Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Fifth Legislative Day

We're at that point that is inevitably reached in every General Convention when there's an increasing sense of urgency in the air. Resolutions that pass in one House and then get amended in the other, have to first go back to committee, where the amended version must be concurred with, and then sent back to the House that initially approved it. Adjournment is a time certain event late Friday afternoon. Resolutions run the risk of getting lost in the cracks. This produces anxiety.

Committee 11 this morning put the final stamp on getting Prayer Book revision going, so the measure will soon show up in the House of Bishops. I do hope we might eventually consider the route taken by the Church of England, where the 1662 version remains the standard book, but it's mostly used only by cathedrals for choral evensong. Most parishes use a volume called Common Worship. I would be very pleased if we could allow the 1979 BCP be for us what the 1662 BCP is for the Church of England, and put the new rites in another collection.

To my dismay (I'm dismayed a lot these days), we also considered and moved along a resolution that calls for the formation of a task force to consider the question of Holy Communion for the unbaptized. The House of Bishops rejected this resoundingly only three years ago. I hope we do so again.

The afternoon legislative was brutally long and ... well, just brutal. Once again, an executive session consumed more tomato than it should have (IMO), dealing with the same issue that was before us yesterday. This time, I really do think we've got it sorted out.

Once again, we had to postpone, and then return to, the "make churches greener" resolution because of non-substantive snafus. But it was eventually approved. I vote No simply because I believe this is the sort of thing that can be handled locally, and what can be handled locally should be handled locally.

The bulk of our time and energy, however, was consumed by two marriage-related resolutions. A054 authorizes new liturgical rites that can be used for the celebration of any marriage that is legal in the United States. It includes what I consider to be adequate protections for bishops and dioceses that hold a traditional understanding of marriage. I can and will prohibit their use in the Diocese of Springfield, though I will be obligated, upon request, to facilitate their availability. Referral of such requests to an appropriate neighboring diocese will be considered a good-faith response. I can live with that.

Resolution A036 is another matter. It alters the canon governing marriage to make the language gender-neutral. My handful of allies and I felt this is where we needed to make our stand. We immediately moved a minority report that emerged from the Special Committee on Marriage as a substitute for the resolution. This report was simply a document affirming the traditional understanding of marriage, and was not an alternate canonical change. We had cleared it in advance with the parliamentarian, who deemed it in order. But one of the bishops fairly quickly challenged the Presiding Bishop's ruling that the substitute was in order, and called for a vote on the matter, which is allowed in Roberts Rules. A majority of the bishops voted to overturn the Presiding Bishop's ruling, so our substitute was taken out of play. The parliamentarian was, of course, correct, so this was simply the names exercise of raw power. The mood of this convention is "spike the ball."

Debate proceeded, and there were a couple of amendments and amendments to amendments moved, but none carried. My allies and I did successfully request a roll-call vote, however, which tends to annoy people. Nonetheless, we felt it important for us to be on the record for the benefit of worldwide consumption, particularly among our Global South friends, who are always under pressure to cast us aside in favor of an exclusive relationship with the ACNA. There was some 150 or so bishops still around (down quite a bit from Saturday's PB election). There were 26 No votes and five abstentions. We got our heads handed to us.

One could argue that there are some details still in play before it's possible to conclusively say, "Done deal." And the House of Deputies still has to act, though the conclusion there is more foregone than with the Bishops. Nonetheless, the Episcopal Church has, today, effectively redefined marriage--a universal and timeless human social institution that Christians have believed is, in fact, not merely a human social institution, but a gift from God that is literally prehistoric, participating in the order of creation. We have done so, moreover, without even a pretense of consultation with the other provinces of the Anglican Communion, to say nothing of the rest of the Christian world. It is an act of breathtaking hubris, an abuse of common sense truly worthy of the descriptor Orwellian.

Is it heresy? This is the question I will continue to ponder. I don't use that term loosely. It has a high bar. Mere false teaching (which this manifestly is) is not necessarily, or even often, heresy. Heresy must ultimately be traceable to the denial of one of the articles of the creeds. The creeds don't talk about marriage. The creeds do, however, talk about creation. They name God as the creator of heaven and earth. If marriage was indeed established by God in creation, we are denying the character of that creation when we trivialize the sheer given-ness of "make and female created He them." These are some preliminary thoughts, at least.

This requires a great deal of further thought, prayer, consultation, and discernment. One of my ecclesiological taproots is that one is obligated to remain in communion with a church that engages in false teaching as long as it continues to be a church. When such a church progresses from mere false teaching into formal heresy--not just de facto heresy, but heresy enshrined in its liturgies and canons--and then persists in that heresy over more than one generation--and I would suggest forty years as a benchmark for "more than one generation"--then it ceases to be a church, and a faithful Christian is obligated to not be in communion with it. We've certainly been winding the forty-year clock. Is it now ticking?

25 comments:

John Richmond said...

The Church (or a small part of it, supposedly making decisions on behalf of us all), when gathered in General Convention, is dangerous. And what dreadful timing--the Supreme Court decision and GC, all at once. And of course the Episcopal Church would plow ahead with various unfortunate resolutions without consulting with any other parts of the Anglican Communion. All very sad.

Unknown said...

1) The BCP Catechism (does anyone ever read that?) defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Do any of the resolutions change that?

2) If the trial liturgies are adopted and incorporated into the BCP, does that supplant the existing marriage ceremony? If a man and a woman wish to be married under the 1976 rite, will that still be possible?

3) If the trial liturgies are adopted and incorporated into the BCP, will it be possible for a priest holding a traditional, Biblical view of marriage, ever again to be elected, "consented to," and consecrated a bishop in TEC?

4) Is the roll call tally available online? Were the 26 NO votes bishops who held to the historic understanding on marriage, or were there NO votes from bishops who objected just to the manner or proceeding?

Dick Mitchell

underground pewster said...

Is it heresy? A root cause analysis of how we got here inevitably reveals that this is a problem with "We believe" part of the creeds. One arrives at the opinion that it is a good thing to bless and perform same-sex marriages only by a lack of trust and belief in the words contained in the Bible. If one does not believe the words of scripture, then one does not believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. It is heresy the name of which is revisionism.

Anonymous said...

Your Grace,

I believe, to my tears and the wrenching of my bowels, the answer to your question can be found from the prolix pen of one JHN, written in the year 1850:
"I soon found it to follow, that the grounds on which alone Anglicanism was defensible formed an impregnable stronghold for the primitive heresies, and that the justification of the Primitive Councils was as cogent an apology for the Council of Trent. It was difficult to make out how the Eutychians or Monophysites were heretics, unless Protestants and Anglicans were heretics also; difficult to find arguments against the Tridentine Fathers which did not tell against the Fathers of Chalcedon; difficult to condemn the Popes of the sixteenth century, without condemning the Popes of the fifth. The drama of religion and the combat of truth and error were ever one and the same. The principles and proceedings of the Church now were those of the Church then; the principles and proceedings of heretics then were those of Protestants now. I found it so—almost fearfully; there was an awful similitude, more awful, because so silent and unimpassioned, between the dead records of the past and the feverish chronicle of the present. The shadow of the fifth century was on the sixteenth. It was like a spirit rising from the troubled waters of the Old World with the shape and lineaments of the new. The Church then, as now, might be called peremptory and stern, resolute, overbearing, and relentless; and heretics were shifting, changeable, reserved, and deceitful, ever courting the civil power, and never agreeing together, except by its aid; and the civil power was ever aiming at comprehensions, trying to put the invisible out of view, and to substitute expediency for faith. What was the use of continuing the controversy, or defending my position, if, after all, I was but forging arguments for Arius or Eutyches, and turning devil's advocate against the much-enduring Athanasius and the majestic Leo? Be my soul with the Saints! and shall I lift up my hand against them? Sooner may my right hand forget her cunning, and wither outright, as his who once stretched it out against a prophet of God,—perish sooner a whole tribe of Cranmers, Ridleys, Latimers, and Jewels,—perish the names of Bramhall, Ussher, Taylor, Stillingfleet, and Barrow, from the face of the earth,—ere I should do aught but fall at their feet in love and in worship, whose image was continually before my eyes, and whose musical words were ever in my ears and on my tongue!"

That blessed man taught that Arianism is, in the end, a denial of dogma, the denial of dogma leads to pantheism, pantheism leads to atheism.

May he be wrong, but I fear no.

Justin Fletcher

Rod said...

"Discern what is (1) unchangeable, (2) negotiable, and (3) must-changeable". Thom Rainer. Unfortunately, discernment in modern day TEC appears to be insular and based on might makes right.

mrdon said...

Bishop Daniel,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on what you are experiencing at Gen Con. As a former ECUSA priest now outside the denomination, I continue to check in now and then to see how the battle is going for those who are striving to be faithful to Scripture and Communion life.

After reading your report, there is one statement you made which raises some concern for me. You said "I can and will prohibit their use in the Diocese of Springfield, though I will be obligated, upon request, to facilitate their availability. Referral of such requests to an appropriate neighboring diocese will be considered a good-faith response. I can live with that." Even if this resolution (I have not yet read it in its entirety) obligates you to a "good-faith response," I find this gesture inconsistent because on one hand you will not allow SS couples to be married in your Diocese yet you are willing to find a way forward in a neighboring Diocese? (I know this was done with women's ordination back in the day but SS marriage is a completely different matter.) Shouldn't you rather be inviting the SS couple to bring their lives into loving obedience to Jesus through repentance and amendment of life? Is not this invitation the only godly and pastoral response regardless of what the personal consequences may bring to you and your Diocese? Otherwise, this "good-faith response" smacks of someone who loves the church (i.e. institution) more than Jesus and is playing the role of a church politician and not an authorized leader full of Holy Spirit and fire shepherding God's Holy Church in a time when Satan is sifting her like wheat. I know it must be difficult and discouraging to see this occurring but now is not the time to lie down and comply. Rather Bishop Daniel be faithful to the teaching you have received from Jesus even if it means losing your mitre yet in the process you will gain your soul.

Don Sehulster

Tom Hightower said...

Dear Bishop, My heart is broken and I am so sorry that you are going through this. As one who struggled by your side until I too felt like the frog, I keep you in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

Your Grace,

Respectfully, I would suggest that from my vantage point, the Episcopal Church has (or will, though it seems to be a foregone conclusion with the HOD) enshrined paganism into its canons. I say this in this way, because same-sex "marriage" is not Christian marriage. You are being allowed to prohibit it within the Diocese of Springfield. However, if you are honest with yourself, you know your successor will not be allowed to hold to your position. You are also being required to facilitate same-sex "marriage" for those who request it through another bishop, in effect forcing you to allow it. You are being forced to allow a pagan act. You keep your purple shirt and get no lawsuits, but you are forced to violate your conscience, forced to capitulate to the Enemy. Ask yourself, is it worth it?

Your Grace, if God is for us, who can be against us? The Martyrs have witnessed throughout the church in every generation that the pearl of great price is worth all. The Martyrs today offer themselves rather than forfeit the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Your Grace, you are a successor to the Apostles. You are a member of the College of Bishops of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church which confesses the Faith once delivered to the Saints. Now is the time for courage; now is the time to make your stand. You have your cross which your savior has given you. It is time to bear it. The time has come to step out in faith, trusting that Jesus Christ is the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords, and that his righteous rule will far surpass that of 815 or Canterbury. Leaving the juridical structure behind will require this faith and this courage, but you will step forward to do the impossible with the banner of Christ going before you. The people of the Diocese of Springfield need their shepherd, their pastor... you.

Anonymous said...

The Heretic Clock isn't ticking yet, but it sure will be if we get a new prayer book that shows embarrassment about "Father" and "Son" or allows alternatives. In fact, while I respect your position, I'm a little worried that the exclusive insistence that SSM is the Big Issue (your understanding of marriage in the created order has support but is not the only possible faithful and obedient way to understand Scripture) means that when the real creed-burning happens no one will be paying attention. There are lots of faithful Christians in the ECUSA who won't bolt over SSM but who will leave full of heartache once the Trinity is no longer worshipped.

Anonymous said...

Names of the faithful bishops?? Please.

Unknown said...

Anonymous.

A list of the faithful Bishops is available over on the Stand Firm website. http://www.standfirminfaith.com/

Dick M

Anonymous said...

Allan Haley nailed it when he said (http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2015/06/bishops-bless-blasphemy-curmudgeons-cup.html):

"The bishops approved three other rites for trial use, as well, but they are just as blasphemous in invoking the blessing of the triune God on the union/marriage of a same-sex pair. It was God Himself who defined marriage as between a male and a female in Genesis 2:24, and thus to invoke the name of that same God in blessing (or celebrating) a pairing that is not one that he made provision for in Holy Scripture is a blasphemy on His name."

The heresy clock is not only ticking, it has already struck midnight.

Sejseveer said...

With considerable appreciation and admiration for all you have said, and are as a churchman true to the Faith as once delivered, I hazard one a small point of exception. By way of crude analogy, if I had a friend who wanted to have a drug to which he was addicted and I knew to be deadly to his future, I would do more than not give it to him. Neither would I tell him where to go to get it. Thus, referring someone to another source for something we believe fundamentally harmful to them - send them to a diocese that will... - seems to me to be a problematic compromise.

Anonymous said...

The bishop welcomes the place of the 1662 BCP however the Church of England is obliged by its law to marry ANY parishioners who have not been previously married and as long as they are of the opposite sex.
Fr Alan

Anonymous said...

One of those representing tbis diocese commented elsewhere that he left a liturgy when he arrived to find worshippers dancing in the ailes. As one who spent over 30 years working with those you would see as Communion Partners I can only say that walking out of such a celebration would be quite "out of step" with those I had the joy to serve alongside - perhaps this partnership is not a close as one might expect?
Fr Alan

Jon said...

Where do the creeds specify our theological anthropology? Or on the other hand, why should we believe that recognizing same-sex marriage constitutes a denial of the creedal teaching that God created everything that is?

Jon said...

Where do the creeds specify our theological anthropology? Or on the other hand, why should we believe that recognizing same-sex marriage constitutes a denial of the creedal teaching that God created everything that is?

Jon said...

Where do the creeds specify our theological anthropology? Or on the other hand, why should we believe that recognizing same-sex marriage constitutes a denial of the creedal teaching that God created everything that is?

John Swofford said...

As a parishioner of St Paul's I am not surprised but saddened you use your power as bishop to force your personal views down the throats of your priests and parishioners. Yes there are those in the diocese who agree with you but also many who do not, including many of your clergy. If you were a fair and equitable man, who truly believes that one comes to Christ by his own free will, you would allow your priests to make up their own minds and hearts as to if they will perform marriages of two men or two women in their respective church within the diocese of Springfield. The national church has voted with a crushing affirmation of the right of two people to marry who are not of the opposite sex. You are correct in that you were handed your head in that vote. Your role is spiritual leader of the diocese; not spiritual bully. It takes a true man, a true leader, to know the difference. I ask you to look into yourself and do what is fair and equitable in this issue. Bishop, let my people go.

John Swofford

Catherine said...

Thank you, John. As a legally married lesbian and member of St. Paul's, I am deeply grieved by the judgement I feel regarding my relationship with Jesus Christ. I thank God that it was a priest who supported my coming out many years ago. I am amazed at how hung up people continue to be regarding genitalia instead of affirming love.
Catherine Bockmier-Sommers

Nick Porter said...

Scripture says nothing about affirming sin or even accepting people.

"Let my people go"? Really? Because not allowing blasphemous pseudo-"marriages" in a parish is the same as slavery. Enough already. I thank God that I am in a parish that will not allow this to happen!!

John Swofford said...

Yes. Really.

Nick Porter said...

John, attempting to compare the incomparable is nothing to be proud of. God will never honor the union of two people of the same sex. Not now, not ever, regardless of what General Convention says. Our Father will not be mocked.

John Swofford said...

Nick, be careful in proclaiming what God will or will not do.

Nick Porter said...

He answered, “HAVE YOU NOT READ that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”-Matthew 19:4-6

Clearly John, you have not read, and do not believe. God has already done the proclaiming in the beginning. We are to do as He says. The only one who should be careful are those who dare to attempt to rewrite His statues, as if we had the arthority to do so. You be careful,John.