Sunday, October 30, 2011
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Endorsing wholeheartedly the content of the report of Executive Council on the proposed Anglican Covenant.
Another reason is that churches which are in process of adopting the Covenant, as the noted in Section 4, may still participate in helping to sort out, design, and implement the processes mentioned in Section 4. Simply by not adopting the Covenant removes us from the discussion, and will permit the designing of a process even more blatantly developed to exclude the Episcopal Church than the kangaroo court which ousted our ecumenical representatives.
Other provinces have taken a similar tack: the Church of Ireland, for instance, formally "subscribed" to the Covenant, and in doing so also stated that the Covenant was "under" the Preamble and Constitution of the Church of Ireland. The Scottish Episcopal Church is in the process of gradually responding to, and endorsing, individual sections of the Covenant -- with an annual Synod, this gives them that kind of flexibility. Either way, COD thinks these decisions allow the Church of Ireland and Scottish Episcopal Church to stay engaged in the Covenant discussions. It's also entirely possible the instruments of Communion will accept the dodges dreamed up by Ireland and Scotland but reject any proposed by the Episcopal Church -- because, again, this process has been used in the past to misrepresent the facts and only apply to the Episcopal Church.
COD proposes that we find language similar to the Church of Ireland and a process similar to the Scottish Episcopal Church. Provisionally accept the Covenant, pending discussion in the Anglican Consultative Council on concerns about Section 4. Offer to hold a Special General Convention, so they cannot used the argument that they can't wait until 2015. There is the comment in the Executive Council report that we are asked to adopt the Covenant more or less as a whole; but since when do we do what the Anglican Communion has asked us to do? Why start now? Besides, Ireland and Scotland have already developed processes in adopting the Covenant which do not fulfill that request, why should we be held to a different standard?
We must stay engaged, and we must not provide easy opportunities for our voices not to be heard. The Windsor Report achieved what little authority it has because it was adopted by the Anglican Consultative Council, in a narrow vote, because we "voluntarily" withdrew our representatives from voting. Thus excluding ourselves created some of the mess we are in. We cannot continue to do so with a summary rejection of the Covenant. If we are going to be excluded, make the forces in the Communion seeking to silence, marginalize, and exclude us have to do so intentionally. This will show them for who they are. Don't give them the opportunity.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Crusty Old Dean apologizes for the gap in between the posting of my 2006 GC reflections, my initial call to suspend the Constitution and Canons, and only now getting to putting forward some of my thoughts on what new structures might look like. COD has been traveling this week, speaking at a conference of Lutherans, Anglicans, and Catholics (LARC) in Michigan. COD plans on rolling out a series of proposals over the next few weeks, beginning with the HOB and HOD this time around.
More thoughts in weeks to come.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
This is Part 2 -- for part one, click here.
This may seem like ancient history, but, in the run-up to the 2006 General Convention,
the House of Bishops met and announced they would not give consents in *any* episcopal elections
until General Convention had had a chance to meet. In response the usual Luddite anti-bishop,
histrionic factions in the church lambasted
this as a unilateral, uncanonical, arrogant action by the bishops. COD, in turn,
thought the bishops were respecting the polity of the church saying only Convention
could weigh in on such a matter. A Special Commission was set up in advance of
Convention to receive all sorts of resolutions and proposals coming in from diocesan
conventions. There was the need to make an official response to the report of the
Windsor Commission, which came out in 2004, and to make some sort of policy
clarification or decision on how to handle any potential future elections of openly
gay or lesbian persons in committed partnerships. The Commission issued a
It originally read: "Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 75th
General Convention of The Episcopal Church regret the extent to which we
have, by action and inaction, contributed to strains on communion and caused
deep offense to many faithful Anglican Christians as we consented to the
consecration of a bishop living openly in a same-gender union. Accordingly,
we urge nominating committees, electing conventions, Standing Committees,
and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise very considerable caution in the
nomination, election, consent to, and consecration of bishops whose manner
of life present a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains
It was amended in legislative committee at Convention to: "Resolved, the
House of Bishops concurring, That the 75th General Convention of The
Episcopal Church regret the extent to which we have, by action and inaction,
contributed to strains on communion and caused deep offense to many
faithful Anglican Christians as we consented to the consecration of a bishop
living openly in a same-gender union. Accordingly, we are obliged to urge
nominating committees, electing conventions, Standing Committees, and
bishops with jurisdiction to
exercise very considerable cautionrefrain
from the nomination, election, consent to, and consecration of bishops
whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will
lead to further strains on communion
.; and be it further Resolved, That
the General Convention not proceed to develop or authorize Rites for
the Blessing of same-sex unions at this time, thereby concurring with
the Windsor Report in its exhortation to bishops of the Anglican Communion
to honor the Primates’ Pastoral Letter of May 2003; and be it further Resolved,
That the General Convention affirm the need to maintain a breadth of
responses to situations of pastoral care for gay and lesbian Christians
in this Church; and be it further Resolved, That the General Convention
apologize to those gay and lesbian Episcopalians and their supporters
hurt by these decisions."
This was taken up first in the House of Deputies. There was, of course,
a move to vote by orders. COD would have bet all the money in his
bank account which lay and clerical deputations would be moving the
vote, and, course, he would have won.
Then the following series of events occurred: Debate continued on the
resolution. The House took a recess. After the recess a substitute
resolution from one of the conservative deputies was proposed, which
would have put a formal moratorium in place ona gay and lesbian persons.
COD said to a colleague, "They can't do that, the qualifications for bishop
are outlined in the Constitution, not just the canons." There was general
nodding in the group where COD sat.
Someone tried to move the substitution out of order; the chair ruled
that motion out of order; the chair's ruling was challenged; a vote was
held to try to overrule the chair, which failed. All of this, mind you, for
a proposed substitute motion which had absolutely no chance to pass
regardless of its obvious unconstitutionality. Then the time allotted for
debate had expired, so there was a motion to continue debate, which
failed. After termination of debate the chair announced that, after
consultation, the resolution was in fact out of order because it would
require a constitutional change (since qualifications for bishop are
outlined in the Constitution as well as canons). Of course, this ruling
was challenged, a vote was held, and the ruling was upheld. So the
entire time spent on the substitute was a waste and debate returned
to the A161 as amended by the legislative committee. The vote by
orders (remember the vote by orders called ages ago?) was held, and,
of course, the resolution failed anyways. Everyone knew it would have
failed even without a vote by orders, but such is the system we have.
But wait, it's not over. There was then a motion to take up the original text
before it had been amended - there was suddenly almost a panic in the
House, with the realization that an enormous amount of time and energy
had been put into having the Episcopal Church say something, anything,
in response to the Windsor Report and to the broader Anglican Communion.
And after voting down amended A161, there was nothing in the pipeline. So
the vote to reconsider was proposed, mainly to be able to amend the original
A161 to make it more palatable. There was no debate as the question was
immediately moved. And the motion to reconsider failed, through a combination
of conservatives and liberals who did not want A161 to be considered, each
for their own reasons.
We all walked out of the House of Deputies kind of stunned. It had be a
long and emotionally draining session, much of the time in COD's opinion
frivolously wasted on procedural obfuscation and downright inability of
people to know what the Constitution and Canons required. And nothing,
nothing, had been accomplished. COD thought of all the money, time,
and resources the church had spent over the past few months to bring over
800 people together in this representative body and accomplish nothing.
COD retired to the House of Bishops, hoping to have something else
attract his attention. They were debating a fairly innocuous resolution,
COD really forgets what it was, until one bishop rose to amend the
resolution -- a fairly moderate bishop, neither liberal nor conservative.
He stood and proposed an amendment, changing "The General Convention
shall direct," to "The General Convention shall advise" the dioceses to adopt
some kind of report. Speaking to the amendment, the bishop said, shortly
and curtly, "The General Convention can't tell dioceses to do anything," and
sat down. Without any further discussion, the HOB voted in favor of the amendment.
COD wanted to stand and shout, "OK, first of all: that's wrong. General
Convention can tell dioceses what to do. You may not ordain dogs,
for instance, or permit communion of the unbaptized – even though some
dogs would make excellent priests, and bishops and dioceses and congregations
seem able to ignore the ban on communion of the unbaptized. Second of
all, even if true: THEN WHY ARE WE HERE? If this in fact the case, hold
General Convention once a decade to let church folk mingle and reminisce
and pass useless resolutions, and fully empower every diocese do
whatever the f**k it wants."
You may gather COD was becoming a trifle irritated at this point. But
that's not the case. The frustration was bubbling from depths of despair.
So much needing to be done in the world and in our church, and we seemed
incapable of doing it.
But it wasn't over. Like Rasputin or a Monty Python plague victim, the
debate over A161 was not dead yet. Presiding Bishop Griswold took
the unusual step of calling for a special joint session. Remember that each
House treats the others like vampires: bishops may not enter the floor
of the House of Deputies and vice versa unless special resolutions are
adopted permitting it. The only time there is usually a joint session is to
consider the proposed budget. Bishop Griswold called for a joint session
and essentially asked the HOB and HOD not to go away from this Convention
without making some kind of response to the broader Anglican Communion,
citing as much "confusion" from our Anglican partners as anything else about
the actions of the Episcopal Church. There were those who praised Griswold
for his leadership; but also murmurings that the mind of the HOD had been
clear and that some back-door process was in motion, instigated by bishops.
A substitute was proposed from the House of Bishops, B033. It read: "Resolved,
the House of Deputies concurring, That the 75th General Convention receive
and embrace The Windsor Report's invitation to engage in a process of healing
and reconciliation; and be it further, Resolved, That this Convention therefore
call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint
by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose
manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further
strains on communion."
Here the official Journal of the General Convention understates matters that infolded in the House of Bishops. COD was there during the debate. One bishop stood and offered an amendment to the Resolution, after which COD's colleague from another Christian communion leaned over and said, "That's a statement, not an amendment." Nonetheless debate proceeded on the amendment for about five minutes before the chair announced, "The proposed amendment is not in the proper form." That amendment was withdrawn and debate continued, with various amendments proposed and the usual arguments from both sides. COD was sitting near a table that had one prominent conservative bishop waving his table card to speak. The chair announced that it was time for a vote. The bishop flung his card on the table in disgust at not having had the opportunity to speak. Even COD thought: in for a penny, in for a pound; we're here, we might as well not let people walk away feeling they had not been heard. The vote was taken and B033 passed.
Then came what is not in the minutes: after the Resolution passed, a bishop from the liberal wing stood and disavowed the action taken. Other bishops stood and agreed. Conservative bishops, not to be outdone, expressed their disavowal of the action. COD walked out of the HOB and saw that Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh was already speaking to reporters, denouncing the action of the HOB in passing B033. COD found himself thinking, "Then what is the HOB for? What was the whole debate for, if not for people on the left and the right to say their peace within the framework of our canonical structures? What is the whole process for, if anyone can then stand and disavow any result they disagree with?"
Again, it was not over. B033 now had to go to the House of Deputies. There was yet another twist: The Presiding Bishop-elect addressed the House of Deputies and urged them to adopt the resolution, putting her ecclesial capital behind it. After considerable debate, the Resolution was adopted. It was a spirited debate: many deputies thought the House was turning its back on full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons; others were resentful that the bishops seemed to be pushing a new resolution after one pretty similar had already been defeated; others said that while they might be opposed they would vote for the sake of the broader communion, to give a signal that we were not turning out back entirely on the Anglican Communion, and because Bishop Jefferts Schori had said she needed this. Some deputies were openly weeping once the resolution passed – wait for it -- on a vote by orders.
COD bumped into a clergy friend who asked him how the debate went. COD replied with the last verse of the Book of Judges, "In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes." We had a Constitution, and Canons, parliamentary process, representative governance, but none of that mattered. Liberals and conservatives had been and would continue to more or less do as they pleased, and we would gather every 3 three years and pretend we were somehow the pinnacle of democracy in the church.
But it was not over. Convention still had business to attend and discuss. As assistant ecumenical officer, Crusty Old Dean had been working on the dialogue with the United Methodist Church. We were proposing Interim Eucharistic Sharing, where Episcopalians and United Methodists could hold joint eucharistic services while continuing in dialogue, similar to the arrangement between Lutherans and Episcopalians between 1982-2001. The United Methodist Church's Council of Bishops had passed this in 2005. We needed to sign on for it to come into effect. Yet it was now the last day of Convention and there was an enormous backlog of resolutions. Remember, if not passed by both houses, resolutions are listed as defeated by non-concurrence. House of Bishops had passed Interim Eucharistic Sharing. Deputies just needed to get to it.
COD was concerned the witching hour of 6pm would arrive, the resolution would not be voted on, and we would have to go to our partners and say, "Sorry, I know you passed this, but we were debating a resolution supporting the teaching of evolution." Which we were: the House of Deputies was debating a resolution to endorse and support the teaching of evolution, an utterly meaningless piece of legislation that no one would remember and would do absolutely nothing. COD called over a page, wrote a note, and asked her to deliver it to a Deputy. The deputy got COD's note, walked to a microphone, and asked whether we could move on and prioritize other resolutions that could be considered more urgent. The chair replied resolutions were considered in numeric order by their legislative committee -- each Committee is numbered, beginning with Committee #1 on Constitution and Canons, and going through #19, Communications (these numbers are from Convention 2009 -- with the lovely Committee #20, "Miscellaneous Resolutions"). The deputy could, of course, vote to suspend that process -- which would have required a motion, and debate, and then an argument about which resolutions were more important, and by that time 6 pm would have come and even less would have been done. The message was clear: too bad, people, we're stuck with our polity.
They got to the resolution on Interim Eucharistic Sharing with the United Methodist Church. COD was relieved. A deputy then rose to amend it, to specifically include the historically black Methodist Churches. COD was furious. There had been an explanation in the Blue Book Report on how this dialogue was dealing with the black Methodist churches. The exact same matter had come up in legislative committee. We were only proposing the United Methodists because we were reaching out to the black Methodists and didn't seem right to vote on something that was not on those churches' radar screen. We were continuing in dialogue and relationship with those churches, but only taking this action now with the United Methodist Church. This deputy making the proposed amendment had even asked someone to bring these concerns to the legislative committee, which were communicated back to the deputy in question. For whatever reason the deputy apparently still wanted to amend -- knowing that amendment means defeat, because the House of Bishops would not have time to consent. After discussion with the chair, the deputy did withdraw the resolution, but again not without using precious legislative time to restate for the third time issues that had been dealt with in the Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations in its Blue Book Report and by the Legislative Committee at General Convention. The vote was taken, Interim Eucharistic Sharing approved, and COD had had enough. I was done. I walked out of the House of Deputies.
I bumped into a friend in the hallway, and we went for a drink. We were both in a kind of daze. He asked me how I thought Convention went, and I found myself blurting out, "I used to roll my eyes at General Convention and think of it as an annoyance. Now I see that it is a destructive force in the life of our church."
It gave me no pleasure to say that. But it also made me realize the system is not fine.
Stay tuned to COD. In the next set of postings, I will be outlining suggestions for sustained overhaul of our entire system of governance.
OK, introductory remarks concluded. In response to underwhelming demand, as the movie director Wolz tells Tom Hagen in the Godfather, “I'll be even more frank, just to show you that I'm not a hard-hearted man.”
Back then, five long years ago, Crusty Old Dean was Assistant Deputy to the Presiding Bishop for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations. I served as liaison to the Standing Commission on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, consultant to the Joint Legislative Committee on Ecumenical Relations at General Convention, and coordinated the attendance and hosting of our ecumenical and interreligious partners at Convention. I was there from the beginning to the bitter end. There were a number of moments at GC 2006 when Crusty Old Dean (who was neither as Crusty nor as Old as he is now, and by no means a Dean) began to feel unsettled.
One was the election of the Presiding Bishop: not the result, which COD applauded, but the process.COD was sitting at a coffee shop across from Trinity Church, staking out the conclave, joined by a colleague who was ecumenical officer in another Christian communion which also has bishops. CODwas explaining the process. I began by noting there was some concern about the conclave itself, since our polity required 2/3rd of all living bishops to attend an electing conclave to constitute a quorum, and that we only barely managed to clear that. "Why?" asked COD's colleague. "Because we have so many bishops who aren't either diocesans or suffragans." His colleague was perplexed: "Huh?" I explained about assisting bishops, who had been elected and served somewhere, who resign and serve in another diocese, and the fact retired bishops vote. My colleague was particularly unnerved by retired bishops. "That's crazy," was his reply. "Why would you do that? They’re not accountable to anyone and get to vote on matters they don’t have to have any responsibility to implement?" I replied because when the process was developed there was no way they envisioned 109 dioceses spread over 16 countries with multiple categories of bishop, so many retired bishops, and bishops increasingly serving in other ministries (seminary deans, cathedral deans, denominational staff, etc.). The quorum managed, the election's stunning and prophetic choice announced, and COD's flush of excitement quickly faded when he learned the vote: 95 in favor, just one above the majority needed. COD was concerned that conservative bishops had swung their votes to Bishop Jefferts Schori in order to elect her, so that this could then be used in their efforts to convince conservative allies home and abroad about the liberalism of the Episcopal Church. They elected her in order to caricature her, COD thought. Sure enough, Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh and Bishop Benitez, retired of Texas, both later publicly admitted they voted for the PB more or less for these reasons.
After her election by the Bishops, the House of Deputies then took up the confirmation process. COD was sitting with ecumenical colleagues from other Christian communions, again explaining the process. COD saw the chair call on someone whom he recognized. The person announced that he had a procedural motion, and COD groaned. "Why are you groaning?" an ecumenical colleague asked. "We're going to have a vote by orders," I replied. Despite the fact that it was obvious Bishop Jefferts Schori would be confirmed, the usual suspects stood up and demanded a vote by orders, which is neither debatable or votable. Thus we wasted time taking a vote by orders, which, from beginning to announcement of results, takes about an hour, purely because of the spite of the losing side, knowing what the results would be. Thus while applauding the election of the PB, the whole process was filled with elements that caused COD pause – with the glaring, and un-democratic, fact that a retired bishop, answerable to no one and with no necessary involvement in the church under her primacy, was the 95th and deciding vote that elected a PB for the church as a whole. How can one retired bishop with ill motives decide a primate for a church of over 2 million members? And there were the consents to episcopal elections. From 1789-1901, the election of bishops required the consent of a majority of bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees. In 1901, this was changed to allow for General Convention to give the consents ordinarily given by Standing Committees, should an election occur within a prescribed number of days. This was for convenience and expediency, and reflected the fact that by allowing the House of Deputies to give consent, clergy and laity from each diocese were still represented. From 1901-2003, these consents were more or less de rigeur, with a few notable exceptions here and there (the election of Jon-David Schofield in 1988, for instance), until the election of V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. A process was developed in 2003 for what had been more or less by-the-book GC confirmation, including open hearings and voting by written ballot in the House of Bishops. COD was roped into counting episcopal consents, though not for Bishop Robinson, and had to spend 45 minutes hand counting and rechecking written ballots for the unanimous confirmation of a different bishop-elect. A time consuming and tedious process designed solely with regard to one candidate was nonetheless repeated for all the other consent processes in the House of Bishops.
(Aside: COD watched the debate from the House of Bishops on bishop-elect Robinson’s consent not in the HOB – I wanted to be able to get up and pee if need be – but in the overflow hall next door. While waiting for the vote to be announced, COD started a betting pool at the table where he was sitting, guessing the number of “yes” votes only. COD went first and guessed, “Sixty-two.” The result was 62, meaning I won the pool, resulting in one of COD’s colleagues speed-dialed *62 for COD on her cellphone.)
Back to the corruption of the consent process. Leading up to 2006, there was an
election in the diocese of California which had openly gay/lesbian candidates
on the ballot, and there was the anticipation that there might be another consent
process which would in essence be a referendum on the church's view towards
service in the ordained ministry by gay/lesbians persons. In particular, conservative
action groups in the church were gearing up for the consent hearings. However, this
did not happen, and no openly gay/lesbian candidates were elected. COD remembers
seeing representatives of conservative groups like the American Anglican Council
and Institute on Religion and Democracy walking the hallways, dejected as though
their puppy had just died: there would be no dramatic, bitter, confirmation hearings
that they had so been looking forward. So they decided to create their own drama,
digging up whatever they could on bishops who were having their hearings at that
Convention, manufacturing controversies about incidents in the pasts of bishops-elect
Beisner and Andrus. A colleague commented to COD, "We seem to have turned the
consent process into Senate hearings on Supreme Court justices...what used to be
the church collectively giving consent is turning into a kabuki theater where people
get to grandstand."
Then came the A161-B033 debacles. For this, friends, you will need to wait for Part Two. For part 2, click here.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Since 2006, when COD had the epiphany that our system of governance was at best broken, wasteful, and unhelpful and at worst a destructive force in the life of the church, COD has not stopped thinking about ways in which to rethink polity. At some point I will reflect on that epiphany in more detail, but not right now. As such, I don't think COO Sauls' (hereafter COO to your correspondent's COD) proposal went far enough; I think it is too timid of a response.
In this posting, I'd like to lay out what I think could be a more effective roadmap in terms of decision making towards revisioning the polity of the church. In later postings, I'll outline some of the changes I think need to be discussed.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
And lo and behold, apparently an internet meme had taken over Facebook in the few shorts hours in between the time I logged in (BTW, COD keeps thinking meme should have a circonflex over the first "e". He also is also entertained by the fact that something so banal has such a refined name.)
COD saw repeated posting by friends of an image of the Episcopal Church shield with "Occupy the pews of your Episcopal Church". COD, frankly, was perplexed by this phenomenon.
For one thing, it didn't seem to make sense. The OWS movement is a groundswell of populist anger using nonviolent occupation as civil disobedience to protest injustice. The internet meme (OK, saying it's a meme when it is only Episcopalians using it is a bit much, since there are only only about .8% Episcopalians in this country by population using a generous estimate) seemed an inappropriate appropriation of the image: should we really storm our local churches and refuse to leave?
COD was sharing this with CODW (Crusty Old Dean's Wife), and we both agreed it just seemed a little odd as an image. But then COD said, "You know, on second thought, there are some Episcopal Churches I would like to occupy."
Churches that have lost any sense of mission.
Churches that have clergy who are chaplains that minister only to the members already inside the doors.
Churches that accommodate themselves to the caste system, homophobia, and racism of society.
Let's occupy those churches. That's something I could get with.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
COD had just finished a faculty meeting (see, I am a Dean!) last Friday when my phone buzzed. COD assumed it was CODW (Crusty Old Dean's Wife) wondering when I would be home. Instead it was a notification from NY Times.com on COD's iPhone. I took one look at it, raised my eyebrow, and said softly, "It finally happened."
COD's colleague, who overheard, asked, "What happened?"
COD replied, "Someone is finally being held accountable."
The Bishop of Kansas City was indicted on Friday for failing to notify police of credible allegations that one of his priests possessed child pornography: . This is the first bishop to be so indicted on criminal charges, though extensive civil limitation continues. In the archdiocese of Philadelphia, priests were suspended from the ministry only after a grand jury report linked them to possible sexual abuse cases. Monsignor William Lynn, who was in charge of clergy assignments from 1992-2004 at the archdiocese, was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, but Cardinal Rigali has not been charged and submitted his resignation in the summer of 2011.
When this incarnation of the clergy abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church broke in 2002 (emphasis on "this incarnation". It did not begin then: the Porter case had garnered headlines in Massachusetts in the late 80s and early 1990s, and records now show concerns were raised within the church itself at various times about certain persons), COD has noted the tendency to accuse people of being "anti-Catholic" for criticizing the Catholic Church. The Vatican's response in 2010 was to attack the New York Times. In the early 2000s, the The Boston Globe bore this accusation for its series of articles in 2002. Others have often been accused of schadenfreude, of disagreeing in general with certain stands of the Roman Catholic Church and using this to pile on, and so on.
Finally, someone is being held criminally accountable for decades of lies, subterfuge, and coverup. This is an important step because COD has often thought that the media has had things wrong. Yes, the scandal in the Roman Catholic Church is about sex. But not only about sex.
The sad reality is that there are sexual predators in the ministry, both heterosexual and with same sex attractions. There are sexual predators among teachers, doctors, lawyers, and all walks of life. COD was once chatting with a priest who had been a police officer for thirty years, took retirement, got ordained, and served as chaplain to the police department in his retirement. I asked him what the biggest change he had seen since his rookie year on the force in 1969. Without hesitation, he replied, "Sexual abuse crimes. In 1969, when I first joined the force, we literally thought these people were creeps in trench coats hiding in bushes preying on strangers. The reality is they are everybody, and could be anywhere, and overwhelmingly prey on people that they know." He paused, looked at me, then said, "For all I know, you could be an abuser."
Saturday, October 15, 2011
And this should surprise no one…
The Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music of the Episcopal Church will present a rite for blessing of same-sex unions to the 2012 General Convention. This is all well and good, and is an extension of Resolution C056 of the 2009 General Convention, which called for a study on this question. The SCLM will present a rite for three-year trial use, with, presumably, the rite to be authorized in 2015.
As COD says, well and good. But – and there’s always a but, isn’t there? – COD has two cautions as the Episcopal Church moves forward towards the inexorable approval of same sex blessings (As Theodore Parker said, not Martin Luther King, who cited Parker in his paraphrase, despite what the memorial in Washington says, “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe. The arc is a long one. My eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by experience of sight. I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice.”). But before that, a disclaimer:
COD thinks the church should get out of the “marriage” business altogether, cease to be agents of the state, couples, whether same sex or opposite sex, should be permitted to be married according to civil law, and the church should provide blessings for those civil unions. But, as COD tells his students, getting the church out of being agents of the state is a good reason to get out of the marrying business. Unfortunately in reality there are 300 reasons to stay in the marrying business (picture a $ in front of that 3).
And COD is a firm supporter for blessing committed, monogamous same sex unions and committed, monogamous, heterosexual unions. It was in 1995 that I sat down with my first same sex couple and sketched out what a commitment ceremony might look like. COD served as liturgical assistant to same sex blessings in the 1990s at the Episcopal Church he attended, and, as COD once said in a job interview when asked when his support for same sex blessings began, replied, “I don’t ever recall a time in the Episcopal Church when I did not support or participate in same sex blessings, and I became an Episcopalian in 1991.”
OK, back to the but.
COD is profoundly troubled that the work on same sex blessings was more or less funded by a grant given through the Church Divinity School of the Pacific but essentially to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and music, whose chair, Ruth Meyers, is professor of liturgy at CDSP. Standing Commissions of General Convention, as COD knows from ten years on denominational staff, are just that: Commissions of Convention which meet in between the Conventions and draft legislation, follow up on resolutions, and monitor the area that they are charged with monitoring. COD served as staff liaison to one of the Commissions for nearly ten years. They are not program entities; that is the work of the Presiding Bishop’s staff various other persons employed in mission departments of the DFMS. COD constantly had to walk that tightrope as liaison. The Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations was not my boss when I was ecumenical officer, the Presiding Bishop was. However the PB's office and Commission shared different aspects of a common commitment to ecumenical work. The Commissions have modest budgets, and are almost exclusively for meetings of the group, and not for new initiatives or programs. COD finds it disturbing that a grant was given to essentially a legislative body which perhaps might have been done in conjunction with a liturgical officer (oh wait, we haphazardly laid off staff in 2009 without a strategic plan), and furthermore a grant given by an outside body to fund this work.
Think about this again: Rites authorized for use in the Episcopal Church are written up in resolution form and the text considered and debated by a legislative body.
Thus an outside organization gave money to a legislative body to assist in drafting legislation for the Episcopal Church.
Good Lord, could you imagine if the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a conservative religious think tank, had given money to the Standing Commission on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations to support curriculum which advocated for Islam as a religion of terror? Or if the lobbying group for trial lawyers had given a grant to help in the revision of Title IV, the disciplinary code of the Episcopal Church, to the Standing Committee on Constitution and Canons? If the American Jewish Committee gave a grant to the Office of Governmental Relations, which oversees lobbying on behalf of the Episcopal Church in Washington, DC? In an era when many decry the influence of outside money, from the Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court to the Koch Brothers or Scaife families supporting conservative causes, allowing outside money to fund the writing of legislation for the Episcopal Church could have a tremendous law of unintended consequences. Simply because the grant was for something COD enthusiastically and wholeheartedly supports does not make it OK.
Not to mention it is wholly unfair: “popular” causes in the church which attract financial support from outside groups apparently may be funded, outside of the budgetary procedures of the church, while equally important work which is not as appealing – say, COD’s old area of responsibility, ecumenism and interreligious relations – is left to scrabble and get by on whatever General Convention can provide for it. Should various departments of the church adapt their goals to make themselves more appealing to outside grants?
Matters of importance for the church should be funded through the proper appropriations process, and through the proper channels. Outside funding underwriting the work of the SCLM is bad precedent and courts the boundaries of inequity and injustice.
It is also troubling ecclesiologically: one of the main chunks of money the SCLM spent was to bring together deputies --specifically deputies -- from each diocese to a meeting to get an update on the SCLM’s work and to consider its progress at that point in the triennium. Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies, hailed this as an historic occasion when the HOD first met in between meetings of Convention.
The dog that is not barking here seems obvious to COD. The House of Bishops meets regularly, in between meetings of General Convention. Is hailing this historic meeting of the HOD somehow meant to imply that they should meet regularly outside of Convention?
If so, what are Standing Commission for in the first place? Comprised of equal numbers bishops, lay persons, and clergy, are they not supposed to be the bodies that see to the work of Convention in between Conventions? What is the purpose of Executive Council, also a representative body of clergy, lay persons, and bishops, which meets THREE times per year in between General Conventions, and which also has subcommittees devoted to particular areas of mission and ministry? We don't need more meetings of the HOB and HOD. If anything we need fewer. We need either to empower interim bodies or scrap them if we are not to empower them.
Further proof to COD that we need a complete, total, and thorough overhaul of the polity of the Episcopal Church. Polity development over 200 years by hundreds of incremental incidences has left us in an inchoate ecclesiological morass.