Sunday, January 27, 2008

The PB Looks a Gift Horse in the Mouth

... and then declines the offer.

The San Joaquin drama took another turn yesterday--one that I have to say caught me by surprise, and very little surprises me anymore.

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin (whatever that may be--we'll just leave it alone for the moment) has accomplished a noteworthy feat. Six of the eight elected members have been "de-acknowledged" by not just one, but two Primates of the Anglican Communion. How did they manage such an accomplishment?

On January 19, Bishop Schofield pronounced all four clergy members and two of the lay members of the committee unqualified to serve, since they were not able to indicate a settled mind in affirmation of either the advisability or the legality of the decision the diocesan convention took last December 8 to secede from the Episcopal Church and affiliate with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Now, exactly one week later, all eight members (including the two who were still standing when the dust settled on the 19th), have received, by overnight mail sent to their home addresses, a message from the Presiding Bishop informing them that she does not acknowledge them as the legitimate members of the San Joaquin Standing Committee. Talk about a one-two punch.

The Presiding Bishop is mistaken on several counts.

First, she bases her action on a putative "unanimous vote" of the Standing Committee in support of the path on which Bishop Schofield has led the diocese. (It "has come to my attention...") No such vote has ever taken place. They haven't voted for it. They haven't voted against it. They simply haven't voted. The question has never come up in the course of the committee ordinary performance of its duties. Neither has the Standing Committee "attempted to organize" as a committee of a diocese of the Province of the Southern Cone (the other major count in her indictment against them). Quite the contrary, I would not be surprised if it were revealed that the committee has, in fact, acted according to its obligations under the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church by consenting to an episcopal election or two, and done so after the diocesan convention vote in December. That would constitute a "fact on the ground" that would make it difficult to make a charge of breaching fiduciary duty stick. (And let me add that how any member of the committee personally voted, or did not vote, at the December convention is of no consequence. See Executive Council member Mark Harris' lucid analysis of this question here.)

Second, she has no canonical authority to unilaterally and summarily pronounce elected members of a diocese's Standing Committee excluded from office. Even if she were able to substantiate her accusations that they have breached their canonical fiduciary responsibility (which she cannot), there is still such a thing as due process, using Title IV of TEC's canons. And she does not have the canonical authority to initiate such proceedings; it would have to be done by laity and clergy within the diocese. (For the record, and once again, six of the members were elected at prior conventions. Two of them were elected in December, but the election took place before the vote to secede and re-affiliate.)

Third, the Presiding Bishop has bungled a major opportunity for advancing her narrative on the whole San Joaquin mess, which is that the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin continues in existence, with a bishop currently under inhibition and shortly to be deposed--i.e. that no corporate removal to the Southern Cone has taken place, only individual defections. It's difficult to get a lot of traction for this story when all that remain are those few who have been the (loyal, for the most part) opposition in the diocese for years and years. But then she was presented with an opportunity to woo and recover some of the most senior clergy of the diocese--long-tenured, experienced, leading substantial parishes. One would think she would have pounced on this as a veritable godsend. She could have come off as Katharine the Reconciler, the one who is truly interested in inclusion.

But no. She snubbed it.

This is a monumental gaffe on her part. Unless, that is, she isn't really interested in inclusion or reconciliation, but only ideological victory for her side, in which case a scorched earth "take no prisoners" policy is the way to go.

The rapid disintegration of due process in "this Church" should be worrisome to those of every ideological and theological stripe. More on that later.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Now See This

One of the central theses of my three previous posts has been to encourage a complex--rather than a merely binary--understanding of goings-on among Anglican Christians in the central third of California, known lately as the Diocese of San Joaquin--to wit: Aside from the Coneheads (no slight intended; I just couldn't resist) and those who identify with Remain Episcopal (the local franchise for Via Media), there is a third group that we may yet find are the actual "players" in any coming reconfiguration of the Episcopal Church's presence in that region. They are as orthodox as the day is long and every bit as "conservative" as those who have flown south, so they are likely to be as much of a thorn in the side of the "National Church" establishment as was the diocese in its prior incarnation. This cannot come as good news to said establishment, but it may not be a reality they will be able to avoid without conspicuously abrogating the sort of canonical due process that underlies [here all genuflect] "our polity." Their own shibboleth may yet become unpronounceable to them.

I am pleased to see an emerging awareness of this complex reality in the blogsphere. Reinforcing my point is this pointed but insightful essay by Father Rob Eaton on San Joaquin's official blog. May those who have ears to hear, hear.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


...on the immediate previous post.

I realize it was a bit of a bombshell. There have been suggestions that the veracity of my report may be questionable. I quite understand. Were I not the one in personal contact with those who have firsthand knowledge of what transpired yesterday in Fresno, I might be equally skeptical.

Because of the sensitivity of this whole situation, I have refrained from supplying names to go with my information. However, I have now received permission to do so from a couple of the involved individuals, and am working on obtaining more such consents.

I've already quoted from the Revd James Snell, Standing Committee president (not of the Southern Cone San Joaquin Standing Committee, but of the canonically-elected TEC San Joaquin Standing Committee). Father Snell is the Rector of the parish of St Columba, Fresno. (BTW, as I understand the policy of the Province of the Southern Cone, its primate is styled a Presiding Bishop, not an Archbishop. I stand ready to be corrected if I am wrong.) Neither the message from Fr Snell nor that from Bishop Schofield has been edited or abridged by me.

I can also now share this from the Revd Michael McClenaghan, Rector of St Paul's in Modesto, and one of the other clerical members of the Standing Committee:

Just a quick clarification regarding the changes that took place with the Standing Committee this morning.

Bishop Schofield informed the Standing Committee that members must be composed of clergy and lay members who have openly declared that they are members of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. His letter following the meeting states: "The Standing Committee, which is my council of advice, must be composed of clergy members who are Anglican priests of the Southern Cone. This is required by Diocesan Canons and the Archbishop of the Southern Cone of South America."

We were told that this standard for serving on the Standing Committee applied to both clergy and lay members, not just clergy, and the clear message was that any members of the Standing Committee who were in discernment regarding their affiliation with the Province of the Southern Cone or The Episcopal Church, or anyone who had made a decison to remain in The Episcopal Church was disqualified from serving on the Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin. No resignations were made by any members of the Standing Committee, either verbally or in writing. Rather, the majority of the Standing Committee members were removed by the Bishop, including all four of the elected clergy members, one lay member, and possibly another lay member who was not able to attend the meeting. There was no misunderstanding about the process of removal during the meeting and the action of the Bishop was recorded in the minutes of the meeting by the Secretary, Ted Yumoto.

I bear no malice toward Bishop Schofield. We have enjoyed Christian fellowship through the years and I expect that will continue in the future. Had he requested a resignation from me I would have offered it to him. That is not, however, what transpired this morning, and I thought it was appropriate to set the record straight.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Saturday Morning Massacre

I am of an age to remember Watergate, and Richard Nixon's firing of the Attorney General for his refusal to fire the Special Prosecutor, and his instant promotion of the Solicitor General in order to accomplish the deed. It was known as the Saturday Night Massacre.

In the post previous to this one, I drew attention to the role of the Standing Committee in the Diocese of San Joaquin. All eight members--four clergy and four lay--are solidly orthodox in their theological positions, all "reasserters." All have been energetic supporters of Bishop Schofield's advocacy for the received moral teaching of the Church Catholic. All have agonized over their relationship with an Episcopal Church that causes them shame and embarrassment at every turn. I am well acquainted with five of the eight, and know two of the three others, having served on that very Standing Committee as recently as six months ago. I shared their mixed feelings when we contemplated our relationship with TEC and the Anglican Communion. We worked hard to present a united front with our bishop in bearing witness to the faith of the saints, apostles, prophets, and martyrs.

As of this morning, six of those eight are now ex-members of the San Joaquin Standing Committee. Only ... which ones are the six and which ones are the "remaining" two?

Here are the facts. First, a message from Bishop Schofield:

On December 8th at our Diocesan Convention the overwhelming vote to transfer from the Episcopal Church to the Province of the Southern Cone was passed. At that time I became a member of the House of Bishops of that Province. Therefore, the Standing Committee, which is my council of advice, must be composed of clergy members who are Anglican priests of the Southern Cone. This is required by Diocesan Canons and the Archbishop of the Southern Cone of South America, who writes:

“In welcoming you to the Province of the Southern Cone on December 8th it is my clear understanding that even though you are allowing a period of discernment for those clergy who are still undecided, it would be highly inappropriate for any officer or leader within the Diocese of San Joaquin to be currently undecided or clearly within the Episcopal Church and continue as an officer or leader. The requirement governing each diocese of the Southern Cone is that all members of Diocesan Council, Standing Committee, and those selected as representatives at Synod be recognized Members of this Province.”

Therefore, this morning I received the resignation of those members of the Standing Committee who do not meet the above qualifications. Communication and correspondence related to the Standing Committee should now be directed to the new President of the Standing Committee, ---------, at the Diocesan Offices.

Then we have this , from the duly-elected president of the Standing Committee:

During the Standing Committee meeting of January 19th, the Bishop determined that the elected members of the Standing Committee who had not publicly affirmed their standing in the Southern Cone [whose congregations are in discernment, some over the legality of convention's actions] were unqualified to hold any position of leadership in the Diocese, including any elected office. He pronounced us as unqualified. No resignations were given. The question of resignations was raised and rejected. The members of the committee at this morning's meeting were quite clear on this point, we did not resign, we were declared unqualified to hold office. The Bishop's decision affects up to 6 of the 8 elected members of the Committee including all of the clergy members.

Let the record show that three of the four clergy members who are now clearly not members of the Standing Committee of the Southern Cone Diocese of San Joaquin are rectors of the three largest parishes of the diocese. Two of them are the two most senior priests of the diocese (in terms of time in cure) and the other is in the top five, having held his position for 12 years.

Bishop Schofield's action has effectively (pardon the metaphor) "outed" these priests, revealing a divide within the diocese that cannot be casually dismissed. We're not talking about the liberal fringe (I use "liberal" in a relative sense) who have always been malcontents in the diocese, now under the umbrella of Remain Episcopal. We're talking about actual conservatives--those who, in grand San Joaquin tradition, wore out the 'No' buttons on their clickers during legislative sessions of the House of Deputies. We're talking about the potential seeds of a viable continuing conservative TEC presence in the Central Valley of California.

But the big news is that, by any reasonable reckoning, these four priests and two lay persons (who, incidentally, are members of two of the large parishes represented by the priests) are still the members of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. It is tempting to say that there are now two lay vacancies on that committee, but I have to think about the due process angle a little more. In any case, if 815 wants to know who they should be talking to--that is, the Ecclesiastical Authority of the diocese, given the inhibition (to say nothing of the voluntary departure) of the Bishop--there is now no doubt.

Monday, January 14, 2008

San Joaquin Annotated

When does a crisis simply become normal? The crisis in the Episcopal Church and in the worldwide Anglican Communion has been described recently as a “slow-motion train wreck.” That strikes me as very apt. We all (Anglicans and those who watch us in our misery) long for resolution, for a return to something resembling homeostasis. Maybe there was once such a thing, but it hasn’t been during the last 35 years—roughly the length of my experience with "this Church." It’s been a continuous soap opera. Many may have been blind to it prior to the summer of 2003, but what happened then was nothing new; it was only the next installment.

Late last week, yet another chapter opened. The Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, formally inhibited the Bishop of San Joaquin, John-David Schofield, from the exercise of the liturgical, sacramental, and pastoral aspects of his ministry as a bishop; he is allowed to perform only administrative tasks as regards the “temporal affairs” of the diocese. This action is being pursued under the “abandonment of communion” canon. (Title III, Section 9) It represents the third step in a four-step process that will, one can predict with a fair measure of safety, result in Bishop Schofield being “deposed” from the ordained ministry—in popular parlance, “defrocked.”

The first of the four steps was a finding by the Title IV Review Committee (a standing committee including bishops, priests, and lay persons, and chaired by the Bishop of Upper South Carolina, Dorsey Henderson) that Bishop Schofield has “abandoned the communion of this church” by engaging in one or more of the following: 1) and open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of this Church, 2) formal admission into any religious body not in communion with TEC, or 3) performing ministry as a bishop in or for a church that is not in communion with TEC.

In Bishop Schofield’s case, it was the first of the criteria—“open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship…”—that the Review Committee cites as the smoking gun. The word “or” in that phrase invites the question, “Which one (or ones) was it, then?” We don’t know the answer to that, because the original request (from the Presiding Bishop via her chancellor, David Booth Beers, we now know) that the Review Committee investigate the matter has not been made public to my knowledge. One would think that it is “discipline,” however, since the 1979 Book of Common Prayer continues to be the liturgical and theological norm of the diocese in its Southern Cone incarnation, hence eliminating "doctrine" and "worship." But I am still curious as to what specific act on the part of the Bishop is considered to breach the discipline of the Episcopal Church.

In any case, the Review Committee’s finding was forwarded to the three most senior bishops with jurisdiction for their concurrence; all three must concur. Apparently, all three have. For the record, they are Peter of Lee of Virginia, Leo Frade of Southeast Florida, and Don Wimberly of Texas. The canon is very specific here: The Presiding Bishop has no discretion in the matter. If steps one and two are fulfilled, the words “shall inhibit” come into play, and there is no ambiguity. I have little doubt that Bishop Jefferts Schori personally believes it to be meet and right so to do, but it isn’t like she had a choice.

The date of the inhibition (last Friday at 5:00 PM) starts a two month clock ticking. During that time, Bishop Schofield has the opportunity to either offer a refutation of the facts on which the abandonment finding is based (“I didn’t really do what they say I did”), or to recant that evidence (“I did it, but now I’m sorry, and I don’t mean it anymore”), or to voluntarily renounce the office and ministry of the episcopate (“You can’t fire me; I quit”). Then the ball is in the court of the House of Bishops. Conveniently, they are scheduled to be in session at their regular March meeting—you guessed it—two months from now. If two-thirds of them agree, Bishop Schofield will be formally deposed from the ordained ministry, and he’ll be getting a “Dear Mr Schofield” letter. [Note on 1/15: I was mistaken--it's a simple majority that is required for deposition, not tw0-thirds.]

Of course, these facts are all the truth (as near as I can tell), and they are nothing but the truth. They are not, by any stretch, however, the whole truth.

Let’s start with the obvious, and then, perhaps, move on to the subtle. The canonical process that has been put into play amounts to closing the barn door after the horses have escaped. A little more than a month ago, the Diocese of San Joaquin took an action which a rather decisive majority of the clergy and laity assembled in convention believe relieves them, and their Bishop, of any accountability to the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church. I am as certain as one could be without being an eyewitness that Bishop Schofield has, with some degree of glee, flouted the sentence of inhibition, and that he appeared yesterday morning to preach the Word and preside at the Eucharist at one of the congregations of the diocese according to a schedule that was published several months ago. [Note on 1/15: I have since learned that he amicably agreed not to visit an "in discernment" parish that was on his rota, and instead made hospital calls--still probably in violation of the inhibition.]

For few hours last week, there were mixed messages coming out of Fresno. The first press release seemed to take a “dual citizenship” position, claiming that Bishop Schofield is a member of both TEC’s House of Bishops and also that of the Province of the Southern Cone. This is roughly that same position that was implied by His Grace in an interview some weeks ago, which one observer characterized (not inaccurately, in my opinion) as saying “If you want to say I’m still an Episcopalian, then I’m not; if you want to say I’m not an Episcopalian, then I am.” However, there was soon a clarifying missive from the Canon to the Ordinary: “Hasta la vista, Baby!” (I paraphrase.) No ambiguity. Both “J-DS” and “D-SJ” (funny how that works!) are under the umbrella of Bishop Venables and the Province of the Southern Cone. They see the Presiding Bishop’s action as having no force or effect because she has no authority to discipline the Bishop of a diocese in a Province not her own. It is like the Primate of Australia presuming to depose a bishop in the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (the Anglican province in Japan).

But it gets more interesting. The San Joaquin situation does not exist in isolation, but is only one battle front among several that Katharine and her consiglieri must keep on their screens. Fort Worth and Pittsburgh appear poised to make the same leap that San Joaquin has made. Quincy may not be far behind. Whatever strategic moves 815 makes against San Joaquin will provide valuable intel to these other dioceses, so the Establishment needs to weigh everything it says and does very carefully. Then there’s the already in-process litigation against the Anglican District of Virginia—a consortium of eleven former Episcopal congregations that have, under the leadership of Bishop Martyn Minns, formerly the Rector of one of those parishes, affiliated with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), which is an arm of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). That case has already been argued, and there will likely be an initial decision before the San Joaquin drama fully plays out. Yet, it will doubtless end up in a Court of Appeals, and there seems a possibility that TEC’s strategy on one front might undercut its position in the other—more on that downstream.

Then there’s the reality that any action against Bishop Schofield is only an initial volley. If 815’s goal is to re-establish an Episcopal Church presence in the central third of California, and try to recover part or all of the material fabric of what was the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, much more needs to be done. For instance, once the Bishop of San Joaquin is, from the perspective of TEC, removed from office, what we’re left with is a diocese without a bishop. According to the canons, the Standing Committee, as a unit, becomes the Ecclesiastical Authority of the diocese. Now, the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin has an elected Standing Committee consisting of four lay persons and four clergy. All eight of them were elected and assumed office prior to the vote of the December 8 convention to remove references to TEC from its constitution and to affiliate with the Province of the Southern Cone.

So far, to my knowledge, the Standing Committee has kept quiet, both collectively and as individual members. Do they consider themselves the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Church Diocese of San Joaquin? The Southern Cone Diocese of San Joaquin? Are the members divided on the question? There is no record of how any of them voted at the convention, save for any video images that may be recovered indicating which line they went through during the vote. (I saw one lay member clearly in the Aye line; beyond that I have no certain knowledge.) The ENS article on the inhibition, and the efforts to minister to “remaining Episcopalians” in the diocese’s geographical area, mentions replacing the Standing Committee, but qualified by the words “if necessary.”

Yet, there is no obvious canonical mechanism for determining the necessity of such an action. Nor is there any obvious canonical mechanism for actually taking such an action should it be deemed necessary. I say “obvious” just to cover myself, and because I am not a canon lawyer. But I do know how to read and I do have a copy of the Constitution and Canons in front of me, and I cannot find any provision that applies to the situation at hand. Who has the authority to make such a determination? Who has the authority to take such an action? How would such a process be executed? This gets especially tricky with respect to the lay members of the Standing Committee, as lay persons are subject to much looser discipline under the canons than are clergy. They have made no vows of fealty to “this Church” the breach of which might be an actionable offense. Anyone may proffer ostensibly plausible answers to those questions, but unless I’m just really missing something as I read the canons, “plausible” is about the best we’re going to do. “Definitive” is beyond anyone’s reach. There is simply no template for due process; it would have to be improvised, and any time due process is improvised, any acts performed thereunder are automatically subject to suspicion.

Things are never as simple as they seem, nor as we might like them to be. There are certainly clergy in San Joaquin who would relish the chance to share the canonical fate of their Bishop, and congregations that would relish their clergy sharing that fate. There are certainly clergy who have made clear an intention to perdure in their adherence to the Episcopal Church, and congregations the vestries of which have voiced a similar intention. But it would be a mistake to assume that those categories account for the whole of what lately was the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. There is no small amount of ambivalence among Anglicans (I use that term to be inclusive of everyone involved) in the area. The situation is still fluid, both for individual clergy and laity, and for congregations.

Here I am speaking of people who tend to share the prevailing “reasserter” views on the questions of sexual morality that are the catalyst for this latest (post-2003) round in the Anglican crisis, who are intuitively and materially distrustful the “national church,” who have held Bishop Schofield in a high degree of esteem and affection, and who may, because of that esteem and affection, even have abstained or voted with the majority last month, but yet are not fully persuaded of the necessity or advisability of either leaving TEC or affiliating with the Southern Cone. They are exercising the opportunity for “discernment” that Bishop Schofield has promised. The powers-that-be on Second Avenue seem intent on perceiving the landscape in San Joaquin in binary terms. If I were to advise them, I would encourage them to think outside such rigid categories—at least if they are interested in retaining people as well as property. The more they demonize Bishop Schofield and prop up Remain Episcopal as their puppet regime, they will only drive these “undecideds” into the welcoming arms of Bishop Venables.

One might ask, “How is inhibiting and deposing a Bishop who, by his own admission, has left the Episcopal Church, ‘demonizing’ him?” The answer is, “Perception is reality.” And the perception is that +John-David is being persecuted (a perception he has, to be sure, encouraged), a perception that will reach its angry zenith when the “Dear Mr Schofield” letter comes out. Why go through the patent charade of laicizing a bishop who has merely accepted a position in another Anglican province, one which “this Church” considers itself in full communion with (leaving aside the matter of whether that consideration is reciprocated). It isn’t the first time such a thing has been done, and presbyters do it all the time. In fact, as I understand it, the former Bishop of Alaska, Mark McDonald, now serves as a bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada, and also as Bishop of TEC’s Navajoland area. If they were truly wise, and truly mindful of their own best interests (let alone Christian charity), Bishop Jefferts Schori and her advisors would simply acknowledge that the Right Reverend John-David Schofield now serves in the Province of the Southern Cone and wish him godspeed.

Now, what about the clergy of the diocese, i.e. those who, like their Bishop, now consider themselves accountable to the Constitution and Canons of the Province of the Southern Cone? Just as there is an “abandonment canon” for bishops, so is there one for priests and deacons. For the same reasons I have already articulated with respect to the imprudence of invoking that canon against Bishop Schofield, I believe it would be unwise to proceed in that manner against the clergy who are loyal to him. Some years ago, I considered putting my name in for a parish in Toronto. If I had been called there, and accepted, I would not have had to renounce my orders in TEC, nor would I have been subject to disposition. There would have been pension consequences, but no disciplinary sanctions. There’s no reason the same cannot apply to the new California Coneheads. Nonetheless, if Chancellor Beers remains true to form, there will be some action attempted. But, once again, there is no clear shot for him to take. Why? Because responsibility for invoking the abandonment canon against priests and deacons lies with the Standing Committee! And we’ve already seen what a can of worms that is.

Even if 815 were to find some semblance of due process under which to act, they might discover that they have painted themselves into a logical corner. Their unrelenting mantra has been, “Individuals can leave TEC, but dioceses and parishes cannot.” Their position is that dioceses are “creatures of General Convention” and that parishes hold their property in trust for TEC (the “Denis Canon”). Yet, in order to proceed canonically against the leaders duly elected under the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, they would need to accord some degree of validity to the December vote. In other words, they would be in the position of saying out of one side of their collective mouth, “It is impossible for you to do X” and out of the other side, “Because you have done X, we are going to do Y.” Either the diocese can leave TEC or it cannot. If it can not, then is has not, and if it has not, then there’s nothing to charge anybody with. And if 815 in any way—tacitly or even by mere implication—acknowledges that San Joaquin has in fact left the Episcopal Church, that could undercut its position in the Virginia litigation, where the unitary and hierarchical character of TEC is a key element in its argument.

One last piece of the puzzle: Not only is the Presiding Bishop in an awkward situation, so is Bishop Schofield, and so, most of all, is Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Bishop Schofield already has his invitation to next summer’s Lambeth Conference in hand, and he has indicated that he’s ready to roll. Now, Dr Williams is quoted as calling the San Joaquin-Southern Cone plan a “sensible way forward.” He has not confirmed that pronouncement, but neither has he denied it (despite a rather pathetic attempt to do so by the Anglican Communion Office). So, if he were to withdraw Bishop Schofield’s invitation on the grounds that it was originally predicated on his being the bishop of a diocese in the Episcopal Church, especially if he does not also withdraw invitations to TEC bishops who participated in the consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire, that would effectively doom any chances he might have, which are already looking fairly slim, of persuading a critical mass of Global South Bishops to show up for the event, and thus provide it with some credibility as a voice for the mind of the Communion. Plus, he would be contradicting his own “sensible way forward” remark. On the other hand, if he does not withdraw Bishop Schofield’s invitation, he will have a lot of splainin’ to do to the currently uninvited CANA and AMiA bishops, and, most of all, to one Robinson Cavalcanti, sometime Bishop of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil’s Diocese of Recife. When Bishop Cavalcanti, an outspoken “reasserter” in that largely liberal province, was deposed by his Primate, he, along with a large majority of his clergy and congregations, migrated to—you guessed it—the Province of the Southern Cone. But Bishop Cavalcanti has expressly not been invited to Lambeth. So Dr Williams is very much between the proverbial rock and a hard place. It would take an extraordinary batch of “Anglican fudge” to lubricate the friction between those two opposing forces.

Finally, let me go on record as sitting loosely to all of my observations and predictions. My experience is that, whenever I think the outcome is going to be either A or B, it turns out to be Q.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

What he said...

...because I couldn't say it any better myself. Do check out this from Fr Tony Clavier on the "love the sinner, hate the sin" brouhaha on HoB/D earlier this week.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Uh ... blasphemy?

Reuters is carrying this story (hat tip to TitusOneNine) about a Coca-Cola ad campaign in Russia that employed religious (Russian Orthodox) symbolism in its visuals. Some believers protested, and after first trying to ignore them, the company has pulled the ads. I don't suppose they had a sudden burst of conscience, but know...talks.

Now, I have a pretty high threshold for having my religious sensibilities offended, and I'm not sure that the ad for Manwich that I saw (three times during one episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent) last night rises that high. But it trends in that direction, not the least because the core of the offense is the hijacking of a well-known hymn, and I am, among other things, a hymnophile.

I didn't get all the words, but, to the tune from the finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, morphed several decades ago into the hymn Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee:

Manwich, Manwich, we adore thee
---- [not understood]----
(Tongues and mouths?) unfold before thee,
---- [not understood] ----

I'm not going to be contacting the American Family Association over this. I'm not going contact Hunt's or make a particular point of not buying their tomato paste. But while Manwich may not leave a bad taste in my mouth, the ad does.

One can only wonder about the outcry if Hunt's had co-opted a Jewish or Muslim song, or other symbolism from those traditions, and turned it into a commercial jingle for Sloppy Joe's. Heads would roll. Or at least there would be letters to the editor.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Stand Firm is an very fine and usually well-written blog that has become a sort of flagship cybervoice for conservative Anglicans who have not only given up on the Episcopal Church, but who are in the process of giving up on Canterbury-based Anglicanism itself. (As I understand the terrain, to give up on Canterbury is to give up on Anglicanism, but they would disagree.) Their relatively small stable of writers are stoutly Evangelical, and two of them, at least, are distinctly Calvinist.

While I am an evangelical only in a generic way (I believe in proclaiming Good News) and not in the party sense, and even though I prefer to keep Monsieur Calvin at a very safe distance, I have, in the past, considered myself a friend of Stand Firm. I am, with them, on the "orthodox" side of the Great Divide. I say the creeds without crossing my fingers. I fully agree with Lambeth I.10. I voted against the confirmation of Gene Robinson's election in 2003, as well as the resolution that affirmed the blessing of same-sex unions as "within the bounds of our common life." I voted for B-033 in 2006 because I believed (and still believe) it to be a bona fide moratorium on the consecration of partnered gay bishops, as was requested by the Windsor Report. In the taxonomy of TitusOneNine, another fine conservative Anglican blog of a similar but distinctive stripe, I have what I believe are impeccable "reasserter" credentials.

But, for whatever it may be worth, the folks at Stand Firm no longer consider me their friend. This is no great tragedy, in the larger scheme of things, and I don't lose any sleep over it. But their reason for giving me the cold shoulder is, to say the least, interesting. It is because of the company I keep. Another (truly the most excellent) blog to which I am a contributor is Covenant. While the majority of Covenant's writers are as "orthodox" as I am, a handful are not, in that, on the merits of the issue itself, they are able to embrace, or are open to embracing, a positive moral assessment of homosexual behavior in the context of a lifelong committed relationship analogous to traditional marriage. But they are all gravely concerned about the way the behavior of the Episcopal Church over this question has damaged the Anglican Communion, and are committed to the norms of the Windsor Report and to the process of developing a robust Anglican Covenant.

While I do not myself stand in precisely the same place as these friends, I have no qualms--no qualms whatsoever--about affirming their Christian fidelity and the integrity of their discipleship. They are my co-laborers in the work of the gospel. I have no reason to doubt that they and I have all been clothed with the same Christ in the waters of baptism, and if that be true, I cannot allow a disagreement such as the one between us to prevent me from sharing with them the Sign of Peace and dining with them on the Body and Blood of the One whose members we are by virtue or our trip to the font.

For this I am labeled a collaborationist--yea, verily, Vichy.


All this time I just thought I was behaving like a Christian.

I love the people at Stand Firm. I share a whole lot of the same angst that stokes the fire in their bellies. I've got no problem being friends with them, and I will continue to look at the site regularly. But if they feel compelled to pin a label on me because of who I hang with, be it. I'll wear it proudly. I do it because I love Jesus, and don't see how I could love Jesus and do anything else.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

What Shall We Hate?

Over on the House of Bishops/Deputies listserv there has been a recent thread that has made several of my hairs turn white. It has been an unrelenting diatribe from the port side of the vessel in criticism of the expression "Love the sinner but hate the sin." It has never struck me as a statement that could possibly arouse controversy and ire; yet, it has. The rules of the game prevent me from replicating the posts to which I eventually felt constrained to respond, but they do permit me to give myself permission to re-post my own words, which I do below.

I have been greatly perplexed by the posts on this thread, both by the content of the comments and by the intensity of the emotion behind them. Something is operating here that is more subtle (or more visceral?) than I can identify or articulate. Yet, I feel compelled to say something, because this is one of those instances when I feel like I’m in the same church with people who don’t simply disagree with me on points of theology, but who espouse a religious meta-view that I scarcely recognize as Christian, let alone Anglican (or let alone Episcopalian). I’m not trying to accuse anybody of heresy or anything; just giving voice to my own intuitive discomfort.

The expression “Love the sinner but hate the sin” is, as far as I can tell, simply trying to elucidate a distinction between a person’s core identity and that person’s behavior, and this seems an eminently healthy thing to do. Not everything I do is consistent with who I am. There’s a disconnect (to speak psychobabble—a disintegration) between the two, and this is evidence of (to speak theologese) both my particular sins (words and actions) and the generalized power (force?) of Sin to which I and every other human person is subject. If I behave like an ass—which I am most prone to do with those whom I love the most—I surely hope they will continue to love me even as they call me to account for (poetically speaking, “hating”) my asinine behavior. And when they do that, they are not “judging” me in some unrighteous way; they are, in fact, loving me. And is it not evident that God “hates” wickedness and injustice? I realize the loudest voices on this listserv don’t hold the Purity Code in very high regard, but what about the prophets? Amos and others certainly had something to say about what God “hates.”

Yes, the Genesis myth tells us that God created the world and humankind good—very good, even. But it also tells us about something about what is known in Christian theology as the Fall. This is entirely consistent with our liturgy (and, hence, the teaching of “this church”): “Holy and gracious Father, in your infinite love you made us for yourself, and when we had fallen into sin and become subject to evil and death…”. The term Original Sin refers to our inherited fallenness (default propensity to turn away from God), and is not meant to impugn the goodness of our creation.

And for the record, I am a Jung fan also, and know all about the dark side etc, but I don’t think that conflicts with the orthodox (even the Augustinian) vision of sin and grace. And I’m not uncomfortable with the notion that my Shadow is the flip side of my conscious virtuous self, and that my strengths are my weaknesses and my weaknesses are my strengths. (In good Jungian fashion, I tend to have an MBTI hermeneutic!) And I see this all as completely compatible with traditional theological categories and language.

Expressions like “Love the sinner, forgive the sin” leave me scratching my head. Despite the way we talk, it is not “sins” that get forgiven, it is people that get forgiven—forgiven their sins. Certainly we are to love all people—which is to wish for them nothing but their greatest good, and behave sacrificially to help that good come to fruition—regardless of their sins. At least I hope that’s the way my Christian brothers and sisters behave toward me! But if I try to solve my financial problems by robbing a convenience store, the way to love me is to turn me in to the police—i.e. “hate the sin.”

Of course, if we were to be totally candid, this exchange would be about whether certain behavior constitutes sin or not, not whether sin is worthy of be hated. But that’s a road most of us have been down before, and it has never led anywhere productive.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Here's my final snippet from the Ralph Vaughan Williams 1954 cantata Hodie. The text, like the second half of yesterday's treasure, comes from the pen of his wife Ursula, who wrote it specifically for this work. The music is uber-dramatic, beginning quietly (though with an unvarying rhythmic pulse kept by the tympani) to signify the Magi coming from a long way away, then rising steadily in volume until reaching a climax at the words "power and glory." Male voices from the chorus dominate. Then, after the Wise Men present their gifts, the music gradually fades as they depart to their exotic native lands.

This whole work is a masterpiece. I glean more from it every year. It deserves to be much better known and more widely performed than it is. I love it.

From kingdoms of wisdom secret and far
Come Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar;
They ride through time, they ride through night
Led by the star’s foretelling light.

Crowning the skies
The star of morning, star of dayspring calls,
Lighting the stable and broken walls
Where the prince lies.

Gold from the veins of the earth he brings,
Red gold to crown the King of kings.
Power and glory here behold
Shut in a talisman of gold.

Frankincense from those dark hands
Was gathered in eastern, sunrise lands,
Incense to burn both night and day
To bear the prayers a priest will say.

Myrrh is a bitter gift for the dead.
Birth but begins the path you tread;
Your way is short, your days foretold
By myrrh, and frankincense and gold.

Return to kingdoms secret and far,
Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar,
Ride through the desert, retrace the night
Leaving the star’s imperial light.

Crowning the skies,
The star of morning, star of dayspring calls:
Clear on the hilltop its sharp radiance falls
Lighting the stable and broken walls
Where the prince lies.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Two More from RVW...

...with the second one tomorrow.

The true quiet gem in Hodie is this little two-stanza chorale, sung unaccompanied by the SATB chorus and in the beyond-unlikely key of C-flat (which sounds exactly as if it were written in the more civilized B-major; I invite a comment from anyone who can suggest a reason for this). The first half is from an anonymous medieval text. The second half was supplied (perhaps at his desperate request?) by his wife, Ursula Wood Vaughan Williams, who was already established as a poet when they married (for the second time each) relatively late in their lives. I am particularly taken with the simple mystical power of the final two lines.

No sad thought his soul affright
Sleep it is that maketh night;’
Let no murmur nor rude wind
To his slumbers prove unkind:
But a quire of angels make
His dreams of heaven, and let him wake
To as many joys as can
In this world befall a man.

Promise fills the sky with light,
Stars and angels dance in flight;
Joy of heaven shall now unbind
Chains of evil from mankind,
Love and joy their power shall break,
And for a new born prince’s sake;
Never since the world began
Such a light such dark did span.