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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Sturm und Drang of the Consent Processs

Well, the ink has just barely dried on the diocesan consent forms in LA and the consent process of the election of Diane Bruce and Mary Glasspool as Bishops Suffran has begun in the wider community of bishops and Standing Committees in The Episcopal Church.

Both women need a majority of votes in both bodies. Bishops and Standing Committees in the same diocese may vote differently without canceling each other's vote.

The conversation about consents for Mary Glasspool is already heating up over at HOB/D - the House of Bishops and Deputies Listserv.

I have a few questions which I posted on the HOB/D list yesterday which I will share with you. I hope you will consider sharing your answers in the comment section here.

Any member of a diocesan Standing Committee or Bishop can, after prayerful and thoughtful consideration, consent or withhold consent without being forced or coerced to give reason for their action. That, I believe, is as it should be.

Can someone articulate for me, other than the fact that Mary Glasspool is lesbian - and, as such, the first woman who is able to be open and honest about her sexual orientation - in The Episcopal Church and World Wide Anglican Communion that would elicit a disinclination to consent to her election?

What are the major concerns and in what priority?

Is it a concern about our relationship with the rest of the communion?

If so, what are the specific concerns/fears?

Kendall Harmon has posted a fascinating piece which documents the +++ABC's statements about the consent and consecration of the election of the Bishop of New Hampshire. You can find it here.

Sounds to me like a lion roaring in the winter of the church. Yes, we have had dioceses and individual churches who have left TEC because of the election in NH, but General Convention has affirmed, clearly and unequivocally,
"that God has called and may call such [LGBT] individuals, to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church."
We also
"acknowledged that members of The Episcopal Church as of the Anglican Communion, based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition and reason, are not of one mind, and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters." (From GC2009-D025)
You can read the entire resolution here.

This is the 'cultural context' and the theological and spiritual reality of our church. We affirm the different realities and cultural contexts of other churches and provinces in the WWAC and do not seek to impose our theology on others.

So, is this really a well-founded fear/concern?

We have already seen that we will not be kicked off the Anglican Island as punishment for our actions, taken after prayer and in discernment and in steadfast faith.

So, is that really a well-founded fear/concern?

Yes, the reality is that still other churches (but probably not dioceses) in TEC may leave us and that is a possibility not to be taken lightly. Given the fact that most of those who might leave because of the concern for our membership in the WWAC have probably already left, is this really a well-founded fear/concern?

Please help me understand how institutional unity is of more value than vocational integrity.

Is it simply a concern about her "moral suitability" for office - because she is a lesbian?

Since 1994, The Episcopal Church has had a canon on the books which states:
"All Bishops of Dioceses and other Clergy shall make provisions to identify fit persons for Holy Orders and encourage them to present themselves for Postulancy. No one shall be denied access to the selection process for ordination in this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, sex, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities, or age, except as otherwise specified by these Canons." -- Title III, Canon 4, Section 1 of the Constitution and Canons for the Government of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, p. 60"

If a Bishop or Standing Committee votes to consent, they will not be in violation of our canons.

Mary is in a long-term, partnered relationship. If she were back in the Diocese of MA (where I first knew her), she would be able to be married to her life partner. She now resides in MD where marriage equality is not a reality. When she moves to LA with her life partner, she will be allowed a civil union of sorts but not marriage.

She isn't married because she can't be. She would if she could. How does that disqualify her because she does not possess "moral suitability" for the office of bishop suffragan?

Finally, this:

If you are/were a member of the Standing Committee in your diocese and you were "on the fence" about whether or not to consent to this election, what would convince you to cast your vote to elect? What information would you need? What assurances would you require to be able to give your consent?

It's not that I'm not concerned about our sisters and brothers in dioceses like South Carolina who will decline consent because of their New Doctrine of Selective Inclusivity. I am, but there's not much, I fear, that I or anyone else will be able to do to dissuade them.

I am concerned that we have an informed, spirited discussion in the church which might bring less heat and more light to this issue. We have been blessed with another challenging opportunity to engage the issues of human sexuality and gender even more deeply than before.

My hope and prayer is that we may all learn something more about how the Spirit works through our relationships in Christ Jesus.

Years ago, Jennifer Phillips suggested that, perhaps, just perhaps, we were asking the wrong question. Rather than asking, "Why should we ordain LGBT people?", we should be asking, "What is God teaching us by presenting LGBT people for ordination?"

I leave you to consider that question and your answers.


Lauren said...

Good questions, Elizabeth. Now I have one in return: How can South Carolina even participate in this decision? Didn't the leadership there convince the people there to withdraw from the business of the national church? And doesn't that mean that they can neither consent nor withhold consent, because they aren't participating in the life of the church? At least, that's how I'm reading their decision. Since they don't want to be part of us, they can't be part of us for this.

Jane Priest said...

New Doctrine of Selective Inclusivity. Are you kidding me? I know you're not. Maybe I'm glad I missed that.

Lisa Fox said...

Lauren, that's exactly the point I made in my blog last night. If they have integrity, they won't vote either way ... which will have the same effect as a "no" vote.

Frair John said...

Pay back is Hell.

I am in no mood to play nice. This is Donatism. The Covenant is condoning Donatism.

On a fundamental level, on it's own merits, their argument is wrong. This "restraint" argument is wrong, again as a matter of unvarnished orthodoxy. Tha ACC communique is a testement to casuistry and sophestry in it's attempts to not sound Donatistic. Harmon+ and the rest are arguing from a weak position. If they were more likely to turn to a hyper moralistic bigot like Pelagius it might make more sence. But they lay claim to Agustin of Hippo, the theologian who defined the doctrine of grace and expanded it to denounce the loathsome theology of Donatus and the rest.

The "inclusiveness" argument is the other half of this equation, or at least a continuation of the expansive ideas of Grace, but it doesn't directly push back, and that is why they continue to play word games claim some specious doctrinal high ground.

I say we call them out for what they are.

motheramelia said...

I'm not on the Standing Committee and if I were I would not be on the fence. I would give consent because she is qualified. Period.

Paul Powers said...

I think the effect of any proposed consecration on the Anglican Communion is a legitimate concern, but if I were on a standing committee, it would be just one factor, and not necessarily the determining one.