Saturday, December 31, 2011

An Ordinariate Less Ordinary?

Crusty Old Dean is taking some time out from his favorite New Year's Eve tradition: no, not watching sadly as Dick Clark is trotted out yet again (please, let the man be); COD has on the Twilight Zone marathon on SciFi Network (COD refuses to use their newly and poorly grammatical acronym SyFy) while feeling the need to multi-task.

The beginning of the year brings the usual spate of stories in local media on all the new laws and regulations that come into effect. Well, in the religious sphere, we are strangely positioned to be discussing something similar: as of January 1, 2012, the Anglican Ordinariate in the United States will be officially launched. As of this writing (December 31) it has not received its official name; COD is personally guessing it will be something Marian-themed, given that January 1 is the Solemnity of Mary on the Catholic calendar.

To sum up for the few non-religious types who stumble onto Crusty Old Dean's blog while googling the Simpsons' reference: in 2009, the Vatican issued the Apostolic Constitution "Anglicanorum Coetbius" (Latin for "groups of Anglicans"). This announced the Vatican's intent to set up an "ordinariate" for Anglicans wishing to enter in full ecclesial communion with the Roman Catholic Church. These "ordinariates" would be set up, more or less, national entity by national entity -- i.e., one for the UK, one for Canada, one for the USA, one for Australia. The ordinariate would be for Anglicans who wish to join the Roman Catholic Church, with the possibility of permitting married Episcopal/Anglican priests to be received and ordained, and to allow for a different form of the liturgy than used by those in the Latin Rite, retaining some aspects of Anglican liturgical traditions. "Possibility" is here stressed, since the Vatican has stated the norm for ordination is still celibacy, though exceptions would be considered and have, in fact, been given.

The Apostolic Constitution was issued in 2009, and in 2011 the Ordinariate for the UK was launched. Now it is our turn in the USA. Crusty Old Dean just got off the phone with a reporter from the Washington Post writing an article on the situation -- having served from 2001-2011 in the ecumenical relations office of the Episcopal Church, in part coordinating relationships with the Roman Catholic Church, COD had a front-row seat for much of the folderol leading up to and including the issuing of the Apostolic Constitution. So COD does have a few thoughts on the ordinariate.

On the one hand, COD didn't get too bent out of shape about the provisions for allowing married Episcopal/Anglican priests to become Catholic priests and keep their wives, or for congregations being allowed to use a different liturgy -- because this is already possible! Since the 1980s there has been a "pastoral provision" which has made it possible for married Episcopal priests to become Catholic priests and for congregations to use a modified form of the Anglican liturgy. There are about a dozen of these congregations already; there's a listing of these congregations on the website of the Anglican Rite congregation in Boston, which can be found here.

However -- on the other hand -- while this is something which has been happening, we should not underestimate what is actually happening with the Ordinariates. Before 2012, we had the Pastoral Provision. After 2012, we have the Anglican Ordinariate. The language is important. The pastoral provision describes the situation: a pastoral response to individual priests and/or congregations, on a case by case basis. The Ordinariate is a national, organized system for receiving groups of persons, established formally by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (hereafter USCCB) and under the oversight of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican (hereafter CDF). While it is not new for married Episcopal priests to have the chance to become Catholic priests, the Ordinariate is a very different way of going about this, much more formalized, established, and authorized.

The reality is this will not have a measurable impact in the USA. When he first saw the name of the Apostolic Constitution -- Anglicanorum Coetibus, "Groups of Anglicans" -- COD quipped, "It should be called, 'Priorum Anglicanorum Coetibus,'"or, "Groups of Former Anglicans." There will be a small number of people and congregations actually taking advantage of this opportunity; maybe a handful of parishes and thousand people or so. Of those, a majority will probably be groups which are not part of The Episcopal Church and which broke off to form separate Anglican churches in the 1970s and 1980s, or even in the past decade. The Traditional Anglican Communion, one of these non-Episcopal Church bodies calling itself Anglican but not in communion with the official expressions of Anglicanism, adopted the Catechism of the Catholic Church as its official teaching and has indicated its willingness to apply on mass. With over 7,000 congregations and just under 2,000,000 members in the Episcopal Church, a handful of congregations and a few thousand people is a drop in the bucket. This dynamic, however, will be different in other places -- in Australia or the UK, there will be more people from the official Anglican churches seeking to join, though far from a tidal wave in either place. In the USA, those most interested in taking advantage of the Ordinariate already left The Episcopal Church years ago.

COD really isn't sweating the Ordinariate much; a handful of people will join, most of those schismatic Anglicans. Crusty Old Dean's concerns are elsewhere.

One concern is that this is being presented as the fruit of Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue. In the USA, the Episcopal Church and Roman Catholic Church have been in dialogue since the 1960s, meeting multiple times yearly to discuss a number of topics. There has been an international dialogue between the Anglican Communion as a whole and the Roman Catholic Church, which has produced several major and landmark ecumenical documents: the Final Report of 1981 being perhaps the most important, but also The Gift of Authority (on the papacy and authority in the church) and Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ in 2005 (on the role of Mary and particular Marian doctrines like the Assumption and Immaculate Conception). In his remarks unveiling the Ordinariate, Cardinal Levada, director of the CDF, specifically spoke of this the fruit of ecumenical dialogue between Anglicans and Catholics -- indeed, he characterized the Ordinariate as the "logical outcome" of 45 years of dialogue.

It is far from the logical outcome of 45 years of dialogue -- continued dialogue is probably the most logical outcome, not coming up with an Ordinariate and unveiling it without consultation with your ecumenical partner of 45 years. The Vatican could have done any number of things: from continuing the Pastoral Provision to ending dialogue with "official" Anglicans and only talk to conservative Anglicans to continuing official dialogue with official Anglicans but demanding the topics turn to matters such as sexuality, women's ordination, etc. To say this is the logical outcome is absurd. There were many possible outcomes, and this was one specifically chosen.

Which leads to a second concern:

That the Roman Catholic Church's understanding of ecumenism is incorporation into the Catholic Church. As Cardinal Levada has also said, "And when an individual or, indeed, a community, is ready for unity with the church of Christ that subsists in the Catholic Church, it would be a betrayal of Catholic ecumenical principles and goals to refuse to embrace them, and to embrace them with all the distinctive gifts that enrich the church, that help her approach the world symphonically, sounding together or united." Again: the reality of the church subsists in the Catholic Church; other "churches" are in fact defective ecclesial communities; and ecumenism is the re-incorporation of those communities into the Catholic Church.

For COD, the real concern of the Ordinariate is not that hundreds of thousands of Episcopalians will become Roman Catholics; that simply will not happen. The real concern is elsewhere: that this is indicative of a continued, and troubling, reality of the current leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.

Should we expect anything else from this papacy? Their understanding of ecumenism seems to be bending over backwards to accommodate right wing, schismatic, holocaust-denying bishops from the Society of St Pius X. Their understanding of dialogue with other Christian bodies is incorporating them into the true church.

This papacy made the beatification of John Henry Newman into a way to denigrate and insult Anglicanism. Rather than the date of his birth, or death, the date chosen for his commemoration was the date of his conversion to Catholicism, as the Vatican lamely said the calendar was too full for the other dates -- poppycock, the occasion was chosen to drive home the message that it was Newman's conversion from his defective ecclesial community to the fullness of the Catholic Church which mattered. At the ceremony of canonization, Pope Benedict wore a stole of Leo XIII -- the Pope who rejected the initial mixed results and demanded the the committee investigating Anglican orders come back with a decision nullifying and invalidating the ministry of the Church of England and all Anglicans. Newman's beatification itself was fast-tracked; many have asked questions about the miracle that was the basis for the beatification. Newman, himself an object of suspicion in his own lifetime, has been recast as the ideal for how Anglicans should relate to the Catholic Church. By joining it and renouncing their past, like Newman did.

Cardinal Kasper, the head of the Pontifical Council on Promoting Christian Unity, said in 2009 that the establishment of ordinariates is not "fishing in an Anglican lake."

This is partly true; they are not fishing in the Anglican lake. They want to drain it.

This is the real concern here, not the handful of schismatics who will join the Ordinariate. It is the profoundly un-ecumenical direction the Roman Catholic Church seems to be taking.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Rowan and the Prayer Book: A Puzzling Christmas Message

Crusty Old Dean spent Christmas Day traveling, flying back to see family in the Boston area. Sitting in the airport, flicking through email, COD came across the Archbishop of Canterbury's Christmas Sermon. Always looking for a challenge, COD decided to see how Rowan's impenetrable prose could obscure the Christmas message.

Actually, COD found himself more or less pleased with the Archbishop's message. There was, however, something which COD found to be a strange choice. A good bulk of the sermon, which can be found here, was a reflection on words and questions, building upon John's Gospel's use of the Word (Logos) in reference to Jesus and the Incarnation. COD loves the Prologue to John as an Nativity gospel. COD finds John 1:1-18 more meaningful than the indiscriminate mashup of the incompatable stories in Matthew and Luke, because the Prologue to John focuses on the *fact* of the Incarnation and its transformation of creation rather than the treacly images of cooing babies and mooing cows that are trotted out.

The Archbishop also related this to many of the contemporary issues Britain is struggling with, reflecting on the riots earlier this year and questions of social and economic injustice -- words which, while primarily reflecting on the British context, could just as easily be ones challenging much of American and Western culture.

So far, so good. COD found himself beginning to relax.

But then Rowan went Rowan on us, as he is wont to do. In the midst of this reflection, he then chose an interesting metaphor for words and language: an extended sidebar on not just the Book of Common Prayer, but the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, celebrating its 350th anniversary next year. He concludes that sidebar by saying:

"The Prayer Book was once the way our society found words to respond to the Word, to say who and where they were in answer to God's question. Those who prayed the Prayer Book, remember, included those who abolished the slave trade and put an end to child labour, because of what they had learned in this book and in their Bibles about the honour of God and of God's children. They knew their story; they knew how to give an answer for themselves, how to join up the muddle of their experience in a coherent pattern by relating it to the unchanging truth and grace of God. That's why the coming year's celebration is not about a museum piece."

This is where COD's jaw fell. Huh? I nearly sputtered openly in the Delta terminal. Making the Prayer Book the ground for all of these actions? How could a sermon which started out so right take such a strange sidebar? Rowan, as COD has thought for years, has some truly terrible communications people around him. This is a staggering, mind-blowing oversimplification. The Prayer Book was not a way people "found" to respond to the Word! The 1549 book was legislated by Parliament, enforced by the force of arms in the west country, and people were fined for absenting themselves from its services. COD found his concern focusing in a couple of areas:

1) The liberal Catholic, Christian Socialist, and Anglo-Catholic forays into social justice and social ministry in the late 1800s, those who "put an end to child labour" were in large part inspired by the reclamation of the Catholic heritage of Anglicanism, which was abetted by the inconsistencies of the Prayer Book (that is, there was nothing to prevent imposing a solemn high mass with incense on the rubrics of the Prayer Book). Charles Gore described Lux Mundi as "Essays in the Incarnation," not "Reflections on the 1662 Prayer Book." F.D. Maurice's subtitle to "Kingdom of Christ" was "Hints respecting the principles, constitution, and ordinances of the catholic church." God's grace in the incarnation transformed all elements of society, which the church makes known through word and sacrament; this is why people like Charles Kingsley could lead the fight for sanitation reform in London and the Episcopal Church, the church of privilege in the 1800s, could take the lead in the labor movement. The Prayer Book was a means, not a source, of this process of transformation. The source was the incarnation of God in Christ Jesus, which, coincidentally, is what we celebrate on Christmas, not the Prayer Book's celebration of that celebration.

2) Those who "abolished the slave trade" were evangelicals motivated by a conversion experience and understandings of how the regenerate person was to act in the world -- the Prayer Book was complementary to this, far from the cause.

3) The 1662 BCP is far from normative in the current Church of England; there are a variety of authorized liturgies in place and a dizzying variety in modes of worship in different parishes. Granted, COD is far from an expert, but has been to the UK a number of times, been to Sunday worship in over a dozen parishes, and not once was the 1662 BCP used. COD heard the liturgy which was half in Latin in one place and another which was prayer and praise projected onto a screen, and a lot of Common Worship resources, but no 1662. Then again, COD has not been to a funeral, which may be where most people in England actually hear the 1662 BCP, since no one goes to church on Sunday morning anymore (the average Sunday attendance of the C of E is not much higher than that of the Episcopal Church) but they still do a lot of weddings and funerals.

4) The 1662 BCP is being co-opted as a source of authority and foundation for schismatic Anglicans. The 2008 "Jerusalem Statement"of the Global Anglican Future Conference, meant to be an alternative to the Lambeth Conference by conservative bishops in Africa, Asia, and schismatic bishops in North America, called the 1662 BCP "a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer." Is Rowan knowingly, or unknowingly, providing a dog whistle, a nudge, yet another accommodation and appeasement to those conservatives?

5) Is romanticizing a past that no longer exists all that the Church of England has left, at least in terms of its leadership and vision? In its criticism of England's veto of a treaty to provide greater financial integration, in order to save the euro, the Guardian newspaper in the UK lambasted the Tory party for being wrong on all of the major issues of the 20th century: resisting decolonialization in Ireland and India, appeasement of Hitler, and so on. COD found himself wondering if the C of E is the modern incarnation of that: that it is making itself irrelevant on British society by being wrong on where Christianity is right now, by bowing to conservatives on women bishops, human sexuality, and same sex blessings.

Of all things, in all times, the Archbishop is choosing romanticization of the Prayer Book as something which binds Anglicans together, indeed, which used to bind Britain together? After all, those people who abolished the slave trade also did not give full civil rights to Jews and Catholics for another 25 years. The Prayer Book was as much a part of exclusion and establishment as everything else the Archbishop describes -- indeed, the 1662 Book is as much an act of vengeance against the interregnum as anything else.

The celebrations of the 350th anniversary of the Prayer Book may not be commemorating a museum piece, as the Archbishop says -- instead it may be another movement in the continued slide of the Church of England into becoming a museum piece itself.

Merry Christmas from COD.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

COD is delighted someone is taking up Archbishop Rowan on his suggestion to come up with a better solution than the current Anglican Covenant. In his recent plea to the Communion to adopt the Covenant masquerading as an Advent letter, the Archbishop opined “I continue to ask what alternatives there are if we want to agree on ways of limiting damage, managing conflict and facing with honesty the actual effects of greater disunity. In the absence of such alternatives, I must continue to commend the Covenant as strongly as I can to all who are considering its future.”

There is an inherent problem with the Archbishop’s request, however; it is difficult for him to intone the needy for honesty when every foretaste of what a Communion with a Covenant would look like is shrouded with nothing even closely resembling honesty.

Take a (relatively) recent season letter by the Archbishop, his Pentecost letter of 2010 when he announced the removal of representatives of the Episcopal Church from international ecumenical dialogues, citing the violation of moratoria agreed to as part of the Windsor Process. Some are concerned about the centralisation of authority in the Archbishop, likening this to the fear of a new kind of curia, headed by a Dumbledore-without-the-redeeming-qualities-pope (I am indebted to Jon Stewart for the Dumbledore parallel). There is another, perhaps better parallel, which draws not from the Papacy nor Hogwarts but from a figure disparaged by the Archbishop himself: King Henry VIII.

In one of his lectures, the Archbishop raised eyebrows by publicly wondering whether King Henry was in hell for his actions, a clear sign of disapproval of the King's heavy-handedness – though also implying that he himself was a a fit judge to speculate on who was damned and who was not. Yet despite his disdain of Henry, in his Pentecost letter to the Anglican Communion the Archbishop seems to be drawing on a routine tactic used by those in authority in England against their enemies: the bill of attainder. Now, COD is no lawyer but does know a little bit about our past.

The bill of attainder was a common way to crush dissent, enact revenge, or simply dispose of those who caused trouble. Passed by Parliament, at the urging of the monarch or of those in authority, bills of attainder were legislative actions that deprived a person of life, liberty, or property by a simple vote, without benefit of trial. In the 18th Century, they were such capricious and arbitrary perversions that the Constitution of the United States specifically forbade them in Article I, Section 9.

How does this relate to Rowan's Pentecost letter? It’s really very simple: with the word “formally.” The Archbishop referenced those provinces that have

"formally [emphasis in original] through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order – should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged."

As a reminder to any soul who has wandered into this and somehow gotten this far, those three moratoria are:

Q. What are the agreements that have been broken? A. As far back as 2004, the Anglican Communion leadership agreed to three moratoria: 1) No authorisation of blessings services for same-sex unions; 2) No consecrations of bishops living in same-sex relationships; 3) No cross-border interventions (no bishop authorising any ministry within the diocese of another bishop without explicit permission). These have been affirmed repeatedly in subsequent years at the highest levels of the Communion.

The Q&A is itself from the Anglican Communion website, with the Archbishop’s prose clarified by his own website (often necessary in his case, though without attribution as to whose gloss this is). The rub is in the “formally.” This is meant to include the Episcopal Church, and, apparerently, only for its actions of consenting to the election of Mary Glasspool as bishop suffragan of Los Angeles. How so? The election, consent, and approval to Gene Robinson's election occurred before the formal request for moratoria, before the Windsor Process, and before the Covenant process. Furthermore, It would be hard to construe actions from the 2009 General Convention as giving “formal” adoption of a policy of authorising same sex blessings. The letter speaks of “events of recent months” and actions by “official bodies”, but the only event of recent months mentioned specifically is the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Mary Glasspool. This begs the questions as to what “official bodies” were involved in this – presumably Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdictions. Though those are official bodies, they act individually, not corporately. There is the impression in this letter that the Episcopal Church acts uniformly corporately, with the only diversity in noting the “Communion Partners.”

This is, by the way, another aspect of attainder: writing a bill that narrowly applies to only one instance (the most recent example some cite is the situation surrounding the case of Terry Schiavo in 2005, when the Congress of the United States passed a bill transferring her case from state to federal courts). While masquerading as an even-handed document that applies to all who have “broken” the moratoria, we can see how the Archbishop has in reality done nothing more than draft a bill of attainder behind closed door to punish the Episcopal Church solely.

This points to inherent failures in the Archbishop’s letter: The first is the fabrication that this is meant to be a measured, Solomon-like dispensation of justice to all of those in violation of the three moratoria. “Formally” indicates that the Archbishop is dipping into the tradition of the kings of England and is crafting his own, unique bill of attainder. This injunction will not apply to the Anglican Church of Canada, as their own Primate noted in his address to their General Synod, even though more than a few dioceses in that province have authorised same sex blessings. Apparently Canada is spared because neither their House of Bishops nor their Synod has authorized any of these actions. In his letter of June 7, Kearon noted that the the Province of the Southern Cone was asked “for clarification as to the current state of his interventions into other provinces." Further Kearon states that another matter needing clarification is “to ask the question” (by whom? Himself personally is the indication) whether “whether maintaining within the fellowship of one’s Provincial House of Bishops, a bishop who is exercising episcopal ministry in another province without the expressed permission of that province or the local bishop, constitutes an intervention and is therefore a breach of the third moratorium.” This is in reference to the Anglican Mission in America, operating within the territorial boundaries of The Episcopal Church since 2000 and recently clarified by their own legislative action as being structurally part of the Church of Rwanda. It refers as well to the schismatic Anglican franchises established by Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, and other provinces. The fallacy here is evident: no further question or clarification is needed from the Episcopal Church -- the Archbishop was free to define our own actions without any need to discussion or consultation -- but for actions taken by other provinces, in some cases for more than a decade, there is the need for further discussion.

The failure of “formally” is laid bare : if these actions on the local level, by dioceses acting individually, are not considered a “formal” provincial action (as in the case of Canada), then how can the actions of individual diocesan standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction in The Episcopal Church consenting to Bishop-elect Glasspool be considered “formal”? By its own defintion of "formally", the letter falls apart. No "Synod" consented to the election of Bishop Glasspool, it was done by individual Standing Committees. The House of Bishops did not consent; bishops with jurisdiction acting individually did; the House includes assistant, suffragan, retired, and bishops in other ministries granted vote. On the basis of the very definitions laid out, the Episcopal Church did not violate the moratoria by action of Synod or House of Bishops. Showing their continued incompetence, they couldn't even craft a well written bill of attainder.

But, of course, none it matters. The Archbishop would like this to be about the Episcopal Church refusing to listen: “However, when some part of that fellowship speaks in ways that others find hard to recognise, and that point in a significantly different direction from what others are saying, we cannot pretend there is no problem.”

This is simply a smokescreen, which points to a second failure in this Archbishop’s letter. Rather than being a discussion about ecclesiology, or about human sexuality, or about cultural diversity, or about scriptural interpretation, or about any of the issues which are actually at stake, it is in reality no more than appeasement, obfuscation, and hypocrisy, as this punitive decision is couched in terms of “process.” You can almost hear the Archbishop wringing his hands and declaiming, “If ONLY the Episcopal Church had been willing to live in the realm of don’t ask-don’t tell, if only they had kept this at the local and diocesan level, if only American Episcopalians had the decency not to discuss matters which are at the core level of how they understand humanity, creation, and being made in the image of God, if only their openly gay clergy were all celibate like those in other provinces – well, then, we wouldn’t be in this situation, would we?" The Archbishop is doing nothing more than demanding the rest of the Communion live with the cognitive dissonance that the Church of England does.

The Archbishop claims that the proposed Covenant is “a tool for mission” and “not an instrument of control.” Yet he has resurrected one of the most capricious and self-serving aspects of the British Empire: the bill of attainder. He issued this on his own authority to apply to a church that dares to cross the line – all without benefit of trial or discussion or consultation. Perhaps as a historian in his previous life he can learn from another parallel. The Archbishop notes that the structures of the Anglican Communion are in need of “refreshing.” He is wrong in this. An institution that seeks to represent a diverse global communion, but that is headed by an unelected primate who by law must be a citizen of an established, state church is not something which needs refreshing. This Pentecost Letter was his Suez Crisis of 1956, an ecclesial version of that final, pathetic paroxysm of imperial projection, and one which failed utterly.

Because this Pentecost letter failed utterly. Shocking, perhaps, only to the Archbishop, removing Episcopalians from international dialogues of the Anglican Communion did not result in a magical healing of the bonds of communion. Representatives from other provinces continue to absent themselves from international Anglican gatherings. The decisions of June 2010 only worsened relations with the Episcopal Church and did absolutely, positively, nothing to deepen the Communion as a whole. The Covenant process will be no different: Rowan with desperately marginalize those churches that may not adopt it, and in doing so only hasten the demise of an already broken Communion.

The time for pedantry and obfuscation is past. Indeed, meetings will be as endless as the Archbishop notes when real issues are not discussed. The Archbishop is aiding, abetting, and promoting the notion that it is the Episcopal Church vs. the rest of Anglican Christendom, when anyone with integrity knows that this is simply not the case. There are wide swaths of the Communion in sympathy with the Episcopal Church, and diversity of opinion even within provinces which are absenting themselves from inter-Anglican gatherings. There are other provinces which express their solidarity in various ways. Yet despite assurances in private, in the councils of the church we see this play acted out over and over, in which the Americans take the sole role of patsy for these much broader issues.

So COD welcomes the article from Jonathan Clatworthy taking the Archbishop up on his request; and, indeed, all the other voices in the Communion who have argued similarly. In the end, of course, it is all futile and predetermined, as the kabuki theater of the Covenant process ably demonstrates.

Our turn is coming to play our part in this farce. In 2012, the Episcopal Church will consider whether to adopt the proposed Anglican Covenant. COD has, in other places, argued that we should accept it -- because whether we accept it or not, the result is the same. If we don’t accept it, we will be marginalized for non acceptance. If we accept it, the Archbishop will craft another bill of attainder behind closed doors and condemn us to second-place status in the Communion.
Let’s go down swinging, and not give the cowards the easy way out.

We will go into exile, which the Scriptures have shown us to be times of powerful transformation. And we when the appeasers have wound up themselves being marginalized, we will join hands with those who want to stand up proudly for a vision of Anglicanism which embraces breadth and inclusion, truly living into our incarantional faith.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Reforming the PHOD as well as PB

In looking over previous posts for restructuring the polity of the Episcopal Church, COD found himself pondering the role of Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies -- and found himself asking what reform is needed in the ways in which these posts are chosen.

Previously, COD noted in his reflections on the 2006 General Convention how the office of PB has shown some of the strains of its gradual development. Originally the PB presided over the House of Bishops, took consecration of bishops, and passed sentence in disciplinary cases. In 1919, it became an elected office and began the continuing evolution into what we would see as a Primate (i.e. the move to Most Rev from Rt Rev; becoming a full-time job; having more responsibilities and duties added). However, what are the implications of having a Primate elected only by bishops, and confirmed by Deputies? Is this truly representative of the church as a whole? COD proposed previously changing the way the PB is elected, requiring votes in all orders, not a vote by one order and confirmation by another.

But then COD thought -- what's good for the goose is good for the gander, no? What about the President of the House of Deputies?

The development of the office of President of the House of Deputies (PHOD) is also undergoing change and evolution. Originally, it was an office with minimal duties: presiding over the House of Deputies at Convention and making appointments to committees and commissions as defined by Canon, ruling on purely parliamentary questions which came up during the business of the House at Convention. The office, however, seems to be taking on more of a role in between Conventions -- simply tracking the actions and statements shows how much more of an active role the PHOD is having in the life of the church the past decade. This came to the surface at the 2009 General Convention, where there was a debate as to whether to add money to the budget of the PHOD -- so the PHOD can presumably do more in the life of the church.

At times COD wonders if the PHOD is moving along the same track as the PB -- evolving slowly, over time, into a kind of co-primate along with the PB. On the one hand, COD would not necessarily have a problem with this; the Episcopal Church has never really, clearly, had a #2 position. However, if this is how things are moving, there should be considerable care and attention given to these developments.

If the office is moving towards becoming a sort of co-Primate, there are some structural problems involved in selection and election. Contrasting the election of the PB to PHOD, we can see the differences. There is a Committee elected by the Convention, which consists of bishops, clergy, and laity, charged with selecting candidates for the office of PB. Thus all orders of the church have a representative say in choosing the candidates for PB (though in addition there can be nominations by petition from bishops). The PHOD, however, is nominated solely by clergy and lay deputies, at the Convention. The PB is elected by the HOB and confirmed by the House of Deputies; the choice of the PHOD is, again, solely by the House of Deputies, with no input or confirmation by the Bishops. The selection of the PB does, at least, involved input and representation from all orders of the church. This is because the church sat down and decided what kind of process they wanted into the election of the PB if the role were to change, with considerable debate and discussion in 1916, 1919, and 1922 at General Convention, and with a massive survey of the church undertaken to get broader input. The PHOD does not go through any kind of representative process for nomination; is not elected by the church as a whole; how therefore can it be a truly representative office? As structured, the PHOD is an office of governance, not representation -- to think otherwise would somehow be akin to thinking the Speaker of the House has some kind of mandate or role or could speak to anything other than presiding over the House of Representatives.

The solution, COD believes, is to scrap the current system in its entirety and elect officers that are truly representative. COD already proposed having a unicameral General Convention where bishops, clergy, and laity sit together, but vote separately in certain situations. The PB, to truly be a Primate, should be elected by all three orders of the Convention. Perhaps we should moderate COD's initial call in that same post for there to be a moderator elected from the clerical and lay orders. Perhaps, if the church as a whole so determines, we could also elect an office representative of the church in addition to the Primate from among clergy and laity combined. There are examples in other denominations: the ELCA has an elected Secretary, which combines some functions of the PHOD, the Canon to the Presiding Bishop, and the Secretary of General Convention. The Secretary has been either an ordained or lay person. The Presbyterian Church elects a Stated Clerk (head of communion/primate) but also a Moderator of the General Assembly, who has a role in governance and represents the church but is not the head of communion. With enough thought and care put into it, this could resolve a longstanding problem in polity ever since the establishment of the National Council in 1919: what is the church's #2 position? Is it the PHOD? Canon to the Presiding Bishop? Chief Operating Officer? Secretary of the General Convention? Structuring a clearly representative #2, drawn from clergy and laity (not bishops), with a clearly defined role and functions, could have the chance to bring some clarity to a longstanding source of confusion (with corresponding confusion in effectively doing the work of this church).

Sustained reflection, input, and deliberation should be a part of our process of reform of structure. We have already, for instance, seem to have made the decision that the House of Deputies and its Standing Commissions which produce General Convention legislation may be funded by partisan, outside interest groups (this particularly grieves COD because he is in favor of same sex blessings but appalled it is being bought by special interest money) without any discussion of the implications. We should not do the same and set policy on the role of the PHOD without discussion and deliberation: this Church spent over 20 years talking about changes in the office of the PB, with various reports, proposals, committees, and surveys reporting to almost every Convention from 1901-1922.

The office of PHOD in its current form cannot be a co-Primate; in cannot be anything else other than President of the House of Deputies as it is structured. For one, the office is not representative. Nor is the HOD in its current format democratic, for several reasons. On the one hand, small minorities can effectively slow down or block legislation through the system of voting by orders and because every diocese has the same number of deputies, regardless of size. Deputies pride themselves on being deputies, not delegates or anything else, thus though elected by dioceses in no way answerable to them other than running for re-election once every three years. Given these elements -- and others COD could go into -- the HOD could run the danger of becoming an oligarchy run by the patronage system of appointment if a purely governance office is given any other kind of authority or responsibility without overall reform and restructuring.

Instead of being representative, the PHOD and HOD could be an Episcopal Tammany Hall run by a cadre of General Conventionistas.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Oh, behave! Schismatics Behaving Badly

COD loves to begin the day with a good chortle. Allow me to do so.

OK, COD is back. It was quite a nice chortle. Why, may you ask? Peep this:

"Recant or Resign, Rwanda tells Chuck Murphy." Read all about it here:

Sorry, COD couldn't help it -- another spontaneous chortle just typing those words. COD needs to take a break.

OK, back again. It's been a whole week, I just couldn't sit down and blog on this without wallowing in a tub of schadenfreude. Remember, though: COD schadenfreudes EVERYBODY. Heck, COD mocks himself sometimes.

So, let's try this one more time.

Backstory: in 2000 two Episcopal clergy were consecrated as bishops by the Province of Southeast Asia and the Province of Rwanda and dispatched to the USA to create the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA). This was meant to be a way to gather so-called "orthodox" Anglicans into a structure and to do missionary work in North America. As a plus, it also claimed to be a "legitimate" Anglican body, unlike all the uncouth schismatic churches that had sprung up in the 1970s following Prayer Book Revision and Women's Ordination, or from earlier conflicts. (A decent history on all of this is "Divided We Stand: A History of the Continuing Anglican Movement" by Douglas Bess. Also Allen Guelzo's "For the Reunion of Evangelical Christendom: the Irony of the Reformed Episcopalians", if you can get past the fanatasy-land, historically inaccurate, bizarro-world retelling of the founding of the Episcopal Church in his opening chapter.)

COD puts "orthodox" in quotes because apparently to be an orthodox Anglican to some is simply to disagree with The Episcopal Church. Among these so-called "orthodox" there are differences, for instance, in polity, prayer book, women's ordination, high church or low church, and so on. But COD digresses. These intercontinental ballistic bishops were fired at the USA, where they set up work to create the AMiA, finally with some "real" Anglicans in this sea of apostate Episcopalians and uncouth schismatics with their questionable holy orders.

Then a funny thing happened -- the rest of the Anglican Communion got in on the game! Post General Convention 2003, it was like a certifiable ecclesial gold rush to set up alternative provincial structures in the USA. Kenya, Nigeria, and the Southern Cone all had their initial IPOs, consecrated bishops, and set up parallel structures. The Anglican Communion network was formed, which consisted of Episcopalians who organized themselves into a group within the church that was opposed to certain decisions and actions. Old friends such as the Reformed Episcopal Church, which broke off in 1873, emerged and also began to form relationships with these various groups. Other Anglican primates like Drexel Gomez (West Indies) and Peter Jensen (Sydney), while not directly intervening, nonetheless often endorsed and hosted these various groups. Eventually an umbrella group, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) was formed, in an effort to draw these disparate groups together.

If that name sounds familiar, it should be: it was the same name chosen in 1978 by the various groups opposed to women's ordination for their new Anglican body. That organization quickly fell apart, with the Province of Christ the King on the west coast choosing to go its own way and other groups breaking off to form their own splinter groups.

Anyway, back to the current situation with the AMiA. COD is chortling because, apparently, breaking ecclesial ties has been downgraded from a felony to a misdemeanor. The Episcopal Church was so beyond the pale, the United States a mission field, Episcopalians barely Christian, thus drastic steps needed in 2000 for the consecration of these missionary bishops, the unparalleled crossing of provincial boundaries in a way never seen before in the Anglican Communion. Now, apparently, there need be no extraordinary, compelling reasons to break ecclesial fellowship. Now breaking ecclesial ties comes about simply because you don't like your new Primate.

COD is chortling because of the way some bishops who have left the Episcopal Church made loud noises about standing with Anglicans in the developing world against the unilateral, arrogant, neocolonial way the West has made decisions regarding human sexuality. COD always had two suspicions in this area. One was that this solidarity with Africa was mostly posturing, a way for people who simply wanted their own way to cloak it in a Trojan horse of standing with the marginalized. Second, COD was also suspicious it was only after Lambeth 1998, when the numerical power of the bishops from the developing world were felt, that suddenly these ties of solidarity were created.

The hypocrisy is laid bare. Now Murphy claims he is under no obligation to send any money to Rwanda, but did so out of the goodness of his heart. The African bishops served Murphy's purpose, gave him the episcopal orders that he lusted after and the ability to claim legitimacy as a "valid" Anglican province, and now may be cast aside.

And Murphy actually shows himself the quintessence of the arrogance of the West he used to denounce, having accused the Rwandans of "reverse colonialism." Somehow it is the rich, white, Western, conservative Anglican ensconced in the toney resort of Pawleys Island who is the victim here. The arrogance, if not the outright disdain and racism behind it, is simply stunning. Murphy and the AMiA are nothing but the latest chapter in colonialism: instead of exploiting Africans for natural resources and discarding when done, he has exploited them for episcopal orders and discarded them when no longer useful.

COD was always adamant in his previous life as ecumenical officer, when dealing with other Anglican partners, that the first real, tangible, unilateral action was taken by the Province of Southeast Asia and the Province of Rwanda in consecrating Murphy and Rogers. They unleashed provincial boundary crossing and unilateralism. Like it or not, the election and consecration of Gene Robinson was perfectly canonical.

COD is frankly surprised it took a decade for Murphy to show his colors and cast the Africans aside. After all, the original ACNA fell apart in a year.

Murphy and the other AMiA bishops may now join the long line of self serving schismatics descending from Simon Magus that they are. Sadly they have plenty of company.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

De Tocqueville, South Carolina, and Historical Myopia

As the preternaturally prescient Alexis de Tocqueville noted in his Democracy in America, "in America, virtually every dispute seems to end up in court."

Crusty Old Dean just received his copy of the December 18 issue of The Living Church -- and, as usual, wonders why he keeps his subscription. The unsigned editorial in this issue lambasted the "Kafkaesque" disciplinary process with regards to South Carolina bishop Mark Lawrence. The bias and historical myopia present here is so staggering COD can only assume The Living Church has once again retreated from its periodic efforts to attempt to be more middle of the road.

Because, as de Tocqueville noted, in the Episcopal Church, virtually every dispute ends up in a canonical dispute. Always has. And everyone has used it against everyone else: liberals against liberals, conservatives against conservatives, liberals against conservatives.

First of all, an effort to provide some perspective to the Lawrence matter. Newsflash: charges are filed against bishops, investigated, and dismissed ALL THE TIME. COD once had a bishop relay the story about how a parishioner at a church where the bishop was making a visitation filed ecclesial charges against the bishop, saying the bishop's new beard was an effort to make fun of his own beard. Another bishop once related the story of a particularly difficult disciplinary process with a priest, whereby the priest and parish had the defense strategy of hiring a private investigator and filing as many presentments against the bishop and his predecessor as they possibly could, in an effort to get them to drop the case. When none stuck, the priest submitted to discipline.

The reality is
it was the diocese of South Carolina which chose to go public, release details, try this in the court of public opinion, all in order claim the mantle of victimhood and persecution. The charges were investigated and dismissed, as they should have been. Ho-hum, the process worked.

The historical myopia here is just staggering, as is the pervasive hypocrisy. Was it not conservatives who, in the 1990s, chose to single Walter Righter? Was it not Kafkaesque that a retired old man was charged with heresy and dragged into an extended ecclesial trial, not the diocesan bishop or Standing Committee at whose direction he was functioning?

And, of course, we could go back and back in history. What about Albert Chambers who consecrated bishops for schismatics in 1978? He was but censured. And was it not liberals who violated church polity with their illegal ordinations in 1974? And so it goes.

Or even further: Bishop John Paul Jones, forced to resign from the House of Bishops for opposing World War I due to the fact that he was a missionary bishop, not a diocesan? Or on to the 1800s -- Stephen Tyng, suddenly charged with violating a geographic understanding of parish boundaries? Or Bishop Onderdonk, who had an ecclesial process designed and approved so as to apply only to him, and later changed after he was deposed? Or the General Convention acting as High Inquisitors of General Theological Seminary because Bishop McIlvaine of Ohio detested the Oxford Movement?

The culture of victimhood is a destructive, corrosive force that sadly makes efforts at reconciliation increasingly difficult, let alone any effort focus on mission and discipleship. The stark reality is this:

First point: Many bishops, clergy, and parishes simply ignore any canons or regulations they disagree with, while self-righteously holding others account for violating ones they agree with. Thus the deposed bishop of Pittsburgh once licensed Reformed Episcopal bishops with whom we are not in communion, an action decried by many who practice the clearly uncanonical practice of communing the unbaptized. And so on. As Michael said to Senator Geary, "We're all part of the same hypocrisy, Senator." Unlike Michael's comments, however, this hypocrisy sadly applies to all aspects of our ecclesial family.

Second: The particularities of our canonical process can be used, and are used, as much to cover things up than to persecute others. As noted previously in this blog, former PB Ed Browning covered up the sexual misconduct reported to him about one of his brother bishops, even when it apparently included a minor. The former chaplain of St Stephen's Episcopal School in Austin, Texas, was shuffled from place to place, even though authorities knew he was a serial sexual abuser (check it out here). And these are just the ones we know about. How many dozens, if not hundreds, claims of misconduct have been dismissed as one person's word against another?

Third: All sides and parties in our church manipulate the canonical process for their own ends. The diocese of Pennsylvania, for instance, has been trying to dissolve a pastoral relationship with its bishop through deposition for some time now. The reality is the pastoral relationship between the bishop and diocese is broken, and the choice of action has been an effort to manipulate the canonical process to get rid of the bishop.

Disclaimer: this is in no way to excuse many of the actions involved here. For example, Bishop Bennison's actions in covering up his own brother's sexual misconduct thirty years ago is reprehensible. But it was not an action for which he was liable under our current canonical structure -- frankly COD was stunned that the blatant effort to stretch the canons to depose Bishop Bennison was not more roundly condemned. That effort to manipulate the canons is far, far more troubling than the Lawrence case. [In a nutshell: Bennison was charged with conduct unbecoming of a member of the clergy. Unfortunately in this case, unbecoming conduct has a statute of limitations. However, since sexual misconduct is not liable to statute of limitations, it was argued the conduct unbecoming of a member of the clergy should also not be subject to statute of limitations because it was covering up an action by someone else which was not subject to statute of limitations. This interpretation was summarily overturned on appeal.]

The point is the way in which our canonical process is being warped on all sides. And this should not make us lose sight of a fourth point,

Four: the process can and does work. It's not perfect, but then again, neither for the old Title IV, or the disciplinary process before that, or the disciplinary process before that. Heck, this church devised a disciplinary process only to apply to a single situation with a single bishop. The charges against Bishop Lawrence were dismissed. The heresy charge against Bishop Righter was thrown out. The deposition of Bishop Bennison was overturned on appeal.

COD doesn't think much of moratoria, given the PTSD he still has from the 2006 General Convention and being sacked from the international Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue because of a moartorium the Episcopal Church didn't violate as that moratorium was defined. However, until we take any steps to break this cycle of dysfunction in our ecclesial legal system, COD would definitely be in favor of a moratorium against claiming victimhood and canonical manipulation.

And shame on The Living Church for uncritically staking sides.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Reorganized List of GC Postings

Crusty Old Dean is doing some reorganizing -- the blog can tend to sprawl, so as we move into the holiday season COD figured he would all his posts into one easy spot for now. Fear not, there are still two more blog posts coming to round out the proposals. COD does work in a seminary, after all, and end of the term tends to get busy.

The initial call for restructuring Convention, including some suggestions for what to do at GC 2012 is here.

COD's two-part personal backstory on what is wrong with General Convention and why it needs to be changed can be found here and here.

A proposal for restructuring the House of Bishops and House of Deputies can be found here.

A suggestion for reorganizing and streamlining the many committees and commissions is offered here.

And COD's thoughts on the Provinces and Diocese is here.

Still to come: proposals for revamping theological education and the church at the parish/congregational level.

And, of course, COD's other ramblings are available through the Archive function on the right of the home page.