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Episcopal Church Chooses Gay Christians Over Foreign Appeasement

Timothy Kincaid

July 14th, 2009

At their national convention in 2003, delegates of the Episcopal Church took a vote that was not much watched by those outside of the body of Anglicans. Yet this decision has perhaps had more global fallout than any specific religious action in centuries.

When the Episcopal Church ordained Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, it infuriated conservative American Episcopalians as well as those around the world affiliated with the Anglican Communion, the globe’s third largest Christian fellowship.

In America, several priests and laypeople left the church in protest along with a handful of churches and even four dioceses. Other religious leaders were quick to throw in their opinion with some, like evangelical mega-church pastor Rick Warren, leaping to praise the dissidents.

A number of Archbishops in Africa and Asia condemned the American church and declared that they would not break bread with anyone who would accept gay Christians on an equal standing. The global body stood on the brink of schism.

In 2006 the Episcopal Church took a breather. They chose to stand back and hold off on ordaining any further bishops or in taking any steps to recognize or celebrate same-sex unions in hope that this cooling off time could allow them to find common ground with anti-gay elements of the Communion and achieve peace.

But peace was not an option. Conservative Anglicans are not interested in unity in Christ or the guidance of each body’s conscience or in allowing all to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They want strict adherence to their demands or harsh punishment as a consequence. Either reject gay Christians, or to Hell with you.

This week the Episcopal Church is meeting again, as it does every three years. And it appears to have made its decision. By a vote of 99-45, resolution D025 broke the moratorium on partnered gay ordinations. (NY Times)

The resolution passed on Monday was written in a way that would allow dioceses to consider gay candidates to the episcopacy, but does not mandate that all dioceses do so.

This is of particular note because while the resolution had passed the House of Deputies handily (77-31 in the lay order and 74-35 in the clerical order), it had not been anticipated that the House of Bishops would be so resolute.

This is a step that should not be underestimated. It is quite likely that this action will lead to a separation of the Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion. Indeed, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head of the church, hinted at such last week when he addressed the American delegation.

Dr. Williams addressed the General Convention in Anaheim as it opened last week, saying, “Along with many in the communion, I hope and pray that there won’t be decisions in the coming days that will push us further apart. If we — if I — had felt that we could do perfectly well without you, there wouldn’t be a problem.”

Should a separation (or expulsion) occur, it may soon be followed by other national bodies deemed too “liberal” by those who measure their faith by who it excludes. Eventually the parent church, the Church of England, may find itself in the position of fighting for its own inclusion in the body to which it lends its name.

Also in play is a resolution to “collect and develop theological resources and liturgies of blessing for same-gender holy unions” for consideration in 2012. This resolution, C056, has moved out of the Prayer Book Committee by a huge margin (6-0 among bishops, 26-1 in deputies) and is now before the House of Bishops.

The significant majority of Bishop support for ordination – considering its expected consequence – may give promise of a positive outcome for C056. Having embraced full inclusion of gay Christians, the church may feel less need to hesitate over blessing of their vows and commitments.

Today the Episcopal Church made a momentous decision. They took a step towards inclusion that will likely result in their exclusion. They decided that you are more important than the good favor of those who reject you. They decided that you are more valued than centuries of tradition, communion, and organization.

Given a choice between welcoming you into their fold or appeasing those who find you abhorrent, they chose you.

For excellent blogging of the convention and its decisions, see Episcopal Cafe

- – -
A special congratulations to my friend Dan who leaves this week to become an Assistant Rector at an Episcopal Church in Illinois. May God keep you, guide you, bless you and shower you with His blessings.

Comments

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Richard W. Fitch
July 14th, 2009 | LINK

As an Episcopalian, I find this very exciting news. However, I must be realistic. The measure still has to be voted on by the House of Bishops, a body which still has many Old School members. The important aspect is that at the grassroots level, recognition of LGBT members in EC-USA is being dealt with in a positive manner. The parish laity and rectors have made their position known. Now it is up to the bishops to move ahead into the 21st century. I can count at least three who I know will.

Timothy Kincaid
July 14th, 2009 | LINK

Richard,

Perhaps I was not clear.

The House of Bishops voted in the affirmative by 99 to 45 with two abstentions.

Ben in Oakland
July 14th, 2009 | LINK

Who woulda thunk?

Christians acting like Christians…

instead of, well, like Christians.

Kudos to EC-USA.

Pomo
July 14th, 2009 | LINK

When I had a chance to talk to Bishop Robinson, he told me there were other gay bishops in ECUSA but they are not “out”. People have been following these Godly men for years and when they eventually decide to be honest people will feel deceived and believe the bishops are no longer Christian.

It is a sad state of affairs. Refusing to even have the communion meal because people don’t follow some form of Dogma. I thought communion was a meal of sinners anyways…

Richard W. Fitch
July 14th, 2009 | LINK

Tim: Thanks. That was a knee-jerk reaction, I’m afraid. I had read the earlier report yesterday on the House of Deputies vote from the EC-USA website and didn’t realize this was the results from the House of Bishops. So it is indeed a reason for celebration! The prelates of Africa and third-world nations are in the process of hijacking the Anglican tradition in much the same way evangelical radicals have been with Protestant traditions. As I see it, a new structuring by EC-USA will not be all that detrimental. The American province has provided a disproportionate amount of financial and human resources to the world-wide communion for a long time. Stands that have been taken by Anglican leaders in Nigeria and Uganda run counter to the beliefs of most in the US and Canada. Luther said something about the church reformed but always being reformed. That may be where we are now – a new Reformation based on the knowledge we have received in the present.

Lindoro Almaviva
July 14th, 2009 | LINK

This is beautiful news. Finally, a church that behaves in the same radical way that Jesus did. Thanks for the post

Johnson
July 14th, 2009 | LINK

I thank God each and every day for the Episcopal Church.

tavdy79
July 14th, 2009 | LINK

Eventually the parent church, the Church of England, may find itself in the position of fighting for its own inclusion in the body to which it lends its name.

Actually, I think it’s far more likely to be fighting for its very survival before long. The CofE is haemorrhaging congregants faster than a severed carotid, and one of the reasons is its blunt refusal to permit gay marriage. The CofE is one of the last major roadblocks to legalisation, albeit one with decreasing significance, especially given the Queen’s senescence. In a predominantly secular nation like Britain, especially one with over 60% public support for the legalisation of gay marriage, opposing marriage equality is not a survival trait.

The irony is that the Archpillock of Canterbury is know to be privately supportive of gay rights. His reason for opposing gay rights publicly is to preserve the unity of the Anglican Communion. In other words, he’s allowing morality to play second fiddle to political expediency, and in the process subjecting liberal Anglicans to the theology of the wingnuts like Primate Akinola. The various Churches that comprise the Communion should not be able to do this, but through the Archpillock’s spinelessness they’ve become able to.

The Episcopalians will be better off out IMO.

Birdie
July 14th, 2009 | LINK

I am thrilled with this news. The Presbyterian Church USA lost the chance to join them this year, but only by a 51-49% margin. Almost half of the positive votes were newly so, historically negative in two prior votes. The question has already been put to the Assembly for approval in 2009, once again to be voted upon by presbyteries in 2010. Forces are being gathered and plans are underway to make sure that the PCUSA acknowledges God’s loving grace for all.

Burr
July 14th, 2009 | LINK

That’s great to see. I went to an Episcopal middle school and it was eye opening to see a form of Christianity wholly compatible with reality instead of throwing a temper tantrum at it.

“As Christians, WE’RE SORRY.” » Noty.bz
July 17th, 2009 | LINK

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