West Texas bishop drafts 'Anaheim Statement,' reaffirms moratoria commitment

July 15, 2009

Bishop Gary W. Lillibridge of West Texas read a statement to the House of Bishops July 16, acknowledging that a "majority of this convention believes that the Episcopal Church should move forward on matters of human sexuality."

Lillibridge's statement reaffirmed his commitment to the Windsor moratoria. He invited other bishops to join him in signing the so-called "Anaheim Statement." Internet reports estimated that anywhere between 12 and 26 bishops had signed the statement, which Lillibridge reportedly presented in a closed session prior to the House of Bishops regular afternoon meeting.

"At this convention, the House of Bishops [HOB] has heard repeated calls for honesty and clarity. As the conversation has proceeded within the HOB, repeated attempts to modify wording which would have been preferable to the minority in the vote were respectfully heard and discussed, but in the end most of these amendments were found unacceptable to the majority in the House," according to the statement.

"Many in the majority believed the amendments would make the stated position of this House less honest about where they believe we are as the Episcopal Church," it continued.

Bishop Edward J. Konieczny of Oklahoma told a convention news briefing that "when the statement was read, it was clear to everyone in the house that this was not a statement of division."

Rather, "it was a statement of unity and acknowledging and recognizing that we have listened to one another intently and we've done that with open hearts and mind, and that there was a thankfulness for that on the part of all. That particular statement was not intended to be anything other than them sharing with the wider communion that we are working together on this difficult issue," he added.

Bishop James Mathes of San Diego agreed, adding that Lillibridge's statement "was offered in a loving and appreciative way of the conversation we had."

It included "clarity of where they are, but also in appreciation for the listening [that went on] in earlier conversations in the last few days."

Konieczny said that upon his return to Oklahoma he would relay to his diocese that the 76th General Convention deliberations about LGBT issues were a "generous conversation and a commitment, at least in the House of Bishops, on the part of all the bishops to honor and recognize each bishop in the particular context and circumstance in which they find themselves given the changing environment across the country" about civil laws concerning same-gender unions and marriage.

Mathes planned to use his diocese's Report of the Task Force on Holiness in Relationships and the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions "to discern God's call to us moving forward about how to respond pastorally to people who have divergent views on this issue," he said.

"You're going to see many different responses" by bishops, Mathes added. "That's that pastoral generosity of what this General Convention has articulated."

Lillibridge's statement also expressed gratitude for bishops who have reached out to those holding minority viewpoints.

"It is apparent that a substantial majority of this convention believes that the Episcopal Church should move forward on matters of human sexuality. We recognize this reality and understand the clarity with which the majority has expressed itself. We are grateful for those who have reached out to the minority, affirming our place in the church," according to the statement.

"We seek to provide the same honesty and clarity. We invite all bishops who share the following commitments to join us in this statement as we seek to find a place in the church we continue to serve."

A copy of the statement is available here.

The Windsor Continuation Group's final report had included a request for moratoria on same-gender blessings, cross-border interventions and the ordination of gay and lesbian people to the episcopate, to avoid further straining the bonds of communion after the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who lives in a same-gender relationship.