Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Newest Canonical Absurdity on the Left

The latest canonical absurdity on the left has been captured and stuffed here in all its grisly green glory. Over at The Lead, an Episcopal priest manages to display, in just two short paragraphs, ignorance of (1) the Dennis Canon; (2) the "accession clause" required to be in diocesan constitutions as a condition of their joining; and (3) what South Carolina actually accomplished at its recent convention:

The Diocese of South Carolina completed its 220th Convention and reports:

Two resolutions, both of which passed at the previous convention, passed again, by more than the required two-thirds margin in both the clergy and lay orders, amending the Diocesan Constitution. The first resolution removed the accession clause to the Canons of the Episcopal Church, and the second, enabled the Convention to meet more frequently than annually, if needed.
The weekend began Friday afternoon with a presentation by the Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester, who now serves South Carolina as Visiting Bishop for Anglican Communion Relationships, on “Triple Jeopardy: The Challenge of Islam, Secularism and Multiculturalism.”

Although the diocese has voted to take out the accession clause from its canons and constitution, the courts have, to date, found that the clause of the National Canons still holds force over the dioceses due to the hierarchical and corporate nature of The Episcopal Church.

The Accession clause:
Title I.7.4 of the Canons of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.
All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission, or Congregation is held in trust for this Church [i.e., the Episcopal Church in the United States] and the Diocese thereof in which such Parish, Mission or Congregation is located. The existence of this trust, however, shall in no way limit the power and authority of the Parish, Mission or Congregation otherwise existing over such property so long as the particular Parish, Mission or Congregation remains a part of, and subject to, this Church and its Constitution and Canons.

Regular readers of this blog should have no difficulty responding to the following "Spot the Absurdity" quiz:

1. What does the "Dennis Canon" purport to do?

2. Does the blogger quoted above refer to the Dennis Canon without being aware of it?

3. Does the Dennis Canon have any application to dioceses (as opposed to parishes)?

4. Is the Dennis Canon even relevant any longer to a discussion of the Diocese of South Carolina? Why or why not?

5. What is meant by the term "accession clause" in referring to ECUSA's Constitution?

6. Does the blogger above refer in any way, shape or form to what is called an "accession clause"?

7. Does the blogger above show any understanding of what the Diocese of South Carolina accomplished at its recent Convention?

8. [For extra credit:] How many of ECUSA's current dioceses do not have any accession clause in their constitutions? And how many dioceses of ECUSA have been disciplined for not having them, or have not been counted as members of ECUSA because of that fact?

Responses in the comments can simply cite the quiz question by number, without having to quote it in full. Those commenters who correctly respond to questions by referencing the prior post(s) on this blog which contain the answer(s) to the particular questions asked will receive a special commendation from their host. (You can link to the post using html tags, or else just cite it by title.)

Now, all ye students of the canons -- have at it!

[UPDATE 02/22/2011:] No sooner do I capture and stuff one canonical absurdity on the left than that they go right ahead and post another! This latest absurdity, however, is a big, big bird indeed -- it even has been given its own Website, for heaven's sake -- and hence will require its own series of taxidermic posts in response (not that Mark McCall and Alan Runyon will not do the same, as well). Suffice it to say at this point that the Title IV Task Force II has labored mightily in response to the charges of unconstitutionality, and has brought forth a mouse. (Sorry to have to part ways with you on this, my estimable Fr Tobias Haller, but please do not be so hasty to accept a defense mounted by those with the most vested of interests in being thought right. At any rate, thank you for publicizing the link -- because every Episcopalian needs to read it, and to read the responses posted here and (one assumes) at the ACI.)]


  1. Can I get extra extra credit for spotting the crossover from handwaving to outright counterfactual nonsense in "the hierarchical and corporate nature of The Episcopal Church"?

  2. No question, chrylis -- you get the extra credit for spotting that nonsense. The Episcopal Church is in no sense "corporate", which makes it incapable of being at the same time "hierarchical."

  3. "shall in no way limit the power and authority of the Parish, Mission or Congregation otherwise existing over such property so long as the particular Parish, Mission or Congregation remains a part of, and subject to, this Church and its Constitution and Canons."

    You know, I had never noted it before, but it appears that the Denis Canon itself assumes there might be such time as a parish would choose not to be "a part of, and subject to, this church and its constitution and canons."

    Any junior college professor, of course, gives the quoted post a zero, for confusing 1.7.4 with the accession clause of the constitution.

  4. Thank you, estimable sir! The problem, it seems to me, is that there are too many vested interests on both sides of this. As well as hasty comments. I also pointed out to those responsible the confusion between the Dentist Canon ("no extractions without anesthesia!") and the Accession Clause.

    There is certainly some laxity over the enforcement of accession clauses in our history; but laxity does not change the law in the long run, though utter desuetude might. But a deliberate removal of an unqualified accession once made, surely must raise at least a twitch in even the most adamantine eyebrow.

    For me the problematical part of the SC position involves the role of the PB. I find the argument based on the "Confinement" article (O that bishops were more confined!) to be problematical as it could lead to a complete inability of a PB to carry out the mandates assigned, which include visitation. McCall and Lawrence also seem to rely on outdated legal sources, and that is suspect and does little to bolster claims about laws which were amended after the commentaries they cite.

    Of course, it remains to be seen how this will work out. Keep up the commentary, as I always learn from you even on those occasions when I disagree with your conclusions.

    wv = horaesse: the female partner in a Balkan dance