The 76th General Convention, just concluded, was a remarkable effort to tell the truth about the reality of our church and to do so in a way that allowed the whole church to remain at the table. We told the truth about our finances, about our theological and cultural diversity, about the participation of gay and lesbian persons at all levels of our church, about our desire to remain in conversation with the wider Anglican Communion, and about our passionate commitment to ministry. The result of this truth-telling was a remarkably irenic Convention marked by frank and mutually empathetic engagement. One sign of our success was that for the first time in many years, the General Convention addressed of all the legislation presented.
Although issues of human sexuality received the greatest attention from the press, a number of very significant measures were adopted. We now have a mandatory pension program for lay employees serving 20 hours per week or more. We now have a church-wide medical health plan which will result in significant savings for most dioceses. We adopted a new disciplinary canon, Title IV, rooted in a professional code of ethics. The canon begins by describing the behaviors to which we expect all the baptized to aspire. We adopted for trial use prayers and rites for pregnancy, childbirth, adoption, abortion and miscarriage, an attempt to bring the prayer of the church to one of life’s profound experiences. We adopted for trial use a new and expanded calendar of the saints, Holy Women, Holy Men. Of particular interest to us in Maine, we adopted a resolution, based on our resolution and resolutions from other dioceses, repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery.
The budget process was wrenching. We cut $23 million from the budget for the next triennium. In 2011 and 2012, diocesan assessments will be reduced to 20% and 19%. 37 positions were cut from the Church Center staff and many important programs were not funded. Much of the church’s ministry has been sent to the dioceses for implementation. God willing and the economy recovering, the 2013-2015 triennial budget will restore some of the cuts. In the meantime, we hope to reduce expenses by making greater use of electronic meeting technology and limiting travel.
The Convention adopted two resolutions regarding the full participation of GLBT persons in our church. The first, D025, acknowledges that such persons are full members of the church who have been and may again be elected to serve as bishops. It also acknowledges that there is a diversity of opinion about this matter in the church and across the Anglican Communion. It expresses our desire to continue to be a constituent member of the Communion and to engage other provinces in conversation about our differences. D025 does not explicitly overturn 2006-B033 or end any moratoria. It acknowledges that our Constitution and Canons remain our guiding authority.
C056 was a substitute for a resolution produced by the Committee on Prayerbook and Liturgy that included material from several resolutions, including B012, the resolution written by bishops of the six states where same-gender civil marriage is legal. The substitute was produced by 26 bishops representing a wide spectrum of views. The resolution acknowledges the pastoral challenges created by the changing landscape of civil legislation. Both marriage equality and legislation banning same sex marriage have created these challenges. Bishops are granted “generous discretion” in responding to these challenges, particularly in states where there is marriage equality. In addition, the church will begin to gather and develop theological and liturgical resources for consideration in 2012. The resolution also acknowledges that we do not all agree about this matter and asserts that no one is required to violate conscience or belief. Permission to utilize Prayerbook rites is not given. I will issue draft guidelines regarding civil marriage in Maine in the coming days, and we will talk about the matter during the September Clergy Day.
There is much more to say about our General Convention. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read and view the blogs of your deputation. I am very grateful for their hard work and long hours spent representing the Diocese of Maine so well. The links can be found on the Diocese of Maine homepage. In addition, I urge you to invite members of the deputation to come to your congregation to speak. A full report will be offered as part of our Diocesan Convention.
I’m grateful to God for the presence of Holy Spirit during the last two weeks. Thanks to all of you for your prayers and support during our time in Anaheim. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you.
The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
Bishop of Maine