Let’s Talk About Sex

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This entry was originally posted July 10, 2009 as part of the website “Slouching Towards Anaheim.”

“When it is over, I don’t want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real. I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument.” -Mary Oliver

By accident or design, today was all about the issues involving homosexuality and the church. It was long, exciting, frustrating, nervous, beautiful, and surprising.

From 2:00-4:00 I was in the Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Music Committee’s public hearing on all resolutions dealing with same sex marriage or unions. The two hour session was divided in half, based on there being two general kinds of resolutions: the first group wanted to amend the canons to contain gender-neutral language, the second called upon the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to create rites for same sex marriages (or blessings or civil unions depending on the resolution). I signed up to speak about Resolution C031, which I believe is the best written, best worded resolution on the subject of creating marriage rites. I wanted to speak on the canonical changes as well, but the rules established for this hearing stated each person could only speak once, so I chose C031.

The speakers (about 60 in all) each got two minutes to speak for or against one of the 11 resolutions listed for the day. The overwhelming majority was in support, though everyone had their own points to bring up as far as which resolutions were better, and which words should be used. These hearings are designed so that the committees can receive outside council from the public, and so the public can take part in the process. Any deputy, bishop, guest, or registered visitor can speak at a hearing. And anyone can register as a visitor (though I believe there is a fee. It’s a convention after all).

The next step is for the committee members to discuss the proposed resolutions in light of the public witnesses and find someway to address each piece of legislation. In a situation like this where there are many resolutions or very similar content, the committee is likely to choose one or two to present to the floor, potentially with an amendment based on language from one of the resolutions they tossed out. For example, Perhaps they will bring C031 to the floor of the house with amendments based on what people supported in other resolutions. Resolutions from the Prayer Book, Music, and Liturgy Committee go first to the House of Bishops, and then to us in the House of Deputies (provided they adopt the resolution). Many believe the House of Bishops will never pass such a resolution (at least not this year). But that’s what they said last time about Katharine’s election.

At 4:30 we went into Legislative Session. After two failed attempts to get the electronic voting remotes to work we decided to wait until tomorrow to try to elect a Board of Trustees for the Church Pension Fund.

We then went into something called “Committee of the Whole” in which most of the typical Rules of Order are suspended to (theoretically) allow for a more open discussion of an especially important and pressing issue. That issue was B033 (see June 18 blog post for the history).

We first received a history lesson on B033: where it came from, why it was proposed, and what it did and did not do. I think for most people in the house, the history lesson was a mix of review and revelation. Not everyone is privy to every action taken in the global church, and I’m glad the Committee on World Mission began in this way. We then partnered up, one on one, each with a deputy from another diocese whom we did not know, to discuss three questions in relation to B033: What is your story? What is the Church’s story? What is God calling us to do now?

An important point that I learned in the history lesson that was reaffirmed in my discussion with a deputy from Oregon was that B033 was more than just the one thing, there were in fact three parts to the “agreement” we made with the Anglican Communion three years ago. The third part required that members of other churches not interfere with the people of another Anglican church or province (paraphrased). In the last three years members of the Episcopal Church have chosen to leave in response to the more recent actions of the Church, and they have joined with other Anglican churches in other provinces. And they did not do this alone. While the Episcopal Church has kept up it’s end of the bargain by not electing any more gay bishops, some of our Anglican brothers have broken the agreement by pilfering members from the Episcopal Church turning our time of crisis.

It sounds harsh. It is and it isn’t, but there is simply no unbiased and brief way to explain it all.

The Committee of the Whole ran long and will continue tomorrow morning. Almost immediately after we adjourned I ran off to the public hearing that the World Mission Committee was having on B033 that night. Resolutions generally included some combination of the following:

  1. Reaffirmation that the canons on non-discrimination are what guide the process of electing bishops
  2. Repeal of B033
  3. An apology to the LGBT community
  4. Statement of continuing reconciliation and healing with the global church

I spoke again. It would seem that this second round in front of the mic suited me well, as I received many congratulations and accolades for what I said, including some complimentary words and a handshake from Bishop Gene Robinson himself.For this meeting speakers did not have to choose a specific resolution, but were allowed to speak on the issue as a whole and point out words and ideas they thought should or should not be included.

I think they were just impressed I could use the word oligarchy correctly.

Once again the liberals outnumbered the conservatives. One could get the impression that this legislation will pass easily based on the speakers, but that is not the case. First off, I do get the feeling that people on the Left are more inclined to go up to the mic, while more conservatives tend to speak with their vote. Also, the looming possibility of damaging our relationship with our Anglican sisters and brothers causes many who support LGBT rights to vote down LGBT resolutions.

If I have time, I will attempt to type out what I said at the hearings today and create a page for them on the site. I also feel that now is a good time to point out that because I always end up finishing my blog posts after midnight, that the date on a post is actually for the previous day.



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