Thursday, October 2, 2008

A News Exclusive from ENS

Presiding Bishop to Apologize for Slavery; Announces Posthumous Deposition

NEW YORK --- The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, will publicly apologize in the name of the Church for its involvement in the institution of Transatlantic Slavery at a special "Day of Repentance" service to be held at The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, over two days on October 3 & 4, 2008.  

(Although called a "Day" of Repentance, the service will extend over two days "to show how we are really, really sorry," said Bishop Jefferts Schori in an interview she gave this reporter on the eve of her departure. "Besides, [the Rev. Dr.] Harold [Lewis, rector, Calvary Episcopal Church, Pittsburgh], [the Rt. Rev.] Chip [Marble, assisting bishop in the Diocese of North Carolina],  [Dr.] Anita [George, chairperson of the Executive Council Anti-Racism Committee] and [the Honorable] Byron Rushing [member of the Massachusetts State Legislature] each wanted to contribute to the occasion, and we just couldn't fit it all into one day.  But our PR person thought that 'Two Days of Repentance' sounded a bit---what shall I say---niggardly, and so we settled on the more generic 'Day of Repentance'---meaning 'day' in the modern Biblical sense of 'an indefinite period between darkness and light'. Or is it 'between light and darkness'?  Oh, well---you get the point." )

The Presiding Bishop will use the occasion of her homily of apology to announce also her intention to have the House of Bishops approve the posthumous deposition of the Rt. Rev. John Henry Hopkins, who served as Bishop of Vermont from 1832 to 1865, and then as Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church until his death in 1868, on account of his strongly held pro-slavery views.

Asked whether the Canons of The Episcopal Church can be applied posthumously, the Presiding Bishop stated: "I have consulted my Chancellor and the Parliamentarian of the House of Bishops, and both of them concur that there is nothing in the language of Canon IV.9 to prevent its being applied to a deceased Bishop of this Church," she said. "It says: 'If a Bishop abandons the Communion of this Church . . .', and obviously, he can only abandon it during his lifetime. But there is no statute of limitations in the Canon as to when he can be deposed for that abandonment, and so we feel we should do it now as part of our apology for slavery."

When queried as to what provision of Canon IV.9 was violated by Bishop Hopkins, the Presiding Bishop answered: "Oh, we've done this by the book, I assure you. Because he was Presiding Bishop from 1865 to 1868, we went back to the language of the Canon as it was first adopted in 1853---we're not pulling any post-modern anachronisms here.  It says, plainly enough:
In all cases where a Bishop . . . of this Church . . . has abandoned her Communion or shall hereafter abandon it . . . by an open renunciation of the Doctrines, Discipline and Worship of this Church . . . 
"So my Chancellor and Parliamentarian concurred that Bishop Hopkins had violated this Canon when he wrote:
‘If it were a matter to be determined by personal sympathies, tastes, or feelings, I should be as ready as any man to condemn the institution of slavery, for all my prejudices of education, habit, and social position stand entirely opposed to it. But as a Christian, I am solemnly warned not to be “wise in my own conceit,” and not to “lean to my own understanding.” As a Christian, I am compelled to submit my weak and erring intellect to the authority of the Almighty. For then only can I be safe in my conclusions, when I know that they in accordance with the will of Him, before whose tribunal I must render a strict account in the last great day.’
"This statement clearly shows how Bishop Hopkins relied on the Bible to uphold the unforgivable and repulsive institution of slavery," the Presiding Bishop continued in her interview. "Such reliance on the Bible was, as we recently demonstrated in the depositions of Bishops Cox, Schofield and Duncan, contrary to the 'doctrine and worship' of this Church, and so, just as in those recent cases, Bishop Hopkins deserves to be deposed, on the same grounds. We just cannot make room for any exceptions in our rigorous application of the Canons."

When asked whether she had received the consents required to inhibit Bishop Hopkins before deposing him, the Presiding Bishop had a ready answer: "Oh, that one is easy.  Look at the text of the 1853 version of the canon: there is no requirement for inhibition of the bishop before we depose him. And in fact, I have decided to use that indisputable fact to buttress further my view (and that of my Chancellor and my Parliamentarian, may I remind you) that the Canon as it reads today does not call for inhibition first in all cases. So now I can be assured that my asking the House of Bishops to depose Bishops Cox and Duncan was perfectly legal, because my interpretation of the Canon is in accord with an unbroken 155-year reading of what the Canon actually says."

Asked when she planned to present the resolution for posthumous deposition, the Presiding Bishop responded: "Well, all we need is a meeting of the House, and I can call that any time I wish---I might do it while I am in Washington at the National Cathedral this weekend. That way I'll have [the Rt. Rev.] John [Chane, Bishop of Washington], [the Rt. Rev.] Jane [Holmes Dixon, retired] and [the Rt. Rev.] Allen [L. Bartlett, Jr., retired] all available to meet with me, and we can adopt the resolution without further ado." 

Questioned whether such a meeting would constitute a quorum, the Presiding Bishop grew a bit impatient: "Quorum, schmorum," she laughed. "The Canon says nothing about having a quorum, it just says a vote 'by a majority of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote'---and the 1853 version was even simpler: it said just 'a majority of the Members of the House of Bishops.'  My Chancellor tells me, and my Parliamentarian of course agrees, that both of these phrases have meant the same thing ever since the Canon was enacted---that what is required is a majority of those Bishops present and voting at any meeting I call.  So the vote will be 4 in favor, and none against---and who knows, I might just call up [the Rt. Rev.] Stacy [Sauls of Lexington] to get his concurrence, and that of his Committee, the Task Force on Property Disputes. That will add another nine votes in the affirmative, and then no one can question it."

Your reporter squeezed in one last question before the Presiding Bishop abruptly ended the interview. We asked: "But what does the Task Force on Property Disputes have to do with the posthumous deposition of a bishop?" ---only to have the Presiding Bishop stand up to her full height and dismiss us with the following: "I cannot continue to deign to stoop so low as to explain Church history to ignoramuses. What do you think the slavery issue was all about, if not a property dispute? That Task Force, I am proud to say, was the group that first recommended I depose Bishop Hopkins, and I wholeheartedly agreed with its suggestion. Now, you will have to excuse me."

And with that, she left the press room, and the interview was over.

Filed by Episcopal Nonsense Spreaders (ENS), New York, October 2, 2008.


  1. Great! You had me going there for a minute!


  2. ". . . only to have the Presiding Bishop stand up to her full height . . . ."

    Did that include the oven mitt?

    Fabulous spoof -- and so close to what's could actually happen in TEC these days.

  3. Yeesh, Curmudgeon -- I thought you were serious =P... I was getting ready to say how I am so tired of so-called apologies that cost one nothing, and why on earth isn't she focusing on the living slaves...but I guess I am so slow.

    Yet again, up to the last part, I could all too well see this happening.

    Pat Kashtock
    Take It for What It's Worth

  4. Pat Kashtock, thank you so much for visiting here and leaving your comment. After viewing your site and delving into its contents, I can say only that my hat goes off to your efforts to expose and eliminate current-day trafficking in the commodity of fellow human beings, and that I am sorry if my poor attempt at Episcopal spoofery caused you to think even for a moment that your efforts were in vain. They are not, I assure you, and I encourage all my readers to click on your link and take the time to learn about the evils of slavery in our own time.

  5. I am anxiously anticipating your April 1, 2009 posting!

  6. Oh -- no, Mr. Haley -- I nearly died laughing when I read your article. I really, really thought it was for real. I can see it happening - that's because things so close to what you wrote have already happened. That's what made your post so hilarious. It was way too close to the truth, but just enough off kilter to give me a side stitch from laughing. Thank you for that.

    And thank you for the encouragement. The whole slavery thing has me beating my head against walls trying to figure out what to do about it. So in the meantime, I write.

    Pat Kashtock
    Take It for What It's Worth