Monday, February 28, 2011

Rushing to Judgment: a Spurious Defense of Title IV (Part III)

[Note: Part I of this analysis of the justifications offered for the new disciplinary canons ("Title IV") approved by General Convention 2009 may be read at this link, and Part II is here.]

One of the most striking ways in which the proposed revisions to Title IV of the national Canons depart from previous precedent is in the broad new powers they give to the Presiding Bishop. In essence, they make the relationship between the Presiding Bishop and the other bishops in the House of Bishops analogous to the relationship between a diocesan bishop and the clergy in his or her diocese. When one bishop has such pastoral and disciplinary powers over other bishops, s/he is said to be "a metropolitan," or to have "metropolitical powers." Such metropolitan bishops are frequently (but not always) called "Archbishops."

Until the proposed changes to Title IV take effect next July 1, ECUSA will never have had a metropolitan bishop in its more than 221 years of existence since 1789. Archbishops are known to the Church of England -- the Archbishop of Canterbury has metropolitan authority over all the bishops and clergy in the Province of Canterbury, while the Archbishop of York exercises the same authority over all the bishops and clergy in the Province of York. But the strong feeling against bishops in this country after the Revolutionary War meant that there could be no thought of the creation of any such position for the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

Why, then, did the Title IV Task Force II revisers think that they could engineer such a drastic change in the polity of ECUSA? And not only bring about such a drastic change, but accomplish it in such a back-door manner? Here is the language from the revised Title IV which does the trick, tucked away toward the end of the proposal (from Section 2 of Canon IV.17):
Sec. 2. In all matters in which the Member of the Clergy who is subject to proceedings is a Bishop, the following terms used in Canons IV.5 through IV.16 and Canons IV.18 and IV.19 shall have the following respective meanings:
(a) Disciplinary Board shall mean the Disciplinary Board for Bishops as provided in Canon IV.17.3.
(b) Intake Officer shall mean a person appointed by the Presiding Bishop.
(c) Bishop Diocesan shall mean the Presiding Bishop, unless the Member of the Clergy who is subject to proceedings is the Presiding Bishop, in which case Bishop shall mean the Bishop authorized by Canon IV.19.24. . . .
Thus, by a simple redefinition of the term "Bishop Diocesan" to mean "Presiding Bishop" in all disciplinary matters involving bishops, the Presiding Bishop is given the same authority over the Church's bishops which each of them has over the clergy who are resident in their diocese.

And here is the first argument offered by the members of Task Force II in justification for this monumental change (p. 7):
Since the Constitution not only fails to limit the authority of the Presiding Bishop, but also affirmatively authorizes the Canons to spell out the duties of that office, it does not seem possible to hold, as the Runyan & McCall paper implies, that the office is limited to those duties expressly stated in the Constitution itself. The entire history of canonical legislation relating to the duties of the Presiding Bishop demonstrate that General Convention itself has never considered that office to be limited as the Runyan & McCall paper states.
As Messrs. Runyon and McCall point out in their response, this argument is based on the fatally defective assumption that in drafting constitutions, "authority" equates to "duty." That is, the argument first notes that ECUSA's Constitution seems nowhere to place any limits on the authority of its Presiding Bishop, and then observes that in Art. I, Sec. 3 the document provides that the duties of that office may be prescribed by canons enacted by General Convention. And then it makes the illogical deduction that a lack of limits on the authority of the office must mean that there are no limits, so that General Convention may employ its canons to give to the office any authority it chooses, without limitation.

Notice how the conclusion does not even begin to follow from the premise. Because the Constitution does not circumscribe the authority of the Presiding Bishop does not mean either (a) the authority must be unlimited; or (b) that General Convention has the power to define the authority of that office -- or to add to, or detract from, its authority on its own. And since duty flows from (and is defined by) authority, having the power to prescribe duties appropriate to the authority that has been given is not the same as having the power to create new authority by creating new "duties."

Can anyone today seriously argue that the office of the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA is without any limits on its authority? The Title IV Task Force II seems to think so -- and they defend their extension, sub rosa, of metropolitical authority to that office on the ostensible ground that such authority is "nothing new," because General Convention "has never considered that office to be limited as the Runyan & McCall paper states."

Only persons who were determined to ignore the evolutionary history of the office of Presiding Bishop could make such an outlandish statement. I traced that evolutionary history in much greater detail in this earlier post, and there is no need to go over all that old ground again. Here is just a sampling of the evidence which completely refutes the Task Force's argument:
Throughout all this history of the office, the presiding bishop continued to retain, following his assuming the office, his diocesan jurisdiction and responsibilities. (This was a natural consequence of how his function was originally conceived: he was one diocesan among others, elected to preside over their assemblies.) At the Convention of 1940, the invitation of the Diocese of Washington to designate its National Cathedral as the official seat of the Presiding Bishop was approved. And in 1943, as both a portent, perhaps, of changes to come, as well as a reflection of the increasing importance of the office itself, General Convention voted to require the presiding bishop to resign from his diocesan jurisdiction upon election. At the same time, a proposal was made in the House of Deputies to add language to the Constitution allowing General Convention to give the presiding bishop a see, but the designation of particular territory from which to constitute such a see proved highly problematic, and in 1946 the proposal was dropped. Messrs. White & Dykman observe (Vol. I, p. 29, with emphasis added):
To provide the Presiding Bishop with anything like an archbishop's traditional jurisdiction was impossible. Metropolitical jurisdiction over a province of the Church and the dioceses therein, arming the metropolitan or archbishop with visitatorial and juridical powers, could not be artificially grafted upon a national Church, the polity of which still reflected its origin in a federation of equal and independent Churches in the several states.
The statement emphasized in bold has been stressed again and again on this blog, for the reason that those currently in power at ECUSA seem determined to forget it, along the with consequences it entails. Where archepiscopal authority evolved along with the Church, it did so naturally. The Archbishop of Canterbury's authority flowed naturally from the authority given to the first occupant of that see, to oversee the establishment of the Christian religion in the British Isles. As more and more churches were established, more clergy came under the authority of the see of Canterbury; while in the north of England, the Bishop of York began to develop similar authority. As dioceses were created, and then organized into the provinces of York and Canterbury, the metropolitical lines of authority from first the Pope (and later the King), as head of the Church, down through his archbishops, evolved naturally with the positions themselves.

No similar course was followed in the United States. There was no one single bishop charged with the responsibility for converting all of America, all at once, to the Christian religion, or even to the established Church of England. Authority in the Colonies had different sources than authority in England itself -- a point that recurred when the Privy Council ruled in the Colenso case in the mid-nineteenth century that the royal prerogative in creating metropolitans did not extend to the colony of South Africa. To argue, therefore, that it is only "natural" for the Presiding Bishop to assume such authority over the independent and autonomous member dioceses in PECUSA is to ride roughshod over our Church's polity.

The Title IV Task Force II also makes the nonsensical argument that the Constitution's restriction (in Art. II, Sec. 3) against the exercise of episcopal jurisdiction outside the diocese in which a bishop is elected does not apply to the Presiding Bishop as such, because ever since 1943 the Presiding Bishop (as noted in the quote from White & Dykman, above) has not belonged to any one diocese, and is not elected by any one diocese, but by the whole Church. This argument is nonsensical, in that it makes meaningless the entire debate since 1943 that has occurred over the proper task and functions of the Presiding Bishop. It simply presents itself as the logical extension of the "primatial creep" that began under Presiding Bishop John Hines, with his huge expansion of the office's responsibilities -- and independence from the dioceses:
Under the leadership of Presiding Bishop John Hines (1965-74), there was launched the General Convention Special Program (GCSP), which the contemporary Loren Mead portrays as the beginning of a fatal shift in roles:
I think it was in John Hines's time that "primatial creep" set in. The instrument was the General Convention Special Program (GCSP). It was one of those things that simply had to be done − history demanded that we face it. You'll remember the fireworks and anxiety about national staff "interfering" with dioceses (especially dioceses in the South where racial issues were painful and keen). Primatial creep is not my name for what happened to the Presiding Bishop − but for what happened to the House of Bishops. The House of Bishops had to work with conflict between dioceses and 815. (By now it had been built. Remember, it was 1963 when it was finished and we actually had national staff located in one place.)

That − in my opinion − was when the House of Bishops first began usurping the power of the bicameral legislative process that was in our constitution. The racial issue was just too painful and sensitive, so the bishops had to take it over and negotiate through the conflict years. Maybe it had to happen, just as John Hines had to go beyond where others had gone before.
Through the vehicle of GCSP, the Presiding Bishop's office took control of an entire secondary budget within the Church, devoted to the goal of "social justice" and funded wholly outside of the several dioceses:
Church sociologist William Swatos (on p. 208 of the article referenced in the previous post, and which I shall hereafter cite simply as "Swatos 2005") characterizes GCSP as "a program to channel a relatively massive fundraising effort to community agencies working principally on behalf of ethnic minorities." He seconds Mead's first-person account of the change that took place in the Church as a result of GCSP:
There is undoubtedly a book to be written on GCSP, but the thesis here is a relatively simple one; namely, that GCSP and Hines's primacy became problematic within the life of the Episcopal Church. This was not because of its focus on minorities, which was already present in the Lichtenberger years, but for two other reasons. First, funds were channeled to local secular agencies without consultation with either diocesan authorities (principally the bishops of the dioceses involved) or church groups already involved in working with minority ministries. Second, the leadership of GCSP eschewed the leadership within the church already working on these issues. Again, this was allowed to occur first because of Hines's personal charisma (often referred to in his case as "prophetic leadership") in generating the funds, principally from the women of the church, and then because of the office charisma of the PB that enabled him to work unchecked.
In other words, through the persona of Presiding Bishop John Hines, "815" began to develop an identity and constituency of its own that was independent of the dioceses which made up the Episcopal Church. With his ability to attract funds above and beyond the normal voluntary diocesan contributions, and following on the buildup of staff that occurred under his predecessors, Hines was successful in establishing the first "permanent" bureaucracy at national headquarters, with a devotion solely to the social programs of the Church that was independent both of General Convention and of the Executive Council that was expected to function in its place during the period between national conventions.
The justification offered by the Title IV Task Force II for its wholesale enlargement of the powers of the Presiding Bishop does not just ignore the historical facts; it also has to ignore the literal facts. Contrary to their claim, the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA does exercise territorial jurisdiction -- but only over provinces and convocations situated beyond the boundaries of the United States. Thus the express language of Article II, Section 3 limits her exercise of episcopal jurisdiction just to those extraterritorial locations, like any other bishop with jurisdiction. The entire argument to ignore that limitation is once again based on a logical fallacy, as well as on a misreading of historical facts, and on a derogation of the polity of this Church. The current occupant of the office, however, seemingly recognizes no limit on her jurisdiction whatsoever, and in that respect, she enjoys a revised Title IV eminently suited to her purposes.

Without any prior warning whatsoever being required, the literal language of Title IV as revised would enable the Presiding Bishop to issue a "Pastoral Direction" to any diocesan bishop, and then to inhibit that bishop from the exercise of his or her powers in the diocese, with the single stroke of a pen, and without having to consult anyone else inside or outside the affected diocese. Such authority over bishops is simply unprecedented in the history of this Church, but in view of the number of dioceses to date which have cooperated in enacting their own implementations of the revised Title IV, it appears they have no clue as to the consequences that lie in store for them.

And, if the truth be told, 'twas ever thus. I know not what desire for "temporary safety" is driving the majority of dioceses in ECUSA into the arms of their worst enemy, but I know that Benjamin Franklin had it right when he observed:
Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.


  1. Your analysis, as usual, is logical, lucid, and very convincing. I appreciate your perseverance in this campaign to expose the current goings-on in TEC. It seems an unenviable task to me.

    It is all so upsetting. I keep saying to myself: Something must be done about this! Someone must stop it! But then I remember that the judge, the jury, and the accused, are all the same people. They are definitely not going to convict themselves, and there is no court of appeal! What a shambles!

  2. Topper, thank you for the support. It does get lonely, sometimes, walking through the fog enshrouding ECUSA, and carrying a solitary lantern which is inadequate to pierce the gloom . . .

    But there is no other alternative. Someone with the required training and background has to sound the alarm. I began this blog unwilling to believe that things were as bad as they seemed. It took only a few weeks before the unbelievable arbitrariness of the Presiding Bishop, and her determination to make those who opposed her pay a price (no matter what the cost to ECUSA itself), changed my thinking. I then spent more than a year trying to find a way to bridge the gulf I perceived, and to reach out to both sides -- before discovering, again to my regret, that there were far more who were willing to shout, or to repeat insensibly what they had heard, than there were those who were willing to listen carefully and to go forward from a point of common understanding. (For those whom I found willing to extend a hand across the divide, I am forever grateful.)

    So I have resigned myself simply to chronicling what is happening, step by desultory step, as ECUSA -- the Church in which I was baptized and grew up -- sinks into oblivion, and drags the Anglican Communion along with it. There is just enough orneriness left in this curmudgeon to keep me on the scene -- pointing out, for those who will read and understand, what is wrong with ECUSA's current leadership and the course they have embarked upon -- until the last lights slip below the horizon.

    In a further post I will spell out even more clearly what I foresee will be the inevitable consequences of these monstrous revisions to the Canons, which go against every grain of substance that ECUSA has ever possessed since its founding.

  3. Unlimited power and authority to Schori. Doesn't it sound like they are making her God, in fact?


    Perhaps I should do that for her. Make her God for a day. Or a week. Or perhaps even, a month or so.

    See how she likes it.

    What do you think?

  4. Mr. Haley,

    I have just finished reading the book Who Killed the Constitution?: The Fate of American Liberty from World War I to George W. Bush by historian Thomas E. Woods, Jr. Based on the evidence presented in that work, the actions of the Presiding Bishop and the Title IV Task Force II seem to parallel rather strongly the sort of aggrandizement of authority that has rendered much of the Constitution a "dead letter" with respect to the authority of Congress vs. that of the President, and of the states of a federal republic vs. that of a nation under a national government.

    I think the Title IV revisions, like the many instances of misinterpretation of the U.S. Constitution, are both, in many ways, illustrations of Lord Acton's observation that "Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely." Both cases are sad, but the evidence against the government in one case and TEC in the other, can only be overcome by ignoring it.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  5. Mr. Haley, Topper isn't alone in his appreciation for your efforts to make sense, or nonsense as may be the case for what is going on in my beloved and former church. I am not a lawyer, so I have to read very carefully, but I think any pew-sitter could understand the legal arguements if they would only take the time. Thank you.

  6. Mr. Haley, Topper isn't the only one who appreciates your efforts to make some sense (or non-sense) of the legal (and illegal) arguements TEC makes in the power grab they are persuing. Corrupted by the secular, they are chasing the absolute corruption. May God help us all.
    Not being a lawyer, I have to read you very carefully, and often repeatedly to understand, but please don't quit explaining it to the rest of us. Thank you.