The Episcopal Diocese of Newark, meeting January 20 in its 133rd annual convention, took stands on a number of issues related to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons, and bid farewell to its ninth bishop, who will retire January 27.
The Convention heard Bishop John Croneberger affirm his stands in favor of regional confirmation services, a revival of diaconal ministry in the diocese (25 deacons have been ordained in the last few years following many years of no such ordinations), opposition to the death penalty, support of same-gender blessings, skepticism of efforts to have one portion of the Anglican Communion define others' stances on human sexuality, and his concern about the prospects of an Anglican Covenant.
Departing after eight years as Newark's bishop -- in part due to the ill health of his wife, Marilyn -- Croneberger, 68, said: "It has been a wondrous experience, but now I ask you to look over the horizon. Here comes Mark Beckwith."
Beckwith, who was elected September 23 to succeed Croneberger, preached at the convention's Eucharist. He will be consecrated January 27.
The texts of Croneberger's address and Beckwith's sermon are due to be posted on the diocese's website.
On January 21, the diocese said goodbye to the Cronebergers during evensong and a dinner attended by 670 people, including Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and her husband, Richard Schori.
During its deliberations, the Convention dissented from Resolution B033, passed during the 75th General Convention. Newark's resolution said B033 is inconsistent with the Episcopal Church's rules against discrimination in the ministry-discernment process (Title III.1.2) and "our baptismal promise to love and respect the dignity of every human being."
The convention said it "repents of the continuing discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons that B033 encourages" and calls upon its bishop and Standing Committee to consent to all qualified candidates to the episcopate.
In a related resolution, the convention agreed to submit a resolution to the 76th General Convention in 2009 calling for the addition of "gender identity or expression of gender identity" to the non-discrimination canon concerning the ministry-discernment process (Title III.1.2).
The convention also called for equal rights and benefits for same-gender couples in New Jersey, including civil marriage. New Jersey recently passed a law allowing civil unions, with all the rights and responsibilities of marriage, in response to an order from the state Supreme Court ruling in a case that involved a Diocese of Newark priest and his partner and a lesbian couple who are active members of the diocese. The resolution commended them for their participation n the suit.
The convention defeated a resolution that would have prevented diocesan priests from signing marriage licenses so that priests were not required to act as agents of the State. The resolution called for priests to bless unions between two people. Debate on the issue centered on the desire not to discriminate by virtue of having to obey state laws on who can be married, versus concern that the church must not disengage from a crucial pastoral and evangelistic moment in people's lives.
Finally, when it could not perfect its language, the convention voted to postpone a measure that would have submitted a resolution to the 76th General Convention to authorize the use of the Book of Common Prayer's rites of marriage and blessing of a civil marriage for same-gender couples in those civil jurisdictions that permit same-gender marriage, authorized modification of gender references in those rites, and expanded the definitions of the church's canons (Title I.18 and 19) on marriage to include same-gender couples.
Among the resolutions passed by the convention was one expressing its "admiration and support" of Jefferts Schori and affirming the belief that God continues to call women to both ordained and lay ministry in the church.
Delegate Marge Christie, who proposed the resolution, said in her supporting statement that the resolution was needed because since Jefferts Schori's election and investiture "the increase in the level of hostility toward a woman in leadership has become increasingly painful for many women and men, but especially for women clergy." The statement said that the resolution was needed as Jefferts Schori prepares to attend the meeting of the Anglican Communion's primates in Tanzania next month.
Among the other resolutions the convention passed were ones to:
- eliminate the waiting time before newly canonically resident priests and deacons may vote at diocesan convention (first reading);
- require anti-racism training for anyone appointed to a diocesan committee, commission or board, or elected to those posts by the diocese's districts, as well as those elected to offices by convention (first reading);
- recommend a minimum of two weeks of paid vacation for all diocesan and congregational lay employees who work at least 20 hours a week, and require job descriptions and annual performance reviews for all lay employees;
- express regret that the diocese will have to cut its 2007 giving to the Episcopal Church because of "financial exigencies" (while promising to give half of any money received in excess of the budgeted income to the Episcopal Church asking and pledging to make meeting the full asking a priority in the 2008 budget); and
- support the same principles concerning immigration and undocumented workers as expressed in Resolution A017 from the 75th General Convention.
Texts of the resolutions are due to be posted on the diocese's website.
The Diocese of Newark comprises about 34,600 Episcopalians worshipping in 117 congregations.