Title IV – Disciplinary Canons

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This entry was originally posted July 1, 2009 as part of the website “Slouching Towards Anaheim.”

“Without discipline, there’s no life at all.” -Katharine Hepburn

For people new to General Convention, one of the hardest parts is trying to understand the issues without the history. Knowing the history of a resolution is vital to understanding why it is written the way it is and why certain parties may be for or against it.

I think this is most true this year for Resolution A185, the proposed revisions to the disciplinary canons (commonly known and referred to as Title IV). Canons are not lightly changed in the church, much like amendments are not easily made to the US constitution. The revisions to Title IV are 20 years in the making, dating back to the late 80’s when the Church found itself dealing with a number of old sexual misconduct situations. The Church’s disciplinary system had been essentially the same for it’s entire history, and at General Convention in 1991 a resolution was passed directing the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons (SCCC) to study the disciplinary canons and report back. In 1994 the SCCC proposed extensive changes to the canons that were then voted in by General Convention.

There were several problems with the new system, many based on the fact that it was essentially the same as Uniform Code of Military Justice. The new system was also costly and time consuming. Even so, in 1997 these codes were reaffirmed when General Convention voted to have them apply to bishops as well as priest and deacons.

Then in 2000, General Convention created a task force to study the theology of discipline and report back. They reported in 2003 and proposed changes to the canons based on their studies to the 2006 General Convention. This year, the task force reports back once again with what generally seem to be improvements on the 2006 draft, though it is largely the same.

I won’t go into detail here about the specifics of the process and the changes made. On the whole the new canons are built on a theological base, and strive to be more about healing than punishment. Because the changes are so vast (this resolution takes up 25 pages in the Blue Book) I could see problems with specifics coming up once again on the Convention floor. However, the impression is that this might be the year for Title IV, when the changes are adopted and finalized. My own insider information says that Title IV is likely to hit the floor of Convention on the first Friday, and at General Convention earlier is always better, as it is more likely that the resolution will be discussed fully and honestly when there is plenty of time.


Resolutions on the Blessings of Same-Sex Marriages

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This entry was originally posted June 25, 2009 as part of the website “Slouching Towards Anaheim.”

“Don’t stir the pot if you don’t know the recipe.” -Pete Strimer

So far, there are at least 11 resolutions on the subject of Same Sex Blessings and Marriages. All of these resolutions are C Resolutions, meaning they come from a diocese or a group of some kind (as opposed to an individual deputy or bishop). Up until this point, the Episcopal Church has maintained a policy of “never authorized, never prohibited” on the subject. This means that it is up to individual bishops in their own dioceses to decide whether or not to bless same sex marriages. This policy is actually rather fitting with the general attitude of the Episcopal church, which respects the differing opinions of its members.

It should be made clear that there is a difference between blessings of same sex unions and same sex marriages, and there are separate resolutions on each. Resolutions on blessings fall into two categories: 1) resolutions stating that there should be no restrictions on a bishop’s authority to use such rite, and 2) authorizing the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to create such rites. The first would support the policies that have been in place, the second would fully legitimize Episcopal blessings of same sex unions by giving them an official service to conduct.

The marriage resolutions also fall into two similar categories. The first ask for an amendment to the marriage canons, the second ask the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to develop gender-neutral language for the existing marriage rites.

The problem is that currently none of the resolutions for either blessings or marriages ask for changes in the canons AND the prayer book. Having contradictions between the canons and the prayer book would weaken the issue, like telling the police to enforce different laws than are set up in the constitution.

My personal conviction is that the Episcopal Church should establish some form of official same sex marriage rites. However I worry about the politicking that could muddy up the issue. For example, there is not clear consensus as to whether we should be approving the blessing of unions or full inclusion into the sacrament of marriage. Obviously the United States has not come to a clear decision, which is certainly part of the problem. How does a couple respond if their state says they should be married and their church says they have a union? It seems like semantics but disregarding such distinctions allows a loophole for “separate but equal” thinking.

A huge part of the problem is the response from the Anglican Communion on the issue. There has been a lot of formal and informal pressure from the Communion in the last several years to slow down, if not stop, actions that would lead to full and equal inclusion of homosexuals into all parts of the church. Many worry that passing these kinds of resolutions at this time would show a disregard for our Anglican sisters and brothers, and further “strain the bonds of affection” between us. The painful fact is that for the Episcopal Church, there are consequences to approving any sort of homosexual unions or marriages. I believe this is a huge part of why we do not have any sort of united front on this issues, and why the proposed resolutions seem incomplete and contradictory.

Hopefully, by the time these resolutions get out of committee and onto the convention floor they will have been combined into a clearer, more complete resolution. The likelihood of that resolution getting approved is still slim, both because of theological differences in the church and concern over the reactions in the Anglican Communion.

I agree that we should show understanding towards the other Anglican churches who oppose homosexuality, but I also believe that if “understanding” means denying rights and sacraments to any of God’s children out of fear than this is not a communion but an oligarchy. For now, I think we are just bidding time, waiting for more people to come around and for the decision to be made easier. It is possible that this is how this must be done: carefully, slowly, and methodically. After all, if we do something drastic enough to cut ourselves off from the Anglican Communion, we will have ended all conversation on the issue, and I do not think that is healthy for either side.

We will simply have to wait and see what, if anything, comes out of committee.

A177 – Denominational Health Plan

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This entry was originally posted June 23, 2009 as part of the website “Slouching Towards Anaheim.”

“Health is not valued till sickness comes.” – Dr. Thomas Fuller, 1732

First on the list of possible hot button issues is Resolution A177, the Denominational Health Plan. If adopted this resolution puts in place a mandated, nationwide health plan for church employees working 1500 hours or more annually (about 28 hours a week). Full text of the resolution can be seen at: http://gc2009.org/viewlegislation/view_leg_detail.aspx?id=882&type=Final


This resolution comes from years of research and study. Some important things to note:

  1. This resolution does not apply to dioceses outside the US, however many discussions have been held with these dioceses to determine how the Medical Trust can assist them
  2. There are exceptions: eligible full-time employees can waive coverage, and certain part time employees can choose to participate
  3. Certain choices are still left up to the individual dioceses to decide: plans to offer, cost sharing, domestic partner coverage and the possible participation of institutions such as schools and day cares.

It sounds like “parity” is one of the more important words being used in this resolution. One of the things A177 is looking to do is establish a greater equality between lay employees and the clergy. The two ways Sally Johnson brought up were 1) ensuring that cost sharing was the same between the two groups, and 2) if clergy receive family coverage, lay employees must receive the same. HOWEVER, in terms of this sense of “parity” the word “eligible” is also being tossed around. What worries me about this is it provides a loophole for dioceses not wishing to change their current coverage to claim that their lay employees simply are not eligible. Like so many resolutions, it might only apply to those who are already doing it.

While like any resolution A177 has it’s flaws, I think any serious problems with it will creep up on the convention floor. According to Dede Moore, the Diocese of Olympia will not be severely affected since most of the rules and policies set up by A177 are already in place here. And it is quite clear that this resolution is coming out of several years of research by the Church Pension Fund. However, oftentimes a seemingly good resolution is shown to be bad idea when a deputy goes to the microphone and speaks to how it will negatively affect her/his diocese. For now I am in support of the resolution, but could find myself swayed by a good and reasonable argument (but isn’t that how it should always be?)

Last Supper

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This entry was originally posted June 22, 2009 as part of the website “Slouching Towards Anaheim.”

“Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.” – John Kenneth Galbraith

Tonight the Deputation from the Diocese of Olympia got together one last time prior to meeting up at convention on July 6th. As with all of our meetings, we gathered at the Diocesan House on Capital Hill and ate some delicious food. Our focus tonight was on which issues we felt were most likely to be hot topics on the convention floor and in committee meetings, as well as which issues we individually wanted to look for and address.

With the help of information provided by Sally Johnson (Chancellor to the President of the House of Deputies), five topics stood out:

1) Denominational Health Plan

2) Employee Pension Plan

3) Disciplinary Canons (Title IV)

4) Blessing of Same Sex Unions

  1. Response to BO33 (Moratorium on the Election of Homosexual Bishops)

There were four other issues that we thought might raise some ruckus, or at least we think they should:

  1. The revised Lesser Feasts and Fasts
  2. The State of the Church Report and the annual membership loss the Episcopal Church is experiencing
  3. The lack of youth and young adult resolutions (so far we’ve only heard of one resolution about summer camps)

I intend to do some more research on these topics and hopefully blog about them later this week.

Another important subject discussed was the way in which the deputation could communicate with the Diocese about General Convention both before and after Anaheim. First of all, the Evergreen Regional Spring Meeting is this Saturday at my own St. Columba’s Kent and they have requested 20 minutes with a member of the deputation. Based on my home court advantage it was decided that I should be the one to go, and I’m looking forward to talking with them about the big issues and my experiences in Columbus back in 2006.

We also began planning similar meetings for other deputies in August to debrief on everything that happened, not to mention the possibility of us presenting something to Diocesan Convention in November.

I think this increased attention to communication is key. Involvement creates interest, and the best way to get more people interested in the work of the Episcopal Church as a whole is to keep them informed and active.

I look forward to my new laundry list of topics to look up in my Blue Book, and I can’t wait to share them with you!


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This entry was originally posted June 18, 2009 as part of the website “Slouching Towards Anaheim.”

“Let the pulpit resound with the doctrine and sentiments of religious liberty. Let us hear of the dignity of man’s nature, and the noble rank he holds among the works of God. Let it be known that British liberties are not the grants of princes and parliaments.” -John AdamsThere’s a handful of issues expected to come up in Anaheim this year, one of which is BO33, a resolution passed at the end of the 2006 General Convention.First, a little history is in order. At the 2003 GC, the Episcopal Church approved the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, hailed as the first openly gay Bishop. This act caused strain within the Anglican Communion (an international association of national churches who share a common historical tie to the Church of England, and share the same essential doctrines). As a result, members of the Anglican Communion presented The Windsor Report (http://www.anglicancommunion.org/windsor2004/) to GC 2006.

BO33 was the resolution made in response to the Windsor Report, and reads as follows:

Resolved, 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.

BO33 essentially put a moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops. While the resolution passed in both houses, it was not a happy decision for many, and for me personally I worried about the non-specific wording of the resolution. Yes, the subject at hand was homosexuality, but I know a lot of wonderful Christians whose “manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church,” and to me the resolution has always sounded like a loophole for other Anglican churches to continue to berate the Episcopal Church.

It’s possible that nothing specific will happen with BO33 this year, with no resolutions for or against it. I’ve heard many voices hoping that we can “move past” BO33. It was also brought to my attention that the duration of any given resolution is uncertain, some Episcopalians believing that resolutions are permanent and others believing that they are meant to last for the three years until the next General Convention (these often being spirit of the law vs. letter of the law arguments). With that in mind, one could argue that there’s no need to address BO33, as it will no longer apply after Anaheim. Others say that whether or not it is still officially in effect, it’s better not to bring it up, choosing to move forward rather than looking back on past actions.

A group called Integrity was been sending out emails and letters to deputies recently, with two videos they have made surrounding the issue:



It is possible that BO33 will slip under the radar, disregarded as a piece of our peacemaking past. I do worry that it represents a greater problem: the disparity between how different churches in the Anglican Communion are governed. The Episcopal Church does not have one high voice that reigns overall (at least, not a human one). For us to make decisions about how we will operate we must be in large agreement, something we only have the chance to do every three years. More than anything, what I love most about the Episcopal church is that we are seldom in large agreement anyway.

No, the canons do not allow for same-sex marriage, but that hasn’t stopped plenty of Episcopal priests and bishops from blessing them anyway. And the Episcopal church allows it because I believe at its core it is a church based in choice. Remember that the Episcopal Church formed just after the American Revolution in a country that prides itself for its independence. The Episcopal Church is no longer strictly American, but that does not change its roots. We are a church that values the independent journeys of its members, and no moratorium can change that.

Breakfast with the Bishop

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This entry was originally posted June 14, 2009 as part of the website “Slouching Towards Anaheim.”

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.” – Julia Child

This last Thursday I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to a special breakfast. Held at the home of Mike Schut, Program Officer for Environmental & Economic Affairs, 15 people along with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori gathered to talk about three interconnected issues: multi-cultural ministries, environment and economic affairs, and young adults.

Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding BishopEach of us brought something to share – fruit, bagels, scones, juice, coffee – and put together a circle of chairs in Mike’s living room. We started by sharing our stories. Everyone went around introducing themselves and the kind of work they do. It was not strictly Episcopalians, but everyone in attendance was working in one of the three core areas we wanted to discuss. Introductions were so diverse and interesting they ended up taking up much of the time. We heard about volunteer run organic gardens serving the inner-city, native tribes struggling for federal recognition, and churches that manage to keep all the hymns and incense while appealing to a younger generation. For myself I spoke about Covenant House and Crossroads Ministry (also known as Episcopal / Lutheran Student Ministries) at the University of Washington, as well as my upcoming journey to General Convention.

When I first found out that the issues were to be discussed together, I was a bit skeptical about how they connected. But an hour in that living room and I knew exactly how connected we all were. The native nations of this country have traditions steeped in respecting and protecting the en
While I can’t list all of the things discussed, I believe the Bishop summed it up the best when she said that our job as Christians is to feed people, and that at this point in our history that might mean actual, literal food. People are hungry and what we eat really can shape who we are.vironment. Young people open up to ethnic ministries because inclusive attitudes signal change and revitalization which is something many young people are in search of as they are trying to find a place in the world and the church. As stories were told, more connections were found. These causes need not operate alone. We can help each other.

More than anything I was happy to be there because I personally got a wake up call. It is easy to know on an intellectual level that other people have different situations than you, that not everyone thinks like you do, that you do not speak for everyone in the groups you associate with. I realize that when it comes to church events, I often fall into a trap. I am not afraid to speak up in groups and voice my opinions or observations. I am also often the only young person there. These two things combined means that I tend to become the official spokesperson for youth and young adults in the church. People hear my opinions and regard them as fact. I began to believe that my opinions are fact. This last Thursday at breakfast I was fortunate enough to receive a reminder of how wrong I can be, and how isolated my experiences and opinions really are.

I was speaking to the group about how young people can be their allies with both the environmental and ethnic progress, since the generation now coming into power, my generation, was raised on Black History Month and Captain Planet. I told them that to young people, this “new” green movement and President Obama’s election have the ring of, “Well it’s about time.” I said that we get it and we want to help make it happen.

That’s when Rev. Robert Jeffrey of Clean Greens Farm (http://www.cleangreensfarm.com) spoke up. His was the story about the volunteer-run, organic garden that then sells to people in the city at very affordable prices. He said that for the young people who are raised in the inner-city, the earth is not seen that way. The earth is seen as the enemy because of the legacy of slavery that so many of them still carry. He said that when you’re raised in the heart of the city, “food” means McDonalds and Burger King. That’s what it means to be fed. Everything you eat takes less than 5 minutes, and that’s how you start to see yourself as well as life in general. There’s no concept of growing and nurturing over time, because that is not what food is in the city. It is a survival mentality and it does not include greens for dinner and organic pomegranate seeds. Rev. Jeffrey very clearly, politely and precisely let us know that not all young people think the same. It was a reminder I was in desperate need of, and i thank him for that.

I am honored to have had the opportunity to sit with these people, share food together, and talk about what our journeys have been thus far. It was a gift and a treasure. Special thanks go to Mike Schut for offering his home, Jason Sierra for inviting me, Katharine Jefferts Schori for taking time out of her busy travel schedule, and Rev. Jeffrey for reopening my eyes.

Numbers Game

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This entry was originally posted May 25, 2009 as part of the website “Slouching Towards Anaheim.”

“I could prove God statistically.” -George Gallup


This blog entry is dedicated to Louie Crew, the man responsible for gathering all of these wonderful statistics. He collects them every convention, and makes comparison charts to illustrate changes in the church.

House of Deputies 2009:

43.3% female lay people

35.3% female clergy

17 dioceses have no females elected

At the start of convention:

average age will be 56.9

youngest deputy will be 19.7

oldest deputy will be 90.2

26 deputies will be under 30

12.7% of deputies are people of color

50.3% of those are African American

I post these here because the makeup of the voting body says a lot about the kind of decisions it can make. Having only 26 deputies under 30 means there’s a clear need for resolutions that proactively seek out youth in the church, but passing such resolutions cannot happen with only those 26 votes.

The number of women in the House of Deputies has been steadily increasing since women first entered in 1970, and it will no doubt reach 50% within the next few conventions. However youth and people of color are still underrepresented by the church, and do not show as rapid and steady a climb as gender. This is not just a matter of fair representation. The fact is that the House of Deputies is an accurate reflection of the church: it is becoming old and white.

My heart obviously lies with youth involvement. I believe that we cannot simply wait for them to show interest in us. I would not be an active member of the church today if people had not sought me out time and time again. They will not ask us if they can join in. We must ask them.