The Diocese of Georgia
is was a Windsor diocese. Looks like a new broom does indeed sweep clean. Their convention starts today.
Commission on Clergy Ethical Standards
The Bishop’s office in late 2011 received from the Clergy Ethical Standards Commission, which we co-chaired, a recommendation of “no change at this time” to the Diocese of Georgia’s Title IV Ethical Standards Canon (“Marriage between a man and a woman or abstinence from sexual activity are the only acceptable forms of sexual behavior for a Deacon, Priest or Bishop in the Diocese of Georgia.”). This report provides some context for that recommendation.
After honest and principled discussion of the canon, its background, as well as its inadequacies from the bishop’s perspective, commission members remained divided about how to proceed: to let it stand, to rescind it, or to alter it. Nor were we of one mind about its compatibility with the Episcopal Church’s Canons.
At that point in our work together we acknowledged a second issue, which effectively shifted our focus. Most commission members and the clergy who attended the six Clericus meetings we held to receive input from throughout the Diocese of Georgia thought that the criteria offered by the bishop for an acceptable canon (“holy, reasonable and enforceable?”) could not be satisfied until the more fundamental issue of a blessing rite for gay unions was addressed. Most participants in our clericus meetings were favorably disposed toward some form of rite of blessing, a position shared by most commission members as well.
That issue will be addressed at the Episcopal Church’s General Convention this summer. Given the prospects for passage of a rite of blessing there, commission members began to consider the advisability of postponing action on the canon until after the Episcopal Church’s deliberative body comes to some decision. Adoption of such a trial rite by the Church might well remove the existing barrier to ordination of partnered gay persons, rendering our canon in its present form untenable.
Assuming significant, near- term developments relevant to the situation at General Convention 2012, we recommended no present action regarding the canon, instead suggesting that it be presented for action – either deletion or significant alteration – at our 2013 Diocesan Convention.
The Commission also made a second recommendation to the bishop: that as a response to our report and a continuation of our work together, he initiate at Diocesan Convention 2012 a “disciplined and wide- ranging dialogue” in the diocese on issues related to the Church’s blessing of gay relationships. We have good reason to believe that the Bishop will embrace this initiative as a proactive way to prepare members of the diocese for thoughtful participation in and response to the expected deliberations and decisions of General Convention.
Dr. Fred Richter & The Rev. Frederick A. Buechner, Co-Chairs