Sunday, August 13, 2006


Yesterday it was reported on various Episcopal listservs that the Standing Committee of the Diocese of El Camino Real (ECR) included the following in its instructions to the Search Committee established to secure nominations for their next diocesan bishop:

"At this time in our history and in view of General Convention Resolution B033, the Search Committee shall not nominate any homosexual person as a candidate for bishop of the Diocese of El Camino Real."

You remember B033:

"Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, that the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report's invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further resolved, that this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."

Well, it is clear whose "manner of life" is, um, challenging to the wider church. ECR has done us the service of making explicit what we knew already: that B033 institutionalizes discrimination based on sexual orientation in our episcopal election process. ECR has followed the logic of B033 a step further by refusing to accept even the nomination of a gay or lesbian person as a candidate for bishop.

Thus, we now have a diocese that, in keeping with the spirit of B033, has contradicted the letter of Canon III.1.2:

"No person shall be denied access to the discernment process for any ministry, lay or ordained, in this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities or age, except as otherwise provided by these Canons. No right to licensing, ordination or election is hereby established."

Access, much less election or consent, is now being denied to otherwise qualified gay or lesbian priests who might be nominated for bishop of El Camino Real. At this point, unless the Standing Committee of El Camino Real rescinds this prohibition, their election process is in violation of the canons from the outset, and no one elected as a result of this process should receive consent from Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction.

The diocese of El Camino Real is free to elect any canonically qualified candidate to be their next bishop. They are not free to deny access to the nomination process based on sexual orientation. Gay and lesbian clergy have the same right to due consideration as any other qualified nominees: not that any gay or lesbian priest in his or her right mind would want to serve there.

Then again, any gay or lesbian person has to be a little bit crazy to hang in there with this church. As Anne Lamott famously said: "Sometimes the church is enough to make Jesus want to drink gin from a cat bowl."



Thomas B. Woodward said...

The Standing Committee has revised its instructions to the Search Committee to bring them in line with the concerns you have noted.
Tom Woodward

Toewalker said...

One wonders with what hubris the Standing Committee felt justified in drafting the instructions as they had initially,

Easier to beg forgiveness than to ask for permission (read: don't ask and hope that no one notices)?