12 bishops submit dissenting 'Indianapolis Statement'

Posted Jul 11, 2012

The following statement was read in the House of Bishops during its morning session on July 11 by the Rt. Rev. Michael G. Smith, bishop of North Dakota:

“Presiding Bishop, thank you for allowing me to rise to speak on behalf of at least 12 members of this House.  Those of us known as the Communion Partners have expended a great deal of energy for at least the past six years working to persuade theological conservatives to remain in the Episcopal Church and theological liberals to remain in the Anglican Communion.  Two actions of this General Convention have made this task more difficult:  the authorization of same-sex blessings through the passage of Resolution 049, and our decision to ‘decline to take a position on the Anglican Covenant’ by the passage of Resolution [B005].

“We find ourselves between the proverbial ‘rock and a hard place.’ We struggle to hold together the evangelical faith of the Church, from which we see this Convention as departing, and the catholic order of the Church, which causes us, for the sake of the unity for which Jesus prayed, to resist the temptation to leave this fellowship.

“Therefore, we submit to this House the following minority report.”

The Indianapolis Statement

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.

1. At our ordination as bishops of the Church, we have all taken a solemn oath:  “I solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church.”  We remain committed to that oath.  Our commitment to the biblical witness includes its teaching on sexuality. We believe that the Scriptures clearly teach that God’s vision for sexual intimacy is that it be exercised only within the context of marriage between a man and a woman.

2. We serve in a Church whose Book of Common Prayer offers clear teaching on Holy Matrimony.  The opening address in the marriage rite (BCP, p. 423) summarizes that teaching and affirms that marriage is a “union of husband and wife”; that God established marriage in creation; that our Lord “adorned this manner of life” during his earthly ministry; and that marriage points beyond itself to the “mystery of the union of Christ and his Church.”

3. The liturgy entitled “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” is for all practical purposes same-sex marriage.  It includes all of the essential elements found in a marriage rite:  vows, an exchange of rings, a pronouncement, and a blessing.  We believe that the rite subverts the teaching of the Book of Common Prayer, places The Episcopal Church outside the mainstream of Christian faith and practice, and creates further distance between this Church and the Anglican Communion along with other Christian churches.

4. Our dissent from this action of the 77th General Convention is thus rooted in the teachings of our own Church; in the historic biblical and theological witness upon which those teachings rest; and in the wider context of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church and our conviction that no part of the Church is free on its own to alter basic Christian teaching.

5. We are grateful that the rite, as approved by General Convention, contains provisions that protect diocesan bishops and parish priests who cannot for the sake of conscience authorize or use the liturgy.

6. We are committed to the gay and lesbian Christians who are members of our dioceses.  Our Baptismal Covenant pledges us to “respect the dignity of every human being” (BCP, p. 305), and we will continue to journey with them as together we seek to follow Jesus.

7. We reaffirm our commitment to the Anglican Communion of which The Episcopal Church is a constituent member, and to the historic See of Canterbury with whom we are in communion.  We will honor the three moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and will do all in our power to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

We invite all bishops who share these commitments to join us in this Statement, as we seek to affirm our loyalty to our beloved Church even as we dissent from this action.

+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


Comments (16)

  1. Richard Rhoads says:

    Although I don’t agree with the dissenting bishops, Ii’m glad they were given voice to speak their dissent.

  2. Andy Carlson says:

    Like Pastor Bonhoeffer’s quote…”not to speak, is to speak; no action, is action”. Thank you for speaking for me. As a member in the pew with a traditional perspective…this entire transition is demoralizing. I love my neighbor, I love those I disagree with. Now, a line has been drawn. It is time (past time) for the actual voices of the membership to express their exasperation. This is difficult, the conversation is difficult, Scripture is pretty clear…our leadership has vacillated to the point of rejection. How do I hold my head high in the face of schism. We have become a socially engineered faith these days….that is not what my Confirmation taught me.

  3. Bruce Marshall says:

    This statement, though thoughtful in its design, merely restates a position that was rejected by massive majorities in the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. Although these bishops may continue to voice objections to the use of the rite (which no one is compelled to use) the same amendment to which they refer in paragraph 5 also prohibits them from punishing any clergy or laity who, “for reasons of conscience” support the use of the rite. It will be interesting to see how they observe that provision.

  4. Teresa Murray Smith says:

    I left the Episcopal church several years ago, for the Anglican church APA. As Mr. Carlson said, to do nothing, is to condone. It is past time that the church be brought back on course of the sound reason, tradition and biblical teachings of its foundation, but I fear it is too late.

  5. scott fisher says:

    The dissenting letter is absolutely right that this rite is tantamount to preforming a same sex marriage ceremony in the episcopal church and has no basis in scripture whatsoever. This rite is misguided and a clear abdication by the clergy of its responsibility to adhere to sound doctrine and biblical principles. It’s high time that our beloved church change course and come back to tenets of the faith. If the current group of bishops and priests refuse to adhere to their vows then, the laity must insist that a new group be installed that will be faithful to the holy and revealed word of the living and triune God.

  6. Leister Sahanam says:

    I am glad the at least 12 bishops have taken a bold stand to stand firm with the gospel. personally I am open to be open to the new revelations time and again God makes at each new context. But I strongly believe that calling a same sex union a marriage is against the creation principle of God

  7. James Lincoln Sparks, Sr. says:

    “6. We are committed to the gay and lesbian Christians who are members of our dioceses. Our Baptismal Covenant pledges us to “respect the dignity of every human being” (BCP, p. 305), and we will continue to journey with them as together we seek to follow Jesus.”

    Does not the Holy Spirit continue to reveal the Trinity’s direction to believers? The purpose of a sermon is to elucidate the Holy Spirit’s guidance, as understood by the Preacher, to those hearing the Word. How does withholding the announcement of God’s Blessing recognize or respect the dignity of every human being?

  8. Steve Skiffington says:

    Uh, excuse me, but I’ve read the statement and also the list of signers and I have a question: Where are the woman Bishops? I don’t see one who signed on to this, which begs the question – why not? My guess is they remember when they could not be bishops, or priests, or Deacons, but they were always welcome on the altar gulid. Yes, we’ve come a long way.

  9. Thomas Blake says:

    As a deputy at this General Convention, I voted in favor of authorizing the rites for blessing same-sex relationships. I feel that our church has made a good decision. Having said that, I do, however, have great respect for the bishops who crafted this very diplomatic and Christ-like minority statement, and for the deputy who eloquently and articulately shared another minority statement in the House of Deputies. We need conservatives to remind us of the importance of our tradition and continuity with the ancient church, just as we need progressives to remind us that the body of Christ is living and dynamic and made manifest in many forms. We are all one body.

  10. Rita Z. Davis says:

    I agree with the dissent because of what God’s Holy Word says, not only about homosexuality, but of all sexual immorality, and for all sin. Teresa Murray Smith said she left the church because of this issue. The Rev. Gibson said it well. We are all responsible to Christ. We must stand for the Lord’s principles, no matter how painful…and it is painful. May the Good Lord have mercy on us all.

    1. Scott Fisher says:

      Rita Davis is spot on! Same sex blessing is unbiblical and completely inappropriate. The whole basis for church doctrine is the Word of the living God.Episcopal priests who perform same sex blessings dishonor the scripture and the faith itself. How can one bless what the Word of God calls a sin? Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13,Romans 1:26;27 denounce homosexuality as a sin in no uncertain terms. So, to bless a behavior and practice that is considered a sin by God is simply ungodly,wrong and unacceptable. Ms.Davis’ wise words bear repeating. “We must stand for the Lord’s principle’s,no matter how painful..and it is painful”.

  11. George B. "Buck" Stackhouse III says:

    As a “cradle Episcopalian” having served as a Lay Reader, Chalice Bearer, Lay Preacher, etc. in 7 dioceses, (Including North Dakota, Bishop Smith!) I wish to ask, “Where do we draw the line?” If we bless same sex unions, can we not bless multi-unions with three or more “partners’? How do we treat the breakup of such “blessed unions”? Do we or do we not believe that Holy Scripture contains all that we need? Read the ending of the Book of Revelation. God is alive and present in the present and He reveals Himself time and time again, but always I think in conformance with Holy Scripture, not in departure or in opposition to it or from it. I note that the only diocese in the Episcopal Church (to my knowledge) that is still growing is that of South Carolina, this, despite the movement of at least one large congregation (Larger than the entire home diocese of the Presiding Bishop!) to the “conservative” Anglican Church in America.

    The South Carolina delegates (including the Bishop) left the General Convention after the passage of “The Blessing” in protest to its Scripturally unsound wording and condonation. The Good News is that all of this is in accordance with God’s Plan which was in place from “The Beginning.” He has included the remnant in the past. Hang in there South Carolina, and let us all pray for His guidance in all of this. Pray especially for the Bishop and priests of the Diocese of South Carolina (which, by the way, predates the Episcopal Church) as they meet this Wednesday to determine the future of the diocese.

    May God’s will be done!

  12. Jim Taggart says:

    As a member of longest self sustaining mission in the Diocese of Dallas, I have read the Indianapolis Statement and Bishop Stanton’s comments regarding the General Conventions actions. In my opinion the word marriage is matter of semantics. Its use is well defined in our historic culture, but then so was slavery. Our mission is without a doubt, based on percentages, the most inclusive congregation in the Diocese of Dallas. Those individuals, who are engaged in a same sex union, are as good “a’h” members of our congregation as any church could ask for. Their relationships are as loving as any traditional married couple could be.

    America and Americans have led the world in assisting other countries in their strides toward a more democratic nation. Yet we receive all the criticism from the Anglican Communion for electing an openly gay Bishop and now blessing same-sex unions. If the Constitution of this republic can be a living document, then why can’t the Episcopal Church become more livable? The “Blessing of a Same Sex Union” is only the acceptance by the Church of an acknowledged life circumstance.

    It is easy to condemn others because we can’t put a face on those individuals, who engage in activities that we don’t approve or want to confront. But when you can put a face on those individuals, your prejudice is as least modified, if not discarded. After all we live in a “new covenant” with God. Maybe, just maybe, the Holy Spirit is guiding us.

  13. Fr. William W Haslett III says:

    Finally — Bishops who show a real, solid, propensity for Leadership, over and against the mealy mouthed, senatorial arrogance without any substance, typical of many self-styled “enlightened” Bishops of ECUSA. I hope that they continue to garner prayers for their strength, wisdom, catholicity and Scriptural bias (!). Go well, reflecting a light from the Early Orthodox Fathers of the Church.

  14. Father Mike Waverly-Shank says:

    I am happy to say that I serve in the Diocese of Albany where Bishop Bill Love is our Bishop. On June 11, 1966 I was one of 12 ordinands who signed our oath on the altar of the Church of the Saviour in Philly. And this oath has bound me all these years to believe in and teach and obey what Holy Scriptures tell us. The Indianapolis Statement is an expression of that vow. Praise God!

  15. Dabney Peacher says:

    So proud of John Bauerschmidt, Diocese of Tennessee. I am a member of a church in his diocese. I appreciate his courage and boldness to stand firm on God’s word and Biblical teachings. I had almost decided to leave my dear Episcopal church that I have attended all of my 62 years. Bishop Bauerschmidt has given me a glimmer of Hope. God bless him and all the others.

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