Resolution D025 draws mixed responses

July 14, 2009

One day after adopting Resolution D025 by a 2-1 margin, Episcopal Church bishops on July 14 offered various interpretations when asked about the measure's purpose, its impact and why they voted for or against it.

All those interviewed agreed that the declaration makes a dramatic statement about the Episcopal Church's stance on the ordination of gay and lesbian persons -- including their consecration as bishops -- that cannot be ignored.

"We've made ourselves pretty clear," said Keith Whitmore, assistant bishop of Atlanta, who voted for the resolution. "The consequences of doing that are rather obvious."

The Rev. Ian Douglas (Massachusetts), World Mission legislative committee member, had told a news briefing after the House of Bishops' action on July 13 that the committee had been assigned all 13 resolutions that addressed Resolution 2006-B033. The resolution, adopted by the 75th General Convention, called for restraint in consenting to the consecration of bishops whose "manner of life" -- widely understood to mean homosexuality -- would cause concern for other members of the Anglican Communion.

Six of the resolutions called for "direct repeal of B033," Douglas explained, and six called for "a re-statement or maybe even a strengthening of our non-discrimination canons with respect to ordination." However, Douglas said, "in the House of Deputies -- particularly in the House of Deputies legislative committee on world mission -- there was not a whole lot of energy for either of the first two choices."

Instead, D025, the 13th resolution, "in the mind of the committee was a description of where we are as a church right now … and this invitation for ongoing conversation in these difficult issues was very important."

Bishops offered different opinions about the status of B033 in light of this week's action.

"I see D025 as trying to be fair to the gay and lesbians in our congregations, especially for those dioceses not as conservative as my own," said Bishop Philip Duncan of the Central Gulf Coast, who voted no. "But I don't see it as doing away with B033 because we do want to stay within the framework of the Anglican Communion."

Bishop James Jelinek of Minnesota, however, said he supported D025 because the new resolution deftly moves the church beyond B033.

"B033 was the absolutely right thing to do at the time," he said. "Would we want to do it now? No. But do we want to speak to that? No, because that's the past. We're looking to go forward."

When asked if D025 repudiates B033, Bishop John Buchanan, provisional bishop of Quincy, said "absolutely not. B033 was aimed at meeting a Windsor request for a moratorium on ordination of certain folks. That moratorium has held for three years and it will only not hold if and when we ordain the next openly gay person as a bishop in our church."

Bishop John Bryson Chane of Washington, an outspoken opponent of B033, said he voted for the resolution as a way of stating what he described as inevitable: "What this resolution says is, we've lived with the idea of using restraint in the consecration of gay and lesbian people for three years, and that time is up.

"Now what we have is a full awareness across the church and the communion that, by our constitution and canons, a person who is in a same-sex, committed relationship can, through the normal channels of our ordination process, be considered for ordination and consecration."

Bishop Bruce Caldwell of Wyoming and other D025 supporters agreed that the measure presents an honest description of the Episcopal Church's fully inclusive ordination process in a way that will benefit the church's relationship with other members of the Anglican Communion.

"The resolution is largely descriptive of where we are today," Caldwell said. "I do think we moved ahead in transparency. Our language became more clear than it was in the past, and that's a very healthy thing for the communion.

"It was not a direct attack on B033, so we can't absolutely draw that connection. We can say this has moved us further to inclusion, though, and in my heart, I am grateful for the clarity that is in it."

According to Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina, clarity is exactly what is lacking in the resolution's language and its meaning for the future of the Episcopal Church.

"We're staring into murky waters," Lawrence said, "and everyone reads the tea leaves the way they want. It's very much of an Anglican Communion-breaking issue, and it breaks faith with many of the faithful in the church."

Though they both voted against the resolution, Duncan and Texas Bishop Andrew Doyle agreed that the document clearly and diplomatically states the church's position on ordination being open to all.

"It was very clear in acknowledging the reality that it is happening and that's a very different thing," Doyle said. "I don't think it's a shift in our thinking because people are thinking the same thing they were thinking three, six years ago on that from their various opinions…I think the resolution is a healthy and honest description of where we are."

Doyle said he voted against the resolution out of concern for repercussions if the action was seen as a repeal of B033.

Duncan agreed: "There will be some people who choose to leave the church and some who will have a very, very hard time with it. But I don't see it, as I read it, as strident and difficult as some people suggest it might be, because there's a graciousness about it."

Jelinek, Burnett and Caldwell predicted that other members of the Anglican Communion will more easily receive the truth of the convention's action thanks to relationships created at Lambeth Conference in 2008.

"D025 is about naming who we are -- not saying something against the Anglican Communion, and that's very different from what's happened in the past," Jelinek said. "This wasn't about taking a stand in Anglicanism; this was about describing who we are as a body. Does that also say something deeper? Yes, but it doesn't rub somebody's face in it."

Assisting Bishop Steven Charleston of California said he supported D025 because it provides the basic element necessary to true relationship: "trust, clarity and honesty."

"Without that we open ourselves up to an endless cycle of suspicion, innuendo, confusion, argumentation," he said. "By being clear about where we are, we're inviting others to enter into relationship with us based on that kind of clarity and for those of us within the Episcopal Church to begin to learn to live collegially with each other within our own tradition."

In international reaction, the conservative Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) interpreted the resolution as a repudiation of B033.

In a July 13 statement, ACI said the Episcopal Church "is already out of communion with the majority of the world's Anglicans. It is our expectation that many dioceses will not follow the Episcopal Church out of the Anglican Communion and the mainstream of apostolic Christianity. Instead, they will take immediate action to assure the communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury of their continued commitment both to observe the communion's moratoria and to preserve and restore their structural bonds to the communion."

The U.K.-based Fulcrum, a group for evangelical Anglicans, said in a statement that D025 "represents a further determined walking apart by the American Church and must have significant consequences for the relationship of TEC to the Church of England and the Anglican Communion."

Integrity USA, which supports the full inclusion of LGBT people in the church, described the bishops' decision as "effectively end[ing] the 'B033 era' and return[ing] the church to relying on its canons and discernment processes for the election of bishops."

The Rev. Susan Russell, outgoing Integrity president, said, "there is no question that today's vote in the House of Bishops was an historic move forward and a great day for all who support the full inclusion of all the baptized in the Body of Christ."

The bishops, Russell said, spoke candidly and truthfully "to each other and to us and … to our Anglican Communion brothers and sisters and to the world."

"The truth is we are a church committed to mission -- we are a church committed to the full inclusion of all the baptized in that mission -- and we are a church committed to creating as broad a place to stand as possible for ALL who wish to be part of this great adventure of being disciples of Jesus."