Tuesday, July 14, 2009

House of Bishop's Passes DO25

DO25 was passed by the House of Deputies today and moved to the House of Bishops this afternoon.

You may read the text of the resolution here:


The resolution despite the headlines of a number of news organizations was descriptive and offers a vision of where the Episcopal Church is at this time. It speaks to the fact that we are not of one mind on the issues of sexuality, that there is disagreement within the church on issues of ordination, marriage/unions. I think it reflects the reality that there are differences of opinion on how to deal with our differences.

I do not believe the house intended the passage of the resolution to be prescriptive. In other words the resolution did not pass same sex blessings, or ordinations of partnered gay and lesbians. It was not a permission giving resolution or a canonical change to our understanding of marriage.

Interestingly enough, DO25 passed in the HOD clergy order by a 2 to 1 margin, in the HOD lay order by a 2 to 1 margin, and in the HOB by a 2 to 1 margin. I do believe this shows some consistency within this body at this time.

The Diocese of Texas Deputation was divided in their vote and so their vote was registered as a "no" vote. This diversity, appointed by the people of the Diocese at Council, reflects who we are as a diocese. I thought our deputies did their discernment well. We shared together over lunch their thoughts and concerns about the church at home. They too felt as though the resolution was descriptive and not prescriptive.

Bishop High, Bishop Harrison and I each voted against the resolution as we have been and continue to be concerned regarding the repercussions throughout the Anglican Communion. And we were concerned with the idea that DO25 repeals BO33 from the 2006 General Convention. I should add most every one of the Episcopal Church's diocese in a foreign country voted against the passage as well. Also, bishops of Dallas, Northwest Texas, Rio Grande and West Texas voted no.

There are several thoughts that seem important when reflecting on the resolution and its meaning for us in our diocese. The Diocese of Texas honors the moratorium not because of DO25 or BO33, but because of our belief that the teachings of the church on sexuality have not changed, that the Windsor Report asks the American church to refrain from election and ordination of a bishop who is living in a partnered relationship, from the development of rites for same sex blessings, and our own resolutions and canons currently have reaffirmed our views on the topic.

The House of Bishops carried on a deep debate of listening ears and open hearts. Bishop Hines once called this the "exquisite pain of being a bishop" -- living and praying through times of great division with your brother and sister bishops. This was very hard work today. I thought that the House deliberated and conversed well, prayerfully, and mindful of those who were not like minded in the room.

God's mission is greater that the passage or defeat of any resolution at this Convention. Regardless of which side of the argument you may find yourself embracing, or what you believe the best way of resolving this situation is, we have a mission that is given to us in partnership with Jesus Christ.

I believe that God intends the restoration of creation and those that live within it. I believe that God intends the incarnational body of Christ in the church to be the chief instrument in this work. God intends the Episcopal Church as a member of the worldwide Communion to be a part of this restoration. No resolution will get in the way of this work, nor can it resend the love and providence of God to offer both blessings and challenges.

I will continue to lead us as a Diocese as a member of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. I have plans to be in London in the Fall for a Compass Rose meeting and believe this will be a good time to get a sense of the communion's response.

I am concerned about how this affects our people in every manner of life and relationship, in every congregation. How will this affect our relationship with one another? Nevertheless, our history tells us that we can move through this together and by continuing to focus on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I have already asked Canon Case, Janie Stevens, and Cecilia Smith to help me design a pastoral and small group program for congregations to respond to the actions of General Convention and enable me and the leadership of the diocese to receive feedback regarding strategies in dealing with the pastoral issues which arise out of the actions of this convention.

The Diocese of Texas has self-differentiated itself by council on the issues of sexuality and the church's teaching on marriage, which is a more traditional stance. I do not believe that the Diocese is prepared to change that stance. It is with greater clarity, I believe that we now see the reality of the church within which and from which we do our ministry.

I should say that the work of this week is not over. We have many more important resolutions to follow. We need to see how the rest of the week continues to play out and what the reactions of the greater communion will be.

Bishop Gary Lillibridge hosted a wonderful gathering for the Diocese of Texas and West Texas deputations. It was a very good time to be together and to have fellowship. Afterwards we had the deputation dinner and broke bread together. This was an important time and while we spoke some of the business of the day, there was also laughter, reconnecting friendships, and new relationships born out of the evening. I think we were again reminded of our deep communion relationships built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ.

I hope you will keep our deputation in your prayers as we continue to move through ever longer legislative days.

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