Every blog I read – even the extremely conservative ones – believes that the House of Deputies is ready to move beyond B033. At least ready to reject it. Maybe just by restating our canons (that there be no discrimination) and rejecting extra-canonical restraints. Perhaps even to call for development of rites for same-sex blessings or even marriages.
But that’s the clergy and laypeople in the House of Deputies.
I am sensing different and worrisome rumblings from the House of Bishops. Bloggers are observing that very few bishops are attending hearings and speaking on behalf of the various measures that would reject B033 or move our church beyond it.
Gene Robinson has bravely written more on his blog on Thursday:
We also had a disturbing private (no one in the gallery) conversation in the House of Bishops that led me to feel discouraged about what lies ahead. That conversation is private, so I can't detail it, but there seems to be a kind of belligerent attitude toward the House of Deputies by some of our bishops. Their vision of the episcopate is way too "high and mighty" for my taste, or my theology, and I am not happy about it. The last thing we bishops need is a larger measure of arrogance. Didn't Jesus save his most serious criticism for the religious powers-that-be of his day who lorded their power and position over others?and today:
One alarming thing about last night's hearing was the fact that there were almost NO bishops present. Other than those on the committee (who HAD to be there), there were only five bishops present: Andrus (California), Beckwith (Newark) and myself, arguing for moving forward; Love (Albany) and Lawrence (South Carolina) arguing for continuing B033. Other than these, NO bishop was present to hear the two hours of voices from the Church appealing for progress.Coming into this General Convention, the conservative bloggers were saying that “all is lost” – that TEC would move ahead on what they see as a dreadful course.
I fear (and I hope I'm not being overly dramatic here) that we are moving toward a train wreck between the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. I sense an unwillingness among the bishops to listen to these voices of the laity and clergy. I hope I'm terribly wrong, but it seems that bishops feel they have some special access to God's will and nothing will persuade them otherwise. I shutter to think of a church where the Bishops are so disconnected from the will of the people they serve. Please God, let me be terribly wrong about this perception, and may the scales fall from my pessimistic eyes and reveal an episcopate who has listened to the Spirit's movement in the people of this Church. Nothing would make me happier than to be wrong about this. Only time will tell.
Now, I am confronting the fact that about 110 diocesan bishops may stonewall the issue and stand against the strong will (perhaps even a super-majority) of the 880 deputies. Remember, I suggested that back here on June 3. The bishops let Parsley establish a super-duper secret committee to study the theology of same-sex relationships … with a due date of 2011 for that report. I now grow more concerned that “the fix was in” long before the bishops and deputies arrived in Anaheim.
Now … I invite you to think with me. What will you do if the Deputies and Bishops come down on opposite sides?
It seems likely the Deputies may come down overwhelmingly in support of faithful LGBT Christians, and the bishops will come firmly down against us. I recognize that’s a short-hand way of putting the issue. It seems to me that the Deputies may … recognize that Scripture does not forbid the faithful relationships we experience … see and perceive the blessedness within same-sex relationships … see the need for the church to participate in our covenants … see that faithful Christians may serve (and, in fact, already are serving) in all orders (as bishops, deacons, and priests) in our church.
And the bishops – some of whom personally see the same thing –notwithstanding all that – may decide to block any action for the sake of the Anglican Unity Tea they drank at Lambeth.
Make no mistake: If the House of Bishops block the action of the House of Deputies, they will be telling me personally that they care more for the Archbishops of Nigeria, Uganda, etc. than they are about me. Yes, I will take it personally.
The effect would be the blockade of any action of the Deputies by the House of Bishops. In our bicameral structure, the Bishops have that power. They can block any action of the House of Deputies.
What will you do if that happens?
I will find myself profoundly conflicted.
Because I love my parish, find great communion in my diocese, and love my bishop, I will be tempted to “suck it in” and continue to remain in place within my place in my Episcopal parish. Chastened, distanced, and profoundly sad. Hoping for the next General Convention, when perhaps things might change. I don’t know that I will have the heart to do that.
And I will be tempted to quit the Episcopal Church once and for all … as I did during my “sabbatical from TEC” in July 2006, after B033. If the bishops of TEC choose schismatic bullies like Akinola over me, then I will have to look elsewhere. I do not want to be “tolerated” or “accepted on sufferance.” I recognize what I experienced back in 2006: that no other church has the theology and liturgy that drew me to TEC. I tried them all: Romans, UCC, Disciples, ELCA. In this part of the world, they are all spooky-conservative and/or liturgically impoverished. Having made those explorations in 2006, I know I won’t find another church home in this place. I’ll just join the increasing number of Americans who worship at St. Arbucks on Sundays.
I love this church. The Episcopal Church has challenged me again and again to wrestle with my baptismal covenant and forces me – Sunday after Sunday – to consider whether I am living the holiness of life personally and in community. If I have to leave this church, it will be as painful as the most painful divorce.
But I don’t see how I can remain in a church that officially declares me and my faith dispensable. And I fear the bishops are about to do exactly that.
What about you? What are you all thinking you will do if the bishops choose to maintain the status quo?