The Episcopal Church's General Convention has only one more legislative day to respond to the Windsor Report, and the report's requests for two moratoria still hang in the balance. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold announced Tuesday evening that he will call the General Convention into a joint session beginning Wednesday morning to help bishops and deputies work further on a resolution.
Griswold announced his decision after the convention's house of deputies shot down an amended resolution that many liberals criticized as cruel to gays and lesbians and that many conservatives criticized as murky and evasive of the Windsor Report's requests.
The Windsor Report asks the Episcopal Church to implement a moratorium on consecrating any further bishops who live in a same-sex union, and a moratorium on blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples. The Windsor Report, written by an international commission convened by the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, came in response to the 74th General Convention's approval of ordaining Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as the church's bishop of New Hampshire.
An odd coalition of clearly liberal and clearly conservative dioceses sent the resolution to such a resounding defeat that an effort to reconsider the resolution also failed.
"This is clarity. They're too divided, they're too fractured," said the Rev. Ellis Brust of the American Anglican Council just after the resolution failed in the house of deputies. "You cannot reconcile two worldviews by committee."
When the house of bishops began discussing the deputies' decision, it took up a new substitute resolution that would have sent largely similar language back to the deputies. But it soon became clear that virtually no bishop who spoke about the resolution saw it as worthwhile.
Bishop John W. Howe of the diocese of Central Florida suggested the church's canons would not allow such a legislative maneuver. Other bishops agreed.
Bishop Robinson spoke quietly and at length, saying he has worked for the past three years to be a team player and to observe the limits that the archbishop of Canterbury has placed on his ministering in other countries.
"I've been up since 4 o'clock this morning, worrying about and praying about the Anglican Communion," Robinson said. "I cannot promise to withhold consent from an entire category of people, sight unseen."
Robinson suggested that the convention answer all the other issues raised by the Windsor Report but admit that it cannot reach agreement about the requested moratoria. "Why can't we just say that and let it be?" he said.
Most bishops who addressed the matter agreed that the house of bishops needed to say moreif only in a less authoritative "mind of the house" resolutionthan the deputies had been willing to approve.
"It's important for us to send the message that we are not of one mind in this house," said Bishop Catherine Waynick of Indianapolis. She suggested that the bishops could commit themselves to the moratoria, but limit the time to three years, when the 76th General Convention convenes.
Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida urged the bishops simply to affirm the Windsor Report in whole. "I've told my diocese that I plan to remain in the Episcopal Church, and I pray to God that I'm able to do that. But I also pray to God that I'm able to remain in the Anglican Communion."
Bishop William O. Gregg of Eastern Oregon urged the bishops to give the church more time for discerning God's will. "Maybe what we can say, most honestly and from our heart and soul, is that we're trying," he said. "In due time, when the kairos is right, perhaps the [Anglican] Communion will know the answer."
Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, stressed his desire for candor. "What I would like to ask of the house is honesty in whatever decision we make," he said.
A mind of the house resolution provides a blanket for everyone, he said, but is it truthful?
Bishop Wayne Smith of Missouri said the bishops need to step into their callings and provide leadership. "I think our church is really asking for leadership on this," he said. "For good or ill, that leadership has to come from us. I ask that we not let our ecclesiology be limited by our polity."
The convention will convene again at 9 a.m. Wednesday for the final Eucharist, and its presiding bishop-elect, Katharine Jefferts Schori, will preach. The joint session begins immediately afterward, when the General Convention will deliberate one last time on its long-awaited response to the Windsor Report's questions.
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Previous coverage of the General Convention includes:
Conservatives Stunned by Bishop's Election | The new church leader supports same-sex marriages, vows to bend over backwards for those she disagrees with. (June 20, 2006)
Episcopalians Elect Female Nevada Bishop as Top Leader | Conservatives see election as confirmation of church's 'revisionist theology,' while one diocese appeals for alternative oversight. (June 19, 2006)
Gays in the Church Debated | Conservatives press Episcopal convention to repent of gay bishop's consecration. (June 16, 2006)
Weblog is linking to ongoing mainstream coverage of the convention.
Our full-coverage of the division in the Anglican Communion is collected on our site.