Thursday, June 22, 2006

General Convention Endgame: An Exercise in Spiritual Violence

From meditatio. . .My friend and colleage here in San Francisco, John Kirkley, sent this open letter to his Vestry today. I post it here to show my solidarity with him and all those who stood yesterday for conscience and justice at General Convention, including our Bishop-elect, Marc Andrus.

Dear Friends,

I write to you from the airport in Columbus, weary to my bones. I am still absorbing the incredible level of spiritual violence I experienced yesterday at our General Convention. As you may well know, yesterday both the Bishops and Deputies passed B033 without amendment. It reads as follows:

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report’s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further

Resolved, that this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.

This resolution was proposed by the Presiding Bishop to a joint session of the bishops and deputies on the morning of the last day of legislation. This was done after the House of Deputies had defeated a similar resolution the day before, as well as a motion to reconsider it. In other words, having rejected it twice, the Presiding Bishop was determined to force it through Convention. My sense of his unprecedented address to this joint session was of a father berating his naughty children. It was infantalizing and insulting.

Having just given the bishops a copy of the resolution, and with a limit of 30 minutes for debate, ++Griswold provided very little time for organized opposition. He ruled a substitute resolution offered by Bishop Andrus out of order on a technicality, and then threatened the bishops with the admonition that if they failed to pass the resolution, the Archbishop of Canturbury would not invite them to the Lambeth Conference of Bishops in 2008. I guess attendance at The Great Tea Party trumps bearing witness to the dignity of every human being. Bishop Chane then attempted to amend the resolution, but it failed after Presiding Bishop-elect Jefferts Schori urged the House to accept the resolution without amendment, imperfect as it is. That sealed the fate of the resolution. It passed by a huge majority, with only about 30 bishops dissenting (including our own Bishop Andrus, who was in tears along with many of us).

The rules of the House of Deputies were then suspended in order to debate the resolution (it is out of order to debate a motion already defeated). In another first, Presiding Bishop-elect Jefferts Schori addressed the House of Deputies in the middle of their debate, speaking out of both sides of her mouth to say that while she supports the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church, this resolution was the best we could do now. It was a sad and manipulative ploy, but it worked.

I have witnessed good and faithful Christians, gay and straight, coerced by ecclesiastical authorities to violate their own conscience. Some of the leading voices of justice in our church were coopted by fear that they would be to blame for the demise of the Anglican Communion. They sold their soul to the devil and will receive nothing in return.

The resolution is disengenuous and will please nobody. Already, the Archbishop of Canterbury is questioning whether we have responded adequately to the Windsor Report, and the conservative wing of our church flatly declared it inadequate (at least they are honest and consistent). When will our leaders learn that no matter how often they sacrifice gay and lesbian people, it will never be enough to satisfy the right-wing of our church?

I am shocked by the way this debate was framed in terms of the need for the church (read gay and lesbian Christians) to accept sacrifice and crucifixion for the sake of the Communion. This is bad theology on two points:

1. It fails to understand that redemptive sacrifice must be a self-offering; not the crucifixion of someone else: that is scapegoating, and it is sin.

2. It fails to speak at all of Resurrection and the new, transformed life we are given in Christ. This was a Convention so enmeshed in fear that it was unable to speak truthfully to our sisters and brothers in the wider Anglican Communion, or to articulate the specific charism of the church in our context.

There is some good news in the midst of this duplicity and abuse of power. The truth is that our Church, including our new Presiding Bishop, really does desire our full inclusion in its life and ministry. The lie in B033 was to say that we do not. The lie was told to curry favor and "keep the conversation going" in the Anglican Communion. Unity based on lies, however, is bound to fracture. It can not stand for long. The Spirit will continue to lead us into all truth.

The other good news is that our entire deputation, including our bishop, +Marc Andrus, stood in solidarity with us. I'm proud of our new bishop, who joined some 30 bishops in dissenting from this action, and surrounded us with his love and care. I know that under his leadership, the Diocese of California will be a strong prophetic voice for justice in the Church and world.

And I want you to know of my love and concern for all of you, and of my resolute commitment to the mission of St. John the Evangelist. We will continue to welcome all people as God's beloved children and lift up their gifts, so that together we may all grow into the fullness of Christ.

God is not done with us yet.

More love,



Jeff Martinhauk said...

I love the two points made here - I can't tell if they are yours or Mark's.

At any rate, God bless and let's hope that the outrage, hurt, and disappointment that yesterday's actions have generated will at least make Lambeth think twice before capitulating to Nigeria again.

R said...


They are John Kirkley's over at meditatio

He and I were seminary and ordination classmates here in the Diocese of California.

Thanks for checking in here!