we can. But this support and participation is no longer offered by our trying to be something weâ€™re not. Rather D025 offers commitment of our authentic selves, with all our differences, as a Church â€“ as a diverse Body of Christians on mission both locally and globally.
While D025 still faces an uncertain future in the House of Bishops, I believe that the House of Deputies has taken a major step forward for the life of The Episcopal Church and honest relationship in the Anglican Communion. In doing so, we have sent a clear message about both our identity and calling â€“ one that will not be easily dismissed or undermined.
As I was departing the House, which adjourned about fifteen minutes late this evening, I happened by Godâ€™s grace upon The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson at the back of the hall. He had stepped into the guest section shortly after the House of Bishops had adjourned. Smiling, we embraced, and I said, â€œI think this house is on solid ground again.â€
Update 7/14/2009: IntegrityUSA reported last night that the House of Bishops has approved an amended version of D025.
By a nearly 2-1 margin, the bishops of the Episcopal Church passed an amended version of resolution D025, which effectively ends the “BO33 Era” and returns the church to relying on its canons and discernment processes for the election of bishops. “While concurrence on the amended resolution by the House of Deputies is necessary before it is officially adopted by the church as a whole,” said Integrity President Susan Russell, “there is no question that today’s vote in the House of Bishops was an historic move forward and a great day for all who support the full inclusion of all the baptized in the Body of Christ.”
“It was a tremendous privilege to be a witness to the courage and candor of the bishops who spoke truth to each other and to us–and who called the Episcopal Church to speak our truth to our Anglican Communion brothers and sisters and to the world.
“The truth is we are a church committed to mission–we are a church committed to the full inclusion of all the baptized in that mission–and we are a church committed to creating as broad a place to stand as possible for ALL who wish to be part of this great adventure of being disciples of Jesus.
“In this carefully constructed and prayerfully considered resolution, our Presiding Bishop got what she both asked for and voted for: a positive statement about where we are as a church in 2009–a church striving to actually become the church former Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning called us to be nearly 20 years ago now…a church where there are no outcasts.”
“The debate on the floor of the House of Bishops made it VERY clear that our bishops knew exactly what they were doing when they passed this by a nearly 2-1 margin. The resolution passed today by the House of Bishops was another step in the Episcopal Church’s ‘coming out’ process–and it sends a strong ‘come and see’ message to anyone looking for a faith community where God’s inclusive love is not just proclaimed but practiced.”
Thanks and congratulations to the people of the Episcopal Church. Your leadership in the area of LGBT acceptance is so important to those of us working in other denominations.