Bishops turn thumbs up

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ECUSA.jpgLast night, the Episcopal House of Bishops voted 99-45 to approve a slightly revised version of D025, a resolution that affirms the legitimacy of partnered gays and lesbians to be ordained. The key paragraph now reads:

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm
that God has called and may call such individuals, to any ordained
ministry in The Episcopal Church,; and
that God’s call to the ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church is a
mystery which the Church attempts to discern for all people
which call is testednone
through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the
Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church; and be it further

The new version of the resolution must go back for approval to the relevant committee of the House of Delegates, and then, if approved to the full house–but there seems little reason to think that it won’t sail through.

What the resolution certainly does is make clear that the 2003 election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire was no regretted action, no one-time thing. But does it also remove the effective moratorium that has been observed on such a choice over the past three years? No doubt, the Anglican schismatics in the U.S. and the worldwide Anglican Communion will take that to be the case. And, sooner or later, they’ll be right.

Almost unanimously the Conference’s Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music committee yesterday approved a resolution to put together “theological resources and liturgies” for same-sex unions, particularly “within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions,
or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral
response to meet the needs of members of this Church.” And another resolution is coming down the pike giving bishops wider than usual latitude in blessing same-sex unions in those jurisdictions.

In a word, the Episcopalians are moving with all deliberate speed to fully normalize the status of gays and lesbians within their church. More conservative religious bodies will of course regard this as surrendering to the culture, but the truth is that all religious bodies must slow march to the beat of the culture if they expect to remain relevant to the lives of their members–that is, unless they want to relegate themselves to sectarian status. The Episcopalians are more willing to own up to this than most; indeed, they are doing so precisely by citing the changes in civil law respecting same-sex marriage.

But this establishmentarian inclination can even be found among its conservative schismatics. The new-minted Archbishop of the Anglican Church of North America, Robert Duncan (Trinity College ’70!), favors the ordination of women–a once controversial left-wing position in North America that raises hackles among Anglicans in other parts of the world and some of his own flock. Give the Duncanites a couple of decades, and they’ll be fighting over the ordination of gays and lesbians too.