D025, the blogsphere and the House of Bishops

General Convention
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.

The Author

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


  1. Nick,
    I found this helpful, incisive and thoughtful. I see DO25 as a clarity of what the HOD is FOR, with regard to inclusion. I do not see it as a thumbing of the nose. It seems to me that clarity of position in positive terms is the necessary groundwork for substantive conversation.
    I pray that we’ll take the time to be responsive in the face of seemingly hostile ‘reaction’ and that conversation will lead to discernment which will lead to faithful action, in whatever direction by whomever engages in the conversation.
    I recognize that the result of such discernment may be ‘walking apart’ in our seeking the Kingdom, but I hope we can all recognize that this result is by and large a product of seeking the Kingdom and not marginalizing others.
    Keep up the good work.

  2. Christopher says

    As I noted at the Cafe, my concern has not been with the moratorium, pause, whatever, but with the poor sense of the pastoral with which B033 was cast. That is where it went awry in relation to lgbt Episcopalians. It hurt that we could be so blithely thought of as “crucified places to stand” and “seasons of pause,” etc with nary a sense of “how would that feel if I were in their place.” It had a propitiatory and vicarious understanding of sacrifice in it that Christ put to death on the cross. And I think this Church still has some examen of conscience to make that fellow Christians were used in this way to get other things we wanted with no sense of care, concern, or tenderness expressed at the time. That, not a moratorium, is what still leaves me with a heavy heart and wondering to this day if this is really a Church in which I have a place.

  3. Christopher says

    I have to say that going with that was a deep reassessment on my part of the capacity for pastoral care on the part of our chief shepherds. They lost my trust.

  4. I was pleased when I read the resolution before hearing any of the spin. Having staked out a position in the center it expressed everything I wanted said. Perhaps I’m alone with the drafters in this.

  5. I have to post this because I think it is utterly pertinent for this particular moment, especially for those who think that this is not enough. It’s a prayer by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ:
    Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability — and that it may take a very long time.
    And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually — let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.
    Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

  6. Oh, and yes, keep up the good work, our prayers are with you.

  7. Timothy Leffler says

    It is important to put the horse BEFORE the cart. For everything there is a season and our season will come in God’s time. D025 is an affirmation of that fact.

  8. Dan Maxey says

    Good work, Nicholas. Thank you for your blogging. I’ve been catching up with them last night and this morning. I think we could always do more, but this is good work. They discussed D025 on NPR this morning while I was ironing my slacks. I haven’t noticed that the mainstream media – even NPR – has picked up on the ambiguity.
    I think it’s worth noting, in response to the comments, that sometimes it’s not the slow work of God – At times the Lord intends to act very quickly toward right. I think the Holy Spirit is at work in General Convention and hope for more good news for the LGBT community, but will trust the outcomes for now if they’re not everything I want them to be.

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