Friday, March 26, 2010

Thoughts on the House of Bishops Theology Report

by the Reverend Canon Susan Russell
Chair, Diocesan Program Group on LGBT Ministry

I'm still only whittling away at the 95 page House of Bishops theology report "Same-Sex Relationships in the Life of the Church" in terms of coming up with my own impressions of the actual work.

That said, I found a post on theology committee member Deirdre Good's blog hopeful. It's from the introduction given by theologian Willis Jenkins to the presentation of the report to the House of Bishops -- which Good has posted with permission in its entirety on her blog -- but these were the two excerpts that "caught my eye:"
We do not plead for inclusion in marriage on the basis of rights, nor do we claim liberty for marriage on the basis of justice. Instead we show how all our marriages make sense within the church’s prayers and its proclamation of the gospel. Reading scripture in recognition of gifts of the Spirit evident in same- and other-sex couples, we present ourselves within the frame of an analogous debate: that of the earliest church wrestling with the question of Gentile inclusion.

By offering this frame of argument, those in same-sex marriages allow themselves and their relationships to become vulnerable to “our” interpretation. Our response, I contend, should be similar to how Peter, James, and Paul responded: by giving witness to gifts of the Spirit among these couples and making a way forward that respects tradition.
We argue that marrying same-sex couples, if done forthrightly as a matter of witness and proclamation, can help our church better explain itself to the whole Communion. It is “part of the Episcopal church’s mission,” we write, “to marry same-sex couples; that is, to discipline them and turn them to the service of the church, that by them redemption may reach further and the marriages of all may be strengthened.”

For the sake of mutual understanding and accountability with our companions in mission around the Communion, our argument elaborates how this mission makes sense within shared scriptures, shared liturgies and shared practices of moral formation. For we want our companions in mission to be able to understand us when we say that blessing same-sex marriages should not jeopardize the marriages or mission of churches that practice traditionalist marriage.

We think just the contrary: that same-sex marriage strengthens the meaning of all marriages and illustrates anew the mission of the church. “The question of same-sex marriage,” we write, “comes to the church not as an issue of extended rights and privileges, but as a pastoral occasion to proclaim the significance of the gospel for all who marry.”

Amidst similar dissension and debate in our church, we read our situation in light of the church council in Acts, and propose a similar compromise for a way forward: Traditionalist communities need not relinquish their traditions, but they must not break table fellowship. Inclusivist communities are not bound by those particular traditions, but they must avoid sexual immorality, which means that all couples, including same-sex couples, should marry.
So I still think there is much to process and much to ponder about this report, its content and the now DECADE long process that brought it into being.

AND I think the theological framing of the discussion of same-sex relationships described by Jenkins above can be an important contribution to the ongoing process of "doing the theology" of full inclusion.

It may all end up being more theology we've done that those on the other side of the aisle disagree-with-and-therefore-dismiss -- but what I'm wondering this morning is if maybe ... just maybe ... this work will help us turn an important corner.

Yes, I'm tired of my life and relationship being "studied." (But heck ... I was tired of that ten years ago in 2000 when the then House of Bishops' Theology Committee ... still chaired by Henry Parsley ... flew me and Michael Hopkins to Chicago so they could say they "consulted" with "live-in-captivity actual homosexual persons.") And I'm tired of being used as a wedge issue in this chess game of global Anglican politics that -- at its base level -- has nothing to do with either theology or sexuality and everything to do with power and control.

And God knows I'm tired of the arguments from "the other side" based on scripture through a literalist lens and pseudo-science -- and the portion of the report written by the self-described "traditionalists" doesn't appear to offer a single new thought, perspective or concept to the dialogue.

Of course it's a justice issue. And it is a pastoral issue ... as my calendar is already filling up with pastoral appointments with folks for whom this whole point-counterpoint debate on same-sex relationships has unearthed -- once again -- feelings of rejection, internalized homophobia and the deep pain of having to justify your life, your vocation and your relationship to your "tribe." I'm sick of it all.

But here's where the cost of discipleship part comes in for me. It's not about what I'm tired of. It's about the Gospel.

It's about the mission and ministry of a church that has SUCH good news to offer -- SUCH a powerful witness to provide to a world in such desperate need of it -- SUCH an opportunity in the weeks and months and years ahead to actually incarnate that Year of the Lord's Favor that's as old as Isaiah and Jesus ... in a nutshell it's about our foundational call as baptized people to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ Jesus by word AND example.

And we can't do that if we continue to allow a percentage of bigots to hold our mission and ministry hostage to their demands that we marginalize a percentage of the baptized.

And if it takes one more theology paper to get us over the schismatic speed bumps and back up to speed as a church moving forward into God's future then I say bring it on.

Let's read it. Let's challenge it. And then let's use it to put an end -- once and for all -- to the fiction that our differences have to be divisions and then let's get on with freeing captives, getting that good news to the poor and liberating the oppressed -- and bring the Good News of the God who loves absolutely everybody TO absolutely everybody!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Just received via email from the Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs -- and I've already applied to the bishop for special dispensation to offer Alleluias during Lent!:

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop’s office notifies
Diocese of Los Angeles of successful canonical consent process

Bishop-Elect Glasspool ordination and consecration on May 15

[March 17, 2010] The Office of Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has notified the Diocese of Los Angeles that the canonical consent process for Bishop-Elect Mary Douglas Glasspool has been successfully completed.

As outlined under Canon III.11.4 (a), the Presiding Bishop confirmed the receipt of consents from a majority of bishops with jurisdiction, and has also reviewed the evidence of consents from a majority of standing committees of the Church sent to her by the diocesan standing committee.

In Canon III.11.4 (b), Standing Committees, in consenting to the ordination and consecration, attest they are "fully sensible of how important it is that the Sacred Order and Office of a Bishop should not be unworthily conferred, and firmly persuaded that it is our duty to bear testimony on this solemn occasion without partiality, do, in the presence of Almighty God, testify that we know of no impediment on account of which the Reverend A.B. ought not to be ordained to that Holy Office. We do, moreover, jointly and severally declare that we believe the Reverend A.B. to have been duly and lawfully elected and to be of such sufficiency in learning, of such soundness in the Faith, and of such godly character as to be able to exercise the Office of a Bishop to the honor of God and the edifying of the Church, and to be a wholesome example to the flock of Christ."

Glasspool was elected Bishop Suffragan on December 5, 2009. Her ordination and consecration is slated for May 15; Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori will officiate.

A recap of the process

Upon election, the successful candidate is a bishop-elect. Following some procedural matters including physical and psychological examinations, formal notices are then sent by the Presiding Bishop’s office to bishops with jurisdiction (diocesan bishops only) with separate notices from the electing diocese to the standing committees of each of the dioceses in The Episcopal Church. These notices require their own actions and signatures.

In order for a bishop-elect to become a bishop, Canon III.11.4 (a) of The Episcopal Church mandates that a majority of diocesan bishops AND a majority of diocesan standing committees must consent to the bishop-elect’s ordination and consecration as bishop. These actions – done separately - must be completed within 120 days from the day notice of the election was sent to the proper parties.

If the bishop-elect receives a majority (at least 50% plus 1) of consents from the diocesan bishops as well as a majority from the standing committees, the bishop-elect is one step closer.

Following a successful consent process, ordination and celebration are in order.



Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Update on consent process

Just received via email:

L.A. Diocese receives majority of Standing Committee consents to elections of two bishops suffragan

[The Episcopal News - Los Angeles, March 10, 2010] The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Los Angeles has received the necessary majority of Standing Committee consents to the December 2009 elections of the Rev. Canon Diane Jardine Bruce and the Rev. Canon Mary Douglas Glasspool as bishops suffragan to serve the six-county Los Angeles diocese.

The Los Angeles Standing Committee reported March 10 that within the last 64 days it has received 61 consents needed to the election of Glasspool, and 78 consents to the election of Bruce. In each election a majority of 56 consents was needed from the counterpart Standing Committees of the 110 dioceses of the Episcopal Church.

The consent process to Glasspool's election is not complete until the Presiding Bishop's Office in New York confirms that it has received the necessary majority of consents from bishops with jurisdiction in the dioceses of the Church. Meanwhile, the Presiding Bishop's Office has notified the Los Angeles Standing Committee that 58 of the 61 Standing Committee consents received have been verified to date.

Completion of the consent process in Bruce's election was confirmed with a March 8 announcement from the Presiding Bishop's Office.

"I give thanks for the Standing Commitees' prompt action, and for the consents to the elections of my sisters," Los Angeles Bishop Diocesan J. Jon Bruno said on March 10. "I look forward to the final few consents to come in from the bishops in the next few days, and I give thanks for the fact that we as a church have taken a bold step for just action."

Public comment from Bruce, who is rector of St. Clement's by-the-Sea, San Clemente, Calif, and Glasspool, canon to the bishops of the Diocese of Maryland, will follow completion of the consent process to Glasspool's election.

The Los Angeles Standing Committee, led by its president, the Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees, launched the 120-day consent process on Jan. 5 for Glasspool and on Jan. 8 for Bruce following action by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to request consent to the elections from bishops with jurisdiction across the Episcopal Church. The consent processes conclude May 5 and 8 respectively.
Canon III.11.4 (a) of the Episcopal Church requires that a majority of diocesan bishops and a majority of diocesan standing committees must consent to each episcopal election.

These separate actions must be completed within 120 days from the day after notice of the election was sent to designated recipients, and each bishop-elect must receive a majority of consents from the diocesan bishops as well as a majority from the standing committees in order for ordination to proceed.

If a majority is not received and verified from the bishops and/or the Standing Committees, the Presiding Bishop is required by Canon III.11.5 to declare that election null and void.

Pending completion of the consent process, the ordination and consecration of the two new bishops is scheduled for Saturday, May 15, at the Long Beach Arena. An opening celebration will begin at 12:30 p.m. with the liturgy itself beginning at 1:30 p.m. The Presiding Bishop is scheduled to officiate.