As more pre-convention information is floated into the electronic ether, the shape and face of the upcoming triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church is becoming ever more clear. And it is not a pretty sight.
One proposed resolution, DO13, seems to say it all in regard to illustrating TEO's view of the world. This resolution in its opening paragraph seeks that the General Convention affirm TEO's membership in the Anglican Communion and support of whatever it was that happened at Lambeth 2008. (Does this include the boycott and non-participation of many orthodox Bishops? Hmmm.) In its second paragraph, the resolution also seeks affirmation of TEO's "distinctive polity and charism" that "requires" TEO to include LGBT persons "in all orders of the ministry." Yes, TEO business as usual - we want to hold on to the brand-name "Anglican", but we don't want to play by the rules while doing so.
The LGBT agenda will be fully realized at GenCon 09. No fewer than eight resolutions have been filed so far seeking in various forms that GenCon 06 Resolution BO33 either be rescinded outright, or a declaration be made that no one is bound by it. No fewer than four resolutions have been submitted directing the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music to develop rites and blessings for same-sex unions and present them at GenCon 12. Some reference inclusion of such rites in the "occasional Services" book, but others seem to intend actual inclusion in the Book of Common Prayer. Another resolution, CO28, seeks that all marriage rites be revised to use gender-neutral language.
What else? CO01 seeks to amend Title III, Canon 1, Section 2 to include "gender identity or expression of gender identity" as prohibited bases for discrimination in admission to the discernment process for entry into the ministry. CO61 echoes this proposal. CO04 seeks affirmation that there is no restriction on a Diocesan Bishop allowing blessings of same-sex marriages. CO25 seeks that parish priests be required to register civil unions along with marriages. And CO55 generally seeks support for people in same gender relationships.
Another set of resolutions seek to codify TEO's political activism on behalf ofLGBT causes. CO23 proposes a rejection of the proposition that same-sex unions have a detrimental effect on traditional marriage, seeks an effort to repeal the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, and an effort to campaign against state level anti-same-sex marriage laws. CO48 seeks support for the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a substantial broadening of Federal anti-discrimination laws to include all of the LGBT proposals. DO12 is similar but less specific.
I have little doubt there will be many more such resolutions by the time the Convention convenes in Anaheim. My prediction is that all of this agenda will be passed in some form or fashion, and TEO on the far side of the Convention will be working to amend the BCP and/or Book of Occasional Services to include same-sex rites, and to render all language gender-neutral. BO33 from GenCon 06 is toast, despite Rowan Williams' warnings to the contrary. And TEO will have become what will be essentially a political action committee for the LGBT legislative agenda in Congress and state legislatures.
It is in another aspect of this General Convention that this all takes on a more sinister appearance. Remember the amendments being proposed to the Title IV disciplinary Canons? What is being presented as a needed reorganization of the disciplinary Canons into a format similar to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and/or other professional disciplinary codes, is also being contemplated by TEO leadership as making it far easier for them to impose church discipline on orthodox Bishops and clergy, thus completing their iron-fisted grip on the national church. The overall, abiding intent of the proposed amendments is to make it easier for the national church to push discipline and conformity with their view of what TEO should be.
A very good example may be found in a very small change to the "abandonment of communion" canon. As you probably know by now, the "abandonment of communion" canon is the one most frequently applied by the High Priestess to try to take out her enemies from the orthodox side of the aisle. "Abandonment of Communion" is now defined by three different actions: (1) an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of this Church, or (2) by formal admission into any religious body not in communion with same, or (3) by exercising Episcopal acts in and for a religious body other than this Church. Because (2) and(3) are fairly well-defined, clause (1), the "open renunciation" clause, is the one usually used by the Priestess.
Now let's look at the Title IV amendment to this section. It adds a fourth way to abandon communion: "(iv) IN ANY OTHER WAY." (my emphasis). Does anyone see any opportunity for abuse with this wide-open amendment? Add to this the knowledge that clergy can be charged with abandonment even for matters within what they teach locally, i.e., in their sermons, in Bible Study or Sunday School class, or in private discussions with parishioners, the possibilities for being charged with "abandonment of communion" suddenly become endless. What if a Priest expresses his or her concern or disagreement with same-sex marriage, based upon Biblical teachings? What I am suggesting is that said Priest could be charged with "abandonment of communion" once these changes go through.
Once BO33 is repealed, and once the amendments are made to the liturgy, those become part and parcel of the "Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship" of TEO. That being accomplished, any clergy who disagree with same-sex blessings or marriages, or who refuse to perform one, could theoretically be charged and inhibited, and even defrocked, for "abandonment of communion." Given the scorched-earth policies of 815 under the High Priestess, the mind boggles at how far she may be planning to go once these amendments are in place. In other words, the ability of those who espouse an "inside strategy", to fight the apostasies of TEO from within, may suddenly find that their legs have been cut from beneath them when they are forcibly removed from their Episcopal posts and careers.
One need only remember the treachery shown by TEO if there is any doubt of the lengths to which they will go to consolidate their power. Remember that TEO forced the Diocese of Virginia to renege on a stand-still agreement and institute litigation against eleven parishes and their individual Priests, Wardens and Vestries. Remember that TEO in Connecticut, through its captive Bishop, walked into a church office, confiscated computers and records, changed the locks, and forcibly threw a congregation and priest out. Remember that TEO in central New York has accused Fr. Matt Kennedy and his congregation of theft in its quest to seize every asset that congregation had. Remember other accusations of dishonesty and theft levelled against clergy who dared defy TEO. Remember those events, and it is not at all difficult to imagine where the High Priestess and her minions might go with these new amendments.
What can those who remain in TEO do? I fear, ultimately very little can be done. The LGBT forces and their allies have been consolidating in anticipation of this moment for a long time. The best hope to stymie them is to talk with convention Deputies from your Diocese and show them the big, horrifying picture into which they are walking. They will be told that the LGBT resolutions are all about "fairness and equality", but they will not be shown how those will be used in combination with disciplinary cannons to canonically execute any orthodox resistance. Demand of them some serious thought and analysis of where this whole thing is going, and demand of them that they go into this convention with their eyes wide open.
And always, ever remember, that ACNA, among other options, is out there for orthodox Anglicans when they have finally had enough. God will not abandon His faithful. Stand Firm.