D025’s back in the deputies’ court

Bishops send open ordination measure back to deputies, affirmed but amended

The Diocese of Massachusetts’ bishops voted yes for the amended version of D025 that passed the House of Bishops yesterday, 99-45 (with two abstentions), and it now goes back to the House of Deputies’ World Mission Legislative Committee for its recommendation and another round of deliberation in that house.  

“Our relationships in the Anglican Communion have been tested by the question of ordination to the episcopate of individuals living in a same-sex partnership,” D025 states in its explanatory section, and, as adopted on July 12 by the deputies as a follow-up statement to the 2006 General Convention’s restraint on consecrating gay bishops, it reaffirms the Episcopal Church’s participation in and financial contribution to the Anglican Communion, recognizes that gay and lesbian persons in committed relationships exercise ministry in the church and that God calls them to all levels of ordained ministry.  It also acknowledges that the church and communion are still not of one mind on the issue. 

Bishop Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina and Bishop Mark Hollingsworth of Ohio made amendments to explicitly state that the Episcopal Church’s participation in the Anglican Communion is as a constituent member, and to add that “God’s call to the ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church is a mystery which the church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment processes.”

Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE was among the bishops who addressed the house during the two-hour discussion before the roll-call vote.  “In the fourth resolve it says that these lifelong committed relationships are characterized by ‘fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.’  I don’t know how much more we can ask of a person or two people.  The only other thing that we can ask is celibacy, and I know from living the celibate life that it is a very rare gift.  It’s time now to support this resolution,” he said.

Pro and con positions aside, much of the bishops’ deliberation was devoted to whether the language at hand was at the same time broad enough but sufficiently clear.  “It’s not so much how we say it as that at the end of the day we all know what we mean when we say it,” Bishop Steven Charleston, now assistant bishop in the Diocese of California, said.

The two bishops who briefed the media this morning reflected the unified but not-of-one-mind nature of their house on the issue. 

“I think that the resolution passed yesterday will create significant challenges for the Episcopal Church as a constituent member of the communion and as it relates to the wider communion,” Bishop Sean Rowe of Northwest Pennsylvania said, calling D025 “a profoundly unhelpful statement.”  However, he said, as a member of the House of Bishops, “I am part of a church that exercises discernment in a particular way and so will now, and I will now as a bishop of this church, move forward together, having reached a common level of discernment.”

Bishop John Chane of Washington (D.C.), who, in speaking yesterday in support of D025, referenced “the exquisite pain” caused by General Convention’s 2006 call for restraint, characterized the bishops’ deliberations as “amazing…in that we could deal with a very complex, difficult issue and at the end of the day come away without demonizing one another or a particular point of view, either embracing one another or shaking hands and saying we are still brothers and sisters and we will work this through.”

At the end of the briefing, the two bishops shook hands and then went back to work.

Tracy J. Sukraw

Episcopal Life Online’s story about the House of Bishops’ decision is here.

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