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From Columbus: Special Committee refines pastoral-care, expression-of-regret resolutions

By Herb Gunn
6/17/2006
[Episcopal News Service]  The Special Legislative Committee on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion put final wording to two resolutions during a pair of committee meetings June 17.

Resolutions A160: "Expression of Regret" and A163: "Pastoral Care and Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight" could reach the floor of the House of Deputies June 18.

In formulating an expression of regret, the committee replaced the statement proposed by the Special Communion on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communication. The Special Commission had prepared the legislation following its extensive study of the Windsor Report.

Not only did the committee seek to incorporate the divergent and passionately expressed views from the June 14 open hearing, which drew more than 1,200 people, the committee also struggled to balance the divergent perspectives of its own members.

The final draft from the committee reads, "Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, mindful of  ‘the repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ’ (The Windsor Report paragraph 134), express its regret for breaching the proper constraints of the bonds of affection in the events surrounding the General Convention of 2003 and the consequences that followed; offer its sincerest apology to those within the Anglican Communion who are offended by our failure to accord sufficient importance to the impact of our actions on our church and other parts of the Communion; and ask forgiveness as we seek to live into deeper levels of communion one with another."

Michael Howell, member of the committee from the Diocese of Southwest Florida, sought even stronger language of penitence.

"I have some concerns about the resolution as it stands amended, in that it seems what we are expressing regret for, is starting to move along the trajectory that we did not anticipate the impact of what we [did]," said Howell, rather than "the communion made its mind very clear that we shouldn't do this and we went ahead and did it anyway."

"We are trying to find baby steps that bring us closer together," said committee member the Rev. Canon Ian T. Douglas, deputy from the Diocese of Massachusetts, "rather than running straight into each other."

Bishop Robert O'Neill of Colorado said, "The vehicle of legislation will never be adequate to sufficiently express regret or apologize."

Despite hearing little direct testimony on resolution A163 on pastoral care and Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO), the committee made two modest amendments to the legislation and sent it to the House of Deputies.

The Rev. Dan Martins, deputy from the Diocese of San Joaquin, sought to strengthen the role of DEPO in dioceses where persons believe that pastoral care from their own bishops is not possible. The original resolution of the commission called for using DEPO "when necessary." Martins asked the committee to replace the language so that DEPO would be available "when requested in good faith."

The language, said Martins, "puts more pressure on diocesan bishops to be amenable and cooperative in responding to requests."

Rebecca Snow, a deputy from the Diocese of Alaska, moved to strengthen the resolution’s language that calls for other Anglican bishops to respect the diocesan boundaries across the communion. The committee approved her amendment that would have the General Convention "urge continued maintenance of historical diocesan boundaries, the authority of the diocesan bishop, and respect for the historical relationships of the separate and autonomous provinces of the Anglican Communion."

The complete text of the amended resolution follows:

"Resolved, that the House of Bishops concurring, that the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church affirm the centrality of effective and appropriate pastoral care for all members of this church and all who come seeking the aid of this church; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention commit the Episcopal Church to the ongoing engagement of and sensitive response to the request and need of all the people of God - in particular, but not exclusively, those who agree and those who disagree with the actions of this body, those who feel isolated thereby, and gay and lesbian persons within and without this Church; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention recognize the agonizing position of those who do not feel able to receive appropriate pastoral care from their own bishops, and urges the members of the House of Bishops to seek the highest degree of communion and reconciliation within their own dioceses, using when requested in good faith the Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) process detailed in the March 2004 statement of the House of Bishops, ‘Caring for All the Churches’; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention urge continued maintenance of historic diocesan boundaries, the authority of the diocesan bishop, and respect for the historical relationships of the separate and autonomous Provinces of the Anglican Communion."

The committee will resume its work at 7:30 a.m. June 18, in the Hayes conference room of the Hyatt Regency, addressing resolution A161: "Election of Bishops," and A162: "Public Rites of Blessing for Same-Sex Unions."