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TENNESSEE: Episcopalians skip sticky votes

TENNESSEE: Episcopalians skip sticky votes

By BRIAN LEWIS Staff Writer
The Tennessean

The annual convention of the Episcopalians Diocese of Tennessee adjourned here yesterday afternoon without voting on several controversial resolutions.

The motion to adjourn was based on a complicated point involving the legality of proxy votes for clergy who were not in attendance at the meeting at Christ Church Cathedral at Ninth Avenue North and Broadway.

However, another consideration for many was that the bulk of the convention's required business was finished, and there was concern about the tone of the meeting.

''There was a lot of tension in the air,'' said the Rev. Freddy Richardson of the Church of the Holy Cross in Murfreesboro, who made the motion to adjourn. ''I felt that legal decisions were being made on the fly and we needed time.''

The motion to adjourn passed 105-93, more than 2C385C2A8 hours before most delegates had expected to leave.

Heated debate was expected surrounding how the convention would respond to last summer's General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Minneapolis. At that meeting, the Episcopal Church ratified the election of the first openly gay bishop in church history, Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, and acknowledged that some bishops in the church were allowing blessings of same -sex unions.

''We've come to an interesting point in our common life,'' Bishop Bertram Herlong of the Diocese of Tennessee said after the vote to adjourn. ''It's sort of interesting that we continue to have surprises.'' The Diocese of Tennessee covers Middle Tennessee.

Herlong said he would call another special meeting of the convention to take care of business that the church is required to do. However, he later added that it is possible that the special convention could be as short as five minutes and be held on the day of the 2005 annual convention. It would be necessary for him to confer with diocesan lawyers before a final decision could be made, he said.

A resolution that would have allowed churches to designate that their money not go to the national Episcopal Church was on the floor when the motion to adjourn was introduced.

Before the adjournment, the convention passed the budget while defeating a resolution that would have greatly reduced the amount of money sent to the national church. Some delegates said that indicated the directed giving resolution likely would not pass.

''I can't come to any conclusion except that they thought they would lose the vote,'' said Brad Reed, a delegate from Christ Church Cathedral.

However, votes on the motion to adjourn were not cast along strictly liberal or conservative lines, and some saw other reasons for the success of the motion to adjourn.

The Rev. Ken Swanson, dean of Christ Church Cathedral, said the vast majority of delegates were against proxy voting, including many liberals and moderates.

''That unified us,'' said Swanson, who is a moderate.

Although yesterday's early adjournment was unconventional, many delegates were pleased that the passionate, personal, vitriolic debate that many anticipated did not happen.

''It prevents a lot of rancor that the other resolutions may have caused,'' said the Rev. Peter Whalen of St. Philip's Church in Nashville. ''It gives us time to reflect on what we're about. Sometimes you lose perspective and forget that we're here to bring Christ to others and not to win our petty little battles.''

In his closing remarks to the convention, Herlong charged the delegates to return to their churches refocused on their mission, to pray longer and to give more of themselves to their congregations, both financially and spiritually.

''I really believe in my heart that we have a common goal and we are all working toward that goal,'' he said. ''To go forward separately is not going to do anything at all. Problems are opportunities. When we get caught up in these things and let them dominate us, we lose our focus. God can fix things up better than we can mess them up. God can forgive better than we can sin. And our faith is in God, isn't it?''


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