Sunday, March 10, 2013

Conciliation

Three days ago the Presiding Bishop's office released the text of the Accord reached between nine bishops--of which I am one--and those who filed charges against us last June under Title IV, the clergy discipline canon. In January, representatives of the Complainants and Respondents came to Richmond, Virginia, where we were joined by a professional mediator appointed by the Presiding Bishop. This document is the result of the process begun at that meeting, and is named in the canon as "conciliation." All the parties have agreed to it, the respondents are indemnified from future action in the matter, and the case is closed.

"Conciliation" is a bizarrely inappropriate word to describe what has happened. Going into the January meeting, we bore no ill will toward our accusers, and welcomed the opportunity to meet them face to face and talk things out. Today, I think it's safe to say that all nine of us are processing some degree of anger and are feeling substantially alienated from those who brought the charges against us. We feel manipulated and victimized. We are nowhere near happy about this outcome, even though we stand by our decision to accept the Accord.

Some have accused us of cowardly capitulation. I can understand this reaction. If someone had shown me the agreement I signed at the time the charges were made known, I would have rejected it out of hand. So some explanation is in order.

The rhetorical tone of the Accord is certainly derisive and hostile toward the Respondents. We come off as downright obsequious. This abusive tone is something we made a considered decision to swallow for the sake of putting the matter behind us. But it is vitally important to make a careful distinction between the tone of the document and its substance. In particular, please note that ...

  • We admitted to no misconduct or any form of wrongdoing. The Accord contains no "finding" of guilt on our part, and the Complainants signed it!
  • We reaffirmed our belief in the assertions of our amicus brief. We continue to believe that the polity of the Episcopal Church as characterized by the 2009 Bishops' Statement on Polity is true and correct. We have not in any way backed away from this position. Yes, we acknowledged that it is "likely a minority view." Indeed, it probably is at this time. But this does not make it any less true.
Some have expressed consternation that we acknowledged that we are subject to the Dennis Canon. Why the dismay? It's a canon, and all clergy are subject to all the canons. We acknowledge that at our ordination. This does not mean the amici endorse or like the Dennis Canon. The matter at hand doesn't even have anything to do with the Dennis Canon. This was no concession at all.

We have also been criticized for our laudatory language toward the bishops and other leaders of the "continuing" dioceses. First, see above re what the obsequious tone buys us. But also note that the language is identical to that of two resolutions passed by the House of Bishops, the second time at last July's General Convention, where the amici who were present there joined in the unanimous vote. I don't recall hearing any criticism for that vote then, but it's exactly the same as what we have said in the Accord.

We also agreed not to file any more briefs or affidavits until General Convention considers the question of bishops filing briefs and affidavits. But this is entirely moot. We have made our point about the polity of our church in Texas and Illinois courts. Those points are now matters of public record. There is no more reason for us to intervene as we did to protect the truth about TEC's polity and interests of our own dioceses.

When a corporation is sued by a disgruntled customer or former employee, its legal counsel often advises the management to settle out of court, even though they believe the lawsuit is frivolous or otherwise unjust. To take it to trial would be time-consuming and costly, even if it resulted in exculpation. Reaching a settlement is nearly always offensive at an emotional level, but is often the right thing to do when considered rationally. This is the position the amici were in. If we had declined to sign this accord, the chances are that the matter would have been taken to the next level--a hearing leading to a finding. We would have had to retain legal counsel, at great expense. The process would have voraciously eaten time and energy, preventing us from providing the kind of godly leadership and pastoral care to the flocks committed to our charge. And there was no guarantee we would prevail at trial. We may well have been subject to suspension and/or monetary fines, which would also have hampered our ministry and the life of our dioceses even more. 

So we opted to cut our losses and live to fight another day. We did not compromise on anything of essential importance. We intend to keep the conversation about polity alive in the councils of the Episcopal Church. We do feel battered and wounded. This has been a demeaning experience. We are dismayed that some we would consider friends feel like we have let them down. We face the future with faith and hope, even as we realize there will continue to be obstacles and difficulties in the witness we believe ourselves called to bear.

(I use the first person plural pronoun a lot in this post. Actually, I only speak for myself, though I am fairly confident my colleagues would agree with how I have characterized the matter.)



35 comments:

john said...

Re: Conciliation. From previous posts and readings I had thought better of you both as a Christian, but primarily as a man. You caved, brought down by a bully and a bunch of bullies, concerned more about your perks and office than the future of the (relatively few) Christians remaining in ECUSA and upholding the faith, once delivered. Time for you to find a new occupation, as being the chief pastor and shepherd isn't something that you are capable of since when it comes to guts, your are lacking.

Bishop Daniel Martins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bishop Daniel Martins said...

John, your comment leads me to wonder whether you even read my post.

The Underground Pewster said...

I'm sorry, but I still don't get it. I think I understand the dilemma, but there comes a point when a man has to stand firm to his beliefs. You may believe that this was not the time, but many of us would like to second guess you.

If not now, I believe that for all of us that time will come, a time when conciliation that has even a hint (and I think this process has much, much more than just a hint) of one sidedness, is not acceptable.

Father Thorpus said...

Bishop Martins, thank you for this good explanation. You all did well, considering the situation. I find it very disturbing that you were put in this situation at all. God help us.

CS said...

I suspect that those who have offered criticism have not themselves been in similar positions. It's amazing how much easier it is to be an idealist and/or an absolutist when someone else has to pay the price.

Fr. Randy Melton said...

I DO get it. You did what you had to do to be able to fight on another day. There may be a time that a harder stand will need to be taken. If so, I have no doubt that you will all be willing to do so. You're in my prayers.

CS said...

Yes. That. Thank you.

Fr. Gene Tucker said...

You and your colleagues, dear Bishop, are in the same situation as the British Army found itself in in May, 1940, on the beaches of Dunkirk. Like them, you have assessed the situation, and have decided that it is best to preserve the strength at hand, so as to fight another day. In the long run, the tactics that so many of TEC's leadership are pursuing are not sustainable, and will only produce a bitter fruit in times to come. (From an old Army man.)

Tom Hightower said...

Bp Dan, you have been placed in a difficult situation that should not have happened. These charges should never have moved forward nor should they have come to this. Your expression of the polity of the church is the historic and, up until 8 years ago, was the opinion of all. I appreciate your efforts. You remain in my thoughts and prayers.

Tregonsee said...

There is always a tension between taking a stand now, and accepting the unacceptable now to take a stand later. Even in your own heart you will have asked yourself whether you were rationalizing. I have been in situations like that, choosing the first in one case, the second in the other. So I have walked in your shoes. Your actions in the future will either confirm or refute your critics.

Mike said...

Bishop Martins,

Sir, if you have time please address the positive, helpful, and pastoral effects of the "conciliation" upon the parishioners who look to the orthodox bishops for truth, shepherding, comfort, solace, and Christ-likeness. Also, please list same effects for the one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church which Jesus is building.

In this time of turmoil may our LORD bless you and keep you, may He shine the light of His Countenance upon you and grant you peace.

AMEN.

John Tang Boyland said...

You did what Zedekiah refused to do, humble himself before a tyrant. Had he done so, Jerusalem would have been spared. Perhaps more people will look kindly on your action after "70 years."

My prayers for all of you,
John Tang Boyland

Dave Halt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave Halt said...

Ultimately, the question is whether you were called to a version of martyrdom here, and if so would that have helped the diocese?

I think that discretion in this case was the better part of valor, and falling on your sword would not have helped our diocese, for a host of reasons.

Thus, though I know it hurt, and am sure it still does, you made a wise decision for the health of this diocese despite the personal cost.

For this, I (we) can only thank you.

On another note, I never cease to be amazed at how quickly traditionalists will begin to eat their own.

MRR said...

Perhaps the precedent this conciliation and accord has created (brought and settled under Title IV, the clergy discipline canon) should cause Episcopalian clergy of every ilk cause for serious concern, practically, pragmatically, and as professing Christians. Any aggrieved party can file a complaint, seek redress, and force a "conciliation". We now see that even a single parishioner from a distant diocese has a cause and standing. A Machiavellian perspective would be to thank TEC for providing a wonderful terrorist tool and means to reek havoc upon the institution and with any one with whom you disagree. May God help us all.

Anonymous said...

It's only a small amount of incense....

TJ McMahon said...

Bishop Martins,

First, let me be clear, that regardless of my feelings about this particular matter, I continue to pray for you and your diocese. The signing of the original amicus briefs (amici?) was courageous, and inspirational to Anglicans both in and out of TEC.

No doubt, I am one of the folks characterized as critical of the role you and other bishops have played in the "conciliation." I would suggest my harshest statements have been reserved for Bishop Little, who should have joined you in the amicus brief and stood with you in the dock, but instead played the part of "conciliator." No doubt, your opinion of his actions is more gracious than mine, but the fact that Communion Partners stood on two sides of this issue is, in itself, a disaster for the few remaining orthodox Episcopalians.

In truth (as I have stated in other forums), you did better than I expected. The final statement is demeaning, and I suspect more harmful than you and ACI realize, but I anticipated something even worse, half expecting the PB would require some form of supervision of your dioceses, or an obsequious ceremony with a lot of genuflection and ring kissing.

I think the error was not the final statement, but participating in the process in the first place. This has set the precedent that will allow this unconstitutional abuse to be used any time a bishop disagrees publicly with the presiding bishop. And any small group of clergy or laity can now resort to this to constantly harass a bishop who maintains the faith and discipline of the Church.

Honestly, I am not sure you should even respond to me, since at this point, anything you were to say that might be construed as positive could be taken as a "renunciation of orders" by the PB.

My greatest concern is with the following: "Respondents agree not to file or endorse any further amicus brief or affidavit in litigation outside of their respective dioceses and against the legal position of The Episcopal Church..." This clause could, for instance, prevent you from intervening should TEC or the diocese of Milwaukee take action against Nashotah (and if you think for one minute they would never do that, well, who among us would have predicted 500 clergy depositions, non canonical "acceptance of renunciation," 70+ lawsuits, or "conciliation"). Granted, the amicus briefs are in the hands of the courts, and say what they say (and again, many of us are very grateful for that). And will prove useful in the future, no doubt, as citations for other cases, and for historians (frankly, how the current leadership of TEC can openly deny so much of its own documentary history is beyond me).

As I said in my opening, you and the Diocese of Springfield continue in my prayers. I will close by praying that my own predictions prove incorrect, and that this is indeed the close of this sad chapter in the life of the Episcopal Church.

TJ

Fr.Tony said...

http://afmclavier.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/on-conciliation/

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you brought a cocktail fork to a knife fight.

- Dick Mitchell

Ben said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben said...

Bishop Dan,
You are a good and godly man. It seems to me that those who long for new martyrs forget that martyrs are dead. Language Man might want to protest that point on technical grounds, but, in the vernacular, that's what is meant. (My wife made me write that last sentence- I still insist it isn't needed, but, hey! There's no freedom of speech in my home either. LOL)

Perhaps those who wish you had fallen on your sword (while they hold it for you) forget what country they live in? Freedom of speech has been restricted by the courts and the Supreme Court under certain conditions. Some of those conditions have to do with what employees can and can't say about their employers. Now, we can all have a good argument about whether or not bishops are employees. In the end, that is exactly the position from which TEC is basing its actions. Sure, you and others could have stood your ground. And you all would likely be deposed, and the whiners would all sleep well knowing that someone's life was ruined on their behalf; they will regale each other at the local pub with how all of you might get into a history book somewhere.... That sounds like a remarkably arrogant hope given our denomination's overall insignificance in American Christianity today.

I confess that, on many occasions, I have remained silent about things TEC and some of its bishops have said on the basis that making myself an enemy of the state will consume me. People can yell and rant and project on me their need to watch Christians thrown onto the dirt of the Coliseum all they want. But they were not there when God spoke to me and called me to ordained ministry. They were not there when the Church affirmed that call. They were not there a decade ago when God told me to continue to preach the Gospel to the parishioners I am called to lead. (So, there :p lol.)

I know you, Bishop. I know your heart and love for The Lord. Continue to lead your Diocese. Blessings and peace.

Ben

Bishop Daniel Martins said...

TJ,
I do appreciate your prayers, of course. Only time will tell how this will all play out. I'm angry and annoyed, but I'm not frightened. If we had not participated in the conciliation process, the result would have been the same as we participated but failed to reach an accord: trial, a finding of guilt (which would *truly* be precedent setting), and a penalty (I don't think it would have been deposition, but it would have been onerous).

Bear in mind that we were not dealing with the Presiding Bishop, but with the Complainants of record. Now, there is no shortage of conspiracy theorists who think the Complainants were mere shills for the PB. I have at times been tempted to think that myself. But I don't. I don't think there is some Grand Master Plan to rid TEC of the remaining conservatives. Sorry. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't I base my opinion on real time face-to-face interaction with the people who would be carrying this out if it were so. If it turns out I'm wrong, I'll buy everybody a drink.

John said...

RFIG

I made the first comment, you the 3rd questioning if I had read what you had posted. Did. Several times before my post. And again a couple of times after reading the other comments and before this post.

You (and the others) caved. There comes a time for a man to stand and takes the slings and arrows, and you (and the others) caved. ML stood (for awhile), Robert Duncan is still standing. And you (and the others) caved. All of the words that you write that the principle of what you did is still intact, all of the pious live to fight another day, etc. cannot hide the fact that you(and the others) caved.

I have followed your blog, the arguments as to your election as a bishop, and frankly expected better. You now have the office you apparently wanted so much that you are willing to forget why you were called there.

Unfortunately, don't think that you deserve the salutation at the start of this comment.

John

Matt Marino said...

Hello Bishop,

I am saddened that our church decided y'all needed to endure a public whipping. To make you then pay for the privilege of passing along a position they too were taught in seminary stuns me.

Every time I think that the pressure is out of the system and we can go back to being via media and a big tent, something like this happens that indicates an inability of those at the top to live in any sort of meaningful tension.

This whole thing harkens back to conversations around race 40 years ago: "We want us some conservatives, but the right kind of conservatives. The ones who know their place and keep their mouths shut."

I am very sorry. My prayers are with you all.

Anonymous said...

The Communion Partner Bishops capitulated but I do not scorn them,I am embarrassed and saddened for them. I also believe that if you agree to be made bishop, you have a higher responsibility.

Scott Browning said...

Bravo, Bishop. You listened to God and made the best of a rotten situation. Does it strike you that TEC's strategy seems to be to get as many courts ticked off at them for interference with witnesses as possible?

Anonymous said...

I'm amazed at those who presume to know whether or not your calling in this was to self-sacrificing martyrdom. Not every sacrifice made at the hands of those who are cruel and arbitrary is redemptive. The choices set before you regarding conciliation (or not) were two distasteful alternatives, and there's no way for any of us to know with certainty which choice would have proven the more potent witness to the Gospel of Christ. Instead of expending energy judging your motives, I hope that others will join me in praying that God will use this outcome for good.
-A Lutheran Fellow-traveller

Dale Matson said...

Bishop Martins,
"Bear in mind that we were not dealing with the Presiding Bishop."
Well, actually you were. She had to sign off on the final agreement.

GC said...

Perhaps we conservatives should learn from those who brought this action. If they can file a complaint and force a "conciliation", why cannot conservative members do the same? Anyone want to join me in filing a complaint against the PB (and others) for abandonment of the faith and other questionable acts?

Anonymous said...

I find that the troubling words of Yeats are now more apt than ever.
--Bryan Hunter, Charleston

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Anonymous said...

@GC. I appreciate your thought, but the complaint will never make it past the intake office. I can point out 2 or 3 explicit violations of canons made by diocesan bishops in current times, but if you violate canons but invoke Prophetic Justice or such, you get a Go Free card. If you express a minority viewpoint, as did Bishop Martins, you get quashed.

Gerry Smith said...

Dear Bishop,
I will have to admit, my first reaction to reading that you and the other Bishops acquiesced to this Accord was of great disappointment and sadness. Like some, I wanted ya’ll to stand and fight to the bitter end, but after more reflection and prayer I have come to the conclusion that mine was not at all a Christ-like reaction. My initial reaction was driven by pride mostly…….I was hoping so that ya’ll would not “cave” so I could point to my Bishop and proudly proclaim how courageous you and the others were for standing against this bullying from TEC. But, when I examine my own heart, I must confess that my thoughts were centered around “me” not around the greater Church and glorifying God.
Bishop, being a “man” or being courageous does not always mean having to be right, but rather it has to do more with doing the right thing for the right reasons. And I do believe, knowing you as I do, that you made this painful choice because you believed it to be for the greater good of the Diocese and the Church, not as some have implied, to save yourself or for any personal well-being. In fact, you and the others were willing to accept the humiliation in order to do what you thought would best serve the Church in the long run. This was indeed the courageous and “manly” decision to make.
And after all, this was not a theological or biblical issue that needed defending, but mainly a political one. This allows all of you to remain and defend the more important theological and biblical challenges which will be much more needed by the Church in the long run.
It saddens me to see some of the responses from those critical of your decision to sign the Accord, especially the types of responses such as “John’s” that questioned your courage. Quite frankly, I wonder if John and others would have called Jesus less of a man or “cowardly” for not standing up to Herod and Pontius Pilate, even in the face of injustice. Jesus showed us how to accept humiliation when it was to bring honor and glory to the Father and since we are called to become like Christ, I believe your actions in this matter set this example for all of us to follow. So thank you Bishop!
Gerry Smith

BETSY A, Diocese of SC said...

I think we need to be very careful that we do not fall into a trap that TEC has apparently baited for those of us who are passionate about our faith. In the statement published concerning the Conciliation, no where do I read that any of those involved in the "amicus" brief have repudiated or changed their original opinions. The closest statement I can find is "regret for any harm to the Bishops, clergy and laity of the Dioceses of Fort Worth and Quincy resulting from Respondents' acts". My mother used to tell me that people were quick to believe impressions and perceptions, and they would believe the worse rather than take the time to search for the truth. My interpretation of what Jesus says in Matthew about those who sin against you as well as forgiveness is that you try every avenue available before "shaking the dust" or "treating as a pagan". Bishop Lawrence tried for some avenue of conciliation and had TEC turn on him. "Amicus" tried it and, through TEC's manipulation, have been perceived as "caving in". My prayers go out to ALL involved. Thank you, Bishop Martins, for the opportunity to discuss. Sometimes even the silence can seem intolerable.

Fr. Craig said...

Bishop Martins, thank you for your explanation. I will continue to pray for you. As one reading a variety of sites, and viewing things from the land to the north, I find it difficult to believe that you don't think the PB and her friends don't have a plan in place to see conservatives gone. Her own words give that hope away. I pray that you are, at the very least, preparing for another major challenge to your leadership.

I am also praying that the new ABC would provide some care and support... I pray... Maybe that's my naiveté showing through.

Christ is risen!