Oasis California News Blog

Thursday, July 30, 2009

President Obama to Bestow Presidential Medal of Freedom on Harvey Milk

Equality California Urges Governor to Sign Harvey Milk Day Bill into Law

San Francisco – Today President Obama announced that he will honor assassinated civil rights leader Harvey Milk with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor recognizing significant contributions to the nation and the world. The President will also honor Senator Edward Kennedy and tennis legend Billie Jean King, an open lesbian and longtime champion for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, with the Medal of Freedom on August 12.
"President Obama understands that Harvey Milk's legacy reaches far beyond San Francisco, and that his story is an inspiration to everyone who believes in equality and fairness," said Geoff Kors, Equality California (EQCA) executive director. "Harvey Milk risked everything to change the course of history and to secure many of the civil rights and protections we enjoy today. In light of Harvey Milk receiving this incredible honor, we urge Governor Schwarzenegger to sign the Harvey Milk bill into law as a tribute to Harvey Milk's courageous work to end discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community."

Last year, EQCA sponsored the first bill in the country to officially honor Milk, the nation's first openly gay man elected to major political office, but the Governor vetoed it. Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) introduced the Harvey Milk Day bill, sponsored by EQCA, again this year. The legislation would require the governor to annually proclaim May 22 as Harvey Milk Day, designating it as a "day of special significance," to recognize Milk's work to secure equal protections.

Equality California (EQCA) is the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender-rights advocacy organization in California. In the past decade, EQCA has strategically moved California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for LGBT individuals to a state with some of the most comprehensive civil-rights protections in the nation. EQCA has passed over 50 pieces of legislation and continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, public education and community empowerment. www.eqca.org

Monday, July 27, 2009

Restructuring, not schism, ahead for Anglicans

The head of the Anglican Communion said Monday that restructuring the world's third-largest Christian denomination appears inevitable in the face of irreconcilable differences on sexuality and the Bible.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams forecast a "two-track" model that could leave the U.S. branch of the Communion, the Episcopal Church, out of decisive roles and without standing as a representative voice in the 77-million-member global Anglican church.

His statement comes two weeks after clergy and lay leaders at the Episcopal governing meeting voted by 2-1 margins to welcome the election of gay and lesbian bishops and to give "generous discretion" to blessing same-sex weddings.

Leaders of the USA's Anglican traditionalists and Episcopal gay activists had similar reactions to Williams' statement.

Both Archbishop Robert Duncan, of the new Anglican Church in North America, and the Rev. Susan Russell, head of the gay Episcopal group Integrity, say they will keep "being church" (working on evangelism, service and missions) exactly as before, and see when the institution catches up to reality.

See 

Restructuring, not schism, ahead for Anglicans

USA Today

Williams Suggests Secondary Role for Rebel Episcopal Church

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams suggested Monday (July
27) that the Episcopal Church may have to accept a secondary role in the Anglican Communion after voting to allow gay bishops and blessings for same-sex unions.

Williams, the spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans, said "very serious anxieties have already been expressed," about the pro-gay resolutions approved this month by the Episcopal Church at its General Convention in Anaheim, Calif.

While "there is no threat of being cast into outer darkness," Williams said, certain churches, including the Episcopal Church, may have to take a back seat in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue because their views on homosexuality do not represent the larger Anglican Communion.

Many of the world's Anglican churches oppose homosexuality as sinful and unbiblical.

"It helps to be clear about these possible futures," Williams said, "however much we think them less than ideal, and to speak about them not in apocalyptic terms of schism and excommunication but plainly as what they are -- two styles of being Anglican ..."

Williams said the mechanics of a two-track system "will certainly need working out," but could well include the kinds of "co-operation in mission and service" that is currently shared between sister churches in the communion.

The Episcopal Church declined on Monday to respond to Williams' statement.

As head of the Church of England, Williams serves as spiritual guide of the Anglican Communion, a worldwide fellowship of churches that includes the 2.1 million-member Episcopal Church as its U.S. branch. While he lacks the power of a pope to enforce his will on the communion, Williams remains extraordinarily influential among Anglicans; he has proposed the two-tiered system several times in recent years as a way to make the communion's 38 provinces more mutually accountable.

Before the Episcopal convention, Williams had urged the U.S. church not to take steps that would exacerbate tensions in the Anglican Communion, which has been brought to the breaking point by the consecration of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire in 2003.

Despite the warning, Episcopalians overwhelmingly voted to lift a de facto ban on consecrating other gay bishops and approved a broad local option for bishops who wish to allow gay and lesbian couples to receive nuptial blessings from the church.

Episcopal leaders later sought to cut off criticism with a letter to Williams that described the measures as simply "descriptive" of a church ministering to a culture with rapidly changing understandings of homosexuality.

Williams responded Monday with a nuanced, five-page reflection that gently chided Episcopalians for overturning centuries of Christian understanding of marriage and homosexuality without wider consensus from other Anglicans.

"The doctrine that `what affects the communion of all should be decided by all' is a venerable principle," Williams said.

The archbishop also suggested that Anglicans could settle their differences with a proposed covenant, which would outline acceptable beliefs and practices, particularly on divisive issues like homosexuality. Churches that could not agree to the covenant would be given a reduced role in the communion.

"Perhaps we are faced with the possibility rather of a `two-track' model, two ways of witnessing to the Anglican heritage, one of which had decided that local autonomy had to be the prevailing value," he wrote.
  See
Beliefnet.com -

Sunday, July 26, 2009

OUTRAGEOUS! UK: Worshipers who oppose women priests receive ‘untainted’ bread

Worshippers at a Church of England cathedral are being offered a two-track Communion service with a separate supply of "untainted" Communion bread for those who object to its being consecrated by a woman priest.

A special container, for the hosts — unleavened bread representing the body of Christ — which have been previously consecrated by a male priest, is brought out during Sunday morning services at Blackburn Cathedral if a woman priest is presiding.

The special arrangements, which have been condemned by supporters of women priests, were introduced because of the recent installation of Dr Sue Penfold as one of three residentiary canons. Even though she is legitimately ordained and employed, it means that when she is celebrating the eucharist those who dispute the validity of her orders can make sure they receive "untainted" sacrament consecrated earlier by a man.

The special container, known as the "reserved sacrament" after practice in the Roman Catholic Church, is then housed in the cathedral's aumbry, or tabernacle, and brought out on Sunday mornings when Dr Penfold is celebrating. It is used for those who do not recognise her ministry but many other worshippers also receive these hosts, unaware that they are different.

The Church of England has special exemption from equality legislation in secular law, which means arrangements such as Blackburn's are perfectly legal. The Church could still refuse to consecrate women bishops if more than a third oppose this when it reaches final debate by the General Synod in the next few years.

Blackburn has for decades been a seat of opposition to women's ordination. Both the present Bishop of Blackburn, the Right Rev Nicholas Reade, and the Dean, the Very Rev Christopher Armstrong, oppose women's ordination. It has a regular congregation of about 200 on Sunday mornings, with half a dozen who refuse to receive the sacrament from a woman.

A local clergy wife, Gertrude Robins, who complained about the arrangements in a letter to her local newspaper, the Clitheroe Advertiser & Times, said she had recently discovered the use of the reserved sacrament at Blackburn when Dr Penfold was celebrating and had arranged a meeting with the Dean to discuss it.

"He justified the practice by saying that there are some in the congregation who will not accept the sacrament consecrated by a woman and they have to think also of visitors. I am stunned and saddened. What a shame the Church is allowed to discriminate in this way."

A retired head teacher, Sally Barnes, of the women priests' support group Women and the Church, said: "This is quite outrageous. This is what happens when you have a church where women are regarded as tainted. It is an absolute disgrace. Quite a few people in that area have complained about it." SEE MORE

California court ruling favors Episcopal Church and Diocese of San Joaquin

After months of deliberation, a California Superior Court judge in Fresno has rejected a breakaway group's attempts to remove the Diocese of San Joaquin from the Episcopal Church and affirmed Bishop Jerry Lamb as the leader of the diocese.

"It is beyond dispute that the Episcopal Church is a hierarchical church," concluded Judge Adolfo M. Corona when issuing his July 21 ruling. He rejected such arguments by defendants, including former bishop John-David Schofield, that the hierarchical nature of the church is something to be determined on a "case by case basis."

Corona also ruled void the attempts by the breakaway group, led by Schofield, to amend the diocesan constitution and canons to disaffiliate the diocese from the Episcopal Church and to reaffiliate with another province. An overwhelming majority of the diocese's congregations voted to realign with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone in December 2007 but attempted to retain diocesan property and assets.

"If the Constitution of the Diocese incorporates and accedes to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, which require accession, then the Constitution of the Diocese cannot be amended to remove such language," Corona wrote in the 21-page decision.

Bishop Jerry Lamb hailed the ruling, the full text of which may be found here.

"I am very, very pleased with this decision," said Lamb, who was elected Provisional Bishop of San Joaquin at a March 29, 2008 special convention.

"The judge was extraordinarily clear on the fact that we are the Episcopal diocese, that I am the Episcopal bishop and that we control all of the properties that are now part of The Episcopal Church or were part of The Episcopal Church before the separation occurred nearly two years ago," Lamb said in a telephone interview late Friday.

He said the ruling is a first step toward regaining disputed property worth "millions of dollars" including the diocesan offices in Fresno, at least 30 church facilities, and the diocesan camp and conference center.

"We are going to be making efforts to have people sit down and start to talk to us about how to go forward," Lamb said. "More importantly, we're talking about people who want to worship as Episcopalians," he added.

Lamb retired as bishop of the Sacramento-based Diocese of Northern California in 2007 and served as an assisting bishop in the Diocese of Nevada prior to being elected Provisional Bishop of San Joaquin.

The diocesan website currently lists 20 continuing Episcopal congregations, including St. Paul's, Modesto which several years ago affiliated with the Anglican Mission in North America. The property was returned to the diocese July 1; Lamb said he currently maintains diocesan offices at St. Paul's but hopes to eventually return the diocesan headquarters to the Fresno location occupied by the disaffiliated group.

Diocesan chancellor Mike Glass said he received news of the ruling late July 23. "The court confirmed the integrity of our church's polity, and unequivocally rejected the attempts of the defendants to remove the diocese from the Episcopal Church," he said in a telephone interview July 24.

"With these issues clearly resolved in favor of the church and the diocese, it is the hope of the diocese we can expedite the recovery of assets of the diocese to further its mission and work."

The office of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in New York released a statement, noting that Corona ruled in favor of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of San Joaquin on all issues presented to it and that the ruling resolved most of the legal issues in litigation involving the identity and property of the diocese. 

The court also concluded that "former Bishop John-David Schofield is no longer the bishop and has no claim to any of the corporate offices," according to the statement.

The court also ruled that the continuing Diocese of San Joaquin is "not a new organization" created Schofield attempted to remove the diocese from the church, but that the diocese "is the older organization from which (Schofield and the other) defendants removed themselves."

Bishop Edwin [Ted] Gulick, diocesan bishop of Kentucky and provisional bishop of Fort Worth, also applauded the decision.
 
"This California decision joins other courts in Texas and other states in affirming the legal positions asserted by the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, its Diocesan Corporation, and the Episcopal Church in litigation filed on April 21, 2009 in the 141st District Court in Fort Worth against former bishop Jack Iker and others who left the Episcopal Church but still claim the right to exercise authority on behalf of the diocese and to control diocesan property," according to a statement released by the diocese..

Attempts to reach Schofield late Friday were unsuccessful.

The Episcopal Church is a constituent member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which encompasses more than 80 million worshippers in 44 regional and national member churches in over 160 countries across the globe.

-- The Rev. Pat McCaughan is Episcopal Life Media correspondent for Provinces VII and VIII and the House of Bishops. She is based in Los Angeles.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Turning away from God

Cal writes: " the modern Episcopal Church, which recently voted at its denominational meeting in Anaheim, Calif., to end the ban on the ordination of gay bishops and permit marriage ``blessings'' for same-sex couples.

Denominational leaders explained they are attempting to stem the exodus from their church by embracing a new doctrine they call ``inclusivity,'' which they hope will attract young people.

Apparently church leaders think that if they can reach people before they have fully matured in their faith, they can sidetrack them into beliefs that have nothing to do with the God that Episcopalians once claimed to worship and that they can be shaped into practical secularists who are willing to seek the approval of men, rather than God.

Inclusivity has nothing to do with the foundational truths set forth in Scripture. The church, which belongs to no denomination, but to its Founding Father and His Son, is about exclusivity for those who deny the faith. The church is inclusive only for those who are adopted by faith into God's family."

Read more of this drivel from CAL THOMAS @ 

Turning away from God

MiamiHerald.com

Judge rules deposed bishop can't transfer money

The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin has prevailed in its first lawsuit against a deposed bishop who led a secession movement prompted by the church's ordination of women and gays.

National church leaders removed John-David Schofield as the head of the Fresno-based diocese in March of last year, after he led parishioners to break with the national church.

On Thursday, Fresno County Superior Court Judge Adolfo Corona ruled that Schofield improperly set up outside accounts to transfer up to $5 million in church money to a new holding company.

The ruling also established that Jerry Lamb, a bishop loyal to the U.S. Episcopal Church, officially heads the Fresno diocese.

See Judge rules deposed bishop can't transfer money
San Jose Mercury News

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bishop: Episcopal Diocese of Dallas won't accept gay unions

Bishop James Stanton says the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas won't join in what he sees as the Episcopal Church's growing acceptance of gay unions.

"We will not consent to the election of a bishop living in a same-sex relationship, and we will not allow the blessings of same-sex relationships," Stanton said in a letter to clergy.

Stanton, a theological conservative, wrote in response to the recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

The General Convention passed a resolution noting that some states now allow gay marriage, and calling on the denomination to "develop theological and liturgical resources" in response. The resolution stopped short of authorizing rites for gay unions.

The resolution does say that bishops – particularly where gay marriage is legal – "may provide generous pastoral response" to all members.

Stanton said such language appears to give a "green light" to blessings of gay unions.

While acknowledging that the Dallas diocese has many gay members, Stanton said it will continue "affirming the primacy of scripture, the sanctity of marriage and the call to holiness of life."

Stanton's letter also argues that the General Convention moved from a position of restraint on approving any more openly gay bishops. The acceptance of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire has been a major concern for Episcopal conservatives.

 See  Bishop: Episcopal Diocese of Dallas won't accept gay unions
Dallas Morning News 

Thursday, July 23, 2009

British churches performing 'exorcisms' on gays

A number of fundamentalist Christian churches in Britain are thought to be performing 'exorcisms' on gays and lesbians to cure them of homosexuality.

In June, a video of a 16-year-old boy in America being "exorcised" of gay demons appeared on the internet. It provoked calls for a police investigation.

However, the practice is also happening in Britain.

According to the Metro, a Pentecostal church in north-west London offers the controversial 'cure'. It is one of hundreds of fundamentalist churches in the UK.

Rev John Ogbe-Ogbeide, who runs the United Pentecostal Ministry in Harrow, said he carried out exorcisms on gays four or five times a year and that the procedure always worked.

He said: "The evil spirits are telling you what's wrong is right, the opposite sex is not attractive."

He cited a recent case where he exorcised a young man who was about to get married but was in love with a man.

Rev Ogbe-Ogbeide added that the procedure could be carried out at any age, as demons could take hold of a person at any time.

 See

British churches performing 'exorcisms' on gays

Clergy of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, Studio City, will not sign state-issued marriage licenses

 

 

In protest against California's Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to state "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California," the Vestry of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, Studio City, unanimously voted to approve a resolution in support of the rights of all people, straight or gay, to legally marry in the State of California. The clergy of St. Michael's parish will continue to bless heterosexual, gay, and lesbian marriages, but will not sign state-issued marriage licenses until all people have the right to marry in the state of California.

 

This action was influenced strongly by a visit to St. Michael and All Angles this spring from V. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire. During a discussion at St. Mike's, Bishop Robinson supported churches getting out of the civil marriage business and instead performing blessings for all marriages, same or opposite sex. A similar action was taken by the Vestry of All Saints Church, Pasadena, California.

 

The Reverend Canon Dr. Henry Atkins, Priest-in-Charge at St. Michael's, said:

 

"This community strongly believes that both gay and straight couples should be equally blessed in the sacrament of marriage, and we happily commit ourselves to doing so. But we will not participate in state-sanctioned discrimination." He noted that other countries, such as France, also separate the legal from the religious marriage ceremonies.  

 

"The church is no place for such discrimination," said John Pryor, Junior Warden of St. Michael's. "A welcoming community holds the door open for all people," he stated, "we should not be in the business of shutting that door."

 

St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church is a welcoming community of

conscience engaged in faith by embracing diversity and encouraging growth

through prayer, scholarship, social action, and artistic endeavor. Located

at 3646 Coldwater Canyon Ave. in Studio City, it is an inclusive community

and welcomes all.

 

The resolution states:

.-----------------------------

MARRIAGE RESOLUTION

Adopted by the vestry, July 21, 2009

WHEREAS, on November 4, 2008, a majority of the California electorate voted

to approve Proposition 8, which amended the California Constitution to state

"[o]nly marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in

California;"

 

WHEREAS, on May 26, 2009, the California Supreme Court voted to uphold the

constitutionality of Proposition 8, a decision which not only deprives

same-sex couples of the fundamental right to marry, but, in the words of

dissenting Justice Carlos Moreno, "places at risk the state constitutional

rights of all disfavored minorities";

 

WHEREAS, the institution of civil marriage in the State of California is, as

a result of Proposition 8 and the Court's decision, a

constitutionally-mandated instrument of discrimination, which furthers

injustice and denies same-sex couples the fundamental dignities to which

each human being is entitled;

 

WHEREAS, our active participation in the discriminatory system of civil

marriage is inconsistent with Jesus' call to strive for justice and peace

among all people and respect the dignity of every human being; and

 

WHEREAS, Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church is called to make the

sacrament of marriage equally available to all couples, regardless of their

sexual orientation;

 

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Rector, Wardens and Vestry do declare

that the sacramental right of marriage is available to all couples, but that

the clergy of Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church will not sign

civil marriage certificates for any marriage so long as the right to marry

is denied to same-sex couples.

ENGLAND: Two bishops warn Swedish church on same-gender marriage

[Ecumenical News International, Lyon, France] Two bishops of the (Anglican) Church of England have warned the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden that agreeing to expand the concept of marriage to include same-gender couples risks creating "immediate and negative" consequences for ecumenical relations.

"Although there is a continuing debate among Anglicans about human sexuality, the teaching and discipline of the Church of England, like that of the Anglican Communion as a whole ... is that it is not right either to bless same-sex sexual relationships or to ordain those who are involved in them," wrote Church of England bishops Christopher Hill of Guildford and John Hind of Chichester in a letter to Swedish Lutheran Archbishop Anders Wejryd on June 26.

The comments from the English bishops follow a letter from Wejryd explaining that the Swedish parliament is in the process of deciding upon a new marriage law that will include both heterosexual and homosexual couples.

"There is a majority among the bishops, in the doctrinal commission and in the central board for expanding the concept of marriage to include same-sex couples," stated Wejryd. "This probably also goes for the general synod." A decision is likely to be taken by the church in October.

The Church of Sweden has stated, however, that it believes the term "marriage" should be used only for heterosexual unions.

Wejryd's letter was sent in March to churches that belong to the Porvoo Communion, an agreement between British and Irish Anglican churches and Lutheran churches in the Nordic and Baltic countries. The agreement provides for full communion between the churches, including the acceptance of the other's bishops, priests and deacons without re-ordination.

The letter was made available to Ecumenical News International during the July 15-21 assembly in Lyon of the Conference of European Churches.

It stated that since 1995, the Swedish church has offered blessings for same-gender unions in registered partnerships and with a liturgical order since 2007. However, the revision of the marriage law means there will no longer be registered partnerships, and that there will be no way for the church to bless same-gender couples, the Swedish archbishop stated.

"The church would then only have a rite for heterosexual couples," wrote Wejryd. In 2008, the central board of the Swedish church agreed to accept that a new law would cover both heterosexual and homosexual unions. He noted that his church "has a strict policy not to discriminate against homosexuals and the church has already taken the most important decision, that of accepting and blessing same-sex couples."

In response to the Swedish letter, the English bishops described as "problematic" the existing practice in the Church of Sweden of blessing same-sex relationships. They also noted that what is now being proposed, "appears to be a fundamental redefinition of the Christian doctrine of marriage and of basic Christian anthropology."

The Church of England's Faith and Order Advisory Group, for which Hind is chairperson, "is acutely conscious of the immediate and negative ecumenical consequences of moves within any of the Porvoo churches to revise traditional Christian teaching and practice in matters of human sexuality", the bishops stated.

"Changes in the understanding of human sexuality and marriage in one member church of the Porvoo fellowship would lead to an impairment of the relationships between the churches, with particular implications for the limitation of the interchangeability of ordained ministry," they warned.

The Rev. Christopher Meakin, chief ecumenical secretary of the Church of Sweden, told ENI in Lyon he understood the letter from the English bishops as being "part of an ongoing process." It is so far the only official response to Wejryd's letter, he noted.

Meakin described the letter as a "well thought through and critical response" to developments in Sweden, and said he understood the bishops to be pointing out what they saw as "possible risks" in these developments.

The text of the bishops' letter is available here.

Presiding Bishop’s letter to the church on General Convention

"Above all else, this Convention claimed God's mission
as the heartbeat of The Episcopal Church"
 
[July 22, 2009] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued a letter to the church about General Convention 2009.
 
General Convention 2009 was held July 8 to July 17 at the Anaheim Convention Center in California (Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles).
 
The following is the Presiding Bishop's letter.
_______________________________________________________________________
 
My brothers and sisters in Christ:
 
The 76th General Convention is now history, though it will likely take some time before we are all reasonably clear about what the results are. 
 
We gathered in Anaheim, as guests of the Diocese of Los Angeles, for eleven full days of worship, learning, and policy-making.  The worship was stunning visually, musically, and liturgically, with provocative preaching and lively singing.
 
Our learning included training in Public Narrative, as well as news about the emergent church, in the LA Night presentation.
 
We welcomed a number of visitors from other parts of the Anglican Communion, including 15 of the primates (archbishops or presiding bishops), other bishops, clergy, and laity. 
 
You can see and hear all this and more at the Media Hub: http://gchub.episcopalchurch.org/
 
The budget adopted represents a significant curtailment of church-wide ministry efforts, in recognition of the economic realities of many dioceses and church endowments, which will result in the loss of a number of Church Center staff who have given long and laudable service.  Yet we will continue to serve God's mission, throughout The Episcopal Church and beyond.  This budget expects that more mission work will continue or begin to take place at diocesan or congregational levels.  Religious pilgrims, from the Israelites in the desert to Episcopalians in Alaska or Haiti, have always learned that times of leanness are opportunities for strengthened faith and creativity. 
 
As a Church, we have deepened our commitments to mission and ministry with "the least of these" (Matthew 25).  We included a budgetary commitment of 0.7% to the Millennium Development Goals, through the NetsforLife® program partnership of Episcopal Relief & Development.  That is in addition to approximately 15% of the budget already committed to international development work. 
 
We have committed to a domestic poverty initiative, meant to explore coherent and constructive responses to some of the worst poverty statistics in the Americas:  Native American reservations and indigenous communities.
 
Justice is the goal, as we revised our canons (church rules) having to do with clergy discipline, both as an act of solidarity with those who may suffer at the hands of clergy and an act of pastoral concern for clergy charged with misconduct.
 
The General Convention adopted a health plan to serve all clergy and lay employees, which is expected to be a cost-savings across the whole of the United States portion of the Church.  Work continues to ensure adequate health coverage in the non-U.S. parts of this Church.  The Convention also mandated pension coverage for lay employees.
 
Liturgical additions were also included in the Convention's work, from more saints on the calendar to prayers around reproductive loss.
 
What captured the headlines across the secular media, however, had to do with two resolutions, the consequences of which were often misinterpreted or exaggerated.  One, identified as D025, is titled "Anglican Communion:  Commitment and Witness to Anglican Communion."  It
reaffirms our commitment to and desire to pursue mission with the Anglican Communion;
reiterates our commitment to Listening Process urged by Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988, and 1998;
notes that our own participation in the listening process led General Convention in 2000 to "recognize that the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships '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'";
recognizes that ministry, both lay and ordained is being exercised by such persons in response to God's call;
notes that the call to ordained ministry is God's call, is a mystery, and that the Church participates in that mystery through the process of discernment;
acknowledges that the members of The Episcopal Church, and of the Anglican Communion, are not of one mind, and that faithful Christians disagree about some of these matters.
 
The other resolution that received a lot of press is C056, titled "Liturgies for Blessings."  The text adopted was a substitute for the original, yet the title remains unchanged.  It
acknowledges changing circumstances in the U.S. and elsewhere, in that civil jurisdictions in some places permit marriage, civil unions, and/or domestic partnerships involving same-sex couples, that call for a pastoral response from this Church;
asks the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, and the House of Bishops, to collect and develop theological and liturgical resources for such pastoral response, and report to the next General Convention;
asks those bodies to invite comment and participation from other parts of this Church and the Anglican Communion;
notes that bishops may provide generous pastoral responses to the needs of members of this Church;
asks the Convention to honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality.
 
The full text of both resolutions is available here: http://gc2009.org/ViewLegislation/ 
 
I urge you to read them for yourself.  Some have insisted that these resolutions repudiate our relationships with other members of the Anglican Communion.  My sense is that we have been very clear that we value our relationships within and around the Communion, and seek to deepen them.  My sense as well is that we cannot do that without being honest about who and where we are.  We are obviously not of one mind, and likely will not be until Jesus returns in all his glory.  We are called by God to continue to wrestle with the circumstances in which we live and move and have our being, and to do it as carefully and faithfully as we are able, in companionship with those who disagree vehemently and agree wholeheartedly.  It is only in that wrestling that we, like Jacob, will begin to discern the leading of the Spirit and the blessing of relationship with God.
 
Above all else, this Convention claimed God's mission as the heartbeat of The Episcopal Church.  I encourage every member of this Church to enter into conversation in your own congregation or diocese about God's mission, and where you and your faith community are being invited to enter more deeply into caring for your neighbors, the "least of these" whom Jesus befriends.
 
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Presiding officers write Canterbury explaining same-gender unions resolution

[Episcopal News Service] The two presiding officers of General Convention have again written to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, this time with an explanation of Resolution C056 that calls for the collection and development of theological resources for the blessing of same-gender blessings and allows bishops to provide "a generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church." The letter was also sent to the Anglican Communion's 38 primates.

"While the resolution honors the diversity of theological perspectives within the Episcopal Church, it does not authorize public liturgical rites for the blessing of same-gender unions," wrote Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson in their July 17 letter to Williams. "The Book of Common Prayer remains unchanged, the marriage rites are unaltered and the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer define marriage as a 'solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God.'"

Resolution C056 was passed on July 17 by the 76th General Convention meeting in Anaheim, California. It acknowledges "changing circumstances" that call for a renewed pastoral response from the church for considering same-gender blessings, including state laws on same-gender marriage, civil-unions and domestic partnerships. The resolution also authorizes the House of Bishops, in conjunction with the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, to devise an open process that will invite churchwide participation in collecting and developing theological resources and liturgies. The commission is to report its efforts to the next General Convention in 2012.

"This resolution is seen as a continuation of the pastoral response and listening process asked for and encouraged by successive General Conventions and Lambeth Conferences," the presiding officers wrote.

"It is now left to each bishop to determine what such a generous pastoral response might mean in her or his diocesan context. This resolution neither forces nor demands any bishop, diocesan convention, congregation or clergy to take any action it considers contrary to its will. The resolution honors and acknowledges this church's continuing commitment to and honoring of theological diversity and the inclusion of a variety of points of view on matters of human sexuality."

Jefferts Schori and Anderson had previously written to Williams on July 16 providing an explanation and clarification of Resolution D025. In addition to underscoring the Episcopal Church's support of and participation in the Anglican Communion, that resolution affirms "that God has called and may call" gay and lesbian people "to any ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church."

In both letters, the presiding officers said, "It is not our desire to give offense. We remain keenly aware of the concerns and sensibilities of our brothers and sisters in other churches across the communion."

Jefferts Schori sent the communion's 38 primates a copy of the letter to Williams about Resolution C056. In her cover letter she offered a clarification about what the resolution "does, and does not, mean."

She highlighted the second page of the letter to Williams "that describes the careful process that resulted in the amendment of this resolution, a process influenced greatly by the Indaba process learned at the 2008 Lambeth Conference."

The final version of the resolution was adopted by the House of Deputies after the bishops had amended the text. The letter to Williams explained that a group of more than 25 bishops "representing diverse and divergent views gathered informally and, using the Indaba process learned at the Lambeth Conference 2008, had thoughtful, loving and candid conversation. The fruit of their conversation and prayer was presented to the House of Bishops in the form of a revision to Resolution C056 which was adopted by both houses thus becoming the action of the General Convention thus speaking definitively for the Episcopal Church."

The presiding officers concluded their letter to Williams saying, "The Episcopal Church treasures our relationships and partnerships as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, and prays fervently for its life and mission, as we pray for you, brother Rowan, and your ministry as the spiritual leader of the communion."

-- Matthew Davies is editor of Episcopal Life Online and international correspondent of the Episcopal News Service.