Another full weekend that included the 101st Annual Council of the Diocese of Atlanta. We heard a good address from our Bishop including his addressing issues of the wider church. He is not happy with those bishops who are trying to take their dioceses away from the Episcopal Church for any number of theological and traditional reasons, and he used the striking phrase that we are to “stay at the Table however unpleasant the company.”
I have expressed similar ideas before and am with him wholeheartedly. I know, of course, that the Lord’s Table is not limited to that found in the Episcopal Church and that we honor those who in conscience must depart. Nonetheless, it is not kosher to depart attempting to take property, parishes or dioceses with you.
I recently suggested that Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh who was my chaplain when I was an undergraduate, for whom I have great respect on many levels, and whose actions with regard to the church I believe to be seriously misguided, was attempting to change the rules (read doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church as expressed in and by the General Convention) because of his feeling that ‘his’ church has been ‘hijacked’. The argument, such as it is generally takes the path of suggesting that TEC is not being mindful of the Windsor Process or resolutions of the Lambeth Conference. I am, of course, deeply mindful of those things as we seek to find our way forward together even after the GC confirmed the election of the Bishop of New Hampshire. Those who are trying to argue for some kind of impreium for resolutions of the Lambeth Conference (including those authors of Windsor who believe that is what should in fact be the case) are doing so after the fact. Those things are part of the conversation of those committed to finding a way forward together. They however do not want any further conversation about homosexuality, and are often not interested in participating in ‘the listening process’. Many, of course, have decided in conscience that they cannot and do not wish to. The Bishop of Western Tanganyika, Dr. Gerald Mpango, told me that I would never understand but that his diocese simply did not want to be in a relationship with a church that affirms homosexuals. And that is the bottom line, isn’t it—- all arguments about bible, doctrine and tradition notwithstanding?
I was grateful to our convention for passing a resolution that, in effect, acknowledges that the burden of these continuing arguments and conversations are being borne by gay and lesbian Christians above all others as we continue to work for unity in the church:
Resolved, that this 101st Council of the Diocese of Atlanta supports the House of Bishops in its “passionate desire to remain in communion (with the Anglican Communion)” (House of Bishops Statement, September 25, 2007), and also shares with the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church its concern for the additional pain and estrangement inflicted on lesbian and gay members of the church” (Executive Council Resolution NAC026, October 28, 2007)