Monday, October 29, 2007

Council Responds to the Bishops

The Executive Council of The Episcopal Church adopted the following resolution in response to the House of Bishops' New Orleans statement. I'm grateful that Council recognizes the pastoral and canonical implications with respect to the ministry of gay and lesbian people. I'm glad that they have gently admonished the bishops as to the limits of their authority.

This resolution, however, reminds me just how captive we are to clericalism. The resolution is concerned almost exclusively with B033 and access to the episcopate. It it says nothing about our bishops refusal in the majority of our dioceses to provide for the pastoral and ritual care of LGBT people. Ordination to the episcopate is important but it effects a very small number of people. Of far greater concern to me is the way in which the lives and relationships of LGBT laity are dismissed and marginalized in our church. They are at best invisible in many places.

This resolution is a step in the right direction. But we need to do better. The sacramental and pastoral ministry of the Church is not yet accessible in its fullness to all of the baptized. That is a scandal, and it is far more extensive in its effects than access to episcopal ministry. Perhaps the problem is that we need to find a better way to speak to one another than through resolutions. A pastoral letter from Council on the Church's ministry to all the baptized seems to be in order. Perhaps that would prod our bishops to do their job.

Resolved, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, meeting in Dearborn, Michigan, expresses its appreciation to the House of Bishops for undertaking the monumental task of trying to clarify the conflict between the canons of the Episcopal Church and the demands raised by the Dar E [sic] Salaam communiqué, and be it further
Resolved, the Executive Council affirms with the House of Bishops the essential and renewed study of human sexuality as noted in the “listening process” of the Lambeth Conference of 1998, and be it further

Resolved, that the House of Bishops’ statement exacerbated feelings of exclusion felt by many of the lesbian and gay members of our church by defining Resolution B033 from the 75th General Convention to include lesbian and gay people, and be it further
Resolved, that by calling particular attention to the application of B033 to lesbian and gay person [sic], it may inappropriately suggest that an additional qualification for the episcopacy has been imposed beyond those contained in the constitutions and canons of the church, and be it further
Resolved, that while B033 focuses on the consent process for bishops, the broader impact is to discourage the full participation by lesbians and gay persons in the life of the church and enshrine discrimination in the policies of the Episcopal Church, and be it further
Resolved, that the Executive Council acknowledge with regret the additional pain and estrangement inflicted on lesbian and gay members of the church, and we pledge to work toward a time when our church will fully respect the dignity of every human being in all aspects of the life of our church.

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