[Bumped] “Preparing” for the 2012 General Convention ... in One Parish in the Diocese of Georgia
[This week is “Diocese of Georgia Meltdown Week” and so we’re bumping a few of the stories from the past that let us all know why the diocese is where it is today.]
As I mentioned earlier this month, it’s going to be interesting to watch certain clergy and bishops attempt to “prepare” their parishes and dioceses for the coming debacle in 2012 of the now standard heretical, corrupt, buffoonish General Convention that our church produces like clockwork every three years.
Here’s one rector’s attempt—chock full of odd red herrings and begging the questions, coupled with attempts to place Bishop Benhase in the best possible light—and along the way we get to hear Bishop Benhase assert something like “the folks who are in favor of same-sex blessings have the votes to pass it at General Convention 2012” as if he is somehow not a part of “the folks” at issue! A classic—simply classic—attempt by the bishop and rector at the game of “Good Bishop, Bad GC Deputies”—do you think any of the parishioners remembered what Bishop Benhase actually believes and practiced back before he became bishop and recognizes the game that he is now playing? This is a man who consented to the election of a non-celibate gay priest as bishop, whose parish practiced communion of the unbaptized and same sex blessings, and had a partnered gay man on staff, and who presided over this revision to the Clergy Handbook in the Diocese of Georgia:
“Anglican” or “Continuing” Splinter Groups not part of TEC
These groups undermine the geographical authority of the bishop as defined in the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church and observed in historical Anglican practice. Therefore, no clergyperson from these groups may participate in any service of worship, and no joint services may be held with any congregation of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. Episcopal clergy of the Diocese of Georgia may not participate in any service held in or by these congregations except with written permission from the Bishop.
Back to the rector’s newsletter article:
A “Heads Up”
In 2003 I failed All Saints miserably by not preparing the parish for the outcome of that General Convention. I also failed you by failing to prepare myself, instead approaching that event with the mindset that all I would have to do to deal successfully with it would be to fulminate in its wake. I was wrong. I fulminated; we lost people from both sides of the issue; the congregation suffered. Hence this admittedly long excursion, which will not please everyone. Of course my door remains open to anyone who would like to discuss this further.
Back in 2004 after the 2003 election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, our diocesan convention created a new category within our diocesan canons: “Clerical Ethical Standards”, proceeding to place within that rather broad category only one canon:
Aspirants, Postulants, and those accepted to Holy Orders shall accept and conform to the lollowing standard: “Marriage between a man and a woman or abstinence from sexual activity are the only acceptable forms of sexual behavior for a Deacon, Priest or Bishop in the Diocese of Georgia.”
At the time we thought it stated what needed to be stated: that the Diocese of Georgia repudiated Gene Robinson’s election, and that the clergy of our diocese would remain celibate or chaste. If however, one reads it with the eye of an attorney, it deflnes the sacrament of Matrimony as “sexual behavior”. Further, with new national canons defining “sexual behavior” to include such things as hugs or kisses, our canon makes no allowance for single clergy who might be courting or engaged. It also prohibits my kissing or hugging any of y’all. Finally, if we intend to carry a category covering “clerical ethical standards”, should it not contain more than a solitary canon dealing solely with sexual behavior.
As such, Bishop Benhase appointed Yours Truly and Mr. Fred Richter to co-chair a commission to revisit our canon. Fred and I became close lriends while serving on the Diocesan Search Committee. There is no finer churchman anywhere than Fred, a true gentleman who has lived faithfully with his partner for over thirty five years.
As we began our meetings, it soon became apparent in talks with all six Clericus groups in the diocese (“clericus” meaning the clergy in one of our six convocations), that the underlying issue which would surface immediately it we recommended any change at all to our diocesan canon is the blessing ol two people of the same gender. As General Convention has not ruled on this, our committee thought it folly to open debate on a subject as yet to be voted on by the national body. Indeed neither before nor after Gene Robinson’s election, has our diocese (not to mention our parish) had the opportunity to discuss same sex blessings in any formal or informal way without the threat of debate or vote.
Bishop Benhase met recently with our southwestern clergy (Valdosta, Moultrie, Quitman, Thomasville and Bainbridge),telling us he feels sure the folks who are in favor of same-sex blessings have the votes to pass it at General Convention 2012. He also said that the liturgy for this rite (at this time) resembles so closely the marriage rite in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer that he would never in good conscience vote for it. Should it pass GC in the current form, it would be placed in a collection of liturgies which require the bishop’s permission for a priest to use, which permission he would not give. Further, under current Georgia law, same-sex marriage cannot/does not exist.
Our committee voted unanimously not to recommend any changes to our canon at this time, but urged the Bishop to “initiate a disciplined and wide-ranging dialogue in the diocese on this issue, perhaps highlighted at Diocesan Convention 2012”, hoping that such discussion might better prepare (not necessarily please) us for what very well may happen this coming summer at General Convention - recognizing that no matter how the Convention votes, a large segment of the Church will not be happy.
At a recent Vestry Meeting, one of our members put me on the spot: “Should General Convention approve a same-sex blessing liturgy that Bishop Benhase could support, could you ever preside at a same-sex blessing?”
He answers that question in this way:
Should I ever be approached by two individuals of the same sex desiring such a blessing, at least one of whom being a member of the parish; should the General Convention pass a same-sex blessing rite that would clearly preserve the distinctions between a blessing and Holy Matrimony; should Bishop Benhase approve the use of that rite; and should he, our Vestry and me be in complete agreement about this, then I can see presiding at such a Blessing upon that couple’s intention to live faithfully together.
He closes with the vacuous and wholly demolished assertions that most revisionists claim about Holy Scripture’s teachings, and some jingoistic clanging of the “my Church right or wrong” bell—but that’s the same old drearily-intoned gospel that we’ve heard so many times before and easily read for yourself.
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