Letters to Archbishop of Canterbury, Primates discuss C056

Mardi, Juillet 21, 2009
Following its passage in both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson sent a letter to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams discussing Resolution C056 at the recently completed 76th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. (Text of letter is at the end.)

Additionally, the Presiding Bishop forwarded the letter to the 38 Primates and clergy and lay leaders of the Anglican Communion. (Text of letter is at the end.)

In the letter, the Presiding Officers noted, "While the Resolution honors the diversity of theological perspectives within The Episcopal Church, it does not authorize public liturgical rites for the blessing of same-gender unions. The Book of Common Prayer remains unchanged, the marriage rites are unaltered and the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer define marriage as a "solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God."

It also explained, "It is now left to each bishop to determine what such a generous pastoral response might mean in her or his diocesan context. This Resolution neither forces nor demands any bishop, diocesan convention, congregation or clergy to take any action it considers contrary to its will. The Resolution honors and acknowledges this Church"s continuing commitment to and honoring of theological diversity and the inclusion of a variety of points of view on matters of human sexuality."

General Convention 2009 was held July 8 to July 17 at the Anaheim Convention Center in California (Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles).

The Episcopal Church"s General Convention, held every three years, is the bicameral governing body of the church. General Convention, the second largest legislative body in the world, is comprised of the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 members, and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay representatives from the 110 dioceses, at over 850 members.

The Episcopal Church, with 110 dioceses in 16 nations, is a member province of the worldwide Anglican Communion

Letter to Archbishop Rowan Williams from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and President Bonnie Anderson.

17 July 2009

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Rowan Williams

Lambeth Palace

London

Dear Archbishop Williams,

We greet you once again as we write regarding another significant resolution adopted today by the 76th General Convention. Like Resolution D025, about which we wrote to you several days ago, Resolution C056 will impact both the life and work of The Episcopal Church and have implications for our relationships within the Anglican Communion. A copy of Resolution C056 is attached to this letter.

While the Resolution honors the diversity of theological perspectives within The Episcopal Church, it does not authorize public liturgical rites for the blessing of same-gender unions. The Book of Common Prayer remains unchanged, the marriage rites are unaltered and the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer define marriage as a "solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God."

The Resolution encourages this Church and its members to engage in several actions over the coming three years until The General Convention gathers again as the only body of The Episcopal Church that can speak definitively for this Church. Resolution C056:

• Calls on the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (an interim body of The General Convention made up of laity, clergy and bishops) in consultation with the House of Bishops and House of Deputies to collect and develop theological and liturgical resources around the blessing of same gender unions and report the results of its work to the 77th General Convention which will convene in 2012. The collection and development of these theological and liturgical resources is a way by which further theological inquiry and debate/discussion can take place, but does not commit any future General Convention to formal adoption of any rites.

• Calls for wide participation in an open process of conversation and consultation across The Episcopal Church in congregations and dioceses and with individuals. We pray this work will contribute to the Listening Process on all levels since we earnestly desire to listen to all as encouraged by successive Lambeth Conferences.

• Allows bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, to provide a generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church.

It is now left to each bishop to determine what such a generous pastoral response might mean in her or his diocesan context. This Resolution neither forces nor demands any bishop, diocesan convention, congregation or clergy to take any action it considers contrary to its will. The Resolution honors and acknowledges this Church"s continuing commitment to and honoring of theological diversity and the inclusion of a variety of points of view on matters of human sexuality.

The House of Bishops received Resolution C056 from the legislative Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music (made up of bishops, clergy and laity). A group of over 25 bishops representing diverse and divergent views gathered informally and, using the Indaba process learned at the Lambeth Conference 2008, had thoughtful, loving and candid conversation. The fruit of their conversation and prayer was presented to the House of Bishops in the form of a revision to Resolution C056 which was adopted by both Houses thus becoming the action of the General Convention thus speaking definitively for The Episcopal Church. This resolution is seen as a continuation of the pastoral response and listening process asked for and encouraged by successive General Conventions and Lambeth Conferences.

As our letter of July 16 stated, "it is not our desire to give offense. We remain keenly aware of the concerns and sensibilities of our brothers and sisters in other Churches across the Communion." The Episcopal Church treasures our relationships and partnerships as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, and prays fervently for its life and mission, as we pray for you, brother Rowan, and your ministry as the spiritual leader of the Communion.

With all prayers and best wishes, we remain,

Your sisters in Christ,

Bonnie Anderson, D.D.

President of The House of Deputies

The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop and Primate

Letter to the Anglican Primates

TO THE PRIMATES OF THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION:

17 July 2009

Dear Brothers in Christ,

Having written you once to explain something of the process and significance of Resolution D025, adopted here in our 76th General Convention, it is important to send you this second, follow-up letter addressed once more to the Archbishop of Canterbury. This letter, again co-signed by myself and the President of our House of Deputies, concerns Resolution C056, which was adopted today, in the hopes of being clear with the Archbishop and with all of you about what the resolution does, and does not, mean.

As the attached letter notes, C056 does not authorize public liturgical rites for the blessing of same-gender unions. It is crucial to note that the Book of Common Prayer remains unchanged and the marriage rites unaltered.

What this resolution in fact does is honor the diversity of theological perspectives in our own cultural context, and encourage this Church"s members to pursue thoughtful and informed conversation and the study of resources that have been developed. Please note the second page of the letter that describes the careful process that resulted in the amendment of this resolution, a process influenced greatly by the Indaba process learned at the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

As with the previous correspondence, I welcome any questions or feedback you might have. And once again, I offer my thanksgiving to God for the presence of so many of you here at this Convention. As we move forward, may we do so with prayers for one another and God"s blessings on our respective ministries.

Your servant in Christ,

The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org

IamEpiscopalian: http://www.iamepiscopalian.org/