From Columbus: Bishops, Deputies to meet in joint Windsor session

June 20, 2006

The House of Bishops and the House of Deputies will meet in joint session after the 9 a.m. Eucharist on June 21 to consider a resolution responding to the Windsor Report.

Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold called the joint session after the House of Deputies rejected resolution A161, one of the General Convention resolutions responding to the Windsor Report. The resolution would have urged bishops and dioceses to refrain from electing bishops "whose manner of life presents a wider challenge to the wider church."

Resolution A161 also would have directed the church not to develop rites for blessing same-sex unions. It affirmed the need to provide pastoral care for gay and lesbian Episcopalians -- and at the same time apologized to gays and lesbians for those decisions.

The Windsor Report invited the Episcopal Church "to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same-gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges" (Windsor Report, paragraph 134).

A special commission was established to produce resolutions that would be presented for consideration by Convention as the church's response to the Windsor Report. Much debate has centered on incorporating specific Windsor language in order to make the resolutions acceptable to a wider range of deputies.

"We tried to look at this from every angle. There is something here for everyone to not like," said the Very Rev. Daniel Martins from the Diocese of San Joaquin.

The Rev. Michael Russell of the Diocese of San Diego spoke against the resolution. "We have no need to apologize for our actions in '03," he said "For this House to flinch an inch away from full inclusion of gay and lesbian people, even for a short period of time, would be an insufferable injustice."

Rebecca Snow of the Diocese of Alaska also said she did not like the resolution, but it was better than nothing. "There is much of this resolution that is hard to swallow … I believe our willingness to stand down from our call for justice – for a time – will help create the space in which we will be able to continue our, the Episcopal Church's and gays' and lesbians', witness to the wider church."

An attempt to substitute language to "effect a moratorium" on electing and consenting to bishops living in same-gender unions as well as all public rites of blessing on same-sex unions, was ruled out of order by Deputies President George Werner, saying moratoriums can only be effected by canons.

Bishop Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina, co-chair of the Special Committee, subsequently told the bishops that A161 had failed in the House of Deputies.

"In the last few minutes I have taken A162 on which we were prepared to recommend dismissal and have substituted language dealing with the substance of A161."

Immediately Bishop John Howe of Central Florida called a point of order that the new language of A162 was "word for word" the same language as A161 and that, under rules of the House of Deputies, could not be presented for consideration again.

Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire said: "I think that you know that I am a team player and over the last three years have done my very best to be a full member of this House."

Robinson told the bishops that he desperately wants to preserve the communion but not "at the expense of my own integrity."

While expressing his love and commitment to Anglicans around the world, and to the church, he added: "What I know is that I can't vote for any resolution that by category excludes parts of our church. I simply cannot do it in good conscience."

Robinson said he feared Convention is allowing forces outside the American church to determine what is "the right answer" to the questions posed by the Windsor Report.

Several bishops suggested the possibility of drafting a mind-of-the-house resolution, which expresses the views of the house but is not binding and carries no legislative weight. Such a resolution would need to express that the Episcopal Church is taking the Windsor process seriously, according to Bishop John Croneberger of Newark.

Bishops also said clarity and leadership are necessary. "I believe we in this House have to take the lead," Bishop Suffragan John Rabb of Maryland said.

"The church is depending on it. The Diocese of Maryland wants it. The Anglican Communion wants it."

Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh disagreed with proposals for a mind-of-the-house resolution and asked for honesty.

Other bishops, including Bishop Gary Lillibridge of West Texas, said Convention needs to say something strong about Windsor because "if we don't give Katharine Jefferts Schori a chance at the table, we're not going to have any more conversations with the Communion. It means that some hard decisions are going to have to be made."

Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida told the House that "God is asking us to make hard decisions, to be as faithful as possible. For God's sake, let's care for one another, bear one another's burdens. Brothers and sisters, it's time we quit debating and get on with the work of the Gospel."

Lipscomb moved that the House adopt the Windsor Report, and to send a message to the House of Deputies but later withdrew the motion to honor the Presiding Bishop's request for the joint session.

Bishop Keith Ackerman of Quincy said "we're dealing with a relative impasse. It's extraordinarily painful, but I believe that's what's occurred."

Bishop Charles Jenkins of Louisiana said the Church should "shift the anxiety back to those who gave it to us, put it back where it belongs. I believe what we have is one church with two minds. To say that is to say something very plain to the Anglican Communion."

Bishop William Gregg of Eastern Oregon pointed out that the Windsor Report invites the Episcopal Church on a journey and calls all its members to conversation. "Not that we have answers. We're going to explore. We're going to ask the questions, we're going to get it wrong, we're going to fall down, but we're going to do it together," he said.

Building upon comments by Jenkins, Pierre Whalon, bishop in charge of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, said, "it is one church of several minds."

After an hour's discussion, Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold asked for the bishops and deputies on the Special Committee to meet to prepare a resolution for the joint session.