The Canons of Discrimination

March 24, 2008

Please take a moment and read the Rev. Dr. Gayle Baldwin’s open letter to several bishops of the church, found here.

It is clear to me that the notorious B033 is discriminatory, outrageous, and defamatory to our community.  It must be repealed.

It is equally clear to me that just as serious a problem in the church is the tolerated discrimination against GLBT people even though our national canons prohibit it.  For far too long and in far too many dioceses, bishops and diocesan conventions overlook the common will of the national church– the only entity which has canonical standing between the diocese and God– in order to perpetuate the dehumanization of GLBT persons by invalidating their equality and equal access to the table – to God’s table.

It seems that there are two approprate responses for this:  one:  at the local level, overturn the legalized discrimination against GLBT people.  In the Diocese of Texas, for example, there is a specific canon on the books requiring discrimination against GLBT people who do not vow celibacy.  That canon needs to be overturned by the faithful and fair-minded Episcopalians of Texas, as one example.  It is clear from Rev. Baldwin’s example that Texas is not alone.  Two:  Regularize same-sex marriage.  Only when we have full and equal rites for marriage will discrimination have a chance of ending within the church– and in the world outside the church.  Only when we recognize that God does not distinguish between the love shared in our relationships and neither should we– only then can we start to fully embrace one another.  That is both a national action and a grassroots action.

Give them wisdom and devotion in the ordering of their common life, that each may be to the other a strength in need, a counselor in perplexity, a comfort in sorrow, and a companion in joy.  Grant that their wills may be so knit together in your will, and their spirits in your Spirit, that they may grow in love and peace with you and one another all the days of their life.  Amen.  BCP, Marriage Rites, p. 429.

That is all we ask.  That makes it right.  That eliminates the disparity.  That is what we pray in our own homes together, but lack in our common prayer life together.  Making it available to all allows us to fully live as Christ calls us, together in mutuality, not excluding but including.  Perhaps then we will be able to live into our Baptismal Covenant fully:  “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”  “I will, with God’s help.”



5 Responses to “The Canons of Discrimination”

  1. D Hamilton Says:

    A Statement from Bishop Michael Smith

    March 21, 2008

    In the past few days questions have been raised about policies and procedures for licensing a priest to officiate in the Episcopal Church and an article appeared in this morning’s Grand Forks Herald. These policies are governed by the Constitution & Canons of the Episcopal Church which state clearly that priests must be licensed to officiate by the bishop if they have not been ordained in the diocese where they are currently residing.

    It is inappropriate to speak publicly about specific personnel matters. However, during these contentious times over the issue of sexual morality in the life of the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion, I have chosen to follow the recommendations of the bipartisan, international “Windsor Report.” Therefore, I will not ordain or license any clergy member who is unable to promise faithfulness in marriage or to abstain from sexual relationships outside of marriage.

    While Episcopalians in North Dakota are not of one mind on these matters, at our annual convention in 2005 a resolution was overwhelmingly passed which “commended the Windsor Report as a way forward together in spite of the differences which threaten to divide us” and expressed our desire for the Diocese of North Dakota “to remain both a member of the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion.”

    Please join me on this Good Friday in praying for the Church.

    Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


  2. Jeff Says:

    Well of course that is the good bishop’s opinion. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church is a bipartisan affair and it includes representation from North Dakota. I am sorry the Bishop feels disenfranchised from it just because it didn’t turn out the way he wanted, but that does not raise Windsor to the level of Canon law just because he happens to agree with it.

    Of course, my posts refers to Title III, Canon 1, Section 2 of the Canons of the Episcopal Church– Canons which I believe it is in the bishop’s job description to uphold. It reads:

    No person shall be denied access to the discernment process for any ministry, lay or ordained, in this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities or age, except as otherwise provided by these Canons. No right to licensing, ordination, or election is hereby established.

    Windsor, on the other hand, is non-binding and a document to provide guidance forward in the discussion for the Communion– not canon law for the Provinces.

    Too many bishops have ignored implementation of this canon in Title III for too long, and it is the intent of this post to suggest that it is not only B033 that needs to be addressed to retain the inequity between straight and GLBT people in the church, but also the feigned ignorance of Title III in many parts of The Episcopal Church which needs addressing at least as urgently. North Dakota is but one example.


  3. john2007 Says:

    As usual, you slide over the difference between sexual orientation, which you highlight, and practice, the distinction which the Bishop, Windsor, and so many godly thinkers have seen is key to the current debate. While celibacy must be very, very difficult, for my money, the “new thing” God may be doing is leading us, in some places, to be less uptight about talking about sex, affirming of all people, and then, in that state, continue to issue the call to celibacy for all who are outside of marriage and, with our friendship and strong churches, uphold those who accept the call to be celibate. Countless LGBT have heard that call, resisted the false hopes of the revisionist sexual ethic, and have let the glory of God manifest itself in an even greater way (see John 9) through their struggle to be celibate and chaste.

    The good Bishop is doing what Bishops should do: offering and upholding the wisdom of God

  4. john2007 Says:

    Title III gives no legitmacy to any particular sexual practice or set of relations. The Good Bishop’s policy proscribes relationships and actions, not any indivudal qua individual.

  5. Jeff Says:

    I believe most bishops and dioceses in the Episcopal Church disagree with you. By my count, most bishops and dioceses understand that it is unChristian and uncharitable to differentiate between sexual orientation and the practice of loving relationships comparable to heterosexual marriage.

    As I have stated at least twice now in this thread, the point of this post is to call for uniform implementation of that interpretation as the Title III canon is meaningless without a mechanism for gay and lesbian couples to get married or a clarification in the canon for marital status for GLBT people.

    If you don’t want such an amendment– feel free to take such a position. The position I argue for in this post is that the 2009 Convention should expressly amend the Canons to require non-discrimination for GLBT persons in a monogomous relationship, or to authorize same-sex marriage rites to create equivalency, and that is equally as important as the repeal of B033. I note that the repeal of B033 is not a particularly “Windsor Compliant” position in the way you use Windsor, so I do not accept your argument.

    Again, Windsor is not intended as a mandate for our province’s canon law– only a guide for how we might respond to intra-Communion affairs.


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