GC2012

World Mission Proposes Pastoral Responses to Covenant, Communion

“Pastoral … not divisive” became the mantra of World Mission as it worked to craft two substitute resolutions on how the Episcopal Church should respond to the Anglican Covenant and the Anglican Communion.

B005 Substitute, “Ongoing Commitment to The Anglican Covenant Process,” would have General Convention “decline to take a position on the Anglican Covenant at this convention” for pastoral reasons, and asks that a task force of Executive Council monitor ongoing developments about the covenant.

D008 Substitute, “Affirm Anglican Communion Participation,” calls for the Church to “maintain and reinforce strong links” across the communion, and even to deepen its involvement with “Communion ministries and networks.”

Both resolutions go to great lengths to express gratitude for those who “faithfully work” on Anglican issues.

“We don’t just choose to be together, we are compelled to be together,” the Rev. Canon Mark Harris, Delaware, said, talking about Anglican issues in general. “The bonds of affection really are quite strong.”

He added, “I have a strong passion for what I think is a remarkable document. It’s a document that suggests that it’s possible for a legislative community to make a pastoral directive, that we continue to work on things, rather than that we make a divisive statement.”

Deputy Josephine Hicks, North Carolina, said, “We’re still players and we want to be there. I like this language about continued participation in the councils.”

The Rev. Dr. R. David Cox, Southwestern Virginia, supported both amended resolutions. Speaking in support of B005, he said: “Don’t just do something, stand there. I think that this is a moment in our history where we should do something that’s very un-American, and that’s just stand there while we watch developments unfold throughout the Anglican Communion … I would certainly commend that as a bit of advice to this convention.”

The Rt. Rev. Edward Little, Northern Indiana, echoed those feelings. “There’s a tendency in American culture that has worked its way into General Convention to create winners and losers,” he said. “This is a good faith attempt to find another way. I think it’s profoundly pastoral to hold as much of the Church together as possible rather than creating a culture of winners and losers.”

Harris explained the committee’s desire to make B005 focus on pastoral issues, as opposed to “contentious engagement with the issue.”

“As a primary mover of this,” Harris said, “I have to say that I understand why this may be difficult for some because it is not taking a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ stand on the acceptance of the Anglican Covenant. The belief of the subcommittee is that we grew to respect one another in the process of the discussion to a place where it was our collective sense that we needed to present to the convention the possibility that when we are in a place of considerable internal dissent of a variety of sorts, such that there is no clear mandate in one direction or another, that we say to each other, ‘Continue to sit at the table and be in discussion with each other.’”

It is, Harris said, “like saying, we’re sitting at the dinner table and we’re arguing, but we’re still commanded to sit down at the table and share this meal.”

–Reported by Penelope Davenport, written by Lauren R. Stanley.

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  1. This reminds me of a quote from my fellow Episcopalian and dearly beloved Contracts Professor, Uncas McThenia: “Just because the lion and the lamb lay down together doesn’t mean that everybody’s going to get a good night’s sleep.” It is a mighty piece of work to keep everyone at the table when the issues are as challenging as these. Not taking a side doesn’t mean that we are not doing serious and significant work to stay together. It means, in part, that we are not willing to take someone else’s story off the table. It can be much more challenging to keep peace with justice than to sharpen the differences until someone is “proven” wrong. That doesn’t mean the differences aren’t important. It does mean that we don’t let the differences destroy the relationship.