One bishop has walked out of General Convention and several others – including Bishop Gregory Brewer of Central Florida -- have signed a “minority report” objecting to the Episcopal Church’s approving the creation of liturgy for blessing same-sex unions.
Bishop Mark Lawrence, South Carolina, was present at the morning House of Bishops’ session July 11, but absent from the afternoon session, after the closed-door “private conversation” part of the bishops’ day. One bishop at that meeting said afterward that Bishop Lawrence had thanked fellow bishops for their hospitality, then excused himself from further meetings this week.
Lay and clergy deputies from South Carolina released a statement about their withdrawal from Convention:
“Due to the actions of General Convention, the South Carolina Deputation has concluded that we cannot continue with business as usual. We all agree that we cannot and will not remain on the floor of the House and act as if all is normal. John Burwell and Lonnie Hamilton have agreed to remain at Convention to monitor further developments and by their presence demonstrate that our action is not to be construed as a departure from the Episcopal Church. Please pray for those of us who will be traveling early and for those who remain.”
Bishop Lawrence was not among the 12 bishops who had signed the statement of dissent, called The Indianapolis Statement. More bishops are expected to sign the statement, which says in part:
The 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, in passing Resolution A049, has authorized the provisional use of a liturgy for blessing same-sex unions. The purpose of this statement is to record our dissent from this action.”
The statement also thanks the General Convention for including in the resolution, “provisions that protect diocesan bishops and parish priests who cannot for the sake of conscience authorize or use the liturgy.”
Central Florida reaction
Bishop Brewer, who spoke up against and voted against Resolution A049, said he will issue a pastoral letter to the Diocese of Central Florida on the matter within a week. “That will take some reflection on my part,” he said.
“There will be those in diocese who might welcome these provisions, but many more will oppose both their use and the theology they reflect,” Bishop Brewer said. “Regardless of what I say, some will feel hurt and strongly dissatisfied.”
“It is both my joy and my responsibility to be the bishop of the entire diocese,” Bishop Brewer said. “I want to address my response to everyone as their chief pastor. When people are hurt and wounded, you don’t hand them a hammer.”
He also called for a period of calm reflection and prayer in the coming days, and for the people of Central Florida to continue to walk in humility and service to the Lord.
Bishop Dan Martins, Springfield, was another initial signer of the staement. He said his purpose was to bear witness and "to communicate clearly and transparently."
"I was pretty much saying that I didn't expect the statement to change anyone's mind," Bishop Martins posted on his Facebook page. "I wish that were not so, but I'm fairly certain it is. Witness bearing is never without value, however. If one can say that Jeremiah's statements from the bottom of a well accomplished anything, then I suppose that ours might as well. But not in any time or way that we are in control of. I do appreciate your prayers."
Signers of The Indianapolis Statement as of July 11:
+John Bauerschmidt, Diocese of Tennessee
+Gregory Brewer, Diocese of Central Florida
+Dan Herzog, Diocese of Albany (resigned)
+Russell Jacobus, Diocese of Fond du Lac
+Paul Lambert, Diocese of Dallas Suffragan
+Ed Little, Diocese of Northern Indiana
+Bill Love, Diocese of Albany
+Daniel Martins, Diocese of Springfield
+Ed Salmon, Diocese of South Carolina (resigned)
+William Skilton, Diocese of Dominican Republic (resigned)
+Michael G. Smith, Diocese of North Dakota
+James Stanton, Diocese of Dallas