I spent most of the weekend at our diocesan annual council. I was braced for conflict, with resolutions flying about with all sorts of flame-throwing adjectives contained therein. happily, this was not how it turned out. The rhetoric was tempered, the resolutions were middle-of-the-road, with a focus on working together despite our differences, and comments were more mild in tone than in past years.
Here's the resolution that was the final result on the issue of working through our differences on the issue of human sexuality and the Church's response to it:
R-17s (substitute for R-1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15)
Adopted by the 211 th Annual Council. Text pending final review.
Whereas, We in the Diocese of Virginia, members of the Episcopal Church in the United State of America and members of the Anglican Communion, united in Christ, called to live out our witness, are “gathered in the spirit” and moved by thanksgiving for the many gifts that mark our life together now, and over the last 400 years; and
Whereas , The Lambeth Conference and Windsor Report have called us to acknowledge and respond with compassion and understanding to the pain and suffering of those who, because of their sexual orientation, endure marginalization and rejection; and
Whereas , The bonds of affection and civility within the Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church in the United States, and the Diocese of Virginia continue to be strained as a result of the actions of the General Convention in 2003; and
Whereas , Bishop Lee, through his leadership, honesty, integrity and sincerity, models grace and civility in the midst of disagreement; and
Whereas , Bishop Lee, Bishop Jones and Bishop Gray provide witness to our unity in Christ in their efforts to keep us in relationship to one another; and
Whereas, One of the historic strengths of our Anglican tradition is our capacity to hold together persons with different, even conflicting, emphases in their understanding of the gospel; and
Whereas, We are defined by our mission in Christ to the world and not by the disagreements that lead us to focus on our internal life; now therefore be it
Resolved, That, for the purpose of advancing mission and the spread of Christ’s kingdom, the Diocese of Virginia commits itself to seek the highest degree of communion possible with those members of the Body of Christ with whom we find ourselves in disagreement, and will make every effort to cooperate as co-laborers in the Episcopal Church of the United States of America within the Anglican Communion; and, be it further
Resolved, That, we commit to attend to our differences in a spirit of listening to one another, in order to witness to unity in Christ’s mission; and be it further
Resolved, That, following the model of Bishop Lee, Bishop Jones and Bishop Gray, we commit ourselves to seek always to be respectful of one another and to stand together at the foot of the cross.
It was a masterful piece of wordsmithing - as you can see, it combined a number of other resolutions, some of which were pretty inflammatory in tone - and attempts to amend it to reintroduce those elements were soundly defeated. Now all we have to do is live it.
Whether the relative lack of armwrestling and poking out of eyes at this council is a result of folks being tired with this whole battle, I don't know. I do know, though, that most of us want to focus first and foremost on doing the good work of the people of God. This discussion is important, but it's not the only thing we are called to address. The last I checked, there were still a lot of poor people, and hurting people, and struggling people. We have work to do, rather than fight each other. General Convention in June may fan the flames once again, and we may still see schism, but I'm hoping and praying we'll continue to talk rather than walk away from each other. I guess you can call me Pollyanna.
The bishop called for the election of bishop coadjutor, essentially a bishop-elect, who will co-lead with him as part of the transition to his retirement in 2010. Right after I get ordained, God willing - hard to tell what the impact of that might be, but change, particularly after having Peter Lee as our bishop for 20-plus years, will be difficult.
One of the great joys of the council was a series of meditations and a sermon by the Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones. Brilliant. One of those very soft-spoken but powerful preachers. Everyone was sitting on the edge of their seats listening intently to his message of love and reconciliation. We Episcopalians are not known for our preaching. This bishop is the exception to the rule, and what a gift his preaching was to us.
Other more personal good news: I'm now on the calendar for the March meeting of the diocesan Commission on Ministry, and we finally were able to set up a meeting with my COM representative, who's been out of pocket for several weeks. Now if I can just get my PDC Chair to finalize his report and get the vestry to sign off, life will be much easier. Oh, and I've got a date for my seminary interview - two days after I come back from the mission trip with StrongOpinions, so I hope I'm not too fried.
Last but not least, StrongOpinions completed qualifying for snowboarding nationals in two disciplines this weekend. Plus she won a week at snowboarding camp in Oregon. Yowza!