December 22, 2014

July 18, 2012


Dallas: Bishop Stanton Writes His Diocese about General Convention

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

The 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, from July 4-12 in Indianapolis, has now concluded. I cannot report on the full range of actions taken by this Convention. Here, I will devote my comments primarily to one such action.

By now, you will know from widespread press reports that the General Convention has authorized rites for the blessing of committed same-sex relationships. For many Episcopalians, this action will come as no surprise. Some within our Diocese will celebrate this action. Some will be angry or disappointed. Some will simply walk away from our churches. This division seems to be the outcome of every General Convention in recent years.

For the record, you should know that your Bishops voted no on the relevant resolution, as did your entire Deputation.

The Convention authorized the new rite for “provisional use.” Exactly what a “provisional use” rite is is unclear: there is no provision if you will for such an authorization in either the Constitution or Canons of this Church. Manifestly, it is a temporary rite, and the resolution anticipates “further development,” study and comment on it.

The use of this rite, according to the resolution, must be “under the direction and subject to the permission of the bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority.”

In addition, the resolution specifically cites the Canon applying to clergy concerning marriage (I.18.4), namely “’It shall be within the discretion of any Member of the Clergy of this Church to decline to’ preside at any rite defined in the resource”. And the resolution adds the following clause:

Resolved, That this convention honor the theological diversity of this church in regard to matters of human sexuality, and that no bishop, priest, deacon or lay person should be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities, as a result of his or her conscientious objection to or support for the 77th General Convention’s action with regard to the Blessing of Same-Sex Relationships.

There are a number of problems with this “provisional” rite. Bishop Lambert and I both contributed to and signed what has become known as the Indianapolis Statement by 10 Bishops dissenting to this action. I commend that fuller statement to you all in the article immediately below.

But I want to single out two considerations in my own words that lead me to a conclusion I will draw momentarily.

My first consideration is theological: Is this rite true? When I or any member of the clergy bless anyone, we use the form, “I bless you in the Name of God.” This is what may be called performative language: it performs the action that the words imply. We do not say, “I pray for,” or “I wish,” or “I think that” ... God will do so and so. We are only authorized, however, to bless what God, in fact, blesses. And when we use these words, we had better have a clear warrant from Scripture or the theological tradition of the Church to back us up. No individual is competent to decide what God blesses, and no congregation or denomination is competent to do so either. Otherwise, we are merely guessing at best, and misleading people at worst.

My second consideration is closely related to the first: is it really pastoral? How may we give to people the assurance, the comfort and the strength of God’s blessing without the warrant of Scripture or the great Tradition, or even the agreement of our closest brothers and sisters in the Communion to which we maintain we belong? Indeed, how can we do so given the “theological diversity of this church” itself in “matters of human sexuality”? This seems to me to be an incoherent act. A pastoral blessing must rest on a more solid foundation than this. Furthermore, I must point to the “provisional” character of this blessing rite: I must ask our brothers and sisters in Christ who seek this rite if they are really satisfied with a “provisional” blessing? What happens if, or when, this rite is modified, or perhaps even rescinded? What General Convention gives, it can also take away! What kind of blessing is it that is subject merely to majority human vote?

Given these two considerations, my conclusion is predictable: I cannot give direction or permission for the use of the rite in this Diocese. I trust that this conclusion will not be understood to be either capricious or stubborn. The theological and pastoral stakes here are very great indeed. A bishop is ordained to “guard the faith, unity and discipline” of the Church. Given the teaching of Scripture, the Tradition as set forth in our own Book of Common Prayer, the witness of our Communion, and my own theological and pastoral concerns, I find no other alternative.

Of course, this one resolution was not the only matter discussed at this General Convention. As a matter of fact, we worked through some 459 pieces of legislation, in one way or another, through all eight days. Although it did not receive nearly as much attention, either in the press or in legislative meetings, one of our major concerns was evangelism and the state of our Church. Given both shrinking numbers of members, attendance and dollars, the General Convention authorized several new initiatives in reaching out in mission and ministry. Many of these initiatives are already part of our common life in this Diocese. We welcome a wider engagement in the proclaiming of Jesus as Lord, and the making of his disciples.

We also began a Task Force to study and recommend new directions for and restructuring of the Episcopal Church. What will come of this is anyone’s guess. But both the need for some renewal and the promise of such was energizing to the Convention and felt at all levels.

Where do we stand now after July 12? I answer that we stand where we did on July 3. Our God-given mission remains the same. Our churches welcome all people into our fellowship, proclaim God’s Word, form disciples, strengthen our people for service and ministry, nurture one another in trust and commitment, and pray for one another and our world. We honor one God: the Father who created us, the risen Jesus who calls and transforms us, and the Spirit who strengthens us for mission and enables us to bear fruit that will last.

When people come to us, they rarely ever ask what our General Convention did. Instead they will ask, “Is God real to these people?” And then they will ask, “Is there a place for me here?” By our worship, our study, and our action together we answer that first question. By our openness and welcome we answer the second. “Welcome one another,” St. Paul wrote, “as Christ has welcomed you.” That is our mission. Now, and always.

The Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton
Bishop of Dallas

The statement is available here [PDF]


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35 comments

If the San Angelo case is settled favorably in the Supreme Court, how much of Stanton’s diocese will depart for ACNA?

[1] Posted by All-Is-True on 7-18-2012 at 07:58 PM · [top]

All-is-True, I don’t think it will make much difference.  Bishop Stanton doesn’t share the Gollum-like fixation of so many others in TEC to keep the property at all costs. He has already negotiated the peaceful departure of at least 3 parishes. If others want to leave, I’ll bet he’ll work things out with them too, no matter how the courts rule.

[2] Posted by Paul Powers on 7-18-2012 at 08:30 PM · [top]

“Sacrificing children to Molech?  That’s it, if they do one more thing I’m out of here. . . .”

[3] Posted by Jim the Puritan on 7-18-2012 at 09:40 PM · [top]

In Dallas, the diocese’s name is on all the deeds.  Christ Church negotiated a deal to keep their property, largely because the diocese didn’t want to assume their $6M debt, but everyone else who left has walked away from their properties.  Just FWI…

[4] Posted by Cindy T. in TX on 7-18-2012 at 10:56 PM · [top]

Er… FYI…

[5] Posted by Cindy T. in TX on 7-18-2012 at 10:57 PM · [top]

Bishop Stanton’s analysis is spot on.  Unfortunately there is no pastoral direction other than keep on doing what we have been doing for the past 30+ years.  Sadly, that is not working.  Somehow there must be a way to excise the faithful away from the cancer that is TEC.

[6] Posted by frreed on 7-18-2012 at 11:09 PM · [top]

Still, it was nice to read the words of another TEC bishop who hasn’t drunk from the cool-aid…

I feel for the man, and my heart goes out to him.  I resonate with [6], Frreed, though.  To keep on keepin’ on in the face of this trend…

[7] Posted by Father Wash-Ashore on 7-18-2012 at 11:45 PM · [top]

I thought Bishop Stanton made two very strong points in his apologetic:

We are only authorized, however, to bless what God, in fact, blesses. And when we use these words, we had better have a clear warrant from Scripture or the theological tradition of the Church to back us up.

It reminded me of the readings from a couple weeks ago about Balak and Balaam, who says: “How can I curse what God has not cursed?” (Num 23:8). OK, the situation is sort of Balaam-in-reverse. TEC is asking its clergy to bless what God has not blessed. And of course, the liberals can turn this around and claim they are the true clairvoyants who have discerned God’s blessing on the new thing he is doing in Israel. Here is where the second part of Jim Stanton’s letter comes into play: the clear warrant of God’s Word. Balaam is not inventing a new blessing but rather confirming the covenant that God made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Some years ago when I wrote <a href= 
“http://www.stephenswitness.org/2007/08/two-sexes-one-flesh-introductory.html”>“Two Sexes, One Flesh”</a>, I pondered the proper subtitle: “Why the Church May Not Bless Same-Sex Marriage” “Why the Church Should Not Bless Same-Sex Marriage”; and determined the true title should be “Why the Church Cannot Bless Same-Sex Marriage.”

Secondly, I liked Bishop Stanton’s analysis of the “provisional nature” of this rite:

I must ask our brothers and sisters in Christ who seek this rite if they are really satisfied with a “provisional” blessing? What happens if, or when, this rite is modified, or perhaps even rescinded?

There is an unintentional irony in this gerrymandered rite (can we call it the “Episcopal Bundling Rite”?). It is indeed provisional because it is unreal. Politically, it may never be rescinded, but as Bishop Stanton queries:

What kind of blessing is it that is subject merely to majority human vote?

The answer to which is: no kind of blessing at all!

[8] Posted by Stephen Noll on 7-18-2012 at 11:48 PM · [top]

St Francis and St Matthias in Dallas also left the Diocese of Dallas, but were allowed to keep their buildings in return for monetary compensation.

[9] Posted by Paul Powers on 7-19-2012 at 12:03 AM · [top]

Ah… I stand corrected.  That’s what I get for not qualifying my comment…

[10] Posted by Cindy T. in TX on 7-19-2012 at 12:07 AM · [top]

Cindy in TX,

Two other Dallas parishes did leave with their property. I know because I was a member of one at the time and now I sometimes attend the other. Both parishes retained control of their properties with details that (it was expressly stipulated) are supposed to be kept private,  tho given human nature I’m sure those details are something of an open secret today. Both parishes are now affiliated with Iker’s Diocese of Ft Worth which is no secret.

As you can see, I still try to respect the wishes of the parties involved. You will never get those details, names etc from me. No! I vill never talk!

[11] Posted by StayinAnglican on 7-19-2012 at 12:16 AM · [top]

I’ll say again I sure wish where I’m now living was part of the Dio of Dallas.

[12] Posted by bob+ on 7-19-2012 at 12:34 AM · [top]

Its refreshing to read the clear statements of +Stanton compared to the froth that seems to emerge from liberal bishops.  Not that his statement is simple - it covers a number of profound concepts, but at the end of it you know exactly where the man stands.  What a relief!

“Given these two considerations, my conclusion is predictable: I cannot give direction or permission for the use of the rite in this Diocese. I trust that this conclusion will not be understood to be either capricious or stubborn. The theological and pastoral stakes here are very great indeed. A bishop is ordained to “guard the faith, unity and discipline” of the Church. Given the teaching of Scripture, the Tradition as set forth in our own Book of Common Prayer, the witness of our Communion, and my own theological and pastoral concerns, I find no other alternative.”

Seems pretty straightforward.

[13] Posted by MichaelA on 7-19-2012 at 02:02 AM · [top]

“For many Episcopalians, this action will come as no surprise. Some within our Diocese will celebrate this action. Some will be angry or disappointed. Some will simply walk away from our churches. This division seems to be the outcome of every General Convention in recent years.”

This message needs to be driven home:  the decline of TEC is not necessary, nor is it merely the natural result of changes in society.  Actions like the latest GC create that decline.

[14] Posted by MichaelA on 7-19-2012 at 02:15 AM · [top]

Although this is not the main subject of the thread, this may add some detail.  The property issues in the Diocese of Dallas have been a mixed bag.  A few good, some bad.  Christ Church Plano had large debt on their building that DioDallas did not want to assume, if the vast majority vacated…so, because of their clout and debt, they were able to leave with a $1,000,000 cash deal to the diocese.  St. Matthias Dallas also may have had too much debt for the diocese to assume, and would have had a rather sparse congregation otherwise…so they got a deal.  But it gets murky after that.  St. Francis’ members and clergy are now canonically under ACNA +Bp. Iker…BUT the building is itself is remaining DioDallas property.  The majority at Resurrection Dallas had to leave their building behind and formed Transformation Anglican Church.  My parish at the time, Holy Trinity Garland, voted 87% to leave TEC…but we had to leave our paid-off building behind, unless we “wished to remain loyal Episcopalians”.  I was told we turned in our dossier even before St. Matthias did. We were promised by the bishop at a parish meeting that he “would do what he could to help us leave with our property if we believed our mission was compromised by remaining in TEC”.  After the vote, and when the rector resigned, the majority voluntarily left in one week’s time, of their own volition, and formed what became Christ the Redeemer Anglican in Garland/Rowlett.  I am not sure if 815 breathed down the bishop’s neck, but that promise of his was broken.  The rector and a significant group left St. Nicholas Flower Mound to become Resurrection Anglican in Flower Mound.  The vast majority of Faith Church in Allen had rental use of their own building(which still had debt) for a while, but had to eventually leave it behind and became Faith Anglican Church.  Sooo…I am not sure why some got to leave with property and some didn’t.  Maybe only the bishop and standing committee know WHY these ejections happened.  Was it because the buildings were paid-off or didn’t have significant debt?  Was it because they were medium to small and hadn’t the clout to fight?  Other clergy and parishes were tempted, but were scared of losing their buildings and saw what happened to us.  A trickle of further orthodox clergy have left DioDallas in the following years for ACNA…though, to DioDallas’ credit, they replenish their clergy with decent #‘s of vocations and import weary clergy from across TEC looking for relative sanctuary.  But in the end, it was not pretty in 2006-07…not pretty at all.

[15] Posted by TXThurifer on 7-19-2012 at 02:47 AM · [top]

“though, to DioDallas’ credit, they replenish their clergy with decent #‘s of vocations and import weary clergy from across TEC looking for relative sanctuary.”

Thank you TXThurifer, that is all very interesting.  I’m sorry for what you all had to go through.

It makes sense that there would be orthodox clergy in TEC who, rather than “leave” for ACNA or the Continuum or the Ordinariate, instead do a different sort of “leaving” - they move to dioceses like South Carolina or Texas.

Of course, the effect on the dioceses they “leave” would be the same as if they had gone to ACNA - they are gone after all, and no doubt anyone who replaces them will be revisionist.  But on the positive side, this would really strengthen the dioceses they go to - if Dio. SC or Dio. TX become packed with orthodox clergy, then the liberals’ standard infiltration tactics can’t even get started.

The above is not meant as a criticism of anyone, just trying to understand the process that is happening.

[16] Posted by MichaelA on 7-19-2012 at 05:52 AM · [top]

I expect also that the presence of lots of faithful clergy would help a wavering bishop to commit himself more strongly to orthodoxy.

[17] Posted by MichaelA on 7-19-2012 at 05:54 AM · [top]

Bravo, Bishop Stanton! such a clear stance on this issue.  I expect the liberals to violate the conscience clause pretty quickly.

#15 wrote. “they replenish their clergy with decent #‘s of vocations and import weary clergy from across TEC looking for relative sanctuary. “

From the Diocese of SC website: “Of the 181 priests canonically resident in our diocese, 107 are actively serving in parishes and missions.”

That says a lot!!! We also “export” clergy to other dioceses in TEC!  You know that spreading the good news thingy and all.  grin

[18] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 7-19-2012 at 06:03 AM · [top]

“We are only authorized, however, to bless what God, in fact, blesses. And when we use these words, we had better have a clear warrant from Scripture or the theological tradition of the Church to back us up.” How long did the conscience clause last for for those who were against women priests? That is what is really “Provisional”.

[19] Posted by Fr. Dale on 7-19-2012 at 06:34 AM · [top]

One of the things I’m liking about the Diocese of Dallas is the number of missions they plant and grow.

[20] Posted by Sarah on 7-19-2012 at 07:15 AM · [top]

[spam link deleted—please do not use SF bandwidth to promote links]

[21] Posted by DrBlansett-TheRevd on 7-19-2012 at 07:53 AM · [top]

Could I take this opportunity to ask what the SF policy is on posting links?  The link to the “see this post for more” in the Comment Policy section below doesn’t work anymore.

[22] Posted by James Manley on 7-19-2012 at 08:27 AM · [top]

What General Convention gives, it can also take away!

I had to pause for a minute over that comment. Chances of that happening are ....

[23] Posted by martin5 on 7-19-2012 at 09:13 AM · [top]

Hi James—we don’t have a general policy on “posting links” but in general if you have never commented before at all here on SF, and your first comment is to post a link to *your blog* about how you left and went to Rome in 1994 . . . it’s probably not a good idea.

Seriously.

Do we have to spell out *every single possible self-serving bandwidth-using thing you could possibly do* that we do not accept?

Seriously?

Is that *really* the plan for the use of our time here?

[The above questions not directed at James Manley specifically, just a shout to the stars and the heavens.]

As all the SF bloggers have begged repeatedly in the past—please ask commenting rules questions through Private Message rather than on a blog post about Bishop Stanton’s letter to his diocese in 2012.

[24] Posted by Sarah on 7-19-2012 at 09:51 AM · [top]

My two cents on Dallas properties:

1.  St. Nicholas Flower Mound was, for many years prior to that parish’s establishment, a diocesan conference center, the Bishop Mason Center, which was owned by the diocese and, I assume, still is.  The Bishop Mason center is still there, but the area, once pastoral and rural, is now suburban, and the diocesan conference activities are now based at the All Saints Camp, which the diocese purchased from the Methodists, and which is locatedon Lake Texoma, near Pottsboro, about 75 miles north of Dallas.  There’s also a large mausoleum on the St. Nicholas/Bishop Mason property,which the conference center established to help with its funding and which many diocesan faithful are interred.
2.  The Resurrection facility now, as I understand it, houses a Spanish speaking mission; their website is now in Spanish.
3.  My understanding of the Christ Church buildings is much the same as the others posted.  When I heard the Bishop speak about it some years ago, he noted that the parishioners there had raised all the funds.  At about the same time (perhaps at the same time), the Bishop noted that the presiding bishop had requested that no further such arrangements be made, and that he had complied with that request.

I have also heard the Bishop speak on Fort Worth; he disagreed with the decision by that diocese to leave, and has said on numerous occasions that I’ve heard that he has no intention to leave the Episcopal Church. 

While I haven’t taken a poll, I think that it is unlikely that other parishes would leave at this point.  The most likely departers have left.  Possibly Trinity might leave, but it is barely hanging on at this point.  Certainly none of the larger parishes would go.  For the most part, the doings of ACNA and Fort Worth get little attention from the local churches.

[25] Posted by Dallasite on 7-19-2012 at 02:04 PM · [top]

#25 - I think you have hit the nail on the head - that is what I have heard and also what I have observed.  I can’t speak to parishes that want to leave in the future, however.

[26] Posted by B. Hunter on 7-19-2012 at 03:03 PM · [top]

Once the San Angelo case is settled, if the ruling is favorable to the Anglicans there, then I think any congregation in the state of Texas is free to leave with their property in hand. Our legal experts can correct me, but I think the Diocese can’t stop them (even if rabid 815 jackals try to pressure them) if the Supreme Court of Texas rules in favor of the Good Shepherd congregation. I’m sure a lot of folks are anxious to be off for greener pastures, but if they can hold off until autumn, they might have good news.

[27] Posted by All-Is-True on 7-19-2012 at 05:00 PM · [top]

I’m out of date on Dallas, but what about St. Thomas,Dallas and Tranfiguration, I think also in Dallas? A few years back, they were very “gay-friendly”, so will they abide by the bishop’s restriction on gay blessings? 

BTW, a friend today informed me that a friend of hers, a woman priest of the TEC diocese of Fort Worth, is very desirous of performing a same-sex blessing. Chomping at the bits, as it were.  grin

[28] Posted by Words Matter on 7-19-2012 at 06:18 PM · [top]

I just got privately smacked over the head for confusing Dio Texas with Dio Dallas in one of my posts above.  Ouch!

Mea maxima culpa…

[29] Posted by MichaelA on 7-19-2012 at 07:49 PM · [top]

Ah yes, Michael A. Perfect example to show the difference between conservatives and liberals. If you were a true card carrying, kool aid drinking Episcopagan,  you would never to admit to being wrong.  tongue wink

[30] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 7-20-2012 at 03:27 PM · [top]

#28.Words matter, I would just tell this “clergy” to start making plans to visit NY state. I am sure she could find a willing parish and priest that would allow to her do what she wants after Sept 1. Plenty of nice places to get married in NY state, could even be a Episcopal parish church building.  grin

[31] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 7-20-2012 at 03:31 PM · [top]

SC blu cat lady -

She is a clergyperson of the TEC diocese of Fort Worth.  Since the blessing isn’t a marriage, there will be no issues doing it right here in troglodyte ol’ Texas.

grin

[32] Posted by Words Matter on 7-20-2012 at 05:26 PM · [top]

Thanks for the correction. Whatever….....  this ‘rite’ is still not marriage no matter how much the Episcopagan left may desire that label.

[33] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 7-21-2012 at 07:42 AM · [top]

I really, really like Bishop Stanton’s clarity on why he decided the way he did and how he and the deputation voted. NICE!  VERY NICE!

[34] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 7-21-2012 at 07:44 AM · [top]

We welcome a wider engagement in the proclaiming of Jesus as Lord, and the making of his disciples.

Now that would be authentic prophetic action!

[35] Posted by Rich Gabrielson on 7-23-2012 at 09:15 PM · [top]

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