Sunday, June 28, 2009

More on the San Diego report

We went to a forum this morning at St Paul's Cathedral about the San Diego Diocese Report of the Task Force on Holiness in Relationships and the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions . Several people from the Cathedral community were on the task force, which was appointed after a resolution at the Diocesan Convention. The forum explained the report and how the task force worked, and answered questions from the Cathedral community.

First, the task force was explicitly diverse in opinion (from strong conservative to strong liberal), status (clergy and laity) and sexuality (including out GLBT people and people with GLBT family members). And, the membership was not secret during the year-long process.

Second, the report did not pretend to come to a clear conclusion on issues of scripture or theology. Rather, it honestly portrayed the different opinions in a point-counterpoint format, between traditional and "alternate" views. However, all members of the committee agreed to a consensus of recommendations:
The Task Force makes the following recommendations to the Bishop, the Diocesan Convention, and to clergy and parishes of the Diocese of San Diego:

1. We encourage individual parishes and missions to study and discuss this report and to advise the Bishop of the character and outcome of their efforts.

2. We encourage our 2009 General Convention deputation to support measures that allow the exercise of an “option” to perform blessings of same-sex relationships, rather than measures that would direct such blessings to be performed or direct such blessings to be prohibited.

3. Should an “option” approach to the blessing of same-sex relationships be enacted by General Convention, we encourage our Bishop to put into place a process by which a church can discern if the blessing of same-sex relationships is appropriate to occur within its community.
  • a. We encourage this discernment to include extensive study and discussion of the appropriate General Convention resolution, this Task Force report, and the effects of the decision on the spiritual life of the congregation.
  • b. We also recommend against coercion or sanction that might be brought against any priest or congregation choosing to exercise or not to exercise such an option.
4. In discussion of these questions, we encourage congregations to follow the guidelines for discussion adopted by our task force and included in the Appendix to this report.

5. We encourage our Diocese and its congregations not to take any unilateral action that will knowingly further endanger the relationship of The Episcopal Church with the Anglican Communion.

6. We encourage our Diocese to advocate for changes at the State and Federal levels that grant domestic partnerships and civil unions the same legal rights and privileges as married couples, including the elimination of financial penalties for those who marry. In addition, we encourage our 2009 General Convention deputation to support resolutions that would commit The Episcopal Church to similar advocacy on these issues.

7. We encourage our Diocese to continue to advocate for equal protection under the law regarding domestic partnerships and civil marriages.

8. We encourage readers of this report to explore its bibliography, appendix, and references included in the endnotes with the intent of achieving a balanced view of the issues raised in these pages.
Those reporting at the Cathedral forum were clear that the task force had managed to unite as a community even while disagreeing, sometimes quite strongly. They also said that all participants, on either side of the divide, came away with a deeper understanding and respect for each other, even affection. It says in one part, we are convinced that our bonds of affection will be strengthened, not weakened, through diversity of belief and constructive engagement. As described, it sounds like a model for how to live with, and try to resolve, what they described as the "dynamic tension" on this issue, and that is the hope.

I urge you to read the whole report. It's really quite good.

From San Diego, no less. Who'd'a thunk?

Update Brought from the comments: some of you may not realize but San Diego's diocese is very conservative demographically. THis is a diocese that spans the 8th largest metro areas in the US, albeit a conservative one, and some of the most rural, conservative regions in California reaching all the way from the coast through Imperial County to Arizona. These are regions of the state that voted for Prop8 by a VERY large margin. Inotherwords, this ain't LA, not by a longshot. So this report being a consensus of conservatives and liberals is a Pretty Big Thing.


Tom Sramek, Jr. said...

This is PRECISELY what I think General Convention should do--in fact, I'd love to see the recommendations in any resolution that GC passes. Unfortunately, given the political process, the lobbying on both sides, and the polarized climate, I'm not really hopeful.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

To be absolutely honest, I'm ambivalent. At least, I think I am. I'm going to talk out loud here for a minute - not representing any 'official position' - even my own - or of any organization. This is just me, thinking out loud.

On the one hand, we have been polarized and need something to make some movement forward.

On the other hand, I'm not sure we are as polarized as we once were. A great deal has happened in 3 years. This feels and smells like appeasement - and we all know what the appeasement brings. Can you say B033

SD is really about local option'. "Local Option' is what we already have - what we have already acknowledged legislatively as well as publicly to none other than the ABC, for goodness sake!

I'm sure San Diego is really proud of itself, as well it should be, but SD ain't Newark and Newark ain't Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh ain't New Hampshire . . . etc.

I am delighted for SD, but you know, some diocese were there 20 years ago and some are not yet where SD is now. So, for SD, in the exuberance of working through a Really Difficult Issue and coming out in a place of Agreement, to prescribe things for the rest of the church is understandable and noble but, well, doesn't really have the whole picture of the rest of the church.

Besides, I believe that the worst of the polarization is already over. Four dioceses who were the most active in the process of the polarization have left. One may still. No one is really sure where the lines will be drawn and how many will suddenly find themselves behind the lines that say "conservative" "moderate" or "liberal" until after we get to Anaheim.

Here's where I think I am: Given the legislative process, it would take six years before Rites of Blessing are authorized for the BOS ("institutionalized local option'). In the meantime, 'local option' will still go on - which, I must say, as someone in a 33 year relationship, doesn't feel like a warm embrace of the gifts our lives and our vocation as a family.

I think we take a pulse and check the temperature of the baptismal water before we make any decisive moves. It's nice to have this in our hip pocket.

At least, that's where I think I am 10 days before GC begins. Is that about as clear as mud? Wait till we get to GC :~D

Word verification bilingsh. Sounds like the language of ambivalence, doesn't it?

IT said...

Well, that's true, Elizabeth and one of the audience members made it clear she felt that this was taking too long and was appeasement. But a couple of points.

1) San Diego is historically an extremely conservative diocese and its demographic overall is quite red--it isn't just the city (which is already pretty conservative for a huge metro area) but a great swath of the reddest parts of California out to Arizona. Parts of the state where the Prop8 vote was >70% in favor. I mean, incredibly red. So this is a triumph, locally speaking. And "local option" isn't going to happen here without the national consensus.

2) One of the comments by a task force member was that the conservatives know that some sort of accommodation will have to be worked out, because they know that at least civilly gay marriage is only a matter of time. "They can see it coming, " were the words used, and they need to figure out how to deal with it. So "appeasement" may be "education" as well.

3) I was amazed when a task force member said that some of the conservatives on the committee had never met an openly gay person of faith. As we know, it starts with recognizing the "humanity" of the other. And the GLBT task force members have volunteered to go out as representatives to the terribly conservative areas and help initiate that conversation.

So, appeasement? Maybe. But I also think it was a good-faith effort to keep everyone together and move along, albeit incrementally. It was progress. It was hard work. And if conservative San Diego can do it, well.....pretty much anywhere can. This isn't a place that wants to, or can be out in front. But it doesn't want to bring up the rear, either.

Then again, you know me. I'm naturally a peacemaker....most of the time.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Yeah, IT. Like I said. I'm really, really glad for this. I'm thinking this is the best news I've heard in a long time. Maybe we really are further along than I thought we were. Then again, I won't know until about day four or five of GC.

lindy said...

Well, I do think it's great. Just great! I mean really I do. It's great for San Deigo. This is clearly the best they can do at this time, and I am happy and proud for them.

But what we have here is another study, urging people to have a study. How much longer can this go on? The studies have to stop. It's just mean to group people together and study them like so many petri dishes. It's mean, and it's wrong. If you are so far behind that you feel you need to study this issue then there are lots of books you can read, and things you can do, to get yourself up to speed. But, another study is not one of the things that should happen. These infernal, and never-ending, studies waste my time, and I don't have time to waste. The years on my life are flying by and I want to know whether or not I have any hope of being recognized as a full-on human being by the Episcopal Church or whether I should give up on that. So, no more studies. No more wasting my time.

San Deigo has done well. They tried, and that's more than Texas, for example, will ever do. So, I'm glad for the effort. A good effort. And, it sounds like, a truly Anglican approach. Too bad it wasn't ten years ago.

MarkBrunson said...

I always hear "polarized" and "polarization" used as if they were intrinsically bad.

They mean that people feel strongly, actually believe what they're saying. I'm not sure the "liberal" TEC actually believes anything it has said about GLBT's, so polarization actually shows some life in the mitered corpse.

Mightn't it be that the flacid, bland, wait-and-see-what-everyone-else-does attitude of "liberal" leadership - the worst kind of moderate, subsisting on a diet of false humility masking cowardice - is the reason for our decline as a force in society.

Whatever we believe as people, our church seems to actually believe nothing. A corpse isn't polarized, but immobile.