Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Horses Have Left the Barn

The Revd George Conger--who reports regularly for The Living Church, as well as producing free-lance journalism--has broken the news on Religious Intelligence that a new plan is afoot, brokered by some leading conservatives including Drs Ephraim Radner and Christopher Seitz and Archbishop Drexel Gomez, and apparently now with the imprimatur of the Presiding Bishop, to meld some of the elements of two earlier plans which were essentially stillborn--that of the Dar es Salaam Communique, and the PB's own Episcopal Visitors plan--in an effort to avert the daily widening schism both within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

With the caveat that my own response is based on a first reading of Father Conger’s article, and without the benefit of seeing the actual document which is the subject of the article, it strikes me that this may have been a significant development had it occurred six months ago, but that too much water has flowed under the bridge for it to be of any substantive effect now. This saddens me, because there was no doubt a time when something such as this might have “worked” to avert the sort of pandemic schism Anglicanism now faces. It may very well be, on its own terms, a good plan. But I fear that, from a practical political standpoint, it is too little too late. With the increasing evidence that the GAFCON leaders are not bluffing about skipping Lambeth, something rather more drastic than this is needed to coax them back into the tent. The only move that would be effective in this regard would have to be something that would be seen and experienced as a “defeat” for the Episcopal Church establishments (PB, 815 staff, Executive Council), something that Canterbury and/or the Joint Standing Committee would make them “eat” against their will. There needs to be a perception that TEC has been duly “punished,” even if on an interim basis, if the momentum of GAFCON is to be blunted. This may or may not be right, proper, or just. But it is political reality. IMHO, the Windsor Report, and the ensuing “process,” already contain the infrastructure for such a move. We don’t need to invent anything further; somebody needs to use the tools that are already on the table.

(Please see Covenant for more discussion of this issue.)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Out of the Mouths of Babes...

I can speak that way of Father Will Brown, because he's young enough to be my son, and, in fact, was a college buddy of my actual son. But this, from a comment thread on Covenant, is simply too deliciously apposite not to deserve wider exposure:

I honestly believe a big part of the problem with TEC is that it is run by Boomers who can't stop congratulating themselves for not being Southern Baptists.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Hermeneutical Foray

Ever since I became "cyberspatially active" in church affairs--first on the HoB/D about six years ago, then in the blogsphere some 18 months ago--I've been on a quest of sorts. I'm hunting for the elusive Alpha Issue. The catalyst for our angst, of course, is sex--specifically, whether any church has the license to expand the notion of marriage to include same-sex couples, and, if so, whether it may prudently exercise such license at the present time.

But is it really just about sex? My intuition all along has told me that it is not. I have had a sense that there are other issues over which pretty much the same people would break along pretty much the same lines. For instance, in the fall of 2005 there was a long thread on the HoB/D about whether congenital disabilities--e.g. blindness, deafness, and the like--participate in the order of creation purely conceived ("That's the way God made me") or whether they participate in that aspect of creation which the Christian theological tradition names as "fallen''--in effect, then, the order of Sin. (The implication here is certainly not that a congenital disability is a direct sign of a person's sinfulness, and still less a punishment for that sinfulness, but that the condition is a sign not of God's "very good" creation, but of the grip that Sin has on that creation.)

To my mild astonishment, commenters who had a reputation for conservative views on the sexuality issue tended uniformly to assess congenital disabilities as evidence of the Fall, while those who carried the "progressive" banner uniformly lined up behind the "God made me that way" placard. Interesting, to be sure. But what does it mean? What is the underlying mindset that, if we could isolate and identify it, could become a universal marker--a predictive sign--for one's position on a range of different concrete issues?

I still don't know. But once in a while I see another telltale sign of the existence of such an Alpha Issue. Today's news included the announcement of the publication of God, Gays, & the Church: Human Sexuality in Christian Thinking. The publisher's internet blurb contained this excerpt from the foreword by the Bishop of Winchester (Michael Scott-Joynt):

‘With Christians in every century including our own, and in every part of the world, I should want to continue to say that every Christian is called to have her or his “experience” conformed to the teachings of Scripture, and then to those of the “great tradition” of the Church down the centuries’

As soon as this quote hit the HoB/D, many on the port side of the vessel got rather agitated. The venerable (not by ecclesiastical honor, but in a generic sense) Tom Woodward, a retired priest in the Diocese of the Rio Grande, offered the following (which I quote with his permission):

With all due respect to the Bishop of Winchester, he fails to make three crucial distinctions.

The first is that there are a lot of "teachings of Scripture" which are beneath the dignity of the people of God and the people we are called to serve.

The second, of course, is that it is probably more precise and more helpful to indicate that the teachings are of the authors and sources of the various books of the Bible, not of "Scripture, itself."

Third, both Jesus and Paul point to experience as one of the marks for how we are to judge holiness. In fact, while we hold Scripture in highest regard, Jesus would hold most Scriptural admonitions to the standards of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2ff) and the standard of agape love (pretty much the whole of John and the Johannine epistles). Paul, as has often been noted, in Galatians 5 and other places, insists on a subjective test for the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Is this revealing, or what? I thought it was, at any rate, and here's why: Few would disagree that the Bible is simultaneously one book (if for no other reason than it is published in one volume) and many books (at least 66 distinct documents--more when you count the Apocrypha and stil more when you welcome scholarly speculation about multiple authorship of some of them). The Christian community has always maintained a belief that the Holy Scripture is in some way divinely-inspired (God-breathed)--both the individual texts and the compilation of the whole. At the same time, in no era--particularly in the last two or three centuries--has the church been entirely reticent about acknowledging the particular character imparted to the biblical documents by the fact that they are the work of quite human authors, who were subject to all the limitations associated with humanity.

We may all realize that the reality of one and the reality of many need to be held in a sort of dialectical tension. Well, perhaps not everybody, as you can see here:

What a stand-up guy! He don't need no stinkin' dialectical tension--for him, the Bible is one book and God wrote it (standing up, no doubt).

But there are others--including my friend Fr Woodward, perhaps?--who might prefer, for reasons of didactic clarity, to suffer the inconvenience of having each of the biblical documents published under separate cover--a respectable book in the case of the Psalms or Ezekiel, a couple of sticky notes in the case of III John--and who bristle at phrases like "the Bible says" or "scriptural teaching."

I must confess that, having been initially formed as a "fundagelical"--if not all the way on the one book end of the spectrum, at least in that general neighborhood--in my riper years, by way of either reaction or compensation, I do tend to say "as St Paul writes to the Romans" rather than "as the Bible says in the Book of Romans." My preaching has been enlivened by a disciplined resistance to the temptation to harmonize the gospels, but rather to let the idiosyncratic voice of each of the Evangelists speak for itself. I am not scandalized by the insights of biblical criticism. The notion that not every word attributed to Jesus in the gospels necessarily passed his lips does not shake my faith.

But I never fail to be struck afresh on a regular basis by how the Bible--yes, the Bible--is bound by a golden thread, a coherent meta-narrative, that bespeaks a single energizing Spirit, a unified Voice. The "authentic" words of Jesus in the gospels are not more authoritative than those "composed" by the Evangelist. Colossians is no less authoritative because it may be pseudonymous while Galatians must be taken more seriously because it is indisputably Pauline. Still less are the epistles less binding on my conscience than are the gospels. It is the whole Bible that stands in judgment over the Church's teaching and practice.

So, what I'm wondering is this: Can the way one speaks of Scripture serve as a consistent predictor of how one will come down on other issues, including the issue du jour? When we hear exclusively many books language, are we probably talking to a "progressive"? And when hear predominantly one book language, are we most likely in the presence of a "reasserter"?

I realize I have raised more hermeneutical questions than I have answered. (Hermeneutics, by the way, refers to the over-arching governing principles by which one interprets the Bible.) But am I getting warmer? Have I smelled the breath of the Ideological Sasquatch?

Monday, February 11, 2008

An English Lesson

Those "-ing" words were GERUNDS, for Pete's sake! They may have looked like verbs, but they were nouns in drag. They should have been treated as such. Thus, "no evidence of ITS occurring," and "SOMEONE'S going into a meeting," and "HIS being the last man standing," and "sick PEOPLE'S staying home."
(the above from here--do read the whole essay)

In the pure etymological sense of the word, I am a philologist. I'm an amateur (again, in the pure etymological sense of that word as well), but were I not called to be a priest, I might well be a professional in that field. Words and language delight me. I've been known to read a dictionary just for fun, and I were ever to receive the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary (a multi-volume set, very expensive) as a gift, I would consider it a pure joy. To know the story of a language is to know the story of those who speak it.

Any language is always evolving. That is an inescapable, if often demoralizing, fact. There is a dynamic tension between the forces of linguistic purity (how language should be used) and the forces of change (how language is actually used). Out of this dynamic tension something resembling a standard emerges, but never without controversy. A lexicographer's work is truly never done.

I'm pretty much a linguistic curmudgeon. When I hear a radio news reporter say "the data shows...", I immediately turn off the radio in protest. (It should be "the data show...", 'data' being a plural noun.) I'm part of that conservative restraining force in the above-referenced dynamic tension. Apparently James J. Kilpatrick is too, as his rant from which the excerpt quoted at the head of this post indicates. I have to be honest; I was not up to speed on gerunds. But now I have been set straight, and am humbly repentant.

Apart from the perverse satisfaction taken from pushing people's buttons, why sign up for the Grammar and Usage Police? What service to society do they (OK, we) provide? Precisely what's at stake is ... precision. So much of human conflict is rooted in failed communication that it seems worth the effort to actually say what we mean.

Now, if you're thinking, "I could care less about grammar and usage," you're wrong. It's actually that you could NOT care less about grammar and usage. See my point?

So, go forth and learn the difference between counsel and council; between imminent, immanent, and eminent; between discreet and discrete, between compliment and complement, between principle and principal, between cite and site (to say nothing of sight), and between whit and wit. Just for starters. (Yes, that was an incomplete sentence, which my teachers would never have let me get away with, but which is now acceptable in the informal milieu of blog writing. Don't try doing it in your doctoral dissertation, however.)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Getting In Touch With My Feelings

I am in one of those states in which there is more on my heart than I can adequately process through my head, and hence cannot adequately put into words. For an INTJ, that's a completely upside down state of affairs! So let me try to clear my head by venting my feelings first--admittedly a risky proposition for someone of my temperament.

I am contented and optimistic. My marriage has never been in better shape. I'm pretty sure my children love me (...well, quite sure, actually). The cat has it in for me (if I turn up dead under suspicious circumstances, somebody have him arrested), but the dog pretty much thinks I walk on water. I'm in reasonably good health for my age. I live in a wonderfully comfortable house. I have two cars that start every time the key is turned. And I have challenging and fulfilling work; I enjoy my ministry as a pastor and priest more every day. It is going very well. The gospel is being proclaimed, the sacraments are administered, and lives are being formed in Christ.

I am also heartsick and pessimistic, specifically, that is, about the institution into which I have poured my life for more than three decades--the Episcopal Church--as well as the larger family of Anglican Christianity. I feel like Captain Kirk in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock as he labors in hand-to-hand combat with the evil Klingon commander Kruge while the planet literally disintegrates underneath his feet. Anglicanism is disintegrating. The last three and a half years have been like watching a train wreck in slow motion--not just an imminent wreck, but an actual wreck. It's not just a prospect; it's a reality. The collision is not merely poised to happen; it is in the process of happening. Fresh damage is being done every day, damage that--by any conventional wisdom, at least--is irreparable.

When I became an Anglican in 1975, it seemed to me--at age 23--an eternal verity. It seemed as stable and immutable a part of the worldwide ecclesiastical landscape as ... well, the polar ice cap was a part of a natural landscape. Unthinkably, the polar ice cap now appears to be in considerable jeopardy. Anglicanism is beyond jeopardy; it has crashed into the sea and is melting. Gone are the days when we could confidently expect to "muddle through" the next crisis over the horizon. Gone are the days of clear and simple Inquirers' Class explanations of the Tudor monarchs and the Caroline Divines and the three-legged stool and Seabury and the creation of the PECUSA and so on an so on, et secula seculorum.

This is not ipso facto (yeah...whatever...go learn some Latin...I'm in a bad mood) a hopeless state of affairs. Change happens, and God is ever an opportunist. But change is an occasion of grief, and so I grieve (grief is a feeling, so it gets to be in bold print). I grieve the passing of a familiar status quo that I know how to talk about and how to explain coherently to others. But it's gone, and it's not coming back. I--along with all other Anglicans who fancy being informed and responsible--are going to have to learn to travel light for a while, because the ground is shifting under out feet, and we don't want to get swallowed up alive into the abyss.

I'm also angry. Not in the deadly sin way, I hope, but in the feeling way:

I am angry with Episcopalian liberals for pushing their agenda of the "normalization" of homosexuality--which I acknowledge they believe is a gospel-mandated matter of basic justice--with no demonstrable regard for the collateral damage their efforts have caused.

I am angry with the Bishop of San Joaquin for using exaggeration, half-truths, polarizing rhetoric, secrecy, and manipulative tactics in order to persuade a sizable majority of delegates to two consecutive conventions to vote in favor of seceding from the Episcopal Church, all with no demonstrable regard for the collateral damage caused to hundreds--yea thousands--of unsuspecting faithful, most of whom agree with him on the presenting issue but who have now been ripped away from a network of networks than has connected them to thousands of other largely unsuspecting Episcopalians in other dioceses.

I am angry with the Presiding Bishop for disingenuously misrepresenting facts in her ham-fisted effort to alienate key clergy and lay leaders in San Joaquin who do not wish to follow the Bishop to the nether regions of the western hemisphere but who happen to hold orthodox theological and moral views and who have no desire to be complicit in her canonically illegal putsch to establish a liberal 815 hegemony in the Central Valley of California.

I am angry with the House of Bishops for so thoroughly "not getting it" last March with respect to the Dar es Salaam Communique of the Primates. With their attitude they probably did more than any other party at any other time to ensure and hasten the demise of the Anglican Communion.

I am angry with what had been the leaders of the Anglican Communion Network--now morphed into the Common Cause Partners. If they had remained united, and not spoken with any voice until they were able to speak with one voice, the train would still be careening toward disaster rather than already having arrived irrevocably at that destination.

I am angry with the allies of the Common Cause Partners, aka the Global South (Primates, mostly), and their petulant desire to deal a death-blow to the Anglican Communion by snubbing the Lambeth Conference in favor of GAFCOM. As a vitual lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, I know all about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. I recognize it when I see it. If cooler heads had prevailed, we would now be on the brink of a Lambeth Conference that would have offered a ringing re-affirmation of the sexuality statement from 1998, investing it with veritably canonical authority as the received teaching of the Anglican Communion. Lambeth '08 also would have commended to the provinces a strong Anglican Covenant, one that General Convention 2009 would have choked on like a snake swallowing its own tail, thus ensuring the sort of "communion discipline" that conservatives (including myself) have been agitating for. But noooooo. We couldn't just hold our horses and keep our shirts on. We had to get all inflammatory and fissiparous and piss off people who probably would have turned out to be on our side when the battle heated up. Talk about the blown opportunity of the century.

I am angry with the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, the members of which are already en route to to Quito, Ecuador--first, for wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars in diocesan contribution to 815's program budget by meeting in South America for the sake of political correctness, but mostly for what I suspect they will do: Affirm the Presiding Bishop's declaration of non-recognition of the duly-elected Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. The sad fact is, politics and due process do not mix. Executive Council is about as political a body as one can imagine. Their members are elected, but the committee itself controls the nominating process, so they are effectively self-perpetuating. Between meetings of the General Convention, the Executive Council speaks with the voice of the convention. Their interpretation of the Constitution and Canons does not have to be rational and coherent in order to carry the weight of ecclesiastical authority. It need only be their interpretation, and it becomes binding on the conscience of the faithful. We may say we're a church under the rule of law, but we deceive ourselves. We are a church governed by a majoritarian tyranny that has the power to declare the color of the sky on a clear day to be green if the advocates for that position can get enough votes.

I am angry with my own Baby Boomer generation, now pretty much running the Episcopal Church. That we are also running the country is also true, but too scary to contemplate--we are a generation of Peter Pans. We walk and talk like adults but we have never laid aside the self-indulgence of youth, and the mantra that we learned just as we were starting school in the 1950s, that we are special because there are so damn many of us. In the Church, our dominance is seen in the hyper-individualism by which we apprehend the Faith, and the complete sentimentalization of its content.

I am fearful
. (There's another feeling.) If Anglicanism disintegrates, where can I go? It's a very short list of alternatives, and don't particularly care for any of them. And I have a vowed pastoral obligation to the people committed to my charge. I lead a parish the prides itself on being above and beyond controversial church politics. That's an aspect of its culture that I personally find quite attractive, and I have no desire to inject the angst of the larger family into this particular corner of it. There's a limit to how long I can or should keep them insulated. I owe it to them to know where that limit is.

There. Now I feel better.

A little bit, at least. Talking about it does help.

I know what you're thinking. INTJs are lousy at sharing their feelings, and it's embarrassing to watch them try. I apologize for inflicting it on you. Hopefully I'll feel more like myself in the morning.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Ash Wednesday Wisdom (the day after)

As you may know if you have frequented this location in cyberspace for a while, my wife's home planet is Pluto. Since I am very much an Earthling (although she contends I have DNA that would link me to another planet that starts with the letter 'U'), it has been ... ahem ... interesting as we have tried to chart a common course through life for the last 36 years.

As bloggers, we don't really overlap much. She does her thing, which I admire with abandon, and I do mine, for which she is very supportive. But we're different. Very different.

So when she treads on my territory, which is theology and spirituality that is informed by the language and categories of traditional theology, and does it well, she deserves a mention ... and a link. I encourage you to fly on over to the Dragonfly's lair (or whatever dragonflies have) and check out her Ash Wednesday post. It is food for the soul.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Yet Some More Notes

The last couple of days have been a rough ride in cyberspace over goings-on in and about my former diocese of San Joaquin. There is a great deal of woundedness and mistrust in all quarters--quite enough to go around. My own heart aches for everyone involved, because they are people I know. (Even some of the anonymous commenters on blogs are probably people I know--I just don't know who they are!) They are people with whom I have worked collegially back when times were more normal. It gives me great pain that we have come to his mess.

For the record, lest there be any ambiguity, I do not believe the decision made by the convention last December was a wise one. I was disappointed in the votes. I believe Bishop Schofield has made a grave error in judgment, and it participating in a process that will very probably result in the destruction of the Anglican Communion as we have known it. And it is all needless, because if the Federal Conservatives (to adopt Stand Firm terminology) could just take a longer view, I believe, and have always believed, the evolutionary trajectory in Anglicanism has been in an orthodox direction. They have blown a major opportunity.

Also for the record, I have, within the political and personal dynamics of the Diocese of San Joaquin, labored with others to prevent what has come to pass. Much of that labor will never come to light, and much of it cannot be understood by anyone not involved in diocesan leadership. The realities on the ground have required subtlety and obliqueness. In any case, what has transpired represents a failure of my efforts, and the efforts of those with whom I have collaborated.

There are those who have accused San Joaquin's Standing Committee (and accused me inasmuch as I was a member of that committee until mid-August of last year) of dereliction of duty for not doing more to block the Bishop's efforts to lead the diocese out of TEC. This is where the subtlety and obliqueness come in, which render such efforts as have been made largely invisible.

A couple of cases in point: At last December's convention, a parishioner from one the parishes led by one of the "fired" Standing Committee members, very early in the debate, moved a substitute for the proposed constitutional change. If the substitute had been adopted, it would have, of course, turned it into a new "first reading," thus postponing the whole departure process by a year. The motion failed, but my source informs me that many of the members of Remain Episcopal who were delegates to the convention failed to vote in favor of the substitute. Yes, it was language that may still have resulted in a departure from TEC, so they would have been opposed to it in principle. But as a strategic move, it would have had the effect of delaying the Bishop's plan. One would think it might have merited their support.

Later, after passing the constitutional change that was understood (unnecessarily, in my opinion) as severing ties with the Episcopal Church, the concention still needed to pass a canonical change in order to affiliate with the Southern Cone. Since this canonical change was not made public by the required deadline, it was a "late" resolution, and required a three-quarters majority vote just to be heard by the convention. At least some members (maybe all, for all I know) clearly voted No on allowing this canonical change to be considered. My source tells me that the Remain Episcopal delegates present failed to oppose the consideration of the change, perhaps feeling that the cause had already been lost by the first vote. But it would not have taken very many votes to reject hearing it, and would perhaps have been successful if the Remain Episcopal delegates had joined forces with others on the question.

I do not believe it is yet too late for some redemption to happen here. But we're getting awfully close to a point of no return. Everyone needs to let down their shields. It probably needs to be done not in the blogsphere, and not by the exercise of power, but by a few phone calls and meetings between people who are actually on the ground in the Central Valley. Who will have the courage to stand down first?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

More San Joaquin Flotsam and Jetsam

I've been busy today being a one man Rapid Response Team/Truth Squad elsewhere in the blogsphere. Most everyone who checks this site probably also drops in where I've been spinning verbiage, but just to have it all in one place, here's some of what I've written elsewhere:

(Father Jake Stops the World)
Good people, you can believe or not believe what I'm about to write--that's your choice. I don't have either the time or the energy, especially in a comment thread of this length, to fully annotate my remarks. I'm just going to give it to you straight, and I'm pretty much in a position to know what I'm talking about.

Don't waste your time with conspiracy theories. They're hogwash. In order for there to be a conspiracy, there has to be communication, and lack of communication between Bishop Schofield and the Standing Committee is the single biggest reason the Martyrs of San Joaquin have now been hung out to dry by two (count 'em) Primates of the Anglican Communion. If they don't talk, they can't be in cahoots.

Contrary (but with respect) to Fr Jake's assertion that the canons never envisioned a situation like this, and we should just wing it--or at least allow the PB to wing it--situations like this are precisely when the canons should be applied and followed with the utmost rigor and consistency. When grace is in short supply, we've got to rely on law! So, whatever anyone may feel or think about who didn't say what at the December convention, such feelings or thoughts are ultimately irrelevant. According to 815's own narrative on this mess, there *is* currently a Bishop of the (Episcopal) Diocese of San Joaquin. His name is John-David Schofield. He is under Title IV discipline, and it seems plausible to speculate that he will be deposed next month. At that moment, the duly-elected Standing Committee becomes the Ecclesiastical Authority. That committee is presently short-staffed by two lay members, who have clearly indicated that they have left the Episcopal Church. According to the canons of the diocese, it falls to the Standing Committee's remaining members to fill those vacancies by appointment until the next regular convention. It also falls to that Standing Committee to request permission from Bishops with jurisdiction and the Standing Committees of the various dioceses to elect a new bishop. This is the way it plays out. This is due process. This is the *discipline* of the Episcopal Church to which those in Holy Orders have promised allegiance. No bishop, including the Presiding Bishop, has the canonical authority to circumvent that process. Are we operating under the rule of law, or under the rule of majoritarian tyranny? Time will tell.

(Titus OneNine)
[What many] seem not to have grasped is that the six signatories of the letter are already on record as, at the very least, being skeptical of the diocesan move to Southern Cone, if not directly opposed to it. With a little bit of sugar, rather than vinegar, they could be (or could have been as recently as a week ago) tipped fully in the direction of TEC. The fact that the PB chose to behave with such inexplicable foolishness can only indicate that she is not interested merely in keeping a viable TEC diocese in the central valley of California, but in bagging a trophy for her own ideologically monochrome vision of TEC.

(later on T19, in response to a commenter who questioned why the PB et al would even want to deal with The Six):

Because three of the clergy on the Standing Committee are rectors of the three largest parishes in the diocese. Presuming that they have some influence in the congregations (two of them are 10+ years in cure), and presuming they could and would influence those congregations to stay in TEC, that would result in a hugely more viable “continuing” diocese. With only the Remain Episcopal congregations (St Anne’s, Stockton; St John the Baptist, Lodi [which has humongous building debt]; and Holy Family, Fresno; along with Christ the King, Riverbank and possibly Church of the Saviour, Hanford; plus exiled remnants from St Nicholas’, Atwater, St Francis, Turlock, and St Paul’s, Bakersfield), it is nowhere near a viable diocese. With the three big ones (and at least one pastoral-size parish led by the fourth priest on the SC--and possibly others), it could well be viable, if stripped down. There was a potential tipping point two weeks ago, went the six were “let go” by Bishop Schofield. If 815 had responded with honey rather than vinegar, we could be looking at a DSJ/TEC that could actually make it. And it would have been, IMHO, a huge propaganda victory for the PB. It mystifies me why she spurned it. The only explanation I can think of is that she is simply not interested in a Diocese of San Joaquin that would continue to be “reasserter” in its dominant views, and would rather have a smaller trophy that is a beacon for the TEC majority’s misplaced notion of “inclusion.”

Let me try and rephrase: For purposes of this discussion, I will stipulate to your contention that the Standing Committee, both corporately and individually, should have made a more determined and public effort to oppose the Bishop's plan at the time of the convention last month. (It's actually more complicated than that, but for purposes of discussion....) I will stipulate to your contention that The Six are weak leaders who failed to perform a crucial duty, and that they don't deserve to be the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. But, the hard truth is that, in a community bound by the rule of law, none of that matters. If the Presiding Bishop is allowed to exercise authority she does not actually possess--even if we think she should possess it, or "somebody has to do it, so why not her?"--then all order has broken down. If you think The Six should be removed from office, there is a canonical procedure for doing so. Primatial fiat is no part of that procedure. Read Title IV. With the disintegration of everything we have come to take for granted as "normal" in our church life, this is not the moment to surrender to chaos. Even in the maelstrom of 16th century England, when Queen Mary wanted to be rid of Archbishop Cranmer, she had him legally deposed from office by recognized constitutional processes, before she had him burned!

[A commenter] asks: "Were a majority of congregants in DiocSJ also canonical members of a Southern Cone diocese before the official work of their last convention began?"

No. None of them were members of a Southern Cone diocese before December's convention. There is no way they could have been. What has gone under-reported is that the Southern Cone option was sprung on the diocese more or less at the last minute. The Standing Committee was certainly out of the loop as the arrangements were being made. (I was a Standing Committee member there until mid-August.) Yes, the question of cutting ties with TEC was very much on the table following the 2006 convention. But there was no widely publicized plan (let alone a plan into which wide input was sought and received), as to where to actually go once ties were cut.

Jake, you and I will have to agree to disagree. It was certainly not apparent to me (and I know these people) that the Standing Committee members were members of the Southern Cone following the December vote. Now it is quite apparent that they were not. But more importantly, I must assert once more (I guess that makes me a reasserter!) that the constitution and canons of TEC are quite up to the challenge of the current debacle. They simply need to be followed. There is no need for martial law.

(and yet again)
To [a commenter who speculated that the PB is undoubtedly getting advice from canon lawyers]: Unfortunately, there is no universally (or even widely) recognized credential for the status of "canon lawyer" in TEC. More to the point, however, there is no independent judiciary that can rule definitively on disputed issues of canon law. The ultimate arbiter is General Convention, which is, of course, inherently political in nature. So, in the end, canon law is only what a concurring majority vote of both houses of General Convention says it is. But that doesn't mean we should just chuck it in advance. We should try to apply it.

To Jake: You don't know that they have not met with Canon Moore. But I wouldn't blame them if they haven't, because his presence there is illicit.

Now, let me refine and amplify my contention that the C&Cs of TEC are up to the task of this particular tempest. Here I will agree with Jake on one point--that the C&Cs do not envision an event such as a diocese seceding. What we need to realize is that there are two very different narratives in play. (My personal opinion is that they can both be "true," but that's a sidebar.) It's like, say, a Synoptic and a Johannine account of the life of Jesus. They operate in different universes. It's not fruitful to try and harmonize them.

In brief, the DSJ/Southern Cone narrative is "We're no longer under the oversight of TEC, and we're now accountable to the Southern Cone. All clergy are transferred to the Southern Cone if they pick up their cards (this was a big thing at the convention). All congregations are presumed to be in the Southern Cone unless they indicate otherwise--with time for discernment. If you think otherwise, we'll see you in court." Under that narrative, what Bishop Schofield did two weeks ago makes perfect sense, and it is understandable that he cares not one whit about being inhibited or deposed.

The other narrative (I won't say "competing," just different) is TEC's: "Dioceses are creatures of General Convention and cannot leave without General Convention's approval. Those who purport to lead a diocese in attempting to do what it clearly cannot do have abandoned the 'communion of this Church' and are subject to canonical discipline. All the real and personal property of the Diocese of San Joaquin is held in trust for the Episcopal Church, and those who use and occupy such property while purporting to be part of another Church are interlopers and trespassers. The Bishop of San Joaquin has been placed under canonical discipline and the HOB will determine next month whether he should be deposed. There is, in fact, an Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, and that diocese is the rightful heir to this history and legacy of the diocese that was formed as a Missionary District in 1911 out of the Diocese of California. The fact that those who occupy its offices and churches believe otherwise is lamentable, but irrelevant."

Everything that I have suggested on this thread, on my own blog, and and T19, is an attempt to analyze the facts through the lens of this second narrative. If TEC (aka 815 aka the PB) really believes the premise of its narrative ("Dioceses and parishes can't leave, only people can leave") then it needs to act consistently with that premise, and the only logical conclusion is to recognize the continuing six as the Standing Committee and to allow them to serve as the Ecclesiastical Authority in the event of Bishop Schofield's deposition. To do otherwise would be to cede veracity to the other narrative.

(and one more)
Neither TEC's canons nor SJ canons allow a member of a Standing Committee to be removed by a bishop. From the standpoint of the "TEC narrative" (see my comment upstream), Bishop Schofield exceeded his authority when he removed the six Standing Committee members. For that matter, even from the standpoint of the "SJ-Southern Cone narrative," he may also have exceeded his authority, since (as I have been led to believe by someone who has seen them) the Southern Cone C&C makes no provision at all for Standing Committees, hence the diocesan canons apply. Part of a Standing Committee's job is to act as a check on episcopal power, which is exactly what the Martyrs of San Joaquin were doing when they told the Bishop, "We're not persuaded that the convention's vote was legal." For that, they were dismissed.

(and while I was writing this very post, another one)
I did "debate" representatives of Remain Episcopal on two occasions, both at the invitation of leaders of Remain Episcopal. That was a different time (2004? 2005? I can't precisely remember). My point then was that it may be necessary to leave TEC in order to remain in communion with Canterbury. That looked like a plausible possibility at the time. Subsequent developments in (what may be broadly described as) the Windsor Process (including the Archbishop of Canterbury's letter to the Bishop of Central Florida last fall) have lessened that possibility, at least for the time being. A lot has changed since then in Bishop Schofield's rhetoric as well. Despite professed loyalty to a constitution that calls for full communion with the See of Canterbury, an alliance with the Southern Cone puts San Joaquin in league with those (the Common Cause Partners and GAFCOM) who are working to create a non-Canterburian form of Anglicanism. I am interested in neither an Episcopal Church that is not Anglican nor an Anglicanism that is not Canterburian.

(and a final one on T19):

[A commenter] writes, “I still don’t understand why, a year into it, and after a significant majority of the diocesan convention voted for the move, major parishes are still in discernment.”

Because there was nothing to discern until very recently. The constitutional change, yes, was in the pipeline. But, as I have written elsewhere, that alone did not necessarily divorce SJ from TEC. The Southern Cone plan was not revealed until literally a few weeks before the December convention, and it was a plan about which the elected leadership of the diocese was kept largely in the dark by the Bishop and his staff. Hardly time for any serious discernment.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Back Atcha, Katharine

The news has already broken, but the Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin has responded to the Presiding Bishop's ill-advised missive of a week ago. It is not exactly diplomatic language, but the circumstances do seem to call for directness:

As sent and posted to the Presiding Bishop’s email address earlier this morning, 02/01/08. The letter sent from the Presiding Bishop is in the next post down.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Office of the Presiding Bishop
The Episcopal Church Center
New York City, New York

Friday, February 01, 2008

We have received your letter dated January 25 in which you state that you do not recognize us individually as members of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin. We find your statements, published by ENS on the internet and read in Hanford prior to most of us receiving the actual letter, to be unhelpful. While you may hold any personal opinion you wish as an individual, the office of Presiding Bishop does not have the legal, canonical or moral authority to proclaim for the Episcopal Church non-recognition of duly elected members of a diocesan Standing Committee. Without having any canonical or constitutional authority to refuse to recognize us, we cannot accept your opinion as changing our status as the canonical Standing Committee of the Diocese.

We regret that you have based your “understanding” on conjecture and misinformation. Since you do not provide any evidence of specific acts of the Standing Committee, nor proof of any wrong doing, we are unable to comment in detail on acts or events you may have relied upon to form your “understanding”. We regret you didn’t attempt to confirm your understanding with the President of our Standing Committee when you called him on January 9th, or on any other occasion.

You cite Canon I.17.8 as setting a standard of duty for anyone in elected position in The Episcopal Church, however neither this canon nor any other canon gives the office of Presiding Bishop [or any other person] sole privilege to interpret what constitutes a failure to “well and faithfully perform the duties” of any office. If the interpretation of failure to “well and faithfully perform the duties” of office is open to anyone, a cursory look at your performance in office would be cause for a great number of Episcopalians to find that you “have been and are unable to well and faithfully fulfill your duties as” Presiding Bishop. To name just a few of your canonical violations:

  • Ordination of the Bishop of Virginia without the specific written consents from a majority of Standing Committees as required in Canon III.11.4.b;
  • Your intentional withholding [from May ’07 to January ‘08] of notification and failure to bring before the House of Bishop’s meeting in September 2007 the abandonment of communion finding of the Title IV review committee against Bishop Cox as required in Canon IV.9.2;
  • Your stated intent to delay consideration of the abandonment of communion finding of the Title IV review committee against Bishop Duncan past the March 2008 meeting of the House of Bishop’s [including your intentional withholding of notification from December 16, ’07 to January 15, ‘08] again in violation of the requirements of Canon IV.9.2.
  • Establishing a missionary congregation in Bakersfield and appointing a priest who is not canonically resident to be under the supervision of Canon Moore and under your authority in violation of Canon I.13.2b and Canon III.9.6

With this evidence of your willful disobedience to the requirements of Canon, many Episcopalians could, using your own words, state they “do not recognize you as” the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. And of course, in the spirit of reconciliation, we would encourage you to be aware a “future declaration of adherence to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church and a reaffirmation of the Declaration of Conformity, will once again make you eligible for election to office in the Episcopal Church.”

We regret the decisions you have made to misuse the Canons of The Episcopal Church. We acknowledge your personal opinion of our status as members of the Standing Committee for the Diocese of San Joaquin. In accordance with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, we ARE the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese of San Joaquin in the event the House of Bishops should choose to depose Bishop John-David Schofield. Any attempt on your part, or on the part of any other person, to circumvent or replace the Standing Committee as the Ecclesiastical Authority will be a violation of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.

J. Snell
M. McClenaghan
R. Eaton
K. Robinson
T. Wright
R. James

This return volley isn't even the end of the game, let alone the set or the match. Unless, that is, the Presiding Bishop does the right and honorable thing and admits her error, and apologizes publicly to the six very courageous individuals.