Sunday, April 27, 2008

Burning Bridges

The cold front sweeping across northern Indiana from the west tonight brings with it news of the commencement of litigation over the ecclesial entity known as the Diocese of San Joaquin. Aside from finding it heartbreaking and surreal, and aside from wondering how parties on either side explain their relationship with I Corinthians 6:1-11, I don't have a lot to say. There was a time when I intended to become a lawyer. I was officially "pre-law" for one semester in college. But I'm not a lawyer. I've never played one on TV. I have spend a night in a Holiday Inn Express, but it didn't make me an expert in anything, so don't believe the ads. I'm going to leave it to actual lawyers, and probably a few wannabes, to parse out all the different ways the chips can fall on this.

But you can bet that we haven't seen the last of undisguised spin, partial statements of facts, caricature, self-congratulatory rhetoric, sweeping generalizations, and ever more entrenched positions. And it will come in more or less equal shares from both parties to the California dispute. In the meantime, searching souls for whom the Anglican way of being Christian might just offer them the most efficient way to be made a saint will be repelled by the air of conflict that envelopes American Anglicanism. Kyrie eleison.

The acrid odor you are smelling is the aroma of bridges being burned. As I have already noted more than duly in this space, the executive leadership of the Episcopal Church has tragically chosen an ideological purge over not only canon law and not only common sense but even over their own long term self-interest. They want a Diocese of San Joaquin that is a showcase for the brand of liberal puritanism that has become the order of the day, and they're not interested in the care and feeding of any conservative POWs. (Some had raised a white flag, but were quickly chased off to Argentina, which welcomed them with open arms.)

But the bridges are being torched from both ends. Some seventeen months ago, when I was still resident in San Joaquin, I proposed an "amendment to the amendment" of our constitution that, even as it helped set the pins for an potential departure from TEC (as it indeed eventually did), would have at least acknowledged that the diocese's ongoing life, whatever shape that might take, would be in organic continuity with the life and history of the Episcopal Church. My amendment went down like the Hindenburg, so toxic was the expression "Episcopal Church" in the family system of the diocese by that point. I have a strong enough ego to still contend that the convention, in rejecting my proposal, was acting against its own enlightened self-interest. At any rate, the perception of toxicity has only grown since that time. The breach that has occurred, even though Bishop Schofield proclaims it extraordinary and temporary, will never, I am convinced, be healed in my lifetime.

I will, of course, watch events as they unfold, and do so with great interest. I am an Episcopalian. I lead an Episcopal parish that is vital, orthodox in worship and teaching, and engaged in gospel-driven mission. I love the souls who have been entrusted to my pastoral care, and serve them as best as I am able. This is not to say that I don't have serious "issues" with recent actions of General Convention, Executive Council, the Presiding Bishop, and the President of the House of Deputies. I do indeed have such issues, and if you visit this place regularly, you know I'm not shy about raising them. But as long as the Episcopal Church has the Anglican franchise in the United States, I do not feel myself at liberty to leave it, or to encourage anyone else to do so. I believe, as I have said several times, that the action taken last December by the Diocese of San Joaquin was ill-conceived and has caused harm on multiple levels. I deplore it.

That said, I support the right of these Anglican friends of mine to do what they did, and I hope they prevail in court. I hope the Episcopal Church--my church--loses in every venue of litigation in which it is currently engaged. We need a dose of humility.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Eamus Catuli

I have a fondness for Latin mottoes and aphorisms. I've always especially liked Nolite illegitimi contrere vos (the unofficial motto of my seminary alma mater when I ws a student there), though I hold in special regard that of the Boston Latin School: Sumus primus.

But Eamus Catuli is my new favorite. I won't tell you why just yet. We'll wait to see whether anyone can figure it out.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

If the shoe fits...

Without planning to do so, I happened to catch Pope Benedict's address (on a "tape delay" of about three hours) last night at an ecumenical prayer service in New York City. It was incisive and compelling. Realizing that I suffer as much as anyone does from the endemic Episcopalian disease of thinking "this Church" more important than it actually is in the larger scheme of things, I could not escape the feeling that he was talking directly to us with these words:

Too often those who are not Christians, as they observe the splintering of Christian communities, are understandably confused about the Gospel message itself. Fundamental Christian beliefs and practices are sometimes changed within communities by so-called "prophetic actions" that are based on a hermeneutic not always consonant with the datum of Scripture and Tradition. Communities consequently give up the attempt to act as a unified body, choosing instead to function according to the idea of "local options". Somewhere in this process the need for diachronic koinonia - communion with the Church in every age - is lost, just at the time when the world is losing its bearings and needs a persuasive common witness to the saving power of the Gospel (cf. Rom 1:18-23).

And, a few moments later, with these:

My dear friends, the power of the kerygma has lost none of its internal dynamism. Yet we must ask ourselves whether its full force has not been attenuated by a relativistic approach to Christian doctrine similar to that found in secular ideologies, which, in alleging that science alone is "objective", relegate religion entirely to the subjective sphere of individual feeling. Scientific discoveries, and their application through human ingenuity, undoubtedly offer new possibilities for the betterment of humankind. This does not mean, however, that the "knowable" is limited to the empirically verifiable, nor religion restricted to the shifting realm of "personal experience".

Let those who have ears to hear, hear.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Logical Inference

I catch some flak for continuing to bring up issues related to the Diocese of San Joaquin (in any of its 2.5 current incarnations). I can understand why. I'm getting rather tired of the subject myself. And while I am arguably a more-knowledgeable-than-average observer, I am certainly not disinterested. I have friends and former colleagues and former parishioners all over the map there (both literally and metaphorically), not abstractions, but real people whom I know and care about. Looking at it from afar, what has transpired still seems incredibly surreal, and I am in no small amount of grief over the dissolution of what, until a few months ago, was the fabric of my non-domestic life. It hurts. I have dreams about it.

Enough maudlin self-disclosure. How unbecoming. The serious reason why I continue to engage events emanating from what once was "the Episcopal Church in the central third of California" is that they are operate in a microcosm--a model, a laboratory--of the meta-conflict in North American and worldwide Anglicanism. What happens in San Joaquin, and what happens in the wake of what happens in San Joaquin, has wide ramifications, and eventually affects Anglicans everywhere.

The great majority of the diocese, including the Bishop and his staff, contend (and I mean here to pass no judgment on this contention, one way or the other) that they have seceded from the Episcopal Church and been joined to the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. For the time being, at least, they have taken the real estate, buildings, and financial assets of the diocese and all but nine or ten of its congregations (eight that have remained with TEC, one gone to the AMiA, and one to this point undecided, as far as I know) with them.

In response, the Presiding Bishop has purported to depose Bishop John-David Schofield (declining to accept his resignation), but the deposition was (with no malice aforethought on anyone's part, I believe) thoroughly botched, and there is widespread question as to its canonical validity. In the process, she spurned the good faith overtures of the legitimately elected Standing Committee of the diocese and proceeded to call a special convention, which re-organized the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, electing an interim Bishop, as well as a completely new Standing Committee and Diocesan Council, and rejecting out of hand the complaint of the one real member of the Standing Committee who attended the convention that he had never resigned his office nor acted in any way to abrogate his duties as a presbyter in the Episcopal Church.

All the while, Bishop Jefferts Schori, along with the entire 815 bureaucracy and many bishops, have cloaked themselves in the mantra that "individuals can leave the Episcopal Church, but dioceses and parishes cannot do so." What, then, do they contend happened on December 8, 2007? By their own rhetoric, one would have to surmise that what happened was that the great majority of the clergy of the diocese and the great majority of the elected lay delegates acted at the same time to leave the Episcopal Church ... as individuals, of course.

Leaving aside the obvious problems with such a claim, let us, for the sake of discussion, simply grant it. One would think that--simply for the sake of appearances, to say nothing of legal strategy--it would then be in 815's best interests to establish as much continuity as possible between the "new" DSJ--i.e. the one configured at the Lodi convention of March 29 of this year--and the "old" DSJ, that is, the one that was spun off as a Missionary District from the Diocese of California 97 years ago. One would think that it would be in the best interest of the Presiding Bishop and her counsel to be able to credibly say, "Several individuals have left, but the diocese remains. Look: We have retained eleven congregations, including the three largest ones, representing over half of the average Sunday attendance of the diocese. We have retained the most senior clergy, and six of the eight members of the Standing Committee, who have assured us that once Bishop Schofield resigns or is lawfully deposed, they will step in and perform their canonical duty. The Diocese of San Joaquin is still vital, diverse, and financially viable without any outside help."

The ability to say all of this was within 815's grasp. But, for reasons that I could only speculate about, they looked a Public Relations gift horse in the mouth and sent it packing. They rejected continuity, and chose instead to confect a new DSJ out of whole cloth, with only a little decorative embroidery from had come before. The fact that there is not the shred of a canonical basis for doing what they have done seems to count for nothing; what's new is new and what's done is done. The rule of law has been thrown under the bus of expediency.

The irony in all of this, and the actual point of this post, is that, in rejecting the path of maximum continuity, maximum numerical strength, and maximum credibility in the eyes a watching Anglican world, 815 has undercut its own Prime Directive that "only individuals can leave." By their actions in electing to start over from scratch, they have tacitly admitted that the Diocese of San Joaquin did, in fact, leave the Episcopal Church. Why else would they have taken such pains to invent a new one--a new one that is every bit as ideologically monochrome as they accuse the old one of being, a new one that has retained not even a vestige of institutional or administrative continuity with the old one, and a new one that is wholly dependent on 815's financial largesse and will, in effect, be a client diocese for as long as it is allowed to exist?

Apparently, dioceses can leave the Episcopal Church. One just did, and they made a new one to replace it.

A Quotable Quote

"For Christians who take I Peter seriously, the line on the application that asks for race ought to be filled in 'Christian.'"

From David L. Bartlett, professor at Yale Divinity School, in his commentary on the First Epistle of Peter for the New Interpreter's Bible. I ran across it in preparation for preaching this Sunday on the text that includes, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy. " (I Peter 2:9-10)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

More Praise for Due Process

The inimitable House of Bishops/Deputies listserv, where I cut my teeth on cyber- "conversation" beginning almost six years ago now, has been continuing to chatter about the canonically-flawed procedure for the putative depositions from the ordained ministry last month of Bishops Cox and Schofield. In the name of synergy, I share here some of my own participation in that discourse:

At the risk of aggravating those who consider this thread a thoroughly beaten horse ... a response to some posts that I was not able to engage as they arrived because of “technical difficulties”:

Re [name deleted] and the notion of “harmless error”— Your point is apposite as concerns the substance of the issues itself. Since neither Bishop Cox nor Bishop Schofield wish to minister in TEC, there is no harm done at that level. If there were something like a Supreme Court in our church polity, I suspect they might deny any appeal for that very reason. But what I and others have been contending all along is that there is something much larger and more important at stake here, which is that, in a time of very high conflict levels, with trust between the ideological divisions within the church running at a low ebb, it is vital to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. There is hardly anyone—even including some very vocal “progressives”—who doesn’t think that the language of the relevant canon (IV.10) is, at the very least, unclear, and in need of amendment. There is a growing perception, now voiced by at least three Bishops with jurisdiction and two Standing Committees—that canonical due process was materially violated. This is like an abscessed tooth. The chances of it quieting down if ignored long enough are virtually nil. It very well may erupt at a most inopportune time. Better to take care of it now.

As for a proposed alternative course, I would respond, “What [another name deleted] said,” only raise him a level. I don’t think a telephone poll is a good enough response. It doesn’t address the root problem, which is that, technically, there was a valid vote on the question of deposing Bishop Schofield, and the motion failed. That question is therefore settled: He is not deposed, because the number of Aye votes was less than a majority of “the whole number...entitled to vote”. (This, BTW, is precisely what prevented the legitimate Standing Committee of San Joaquin from stepping in an assuming the role of Ecclesiastical Authority; I have it on good authority that they were within a hair-trigger of doing so when the procedural fiasco was revealed, preventing them from acting.) What the PB needs to do is invite the Title IV Review Committee to provide a finding of abandonment with a fresh date (this should not be too difficult), get the three Seniors to consent to an inhibition, serve said inhibition, and bring the matter before the September HOB meeting in Utah, with the understanding of the level of consent needed for a valid deposition. The case of Bishop Cox is more complicated, because the PB neglected her canonical duty of inhibiting him before brining the question before the House, so there was no valid vote, whatever the outcome. So, once again, we need a fresh finding from the Review Committee (a five-minute conference call should suffice), and then the whole rest of the process. Yes, this sounds fastidious to an onerous degree. But nothing other than this course of action will serve to restore trust that the leaders of this Church are committed to abiding by the rules of this Church. Anything less will only hasten the political meltdown that we are in the middle of.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

My Inner Canine Self

What dog breed are you? I'm a Border Collie! Find out at

Though I am tempted to consider this sort of thing beneath the dignity of a blog that is at the center of trying to save Anglicanism for future generations (tongue now bursting through cheek), and at the risk of looking like I'm slumming, I offer the press-stopping headline indicated by this graphic. Honestly, I took the online test, and with My Favorite Plutotian looking over my shoulder with breathless anticipation, awaited the result.

For those of you just dropping in, I won't bore you with the details. But if you actually know me, and are familiar with my relationship with the quadrupeds that share my domestic space, you are probably, as they say in the world of text-messaging, ROTFL.

Lucy, I have two words for you: YOU'RE FIRED!

(as in literally redundant)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Empathize Much?

For a number of reasons, my default inclination is to be suspicious of anything said or written by a Mormon. That said, Stephen Covey is my favorite Mormon. His classic from around 15 years ago, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, is full of sound advice, and I set aside my negative bias in his case. One of the big seven is "Seek first to understand before being understood."

In other words, empathize. Do it intentionally. Work at it. Make it a habit. Walk in the shoes of the "other." Learn to see the world through that one's eyes.

Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy is agreement. It can be more cognitive or more affective, but in either case, it's a reflex, not a chosen behavior. Empathy, by contrast, has a definite volitional component. Some people are naturally better at it than others, but it's an act of the will. And it's an indispensable prerequisite for anything resembling reconciliation, rapprochement, relationship, or any kind of getting along at any level.

So I often wonder, in the midst of the ongoing Anglican soap opera, why partisans on both sides of the divide don't do more empathizing. I realize that there is more to what's going on than is immediately evident in the blogsphere. But it's the most widely accessible dimension, so I'll use it to illustrate my point. On the "orthodox" side, Stand Firm unquestionably has the highest quotient of wide readership and "in your face"-ness. The nearest parallel on the "progressive" end is perhaps Father Jake Stops the World. Now, in both cases, the cadre of commenters that one finds extend and amplify by several degrees the general tenor established by the blog hosts themselves.

But what I find astonishing, and quite frequently amusing, is that they are largely interchangeable in their emotional content. In other words, take away references to actual issues and events, and you wouldn't be able to tell which invective originates from which side. Both express copious amounts of anger. Both consider themselves to be the good guys, the ones who are on God's side, the ones who truly understand the gospel. Both consider themselves to be the victims, and their opponents the perpetrators, in this unholy mess.

And both, I am persuaded, are largely without guile, authentically sincere. Sure, there's ample bluster and rhetorical posturing when they meet on the field of cyber-battle. But the wonderful (and terrifying) thing about the internet is that it's not all that difficult to come by comments that players on both teams make while on the bench, while among their own, comments that are unguarded and presumably candid. And it is from these comments that I glean my impression that everyone is more or less telling the truth about how they see things. Nobody is trying to do a con job. I don't think there are any conspiracies.

But the accusations from both directions--accusations of disingenuousness and conspiracy--continue apace. On a daily basis. And if there's any empathizing being done, it's pretty hard to see. And I think this is just so darn stupid. Here's why:

Empathy makes the truth easier to see. Liberals would like to believe that their opponents are hate-driven bigots, ignorant yokels, white men who can't stand the thought of losing power, or naive idealists who won't accept the real world. But when they empathize, the horns and fangs they see among the "orthodox" start to disappear. They see more rationality and less blind prejudice. Conservatives would like to see their opponents as self-absorbed, dominated by appetitive urges, pseudo-Christian at best. But when they empathize, they are able to see people who genuinely love and want to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, and who don't cross their fingers when they say the creeds. Just this past week, two of the more outspoken "progressive" members of the HoB/D listerv copped to being bona fide tongue-speaking slain-in-the-Spirit charismatics. They are both definitely my "opponents," but empathy makes it pretty difficult for me to say I don't want to be in the same church with anyone who can say "Jesus is Lord" and mean it.

Empathy makes reconciliation possible, and reconciliation pleases God. I can't really add to that.

I realize, however, that many consider the time for reconciliation to have passed us by, and that what we (however one understands "we") are called to do now us press on toward certain and total victory. And this leads me to my third and final point about empathy: Empathy is strategically invaluable. One of the more memorable scenes from the film Patton has the general looking through his binoculars on a North African battlefield where the combatants on both sides are in tanks. His German opponent is the brilliant tank warfare tactician Erwin Rommel, who was such an expert that he had actually authored a book on the subject. In this North African venue, however, Patton's forces are on the verge of victory. The general puts down his field glasses, smiles, and mutters to himself, "Rommel, you son of a bitch, I read your book!" Patton had empathized with his opponent, gotten inside Rommel's head, and his ability to do that effectively was what led to an important Allied victory. When police detectives are on the trail of a serial criminal, they do the same thing. They hire psychologists to teach them how to empathize with the perpetrators they are trying to collar. They're not trying to make nice with Jack the Ripper; they're trying to bring him down. And they realize that disciplining themselves to see the world through Jack's eyes is only going to help them do so more effectively. But how much empathy do we see at Stand Firm and Jake's Place? Trace amounts, at most. It's so much easier to take cheap shots and elicit high-fives from our own teammates.

So I invite everyone in the fray to empathize. If not for the sake of reconciliation, at least do it because it's smart. Seek first to understand before being understood. It may not be as much fun as hurling grenades, but wherever you want to go, it will get you there more quickly.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Hymnophile's Discovery

We've all had the experience of stumbling across a gem while looking for or at something else. Another Anglican blogger, who chooses not to reveal his proper name (I assume it's a "he" but I could be mistaken), includes this YouTube selection on the page that explains the blog's name: Hills of the North. I'll let you go there for the details.

I haven't been able to quit playing the thing since I first looked at it 24 hours ago! The text is strong--poetic without being obscure, artful without being cloying. It is most appropriate for Advent--the first Sunday thereof to be precise--but is certainly not inappropriate at other times. The tune (composed specifically for this text by Martin Shaw) is straightforward without being pedantic or trite. It has a breadth and sweep that I find quite winning.

When I traveled in England three years ago I was exposed to several hymns, both texts and tunes, that I was not familiar with. This surprised me somewhat, as I have always rather fancied myself a "collector" of hymns. (I especially fell in love with "How shall I sing that majesty..." sung to Coe Fen.) I later discovered that many of these "finds" were included in either (or both) the New English Hymnal and/or a paperback volume called Lambeth Praise. Sure enough, "Hills of the North" appears in the latter and I was able to pull it off the shelf and go right to the piano for a play-through.

The video is from St Asaph's Cathedral in Wales, recorded at an event that is evidently part of a BBC series called Songs of Praise. Nearly as moving as the hymn itself is the sight of the faces of the people singing it. They were, as we say, "into it." Now I realize that this was no ordinary Sunday congregation (though how I wish mine sang like that!); the cathedral was packed with what I imagine was a self-selected group of people who enjoy singing hymns, and were not there out of habit or obligation or because somebody made them come. But still ... there is such joy, and the illusion, at least, of a significant strand of social fabric that is captured by the vision of a God who is busy redeeming and restoring His universe through Christ, the kingdom of Heaven breaking in from all four points on the compass, and who don't mind singing about it. God bless them.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Another Stir for the Pot

Most everyone who checks in at this location probably also reads TitusOneNine, but in the interest of keeping the pattern of abuse of due process (oh...heck...just plain callous disregard for due process) on center stage, I pass this along from that estimable blog:

I’m a reappraiser. Heck, I’m a lefty/liberal who usually posts here to point out weaknesses, inconsistencies and bigotry in re-asserter arguments.

The process used against Bishop Cox stinks to high heaven. The canon was willfully misread. We progressives are right about a lot of things, but we’re dead wrong if we defend this proceeding.

Not only that, but this was stupidly handled and unnecessary. The PB had Cox dead to rights--he was proud of what he did--but now he’s been railroaded and given his health he’s been made a potential martyr. Not a good moment for a group that claims to seek (social) justice within (and without) the church.

The HOB should admit it is wrong, repent and either

A. Do it correctly, or

B. Just forget the whole thing

--Dan Ennis

Friday, April 04, 2008

On God's Favorite Game

From today's issue of Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac:

Assignment #1: Write a poem about Baseball and God

by Philip E. Burnham, Jr. from Housekeeping: Poems Out of the Ordinary.

And on the ninth day, God
In His infinite playfulness
Grass green grass, sky blue sky,
Separated the infield from the outfield,
Formed a skin of clay,
Assigned bases of safety
On cardinal points of the compass
Circling the mountain of deliverance,
Fashioned a wandering moon
From a horse, a string and a gum tree,
Tempered weapons of ash,
Made gloves from the golden skin of sacrificial bulls,
Set stars alight in the Milky Way,
Divided the descendants of Cain and Abel into contenders,
Declared time out, time in, stepped back,
And thundered over all of creation:
"Play ball!"

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Hot News from the Heartland

Warsaw, Indiana is definitely no Hooterville. Not by a long shot. But still, it's not just anywhere that you would find an article like this in the hometown paper:

Reproductive Exam Clinic for Bulls Set for April 12

So, is your bull ready for the breeding season?

One sure fire way to find out is to bring your bull to the 11th annual Reproductive Soundness Exam clinic, April 12 starting at 8 a.m. The Kosciusko County Cattlemen's Association will provide beef producers the opportunity for $55 for members of the association and $65 for non-members to have their bulls go through a RSE. Bulls will be brought to the Milford Large Animal Clinic for the 15-minute examination.

...Bulls are...required to be a minimum of 14 months of age. Too often bulls that are too young do not have a sample viable for testing.

Even if you did not have problems last season, please do not think this will give you a 100-percent guarantee that your bull will breed okay this year. I continually hear stories of beef producers who have open cows because the bull did not do its job. Remember, too, we had a cold winter and early reports are that some bulls did suffer frostbite. Having your bull go through a reproductive soundness exam may prevent surprises later in the breeding season. In fact, in 2000 and 2001 four bulls were identified as poor breeders. The owners could not tell that just by looking at them. This could easily cost these owners $10,000 or more in lost calves and open cows.

There's more, but you get the gist.

I enjoy beef as much as the next person, but there are some details I might prefer to remain ignorant of.

And, by the way, speaking of beef: What happens to the hapless bulls that are identified as "poor breeders"? This is definitely a "high steaks" game!

The quoted article appears in the Agriculture section of the April 2 edition of the Warsaw Times-Union. The author is Kelly Easterday, Extension Educator. Unfortunately, is does not appear in the paper's web edition.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Keeping On Keeping On

Apropos of my post from yesterday, Mark Harris, who is one of the more literary and irenic--though no less partisan for being so--of the "progressive" bloggers--paid me the compliment of being one of the big voices keeping the racket going over the canonical deficiency in recent acts of the Presiding Bishop with respect to the deposition of Bishops Cox and Schofield, and the reorganization of the Diocese of San Joaquin. If indeed so, the honor is all mine, and may my tribe increase. And may it increase especially among those who put on purple shirts when they go to work and wear funny pointed hats to church on Sundays.

Now let's do some close critical exegesis--sort of like the Jesus Seminar approaching one of the gospels--of Father Harris' analysis. He writes:

"Now it turns out that Bishops Lawrence, Howe and Duncan (or at least his Lawyer) have all objected to the voting at the last House of Bishops meeting. Bishop Duncan was absent. I don't know about Bishops Howe and Lawrence."

I can state with confidence that the right reverend gentlemen from Central Florida and South Carolina were indeed there.

Did either of them object at the time?

To my knowledge, not to the procedure. Unlike some other conservatives, who can't resist smelling a conspiracy here, I'll opt for the simplest explanation and chalk it up to plenary incompetence in the HOB--and I don't say that with any self-righteousness because I've been guilty of the same sort of thing on many occasions. However, it is attested by multiple sources that Bishop Lawrence raised the issue of the illegitimacy of the March 29 San Joaquin convention, now a fait accomplait. I hereby rise up and call him blessed.

For most [Episcopalians] this business in San Joaquin is no big deal."

And we should all be grateful for that. I know I am. But yet ... it is a big deal. Its bigness is not determined by plebiscite.

"...I am not convinced that a Standing Committee elected in the same Convention that voted to withdraw from the Episcopal Church and align itself with another Province can be said to be neutral on the matter."

And I'm not convinced that a player who has a vested interest in a particular interpretation of rules and canons "can be said to be neutral on the matter" either--and yet that person is in the position (ostensibly) of ruling definitively on disputed matters of interpretation! Besides, only two of the eight members of the Standing Committee were elected at the 2007 convention.

"The Canons are tools for us to use in our common life in the Episcopal Church, tools that both form and are formed by the community. While they are always in need of further work (of perfecting) they still constitute a body of discipline that we consider of such importance that obedience to them signals a basis for being considered included in or abandoning the communion of this Church."

To this I can only add my Amen. Mark goes on to suggest that the canons need to be revised in the direction of greater clarity. My own mind is not made up on this. From what I've seen of the proposed Title IV revisions, I'm skeptical that they would represent an improvement. But I do not see that the present canons are particularly ambiguous. We all know the difference between "shall" and "may." We know what "next" means. We know that the canons are quite capable of omitting "retired Bishops not present" from required majorities for taking particular actions, but that no such omission is specified for calculating the "whole number of Bishops entitled to vote" in the deposition of one of their colleagues. We know that there is no such canon investing the Presiding Bishop with the authority to nullify an election that takes place in a duly-convened diocesan convention.

But granting Fr Harris' premise for the sake of discussion, I would invite him to follow his own logic. If the canons are murky enough to cause concern about how they may be applied in the future (he raises the spectre of heresy hunts), are they not then equally murky as they apply to the past? Given that they are the very form and substance of the communal life of our church, the medium of our ability to trust one another, is not even the appearance of murkiness sufficient cause to go back and get it right?

"I believe Dan to be wrong in his assessment of what has happened in San Joaquin."

Well, of course! What fun would it be otherwise? But I would dearly love to see a clear, dispassionate analysis of the canons that would explain why I am wrong. I haven't yet.

One thing more: The acrid odor of double standard hangs in the ether like a stale campfire. For us reasserter types, even though all's well that ends well, the process leading up to the consecration of Mark Lawrence was highly traumatic. The first time around, he appeared to have the requisite number of consents at the eleventh hour, but some of them were deemed by the Presiding Bishop to not be in the proper form, and she nullified the election. Fair enough, as long as it's ... well ... fair enough. Every umpire's strike zone has its idiosyncrasies, and both pitchers and hitters are accustomed to making the required adjustments, provided that a pitch that is a strike for the home team is also a strike for the visitors, and vice versa. So, for Bishop Jefferts Schori to apply the letter of canon law with exact precision in the case of the first South Carolina election, and then live by what she apparently considers to be the "spirit" of the law with respect to the deposition of Bishops Cox and Schofield seems egregiously biased. Be strict or be loose, but don't be one way for your favorite team and another way for their opponents.

April Fools Posts I Rejected

I seriously considered a hugely deceptive post for this date. In the end, however, I chickened out. Maybe another year.

Here are some of the ideas I entertained, however:
  • Coming out of the closet as bisexual.
  • Switching my allegiance from the Cubs to a "team to be named later."
  • Retiring from parish ministry to work full-time for the Millenium Development Goals.
  • Announcing my embrace of Islam.

Pulling something like this off is a refined art, and I'm smart enough to realize I haven't got the appropriate skills. This one, however, was done by someone who knows the craft.