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AUSTIN, TX: The politicization of General Convention

AUSTIN, TX: The politicization of General Convention
Church politics drives debate, voting and outcome

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
www.virtueonline.org
July 11, 2018

General Convention has become a political animal.

Politics: the winning and holding control ...

Political animal: a person who is very interested in politics ...

The 489 resolutions filed at this General Convention are broken down in to 72 topics, of which many dabble into the world of politics. Some of the purely political and quasi political categories are: Socially Responsible Investment -- 10; Justice -- 10; Criminal Justice -- 2; Economic Justice -- 3; Immigration -- 10; Warfare -- 1; Weapons -- 2; Refugees -- 1; Violence -- 1; Environment -- 15; Diversity -- 6; Discrimination -- 3; Technology -- 1; Peace -- 1; Labor -- 1; the Middle East -- 8; Racism -- 3; National Concern -- 4; Disability Rights --1; Diversity -- 6; Gender Identity -- 1; Heath care -- 3; Human Rights -- 6; Inclusive Language -- 3; International relations -- 4; Substance Abuse -- 3; Women -- 2 ...

The legislative process begins by channeling all proposed resolutions to a legislative committee which schedules public hearings to hear both sides of the issue, weighs the merits of the resolution and presents a revived version of the original resolution to the House of Deputies or the House of Bishops for its first floor fight and vote.

The political committees include: Committee 7 -- Social Justice and International Policy; Committee 8 -- Social Justice and United States Policy; Committee 9 -- Racial Justice and Reconciliation; and Committee 20 -- Environmental Stewardship and Care of Creation. Other resolutions are channeled to different committees. There are 25 legislative committees in all.

For instance, the 10 resolutions on Justice were scattered between Committee 4 - Governance and Structure; Committee 5 -- World Missions; Committee 7 -- Social Justice and International Policy; Committee 8 -- Social Justice and United States Policy; Committee 10 -- Congregational and Diocesan Vitality; and Committee 14 -- Christian Formation and Discipleship.

Some of the more political resolutions include: A039 -- Affirm the Work of The Episcopal Church at the United Nations; A056 -- Create Task Force on the Theology of Social Justice Advocacy as Christian Justice; A178 -- Halt the Intensification and Implementation of Immigration Policies and Practices that are Harmful to Migrant Women, Parents and Children; A197 -- Expressing Gratitude to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Royal Family; A215 -- Solidarity with the People of Venezuela; A222 -- Against Caste-and Descent-Based Discrimination; and A230 -- Deploring the Sin of Scapegoating in Politics.

Also: B003 -- On the Status of Jerusalem; B007 -- Ethical Investing in Gun Manufacturers; B019 -- Impact Investing for Palestine; B024 -- Police Killings and Mental Illness; B027 -- Gender Inclusivity in Climate Change Action; C002 -- Support Legislation for a Clean DREAM Act; C009 -- Becoming A Sanctuary Church; C013 -- Against Human Trafficking; C015 -- Stricter Guidelines for "Lunch Box" Guns;

C017 -- A Just Peace in the Holy Land; C021 -- Climate Change and additional support for EC Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility; C035 -- Due Process for Palestinian Children in Israeli Military Courts; and C041 -- Repair America's Safety Net.

Also: C064 -- Support of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe in Opposing Enbridge Line #3; D003 -- Addressing the issue of Voter Suppression; D006 -- Just Transition: Automation and New Technology; D013 -- Eliminate the Provision for Legal Slavery in the U.S. Constitution; D018 -- Negotiating the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict; D028 -- Freedom of Speech and the Right to Boycott; D039 -- Regarding Occupation and Apartheid; D051 -- Support Recommitment to Iran Nuclear Deal; D068 -- Criteria and Procedures for Deciding to Engage with or Establish a No Buy List of Companies; D090 -- Engaging the Church in Advocacy for Disability Rights; D098 -- Increase Focus and Engagement in Latin America and the Caribbean;

The battle over same-sex relationships is being played out in the political arena rather than on the spiritual level. Even the terminology used between the sides is different: marriage equality/sanctioned sodomy ... anti-gay/pro-family ... homophobe/ homoheresy ...gay pride/radical homosexual agenda ... anti-abortion/pro-life ... bigotry/traditional Christian beliefs ...

There is a lack of effective communication because the liberals are thinking with their hormones and emotions, rather than using their souls. They refuse to understand that homosexual activity has eternal significance and they should fear for their souls.

Many General Convention delegates -- lay and clergy -- come to Convention with a closed mindset. They have only one goal in mind and that is advancing their own particular progressive agenda, even to the detriment of the church, to the detriment of others and to the detriment of their very souls. Some of the bishops are not much better.

Other bishops have tried to twist themselves into pretzels -- Bishop Daniel Martins (XI Springfield) being one -- to find a via media to allow for some sort of progressive pastoral care for same-sex couples in their dioceses who are clamoring for alternative marriage rites, without being forced to totally capitulate to the radical gay rights agenda.

His offer was thrown in his face. The radicals broach no compromise, no meeting in the middle, no common ground. It's their way or nothing and they will do whatever it takes however long it takes to accomplish their goals.

Episcopal Church history has borne this out.

When women's ordination was first introduced in 1977, conservative bishops and their dioceses -- Stanley Atkins (III Eau Claire); Donald Parsons (VI Quincy); Victor Rivera (III San Joaquin); Donald Davies (VI Dallas and I Fort Worth) -- were initially protected from accepting the ministry of women clergy.

Following the 1976 General Convention in Minneapolis, the fall meeting of the House of Bishops in Port St. Lucie Statement, Florida issued a Statement on Conscience prepared by the HOB's Theology Committee protecting conservatives from being forced to violate their individual consciences by accepting women priests or female bishops.

"In the light of all this and in keeping with our intention at Minneapolis, we affirm
that no Bishop, Priest, Deacon, or Lay Person should be coerced or penalized in
any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities as a result of his or her
conscientious objection to or support of the 65th General Convention's action with
regard to the ordination of women to the priesthood or episcopate," the bishops wrote in the fall of 1977.

One by one, the Episcopal dioceses were beginning to ordain women priests. Then, in 1989, the first female bishop -- Barbara Harris (Massachusetts-suffragan) -- joined the House of Bishops. Now, almost three decades years later, 27 women have been elected Episcopal bishops. One became the presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori (III Nevada); one has died, Jane Dixon (Washington DC-suffragan); one has been deposed and is currently in prison, Heather Cook (Maryland-suffragan); and one is yet to be consecrated, Carlye Hughes (XI Newark-elect).

Monday (July 9), General Convention participants wore purple scarves to protest because it is thought there are not enough women in the House of Bishops. Women represent about 35% of all Episcopal priests but less 10% in the HOB. Another bone of contention is that most women elected bishops are suffragan and not diocesan heads. Of the sitting 99 domestic bishops, only six are head of the diocese: Gretchen Rehberg (XI Spokane); Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows (XI Indianapolis); DeDe Duncan-Probe (XI Central New York); Audrey Scanlan (XI Central Pennsylvania); Mariann Budde (IX Washington, DC); and Mary Gray-Reeves (III El Camino Real). Carlye Hughes (XI Newark-elect) is to be consecrated in September.

By 1997, the General Convention demanded that all dioceses accept the ordination and ministry of women in all Episcopal dioceses. Resolution A053 -- Implement Mandatory Rights of Women Clergy under Canon Law states: "no member of this Church shall be denied access to the ordination process, postulancy, candidacy, ordination, license to officiate in a Diocese, a call to a cure in a Diocese or Letters Dimissory on account of their sex or their theological views on the ordination of women; no member of this Church shall be denied a place in the life and governance of this Church on account of their sex or their theological views on the ordination of women ..."

Next came the election, and by the consent of the 2003 General Convention, the consecration of a non-celibate gay. Vicky Gene Robinson (IX New Hampshire). Bishop's Robinson's elevation to the episcopate brought a tear to the fabric of the Anglican Communion. Bishop Robinson, a gay rights activist, was unrepentant, as was The Episcopal Church.

A partnered lesbian, Mary Glasspool (Los Angeles-suffragan), was elected and consecrated in 2010, as The Episcopal Church thumbed its nose at the Windsor Report, which asked for moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration to the episcopate of any gay or lesbian living in a same-sex relationship, until a new consensus is formed in the Anglican Communion.

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that the fundamental right to marry extends to same-sex couples. The decision rendered same-sex marriage legal throughout the entire United States. At the time, the Episcopal General Convention was meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah. Convention gleefully erupted in joy. A week later, on July 1, General Convention overwhelming voted to remove gender-specific language from church marriage canons to allow for same-sex blessings services for same-sex couples.

Resolution A054 Authorized the trial use of marriage and blessing rites and liturgies.

That 2015 resolution also sought to honor the theological diversity of Church with regard to matters of human sexuality; and that no bishop, priest, deacon or lay person should be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities, as a result of his or her theological objection to or support for the 78th General Convention's action contained in this resolution. But the Resolution called for the same-sex rites be available only under the direction and with the permission of the Diocesan Bishop. But the resolution also called for bishops to continue to provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church.

Now three years later, those safe guards for individual conscience are on shaky ground. Activists are advocating unfettered same-sex ceremonies be made available in every diocese, based upon hurt feelings and ruffled feathers rather than solid theology.

Tweet: "Maybe I'm being too negative here, but it seems on my reading like the Committee both eliminated much of what made this an acceptable compromise to conservatives on the question of marriage AND made promises to our LGBTQ members that they can't keep. Disappointed."

Tweet: " #B012 is a compromise, and with a compromise, nobody is happy."

Tweet: "How would you feel if you were told that you were somehow more sinful than all the other sinners ..."

Tweet: "I rise to speak against #B012. This resolution was originally presented as a compromise; now removes #Episcopal oversight and creates chances for splits between clergy and parishes. I urge this body to maintain identity."

Tweet: "I'm a little confused why folks who oppose Same-Sex Marriage are in favor of an amendment that would remove the permission for clergy to refuse to officiate a SSM . . . hmm."

Tweet: "con #B012, concerned about the methods of this proposed change (characterized as a hammer, a club) while also speaking at the same time of love ..."

Tweet: "Dear Non-LGBTQ Episcopalians: If you feel that same-sex marriage should be subject to episcopal oversight, why not episcopal oversight for all marriages? If the bishop has a say in my marriage why not in yours as well?"

Tweet: "You don't achieve love in the club." But can you achieve love in the gay club?"

Tweet: "I do not and will most likely never understand the "there won't be space for us" arguments against #B012. This resolution makes space for so many more to be included in the sacraments of this great church. It does not take space from anyone ..."

Tweet: "Pain for those that believe that marriage is only between a man and a woman. Our church is worth the mutual pain being asked to bear. The way is contained in #B012 as proposed and recommend adoption w/o amendment."

Tweet: "I rise in favor of #B012, a resolution that will move us beyond the seemingly intractable challenge. It contains costly compromises that contain very real pain on both sides."

Tweet: "Shouldn't we have the same choices in life and love as we have in death?"

Tweet: "In debate on #B012 a parallel I haven't heard before and find quite moving: make the freedom of liturgical choice in death available to all set alongside access to marriage rites."

Tweet: "pro #B012, speaking to the inherent inconsistencies of how rites are applied to folks based on their sexual identity ..."

Tweet: "Speaking against #B012 because it does not do enough to maintain diversity within the church. I am convinced that a way forward together is better than taking the separate paths of this resolution."

Tweet: Pro AZ deputy mentions that she's Bi, wants to see rites in the church for all people, including LGBT. Con Albany deputy concerned about removal of DEPO and that this resolution tends toward congregational polity."

Tweet: "If I were a betting person, I would bet #A068 and #B012. A vote by orders is a tool that makes it harder to pass a resolution so it is normally used by a minority wishing to defeat a resolution."

Tweet: "I rise in support of #B012. My wife and I were married by our bishop. Afterwards, many couples wanted to use the same liturgy for their wedding. Others have wanted the rites in #BCP."

Tweet: "Deputy rises in favor of #B012. Though sad about lack of diversity on committee, I am a #Latina, and I am #queer."

Tweet: "A queer latina speaks to #GC79 in favor of #B012. Says she is disappointed by the lack of in committee 13, but when she gets married, she wants to get married in this church. She doesn't want her marriage to be outside the BCP to make straight people feel safe."

Tweet: "FW does weddings for same-sex couples from Dallas in the current arrangement. Separate but not equal. Calls for church to end this sort of segregation for LGBT - to defeat amendment and support ..."

Tweet: "My parish has assisted #LGBTQ sisters and brothers from #Dallas; it is painful for them to travel to another diocese to be recognized in the #church."

Dallas and Fort Worth are neighboring cities. There is a lot of traffic between the two communities. It is not unheard of for someone to live in Fort Worth and work in Dallas. But, it seems, that same-sex Episcopalians from Dallas are unwilling to trek to Forth Worth or even Arlington, to get hitched. But they will go to Fort Worth for dinner and entertainment, or to Arlington to cheer on the Dallas Cowboys or the Texas Rangers.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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