Episcopal Church deputies support fully inclusive ordination process

Published July 13, 2009

The House of Deputies by more than a 2-1 margin adopted a resolution July 12 that declares the ordination process of the Episcopal Church open to all individuals while expressing its ongoing commitment to the Anglican Communion.The vote was 77-31 in the lay order and 74-25 in the clergy order. It now goes to the House of Bishops, where it must be passed to be enacted.Resolution D025 was created as a response to resolution B033, which was adopted in the waning hours of the 2006 General Convention and urged restraint concerning the election of bishops whose “manner of life” would cause offense to the wider Anglican Communion. That was widely believed specifically to refer to gays and lesbians in committed same-sex relationships.The Rev. Gay Jennings (Ohio), chair of the Committee on World Mission that had proposed the resolution, said the committee had considered several resolutions on this topic and had listened to comments in the House of Deputies and in a hearing. The committee chose this resolution as its vehicle to describe the mind of the church. “It is the best reflection of where we are today as a church on episcopal elections and the Anglican Communion,” she said at the start of debate.Committee vice chair the Rev. Ian Douglas (Massachusetts) noted that the committee chose not to propose a straight-forward repeal or support of B033 but instead chose this language as a more comprehensive description of the church’s current reality.The resolution:* reaffirms the continued participation of the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion;* encourages dioceses, congregations and members to be involved in work throughout the communion;

* reaffirms the Episcopal Church’s financial support of the Anglican Communion;* acknowledges that the Listening Process with gay and lesbian people has resulted in General Convention’s recognition that same-sex relationships represent fidelity and holy love;* recognizes that gays and lesbians in such same-sex relationships have exercised ministry in the church;

* acknowledges that God has called and may call any individual in the church to any ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church, in accordance with the discernment process set forth in the Constitution and Canons of the church; and

* acknowledges that the Anglican Communion is not of one mind on these matters.The vote by orders on D025 — in which clergy and lay deputies vote separately — was requested early in the proceedings. Each deputation has one vote: majority yes, majority no or divided (tied). The vote came after 30 minutes of debate and more than an hour of parliamentary procedures.During the 30 minutes of debate set aside for this resolution, 17 deputies spoke. Sally Johnson (Minnesota) said she supported B033 in 2006 as a gift to the newly elected presiding bishop. But today, she said, “I stand before you now asking us to give D025 to the church and the communion as a gift, reflecting our messiness in our church but an authentic, truthful statement about who we are as the Episcopal Church.”The Rev. Bradley Wirth (Montana) recalled words from former Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning who had said nearly 25 years ago that there would be no outcasts in the Episcopal Church. Wirth said, “D025 is a brilliant and sensitive call, asserting a deep and sensitive desire for all to be at the table, and by all, we mean all, from everywhere, Anglican Communion-wide.”Rebecca Snow (Alaska) said that adopting D025 doesn’t compel action by anyone in the Anglican Communion. “It does not require anyone to do anything except to acknowledge the reality on the ground and to accept our polity, which we are so proud of, and the fact that we are governed by our Constitution and Canons and a discernment process that allows us to be open to God’s calling of all baptized persons.”Several speakers who urged defeat of D025 feared what it would do to conservative voices within the Episcopal Church. The Rev. Ralph Stanwise (Quincy) said, “If we overturn the B033 moratorium we will in effect be urging many remaining conservatives and moderates among us and in our home dioceses, especially our most fragile ones, to search for the exit signs.”The Rev. S. Keith Brooks (Colorado) said, “Since 2003 there has been a situation on the ground. We have tithed not money but souls of members who have left all of our dioceses and many of our congregations. We see a decrease in diversity of theological viewpoints, a decrease in seminary enrollment, an increase in seminary debt. I see the structure of our church breaking down as we try to discern God’s will in this matter.”

— Melodie Woerman is director of communications for the Diocese of Kansas.


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