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From Columbus: Major Windsor action draws mixed reactions

By Matthew Davies
6/21/2006
[Episcopal News Service]  Responses to Resolution B033, that calls for restraint in consecrating bishops "whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church," varied from disappointment to relief June 21 as both houses of the 75th General Convention, after much debate, concurred on final language.

Bishop Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina, co-chair of the Special Committee on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, described the resolution as "an appropriate and blessed way forward, strengthening the Episcopal Church, strengthening the Anglican Communion, without closing any doors unnecessarily."

Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, a member of the committee, said it is "the best that we can do," conveying hope that the Anglican Communion realizes the process has been the result of a compromise.

"It's a relief to me because my hope is that we can stay in communion and continue the conversation and affirm the Windsor process," she said. "Having this vote in both houses says to the Anglican Communion that we are very serious about our relationship."

The resolution responds to the invitation of the Windsor Report to the Episcopal Church "to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges."

Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire expressed some disappointment with the resolution because it does not affirm the role of gay and lesbian people in the church, but seemed encouraged by the seriousness with which the Episcopal Church has grappled with the issues in public.

"The church has a picture of the wide diversity in this church and people have been remarkably honest and loving in all of this," he said in an interview after the vote. "I have been approached by all kinds of people who have felt called to vote for this resolution in order for us to continue the conversation with the Anglican Communion."

Robinson encouraged support for Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori "in every way possible...to give her everything that she can have in her pocket to go to the primates meeting, to go to the rest of the Communion," he said. "In some sense, having given the Anglican Communion what it asked for regarding gay and lesbian members of this church, we'll be looking to them to see if they were serious about wanting to be in conversation about this, or whether they wanted this to end the conversation."

Describing the process as a journey, Robinson acknowledged that there will be bumps in the road.

"This is not what we hoped for, but it's what we have, so I'm much more interested in talking about tomorrow than I am about today or yesterday," he said.

The Rev. Canon David Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council, was doubtful that the resolution represents the "sincerity" that is required by the Windsor Report.

"I don't think there's the willingness to actually enforce it and carry it out," he said. "The best prediction of what a person will do is what they have done before, and a number of the very revisionist bishops have very honestly said, ‘We've been doing same-sex blessings, we've been ordaining homosexual persons and we're going to keep right on doing that,' and I applaud them for their honesty, although I disagree with them."

The Rev. Susan Russell, president of Integrity, which advocates for the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the Episcopal Church, was disappointed, especially in light of Jefferts Schori's June 21 sermon that encouraged the Church not to live in fear.

"I am disappointed that whether or not we go to Lambeth matters more than the lives of gay and lesbian people, and their vocations in this church," she said. "At the same time I understand this to be a part of a process. We are on a journey. It is part of an ongoing conversation."

Russell was particularly disappointed that General Convention has "done nothing about genocide, about evangelism, about the environment, about economics, about all those other hundreds of resolutions that are now going to fall into the abyss because this house has not been able to pull itself up and take some action."

Katherine Tyler Scott, a deputy and member of the standing committee in the Diocese of Indianapolis, said she had been blessed to work with very diverse people "listening to one another, respecting each other, really hearing and coming to what we thought was a common mind on these issues."

Scott recognized that it was probably an unreasonable expectation that the House of Deputies, with its 800-plus membership, would "be able to have the same level of trust, relationship and communication that we were able to establish [on the committee].

"For us this is the best we can do at this time in our journey."

Bishop Mano Rumalshah of Peshawar in Pakistan, one of more than 60 international visitors at General Convention, said the resolution represents the best response given the circumstances.

"It could have been much more but at least it keeps the door open and allows the dialogue to continue and let's rejoice in that," he said. "Let's not give up. Let's not draw the lines too hard. Let's continue to have hope in humanity and each other and in God's spirit that, yes, things can go on."