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Bishops: Covenant can wait

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By Joe Thoma

The House of Bishops concurred with the House of Deputies July 10 to “decline to take a position on the Anglican Covenant,” while affirming participation in the wider Anglican Communion.

General Convention’s Committee on World Mission combined eight separately proposed resolutions into two: D008, which supports participation in the Anglican Communion, and B005, which declines to sign on to the Covenant.

In introducing the resolutions to the house, the Rt. Rev. Ian Douglas, Bishop of Connecticut and episcopal chairman, said the committee was blessed by having seven of the proposers of the eight initial resolutions on it.

As the committee worked, it became clear that “this church holds a wide variety of ecclesiological positions and opinions on the Anglican Covenant and its position in the Anglican Communion,” Douglas said. “As we continued to perfect … we began to believe that we would be unable to make a positive statement that would not somehow create a significant [number] of winners and losers.”

The committee began to think instead of presenting two resolutions. Resolution B005 calls itself, in part, “a pastoral response to the Episcopal Church.”

B005 also asks that the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies appoint a task force of Executive Council “to continue to monitor the ongoing developments with respect to the Anglican Covenant and how this church might continue its participation,” and report those findings to the 78th General Convention.

Earlier in the day, the House of Deputies passed D008, which calls the church to “maintain and reinforce strong links across the worldwide Anglican Communion” and pursue Continuing Indaba.

In turn, introducing B005, committee member the Rev. Mark Harris said: “We all serve and love the Lord in the context of both the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

“I came to this convention knowing what I wanted. I wanted to say no to this Anglican Covenant. … We ended up proposing the resolution you have before you, B005 substitute. This resolution is not about our wants, but about what we believe are the needs of the church at this time. What we need are some places of disagreement that are not met by immediate need for winners and losers, some place where we can continue to listen across the wide divides of this church and the Anglican Communion.

“What we realized on the committee is that we are under no compulsion, save our own, to give an immediate answer to the question of adopting the Covenant.

“I urge the passage of Resolution B005, and more, urge time with all our companions in the faith, in and outside this church of ours, whose wonder is that they differ from us in every way save one: the love of the Lord,” Harris said.

Discussion of the resolutions was light in the House of Bishops. The Rt. Rev. R. William Franklin, Bishop of Western New York, asked for clarification about a line in B005 that calls for continued Episcopal Church participation.

Douglas responded that participation would involve, among other things, attending the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in October. He said Episcopal Church participants would bring questions about “how many churches need to sign on to the Covenant for it to come into effect,” and whether there should be “a time limit” for considering the Covenant.

On other matters, the bishops:

  • Voted to move the Episcopal Church Center out of New York City, but did not specify when. Nor did they explicitly vote to sell the current headquarters building at 815 Second Ave. Bishops voted 74-71 in favor of Resolution D016, after they deleted its last paragraph: “General Convention directs the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church to sell the Church Building at 815 Second Avenue, New York City.”
  • Heard from the Rev. Gay Jennings, president-elect of the House of Deputies, and President Bonnie Anderson, who chose not to stand for re-election. Bishops passed a courtesy resolution giving “thanks and praise to God” for Anderson’s service.
  • Considered resolutions involving handling of disputes between bishops and dioceses. The bishops voted to continue that discussion in private.
  • Approved Resolution D001, which would allow a bishop suffragan to serve also as rector of a congregation.
  • Rejected Resolution D085, which would have allowed a bishop to leave a diocese before reaching the recommended commitment of at least five years’ service if the pastoral relationship is not working, and then to serve in another diocese;
  • Approved an amended resolution directing the Standing Commission on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations to start dialogue between the Episcopal Church and the Mormon Church “for the interreligious purposes of friendship, goodwill, mutual understanding.”

With reporting by Lauren Anderson

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