What happened yesterday in the House of Deputies?
According to many, not much. According to some, full steam toward Anglican Schism. It depends who you read.
A resolution was passed (D025) by wide margins in the House of Deputies that was clearly understood to be a compromise. It intends, according to the committee that wrote its final form, to do nothing more than state the truth of where we are and what are practice is and has been. It states that we have many partnered gay and lesbian clergy in the Episcopal Church, and that the Episcopal Church does not intend to change that. It states that our constitution specificially forbids automatically closing down an ordination process because of a candidate’s orientation. (Our constitution actually doesn’t speak to whether a person is partnered or not.) It does not mention B033 at all.
During the debate on the floor, a number of folks asked the parliamentarian whether or not this resolution had the effect of repealing B033. There was no clear answer. Apparently the resolution’s ambiguity is intentional. At least you can say that the House of Deputies acted to pass that resolution fully aware that it was ambiguous. In fact, ambiguity was part of the appeal to a number of conservative voters, at least according to what they told me. They didn’t support the resolution in principle, but they could live with it.
It is an honest attempt to express where the Episcopal Church is at the moment. Which is that the Episcopal Church is living in an ambiguous moment in its life where the tension created by lack of clarity is something that is being embraced rather than rejected.
I voted for it. It is to my mind honest.
Reading online this morning I see that people are already projecting onto its lack of specificity whatever ever they are desiring. Some authors and some in the Church of England are claiming that this action represents a “thumbing of the nose” at the Communion by the House of Deputies. If that’s what this is, then truth be told, it’s pretty weak sauce. This resolution is explicit in stating the Episcopal Church’s desire to be a full participant in the life of the Communion. It does, admittedly, express the Episcopal Church’s full resolve however to not move to repeal the progress made thus far on the question of the full inclusion of Gay and Lesbian Christians.
I see other voices, in the LGBT community, who see this as yet another half-assed compromise that is a form of appeasement toward those for whom no appeasement has yet to have been enough. For them, if this is a repeal of B033, it’s pretty thin gruel. I have to admit that I think they have some validity for their frustration. As written, it’s a compromise and not the ringing rejection they hoped for, and certainly there’s no sense of apology to the LBGT community.
Other voices in the LBGT community are delighted with the passage, and heartned at the strong margins that the voters on the floor delivered. They are willing to live into what is possible in democratic processes and hear the Episcopal Church’s resolve to not back down any further at the very least, and to be willing to edge forward a bit more. (Which I believe is a fair reading of the language.)
All of this is going to be moot of course depending on what the House of Bishops decideds to do with the legislation. If they do not pass it, it’s dead. If they ammend it, it’s probably going to face a difficult passage back through the House of Deputies. It’s really going to be up to them to pass it unammended if there is going to be a unambigious ambiguous response…
The sense here at Convention is that no one can tell what the Bishops will do. Many of them are in favor of moving on this resolution and some are dissappointed that this resolution doesn’t go further. But watch over the next couple of days to see how the ambiguity of the resolution is spun in the press. If the press and the blogsphere, in their pursuit of a good summer conflict story, decide to claim that D025 represents a repudiation of 2006-B033, then the chances of D025 passing the House of Bishops drop significantly. I’m told the bishops are not going to send that sort of a signal to the Communion. If the press and others are able to see D025 as the compromise it was understood to be by so many in the House of Deputies, perhaps it will have a chance of passing.
Funny thing that D025’s passage depends not on what it says at the moment, but on what people say that it represents.
But that’s the way things have been for a while now in the Anglican Communion. We’re not actually reading with a hermenuetic of charity what each other is saying, we’re reading it with the lens of what the blogsphere decides was meant.