Saturday, July 18, 2009

Arithmetic of dissent

One fascinating observation re the GC at Anaheim concerns some numbers for dissenting votes and stands. Recall that once D025 passed there has been widespread debate as to whether this resolution means the end of the moratorium (2006-present) on ordaining gay or lesbian bishops. The vote in the House of Bishops was 99-44. Given that the resolution was a carefully crafted descriptive statement of where things stand in TEC, it was only objectionable inasmuch as it was perceived to also be prescriptive and/or liable to be perceived by the Communion as going against the requests of the Communion, it seems reasonable to interpret the 44 votes against as 44 bishops concerned to hold the line on the moratorium. Or, is it?

You see when the House of Bishops voted on C056, the resolution concerning the GC approved exploration and experimentation with pastoral resources for same sex partnerships and marriages (with specific reference to US states amending their laws to enable such things to happen), the vote was 104-30-(2 abstentions). Given that this resolution also constituted a moving away from the wishes of the Communion, it intrigues me no end that 44 bishops has diminished to 30+2=32!

Now we have news of the 'Anaheim Statement', a statement drafted by a bishop which has secured other signatures (I will give the total in a moment). This statement sets out to demonstrate that for one group of bishops within TEC they are personally committed to these reaffirmations:

"We seek to provide the same honesty and clarity. We invite all bishops who share the following commitments to join us in this statement as we seek to find a place in the Church we continue to serve.

We reaffirm our constituent membership in the Anglican Communion, our communion with the See of Canterbury and our commitment to preserving these relationships.

We reaffirm our commitment to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this church has received them (BCP 526, 538)

We reaffirm our commitment to the three moratoria requested of us by the instruments of Communion.

We reaffirm our commitment to the Anglican Communion Covenant process currently underway, with the hope of working toward its implementation across the Communion once a Covenant is completed.

We reaffirm our commitment to “continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship” which is foundational to our baptismal covenant, and to be one with the apostles in “interpreting the Gospel” which is essential to our work as bishops of the Church of God."

How many bishops have signed up to this statement? 29 according to this report. Arguably the 29 are more or less the 30 who voted against C056 (say, one got on an early plane home) ... except that the same report suggests that two of the 29 voted for D025 and C056!

Obviously some bishops have thought and felt differently between each of the two resolutions and the invitation to sign the Anaheim statement. Any which way the figures are interpreted, it seems that less than a third of the US bishops are committed to doing whatever it takes to remain in full communion with the Communion, and more than two-thirds are willing to move into a future in which continuing full communion is at risk.

The Anaheim Statement, incidentally, is interesting on several fronts:

(a) the respectful way in which it has been received (e.g. at Preludium) is a reminder that TEC is a church which values its conservative voices.

(b) its expressed commitments to communion with Canterbury implies these bishops will be working on ways to be in communion with Canterbury even if TEC itself moves out of, or is removed out of communion with Canterbury.

(c) it enables the wider communion to remember that conservative Anglicans in North America are not solely found within ACNA. Conservatives working on inclusion of conservative North America Anglicans in the Communion need to work on a solution which includes all conservative Anglicans. One such solution, of course, is to include ACNA and to not exclude TEC!

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