UPDATE: From Columbus: Convention Responds to Windsor Report's Call for Moratorium

Episcopal News Service. June 21, 2006 [062106-4-A]

Pat McCaughan, Melodie Woerman, Director of communication for the Diocese of Kansas, Jim DeLa, Director of communications for the Diocese of Southwest Florida, Nicole Seiferth, Editor of The Episcopal New Yorker

Note: This story adds more details throughout to a version posted earlier today.

The 75th General Convention June 21 approved a resolution that calls on bishops and Standing Committees to "exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."

Resolution B033 comes in response to the Windsor Report's suggestion that the Episcopal Church "effect a moratorium on the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same-gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges" (Windsor Report, paragraph 134).

Resolution B033 was brought to the Convention at mid-morning of June 21, the final legislative day, during an extraordinary joint session of the Houses of Bishops and Deputies. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold relayed the text of the resolution that was proposed by Bishop Dorsey F. Henderson of Upper South Carolina, the bishop chair of the Special Legislative Committee on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

Bishops Peter Lee of Virginia, Edward S. Little II of Northern Indiana, Robert J. O'Neill of Colorado and Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island endorsed the resolution.

"What I believe we actually yearn for has not been adequately reflected through the workings of our legislative processes," Griswold said, in presenting the resolution. "Our conversations in both Houses reveal a much greater complexity. We must now act with generosity and imagination so that our actions are a clearer reflection of the willingness of the majority of us to relinquish something in order to serve a larger purpose."

The Joint Session adjourned, and the two Houses met separately to consider the resolution.

"We are trying to deal with something that does not fit easily into the legislative process," Griswold told the bishops during their discussion. "I hope we can find a way in which to maneuver through this that doesn't make us victims of the legislative process that gets us absolutely nowhere. If we aren't clear by lunchtime, we might as well forget the whole thing."

He added, "If we don't have something substantial, it will be very difficult for the Archbishop of Canterbury to invite the Presiding Bishop to the Lambeth Conference.

I do know the complexity of what the Archbishop dealing with, in communion terms, and he needs for something clear to come from the Episcopal Church."

The bishops debated two amendments which would have given bishops more leeway when giving consent to bishops-elect whose manner of life presents challenges to the wider church, until Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori urged support for the original resolution.

She compared further strain on the relationship between the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion as similar to separating conjoined twins.

"Ethically, one cannot proceed to separate two conjoined twins until one is reasonably certain both can survive on their own and live full lives.

"I don't think we're certain that the two offspring are capable of living separately and healthily," she said.

"My sense is that the original resolution is the best that we're going to do today," she added. "But I can only support it if we understand that it's not slamming the door. It has to leave the door open for further conversation and consideration in the very near future."

The bishops passed resolution B033 and sent it to the House of Deputies.

During the debate in Deputies, Jefferts Schori asked to be invited to speak to the House. The deputies agreed and she reiterated the comments she made in the House of Bishops, saying that the image of conjoined twins came to her the day before when Bishop Charles Jenkins of Louisiana spoke of there being one church and two minds.

She went on to say that she is "fully committed to the full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians in this church," she said.

"I certainly don't understand adopting this resolution as slamming the door. I think if you do pass this resolution you have to be willing to keep working with all your might at finding a common mind in this church. I don't find this an easy thing to say to you, but I think that is the best we are going to manage at this point in our church's history."

Griswold called the joint session after the House of Deputies rejected resolution A161 on June 20 on a vote by orders. There were 53 no votes and 14 divided votes in the clergy order for a total of 67 negatives votes, compared with 44 yes votes. In the lay order there were 53 no votes and 18 divided for a total of 71, and 38 affirmative lay votes.

Those totals compare with the vote by orders on B033 that had 75 affirmative votes in the clergy order and 73 in the lay order. There were 24 no votes and 10 divided votes in the clergy order, and 21 no votes in the lay order and 11 divided.

Adoption of a resolution with a vote by orders requires a majority in the affirmative in each order. If the deputation's vote in either order is divided, it is recorded and not added to the affirmative total, effectively counting in the negative.

Resolution 161 was one of the General Convention resolutions responding to the Windsor Report. The resolution would have urged bishops and dioceses to refrain from electing bishops "whose manner of life presents a wider challenge to the wider church." It also would have directed the church not to develop rites for blessing same-sex unions. It affirmed the need to provide pastoral care for gay and lesbian Episcopalians -- and at the same time apologized to gays and lesbians for those decisions.

A special commission was established to produce resolutions for consideration by Convention as the church's response to the Windsor Report, issued in October 2004 to recommend ways in which the 38 provinces of Anglican Communion might be in order to maintain the highest degree of communion possible, amid disagreement concerning issues relating to human sexuality.

During the Bishops' debate, Bishop Neil Alexander of Atlanta supported the resolution but said he did so "with enormous pain. I'm just about as out as any member of the House in support of gay and lesbian persons and full rights and privileges in our church."

But, he said it involved more than one justice issue.

"For a long time, our church has reached out and cared for and valued its gay and lesbian members. I believe we will continue to demonstrate that. I believe the church will always

put our arms as fully as possible for as long as possible around them. It's a hard and painful decision. I believe it's a decision that at this moment has got to be made."

Bishop Suffragan Marc Andrus of Alabama, who is also Bishop-elect of California, and Bishop John Chane of Washington had offered amendments that would have had the resolution ask for the exercise of caution when considering giving consent to bishops-elect whose manner of life presents challenges to the wider church. The amendments sparked heated debate.

Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina favored the amendments as "a way forward and brings as many of us to the table as possible."

"B033 as presented in some varying form would have prevented Barbara Harris from being in this house," he said, referring to retired Bishop Suffragan Barbara Harris of Massachusetts.

"It would prevent this church from being who we are as Anglicans on the one hand and as people who dare to seek to embrace all of God's people. I plead with this house support this amendment. It provides us a way forward with integrity, with love, with respect for our communion and respect for all of us."

Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire also supported the amendment. "The substitute resolution … gives us all room to exercise our consciences," he said.

"There is not a single person who would be denied exercising caution in this amendment and we would all then give or withhold consent based on that."

Bishop Jack McKelvey of Rochester mentioned Jefferts Schori's election on June 18 as a sign of the Holy Spirit's action and said, "I cannot close the door to the Spirit that has acted so wonderfully at this convention so far" by accepting resolution B033.

The House of Deputies had to suspend its normal rules to allow consideration of B033. Because the subject matter had been defeated the day before in resolution A161, and its reconsideration had been rejected in additional parliamentary measures afterwards, the topic normally could not be brought before the Deputies again during this Convention. Deputies voted to suspend the rules so the matter could be considered.

Deputies debated for 30 minutes before voting. Speakers in support of the measure said they found the resolution to be imperfect but it should be adopted anyway. James Bradberry from the Diocese of Southern Virginia said his support of the failed A161 "was the only vote I've ever cast about which I am genuinely ashamed," but urged adoption of B033 because it would tell the Anglican Communion "we have struggled and done our best, and this is what we have to offer."

Philip Linder from the Diocese of Upper South Carolina invoked the support of bishops Griswold and Jefferts Schori in calling for the resolution's acceptance. "Our presiding bishop and new presiding bishop have spoken with clarity about what it will take for us to remain at the table of conversation with the worldwide Anglican Communion.

"We are a passionate body," he said, "but the Anglican Communion is passionate, too."

Several speakers said they represented the ideological center of the church. "We are in a centrifuge that is spinning faster and faster, so the left and the right look the same. The center requires strength, courage and a deliberation to remain," the Rev. Andrew Cooley of the Diocese of Colorado.

Tim Baer of the Diocese of Oklahoma said, "I realized at this General Convention that I represent the mushy middle. I hope someday in the future the church I love so much will be beyond this debate and engaged in mission."

But the Rev. John Spencer of the Diocese of Quincy said this resolution would not satisfy the requests made of the Episcopal Church by the Windsor Report. "It's not even in the ballpark of the request," he said. "It's not even in the parking lot of the ballpark." Adopting the language of this resolution "comes close to the height of hypocrisy," he said.