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Jun 26, 2015

Bishop Doyle on Marriage Resolutions

This article appeared in Center Aisle today at General Convention.

 

A proposal has been made to change the canon on marriage. This is the latest in a long line of attempts to bring resolution to inclusion of LGBT members of our Episcopal family. It will not ultimately bring resolution and will only prolong the debate on this issue, cause continued anxiety, and give no end in sight to a debate we have engaged for over 30 years. The problem is that it would put the canon in conflict with the Book of Common Prayer, which the Constitution mandates for use in all dioceses and which cannot be altered or amended except pursuant to a constitutional process.

 

The issue lies in the relationship between the Constitution and the Canons. It is essential that we uphold our Constitution and our Canons in all things. It is essential because everything from court cases regarding property, our ordinal, to Title IV cases are dependent upon the synchronicity between the Constitution and the Canons and the hierarchy these undergird throughout the Church. The Constitution itself sets forth the basic articles for the governance of this Church. This is clearly stated in the preamble.

 

We are an ordered Church. We have a hierarchy. The Constitution establishes the basic polity of our Church. It reminds us that our General Convention itself is bound by this Constitution. The Constitution establishes the basic polity of our Church: General Convention (its two houses), the election of bishops, the dioceses, the provinces, and the use of the Book of Common Prayer are all duly authorized. It is here that resides our liturgy and the nature of marriage as found in the Book of Common Prayer.

 

This probably sounds really hierarchical and maybe even Roman. The reality is that in our particular dispersed mission at the local level; our mutual discernment between lay, clergy, and bishops at Convention; our dependence upon dioceses to oversee a great deal of our ministry – this is what we hang our hierarchy upon. It is in this Constitution and our canonical dependence upon it, our General Convention’s work in governance, and our ministry as a wider Church that we are ultimately dependent. To undo our canonical dependence upon the Constitution is to become unmoored at the very core of what orders this Church.

 

Yes, under the Constitution the Book of Common Prayer can be revised, but as you know it requires a very serious consideration and process, including 1) the passing of an amendment at one General Convention, 2) publishing it to every diocesan convention, and 3) adopting it at the next succeeding General Convention by the vote of both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, voting by orders. This is how important and core the Book of Common Prayer and the Constitution are to the Episcopal Church. By definition, they cannot be effectively amended, repealed or suspended by the clergy or by a canon.

 

It is so important that according to Title IV.3.1(2), a clergy person can be disciplined for knowingly violating the Constitution. Here is the kicker: If the General Convention is not willing to respect the Constitution, we might well ask what standing does the Constitution then have? It is always and everywhere in the Constitution and Canons understood that the two shall always be in sync; furthermore, that the Constitution shall be amended first.

 

Over the last six years, I have worked to bring about reconciliation in the Diocese of Texas. I have worked to create an expansion of our commons to allow for same-sex blessings – which we now do. I am working with clergy in the Diocese to move us into a place of reconciliation where we heal our history and are welcoming and including to all people. We must live with difference theologically, and celebrate our diversity. I have hoped to create a peaceful commons for all people and feel this is my faithful mission. I will continue this work no matter what happens at General Convention.

 

As a bishop and on behalf of all the people I shepherd, what does it matter to have gained this canonical change if in the end the Church’s order is lost in its doing? For the conservative and for the liberal, for the heterosexual and our LGBT family members of my Diocese, what happens if in the end we undo the very Church we love for the sake of expediency?

 

We arrive at this constitutional crisis not because of some idea I have had, but because the committee has not fully undertaken its charge. It has not done the work it needed to do. It admits it has not consulted and communicated with our Anglican brothers and sisters, and here it is clear that it has not undertaken the work in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of the very Church we all love and which has taught us to love one another.

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