Bishops Unite against Addiction

By Zachary Guiliano

The House of Bishops passed three resolutions Wednesday morning related to the abuse of alcohol and other drugs.

“I’m Mark, and I’m an alcoholic,” said Bishop Mark Hollingsworth, Jr., of Ohio as he began a report by a special committee appointed by the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies.

There were hundreds of years of sobriety … around the table,” Hollingsworth said, and the committee had “a jointly held understanding of the gravity of this issue.”

The committee originally received only one resolution on alcohol abuse: D014 (Question Ordinands About Addiction). Bishop Hollingsworth said that resolution is designed “to initiate conversation about alcohol and other drug abuse at the very beginning of the ordination process.” The House of Bishops passed the resolution unanimously without discussion.

Hollingsworth said the committee later worked on two new resolutions: A158 (Task Force to Review and Revise Policy on substance abuse, addiction and recovery) and A159 (The Role of the Church in the Culture of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse).

He said the amended form of A158 makes no reference to a task force, but it gives extended policy guidance on serving alcohol.

The resolution’s provisions update the church’s policy on alcohol, last reviewed in 1985. The new provisions require that sober adults oversee the alcohol served at church events, and they discourage serving alcohol “at congregational events where minors are present.”

Bishops offered only one floor amendment. Paragraph 13 had said, “We encourage clergy to acknowledge the efficacy of receiving the sacrament in one kind and consider providing a non-alcoholic alternative.”

The amendment now reads “providing non-alcoholic wine.” Several bishops were concerned that the language implied a change in the elements of the Eucharist, which could affect the church’s commitment to various Anglican and ecumenical partnerships.

Among the most serious concerns is the church’s affirmation of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, a touchstone in Anglican and ecumenical discussions. Among other provisions, it identifies two essential sacraments, baptism and Communion, “ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of institution and of the elements ordained by Him.”

The amended resolution passed and has been sent to the House of Deputies for concurrence.

Hollingsworth said Resolution A159 (The Role of the Church in the Culture of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse) was “intended to speak to the church’s own complicity in the culture of alcohol and other substance abuse and to give direction on how we shall move forward.”

A159 calls for churchwide repentance and the furthering of advocacy efforts on addiction. Further, it “affirms the need for exercising a healing ministry to all whose lives are affected by addiction” and encourages personal examination and the pursuit of healing among the church’s members.

Bishop George Wayne Smith of Missouri spoke “wholeheartedly in favor of this resolution,” adding: “I serve a diocese that has had very public and multigenerational instances of addiction.”

Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe said he appreciated the guidance because of “a cultural denial, in many respects, around Europe” on the issue of alcohol abuse.

The resolution passed unanimously.

The presiding bishop then asked that the House moved into closed session. Some bishops, however, began to press for reviving a resolution on Communion without baptism.

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