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Welcome to Stand Firm!

Report of the Diocesan Task Force on Communion (diocese of the Rio Grande)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006 • 7:56 pm


(via email)

Forward from Task Force Convener

In response to the decisions of General Convention 2003, which proved Controversial within the Anglican Communion, the release of the Windsor Report by the Lambeth Commission on Communion, and in anticipation of various outcomes from General Convention 2006, Bishop Steenson formed a Diocesan Task Force on Communion to “help us live through this period in a Christ-like manner” and to “face this 1 a theologically faithful way, with a clear conscience, with charity, and without fear.”

We, the Task Force, have met eight times since December 2005 and have submitted this report and recommendations to Bishop Steenson, the Diocesan Council, the Standing Committee, and the Diocese as of August 15, 2006. Because Bishop Steenson has requested that the task force also be named the resolutions committee for Convocation 2006 and specifically asked us to drat resolutions for Convocation related to our findings, our report is in the form of a series of resolutions.

In brief, our process included the following steps:
>- We worked internally to define the “landscape” (current state and past history) of the Diocese as well as of the wider Church which the past two General Conventions have brought into heightened relief.
>- We interviewed a cross section of others in the Diocese to check and broaden our own perspectives.
>- We reviewed key documents including the Windsor Report and the Special Commission of the Episcopal Church, as well as a number of other reference materials.
>- We articulated potential scenarios prior to GC 06 and amended the list after Convention.
>- We reviewed canons pertinent to these scenarios
>- We drew out of these conversations implications for our common life.
>- We drafted resolution which speak to these scenarios
>- We articulated positives and concerns for each resolution.
>- We submitted our work to the bishop and others he believed could offer helpful critique prior to public dissemination of the work, such as diocesan and national Chancellors and our own Diocesan Canonist.
>- We sent the work to the Diocese.

Our next steps include a series of regional public meetings for laity as well as a set for clergy to review the report and invite discussion. Following these meetings, the task force will meet to consider and incorporate feedback from these public meetings prior to our Convocation in October. We will then submit the work to Convocation, along with other resolutions which have come to us from outside this task force. We will then function as the resolutions committee for Convocation. Following that time, our work will be concluded, according to the Charge we received from Bishop Steenson.

Our work has been both rewarding and challenging. We lost two members early on and gained two members several months into our process. Even with these changes in group composition, we were able to reach a level of depth and honesty in our conversation that was necessary to engage this work fully. The task force represents the breadth of theological perspectives within the Diocese, and we believe we have grappled with the issues facing the Diocese of the Rio Grande faithfully. It is our prayer that this work wil1 help this Diocese to move through the next chapter of our life in a Christ-like manner and engage with one another in a similar spirit of charity throughout the diocese.

In Christ,

The Rev. John A. Huffman+, Chair
And with deep thanks to God for the participation of the Task Force members:
The Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, Facilitator: Diocese of Colorado Ms. Diane Butler
The Rev. David Luckenbach The Rev. Shirley El1ingboe Mr. Richard Simpson
The Rev. Tom Woodward Mrs. Cindy Anderson, Esq.


Charge to the Task Force From Bishop Steenson and the Diocesan Council

I am grateful to you for your willingness to serve on what I shall provisionally call the Bishop’s Task Force on Communion (now know as the Diocesan Task Force on Communion). It is my hope that the Diocesan Council will soon make it their Task Force on Communion, so that the principal goal of this task force may be achieved, namely, to lead the Diocesan Convocation (Oct. 13-14,2006, in Carlsbad) in the consideration of those issues of communion that threaten the life and mission of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion so ominously. I will ask you to meet together as required and to hold conversations in the diocese with a view toward preparing our members for Convocation 2006. My intention in calling you together is to help us live through this period in a Christ-like manner. My sense is that we have reached a decisive turning point in the history of the Anglican Communion, and I want very much for our diocese to face this in a theologically faithful way, with a clear conscience, with charity, and without fear. The task force should expect that its work will be concluded at the end of Convocation.

I have asked the Rev. John Huffman to be your convener, and together with him you will chart the course of your work. Fr. John’s experience with a similar task force in the Diocese of Colorado will be an invaluable resource for you. I have also asked the Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, who facilitated that process in Colorado, to be available to you. It will be important that you agree with this basic organizational structure. Your expenses will be reimbursed per diocesan policies up to one meeting per month.

It will be necessary for you to become familiar with the sequence of events that has brought us to this point, and it is especially crucial to recognize the role of the so ¬called Windsor Report from the Lambeth Commission on Communion and be conversant with this text. You should not try to resolve the theological questions, even as the Windsor Report declined to do, but rather to engage this at the level of ecclesiology, specifically what should guide our diocese in relating to the interactions between the official Instruments of Unity in the Anglican Communion and the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

Please consider this charge as a negotiable work-in-progress. But here are some of the tasks that should be accomplished before our 2006 Convocation:

• Identify possible scenarios that may confront our Diocese and its congregations after General Convention 2006;
• Recommend specific courses of action our Diocesan Convocation may need to consider under each scenario; 
• Evaluate the merits of each course of action that may be taken;
• Advise our Convocation on how to respond should individual clergy and congregations decide to break communion with the Episcopal Church and/or the Diocese of the Rio Grande;
• Establish the sine qua nons, those conditions necessary to keep our congregations a part of the Diocese (e.g., DEPO provisions) and the Diocese to ECDSA;
• Draft resolutions for Convocation relating to your findings and recommendations;
• Create a code of conduct for our conversations.

Present Landscape Within Our Diocese
As the Task Force began its work it was felt necessary to delve into the past and present dynamics of the life of the Diocese in order to paint an accurate picture of where we stand as the people of God gathered as th~ Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande.

Such a picture, by its nature, contains elements that we will not all agree upon as being reflective of our experience in this Diocese. However, the Task Force intentionally did not seek to create a picture wherein every detail was agreed upon, but, rather one in which we could all look at our landscape and find a place or position that corresponded to our experience. To that end, after interviewing lay and clergy around the Diocese we were able to identify certain features that have been part of our corporate culture.

Though unified in our love of Christ, the Diocese of the Rio Grande currently experiences disjuncture on at least four levels: theological, ecclesiastical, geographical and interpersonal. Theologically, we disagree over the actions taken by The Episcopal Church’s 2003 and 2006 General Conventions. Ecclesiastically, we face the prospect of schism and realignment within the Anglican Communion, The Episcopal Church and/or the Diocese of the Rio Grande.

Geographically, we are isolated from one another. Thus, while the clergy remains collegial, parishes feel somewhat polarized. And, interpersonal relationships among the laity seldom cross theological or ecclesiastical lines.

Themes the Task Force Wishes to Highlight

Episcopacy:
1. Transitioning to greater level of transparency and healing
2. Transitioning from monarchical model to collegial model
3. Transitioning to an episcopacy that embraces all viewpoints as worthy of pastoral attention
4. Fractured relationships have led to loss of respect in parts of the Diocese

Geography:
1. Three major geographic areas that define our relationships: SW, SE, and the North
2. Geography affects the functioning of some Deaneries
3. Big Bend has no identity with the Diocese
4. Geography makes collegium difficult

Lay Involvement:
1. No intentional and consistent structure for interaction
2. No structure for training and supporting the ministry of the baptized
3. Lack of collegiality between clergy and laity
4. Lack of grounding in an Anglican ethos

Issues We Face:
1. Coming to consensus of what exactly we mean by “Biblical Authority”
2. A common understanding of the Gospel: Must inclusion and transformation be mutually exclusive understandings?
3. Missiology: No consensus as to whether it is “Christ in culture”, “Christ over culture” or “Christ against culture”.
4. Positional labels preclude critical thinking and engaged dialogue
5. Property issues are already upon us
6. “Rights” mentality instead of our obligations to one another
7. Trust eroded in some quarters under the last two episcopacies
8. Trust eroded between clergy and their bishop 9. Inconsistencies in control of diocesan funds
9. Past Standing Committees not transparent
10. Fear of turmoil and hardened positions that allow no win/win
11. Discomfort with engaging disagreement
12. Divisiveness burning out clergy and laity

Scenarios Facing Our Diocese After General Convention 2006
1. The 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church elects a new Presiding Bishop who voted to consent to the election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire and/or supports the development of rites for same-sex blessings .

2. The Archbishop of Canterbury and/or other Instruments of Unity within the Anglican Communion determine that the response of the 75th General Convention to the Windsor Report is inadequate.

3. Parishes and/or self-supporting missions within the Diocese of the Rio Grande decide that they cannot continue within the structure of The Episcopal Church.

4. Portions of parishes and/or self-supporting missions decide that they can continue in within the structure of The Episcopal Church.

Resolution Texts and Scenarios Addressed By the Diocesan

Task Force on Communion

Resolution One: “Christian Conduct in Convocation

Whereas the 54th Convention of the Diocese of the Rio Grande acknowledges that within our Convocation and in the life of this diocese there are faithful Christians who do not agree in their application of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason to many of the issues that confront us,

Therefore be it resolved that this 54th Convention of the Diocese of the Rio Grande commits itself to conduct its business with charity at all times, mutual affection for one another in Christ, and respect for one another in our speech and conversation.


Resolution Two: “Concerns about and Support for the Presiding Bishop-Elect”

Scenario Addressed: The 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church elects a new Presiding Bishop who voted to consent to the election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire and/or supports the development of rites for same-sex blessings.

Whereas the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church of the United States has elected as Presiding Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, who voted in General Convention 2003 to consent to the election and consecration of V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire; and who voted to affirm that the blessing of same sex unions is within the bounds of the common life of the Episcopal Church, and

Whereas the Presiding Bishop-elect, as Bishop of the Diocese of Nevada, has publicly advocated for same-sex blessing rites at Nevada diocesan conventions (2003, 2004), and

Whereas the Presiding Bishop-elect, as Bishop of the Diocese of Nevada, has given permission for such rites to be used in the Diocese of Nevada, and

Whereas the 51st convocation of the Diocese of the Rio Grande disassociated the Diocese of the Rio Grande from these specific decisions of General Convention 2003, and

Whereas it is the intent of the Diocese of the Rio Grande to comply fully with the responsibilities of communion articulated in the Windsor Report,

Therefore be it resolved that this 54th Convocation of the Diocese of the Rio Grande expresses its deep concern with the leadership of the Presiding Bishop-elect, and commits itself to prayer for the Presiding Bishop-elect, that the Presiding Bishop-elect will be a tireless guardian of the faith, unity, and discipline of the Episcopal Church, and

Be it further resolved that this 54th Convocation of the Diocese of the Rio Grande humbly and strenuously urges the Presiding Bishop-elect to embrace the specific recommendations of the Windsor Report, and

Be it further resolved that this 54th Convocation of the Diocese of the Rio Grande commend our own Bishop to invite the Presiding Bishop-elect to come to this diocese to listen to our concerns and our hopes and to explore with us ways of living together in charity and respect in the midst of disagreements over what we believe are essentials of our faith.


Resolution Three: “Reaffirmation of Teaching on Human Sexuality”

Scenario Addressed: The Archbishop of Canterbury and/or other Instruments of Unity within the Anglican Communion determine that the response of the 75th General Convention to the Windsor Report is inadequate.

Whereas previous Convocations of the Diocese of the Rio Grande have expressed support for the teaching and pastoral concerns expressed by the Lambeth Conference of Bishops in regards to human sexuality (Lambeth 1.10 see footnote two), and

Whereas the policy and practice to date of the Diocese of the Rio Grande has been consistent with that teaching, and

Whereas the 44th Convocation of the Diocese of the Rio Grande, in Resolution #3 (see footnote one), committed this diocese to the standard that “all its members are to abstain from sexual relations outside Holy Matrimony”, and

Whereas it is the stated intent and actual practice of our current bishop, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Jeffrey N. Steenson, to guide our diocese accordingly,

Be It Resolved that the 54th Convocation of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande hereby reaffirms such previous convocation resolutions and commends our Bishop, Standing Committee, and Diocesan Council to continue to order the life of this diocese in accordance with such policies and practices as are consistent with those resolutions and Lambeth 1.10 (see footnote two).

Footnote One: Resolution #3 “Sexual Behavior of Clergy”
Be It Resolved that all members of clergy of the Diocese of the Rio Grande, having subscribed to the Declaration required by Article VIII of the Constitution of the Episcopal Church, shall be under the obligation to model in their own lives the received teaching of the church that all its members are to abstain from sexual relations outside Holy Matrimony.

Footnote Two: Lambeth Resolution 1.10 Human Sexuality
This Conference:
(a) commends to the Church the subsection report on human sexuality;
(b) in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage;
(c) Recognizes that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;
(d) while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialization and commercialization of sex;
( e) cannot advise the legitimizing or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions;
(f) requests the Primates and the ACC to establish a means of monitoring the work done on the subject of human sexuality in the Communion and to share statements and resources among us;
(g) notes the significance of the Kuala Lumpur Statement on Human Sexuality and the concerns expressed in resolutions IV.26, V.I, V.IO, V.23 and V.35 on the authority of Scripture in matters of marriage and sexuality and asks the Primates and the ACC to include them in their monitoring process.


Resolution Four “Willingness to Explore a Communion Covenant”

Scenario Addressed: The Archbishop of Canterbury and/or other Instruments of Unity within the Anglican Communion determine that the response of the 75th General Convention to the Windsor Report is inadequate.

Whereas the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lambeth Commission on Communion, through its Windsor Report, has recommended to the Instruments of Unity the development of an Anglican Covenant that more explicitly stipulates the expectations of our common life as a communion of inter-dependence, and

Whereas the Primates of the Anglican Communion, meeting at Dromatine in February of 2005, have commended the proposals for such a covenant (sec. 9, the Dromatine Communiqué, see footnote one),

Be it resolved that the 54th Convocation of the Diocese of the Rio Grande commends our bishop, Standing Committee, and Diocesan Council to commit this diocese to participate in the process of developing such a covenant within the Anglican Communion.

Footnote One: Section 9 of the Dromantine Communiqué of February 2005
We welcome the proposals in Section C for the future development of the Instruments of Unity (viii), although we recognize that serious questions about the content of the proposal for an Anglican Covenant (ix) and the practicalities of its implementation mean that this is a longer term process. We were glad to be reminded of the extensive precedents for covenants that many Anglican churches have established with ecumenical partners, and that even within our Communion the Chicago/Lambeth Quadrilateral has already been effectively operating as a form of covenant that secures our basic commitment to scripture, the Nicene Creed, the two Sacraments of the Gospel and the Historic Episcopate. We therefore commend this proposal as a proj ect that should be given further consideration in the Provinces of the Communion between now and the Lambeth Conference 2008. In addition, we ask the Archbishop of Canterbury to explore ways of implementing this.


Resolution Five: “Consent to the Requirements of the Windsor Report”

Scenario Addressed: The Archbishop of Canterbury and/or other Instruments of Unity within the Anglican Communion determine that the response of the 75th General Convention to the Windsor Report is inadequate.

Whereas it is the intent of the Bishop, clergy, and laity of the Diocese of the Rio Grande to accept the responsibilities of communion as articulated in the Windsor Report, and

Whereas it is the intent of the Bishop, clergy, and laity of the Diocese of the Rio Grande to maintain communion with the See of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion,

Be it therefore resolved that the 54th Convocation of the Diocese of the Rio Grande commend the Bishop and Standing Committee of this diocese to abide by “a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until [and unless] some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges” (Windsor Report 134 see footnote one), and

Be it further resolved that the 54th Convocation of the Diocese of the Rio Grande commend the Bishop, Standing Committee, and Diocesan Council of this diocese to abide by a moratorium on the authorizing of all public rites of blessing of same-sex unions (Windsor Report 144 see footnote two).

Footnote One: Windsor Report Section 134
Mindful of the hurt and offence that have resulted from recent events, and yet also of the imperatives of communion - the repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ - we have debated long and hard how all sides may be brought together. We recommend that:
• the Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached in the events surrounding the election and consecration of a bishop for the See of New Hampshire, and for the consequences which followed, and that such an expression of regret would represent the desire of the Episcopal Church (USA) to remain within the Communion
• pending such expression of regret, those who took part as consecrators of Gene Robinson should be invited to consider in all conscience whether they should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion. We urge this in order to create the space necessary to enable the healing of the Communion. We advise that in the formation of their consciences, those involved consider the common good of the Anglican Communion, and seek advice through their primate and the Archbishop of Canterbury. We urge all members of the Communion to accord appropriate respect to such conscientious decisions
• The Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges.

Footnote Two: Windsor Report Section 144
While we recognize that the Episcopal Church (USA) has by action of Convention made provision for the development of public Rites of Blessing of same sex unions, the decision to authorize rests with diocesan bishops. Because of the serious repercussions in the Communion, we call for a moratorium on all such public Rites, and recommend that bishops who have authorized such rites in the United States and Canada be invited to express regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached by such authorization. Pending such expression of regret, we recommend that such bishops be invited to consider in all conscience whether they should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion. We recommend that provinces take responsibility for endeavoring to ensure commitment on the part of their bishops to the common life of the Communion on this matter.


Resolution Six: “For Those Departing The Episcopal Church”

Scenario Addressed: Parishes and/or self-supporting missions within the Diocese of the Rio Grande decide that they cannot continue within the structure of The Episcopal Church.

Resolved, that this 54th Convocation of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande adopts the following policy should one of its member parishes or self-supporting missions attempt to sever its relationship to the Diocese and the Episcopal Church:

1. It has been recognized as a communion issue by the four Anglican Communion Instruments of Unity (Anglican Consultative Council, Primate’s Meeting, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Lambeth Conference).

2. A decision to sever its relationship with the Episcopal Church must be made by at least two-thirds of the qualified voters of the congregation, at a duly convened meeting in accordance with its by-laws, and certified by the bishop or his representative.

3. The congregation must remain a part of the Anglican Communion, and participate as a constituent member in the life of a Diocese within a Province of the Anglican Communion. Further, said congregation must have a bishop or other judicatory representative of the receiving entity involved in the realignment.

4. The parish or mission must be legally incorporated, and its officers must formally release the Diocese of the Rio Grande from, and assume responsibility for, any and all obligations or liabilities that may result from the decision to leave the Episcopal Church, including costs of litigation that may result from legal actions taken by dissenting members of the congregation.

5. All obligations incurred up to the date of the congregation’s departure, including notes held by or secured by the Diocese and pension and insurance assessments for its clergy and staff must be satisfied, and the congregation must conduct a certified audit and submit it to the diocesan Treasurer.

6. In both the year in which the congregation departs the diocese and the year following, the congregation agrees to compensate the diocese an amount equal to 100% of the average annual fair share it had been assessed the previous three years. In the following year, the congregation agrees to compensate the diocese an amount equal to 75 % of the average fair share. In the following year, the congregation agrees to compensate the diocese an amount equal to 50% of the average fair share. Furthermore, beginning the following year, the congregation agrees to compensate the diocese on an annual basis for seven years thereafter, an amount equal to 25% of the average annual fair share it had been assessed. Any fair share arrearages up to this date must be paid. (See Footnotes)

7. The Diocese expects any congregation which chooses to leave the Episcopal Church will treat those who choose to remain in a fair and equitable manner, realizing the needs of those who remain for a basic level of support in order for them to continue their life.

8. Associated clergy who desire to depart with the congregation must immediately resign their orders in the Episcopal Church as prescribed by canon or be transferred to another bishop or ecclesiastical authority as prescribed by canon or in a manner approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Associated clergy who wish to remain in communion with the Episcopal Church are entitled to reasonable severance as approved by the bishop and Standing Committee.

9. The departing congregation may be permitted by the Diocesan Council to retain its name, so long as references to the Episcopal Church are removed from its articles of incorporation, signage, stationary, publications, etc.

10. The diocese and the congregation will covenant together to pray for each other, avoid criticizing each other, and cooperate insofar as possible in the work of the Gospel.

11. In cases where a portion of a congregation chooses to realign and a portion chooses to remain in the Episcopal Church, each portion will covenant together to pray for each other, avoid criticizing each other, and cooperate insofar as possible in the work of the Gospel.

12. Legal title to all real property of the congregation will be conveyed to the congregation by the Trustees of the diocese when all of the above policy has been fully complied with.

Footnote One: If at any point after the severing of the pastoral relationship has begun until the completion of 10 years, the departing congregation desires to restore a pastoral relationship with the Diocese of the Rio Grande, all financial obligations will be considered resolved.

Footnote Two: In extreme circumstances, either the diocese or the congregation can make a request to initiate a process to address mutual concerns about the utility of the proposed formula in the particular circumstance of the departing congregation and to achieve a more appropriate settlement.
Explanation
There are three general approaches that dioceses may consider when a member congregation becomes so alienated from the wider Episcopal Church that it seeks to sever its relationship with it.

(i) The status quo position holds that a parish’s attempted departure is illegal and that the threat of punitive measures against both clergy and vestry are a necessary deterrence. In the event that the parish decides to take its property and assents, the diocese pursues all available legal remedies to enforce its claims. The diocese invariably prevails in this dispute, but usually only after long and expensive litigation that weakens and embitters all parties and damages the Church’s reputation.

(ii) There has been at least one instance where a diocese attempted to renounce its claim on the real property of its parishes and attempted to convey titles to the individual parishes. Although many would argue that this is fair and reasonable, it appears that such an approach may be in conflict with canon law and expose the diocesan leadership to unacceptable risk if accused of breaching its fiduciary responsibilities.

(iii) A negotiated settlement that permits a congregation to retain real property acknowledges the applicability of both diocesan and national canons. It has been used successfully, for instance by the Diocese of Kansas with Christ Church, Overland Park. The terms of that settlement are similar to what is proposed above and have been scrutinized and approved by the Presiding Bishop’s office.  


Resolution Seven: “For Those Remaining Within The Episcopal Church”

Scenario Addressed: Portions of parishes and/or self-supporting missions decide that they can continue in within the structure of The Episcopal Church.

Whereas the 54th Convocation of the Diocese of the Rio Grande acknowledges that for many in this Diocese the actions of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2003 and 2006 are an accurate reflection of their understanding of the Gospel, and

Whereas the 54th Convocation of the Diocese of the Rio Grande desires to interact with the greatest degree of charity toward those who may find themselves in a minority position in a parish or mission that votes to leave the Episcopal Church and/or Diocese (Exodus Resolution), and

Whereas many of these same fellow-Christians will prefer to remain within The Episcopal Church if said Church must either accept a reduced role or no role at all, within the Anglican Communion,

Be it therefore resolved that the 54th Convocation of the Diocese of the Rio Grande adopt the following policy for pastoral and Episcopal care:

1. Once a Parish or Mission of the DRG has met the vote requirements to leave the Episcopal Church, the Bishop shall appoint a joint task force made up equally of those staying within The Episcopal Church and those leaving. The Bishop shall also appoint an arbitrator to work with the parochial task force. The task force shall work with the arbitrator to reach agreement on the following:
a. Adequate pastoral and sacramental ministry for those remaining.
b. Adequate physical space in which to conduct worship.
c. Adequate liturgical tools with which to conduct worship (vestments, prayer books, altar vessels, etc.)
d. Adequate financial provision to ensure continued ministry and mission viability.
e. Equitable division of memorials and restricted endowments.

2. A copy of the audit submitted to the Diocesan Treasure shall also be made available to the task force.
3. Those remaining and those leaving the congregation will covenant with one another to pray for one another, refrain from criticizing one another, and will commit to cooperate with one another as far as possible in the work of the Gospel. 

A Critique of Each Resolution Offered by The Diocesan Task Force on Communion

Resolution One: “Christian Conduct in Convocation”
~ Resolution one speaks for itself

Resolution Two: “Concerns about and Support for the Presiding Bishop-Elect”
Positives
~ Offers an opportunity for members of the DRG to publicly express their concerns about the ministry of the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts-Schori
~ Commits the Diocese to praying for the PB elect
~ Reiterates our desire to be a Windsor compliant Diocese and invites the PB elect to do likewise.
~ Indicates a desire to build a relationship with our new PB
~ Indicates our desire to live together in charity and respect in the midst of disagreements.

Concerns
~ Does not address the listening process as part of our full compliance with the Windsor Report: “Finally, we recommend that the Instruments of Unity, through the Joint Standing Committee, find practical ways in which the ‘listening’ process commended by the Lambeth Conference in 1998 may be taken forward, so that greater common understanding might be obtained on the underlying issue of same gender relationships. We particularly request a contribution from the Episcopal Church (USA) which explains, from within the sources of authority that we as Anglicans have received in scripture, the apostolic tradition and reasoned reflection, how a person living in a same gender union may be considered eligible to lead the flock of Christ. As we see it, such a reasoned response, following up the work of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (USA), and taken with recent work undertaken by the Church of England[94] and other provinces of the Communion, will have an important contribution to make to the ongoing discussion.” (WR 135) 
~ Expresses facts that concern members of this Diocese without first sending our greetings, prayers, and blessings to our new Presiding Bishop.
~ Invites Bishop Jefferts-Schori in spite of the fact that past decisions she has made raise deep concern for many in the Diocese
~ Does not express the great joy experienced by some in our Diocese over her election.
~ Omits sending our greetings and blessings to our new Presiding Bishop


Resolution Three: “Reaffirmation of Teaching on Human Sexuality”

Positives
~ Gives an opportunity for the Diocese to express our support for Lambeth 1.10 as the teaching of this Diocese

Concerns
~ There are those within our Diocese who are living in relationships which are contrary to the teaching of Lambeth 1.10 and believe those relationships to be holy and life giving.


Resolution Four: “Willingness to Explore a Communion Covenant”

Positives
~ Commits the Diocese to participating in developing an Anglican Communion Covenant.
~ Developing an Anglican Covenant offers a way forward in the face of significant disagreements about the Faith.
~ Does not commit the Diocese to submitting to the demands of a Covenant but rather commits the Diocese to participate in the development of a Covenant.

Concerns
~ The participation of a Diocese, apart from its Province, in the Anglican Communion, is unprecedented, debatable, and perhaps impossible
~ Participating in a Covenant may include unintended consequences that we would find objectionable, such as the reversal of women’s ordination and the permissibility of remarriage after divorce, given that some Anglicans around the world are more restrictive on these issues
~ Adds an additional criteria for membership in the Anglican Communion


Resolution Five: “Consent to the Requirements of the Windsor Report”

Positives
~ Expresses common ground with General Convention by affirming the spirit of B033: “Resolved, That the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report’s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further Resolved, That this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.”
~ Demonstrates compliance with Windsor 134 and 144.
~ Express a desire to maintain Communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion.

Concerns
~ Whether the assessment of “inadequate” is an intermediate assessment or a final conclusion
~ Does not honor the expectations of Lambeth 1.10 and Windsor Report 135 that we commit ourselves to initiating and providing oversight for a listening process: “recognizes that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;” (Lambeth 1.1O)
~ Parts of this Diocese do not agree with or support the moratoria.

Resolution Six: “For Those Departing The Episcopal Church”

Positives
~ Establishes a mechanism for allowing congregations to leave the Diocese with minimal conflict and forfeiture.
~ Provides a model for addressing the immediate and short term financial needs of a Diocese facing declining assessment income as a result of departing congregations.
~ Attempts to avoid civil litigation that might compromise the witness of the Church to the world.

Concerns
~ Encourages bishops to intervene across provincial lines in ways which contradict both the Archbishop of Canterbury’s and the Windsor Report’s counsel to observe provincial jurisdictions.
~ May conflict with Title I, Canon 7, sections 4-5 of the national canons, asserting The Episcopal Church’s claim on property: “Sec. 4. All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission or Congregation is held in trust for this Church and the Diocese thereof in which such Parish, Mission or Congregation is located. The existence of this trust, however, shall in no way limit the power and authority of the Parish, Mission or Congregation otherwise existing over such property so long as the particular Parish, Mission or Congregation remains a part of, and subject to, this Church and its Constitution and Canons. Sec. 5. The several Dioceses may, at their election, further confirm the trust declared under the foregoing Section 4 by appropriate action, but no such action shall be necessary for the existence and validity of the trust.”
~ Financial compensation to the Diocese may not be sufficient to fund mission and program of the Diocese and meet the needs of the remaining congregations.


Resolution Seven: “For Those Remaining Within The Episcopal Church”

Positives
~ Establishes a task force and a basic level of financial support to assist those who remain, pursuant to Resolution 6, paragraphs 7, 11, and 12
~ Supports the mission of the Church to resolve disputes in a congregation in an overtly Christian manner

Concerns
~ Establishes no financial benchmarks for the support of those remaining within The Episcopal Church


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Comments:

I’ll get it going….

Res 1) Nice start.  Hope Dispatch gets it on the floor right at the very beginning of convocation.  If this doesn’t pass, the rest is in big trouble (see my note on Res 7.3 below).

Res 2) Risky, as noted in the commentary.

Res 3), 4), 5) Excellent referrals to business already resolved in the diocese, recognizing that beliefs and praxis of bishops, and maintained ratios in the diocese have not changed.

Res 6) Highly commmend the committee for the thorough and hard work necessary to put the 12 sections into play, based on 2/3 majority vote for departure (otherwise, I presume, you simply walk out the door without assets).  I especially appreciate the “strings attached” approach required of the “departing” group to the “staying” group.  Recognizes validity of exisiting relationships, attempting to mitigate “brother against brother”, etc.

Res 7)  Same as 6.  The “joint task force” is an exceptional idea that will not sit well with those who feel that they are leaving because they don’t want to be “guilty by association.”  That is, don’t look back.  But, then, they don’t have to be on the task force.

Then there is that last phrase which will be the presenting measuring rod of the ability to legislate amicable separations:

7.3. “Those remaining and those leaving the congregation WILL covenant with one another to PRAY for one another, REFRAIN FROM CRITICIZING one another, and WILL COMMIT to COOPERATE with one another as far as possible in the work of the Gospel.” (formatting mine)

Thus says convocation.  Naturally, as a life-long church member, priest, repeat GC deputy, etc., I am skeptical that 7.3 can be enforced or even marginally hoped for.  But I would enthusiastically vote for it, and speak in favor of it, if I were a member of DRG.

Good work, people.  May this be a template.

[1] Posted by Rob Eaton+ on 08-22-2006 at 09:19 PM • top

Okay, I’ll be the first, maybe, to comment this way:  This is HUGE!!  What a step toward agreeing to walk apart, with charity towards all as part of the formula!  This is a work in progress, to be sure, but these resolutions are significant in tackling the nuts & bolts issues of property, diocesan contributions, and more.

One question about the underlying assumptions of Resolution 6:  Are revisionists who choose to walk apart from the conservative Diocese of the Rio Grande to also be considered leaving the Episcopal Church, with the Diocese still being the Episcopal Church?

[2] Posted by Connie Sandlin on 08-22-2006 at 11:41 PM • top

I agree, this is HUGE.  I may be overly optimistic, but I see the strings attached approach to a leaving parish (Res 6) as a means of letting a reasserting parish leave TEC and maintain ties to the diocese to allow it to stay active while waiting to see how things are going to play out (e.g., new province in the US, etc.).  The downside is that a parish that might have to give their obligation to the DofRG as well as their new Anglican home, which could cause financial hardships while waiting.  At any rate, I’d love to find a means for our parish to leave TEC without leaving the Diocese of SC and the Anglican Communion.  The DofRG may have found an answer.

[3] Posted by Tami on 08-23-2006 at 12:33 AM • top

Connie,
Good question.  As I read this “work in progress” it would appear the context is not just a congregation wanting to disassociate from DRG, but ultimately and intentionally from The Episcopal Church as a whole.
This is not a by-product kind of action being described.  Your question seems to imply that the action of departing from a diocese ALSO automatically means departure from TEC, like a secondary consequence.

In order to steer clear of that option to your scenario, if I was a part of this Task Force and was asked your question, I think I would simply suggest invoking the option of DEPO which would be your particular scenario; OR, after a two-thirds vote, the revisionist congregation chooses to leave the DRG completely in order to join DoC, DoA, or DWT (with the permission of their ecclesial authorities) —but only because the way had been paved by a generous and charitable diocese (DRG)!

Your turn—how would these resolutions be used to facilitate the departure of an entire diocese from TEC?

[4] Posted by Rob Eaton+ on 08-23-2006 at 02:10 AM • top

This is really really diasspointing. A step in the right direction, yes, but frankly not enough to convince AKinola or even to remain Christian.

The Secnarios at the top admit that ECUSA is no longer Christian, and that Christians cannot remain with ECUSA. But the rest of the resolutions give lie to this.

The diocese is not ask even for APO; rather they remain within ECUSA and recognise the PB-Elect. That is disguisting when they have just said she is not Christian!

Ditto resolution 6 - the negotiated settlement. Why does it take 10 years to leave the dioecese? Why do Christians have to pay for 10 years to support the work of 815?  And Christian parishe don’t get their property for 10 years, or frankly for ever
(if a parish breaches resolution 7.3, what’s to stop the diocese saying “well you broke the agreement, so we still own the building for the next 7 years, we’re just chainging the locks,
and you’re new Revd Oakwyse is leading a clown mass next sunday).

This starts well, but it could have been so so much better.

They diocese could have amended its constitution to join the network and leave ECUSA, and let the chips fall where they may. To do otherwise is a huge faiure of courage.

[5] Posted by Sinner on 08-23-2006 at 04:12 AM • top

Sinner, for what its worth, Rio Grande IS in the Network already.

[6] Posted by Karen B. on 08-23-2006 at 05:07 AM • top

Karen, OK, but have they amended their constitution to be in the network and leave ECUSA?

And equally as importantly, have they removed the log in their own eye by taking action against such revisionistas that remain in their diocese?  All that stuff about “valid disagreements about tradition & scripture” doesn’t bode well, does it.

[7] Posted by Sinner on 08-23-2006 at 07:20 AM • top

Sinner,

The catch point here is that the network is still in and a part of the ECUSA (or TEC, or whatever).  They do not exist as a separate province yet, so there can be no ‘leaving’ TEC for the NACDP.  Otherwise, you make a valid point…the vote is with our feet, if the way gets too untenable.  And as you have indicated, for many, it has become untenable, given the many infractions of polity and doctrine that have surfaced in the past years.  I am in the Network, but I am not in TEC anymore, so actually my Network and AAC memberships are moot, since they exist for members of TEC.

[8] Posted by Chip Johnson+, cj on 08-23-2006 at 09:32 AM • top

Chip+, help me out. I thought the Network has both inside and outside members, with outside members very well represented on its steering committee. Most of the new Anglican churches I am aware of proudly display their ACN affiliation.

[9] Posted by Going Home on 08-23-2006 at 09:40 AM • top

This is a step in the right direction, but…

The idea of a continuing contributions to the Diocese by a departing church, based on prior contributions, is a loser unless the contributing parish can be assured that the Diocese is not going to contribute to national operations during that period. Otherwise, a departing orthodox member is going to be hard pressed to contribute to what he considers to be the work counter to the Gospel.

There is still a sense of denial in all of this. TEC is dead as an orthodox Christian body.  Those ACN Dioceses that are seeking APO are, as a practical matter, seeking to leaving TEC (Please, before anyone flames me, I understand the contrary and valid legal arguments and the importance of the “TEC has left us” position). The most vibrant orthodox TEC churches have left, or are in the process of leaving. In non-APO seeking Dioceses, many of the remaining individual orthodox members are leaving, or are considering leaving. The gig is up. Extracting substantial ransom for parishes requires the voluntary financial participation of parishioners, and I would be surprised if that happens.

[10] Posted by Going Home on 08-23-2006 at 10:05 AM • top

Timothy,

The Network DOES have inside and outside TEC membership.  The Common Cause Partners are those outside of the Episcopal hierarchy and polity.  My Province has applied, but is still on the ‘outside’ of the CCP ggroup.  And, yes, there is good representation across the board of leadership and advisors, but the thrust of the Network’s activities right now is focused on those inside TEC.  Your summary above is spot on.  Sorry if I seemed to muddy the waters today.

[11] Posted by Chip Johnson+, cj on 08-23-2006 at 10:11 AM • top

Fr. Rob, and anyone from DofRG who may have served on this task force or understands this better than I do -

The Bishop and the Diocese of the Rio Grande are aligned with ACN and the reasserters.  Those parishes who remain with the Diocese, as I’m reading, will be those who vote to be reasserting parishes.  Those revisinist parishes who vote by 2/3s to disassociate with the reasserters would be leaving the DofRG. The Diocese of the Rio Grande is still structurally part of TEC. So would disassociating parishes be considered to be leaving TEC or would that be the reasserting parishes?

[12] Posted by Connie Sandlin on 08-23-2006 at 06:50 PM • top

Connie,

You said, “Those parishes who remain with the Diocese, as I’m reading, will be those who vote to be reasserting parishes.”
Actually, once a diocese votes to be a Network diocese, it is understood that ALL congregations are now Network congregations. To reject that association (for whatever reason), the congregation would vote to NOT be an Network congregation.  Still in the diocese, mind you, but just not going along with the Network thing.

Resolution 6 says NOTHING about reasserter, revisionist, conservative, liberal, Via Media, Network, etc.  It reads to me to say, “If you want to leave the diocese with everything (assets and property), then you are voting to leave TEC.  You can do that but you have to have the super-majority, and you must search and be accepted by another (that is, non-TEC) Anglican province (otherwise, you just have to walk and leave the keys to those you leave behind).
That being said, it would appear from the scenarios that Resolution 6 is for congregations that can’t take TEC anymore, and Resolution 7 addresses those congregations that either don’t have any problem with TEC, or don’t feel called to disassociate.
The reality is that even in a conservative diocese congregations may still not want to be “Episcopalian” any more.  Thus, Resolution 6 speaks directly to these potential situations, where a “reasserter” parish wants to leave the “revisionistTEC, even it means separating from a “reasserter” diocese.

Just to say it again, Resolution 6 and 7 (and their scenarios) imply that revisionist congregations will NOT want to remove themselves from TEC, and thus from the diocese.
That’s why I said that DEPO might be the revisionist way to go if DRG remains intact as a reasserter diocese.

Clear as RG mud?

: )

[13] Posted by Rob Eaton+ on 08-23-2006 at 08:43 PM • top

One major ACN wrinkle. Our DRG SC and Bp are ACN. The Convocation has not voted for the diocese to be aligned with the ACN. How does this effect the resolutions?

[14] Posted by Bob Maxwell+ on 08-23-2006 at 09:49 PM • top

Bob,
You are so correct. I don’t think I said that myself, but it could have been implied.  Connie did say that and I should have caught it.  Basically, though, once the Standing Comm and the Bishop (and in DSJ our Council) move that way, the diocese could be considered “a member.”

NO MATTER, Bob, the committee was careful, as I read it, to not mention the Network.  So, despite the scenarios specific to GC2006, etc, that they themselves provided, Resolution 6 simply provides the - what has been up to now unspoken - process for “un-becoming” an Episcopal congregation.  Whether the diocese is officially ACN, or not.

I think CNY ought to take a close look at these resolutions.  What do you think, Raymond?

[15] Posted by Rob Eaton+ on 08-24-2006 at 01:51 AM • top

This is a pretty fascinating document that I imagine could serve as a helpful frame of reference in several situations—in the NYC and Camp Allen bishops meetings, and in various dioceses (I’m thinking of Virginia, personally).

I appreciate +Steenson’s foresight in convening this task force and the way they’ve obviously worked to build trust and respect among the various theological camps and focus on a solution instead of the battle.  It’s very refreshing reading in that sense.

I do agree with Connin, Rob E. and others that it’s very complicated to have something like this come out of a Network diocese.  This document seems to clearly link the future of the diocese to TEC (leaving the diocese is leaving TEC), thus seeming to suggest that the diocese (or at least this task force) is not envisioning a diocesan-wide solution such as requesting APO

Perhaps some of the issues of diocesan context and the mention of the previous bishop’s more “monarchical” style are one of the reasons for that?  This seems to be a diocese that is not looking for a top-down solution, but rather is following a bottom-up model. 

I think there’s a lot of interest and merit in the proposed resolutions as a stand alone.  But I do hope their is also some consideration being given to actions as a diocese that will make it unnecessary for dozens of congregations to go through a difficult and VERY costly separation process.

[16] Posted by Karen B. on 08-24-2006 at 03:34 AM • top

The only actions that a diocese can do to prevent separation processes are:

* join the network
* leave ECUSA
* summarily depose any clergy (and remove lay leaders) who are not Chrstians

all of these actions need to take place as soon as possible for a diocese to remain Christian.  The most important meeting next month is not the Windsor bishops, nor the Keanon “peace in our time” trip to theological Munich: it is the meeting of the Global South primates who have promised to provide final theological and strutcural solutions to ECUSA’s problems.  ECUSA parishes and diocese wishing to remain Christian should think well what they will do to preprate themselves for the decisions that meeting will surely require!

[17] Posted by Sinner on 08-24-2006 at 04:30 AM • top

The 1st presentation went as I expected: the clergy were polite, vocal and had suggestions. Bp. Steenson reported that 40+ had signed on to the Windsor Bp’s Consultation. The laity I met Saturday said that the volume or reappraiser comments overwhelmed those moderates and reasserters by speaking more than once before they had an opportunity to speak.

One suggestion was to combine resolutions 6 and 7 –I don’t think that’s possible as they are two different topics, or reverse their order. There were three additional resolutions from within the diocese. These are required to be sponsored by two clergy and two laity from each of the 4 deaneries, a total of 16 signatures,. One was for Alternate Primatal Oversight, another for the .007% to the Millennium Development Goals and the third for Equal Participation for Men and Women, gender equality throughout the diocese at all levels.

A fourth resolution is the result of tabling [on my motion] at last Convocation of a resolution to fund or send Deputies to future General Conventions. Last year we had no elections to hold, and I felt it was a waste of time.

[18] Posted by Bob Maxwell+ on 08-27-2006 at 07:47 PM • top

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