Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Annual Council

September 24, 2008

The 102nd Annual Council of the Diocese of Atlanta will meet in Decatur on November 14-15, 2008 and among other things will consider resolutions. It is fairly common for dioceses of the church to ask the General Convention to act on certain matters on behalf of the whole church. In our Diocese it is most normal (and generally preferred) that any resolutions to come before the council be presented by convocations or geographical gatherings of parishes, but may be submitted by any clergy or lay delegate.

I plan to ‘shop’ the following resolutions for consideration by the mid-Atlanta convocation and also see whether there are other delegates who might be interested in sponsoring such resolutions with me. I’m sure that they will need editing and putting in the proper legislative form, but the substance of them is to move the church towards the end of doing what we need to do both to meet the pressing pastoral needs of our lesbian and gay members and to provide ecclesial recognition and ‘sanction’ for such life-long, committed relationships in the life of the church and removing any ambiguity about the morality of such relationships in principle.

I am among those who are wearied of and by our conversations about human sexuality over the past thirty years and believe that the only way to bring them to a close (at least in our official councils) is to address them with clarity and do what we need to do. Our parish has been blessed by relative calm since we decided ‘officially’ that we do not believe that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful by definition. If that position is correct, and we continue to see the fruits of the Holy Spirit in many gay and lesbian relationships suggesting that we are on the right path in our belief, then certain things follow. One of those is that such relationships should be affirmed and celebrated in the communities of faith of people who desire such celebrations.

We are currently living with a number of anomalies that would be clarified by making it possible for us to recognize marriage between people of the same gender, currently prohibited by our constitutional definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. We have a situation in some states where clergy are permitted to bless gay and lesbian unions but not their marriages performed by their states. We also have a bishop who is in a relationship not yet officially sanctioned by the wider community of the church.

We have held off making such moves out of consideration for the wider Anglican Communion and for the comfort of the more instinctively and intuitively conservative members of The Episcopal Church and have done so at the expense of moving toward the affirmation and full inclusion of gay and lesbian people. Anyone who has been in relationship with our more conservative brethren and sistren over the years know that there is no placating them in this area and that anything other than condemnation is considered ‘unscriptural’. We also know that while their beliefs about the evils of homosexuality are most certainly well within the bounds of traditional Anglican faith and practice, their claims to be the only upholders of biblical ethics over against ‘liberals’ or ‘revisionists’ are spurious, exclusive and (intellectually) dishonest. They are choosing the route of ‘reform’ or ‘schism’, depending on your point of view, but in any event are bringing about a division of some sort in the Anglican Communion made manifest in an ugly attempt to size power in the face of what appears to be a leadership vacuum.

Those conservatives (including many friends and some in my own parish) who have stayed away from this ugliness have found that while they are in varying degrees and fro varying reasons less than thrilled about the affirmation of GLBT people, that such affirmations really don’t negatively affect their lives in any way except that they see their friends fighting with each other over something that is not worth splitting the church. My hope is that enough such people would recognize that there are no ‘half measures’ that will end this conflict that so many on both sides believe to be so fundamental to the fidelity of the church.

So here are my proposals that I would prefer to submit unadorned by ‘whereas’ clauses and ‘background information’. Your thoughts are welcome.

Resolution to enable the recognition and blessing of marriage between persons of the same gender in The Episcopal Church

Resolved: That the Diocese of Atlanta request that the General Convention begin the process changing our constitution to allow a definition of marriage that includes marriage between people of the same gender; and further

Resolved: That the Diocese of Atlanta request that the General Convention authorize the Standing Liturgical Commission to develop a marriage rite appropriate to and for gay and lesbian persons for use in those states where such marriage is permitted.

Resolution to enable the celebration of same-sex unions in The Episcopal Church

Resolved: That the Diocese of Atlanta request that the General Convention authorize the Standing Liturgical Commission to develop a rite or rites appropriate to the Celebration of same-sex unions.

1 comment:

Mark said...

I agree with the resolution Geoffrey is suggesting. It is of course a sound idea because it recognizes that the door to God's kingdom, here on earth and in the unknown country beyond death, is open to all.

But I agree with the resolution for more tactical reasons. We have been trapped by our enemies--and I believe, uncharitably on my part, that they are our enemites--into defining the Episcopal Church solely by its stance on the place of GLBT people in the Church.

This resolution could be a big step toward putting that one-dimensional definition behind us and letting us show people how much more to us there is.

By the way, these musings are from someone who is quite orthodox on most matters of faith but who also believes that the issue of human sexuality simply doesn't fall into the circle of that orthodoxy.

Anyway, I say go for it, Geoffrey!

Mark Siegel