Questions over Prayer Book revision and parliamentary procedure were raised by members of the House of Bishops on the morning of the 3rd legislative day at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church meeting, 5-12 July 2012 in Indianapolis.
On 7 July 2012 the Bishop of Arkansas raised the question of special voting procedures under Article X of the Constitution of the Episcopal Church in response to a resolution dealing with lectionary reform. However, his query as to what constitutes a majority in the House of Bishops under Article X of the Constitution has a direct bearing on the Resolution A049: “Authorize Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Gender Relationships”. The inability to muster a majority under the Article X voting rules makes it likely that the trial rites for the blessing of same sex unions will fail to pass this General Convention.
At the close of the morning session, Resolution A059 came before the House. It seeks to cure an anomaly between the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) adopted by the 2009 General Convention and the readings for Holy Days given in the body of the Prayer Book. When Convention adopted the RCL it neglected to update the readings found in the Book of Common Prayer to conform to the new lectionary.
Bishop Dan Martins of Springfield rose to speak against the motion, saying he objected to piecemeal prayer book revision. This was “the first time” that the prayer book had been revised in this fashion, he stated, and argued that it set a dangerous precedent.
Bishop Dan Herzog then rose to ask whether the lectionary was part of the Prayer Book or merely bound with the Prayer Book. Speaking from the chair, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said that she believed Herzog was correct in saying the Prayer Book and Lectionary were separate entities.
Bishop Herzog then asked whether revision of readings in the holy days “can be fixed in one time” by being endorsed by one meeting of General Convention, or did it require “two times”?
The chairman of the Prayer Book committee, Bishop George Wayne Smith of Missouri, responded that this question had been a “point of controversy” as “half the canonists said one time” and “half said two times.”
Bishop Todd Ousley of Eastern Michigan rose to say the answer to this question was contained in Article X of the Constitution. He cited the Constitution saying the Prayer Book may be revised in two sessions under the rules governing amendments to the constitution or in one meeting “by a majority of the whole number of the Bishops entitled to vote in the House of Bishops, and by a majority of the Clerical and Lay Deputies of all the Dioceses entitled to representation in the House of Deputies, voting by orders as previously set forth in this Article: (a) Amend the Table of Lessons and all Tables and Rubrics relating to the Psalms.”
“There’s your answer,” Bishop Ousley said.
Following a comment from the Bishop of Vermont on the merits of the question, the resolution was passed by the bishops on a voice vote.
After the vote, Bishop Larry Benfield of Arkansas rose and asked the chair, Bishop Jefferts Schori, if the quorum necessary to pass the vote under Article X was present. He then cited Article X requirement of “by majority of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote” as opposed to the two meeting requirement of “by a majority of all Bishops, excluding retired Bishops not present, of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote in the House of Bishops.”
“Do we know that we have that?” Bishop Benfield asked.
Bishop Jefferts Schori responded “I think so. The vote was overwhelming.”
She then paused and said “We will have to check the list.”
The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops has approximately 305 members entitled to vote – at the 6 July press conference Anglican Ink was told the exact number of bishops in the house would be given to the press shortly.
Under Article X, a trial liturgical rite must be endorsed by the supermajority of the “whole numbers of Bishops entitled to vote” meaning at least 153 bishops must be present and vote in the affirmative for resolution A049. On 6 July a spokesman for the church told the daily press conference 165 bishops had registered and were present at convention. For A049 to be adopted it must pass the House of Deputies and House of Bishops under the supermajority voting rules of Article X – meaning 13 bishops can block adoption of the resolution.