Columbus, Ohio A legislative committee at the Episcopal Church’s General Convention on June 15 was considering several controversial resolutions concerning human sexuality and there were indications the matter may not be voted upon before the election of a new presiding bishop on Sunday, June 18.
At a morning news briefing, Rev. Sandye Wilson, a member of the committee that on the evening of June 14 had heard some 70 witnesses speak about the issues, said the committee heard “a balanced representation of people speaking from their place of passion and hope for the church.”
The resolutions concern the American church’s response to the Windsor Report, a request from international Anglican leaders that the Episcopal Church declare a moratorium on electing homosexuals as bishops and on permitting blessing ceremonies for gay couples and that the U.S. church express regret for electing a gay bishop in 2003.
Ms. Wilson said the committee would probably gather on Friday, June 16 to consider the resolutions, which might be ready by that afternoon. The convention would have to vote on the resolutions in its legislative sessions Friday or Saturday in order to avoid conflict with the election and there was concern at the convention that the timeline was getting tight.
In a pre-convention interview with Episcopal Life, the church’s newspaper, Dean George Werner, president of the house of deputies (lay and clergy delegates) said “the big thing is to get all this business of the Anglican Communion done by Friday or at least Saturday morning. Neither the presiding bishop (Frank Griswold) nor I want to go to the election without that being settled.”
Ms. Wilson also noted that the committee was feeling pressure from persons outside the American church such as the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, who told the hearings that the church’s relationship with the rest of the Anglican Communion needs to be healed. “I was surprised in last night’s hearing that we would have people from outside make a presentation,” she said of Archbishop Sentamu’s address; she also referred to a paper urging compliance with the Windsor Report by the Bishop of Durham, Thomas Wright, which several witnesses cited.
On June 13, Archbishop Sentamu read a message from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, which said, in part, “this General Convention takes place in a climate of intense and perhaps rather oppressive attention worldwide.”
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On June 15, the convention’s house of deputies passed the first resolution concerning the Windsor Report, declaring that the Episcopal Church reaffirms its “abiding commitment … to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion, and seek(s) to live into the highest degree of communion possible.” It also reaffirmed the church’s preamble to its constitution that states it is “a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a fellowship within the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, of those duly constituted dioceses, provinces, and regional churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic faith and order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.”
The resolution also described the relationships among Anglican churches as “characterized by forbearance, trust, and respect.” It also recommended that there might be inter-Anglican consultation and participation on the church’s standing commissions.
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The Episcopal Church’s national office in New York and many of its diocesan newspapers are changing the way they refer to their church, from ECUSA (Episcopal Church in the USA) to The Episcopal Church.
The informal change was discussed at last April’s meeting of diocesan communicators, including newspaper editors, said Kay McLaughlin, director of communications for the diocese of Lexington (Ky.).
Canon Robert Williams, the national church’s director of communications, proposed the change and “it made immediate sense to us,” said Ms. McLaughlin, who began using it in her newspaper, The Advocate.
The national office does not control diocesan newspapers and the discussion did not take place in political terms; however, communicators noted that the Episcopal Church includes several countries outside the U.S., such as Haiti, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Honduras.
As the U.S. church’s place in the worldwide Anglican Communion comes under scrutiny, it was felt that the name change emphasizes its international nature.