Canon Harris is a member of the Executive Council, a fact that explains why I have had occasion to take him to task from time to time. In short, the Executive Council, in my humble opinion, has fallen asleep at the switch. It has been cowed by the current Presiding Bishop into avoiding all inquiry into her direction of litigation brought in the civil courts in the name of the Church. The Council refuses to inquire into the reasons why she allows her Chancellor to engage his own former law firm to represent the Church in all of the lawsuits he has advised be brought. And in refusing to ask the Presiding Bishop to justify her decisions with regard to litigation, the Executive Council adds, in my view, to the deficit in leadership which I find so evident in reviewing the present precarious actions being taken in the name of the Church.
Thus while the Rev. Canon Harris, in my view, has neglected his fiduciary duty to act as a check on the power asserted by the current Presiding Bishop in leading the Church into unseemly controversies in the civil courts, I must at the same time acknowledge his integrity in speaking out in opposition to the despicable smear campaign recently mounted by Bishop Lamb and his Potemkin diocese against the confirmation of the Reverend Dan Martins as Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield.
Father Harris is blessedly unequivocal in his support of the Reverend Dan Martins. He writes at his blog:
. . . after reading and rereading the materials from the Diocese of San Joaquin and now a missive from Bishop elect Dan Martins himself (see below) I remain of the opinion that to deny Dan Martins consent is in this instance to stand in judgment of him in a prejudicial way. It is to say that on the basis of past actions we predict his future actions to be contrary to our expectations of a bishop. I am opposed to such prejudgment even if we have trouble later.
My hat goes off to Canon Harris. He has taken a noble step in defense of the ideals which he espouses. Those ideals include full accommodation in the Church for minority views such as those held by Father Dan Martins -- views with which he personally disagrees.
In contrast, Bishop Lamb and the group around him are unable to make any room for those who refuse to engage in their program, which is evidently to divide the Church on the basis of calumny and character assassination. An objective review of the "documentation" they cited in support of their baseless charges against Father Martins shows exactly what he has proclaimed to be the truth: that at no time did he ever advocate that his diocese vote to realign itself with another province of the Anglican Communion. Instead, Bishop Lamb and his supporters attempt to tar Father Martins solely with reference to the marginal role he played in trying to slow down the steady march of others in the Diocese of San Joaquin determined to exit from the Episcopal Church.
Those of us on the side of Father Martins have no difficulty whatsoever in perceiving the partisan bias brought to bear against his candidacy by the likes of Bishop Lamb and his vindictive supporters. And that is why I commend Canon Harris for also being able to call such an agenda for the hypocrisy that governs it.
It is regrettable, to say the least, that Canon Harris cannot at the same time accept responsibility for his own role in the failure of the Executive Council to assert a check upon the Presiding Bishop's unconstitutional usurpations of authority. Unable to acknowledge the truth of the message, he instead turns on its bearer. It profits him nothing to tear down a straw man by claiming that my series of posts asserted that the collapse of the Episcopal Church was imminent. They document, in great detail, that the corruption at the top is systemic, but nowhere do they assert that such corruption will prove to be immediately lethal -- only that the leadership is doing nothing to avoid a crisis.
Thus the Church marches on, divided and divisive, towards its rendezvous with the coming crisis. A few scattered voices may be heard in protest, but those in charge continue to claim that "All is well -- nothing to see here -- move on, move on." The unprecedented resort to litigation against fellow Christians? Regrettably necessary to claim property for people who did not and cannot pay for it, and whose only use for it will be to sell it. The twisting of the canons to support the litigation program? All in a day's work -- indeed, with the blessing of the very Chancellor whose law firm so benefits as a result. The decline in average Sunday attendance, and in collections at the plate? Nothing more than what is to be expected in today's secular world and a struggling economy.
So play on, Executive Council, play on at your game of guiding the Church through stormy times. Just do not accuse the voices trying to call you to account of an ulterior motive, such as looking to become authoritative, or seeking to undermine the Church. (Yes, I joined the attorneys defending Bishop John-David Schofield after Bishop Lamb sued him -- and after blogging extensively here about what the Church needed to do in San Joaquin instead of filing a lawsuit. But I am prohibited from writing here about what that confidential representation entails.) My heart and my loyalty remain with the Church in which I grew up, despite the wreck being made of it today at the top. I shall continue to speak the truth about that wreckage, and about those who are causing it, as I see fit.
And if speaking the truth also means handing out praise where praise is due, then I am all too happy to acknowledge my debt to the Reverend Canon Mark Harris of Delaware -- for speaking the truth on Father Martins' behalf, as well.