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Hearings on sexuality resolutions scheduled
Episcopal News Service

By David Skidmore
[Episcopal News Service]  Two key resolutions addressing the standing of gays and lesbians in the life of the church will be reviewed in back-to-back hearings by the cognate Committee on Prayer Book and Liturgy on Friday, August 1, and Saturday, August 2.

A special hearing on the Diocese of California resolution (C005) calling for the preparation of rites of blessing for couples in committed relationships outside marriage will be held Friday evening, August 1, in the Hyatt Hotel beginning at 7:30 p.m. Noting the growing debate and media interest around this measure, the committee has allotted two hours before the hearing for persons to register for testimony. The hearing will be held in an area with seating for several hundred people.

A resolution asking for convention to withhold action on “pastoral support of homosexual persons” will be addressed by the committee Saturday morning, August 2, during its regularly scheduled 7:30 a.m. meeting. Public comment will be heard by the committee during that meeting. The resolution (B007), sponsored by the synod and bishops of Province IV, echoes the key recommendations in the House of Bishops Theology Committee report. Released at the March House of Bishops meeting in North Carolina, the report recognizes a diversity of opinion regarding the participation by gays and lesbians in the life of the church and the present lack of consensus on ordaining gays and lesbians or blessing their relationships.

The Province IV resolution, proposed by Bishop Stacy Sauls of Lexington, affirms the lack of consensus on how the church can pastorally care for gays and lesbians and what should be “required, permitted or prohibited” by the church’s doctrine, discipline and worship. It further states that living within the church’s constitution and canons will facilitate conversations in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion aimed at achieving consensus. Attempting to resolve the church’s differences and “diversity of pastoral support” toward gays and lesbians without such consensus would “imperil the unity of the church and should be avoided,” concludes the resolution. 

In the explanation section, the proposers of B007 share their hope that the church will move toward implementing a 1991 General Convention resolution calling for the presiding bishop to organize a consultation with other Anglican provinces and ecumenical partners on “potentially divisive issues” of sexuality.

Because the Province IV resolution has “substantial impact” on the California measure on rites for same sex unions, the convention’s Committee on Dispatch of Business has assigned it to the Prayer Book and Liturgy Committee. Both measures are now “the property of this committee” said the Rev. Frank Wade, vice chair of Prayer Book and Liturgy, in his briefing at the committee’s first meeting Tuesday morning, July 29. His hope for the committee during its meetings and the hearings, said Wade, will be to model a manner of discussion guided by grace and mutual respect.

Two members of the committee have agreed to give opening statements at the Friday night hearing, said Wade. The Very Rev. Samuel Candler, dean of the Cathedral of St. Phillip, Atlanta, will speak for resolution C005, while Kendall Harmon, deputy from South Carolina, will speak against the measure. Each will have 15 minutes to make his case. The hearing will then be opening to testimony from registered witnesses, speaking to the question: Shall this church develop rites for inclusion in The Book of Occasional Services by means of which the church may express support for all couples living in life-long committed relationships of mutuality and fidelity outside the relationship of marriage?

Preference will be given to deputies and bishops who are voting members of convention. The time permitted for testimony will be determined by the number who register during the two hours leading up to the hearing. The hearing will then conclude with summaries by Candler and Harmon.

At their initial meeting, committee members also reviewed some of the 30 resolutions assigned to them by the Committee on Dispatch of Business, 19 of which are from the church’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM). Resolutions that the committee hopes to review and report out for the convention’s first legislative session, Wednesday, July 30, mostly address additions to the church’s commemorative calendar, the most controversial being the addition of Charles the Martyr to the calendar. The committee also plans to report out the SCLM’s resolution on continued use of Enriching Our Worship 1 & 2 , first authorized by the 1997 and 2000 conventions.

Resolutions slated for hearings of the Committee on Prayer Book and Liturgy, July 29, Tuesday evening, 7:30 p.m.:

  • A091     Continue use of Enriching Our Worship 1 & 2
  • A093     Approve Liturgical Calendar Commemorations: Enmegahbowh, Florence Nightingale, and Philip the Deacon
  • A094     Church Year Calendar Inclusions: Janani Luwum, Archbishop of Uganda; William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury;   
                  Clive Staples Lewis, Apologist and Spiritual Writer
  • A095     Authorize Trial Use of Commemoration (Luwum, Temple, Lewis)
  • A096     Inclusion in the Church Year Calendar: Philander Chase, Bishop of Ohio and Illinois
  • A097     Authorize Trial Use of Commemoration (Chase)
  • A098     Church Year Calendar Inclusion: Florence Li Tim-Oi, first woman priest in the Anglican Communion
  • C009     Church Calendar: Liturgical Commemoration of Tikhon, Russian
  • C010     Church Calendar: Liturgical Commemoration of King Charles the Martyr
  • C013     Church Calendar: Liturgical Commemoration of the Rev. Dr. John Roberts