General Convention Update

Though in the midst of quite a lot of general busy-ness (yes, I owe several people emails–forgive me!) I wanted to at least say a few words on the current progress of General Convention and some resolutions that are near and dear to my heart…

Communion Without Baptism

There were two resolutions up that dealt with CWOB. One from Eastern Oregon, C040 [PDF], wanted to get rid altogether of the canon requiring Baptism before Eucharist; the other from North Carolina, C029 [PDF], wanted a “study” of the issue (costing $30,000…). To my surprise, these were both assigned not to the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music Committee but to the Evangelism Committee. In all fairness, there was quite a lot assigned to PBLCM and I know that folks of the Ecumenism Committee had asked to review these but this is where they ended up. As I read it, if either of the resolutions had a chance of passing in any of the three committees, passage was more likely to occur in Evangelism: Ecumenism would have shot it down right quick and I suspect something similar would have happened in PBLCM. Despite my fears, the Evangelism folks made some good preliminary moves.

According to my sources, the Eastern Oregon resolution was a complete non-starter. The original text was scrapped and new text was drafted for it reiterating Baptism as the ancient and normative path to Eucharist but recognizing that in some places there is an exercise of pastoral sensitivity with the non-baptized. However, titles can’t change on resolutions meaning that this new resolution—whatever its text might have said—would still have been titled “Open Table” which would undoubtedly lead to confusion on the floor. Thus, they addressed the NC resolution. The committee apparently didn’t feel that with all the budget and structural woes that $30K for a study of CWOB was worthwhile. So, keeping the title, they scrapped some or all of the original text of C029 and imported the new paragraph they had written before.

This is really good news. In the most favorable setting for its passage, the resolution calling for abolition of the canon preventing CWOB was scrapped. The new text affirms Baptism as the ancient and normative practice of the Church prior to Eucharist. I wholeheartedly agree! What concerns me is how the language around pastoral practice will get shaped.

Nobody wants to see a communion rail lock-down; that’s just silly. What needs to be avoided, though, is any sense that Baptism is somehow optional. If we invite any and all to the Eucharist then we have precisely made Baptism optional. That’s not a pastoral practice, that’s deliberately turning our backs on the theology of the Prayer Book and the consistent witness of the Church up until the late 20th century.

What I would love to see in any discussion of pastoral discretion with regard to CWOB is the word “individual.”

The message that the resolution would send, then, is to say that pastoral discretion may be warranted in specific individual and unusual circumstances. A general call to any and all is not pastoral—nor is it evangelism; rather, it salves the consciences of those who want to see themselves as inclusive, but who don’t want to do the work of setting healthy boundaries and inviting all comers within those boundaries through the proper protocols (i.e., Baptism with water in the name of the Triune God).

If the word “individual” is omitted, then I’m concerned that such a resolution mentioning pastoral responses may be seen as permission to flout the canon without regard for our theological and sacramental integrity.

Holy Women, Holy Men

Bishop Martins made an attempt to get HWHM stricken from trial use at all in the next triennium. It failed, but what is currently up for a vote is definitely the next best thing!

The revised version of A051 [PDF] sends HWHM back to the Standing Commission for Liturgy and Music for further revision. In particular, it calls for clearer adherence to the 2006 guidelines. Now, personally, I think that adherence to 2006 is not enough; I’d like to see the 2006 guidelines merged with the 1994 guidelines as I said a while back.

Coincidentally, I’ve been reading a fascinating book by Robert Campany: Making Transcendents: Ascetics and Social Memory in Early Medieval China. One of my good friends from high school with whom I studied Japanese is a professor of Asian Religion now. He recommended this work to me knowing my interests in martial arts, qi gong, and cross-cultural asceticism. Campany looks less at particular ascetical practices and more at the discourse of, about, and around early medieval Chinese transcendents (aka “Taoist immortals”). His methodological chapters, in particular, pointed back to Peter Brown’s seminal work on “the holy man” in Christian Late Antiquity and to other scholars working on social memory and sanctity. Naturally, I couldn’t help reading this with a third of my brain focusing on the text at hand, a third of it considering how Sulpicius Severus uses both similar and different language about Martin of Tours in not just the Life but the additional epistles, and a third thinking about our current use/construction/modification of social memory and sanctity in HWHM… It makes me wonder how rigorously the whole enterprise has been approached from this angle.

In any case, the reformed version of A051 no longer presents HWHM for its first reading at the 2015 General Convention and sends it back for more work.

Forward Movement Prayer Site

Not really a resolution but something that has been sucking up a lot of my time is a new initiative unveiled at General Convention. Forward Movement is re-launching their web presence and one part of it is the new Daily Prayer site. This web app not only offers their signature Forward Day by Day devotional reading but also the Daily Offices from the ’79 Prayer Book! If any of this sounds a bit familiar—it should; the back-end code is a simplified form of the St Bede’s Breviary.

Scott Gunn approached me shortly after being named Executive Director of Forward Movement and asked if I’d be willing to collaborate on this and I happily agreed. I said I’d do the back-end work if I didn’t have to do the front-end/interface and recommended for that one of my favorite co-conspirators who shall remain nameless unless they choose to reveal themself… :-)

A mobile app is also in preparation but I can’t say exactly when that’ll launch; I’ll let you know when it becomes available, though!

17 Replies to “General Convention Update”

  1. Congratulations Derek on the Forward Movement project. I have been looking forward to its unveiling.

    Are there revenue streams arising from this, e.g., from internet user hits of the Forward Movement Daily Prayer site, subscriptions, etc., which could then help support the good work over at St. Bede’s Breviary?

    Any hope for Anglo-Catholic preferences becoming available on the Forward Movement Daily Prayer site?

  2. The main revenue stream will be through the mobile app; a percentage of app sales will support my other work.

    It’s doubtful that any Anglo-Catholic options will be included in the Forward Movement site but in the final version there will be a link to the breviary noting that it gives more options.

  3. The version I’ve seen this morning has no qualifier on pastoral practice. If I were there, I’d vote no to leave the canon as it is. Calling Baptism ancient and normative is already what the Church says; we don’t want official permission to ignore it!

  4. To think of it in another way, knowingly giving communion to an unbaptized person constitutes a canonical offense, and we have a process to prosecute people who commit canonical offenses. As far as I can tell, this resolution decriminalizes that offense; it still is an offense, theoretically, but no one can be prosecuted for committing it. Is that basically it?

  5. The operative phrase in the version as of this moment is, “We also acknowledge that in various local contexts there is the exercise of pastoral sensitivity with those who are not yet baptized.” I don’t see any way to interpret this in any way different from Paul Goings’s reading: that though the rules say they need to be baptized, if a bishop/priest wants to ignore that rule, that’s OK.

  6. I am very pleased to have found your blog (and other good works). Reading through everything that I can find on C040, your blog is the only source that explains what happened on Monday. Very unnerving– was it really just another bit of business? Less titillating than transsexuals? Less dramatic than selling 815? Thank you for your sense of salience.

    This seems to be a struggle between those souls who hold sacred things with gravity and those others who do not and perhaps constitutionally cannot. Believers can safely trust the former, but never the latter. It is sad and perverse that this simulacrum of the Christian experience was seriously proposed as an aid to evangelism. If the Episcopal Church does not greatly strengthen pastoral respect for the relation between baptism and eucharist, then Episcopalians will continue to be robbed of the full significance for their lives of Jesus Christ. And there is no commission to offer less than the whole Christ to the world.

    The word “sacrament” is related to the Latin word for an oath, and trust, both vertical and horizontal, has always been its human psychological prerequisite. As you have shown elsewhere, the Episcopal Church does not need a new or better understanding of the sacraments. However, it does need to empathize with the whole range of the human emotions associated with the sacred, taking the sincere believer’s emotional intelligence seriously. In particular, it needs to know in its bones that fidgeting, or if you will “experimenting,” with the sacramental lives of others is evil because it betrays their trust. Only an ecclesial psychopath both does everything in its power to magnify the existential significance of the sacraments as a relationship with Jesus Christ, and then, as though nobody had actually built a life on this, plays games with them to advance ideological goals. In the sacraments, as in sex, you can’t have the emotional power of a relationship without grave responsibility –and the grave consequences of violating that responsibility. Believers know this intuitively; the jaded and heartblind perhaps cannot.

    I hope that C040 has been soundly defeated. Regretfully, I also hope that the bishop who promoted this error in East Oregon comes to see that such widespread disobedience to the canons in his diocese demonstrates a contempt for baptism that warrants a change in leadership– and discipline– there. If he does not see this, then I hope that a brother bishop will bring this for judgement to the House of Bishops. What has been said in testimony is gravely serious, and we should not whitewash organized disobedience as “pastoral flexibility.”

  7. The CWOB debate actually reminds me a bit of the direct ordination debate. IIRC that had noticeable support for several GCs, but it never succeeded in changing policy, and seems to have more or less died out. We’ll have to see if the same thing happens with CWOB.

  8. Unfortunately, I believe the present incumbent of the see in Eastern Oregon is Bavi Rivera, who is so liberal as to take her into the Snake river, or whatever watercourse is near.

  9. You have a lot of free time if you’re worrying about who gets to eat the Magic Wafer. You need to get lives.

  10. A few notes on C040, as I was at GC and also testified against the resolution:
    1. The number of people speaking against Open Table seriously outweighed those supporting.
    2. By the time a resolution gets to the House floor, its title is barely noticeable. The legislative calendar shows the resolution text far more prominently than the title.
    3. Additionally, there was no confusion over what people were voting for or against.
    4. The Deputies approved the original phrasing with the “We acknowledge…” sentence. It couldn’t get removed in the Deputies, but the Bishops did.
    5. The Bishops recognized the problem of passing a resolution that openly recognizes the practice of a canonical violation and this was a major part of their removal of the “We acknowledge…” clause.

    As for me, I’m happy with the final resolution. Study committees don’t change minds and the rationales have been over-discussed and over-published already. Whether or not the canon stays or is removed, I will keep insisting on Baptism first, not because of the canon, but because I think that it’s Biblically and theologically right.

  11. Granted that C040 was not, as Jason says, “Biblically and theologically right,” was there anything about it that Anglican liberals of the past might recognize as an improvement? One really has to force the mind to imagine them praising the dilution of a rite that acknowledges the individual.

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