Thursday, February 28, 2008

Abp. Akinola and the Massacre of Yelwa

The Atlantic has a current article written by Eliza Griswold, the daughter of former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, entitled God's Country. It is an in depth report on the tensions between Christianity and Islam in Nigeria.

One story involves the attack on a Christian church in Yelwa in February 2004. The church was burned, and all 70 of the Christians who were worshipping there were killed.

About two months later, the Christians retaliated:

...Two months after the church was razed, Christian men and boys surrounded Yelwa. Many were bare-chested; others wore shirts on which they’d reportedly pinned white name tags identifying them as members of the Christian Association of Nigeria, an umbrella organization founded in the 1970s to give Christians a collective and unified voice as strong as that of Muslims. Each tag had a number instead of a name: a code, it seemed, for identification. They attacked the town. According to Human Rights Watch, 660 Muslims were massacred over the course of the next two days, including the patients in the Al-Amin clinic. Twelve mosques and 300 houses went up in flames. Young girls were marched to a nearby Christian town and forced to eat pork and drink alcohol. Many were raped, and 50 were killed...
Does the Christian Association of Nigeria ring a bell? It should:

... At the time of the massacre, Archbishop Peter Akinola was the president of the Christian Association of  Nigeria, whose membership was implicated in the killings. He has since lost his bid for another term but, as primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, he is still the leader of 18 million Anglicans. He is a colleague of my father, who was the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in America from 1997 to 2006. But the American Episcopals’ election of an openly homosexual bishop in 2003, which Archbishop Akinola denounced as “satanic,” created distance between them...
Ms Griswold went to see Abp. Akinola. Here is part of his response to her questions:

...When asked if those wearing name tags that read “Christian Association of Nigeria” had been sent to the Muslim part of Yelwa, the archbishop grinned. “No comment,” he said. “No Christian would pray for violence, but it would be utterly naive to sweep this issue of Islam under the carpet.” He went on, “I’m not out to combat anybody. I’m only doing what the Holy Spirit tells me to do. I’m living my faith, practicing and preaching that Jesus Christ is the one and only way to God, and they respect me for it. They know where we stand. I’ve said before: let no Muslim think they have the monopoly on violence”...
He grinned, and then said "No comment."

Not good enough, Archbishop. What was your role in this massacre? Did you send those men to attack Yelwa?


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin Scheduled for March 29

Lots of good news to be found in a recent article in Episcopal Life:

...A growing number of Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Joaquin are opting to remain within the Episcopal Church (TEC), as the Fresno-based diocese prepares for an anticipated March 29 special convention that would elect a provisional bishop.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, in a letter to be distributed via a new diocesan newspaper, notes the proposed convention date and reassures the people of the diocese that work is ongoing "to ensure that you and your fellow Episcopalians may continue to bless the communities around you well into the future"...

...Moore noted as signs of progress the appointment of a 26-member steering committee to help continue the diocese (see roster below); 17 congregations who have opted to remain with TEC; the anticipated March 29 special convention to elect a provisional bishop; establishment of new diocesan headquarters in Stockton and a partnership with Episcopal Life Media to facilitate dissemination of information and to provide a new diocesan newspaper edition...

...In the absence of ecclesiastical authority, the Rev. Mark Hall, rector of St. Anne's Church in Stockton and the senior active priest in San Joaquin, is also serving as temporary diocesan administrator...

...Delegates to the anticipated March 29 convention will, in addition to electing a provisional bishop, also elect the standing committee, deputies to General Convention, provincial representatives and diocesan officers.

Michael Glass, a San Rafael attorney who represents many of the continuing Episcopalians, said Title III. Canon 13, Section 1 provides for the election of the provisional bishop "in consultation with the Presiding Bishop."

Glass predicted additional congregations will also "come out of the woodwork" and decide to remain with TEC after the election. "Right now the only authority is Bob Moore and Brian Cox and the steering committee," he said. "When people have a new bishop they can call up and an alternative functioning structure to interact with, you'll see more people."

TEC is providing the funding for ongoing mission congregations, and other forms of support have been designated by the Episcopal Church's Executive Council...
So, finally, we can see how things are going to unfold. A list of the members of the steering committee are included in the article.

Congratulations to the members of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. There's still much to be done, but your perseverence is now bearing fruit. I want to offer my heart felt thanks to our Presiding Bishop and the Executive Council, for their continued expressions of support for these faithful Episcopalians enduring a very difficult time.

I do want to point out one more curious comment from the EL article:

..."We talked to people this morning who simply hear rumors on blogs and get the impression that these various blogs and web pages are the national church speaking with some uniform voice...
Just for the record, this "blog" is the personal web log of an eccentric Episcopal priest who has no connection with the "national church," and whose voice is usually out of uniform. A black t-shirt and an old pair of jeans is my normal attire when at home. No reason to dress up if one is simply functioning as the voice of yet another backwater blog trafficking in rumors, right?

Congrats again to all our friends from San Joaquin. Easter is coming!


San Joaquin in Violation of Southern Cone's Constitution and Canons

Thinking Anglicans points us to an interesting article by Steve Waring in the Living Church. It appears that the newly formed Southern Cone Diocese of San Joaquin broke the rules of the constitution and canons of that Province when it came into being.

From Article 2 of the Southern Cone's Constitution:

The Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, which shall henceforth be called The Province, is composed of the Anglican Dioceses that exist or which may be formed in the Republics of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay and which voluntary declare themselves as integral Diocesan members of the Province.
Article 4 allows the constitution to be amended, as would seem necessary if the Southern Cone intends to continue its expansion into the United States and Canada. But there's a catch; Article 4.3 stipulates that any changes must be submitted to the Anglican Consultative Council.

Since the Southern Cone has had over a year to consider their recent expansionist plans, why did they not submit such plans to the ACC? They claim it was because of "the nature of the emergency." It seems to me the more likely reason is because the Southern Cone was aware that any plan to establish dioceses in places where a diocese that is part of the Anglican Communion already exists would be rejected by the ACC.

Waring also points us to the Southern Cone's Canon 2.3:

2.3 Resignation of Bishops
2.3.1 Resignation due to age. A Bishop may resign upon reaching 65 years of age, but should definitely retire by 68 years of age.
Bishop Schofield will turn 70 in October.

Bp. Schofield claims that Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables has the authority to extend his time in office beyond the mandatory retirement age of 68. Such authority is not mentioned in the Southern Cone's canons.

Bp. Schofield will be deposed by the House of Bishops of TEC in a few weeks. He claims that such a deposition will have no effect, since he is now a member of the Southern Cone's House of Bishops. He may believe that to be true, but such a claim cannot be substantiated by the Constitution and Canons of the Province to which he has fled in an attempt to escape discipline from the Church which ordained him and consecrated him as a bishop.

It appears that the Southern Cone is making up the rules as they go along, and inviting others who are unhappy living under their current rules to join them in their expansionist escapades.

There's a word for those who despise all rules; anarchists. Perhaps this new group that is emergining from Argentina might consider a new name for themselves; the Anglican Anarchists.

This should not be confused with another group already using the acronym "AA," which is indeed a worthy organization that saves lives. I might suggest that these lawless Anglicans would greatly benefit from joining the existing AA. It could be helpful in exposing their "stinkin' thinkin'" and assist them in becoming comfortable in their own skin.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Communion Partners Plan

We've finished the move. There were some strange moments that deviated from the plan, but by Saturday, we were fairly well situated and life could continue. It would be nice if we could find a few things, like the plates and the silverware. I'm sure they are somewhere in the mountain of boxes in the kitchen. In the meantime, that's what restaurants are for, right?

In my absence, the Anglican soap opera has continued. A development that may prove to be important is the Communion Partners Plan. From what I can find, it appears that this plan was first mentioned by Jonathan Petre in a story that has now been largely discredited. It made for interesting reading however, although Petre's intention appears to have been to take a few jabs at Dr. Williams rather than report on the plan. That intention became quite transparent by the end of the article. Here's a bit from it:

...According to insiders, Dr Williams has given his blessing to the plans to create an enclave for up to 20 conservative American bishops that would insulate them from their liberal colleagues.

The scheme would allow them to remain technically within the Episcopal Church but under the care of like-minded archbishops from abroad.

The Primate of the West Indies, Archbishop Drexel Gomez, a moderate conservative, has agreed to participate, and other primates could be recruited...
Seeing Abp. Gomez mentioned is not encouraging, in light of his past statements of support for the "rejectionist" Anglicans and his participation in the irregular consecration of bishops in Kenya; bishops who were created for the purpose of advancing the border crossings of foreign Provinces into TEC. At the time of those consecrations, Mark Harris had this to say about the participation of Abp. Gomez:

...It is necessary to point out the presence of Archbishop Drexel Gomez, who was preacher at the ordination. As the chair of the Covenant Design Group he has played a major part in the work of the Communion. By his participation in this ordination he has made his stand, a stand that is incompatible with the very document that produced the recommendations concerning a covenant. He has made his choice. It is time for him to step down as Chair of the CDG...
The next story on the Communion Partners Plan was by George Conger, who offered more details and appears to have been more accurate than the Petre piece. Here's part of that article:

...Bishop Stanton of Dallas, working with leaders of the Anglican Communion Institute and the Primate of the West Indies, Archbishop Drexel Gomez, took the Episcopal Visitor programme forward. Led by Prof Christopher Seitz, the team sought to meld the needs articulated by traditionalists with the structures suggested by the Primates and the Presiding Bishop.

On Jan 31 Dr Williams met with Archbishop Gomez, Bishop Stanton, Prof Seitz and Dr Ephraim Radner and gave his backing to the emerging “Anglican Bishops in Communion” project, agreeing to issue invitations to the primates of the West Indies, Burundi, Tanzania, the Indian Ocean and Jerusalem and the Middle East to offer primatial pastoral oversight to the Episcopal Visitors.

The Presiding Bishop was briefed by Bishops Stanton of Dallas, Smith of North Dakota, Howe of Central Florida, and Bishop Bruce MacPherson of Western Louisiana on Feb 21, giving her “nihil obstat” to the Communion plan, one participant reported.

While the details of oversight have not been finalized, the plan keeps the authority of naming Episcopal Visitors with the Presiding Bishop. These visitors would be linked pastorally with the five overseas primates. The plan does not envision the Presiding Bishop relinquishing her authority over the disciplinary process, but would permit visitations on her behalf. The authority to consecrate bishops would be held by the Presiding Bishop, but it is understood that this power could be delegated...
According to Conger, this plan is a hybrid, combining features of the episcopal oversight plan recommended by the Primates in the Dar es Salaam Communique, which included a "Pastoral Council," consisting of four Archbishops who are not members of the Episcopal Church; and our Presiding Bishop's Episcopal Visitors Plan. There would be a "Pastoral Council," made up of five foreign Primates, but the Presiding Bishop would have more authority than in the Dar es Salaam recommendation.

The involvement of five Primates from other Provinces in the internal affairs of TEC is a deal breaker for me, especially if one of them is to be Abp. Gomez. Regardless of how innocent their initial involvement might sound, once you grant them authority over "pastoral concerns," it will only be a matter of time until they will be claiming more and more authority for themselves in other matters, possibly leading to the point that they will have the power to veto actions of General Convention and Executive Council.

Before saying more, the letter from Bp. John Howe needs to be considered, as he offers some clarification and more details. Here's the conclusion of that letter:

...Our purpose in meeting with Bishop Schori yesterday was to apprize her of this plan, seek her counsel, and assure her that we remain committed to working within the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, and that the Primates involved in this discussion are NOT involved in "border crossing," nor would we be. We will visit no congregation without the Diocesan Bishop's invitation and permission. We do believe this is a step forward, albeit a small one...
Yes, it is indeed a step forward for it to be acknowledged that the line in the sand for our Presiding Bishop, and many of us faithful Episcopalians, is the "border crossings." However, the section of Bp. Howe's letter that outlines the purpose of these "Partners" includes this troubling language:

...To provide a partnership to work toward the Anglican Covenant and according to Windsor principles.

The Bishops will work together according to the principles outlined in the Windsor Report and seek a comprehensive Anglican Covenant at the Lambeth Conference and beyond...
We have previously discussed why some of us consider an Anglican Covenant, either in its former or current form, to be a flawed idea. Since Abp. Gomez seems to be taking the lead on this Partners plan, and since he also just so happens to chair the Covenant Design Group, it is not surprising that approving a Covenant as soon as possible is such a high priority for the proposers of this new hybrid Partners plan. I would imagine that they are going to be surprised by the negative reaction such an emphasis on the Covenant will receive from some segments of the Communion.

It also bothers me that it is made clear, especially in Christopher Seitz description of events, that our Presiding Bishop was "informed" of these plans. Did they have to ask her permission? Canonically, maybe not. Did they need to seek her support? It would have been prudent, but again maybe not absolutely necessary. Why would it have been prudent? Because no bishop, clergy person or lay person is required to recognize the authority of any bishop or archbishop outside TEC. To communicate the intention of moving forward with this plan, with or without the approval of our Presiding Bishop, is going to incline some of us to be less than supportive.

The five foreign Primates who will make up this new version of Dar es Salaam's Pastoral Council are, to use Bp. Schofield's term, "meddling" in the internal affairs of TEC, without seeking permission or approval from our Presiding Bishop, the Executive Council or General Convention. This leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Even though I appreciate the "small step" of not participating in further border crossings, I could not support such a plan, in light of the participation of Abp. Gomez and the way in which the polity of TEC has been bypassed.

Mark Harris has some thoughts on this matter. Here is his conclusion:

...How this all unfolds I do not know. The early read is that this is yet another effort to organize those who do not want a woman Presiding Bishop exercising primatial oversight (whatever that is), particularly someone who supported the ordination of Bishop Robinson and a feminist, and, under the guise of the Episcopal Visitor program, to give them greater voice in the Anglican Communion. It seems a very bad idea.
I tend to agree with Mark. This is indeed a very bad idea.

Your thoughts?


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bp. Schofield is Not Pleased with "Meddling" Episcopalians

The Lead points us to a recent letter from Bp. Schofield to the Rev. Canon Brian Cox and the Rev. Canon Robert Moore, who have been appointed by the Presiding Bishop to be a pastoral presence for Episcopalians in San Joaquin. Here's part of that letter:

...It is my understanding that you have been hired by the Presiding Bishop’s Office to be a part of an interim pastoral presence with oversight in the Diocese of San Joaquin. This fact indicates one of the two things: 1) You do not believe that the Diocese was capable of removing itself from TEC in December 2007, and therefore you are intruding into the internal affairs of a recognized TEC diocese; or, 2) You do believe this diocese left TEC in 2007 and you are entering into the internal affairs of a diocese of another province.

In either case, at present, The Episcopal Church has begun attacking both me and this diocese. Your coming here is unconscionable in that you are meddling in the affairs of San Joaquin with neither the courtesy of requesting my permission as bishop nor even troubling to inform me of your plans. Such actions are hardly those of men with honorable intentions.

Even though you have already taken it upon yourself to be in contact with clergy and parishes, under no circumstances are you welcome to hold meetings in this diocese or to ask permission of clergy or other leaders to do so...
Now we know where the Standing Committee learned to write with such a harsh tone, don't we?

It is difficult to believe Bp. Schofield is really this confused. I think the letter was a fishing expedition. The matter is rather simple.

Of course those working with the Presiding Bishop (as well as most Episcopalians) can only consider the first option (a diocese cannot unilaterally remove itself from TEC). There is indeed an Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. But you are not the Bishop of that Diocese, by your personal decision to abandon that position to join another Province.

As the process of deposition requires a meeting of the House of Bishops, one could claim that technically, yes, you are still the Bishop, for a few more weeks. But, even when considering that technical status, you are also an inhibited Bishop, facing charges to be heard before your peers. You cannot provide appropriate pastoral care to the Episcopalians in your area. According to the Presiding Bishop, it is questionable if the Standing Committee can either.

The faithful Episcopalians in San Joaquin have requested pastoral care from our Presiding Bishop. Such care has been provided. If you are indeed now a member of the Southern Cone, I don't see how the method of providing appropriate pastoral care to faithful Episcopalians is any longer any of your business.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

GAFCON to be Held in Jerusalem Jordan

The gaffe-plagued GAFCON conference has now been "rearranged."

You can find our previous discussion of the GAFCON gaffes here and here.

The short version of the history of this "conference" is that a few Primates decided to hold a global conference for "rejectionist" Anglicans in Jerusalem. Apparently they neglected to consult with anyone else. This was their first gaffe.

Dr. Michael Poon, a prominent voice among the conservatives in the Global South, spoke out against the idea of GAFCON, for which he received an angry response from an unnamed Primate. Abp. Mouneer Anis, Primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East, suggested that maybe the timing and the venue for this "conference" was not such a good idea. The Bishop of Jerusalem, the host of this proposed conference, had not even been consulted before the invitations went out. When hearing about the plans through the press, he voiced his reservations about holding such a conference in Jerusalem.

Archishop Peter Jensen of Sydney, Australia, and Nigeria Archbishop Peter Akinola attempted to pressure Bishop Suheil Dawani of Jerusalem into changing his mind. Minutes of their meeting can be found here. Abps. Jensen and Akinola were not successful. Bp. Dawani's answer was no. Yet, the GAFCON organizers continued to promote this conference in Jerusalem in spite of the Bishop of Jerusalem's objections. This was their second gaffe.

Bp. Dawani continued to voice his objections, as recently as this week.

Now we read that the "conference" has been "rearranged.". From the GAFCON website:

...After consultation with a number of church leaders in Jerusalem, and around the world, the pilgrimage of the Global Anglican Future Conference will now take place from June 22nd through June 29th. An important Consultation in Jordan from 18-22 June will include the conference leadership, theological resource group, those bishops serving in majority Islamic settings and other key leaders. The Jerusalem pilgrimage will focus on worship, prayer, discussions and Bible Study, shaped by the context of the Holy Land...
I wonder if they've checked these dates with their new host in Jordan? Or consulted with the Bishop of Jerusalem regarding the pilgrimage portion of this "conference"? If not, that would be gaffe #3, meaning they're outta there.

Speaking of being "outta there," that is what this conference is all about, if "there" is defined as the Anglican Communion. Mark Harris has described GAFCON this way:

...GAFCON will go down in the history of the Anglican Communion as the foundational meeting of a new communion. Since the current one, the Anglican Communion is already peopled with a wide variety of church folk GAFCON will either have to take over, kicking the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada and a wide variety of other churches out, or start a world-wide Church of its own.

We should have no doubts, however. The present brought to us this Christmas by this leadership group is rotten. GAFCON may succeed in its purposes, but the gaffe in GAFCON is that it is indeed the work of con artists.
"...the foundational meeting of a new communion..." Does this surprise you? It shouldn't. We were told about this over two years ago. Consider the comments of Archbishop Bernard Malango, Primate of Central Africa, in this interview given to Virtueless Dave back in 2005:

...If there is no resolution and solution of this situation, the Global South will go it alone and we will form a church - a true Anglican Church - and those in the West who believe in the authority of the Scriptures only would be admitted...

...We shall meet as CAPA Primates in October and one of the questions will be where a new Anglican Communion will be set up. We shall approach that question very carefully. The choice right now is Alexandria. We did not want it to be in Israel....too political, nor any other Middle East nation, nor Africa, for obvious reasons, nor Europe or Southeast Asia. We think Alexandria, Egypt is best as we can trace our historical roots from there. We can then start from an historical basis...

...It will all be resolved before the next Lambeth Conference. It will all be done within the next three years because we are fed up with talking...
So, they will be keeping to their timetable, holding their organizing conference just before Lambeth 2008.

So now you know the real reason they will not be going to Lambeth; they will no longer be a part of the Anglican Communion.

It is always sad when families break up. But, in this case, I think it might be better for everyone involved if these folks do move on, don't you?


UPDATE: Mark points out an interesting piece of information that I missed; Jordan is in the Diocese of Jerusalem. They are still holding their "consultation" in Bp. Dawani's diocese, even though he has asked them repeatedly to not do so. As Mark put it:

...Then again, perhaps the Bishop of Jerusalem gave in. Who knows? Still, if I said, "not in my house, please" I would somehow assume it was understood that I included the back porch...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Paul Ambos on the Standing Committee of San Joaquin

Today's guest blogger is Paul Ambos (Paul A.) who is an attorney residing in the Diocese of New Jersey and considered by many to have some expertise in canon law. Paul also happens to be a "real life" friend of mine.

Dan Martins provided Paul with a copy of the Diocese of San Joaquin's Constitution and Canons, which I have hosted on a little parking place that I keep on the net. To my knowledge, neither Dan nor anyone else has yet to offer commentary regarding the current situation in San Joaquin in relation to the contents of the Diocesan Constitution and Canons. Paul has now provided us with such a commentary, arguing that it is these documents (and not just the national canon cited by our Presiding Bishop) that shows the grounds for disqualification of the Standing Committee members. I invite you to study the documents referred to in this essay, and judge for yourselves.



Jake has written about the Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin (here and here and here and here) and several commenters have attempted to analyze the situation in light of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. Some have noted that the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of San Joaquin should be looked at, but the diocesan website had never to my knowledge posted those for general reference.

(As a footnote, every diocese today should include their current Constitution and Canons on their website as a matter of transparency. Most do; at least two have done so as soon as the idea was presented to their web administrators. And make them findable, not just buried under a link for diocesan convention deputies.)

Through the courtesy of former DSJ Standing Committee member Fr. Dan Martins, Jake has been able to post the Diocese of San Joaquin's
Constitution and Canons for general reference. This version was the last posted internally in the diocese as of January 2008, although it appears that it may not include the latest amendments in other areas. But the sections affecting the Standing Committee appear to be those that were in effect when the diocese purported to separate itself from TEC in December 2007.

For those unfamiliar with why the status of a Standing Committee is a relevant question for DSJ, some background may be useful. Article IV of the
Constitution of The Episcopal Church mandates the election of Standing Committees in every diocese:

In every Diocese a Standing Committee shall be elected by the Convention thereof, except that provision for filling vacancies between meetings of the Convention may be prescribed by the Canons of the respective Dioceses. When there is a Bishop in charge of the Diocese, the Standing Committee shall be the Bishop's Council of Advice. If there be no Bishop or Bishop Coadjutor or Suffragan Bishop canonically authorized to act, the Standing Committee shall be the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese for all purposes declared by the General Convention. The rights and duties of the Standing Committee, except as provided in the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention, may be prescribed by the Canons of the respective Dioceses.
In addition to being primarily the "Bishop's Council of Advice," Standing Committees are given other tasks by the national canons, ranging from involvement in admission of candidates for holy orders to consenting to the election of bishops between General Conventions. The only qualification for office set nationally is that the members be elected by their diocesan convention.

The departure of DSJ Bp. John-David Schofield from TEC has thrown the DSJ Standing Committee into the limelight because under the national constitution, if the office of the Bishop is vacant and if the Standing Committee is continuing, it administratively steps into the shoes of the Bishop (other than for sacramental acts) by becoming the Ecclesiastical Authority of the diocese.

Article VII of the DSJ Constitution provides:

Sec. 1. The Standing Committee shall consist of four Presbyters and/or Deacons who shall be canonically resident and domiciled in the Diocese and four Lay members who shall be communicants in good standing in this Diocese.

Sec. 2. Members of the Standing Committee shall be elected at each Annual Convention. Their manner of election and their duties shall be those described by the Canons of the General Convention and of this Diocese.

Sec. 3. The Standing Committee itself shall have the authority to fill its own vacancies.
Canon VIII of the diocese provides in relevant part:

Sec. 8.02 The Standing Committee shall meet at the call of the Bishop as soon as practicable after the adjournment of the Annual Convention and shall organize by the election of a President and Secretary from among its members and thereafter shall meet at the call of the President or the Secretary.

Sec. 8.03 The powers, functions, and duties of the Standing Committee shall be those prescribed by the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church and of this Diocese.
It has been reported that at the DSJ December Convention, following the convention's vote to separate itself from TEC and affiliate itself with the Province of the Southern Cone, Bp. Schofield declared that all clergy of the diocese automatically became Southern Cone clergy and all congregations with the diocese became Southern Cone members. He announced some sort of opt-out procedure, but the situation is murky because there are no rules for this sort of thing, just as there are no rules allowing TEC dioceses to remove themselves from TEC.

If, however, the clergy members of the Standing Committee became Southern Cone clergy in December rather than Episcopal clergy, then from the standpoint of TEC they are no longer "Presbyters and/or Deacons . . .canonically resident and domiciled in the [Episcopal] Diocese" and thus are no longer qualified to serve in the office. The lay members, similarly, are not "communicants in good standing in this [Episcopal] Diocese" (Canon 20.04 defers to the national definition of "communicant" in Canon I.17.2-3). If all members of the Standing Committee are disqualified from acting, then there is no remaining member who is qualified to act to fill the vacancies, and so a new election by a new diocesan convention is required.

I believe that Fr. Martins and others have claimed that the DSJ Standing Committee met at least twice after the December Convention and acted as if they were an Episcopal Standing Committee rather than a Southern Cone Standing Committee. This is a difficult claim to evaluate because the Province of the Southern Cone does not provide for Standing Committees. A rough English
translation of their constitution and canons has been posted by the Diocese of Fort Worth. The PSC C&C do not require Standing Committees but only a Council (which DSJ already had) that should advise the bishop. But they also require that any new diocese elect a new bishop, which Bp. Schofield is not allowing. Any application in practice of these constitution and canons to DSJ is speculative.

Fr. Martins further claims that the practice of the DSJ SC was to meet regardless of the bishop, who might or might not appear as a visitor to their meetings. This may appear a bit disingenuous if the body constituted (per TEC C&C) to be a council of advice meets for purposes of ignoring the person they are supposed to be advising, but the ways of the Diocese of San Joaquin are indeed strange ways.

But assuming that the DSJ SC followed their canons, their initial meeting after convention, at least, would have been "at the call of" Bishop Schofield. Assuming that he had at that time abandoned The Episcopal Church for another church (an adjudication of which appears rather likely to be made at the next meeting of the TEC House of Bishops), then they were meeting to advise a bishop of the Southern Cone and were not at least in that instance acting as a TEC Standing Committee.

The situation is murkier yet because at a later meeting Bp. Schofield either received the resignation of or else removed six of the eight members of the Standing Committee because they had not sufficiently (in his mind) committed themselves to the Southern Cone, even though he had already declared them to be such.

Separately, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has written to the DSJ SC that based on their actions she does not recognize them as the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. The response of the six hedging members continued to hedge and failed to affirm that they were indeed members in good standing of The Episcopal Church and should be qualified to run the diocese once the deposition of Bp. Schofield is effective.

My own opinion is that once a new Episcopal diocesan convention is called for San Joaquin, the formerly elected members of the Standing Committee should present themselves for reelection, affirming that they will serve as Episcopalians rather than as Southern Conians, because this is the only way that they can be recognized as legitimate diocesan officers in the wake of their actions or inactions that led up to the events of the December 2007 convention. But in their hearts they know this.

Accusations that the Presiding Bishop has no canonical authority to "derecognize" diocesan officers are similar to the silence in the face of Bp. Schofield's noncanonical dismissal of elected Standing Committee members. But this all stems from the fact that the TEC Constitution and Canons do not permit dioceses to vote themselves out of the church; yet one has purported to do so and others are contemplating following. Some day all this will be behind us and Episcopalians in the territory of the Diocese of San Joaquin will again have a functioning diocesan administration with a bishop loyal to The Episcopal Church. In the meantime, while we may have to improvise some procedures in order to respond to actions that also improvised procedures, we should pay attention to the principles on which the existing rules governing the church are premised: Those who are to serve as officers of an Episcopal Diocese should be loyal Episcopalians.

Schismatics need not apply; they have their calling elsewhere.

Paul Ambos

For the Beauty of the Earth

The Episcopal Public Policy Network is offering a Lenten Series: “For the Beauty of the Earth”. This series will help us become more intentional about caring for God's creation. Take a look.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Five Primates of the Global South Confirm That the Issue IS About Gay Cooties

From a letter signed by Abp. Peter Akinola (Nigeria), Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini (Rwanda), Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi (Kenya), Archbishop Henry Orombi (Uganda) and Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables (Southern Cone), regarding their reasons for boycotting the Lambeth Conference:

...We are also mindful of the press interest in the Conference, and in the presence in some form or other of Gene Robinson and his male partner, and of 30 gay activists. We would be the continual target of activist campaigners and media intrusion. In these circumstances we could not feel at home...
Someone needs to let these gentlemen know that conventional wisdom suggests that gayness is not contagious.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Executive Committee to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin: "We Stand With You"

From the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church:

...We are deeply concerned for those who are members of The Episcopal Church but now find themselves in parishes or dioceses attempting to depart. To the members of The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, know we stand with you. Your struggles and needs inform our prayers, deliberations, and plans. This is a new and unfamiliar landscape for all of us. We stand with you and commit ourselves to provide pastoral care, to aid in reorganization, and to support legal actions necessary to retain the assets of the diocese for ministry. We will hold clergy leaders accountable to their vows to uphold the doctrine, discipline and worship of this Church, and lay leadership accountable to the fiduciary responsibilities of the offices they hold. Up to $500,000 of income from trust funds will be made available in the calendar year 2008 to support the mission work of the Diocese of San Joaquin and similarly situated dioceses...
I'd say that's a good start.


Another Sign That The Episcopal Church Remains Healthy

Members of Executive Council and some of the staff from the Episcopal Church Center have been meeting in Quito, Ecuador. Mark Harris, a member of Executive Council, offers us some thoughts on the meeting, and points us to the reports of others.

One report from Episcopal Life contained the following bit of news:

Members of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council February 13 learned that diocesan financial contributions to the wider church's budget exceeded what was expected in 2007 and will likely also increase in 2008.

Josephine Hicks of the Diocese of North Carolina, chair of Council's Administration and Finance Committee (A&F), and Episcopal Church Treasurer Kurt Barnes reviewed the performance of the 2007 budget and presented A&F's proposed 2008 budget...

...(Hicks) and Barnes noted that among the highlights of the 2007 budget is higher-than-expected income from dioceses. Representative of that increase is the extra $50,000 that will come to the wider church from the Diocese of Puerto Rico, Hicks said. Puerto Rico Bishop David Alvarez, a member of Council, received warm applause at that news.

Overall, the 2007 budget included about $1.9 million in increased income. The 2007 budget year ended with a $1.05 million surplus, compared to an anticipated $807,935 deficit. The savings came, Barnes said, through the higher diocesan income, increased interest on short-term reserves, and a control of expenses which included leaving some Church Center positions unfilled.

The 2008 budget calls for income of $51.7 million and expenses of $51.2 million, Barnes said.

He predicted a 4% increase in diocesan giving, based a trend that shows such giving typically increases each year by 3-4%. The income side also includes an anticipated $300,000 in giving from individuals and congregations in addition to -- or in lieu of -- that given by their dioceses, according to Barnes...
We ended 2007 with a surplus, instead of an anticipated deficit, due partially to higher than expected income from the dioceses.

Keep in mind that since 2003, the budget has been adjusted downwards in anticipation of some loss of revenue due to the "current unpleasantness." It appears that as of 2007, that loss has been less than expected.

Numbers are often given too much importance when trying to understand a situation. But they cannot be disregarded, either. They usually help us form some kind of picture of the overall health of an organization. These numbers are one more indication that the wounds are beginning to heal.

Now maybe we can get on with the work of our mission; to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Reality Check

Giles Goddard and Philip Chester, two members of Inclusive Church's Executive Committee, have offered their thoughts regarding their recent visit to the United States. Susan Russell brings us the complete text of their message. Here's part of it:

...We've explained that we came to the USA mainly to listen to the experience of the Episcopal Church and to develop an understanding of its situation, and to help develop communication between it and the Church of England...

...Contrary to popular perception the Episcopal Church is in good heart, and maintaining a significant position in the USA as a church which is both broad and welcoming; which covers a wide churchmanship with big differences of opinion and yet is determined to stay together. Given the sort of coverage the secessionist dioceses and parishes get in the UK, it's a remarkable thing to learn that out of around 7,200 congregations across the country less than 100 have sought to leave. And out of around 110 domestic Dioceses, only 2 are likely to seek to secede. We're talking very small numbers, less than 2%. Many of the other parishes which might previously have wanted to leave are now recognising that to be part of a greater whole is valid and important, and real efforts are being made to develop understanding between those of different positions...

...It's true to say however that there is widespread anger because of the way that the Episcopal Church has been perceived to be treated by the Primates and by senior members of the hierarchy in the UK and around the world. The position of welcoming lesbian and gay people is not some arbitrary piece of rights-based legalism; rather, it's worked out from the profound desire that "the Episcopal Church welcomes you" and is rooted in an understanding of the Gospel and Baptism which seeks to turn no one away.

In that context, the way in which more conservative and often rejectionist clergy and bishops are perceived to have been given the lion's share of attention and support is seen as both unjustified and unfair. Particularly in the light of the fact that there are many services of affirmation of same-sex relationships happening in the Dioceses of London and Southwark yet no one says a word about that...
I think it's a good idea for us to be reminded once in awhile how small the schism really is within TEC. Now if we can just figure out how to get that point across to the press.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Steering Committee Formed in San Joaquin

From Episcopal Life:

A steering committee has been appointed to begin to reconstitute the Fresno-based Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, while a second priest has been appointed as "interim pastoral presence" in the Central California Valley diocese.
"The steering committee has been formed and there are about 20 people involved," said the Rev. Canon Robert Moore, appointed by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as an interim pastoral presence late last year.

"It is important for people both inside and outside California to understand that this committee represents a broad spectrum of theological positions," Moore said. "We are really trying to stay away from designations like liberal and conservative, because it is very important to the Presiding Bishop that it be a representative group of people."

Moore confirmed that the Rev. Canon Brian Cox, 16-year rector of Christ the King Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara in the Diocese of Los Angeles, also has been appointed as an interim pastoral presence in San Joaquin...

...Cox has conducted faith-based reconciliation training and seminars in the Middle East, the Sudan, Kashmir, Burundi and Korea. In October 2007 he led a reconciliation seminar in Cyprus, "bringing together Syrian and Jordanian Muslims with American evangelical Christians. And what we were trying to do is create a religious framework for peacemaking to augment the official peace negotiations," he said.

He also has worked with Christian and Muslim Palestinians in the Bethlehem region and will lead a national training event May 19-21 in Los Angeles, focusing on the Episcopal Church's role in the Middle East, he said...

...Michael Glass, a San Rafael, California attorney who is representing some of the continuing Episcopalians, confirmed the steering committee's organization and its role in helping to organize the special convention.

The steering committee includes a cleric and a layperson from each of continuing Episcopal congregations, as well as others. During the next few weeks, it will organize by subcommittee, Moore said.

A steering committee roster has not yet been announced.

The steering committee has been formed to assist the Presiding Bishop "in this interim period as the people organizing the diocese to go forward," Moore said. "We're in this unusual position of having no bishop and no ecclesiastical authority"...
It appears the process of rebuilding the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin is moving right along. There's now a "Steering Committee," consisting of 20 representatives from the "continuing congregations," and a second appointment to the role of "interim pastoral presence"; Brian Cox.

To learn more about Brian, other than the above impressive list of reconciliation projects, one need only take a quick look at Christ the King, Santa Barbara's website:

...We blend the traditional Episcopalian love of the historic liturgy and sacraments with the charismatic joy in spontaneous praise and the ministry of the Holy Spirit...
The parish is "gently Charismatic" (Pentecostal), and...

...Christ the King is part of the network of biblically orthodox congregations in the Episcopal Church that is served by the American Anglican Council and the Anglican Communion Network...'s a Network parish.

But hold on. Look at the resolution his vestry passed when they joined the Network:

Be it resolved that Christ the King Parish, Santa Barbara, California join the Anglican Communion Network while at the same time affirming our commitment to the Bishop and Diocese of Los Angeles and the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

Be it further resolved, that we undertake this action in a reconciling spirit within our own congregation to demonstrate care and concern for those members of our congregation whose consciences have been violated by the actions of General Convention 2003.

Be it further resolved, that we will seek to be a voice for reconciliation both within the Anglican Communion Network and the Episcopal Church USA, striving therefore to uphold the unity of the faith...

...We recognize that there is a vast diversity of opinion at Christ the King ranging from enthusiastic proponents to passionate opponents with many members not feeling strongly one way or another. By taking the step of planting our feet both firmly in ECUSA and the ACN we are asking all our members to be willing to live with the uncomfortable messiness inherent in being a largely conservative congregation in an overwhelmingly liberal diocese.
This is a rather unique position that this parish has taken. It is not one that I could sign, but if it has been adopted with sincerity, it is certainly one that I could respect.

Keep in mind that due to Bp. Schofield being the Bishop of San Joaquin for the last decade, the majority of the clergy now in San Joaquin are quite conservative. We also need to remember that "conservative" and "schismatic" are not necessarily synonymous terms.

Also keep in mind that Brian Cox is an addition to the team; he is not replacing Bob Moore. And finally, it is worth noting that both of these priests are in San Joaquin as representatives of the Presiding Bishop.

Brian will be able to meet the majority of the San Joaquin clergy where they are, if they be Network, Charismatic, Anglo-Catholic, or any variation inbetween. He most likely shares their beliefs, their piety and their language. But, from the EL article's description of his past experience, and a cursory look around his parish's website, one key word pops up over and over and over again; reconciliation. I think Brian is a good addition to the team.

Is there some risk involved for the "continuing Episcopalians" in trusting a Network priest? Sure. There are risks involved in most things worth doing. But I think, in this case, that the degree of risk is minimal. My suggestion is that Brian receive our prayers and support as he joins the effort to rebuild the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.

Oh, and one last heads up for those in San Joaquin; did you note this in the description of the duties of this new Steering Committee?

...its role in helping to organize the special convention...
I'd say all the pieces should be in place near the time of the House of Bishop's meeting next month, at which Bp.Schofield will be deposed. So, hold on a little longer, folks, and stay faithful while in the midst of this Lenten wilderness. Easter is coming.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lessons of Love

While packing for our move, I came across the above picture. It is of my youngest daughter and me from about 25 years ago. I was around 28 and working on a loading dock during the day while going to school at night. She was 4 and had not yet entered school. The occasion was a concert at the music store in which her mom gave guitar lessons. You can see a row of banjos on the wall behind us.

My daughter was a delightful little girl, with occasional displays of stubborness and independence that went beyond that shown by her siblings. This was not a problem until the day one of her 7th grade teachers wrongly accused her of stealing a pair of scissors. The teacher made this accusation, and then turned to walk away. My daughter climbed onto her desk and screamed, "I did not take your ******* scissors!"

That was the beginning of some difficult years. Being a bit stubborn myself, my daughter and I had numerous heated confrontations. By the time she turned 18 and moved into her own apartment, we rarely spoke to one another. Years of resentments had made any type of normal relationship a distant hope.

About a year after she set out on her own, she ended up in a very difficult situation. I knew that I was in a position to help her. I also knew that she would not ask for my help. Part of me thought that maybe it was about time she learned some tough life lessons. But another part of me remembered the little girl you see in this picture, and just wanted to love her.

Love won out. I drove over to her apartment, and we had a long talk. After some shouting, and even more tears, she accepted my offer of help, which included moving back in with us for awhile.

The next few months were difficult, but we tried to set our differences aside and just love each other. And it worked. We got through the crisis together. And our relationship was healed. It has been over eight years since we have exchanged any heated words.

My daughter is now married and has two lovely children of her own. She has never needed me to bail her out of another tough spot since that one time. She called me the other day to share her excitement about the new house they are moving into near Seattle. She wanted me to share her joy. And she wanted me to know that I was loved.

I hope my daughter learned a few positive things from me as she was growing up. And I hope she realizes the important life lesson that she taught me:

Sometimes, in relationships, being right or wrong isn't terribly important. Neither is our level of anger or stubborness. In the end, if the relationship is one we value, we have to let love trump all.


Friday, February 08, 2008

The Schismatic Bully

Today I offer you an excellent essay by guest blogger Mary Clara.

As the Instruments of Schism continue to grind their way through the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, the nature and extent of the damage are being revealed. I write with deep concern for those in embattled parishes and dioceses who are struggling to save their church homes or beginning to pick up the pieces and rebuild.

Episcopalians in some critically affected areas are urgently requesting help from within and outside their dioceses. I believe that in some instances valuable help might come from consultants who are familiar with the dynamics and effects of bullying in organizations and workplaces, and who understand the social impact of certain kinds of personality disorders. This is not my area of expertise, but I had to educate myself about it some years ago when I had a couple of therapy clients and a close family member who were significantly impacted by workplace bullying. I’ve been hoping that someone with more experience or credentials would weigh in on the topic, but since they haven’t, I will put in my non-specialist two cents’ worth.

We know that many factors have contributed to the current movement to split the Church and create some form of international disciplinary authority for Anglicanism. Disagreements about doctrine and governance, differences in cultural practices and beliefs, personal ambition, power struggles, subversion and funding from outside parties, reverberations from colonial and missionary history, and other causes have been discussed at great length. What I haven’t seen is much attention to psychological factors, and specifically to the psychology of bullying. Where bizarre thinking and behavior have been observed in a particular place over a period of many years, leading to a catastrophic outcome, the possibility should be considered that a critical factor in the entire drama has been the success of a disordered individual in gaining a position of power and using it to play out on a grand scale his own internal need to split the world into pure and impure, good and evil, true and false, faithful and treasonous, saved and damned, orthodox and apostate/heretical.

A skilled bully is fully capable of wrecking the health of people he works with (especially in a supervisory capacity) and of destroying or disabling the organization he works for or oversees. There are degrees of bullying, but the most serious kind (which concerns me here) is an expression of certain personality types and disorders. This kind of bully typically struggles against feelings of being empty and worthless (thus is profoundly envious of other people’s capabilities and self-esteem). His inner world is characterized by a severe split between these extreme negative emotions and thoughts and the need to see the self as positive, even ideal. (The highly polarized world view supported by extreme evangelicalism would obviously be congenial to such a person.) He projects his intense self-destructive impulses onto others and thus believes himself to be an innocent victim under constant threat. Any disagreement with his views or questioning of his actions is interpreted as persecution. His destructive actions toward others are, in his mind, justified by this perceived danger to himself. His talents and charisma are systematically and relentlessly deployed in a calculated effort to gain power over those around him and displace his intolerable inner conflict and negativity onto the environment. Organizations (the business office, the church, the nonprofit corporation) provide the bully with an inviting container for his disordered projections and an arena in which he can safely play out his inner battles, which might otherwise destroy him.

Those around him must be either duped or intimidated into complying with his program, or else expelled. The bully has a thousand ways of breaking people down to the point where they either submit or leave: ridicule, isolation/exclusion, shaming, threats, lying, character assassination, ill-founded or excessive criticism, constantly changing the rules and shifting the goalposts, not stating what is expected and then punishing people for failing to meet expectations, playing people off against each other, and on and on. The aim is to eliminate anyone whose competency would show up the bully’s limitations or reveal his machinations, and to keep everyone else under tight control.

The bully uses the rules and customs of the organization to defeat their own purposes. He is extremely hard to fire or even correct or restrain because he familiarizes himself with the laws and policies that affect his situation and manipulates them so cleverly that they end up scarcely more effective than a pile of shredded waste paper. In his mission of control-and-destroy, he counts on other people’s trusting nature, their essential decency and fairness and their inclination to play by the rules, think and debate logically, negotiate in good faith, and give each other (and him) the benefit of the doubt. Having created a chaotic situation in which the rules cannot effectively be mobilized to defend individuals or restore the organization to healthy functioning, he punishes and attempts to induce guilt in those who try to undertake any creative or restorative action. Efforts to reduce harm or avert disaster are thus blunted or driven underground.

While he is constantly attempting to put others in their place, drawing boundaries that incorporate some and exclude others, the bully’s psychological boundaries are so unstable that he recognizes no limits to his own actions or sphere of influence. He keeps others off balance by continually shifting the boundaries, redefining the meanings of words, changing the mission statement, and reinterpreting the rules to mean whatever serves his purposes at the moment. Knowledge of the system (including ambiguities and gaps in the law, which never anticipated the kind of subversion he is attempting) enables him to play for time, advancing his agenda while others are busy conscientiously consulting the canons and trying their best to follow protocol and procedure.

A culture of bullying may develop. Like abuse in families, bullying in organizations can become systemic. The bully in a position of power surrounds himself with people he can rely on to bully those beneath them, keeping the foot soldiers or pew-sitters in line.

Bullies often bring out the worst in people and aggravate any existing weaknesses and problems in organizations. What is worse, they use the virtues and strengths of people and organizations to undermine them. Through the careful use of propaganda, a highly-placed bully strives to persuade his constituents or employees that the destruction and division being wrought are for their benefit and reflect the organization’s highest purposes (e.g., securing a ‘safe’ place for the souls of orthodox believers). It is, in reality, never about them; yet their souls and bodies, their time and devotion and talent, along with all the other assets of the organization, will be systematically exploited for the purposes of the campaign. Whether they are literate or uninformed, emotionally healthy or neurotic, fearful or trusting, able to tolerate divergent opinions or troubled by them -- each member, and all of his or her capabilities, attitudes, weaknesses and strengths are fair game for the schism machine. All will be drawn into the game of ‘separating the sheep from the goats’. Rules and procedures will be manipulated so that in many situations no one has any really good options for open, informed and positive action. The bully’s blame machine and polarization dynamics increasingly infect the entire community.

Eventually the inner pathology of the bully may dominate or even become embodied in the organization. The bully has achieved victory when his internal splits, his paranoia, his lack of a core positive identity, his boundary issues, his negativity and instability have been successfully displaced and given concrete form outside himself. The membership becomes severely polarized and alienated; the organization may either fragment or become so damaged as to have to shut down. Those left on the ground typically feel worthless, impotent, tainted, disorganized, incompetent, empty and exhausted. They find it very hard to recover mutual trust and to mobilize the legal and administrative resources to salvage the organization so that it can get back to its original mission.

There are serious health implications for the individuals and the organization that have suffered this kind of treatment. It is common for victims of bullying to become physically ill and suffer long-lasting or permanent psychological harm.

Where bullying has broken down an organization, harmed individuals and shattered relationships, an important first step in the healing process is to recognize that this is not a ‘normal’ situation of people behaving badly (for which they could ask forgiveness and learn to do better), or an ordinary (though serious) disagreement (about which there could be further study and negotiation); nor is it mainly a matter of inept administration or inadequate application of law or policy. The survivors first need to realize that they have been left holding the bag of a serious disease which is not itself communicable, yet which damages the mental, physical and spiritual health of all those it touches.

The full extent of the damage and pain now have to be brought out into the open. Anger and regret must be expressed, and losses mourned. Individuals and working groups will have to face their own weaknesses and acknowledge any contributions they may have made to the present debacle. People will have to come to grips with the ways in which bullying has messed with their heads, twisted their behavior, exploited their vulnerabilities, and even used their virtues to set them against their own best interests and isolate them from their fellows.

Anglicanism itself with its Broad Church tradition is vulnerable to exploitation by this kind of illness. This is not a reason to give up our tradition. Nor should individuals doubt their own gifts, whatever they may be, which set them up for being exploited in this situation. Like the bodies and souls of rape victims (and I choose this analogy advisedly), they must be healed and blessed and brought back into the community.

I submit, in fact, that the Anglican way, tolerant and inclusive, embracing such a broad range of theological views and liturgical styles, is a model of good mental and spiritual health. Where we see that model under attack, we should be suspicious. When new “Instruments of Unity”, or new powers for the existing Instruments, are proposed for our Communion, we should check for the hidden knives of schism beneath the purple robes. Wherever police powers are sought to regulate behavior in far-off places; wherever the urgent cry goes up to expel or punish heresy; wherever elaborate, self-contradictory, impossible-to-implement measures for defining who is in and who is out are urged upon us, we should suspect the busy hands of the bully behind it all.

Prayers for the healing of our Church.

Mary Clara
February 7, 2008

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Another Proposed Anglican Covenant: The St. Andrew's Draft

You can find the text of the new and improved proposed Anglican Covenant here. It is referred to as "the St. Andrew's Draft."

We had many discussions of the previous Covenant draft, now known as "the Nassau Draft." You can find some of the previous discussions here, here, here, here, here and here.

The idea of developing some kind of Covenant was introduced by the Windsor Report. As most of us were aware as soon as the Windsor Report was released, regardless of it being a worthy effort, it is also a very flawed document. Unfortunately, it appears some members of the Anglican Communion, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, seem to have forgotten that the Windsor Report was a set of recommendations, not a set of laws. It is from this misunderstanding of the status of this flawed document that we now have the insistence from some in the Communion that we MUST have some kind of Covenant in place as soon as possible.

I think any kind of Covenant is a bad idea. The St. Andrew's Draft is a great improvement over the Nassau Draft, but still contains language that would give veto power to entities outside the Episcopal Church.

How is it an improvement? The concept of being "autonomus churches" is emphasized, as is the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. How is it still flawed? The insistence on including the 39 Articles and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer bothers me. The Articles are so dated as to make the language and the cultural context so foreign to most people in the world today that they have little if any relevance. The same can be said for the 1662 Prayer Book.

The section that should give us the greatest concern is not found within the body of the Draft. It comes from the Appendix:

...8. Rejection of a Request from an Instrument of Communion

8.1. If a Church rejects a request of an Instrument of Communion, that Instrument shall send the request and rejection to the Anglican Consultative Council.

8.2. At its next meeting, the Council shall decide whether the rejection of the request is compatible with the Covenant.

8.3. If the Council decides that the rejection of the request is compatible with the Covenant, the matter is closed subject to Articles 3.2.1, 3.2.4 and 3.2.5b of the Covenant.

8.4. If the Council decides that the rejection is incompatible with the Covenant, then during the course of that meeting of the Council either (a) the Church involved may declare voluntarily that it relinquishes the force and meaning of the purposes of the Covenant, or (b) the Council shall resolve whether the Church involved may be understood to have relinquished the force and meaning of the purposes of the Covenant.

8.5. If a declaration or resolution of relinquishment is issued, the Anglican Consultative Council must as soon as is practicable initiate a process of restoration with the Church involved in consultation with all the Churches of the Communion and the other Instruments of Communion.
Although there has been an attempt to hide the impact of this section with positive terms, it is clear this is the "discipline" section. You don't abide by the Covenant, then you are not part of the Communion.

If the members of the Communion must wait for a consensus from everyone else before making any changes, we will quickly become frozen in time and will have surrendered any semblance to our own autonomy. As I've already said, I think this is a bad idea.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word...

Take a moment to read the Presiding Bishop's Lenten message. Here is the opening paragraph:

The Church gradually took on the discipline of Lent in solidarity with those preparing for baptism at the Easter Vigil. That preparation work has traditionally been summarized as prayer and study, fasting, and almsgiving. Today we might remember the origins of Lent, take in our traditional understandings, and use these 40 days plus Sundays to prepare to renew our own baptismal vows. This ancient understanding of prayer, study, fasting, and almsgiving shapes the lives we lead. Each of us is baptized into a life of relationship with God (prayer), relationship with self on behalf of others (fasting), and relationship with all the rest of creation (almsgiving). Lent brings a regular opportunity to tune up our Christian life and relationships...
What spiritual disciplines are you practicing this Lent?


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Failed Strategy of the Former San Joaquin Standing Committee: Subtlety and Obliqueness

From Dan Martins

...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...
Dan goes on to attempt to make the case that part of the failure at the December Convention rests on the shoulders of some of the Remain Episcopal delegates for not engaging in parliamentary tricks, which would have included voting for amendments that went against their personal ethics. If that is an example of "obliqueness," personally, I'd want no part of it.

It might be helpful to keep in mind this letter issued by Bishop Schofield in November of 2006. It included this statement:

...Is Our Place In The Anglican Communion Assured? Yes. First, we have a commitment from the Southern Cone (Archbishop Greg Venebles) that the bishops of his dioceses are open to our joining their Province...
This was over a year before the Convention in which the majority of the leaders of the Diocese abandoned the Episcopal Church and joined the Southern Cone. We can assume that the members of the Standing Committee, recognized as the Bishop's council of advice, met with the Bishop at least twelve times from the time of this letter being issued and the December 2007 Convention. They knew exactly what was going on. And they knew it was wrong.

There are numerous examples in our history of Bishops getting out of hand and needing to be held accountable. Bp. Bennison of Pennsylvania is probably the most recent example that comes to mind. Bishops are human. They are vulnerable to the same human frailties as the rest of us. And when a Bishop needs to be reined in, who does it? The Standing Committee of the Diocese. If needed, they are assisted by our Presiding Bishop.

By their public silence, this Standing Committee was negligent in their duties.

But, let's say that they did have a plan to thwart Bp. Schofield's ill-begotten scheme. And it failed. What did they do then? Did they contact the Presiding Bishop? Did they seek counsel from the leadership of the Episcopal Church? If they did, no one seems to have heard about it. Instead, there was silence. Then they dutifully showed up for a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Southern Cone Diocese of San Joaquin. And then they act shocked and offended to receive a letter from our Presiding Bishop, who laid out the consequences for their negligence.

Dan concludes with these thoughts:

...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?
I don't think the situation in San Joaquin is beyond redemption either. It could be that these six members of the Standing Committee honestly thought they were doing the right thing. I think that Bp. Katharine is also aware that this may be the case, which is why there appears to be no disciplinary actions being recommended against them. Maybe they simply made a mistake. There are still consequences, but minimal ones, it seems to me.

If three of these clergy are from the largest congregations, then if their congregations were part of the Convention that elected a new Standing Committee, there is a fair chance that they might be re-elected.

As Dan points out, those who desire to remain Episcopalians in San Joaquin need to work this out, by reaching out to one another. We're not going to resolve this on the blogs. May all those faithful Episcopalians in San Joaquin set aside their differences for a season, and come together to seek God's will.

Pray for the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.

Pray for the Church.


Monday, February 04, 2008

A Very Very Very Fine House

Have you had your fill of the Anglican soap opera yet? How about, for at least a little while, talking about something else? No doubt there will be new developments, so we will return to it. But we're two days from Ash Wednesday, and the somber tone that Lent will bring with it, so before I miss the chance, I wanted to mention something personal that I'm rather excited about.

As most of you know, my wife and I live in a quiet town in South Jersey. Why did we settle here? It is the town in which my wife grew up. We live on the same street on which she learned to ride a bike. Her parent's home is just down the block. If I can't live in California, which will always be home for me, I don't really care where we live. Having lived in New Mexico, Oregon, Wisconsin, Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina, I must say that South Jersey is quite nice. Four seasons, with none too severe (and usually one nice snow per year), beautiful countryside, less than an hour from Atlantic City and Philadelphia and two hours from NYC. I've been here five years now, and it is beginning to feel like home. Not quite like California, but close. Most likely we'll be staying here for awhile.

We have a cute little house that is fine for two people. I think it used to be a lake cabin at one time, as some of the rooms are quite small. We estimate it is about 100 years old. The problem is, this little cottage will soon become a money pit. When we fully retire in the next 20 years or so, it will probably be falling apart.

The town has been around for awhile, so there is little construction going on in our neighborhood. Some families have lived in the same house for four generations. But, a few months ago, a builder cleaned up a large parcel of land two blocks from us that had been allowed become overgrown and neglected. I think at one time there was a school there. He made a new street, that dead-ended in a culdesac, and began developing 12 lots. The lot at the end of the cudlesac was available. We purchased it.

To keep costs down, we selected one of the models the builder offered, and then added various custom features, such as a fireplace, dark cherry hardwood floors, a walk-in closet, and an office upstairs for each of us.

The floor plan is fairly simple. The entry is open to the second floor, giving it a 17 foot ceiling. To the left is the formal living room. To the right is the formal dining room. As you walk further in, at the back of the house is the kitchen and den, which is one long room, with a bay window for a breakfast nook. The fireplace is along one wall of the den. Upstairs consists of a large master suite, two offices, and one guest room.

We turned the garage, so those big ugly doors can't be seen from the front. The yard is big enough to run the dog, have a garden and a patio, and still let some of it stay natural.

They've finished framing and have the siding up, so it actually looks like a house now. They'll start drywalling soon. Here's what it looks like at this point:

And here is what will be the den and fireplace:

We hope to move in by the end of this month. As someone who started out as a homeless teen, and has moved around like a vagabond most of my life, this is a quite significant development. Now, if we could just skip the moving and unpacking bit!


Friday, February 01, 2008

San Joaquin Standing Committee Shoots Themselves in the Other Foot

"Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends" this case the "show" continues in San Joaquin, which is unfolding to be one of the most bizarre episodes in the history of the Episcopal Church.

To back up just a little, you may recall that in December the leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin chose to abandon the Episcopal Church and join the Southern Cone. Even though such an action represented a flagrant disregard for the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, was clearly unethical (as it was an attempt to take property to which they had no right), and was most likely an illegal action, not one member of the Standing Committee rose to object. That is not speculation, btw. We watched the video feed. How the individual members of the Standing Committee voted is unknown, however an eye witness verified that not one of them voted against this action.

For this action, Bp. Schofield was inhibited and will most likely be deposed at the March House of Bishops' Meeting.

Bp. Schofield then proceeded to announce that six members of his Standing Committee were unqualified for office because they had not become members of the Southern Cone.

Next, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church announced that she can no longer recognize the Standing Committee of San Joaquin.

And now we have a response from six members of that Standing Committee. Do they admit that they did not faithfully discharge their duties? Do the four priests in this group promise to adhere to their ordination vows "to conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church"? No. Instead, they chose to make extremely weak accusations against Bp. Katharine, as well as an only slighty veiled threat. Let's look at their most sad response a little closer:

...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...
This situation is not covered by the Constitution and Canons, as no one in their wildest dreams imagined a Bishop would leave for another jurisdiction and claim ownership of 47 congregations on his way out the door. Our Presiding Bishop has a responsiblity to not let such behavior go unchallenged. Since not one of you expressed your leadership abilities by speaking out against Bp. Schofield, you have revealed yourselves to be unfit for that office. Someone needed to remove you. The Presiding Bishop has stepped up to do that which must be done. To the four clergy; if you still consider yourselves to be Episcopal priests, you are persons under authority, and, since there is currently no Episcopal Bishop in place in San Joaquin, your Presiding Bishop is that authority.

I find it curious that instead of affirming their loyalty to the Episcopal Church, (the subject matter of Bp. Katharine's letter to them, which they never address in this response) these six former Standing Committee members instead make it clear that they do not recognize the authority of the Presiding Bishop, who is the one person who holds the postion of representing the Episcopal Church in the various councils of the Church.

Do they still consider themslves to be Epicopalians? I must admit that the arrogant tone of this letter suggests that they do not. And, if they do not, then the theory mentioned by a few people, which I initially dismissed as too bizarre, suddenly becomes a real possibility.

What if, just for the sake of speculation, when Bp. Schofield was told by his new boss that he could not be a member of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church and the Southern Cone simultaneously, he hatched a new plan to have it both ways. If he is no longer the ecclesiastical authority of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, then that authority is passed on to the Standing Committee. If he dismissed six members of that Standing Committee, they could claim to still be part of the Episcopal Church, and thus the ecclesiastical authority. The result would be a Bishop of the Southern Cone and a Standing Committee of the Episcopal Church working together towards common goals. In this case the goal would be to run off with as many congregations as possible.

Far out? I would have thought so yesterday. But after hearing the tone of this letter, I'm not so sure. These are clearly rebellious priests.

Let's move on to look further at this letter:

...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...
No conjecture. No misinformation. We were watching. Your defense, if I understand it, is that you did nothing. Exactly. It is your lack of action that convicts you. Not one of you fullfilled your duties as Episcopalians holding such an important office by saying a single word against actions taken at your last Convention, which you were fully aware made you, and your Bishop, run the risk of facing charges of abandoning the Church.

Continuing with the letter:

...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...
Can you believe this? Grown men are actually using the argument of "You did it first!" Unbelievable. But, let's humor them by looking at these accusations:

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...
For those who don't remember, this came up when Mark Lawrence was denied consent for election as Bishop the first time. One reason for declaring the election null and void was that Bp. Katharine claimed that some of the consents did not use the correct "form." The consents came in language that was a summary of what the canons actually required. Some outrage was expressed because of the emphasis on this technicality, since the summary form had been used in other elections, such as in the election of the Bishop of Virginia. Of course, that election was not strongly contested as Mark Lawrence's was, and so was not under such close scrutiny. Was it a mistake? Sure. Is it even in the same ball park as trying to take 47 congregations out of TEC? Not even close.

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
This one is really digging deep to find something, anything, to use. Bp. Cox is one of their buds. Why would they want him to be deposed any sooner than he was? Deposing a Bishop is serious business. One would assume that Bp. Katharine was seeking as much counsel as possible, and giving Bp. Cox even more time to rethink his actions.

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.
The same point as the previous; do they really imagine we believe they wanted Bp. Duncan, another of their buds, to be deposed earlier? In this case, it is pretty clear that it was the difference of opinion among the Senior Bishops that delayed this action. In the end, they could not come to a consensus. Bp. Katharine could not proceed without their decision.

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
This is a pastoral matter, and they know it. The people of Bakersfield no longer had an Episcopal Bishop or priest, since they had left for the Southern Cone. There was no Bishop to license a priest. The Church provided one for these faithful Episcopalians.

None of these questionable accusations even come close to the seriousness of the situation in San Joaquin. Why they would even compile such a feeble list is beyond my comprehension.

So, what conclusion do they come to, having "made their case"?

...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”...
Sorry, gentlemen, but based on your evidence, I would suggest that many Episcopalians would see you as being petty and childish about this whole matter. And then to suggest that it is our Presiding Bishop, who is trying to do her duty in the midst of a very difficult situation, is the one who needs to make a reaffirmation? Your arrogance provides further evidence to affirm the actions of Bp. Katharine.

And then the closing shot:

...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...
Isn't this missing an "or else" clause? What good is a threat without stated consequences?

If you gentlemen ever hoped to hold another office in the Episcopal Church, I'm afraid that most likely you just blew your last chance. What were you thinking you would accomplish with such an ugly letter? This is probably the most important letter you will ever sign in your life. And you chose to write it as if it was just some backwater blog post or some other form of modern silliness? Do you feel better having played a round of "gotcha"? Did you get all of that snark out of your system? Well, good for you. I hope it was worth it. Enjoy your moment of gloating "We sure told her!" Remember it well, especially the clergy members of this group. When you've lost your orders and your congregation, which now becomes a real possibility, the memory of this moment may be all you'll have left. And for what good purpose?

Since this IS a silly blog entry, in a medium in which snark, passion, arrogance and straight talk does have some value, I might as well go even a step further. I take this personally. Why? Because I feel I've been played. Recently, on two different occasions, I went out of my way to give these six members the benefit of the doubt. And now it is obvious that I was mistaken in doing so. I see no evidence that these two lay persons and four priests have any desire to remain as faithful members of the Episcopal Church. This saddens me, but also frustrates me. What a waste.

As the proverb goes (the one that George can never get quite right); "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." I'll not be played again, at least by this group. That I can assure you.

You've made your choice, gentlemen. Now you had better be willing to face the consequences. I'd say there is a very good chance that we'll soon see you in court.

So, where does this leave us? Well, it appears that soon we will have two Bishops in San Joaquin, one Episcopal and one Southern Cone (at least until we can get the courts to run out the invaders). And, (this is where it gets really interesting) we'll have three Standing Committees; one of the Southern Cone, one that refuses to publicly object to the Southern Cone, but pretends to be Episcopalian, at least until the court cases are over, and one which will be elected at a Convention of those faithful Episcopalians who remain in San Joaquin.

And now just a couple of final words from ELP:

If you follow me there's a speciality
Some tears for you to see
Misery, misery,
Roll up! roll up! roll up!
See the show!