Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Another historic day

There was good news and bad news today. Let's begin with the bad: At a joint session with the House of Deputies we received the final draft of the budget. We were warned it would be painful, and it was. Many staff people will be cut, all programs will be reduced, and lots of great projects will be left unfunded. I was particularly disappointed that money for our partners in Mexico was reduced by 29%. The newspaper we partner with, Episcopal Life, will also be greatly affected. On the other hand, the larger church has finally instituted some cost saving measures I have advocated for years, such as reducing travel for face to face meetings and increasing the use of electronic communication. Some programs that had to do mission, such as Hispanic ministry, youth, and church planting were actually increased. Still there was considerable anguish. Before our session began, we all stood to sing, and I took a video of the members of our deputation. The House of Bishop's spent a long time later today fussing over the wording of a substitute resolution having to do with blessings of same gender unions. We started this process yesterday, and for short time we decided to try an alternative way of dealing with this highly charged issue, rather than word-smithing amendmend after amendment. But when the ad hoc group came back today, all they had done was to rewrite the original resolution. At one point, I found myself voting with the conservative members, not over content but over process. I still believe the church has to find a better way of dealing with controversial topics than a win-lose legislative answer. Let's take a page from non-western cultures who solve problems in a family way in which all are included. Since that effort came to nothing, I was glad to vote "yes" on the roll-call that approved the resolution. Our willingness to at least explore ways of blessing such unions will no doubt result in additional disapproval from the Anglican Communion and from the more conservative dioceses here. The situation has certainly changed with the fact that five states now recognize gay/lesbian marriage with an estimated 15 more to come in the next few years. Assuming that the House of Deputies concurs with us tomorrow, the operative words of the resolution are: "Resolved, that bishops, particularly those in dioceses with civil jurisdictions where same gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of the church; and be it further resolved, that this Convention continue to honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality." This passed 104 to 30. I will be discussing the implications of this with the clergy when I return, but it is clearly a step forward towards a more inclusive church.


kitty said...

Thank you for the info, Bishop. When I read that you had voted against something dealing with this issue I was concerned but I am glad you have this blog (and the willingness to keep us apprised) of how things are going and how you, as our bishop, see (and vote) them.

Thanks again for your communications. It is much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your defending an approach other than "win-lose" - 51% majority process for dealing with controversial issues and I thank you for voting to approve that. But I also thank you greatly for recognizing the pastoral needs of GLBT people in the Diocese of Arizona. We are very proud of you!

Holly said...

history seems to move as iceberg speed.....sigh

Terri said...

I was deeply moved by the integrity and compassion of those in the House of Bishops as this matter was discussed and voted on.

Pat Klemme said...

Thank you, Bishop Smith, for your long commitment to maintaining unity in the Anglican Communion. I believe that many in the Anglican Communion valued TEC's conciliatory efforts to hold a place at the Anglican Communion table. That said, I believe most American diocese and many of the world's 38 provinces will hold TEC in respect--and even thanksgiving--for resuming pathways to full inclusion of LGBT faithful. Our support in many quarters may well keep us a full partner in the AC.

Thank you for your historic votes that will free the church to return to our primary missions.

As for the budget, some LGBT faithful may be increasing our giving. And many of us can now say to our friends, "The Episcopal Church really does welcome us." We, too, can evangelize. It is much easier to do when the welcome is not so conditional.


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