Resolution D025, as passed at General Convention yesterday, offers the Episcopal Church an astonishing way forward in the great messiness that has marked the debate about full inclusion of GLBT people.
Quite simply, it tells the truth. It tells the truth about who we are as the American branch of the Anglican Communion. We are a church that has listened to the lives and stories of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters; we have observed them exercising holy and life-giving ministries in every corner of the church. We are a church that understands them to be baptized people, the same as anyone else, and we are a church with laws (called canons) that particularly forbid non-discrimination in the ordination process. We are a church that is not of one mind on how to move forward on the question of ordinations of GLBT people, and is not of one mind on blessing of same-sex unions, or marriage -- in states where that is legal -- between two people of the same gender. We are a church where some dioceses will ordain gay and lesbian people, and some dioceses will not.
We are a wonderful collection of faithful people on a journey to deeper understanding and love of one another, led by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. But it is a journey, and it is not over yet, and so this resolution offers a wonderful declaration of where we are right now, vis a vis the Anglican Communion, the question of gay ordinations, and our ongoing differences of theology and interpretation.
This resolution does four very important things:
1) It affirms our intention and commitment to remain in the Anglican Communion, continuing to do ministry and mission in developing countries, and continuing our financial support of $661K of a $1.8 billion budget -- a significant contribution from any one member church -- for Anglican Communion programs and ministries. It says that we intend to stay at the table and play.
2) It recognizes that we have participated fully in a "listening process" requested by the Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988 and 1998, to listen to the experiences of our GLBT brothers and sisters. And what we have discovered is ... wow! They are people. And Christians! And they do wonderful ministries at every level of the church! And generally function like every other baptized person.
3) It reminds everyone that our church has laws (canons) and some of those laws relate to ordination, and that those laws have non-discrimination policies attached to them, and that there is no LEGAL impediment in our church to QUALIFIED, DISCERNED, GLBT folks to being ordained, provided they go through discernment processes like everyone else and are selected for the ordination track.
and finally, and most important, and most ANGLICAN of all it says,
4) We understand that good and faithful people are not of one mind about this stuff and we are on a journey together and we are not going to agree on all of this right away.
So, does this mean that gays are allowed to be ordained? In dioceses where they are currently being ordained, that will probably continue. Sometime soon, some diocese will probably elect another gay bishop (note ... we've always had gay bishops. Bp. Otis of Utah came out after he retired.). Other dioceses won't be ready yet. No diocese will be forced to ordain GLBT people.
Will we get kicked out of the Anglican Communion? That's still a future possibility. However, we are not alone. Other provinces of the communion are also moving forward with rituals for blessings of same-sex unions, and are ordaining qualified and called gay and lesbian persons. Our mission and development work in the Global South continues to express our love for all our brothers and sisters, and our willingness to work together on areas where we do agree, to end poverty, to increase health, to create fulfilling lives for all God's children. The Archbishop of Canterbury said as much to General Convention ... that if the Anglican Communion didn't find the Episcopal presence so necessary, this would not be so difficult.
However, the "restraint" exercised by the Episcopal Church for the last three years, (a resolution passed in the waning hours of the last General Convention called for restraint in the elections and consecration to the order of bishop of people whose "manner of life" posed a difficulty to the wider communion) did not stop bishops from crossing provincial and diocesan boundaries. It did not stop other bishops, parishes, even entire dioceses from trying to leave the Episcopal Church. It may have gotten our bishops to the Lambeth Conference, but the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, a canonically elected, approved and consecrated bishop, was still "uninvited." Other bishops from the global South still stayed away from Lambeth, unwilling to share fellowship and communion with "heretical" bishops.
So perhaps it is just time to tell the truth. We do want to remain in the Anglican Communion. We do understand that GLBT people have gifts to offer our church and our world. We intend to follow our canons. We know that people are not of one mind about this, and we intend to go forward together anyway, messy, confused, but together.