June 24, 2006

Resolution Redivivus

A thought came to mind in relation to the language I used in a response to a reporter about A161 -- since widely quoted -- that the resolution had died. Little did I know it would come back in another form on the following day! Whether this was a resurrection or a case of someone having neglected a stake through the heart, it is clear that this was a sentiment that would not rest easy in a legislative grave.

But this also brings back memories of an earlier time. It seems to me that in GC2006.B033 we are essentially dealing with a resolution (and situation) not unlike GC1979.A053, except this time only consent to bishops is addressed. Like that resolution, this one is recommendatory: not because the Convention is unable to adopt binding language, but because it can only do so by amending the canons and constitution, as was pointed out in the objection to the substitute that used the Windsor language of "effect a moratorium." (Had this substitute used the word "recommend" where it used "effect" it would have been entirely in order.) As in 1979, a number of bishops have already made clear what is well within their right: they are not bound by this resolution.

The reason for this, of course, is the other principle embodied in the Windsor Report, about which I've written before: what touches all must be decided by all. It is at present within the right of any diocesan bishop or standing committee to consent (or withhold consent) to an election of a bishop, for reasons which need not be specified. The General Convention can recommend concerning this right, but not restrict it, short of expressly adding an impediment to the canons. (This was attempted in resolution D067, which I don't believe ever made it to the floor.)

My sense is that in the coming weeks and months we will see this matter put to the test: given a candidate's many qualities apart from his or her "manner of life," and the high regard in which the decisions of electing dioceses are held, whether the church will be willing to withhold consent in order to please the dissident within our church and the arrogant* without it.

--Tobias S Haller BSG

* I use the word arrogant in the somewhat archaic sense, of those who assume powers they do not have. Such as telling other provinces what to do.

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