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75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church

Day 2 Special Hearing
June 14
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June 21

Hot Ticket

queueThe interest of most convention-goers focused Wednesday on an evening hearing of the Special Committee established to respond to the Windsor Report. Five tickets were allotted to each diocese; all other seating was first-come, first-served. Some 1,500 seats were set up in a hotel ballroom to accommodate the crowd, which waited patiently in a serpentine line till the doors of the meeting room opened. Two deputies from Fort Worth signed a list of those hoping to address the Commission. The hearing was scheduled to start at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

During its noontime briefing, the American Anglican Council released a letter from the Rt. Rev. N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, England. Bishop Wright is a leading theologian and a member of the Lambeth Commission, appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to write the Windsor Report. By dinnertime the statement was the most popular reading at the Convention, though it has no official status.

The letter says in part “the only way forward which will command assent from the Communion and enable us to proceed together is to be careful and exact about what precisely Windsor said and meant. That is the aim of the present paper.”

Further on Bishop Wright continues, “This, with real sadness, is my basic conclusion: that unless the relevant Resolutions are amended so that they clearly state what Windsor clearly requested, the rest of the Communion is bound to conclude that ECUSA has specifically chosen not to comply with Windsor.


committee“This is a hearing,” began Fr. Francis Wade (Diocese of Washington, D.C.), the committee's co-chair. “That means the most important thing that happens in this room tonight is listening.” The hearing began at 7:30 p.m. and would have to end, Fr. Wade said, at 10 p.m. under agreement with the hotel. The specific draft resolutions under consideration at the hearing were A160, A161, A162, and A163.

Each speaker was allowed two minutes. In all, about 75 deputies, bishops, and visitors were called to the microphone, and they were fairly evenly split between those approving of the decisions of the church in 2003 and those who disapprove of the consecration of a partnered gay bishop and the provision for same-sex blessings. Either way, most of them rose to speak against one or all of the resolutions.

A minority – about 9 percent – of the speakers took a moderate view, saying they found the resolutions "balanced," and, sometimes, in need of minor adjustments. But most said either that the Windsor Report and the resolutions under consideration were an attempt to extract an admission of guilt where they felt no culpability, or that the resolutions were an inadequate and watered-down response to the Windsor Report.

As the evening wore on, both sides called increasingly for "clarity" and "honesty" in the eventual response to the Windsor Report. For some, that meant standing by their earlier decisions in the face of opposition, disapproval, and censure from much of the rest of the Anglican Communion. For others, it meant calling on the governing body of the Episcopal Church to vote either to repent and reverse the course of its actions or to acknowledge its decision to break away from the Communion.

First to speak was Deputy Zoe Cole of the Diocese of Colorado. She spoke “in opposition to all the resolutions and in favor of the Holy Spirit. … The Holy Spirit spoke in Denver [General Convention of 2000] and Minneapolis [General Convention of 2003] and will speak here as well.” In conclusion, she said, “These resolutions represent a compromise of he power of the Holy Spirit.”

Bishop Thomas Ely of Vermont asked that the word “private” be removed from A162, since couple usually thinks of a rite of blessing as a public statement.

“Brothers and sisters in Christ,” began Canon Kendall Harmon of the Diocese of South Carolina,“Where is the clarity, and where is the honesty? ... What we have been asked to do is clear, the time frame is clear. … Let's not use words in such a way as to pretend that we don't believe what we are doing. Let's be honest.”

Clerical deputy Ellen Neufeld of the Diocese of Albany said, “[We must enact] what we intend to live. Let us say what we intend: openly, honestly, and truly.”

Fr. Christopher Cantrell of the Diocese of Fort Worth called attention to the use of the word "regret" in A160. “What we are regretting [in the resolution] is others' pain, caused by our actions. But this is not what we are being asked [by the Windsor Report] to regret.”

Immediately following, Deputy Judy Mayo responded to Bishop Ely's remarks, saying "public" and "private" made no difference. She emphasized, too, that “regret” has no force without a change of action. “Action is where the rubber meets the road!”


Bishop Duncan delivers his remarks. Behind him, the next person called on to speak is Bishop Gene Robinson.

Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, said in part, “I believe, with the greatest of heartbreak and sadness, that the day has arrived where those who have chosen the Episcopal Church because of its catholic and evangelical reliability, and those who have chosen the Episcopal Church for its revolutionary character, can no longer be held together.” The full text of Bishop Duncan's statement.

Bishop Gene Robinson began by asking, “Do we as a church recognize he light of Christ and the mark of the creator in the faces and lives of gay and lesbian people in the church? … We cannot make decisions about what the rest of the Communion may or may not do. … Our job is to discern the will of God as humbly and honesly as we can.” The “gay agenda,” he said, was Jesus Christ. “[We are] made worthy by His grace and sacrifice to stand before him.”


Fr. David Roseberry, rector of Christ Church, Plano, told the committee of the grass-roots petition he initiated in May, which was ultimately signed by 1,064 Episcopal priests. After enumerating the points of the petition, he said that the priests who signed he petition represented over 20,000 years of service to the church. Invoking a well-known TV adverisement, he asked, “Can you hear me now?”

The Most Rev. John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, who is a visitor and observer at the Convention, reminded the commitee of the three central requests in paragraph 134 of the Windsor Report. Read Archbishop Sentamu's remarks.

The hearing concluded at 10 p.m.


The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth

The deputation from Fort Worth will be looking for clarity of language and honesty of intent in the final resolutions when they come to the floor of the House of Deputies, says Canon Charles Hough, chair of the deputation.

”The Windsor Report calls for genuine repentance and cooperation from the Episcopal Church,” he says. “The rest of the Anglican Communion wants to know whether we will walk with them, or if we as a province have decided to walk apart from them, apart from the teaching of Scripture.

“We pray that the resolutions will express this regret and cooperation in terms as close to the language of the Windsor Report as possible. In that case, our deputation will be able to support the resolutions. But if repentance and communion are not the aims of the majority of the dioceses in the Episcopal Church, then those who choose to walk apart owe it to those who await our response to state as clearly as they can what they do believe about what our church has done, and how they intend to walk in the future. This is the defining moment.”