Notes from the debate on A160 and A161

General Convention

Below are some of the notes I took during the debate this afternoon and early this evening. We’ve adjorned for the day and will get back underway after the Eucharist in the morning.

Pray especially tonight for Hillary Raining, a member of our deputation and a member of our parish and a seminarian, who is scheduled to address Convention tomorrow morning about her personal faith journey.

The notes that follow are from my journal and are in the same order as I made them during the legislative session. The parenthetical statements are my thinking and internal notes…

Frank Wade presented both Resolutions 160 and 161 by noting from the beginning that we are imperfect and these resolutions are imperfect, they are not clear, they are intentionally a compromise. They will please no one, but he has been assured that particular language will satisfy the concerns of Lambeth Palace. (Now that’s a sentence that I, as an American citizen, never thought I’d have to write…)

(There is a sound of rushing wind in the room. I think it’s from the trains that are passing under our feet – but I’m not sure. I am sure of the noise however. The room seems brighter today as well. It feels like the whole attention of the Church is focused upon us. It’s both energizing and draining. The person sitting next to me says that the sensation is making for a silence inside.)

Using the language of “regret” will set up a difficult precedent for the Church. What will we be asked to regret next Convention? +Katharine’s election? Who shall determine in the future if our actions have strained the bonds of common affection?

How can we be asked to apologize for something that we did in love and in good faith?

We are being asked to regret the consequences here, but not the specific actions.

Gay Jennings has made an amendment to the language to change the long complicated technical phrase to “straining the bonds of affection”. We didn’t break them, they are still intact.

Many people are speaking against the amendment since it changes the carefully crafted compromise language of committee. But it passes reasonably handily.

We then vote no to a request to extend the time of debate. The feeling of those around me is that if we were to vote “yes’ there would be more time for amendments that might change the language even more.

The amended resolution passes as well – 530 in favor and 305 against. It’s unclear if Integrity is supporting the amended language or not. There is no signal from the conservative voices.

We take a break to get ourselves organized to speak on A161 – the resolution on the question of adopting a moratorium on the consecration of any other bishops in “open same-sex relationships”.

Deputy Becky Snow from Alaska speaks from the committee and asks us to support the amended resolution. Becky says that it will cause her and her partner a great deal of pain to do this, but they are willing to take this step out of love for the Communion and because she knows that spiritual growth always follows a period of self-denial. (This is probably the most moving testimony I have heard yet. I can’t imagine the pain she must be in to offer to abide by this…)

Other people point out that this resolution as it stands creates an equal cost to all – no one gets what they want entirely or even really in part.

Truth: We’re not really telling the truth here. We’re apologizing for something even as we do it. If we’re not sorry enough to stop, then we shouldn’t apologize. If we have to apologize for something in advance, then we shouldn’t do it.

The young people from the official Youth presence on the floor are uniformly speaking against this resolution. They are saying that they as Christians can not accept the rejection of another person that God has made.

The system that tells us who is to speak, and in what order, has broken. We have no idea who should speak and when. We start to try to figure out a way to manage with the problem…

(The one thing that my gay and lesbian Christian friends have taught me is that living a lie can not lead to peace – nor to a real relationship with Jesus. It is only by being truthful that we come into the presence of God. Are we telling the truth in this resolution?)

A quote from Moltman is read. It says (in paraphrase): “Truth can only be discerned when we act in freedom. Truth and clarity will never be found if we are coerced.”

(I think this is a telling point. We are not coming to this point of our own freewill. The language in this resolution has been written so that it will pass muster. It is not our discernment of the truth…)

The Archbishop of York spoke of our needing to be willing to bear the marks of the crucifixion to show people a sign of our repentence. I have seen my sisters now offer themselves for this marking. But I can not and will not nail their hands and feet to the cross…

A conservative woman stands, apologizes to her conservative friends, and urges support for this resolution. She says that she believes it is the only hope for the Communion.

The Convention now goes into a long procedural debate. Two people have moved to the microphones to offer motions. Elizabeth Kaeton points out that adopting this resolution would place us in violation of our own canons which state that sexual orientation is, of itself, not a bar to ordination. (Though to be fair I think the resolution speaks to acts, not orientation.)

We vote to adjourn for the evening and leave the floor.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. Nick — I’ve enjoyed reading your reports of GC. Thank you for having the patience to translate convention procedure into the English language. And you are all in my prayers.

  2. Nick – Resolution A161 (&A162) in previous renditions were somewhat acceptable because the resolutions suggested that the imposed “moratoriums” would be reviewed by GC ’09. Such language is no longer present in the resolutions. I appreciate Becky Snow’s willingness to sacrifice herself and her partner for “the good of the Church.” I likewise understand that unconditional love is the model of Christian living. And, I understand, that we are living into the possibility of creating an environment where all of us can live into all orders of life in the Church. All of us can live into this divinely inspired reality, now, not sometime beyond now.
    I work with Gen X& Gen Y college students as a late-term “baby boomer.” I don’t think that we need to place the prejudices and problems of our generations onto them. Moreover, what will we say to LGBT people and couples, women and children of color, and other people on the margins of society if we enact resolutions postponing justice and equal life into each of our baptismal covenants.
    I came to the Episcopal Church as a product of the US Air Force’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” homophobic policy.It is interesting to note that the Department of Defense continues to list homosexuality as a Mental Disorder.
    Some faulty psychological and spiritual opinions are extremely slow to change.
    I really hope and pray that the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion will continue its movements away from similar policies and fully invite all people to live into the fullness of Christ’s love and compassion. I invite the Archbishop of York and other bishops of the Church of England to demonstrate to us their marks of crucifixion for the good of the Church. Jesus went to the cross and was born again out of his love of humankind. He likewise was crucified because the religious and political leaders of his day saw to it that he was executed. Pilate perceived Jesus to be a threat; so Jesus died as a political insurgent. Resolution A-161 seems grounded in a similar sort of institutional, ecclesiastical, and power-based fear. I pray that the Holy Spirit may guide your discernment as well as the discernment of all members of the House of Deputies as you continue your work tomorrow. I thank you for your servant-leadership and for your sharing of information throughout GC ‚Äô06.

  3. Lisa says

    Nick, I too am profoundly grateful for your reporting and for the spirit I sense within you. You remain in my prayers. Becky Snow must be a saint. But I cannot pray for passage of this evil resolution A161. What you said about the apology “Resolved” sums it up. May the Spirit guide you all.

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