Friday, July 17, 2009

Food for Thought

Some random notes and thoughts to ponder while I am away from blogging for a while (see previous post):

1. It's the end of another week, and there is still no final ruling from the Fresno Superior Court on the motion for summary adjudication filed by Bishop Lamb et al. in the case pending there. If the ruling comes down while I am away, there won't be much to say that has not already been said (check the San Joaquin page in the Guide to This Site). If the court grants the motion, the defendants will have twenty days in which to file a petition in the Court of Appeal to review the ruling; and if the court denies the motion, the parties will conduct a lot of discovery to prepare for the trial scheduled for next February 1.

2. General Convention 2009 will soon be history. All of its accomplishments, great and small, will soon enough end up in another thick, fat book ("Scribble, scribble, eh, Mr. Gibbon?) on my shelf, to be consulted only as absolutely necessary.

3. When so many people ascribe so much importance to a mindlessly ineffectual Resolution such as B033 from GC 2006, something else has to be going on. As I explained in the post linked, both B033 itself and the HoB's affirmation of it at New Orleans in 2007 were a form of political fig leaf to allow both ECUSA and the Archbishop of Canterbury to say to the rest of the Communion: "We/[They] have agreed to play nice, and not break any more rules." (See this latest statement from Fulcrum affirming in detail this same reading of the fig leaf.)

4. But now, with its passage of D025 and C056, GC 2009 and the HoB in particular have pulled off the fig leaf, to everyone's consternation. It is still inaccurate and unhelpful to speak of a "repeal" of B033 --- as long as people continue to do that, the Presiding Bishop and Dr. Anderson will gain traction from saying it did not happen. The best way to describe the effect of D025 and C056 is to say that the "mind of the Convention" has now changed in 2009 from what it was in 2006.

5. With the collective change in mind, the commitment to restraint is now solely on a bishop-by-bishop and standing committee-by-standing committee basis. The confirmation of the election of a practicing LGBT to the episcopate in ECUSA will happen when it happens --- but it will happen; and the blessing and celebration of same-sex unions will continue at a now-quickened pace.

6. The acid test of this outcome, brought to you by Integrity and the other activists in ECUSA, will be what happens to the attendance figures by the time of GC 2012. Susan Russell+ claims the numbers will increase; Father Tim Fountain is already reporting exactly the opposite. We shall see, and the numbers will not lie (unless they change the method of counting by then).

7. The budget for the triennium 2009-12 is reduced by $23 million, but still includes $3 million earmarked for litigation against departing dioceses and bishops, and still more money earmarked for support for the remnant groups who cannot sustain themselves as Dioceses on their own. This is another form of fig leaf, designed to get the budget as a whole voted upon. Over the next 154 weeks until there is another General Convention (reduced from ten days to eight), the Executive Council can rig the numbers any way it wants to. It did this before GC 2009, and it will do it again before GC2012.

8. The thing to notice about the numbers is their trends. The budget is shrinking overall, as are the expected contributions from Dioceses from 2009 to 2012. Meanwhile, the Budget Committee was compelled to increase the item for litigation over the next triennium from $1.8 million to $3 million (plus another $1 million for Title IV "discipline", increased from $300,000), and the financial support required for the remnants to hang on while their litigation is being carried on for them will increase as well. The staff of ECUSA is losing 37 positions, but Goodwin Procter is hiring more attorneys, and the Presiding Bishop is not cutting her own personal litigation consultant --- whom she has to help her in addition to her Chancellor.

9. ECUSA is eating its seed corn while squandering money on litigation it can ill afford, and which will not be resolved for five years, or even longer. The pressure for immediate results in litigation is prompting ECUSA to take ever more extreme positions in court that are at variance with how it actually runs (or fails to run) itself. The dichotomy used to be kept under wraps at 815, but now it is in the open for all to see, and ECUSA's bishops will not be able to sustain the tension it requires for as long as the current litigation will take to resolve.

10. Another major loss in court, such as happened in Virginia, will put enormous pressure on 815 to cut its litigation expenses. People will stop giving money that goes just to pay attorneys to fight a losing battle in court.

11. Theologically speaking, ECUSA is so off in left field that the audience for its fanciful pronouncements is steadily diminishing as well, and will soon be reduced just to the choir of the already convinced. Its message of "inclusion" is seen for what it really is: a wholesale adoption of the current culture. As J. Gresham Machen observed so long ago, the Church has taken on "an absolutely impossible task—she is busily engaged in calling the righteous to repentance. . . Without the consciousness of sin, the whole gospel will seem to be an idle tale." Meanwhile its Presiding Bishop is doing her level best to alienate the remaining orthodox, by telling them that they are the heretics (how "inclusive" does that make them feel?).

12. Despite his disappointing track record, I yet hold some hope that the Archbishop of Canterbury will show some backbone. He has followed his own Christian teaching thus far by absorbing blows from left and right in order to keep everyone at the table, still talking. But his absolutely minimal participation in GC 2009 this year, contrary to all precedent, coupled with his unambiguous warning about the General Convention making "decisions in the coming days which will push us further apart", may be interpreted as a sign that he has given up trying to protect ECUSA from the consequences of its actions.

13. To protect his own position in the Church of England, he has to align himself now with the decision of its Synod. The motion there to recognize ACNA will be acted on next February, and the hasty joint letter from the Presiding Bishop and Dr. Anderson may be viewed as an expression of the concern they have that ACNA may indeed be recognized, and their heretofore exclusive Anglican franchise in America declared forfeit.

14. The House of Bishops may try in September one more time to put the fig leaf back on, by adopting some gobbledygook about their "interpretation" of D025 and C056. But once the fig leaf is off, there's no putting it back; its utility has run its course. By definition, a fig leaf works only once.

15. All eyes will be on Lambeth on Monday, to see the text of the promised "statement" in reaction to the events at Anaheim. It will in all likelihood be an anticlimax, because after all, there will be nothing that can be done in the short run. The next true test for Dr. Williams to pass or fail will come at the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Primates and the ACC, scheduled for December 15-18, 2009. The Committee, which includes the Presiding Bishop, is supposed to take up the revisions made by the working group announced May 28 to section 4 of the Ridley Draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant. If the Presiding Bishop still has support enough to water down its language to meaninglessness, the death of the Anglican Communion will not be far off. But if she is the one to go away miffed from the meeting, there may be some life to ++Rowan yet.


  1. Re: #6. "Susan Russell+ claims the numbers will increase ...We shall see, and the numbers will not lie (unless they change the method of counting by then)."

    Do you know what happened to the resolution to change the way the numbers are counted? I think it was to count all communicants as members or all who are served in charitable activities or something.

  2. Perpetua, I think you are referring to Resolution A062 (no link currently available): it passed.

  3. #12 and #13 go together.

    They would be a step in the right direction. And better late than never.

    But I'm a bit skeptical.