Thursday, July 30, 2015

The New Episcopal Church: What Hath General Convention 2015 Wrought?

Written by:
Monday, July 27th, 2015

The Anglican Communion Institute has followed with care and interest the decisions of The Episcopal Church’s (TEC’s) General Convention 2015. We have pondered key aspects of these decisions, and spoken to a range of participants and members of the broader Anglican Communion.

In summarizing our reflections, we note that the following things are clear:

1. A Trial Rite for same-sex marriage (A054) was passed in the House of Bishops a) without a roll call vote and b) without a majority of all the Bishops entitled to vote, as prescribed by the Constitution. By this action, the plain sense rules agreed to by all in the form of Constitutional order have now been reduced to whatever decision General Convention agrees at the time.

2.The scriptural texts and the plain language of the Book of Common Prayer Pastoral Office for the Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage are now subject to a generic fallacy: the particular language and logic of one man and one woman are held to be examples of the use of “mankind” to refer to men and women in earlier times. That this is manifestly not analogous is made clear by the necessity of the removal of Mark 10 as one of the central texts to be read at marriage services. Neither Genesis nor Mark refer to “man and woman” as examples of non-generic language meaning “people” or “persons.” So by this canonical action (A036), the character of the Book of Common Prayer rites has been reduced to societal accident and happenstance. It is little wonder then, by this same logic, that the rubrics and core understanding of the sacrament of Holy Communion were only narrowly upheld over against appeals for “open communion.” This is the result of treating the Book of Common Prayer as a kind of smorgasbord of liturgical possibilities: a set of suggestions which each new age’s aspirations are to transform. The need for constitutionally approved measures for altering the BCP is now a former age’s quibble.  The rest here.
Even the illusion of the Episcopal Church as its own kind of world-wide Communion—a notion invented to offset the concerns and claims of the Anglican Communion as such, after the consecration of Bishop Robinson—suffered a grievous blow at General Convention 2015. We witnessed the entire bloc of Central American Bishops, on behalf of their dioceses, dissenting from the actions of General Convention in the area of canonical and Prayer Book revision regarding marriage. Where that new development will lead is but one further area of confusion post General Convention 2015.

What is not unclear is that all calls to adhere to our historical polity, constitutional governance and the rule of law have been rejected by those who gathered at the last GC. We will now witness a new kind of NEC “Bishop”; a new understanding of the NEC Diocese and its Constitution and Canons vis-à-vis General Convention’s most recent actions; a new conception of the authority of the Book of Common Prayer; a fresh confusion over just how the new A054 will find its footing in conservative dioceses, perhaps only clarified via disciplinary action or social-media campaign and advocacy.


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