A Revealing Proposed Canonical Change in the TEC Diocese of Georgia for next month’s Convention

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From here:
Replace Title IV, Canon 1—Ethical Standards
The proposed change would replace the current text of Title IV, Canon 1

Ethical Canon Draft Revision for the Diocese of Georgia’s Title IV, Canon 1 (“Ethical Standards”) currently reads: “Marriage between a man and a woman or abstinence from sexual activity are the only acceptable forms of sexual behavior for a Deacon, Priest or Bishop in the Diocese of Georgia.”

The proposed substitute from the Committee on Constitution & Canons is as follows:

Deacons, Priests, and Bishops in the Diocese of Georgia are called to be wholesome examples to the Church exhibiting the teachings and virtues of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Their personal lives must manifest faithfulness, monogamy, life-long commitment, mutual caring, and the healthy care of themselves and their families. Their public lives must show financial honesty, confidentiality as required, respect of interpersonal and professional boundaries, and the avoidance of fraud, deceit, or deliberate misrepresentations.

References for above:
The ordination rite of the BCP
Title IV, Canon 4


Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC BishopsTEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan CouncilsTEC Polity & CanonsSexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyTheology: Scripture

8 Comments
Posted January 11, 2013 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Ralph wrote:

1. The language of the current canon is entirely consistent with the written doctrine of TEC, as found in the canons on marriage, and in the BCP.
2. In this present era, I would guess that the author of this change intends to allow clergy in that diocese to engage in extra-marital sex. I will speculate that the specific intent is to allow practicing homosexual clergy in the diocese.
3. But, the proposed canon does not define the term, “monogamy.” The word refers to a person’s having one marriage in his/her lifetime (μονός, γάμος). If so, the proposed canon excludes those who have been married and divorced, and want to marry again - or are already married again. While this is a New Testament standard, I rather doubt that this is what the author of the canonical change intended.
4. The revised language, therefore does not open any doors to practicing homosexuals.

January 11, 9:52 am | [comment link]
2. Cennydd13 wrote:

It does perhaps appear to be a bit foggy, but the intent is clear enough for anyone with knowledge of the New Testament.  Unfortunately, it is not been evenly applied in the Church.  However, I believe that it may be slowly changing, with the requirement that candidates for ordination be “the husband of one wife” if they are married, as specified in the Thirty-nine Articles.

January 11, 11:46 am | [comment link]
3. Cranmerian wrote:

#1 Ralph,

Based upon your logic and reasoning, you’re right, it doesn’t open any doors, but the fact of the matter is that it does open the door wide and clear.  I posted the following at SF:

Let me offer a couple of insights as a former priest in the Dio of GA.  Two years ago a committee was formed to review this canon, but after extensive meetings diocesan wide the committee recommended no change until GC 2012.  After the debacle of Indianapolis last summer, I fully expected this change to take place at the Georgia convention next month.  I anticipate this passing handily.

The bishop kept saying that the current canon was inadequate because it allowed him no latitude with clergy who might be dating.  Based upon the language in the current canon he wasn’t sure if dating clergy could even hold hands or kiss since this was the type of language addressed in the national church canons regarding sexual harassment.  I wish that I was joking, but this was the type of logic that Benhase used to help justify the need to do something and do so quickly.

Of course, there may also be another issue waiting in the lurch.  In 2011, the former president of the Georgia Integrity chapter, Jamie Maury, left his post because he and his partner were leaving Georgia headed for seminary.  However, there was this pesky little Title IV canon that would prohibit his becoming a postulant.  If I were to venture a guess, I’d be wiling to bet that Benhase has been brokering a deal to get him postulancy in another diocese, and as soon as the above canon gets changed they could gleefully welcome him home so that he could be ordained the first partnered gay clergyman in Georgia.  I may be wrong, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if this has been going on all along.  I do have confirmed information that he did NOT go before the local discernment committees, the SC, or COM before going to seminary.  What’s happened since then, I don’t know.

In any case, I’d be really surprised if this has much opposition except from St. John’s in Savannah, and perhaps one or two other churches.  The rest will see this sail right on through.

Just for the record, in 2012, the Diocese of Georgia saw the departure of a large portion of Calvary in Americus to form St. John’s Anglican, all of the members of St. John’s in Moultrie left to form St. Mark’s Anglican, and at the end of the year the orthodox rector of King of Peace in Kingsland was summarily “run off” and has been received into ACNA.  I would suspect that the capital campaign, and regular pledges to suffer in 2013.

I also said:

  the reason for the recommendation for no change was the proposed language would have in fact given de post facto approval for sexual activity outside of matrimony (SSBs), and Georgia would have been jumping ahead of what GC was going to do.  The bishop was the one driving this train from the beginning, yet appointed a committee to do his handiwork.  One of the chairmen of the committee was Dr. Fred Richter, vice president of the Georgia Integrity chapter.

I was the only voice who expressed opposition to changing the language at all in the meeting of the clergy in the southwestern deanery.  My position was heard, but summarily dismissed.  Of the 10 parishes in the southwestern convocation 5 are listed as integrity friendly parishes, and one or two more could be added to that list informally.

It’s a sad state of affairs in the Dio. of GA, and it is in no way, shape, form, or fashion a Windsor (not that that term means anything any longer) or orthodox diocese.  I would also suggest that folks continue to monitor the financial health of the diocese over the next year or so.  This should be a prime place for new ACNA plants moving forward.  There are orthodox Anglicans in south Georgia, and I’m glad to be a part of that movement here in Moultrie.

Not sure if this helps, but this is some background to this canonical change.

This is also coming from a bishop who stood before his clergy and said that the new Title IV canon revisions were going to be so much more fair and pastoral, and far less draconian than the military code of justice style we had before.  Just ask Bp. Lawrence and the Ft. Worth/Quincy folk how that’s been working out.

January 11, 4:20 pm | [comment link]
4. Militaris Artifex wrote:

#1 Ralph:

You fail to note that γάμος, is also translated into English as “bridal.” This is, I suspect, why there is a distinction between polygamy and polyandry, the former meaning “multiple brides,” the latter “multiple husbands.”

It seems pretty obvious to this reader that, if a Bishop intended to open maneuvering room for one (or more) clergy in the diocese (potentially even including himself) to simulate the sacrament of marriage, but between two persons of the same gender, this proposed change would create the opening by virtue of its removal of the explicit requirement of marriage being “between a man and a woman.”

Amazing how quickly things collapse when their foundations are allowed thoroughly to decay, isn’t it?

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

January 11, 4:51 pm | [comment link]
5. Pb wrote:

Bp. Benhase has been consistent. Prior to his election he said he would do this when GC changed the rules. DGA has a large number of mission churches which are dominated by their clergy. The clergy wanted Scott Benhase. The alternative candidate failed by 4 votes in the lay order. I still think the folks in the pew are more divided than the leadership would like to believe.

January 11, 6:00 pm | [comment link]
6. Ralph wrote:

#4, I’m actually not aware of γάμος having the specific feminine meaning, bridal, in Koine or classical Greek. Is this modern Greek usage? What’s your source?

Louw and Nida say, “the state of being married — ‘marriage.’” or “the ceremony associated with becoming married — ‘wedding.’”

Danker has, “public ceremony associated with entry into a marriage relationship, wedding celebration” or “the state of being married” or “a relatively large room that could serve as a place for celebration of a wedding, wedding”.

There is, of course, the phrase γάμος ομοφύλων, unknown in ancient times. But the TEC canons, the BCP, and the constitution of the State of Georgia currently make no provision for γάμος ομοφύλων.

#3, I agree that DioGA is now an open mission field for ACNA. My good friend in DioGA has not heard details about goings-on at King of Peace. She does affirm that St. John’s Savannah is rather solidly orthodox, but doesn’t believe that they would give up their property to leave TEC. I would wonder how Anglo-Catholics are faring in ACNA these days. Perhaps a private message via SF would be in order.

January 11, 6:31 pm | [comment link]
7. Militaris Artifex wrote:

#6 Ralph,

Yes, that is a modern Greek usage. Source is an online English-Greek dictionary. I have no particular knowledge of classical Greek, but have long been aware of the modern distinction between polygamy and polyandry.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

January 12, 12:58 pm | [comment link]
8. MichaelA wrote:

Cranmerian, thanks for those insights into what is going on in Dio Georgia.  Its very sad to hear.  I hope that the Lord leads all faithful Anglicans there to a place where they can worship freely, whether in faithful TEC congrations or elsewhere.

January 12, 7:42 pm | [comment link]
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