2003: General Convention authorizes local option for Same Sex Blessings in Episcopal congregations

Lest we forget.

From the Fulcrum archives, we find the ACI report that reviewed the fact that sex blessings were authorized under the “local options” provision of C051 as passed by the 2003 General Convention of the Episcopal Church. The ACI reports:

…although arguments have been advanced that C051 at GC 2003 did not amount to authorisation of such rites it clearly permitted their authorisation within dioceses through ‘local option’. As a result, since GC 2003 there has been an increase in the number of bishops and dioceses granting such authorization and one bishop has personally presided at such a blessing.

Resolution C051 as passed by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church reads:

Resolved, That the 74th General Convention affirm the following:

  1. That our life together as a community of faith is grounded in the saving work of Jesus Christ and expressed in the principles of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral: Holy Scripture, the historic Creeds of the Church, the two dominical Sacraments, and the Historic Episcopate.
  2. That we reaffirm Resolution A069 of the 65th General Convention (1976) that “homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church.”
  3. That, in our understanding of homosexual persons, differences exist among us about how best to care pastorally for those who intend to live in monogamous, non-celibate unions; and what is, or should be, required, permitted, or prohibited by the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church concerning the blessing of the same.
  4. That we reaffirm Resolution D039 of the 73rd General Convention (2000), that “We expect such relationships will be characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God,” and that such relationships exist throughout the church.
  5. That we recognize that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.
  6. That we commit ourselves, and call our church, in the spirit of Resolution A104 of the 70th General Convention (1991), to continued prayer, study, and discernment on the pastoral care for gay and lesbian persons, to include the compilation and development by a special commission organized and appointed by the Presiding Bishop, of resources to facilitate as wide a conversation of discernment as possible throughout the church.
  7. That our baptism into Jesus Christ is inseparable from our communion with one another, and we commit ourselves to that communion despite our diversity of opinion and, among dioceses, a diversity of pastoral practice with the gay men and lesbians among us.
  8. That it is a matter of faith that our Lord longs for our unity as his disciples, and for us this entails living within the boundaries of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. We believe this discipline expresses faithfulness to our polity and that it will facilitate the conversation we seek, not only in The Episcopal Church, but also in the wider Anglican Communion and beyond.

I was present at General Convention 2003 during this debate. A tremendous amount of attention was focused on paragraph six – you can read the legislative history on the debate of this resolution in the House of Bishops here. If you want to see professional legislative process at work – this would be it. There are TEC bishops who are masters at this.

It was a legislative masterstroke because the pivotal paragraph turned out to be Paragraph Five, which authorized Local Blessings, or what has been called in the Episcopal Church as Local Option.

The Bishop of Washington permitted same sex blessings in his diocese. The Bishop of Los Angeles permitted the same sex blessings in his diocese. The Bishop of Connecticut authorized same sex blessings in his diocese. Have any of them been deposed like this guy? Uh, no.

We have to catch a plane, but commentary like this and this “blinks at reality” of what is occurring in the Province of the Episcopal Church. What some in the Anglican Communion do not yet grasp is that the Episcopal Church is a “local option” church. We do not have a Archbishops for a reason. Local Option is what permitted same sex blessings to be authorized at the local diocesan level and local option is what permitted diocesan bishops (until November 2006 when Katharine Jefferts Schori was made Presiding Bishop) to negotiate with their parishes over separation.

Local Option for Same Sex Blessings continues unabated, as we saw during the House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans last September. But Local Option for Diocesan bishops to negotiate with their parishes was crushed by the Presiding Bishops office. She has not disciplined a single bishop for either presiding over or authorizing same sex blessings in Episcopal parishes. But she has deposed bishops (and seems poised to do more come September) if a bishop exercises local option in any other way than the way she personally approves. And the Episcopal House of Bishops allows it to continue – and as we see in the debate over C051, they are sophisticated in knowing how to use parliamentary procedures to get what they want.

As the Bishop of Nevada, Bishop Schori authorized same sex blessings in her own diocese – she approves of same sex blessings and by her actions of “being left undone” shows that in practice the Episcopal Church, in the office of the Primate (a term that before the current Presiding Bishop was never used), authorizes same sex blessings.

As a friend recently said, “remember half the truth masquerading as the whole truth is an untruth.” Case in point, here’s the “has never happened in my diocese with my permission” video where the Bishop of Los Angeles is confronted, after making this statement at the press conference, that a same sex blessing had occurred over the weekend at at a premier Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills.

The “half truths” in this video alone illustrate the level of deception imposed by the authorities of the Episcopal Church who are charged as Anglicans to guard the faith. We must watch and pray.