Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Live From Phoenix 5 & 6: Africa, Immigaration, Evangelism, And A Ceremonial Paper Weight

Things have just gotten busy and intense the last couple of days – too much for me to really do more than skim the surface of a few key points.

Yesterday was more education on evangelism – more experts. Really good stuff. If we want to share the good news with a world that needs it, we have some major retooling to do. Exciting possibilities for those who want to take on this mission.

Last night we heard from the Suffragen Bishop for Anglican Communion Relations and also a Bishop from Africa. Very interesting. They stressed that most African Anglicans value their relationship with us. Diocese to diocese, parish to parish, and person to person relations are where the Anglican Communion is communing. They said 90% of the African bishops want to preserve our relationship and some of them act on that at real risk to themselves because of the hostility of their archbishops. It turns out that one African parish is in partnership with the Diocese of New Hampshire (home of Gene Robinson) but it isn’t public because that parish would be in major trouble with their archbishop if it were known. While hostility is in the press, partnership is going on behind the scenes. The hostile archbishops are nearing the end of their terms. What we need to do is just be patient and wait. Most African Anglicans disagree with us on matters of women’s ordination and gay inclusion. But they want to remain in relationship anyway.

Today, we painstakingly worked on the Pastoral Letter on Immigration. It passed unanimously along with an in-depth theological resource document to explain why we take this position as a matter of faith. Another Pastoral Letter on the Environment also passed unanimously.

The most agonizing issue was a Resolution calling for the resignation of the Bishop of Pennsylvania who was convicted of conduct unbecoming a bishop by the Ecclesiastical Trial court but his deposition was set aside by the Appeals Court because the case was barred by the Statute of Limitations. The facts surrounding the brining of the case based on events that happened so long back made it a complicated thing. The political situation in Pennsylvania is a tangle. But the strong majority of bishops felt this action was required for the good of the church and to make clear that we have zero tolerance for some kinds of misconduct. It had to do with the bishop’s failure to respond adequately to a report of sexual abuse by a youth minister when the bishop was a parish priest. The youth minister was his brother. Our resolution has no legal force. It just says what we think. We had no authority to do anything more.

We have had two more Bible Studies, two more Eucharists, several Morning and Evening Prayer services and Compline. It has been good to worship together and to explore the Bible together.

Tonight we closed with a formal dinner. The graduates of the College for Bishops were recognized and given paper weights to evidence our accomplishment. Now that I have my paper weight I suppose that must mean I now know what I am doing. But some of the old hands say episcopacy is a mystery. One never figures it out. That feels right.


Matthew said...

I like the immigration letter. Glad it is explicit about a "reasonable path to citizenship." I also like the background document that provided much history, including our less than perfect history on the matter and Hooker's ideas.

As for Bennison, was the vote public? Just curious if this is secret or if it is ever revealed how many yeahs/nays there were? Or if bishops have to have public transparency for how they voted on Bennison by name? I pray he resigns.

Bishop Dan said...

The immigration letter involved a lot of work by a lot of people before it got to HOB, and then it was heavily revised by a good committee with input from the whole.

The Bennison vote was a voice vote so there is not a record of how each bishop voted or the exact number. There were some nay votes but only a tiny smattering. There was an overwhelming consenus in the sense that everyone voted for the resolution -- but in another sense, there was not a consensus because many of us, myself included, found the situation fraught with amiguity.

The situation in PA is complex. The situation in the Bennison family is complex. The situation in the parish was complex. Bp. Chuck is complex. We all wish he would resign and move on because it's just such a gridlock of anger. However, PA has been prone to discord since somebody took a shot at Ozzie Whitaker during his investiture back in the 1880s or 90s. I am not at all confident our resolution will help that situation -- but when it came down to affirming the moral force of the trial court's decision and urging a resignation, it seemed the only right thing to do.

Matthew said...

Thanks Dan. Makes sense. I recalled during Robinson and many other issues that have come up at gen con that there were vote breakdowns by diocese, etc.

Bishop Dan said...

The norm is voice votes. If it sounds close, they do a show of hands. Roll call votes take a long time and are quite tedious especialy when there is a lot of business to get done, so they are not the norm. But if anyone asks for a roll call vote, that's what we do. The request always comes from someone who is voting in the minority who wants to distance themselves from the rest. In this case, no one wanted to distance themselves. A few people's consciences just led them to a different conclusion from the majority in a complex situation. I voted with the majority but respect the people who voted otherwise.