Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hostilities in South Carolina Postponed for the Nonce

The initial skirmishes in the litigation between Bishop Mark Lawrence's Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and the Episcopal Church (USA) have been postponed to yet another day. ECUSA had been due to respond to the Diocese's complaint for declaratory relief on March 4. But the Diocese recently amended its complaint to add three new plaintiff parishes and one new defendant, the ersatz "Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

An amendment of a complaint automatically gives the defendants another period in which to respond. So ECUSA's (and its remnant group's) responses will now (by agreement, in exchange for ECUSA's stipulating to the amendment) be due on April 4.

Meanwhile, buried in an ENS story about the meeting of the Executive Council recently in Linthicum Heights, Maryland was this tidbit:
In other plenary business Feb. 26, council:  
* authorized a $250,000 line of credit for the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.
Now, this is an interesting number. If the "Episcopal Church in South Carolina" is prepared to concede the legal issues in the Diocese's complaint (chiefly, the rights to the Diocese's name and identity, and the rights of the individual parishes to their own properties), then two hundred and fifty thousand dollars is not necessary for such a purpose. Five thousand dollars (even at the "discounted" rates charged to the Church by the Chancellor's own law firm) would be more than ample with which to concede the merits of the Diocese's lawsuit.

Indeed, $250,000 would pay a great deal of episcopal and clergy salaries as the remnant group establishes its own presence in South Carolina. But it is difficult to imagine that the remnant group went to the Executive Council with such a request, because the amount would be years ahead of its actual needs in supporting a provisional bishop (who almost by definition is only part-time).

It is far more probable that we have, with this grant of a line of credit, a recognition of what the litigation will cost to oppose it, and to oppose it vigorously. And if that is a correct observation, then ECUSA has not shown its colors yet. Instead, everything about ECUSA's agenda in South Carolina will become clear once it files its response to the lawsuit on April 4.

If, as I fully expect, it answers the suit with a cross-claim against Mark Lawrence's Diocese for all of its bank accounts and real and personal property (along the lines of what it has done in San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Fort Worth and Quincy), then we will know that we are dealing with the same old leopard that is unable to change its spots.

What I have not figured out yet is how the remnant group, which is forbidden to use the words "Episcopal Diocese" together with "South Carolina" in its name, will appear in the lawsuit as a bona fide ECUSA diocese -- given that General Convention will not gather again until 2015. Indeed, it seems to me that its standing to assert its status as a "diocese" of ECUSA under South Carolina law would be very much in question, given the prior ruling of the court that Mark Lawrence's group is the only "Episcopal Diocese" in South Carolina.

We enter uncharted waters as this suit unfolds. Given the State court precedents that have already been established, it will not be like any of those that have gone before.

As an Episcopalian, my hope is that the Executive Council, before voting to approve a $250,000 credit line for the remnant group in South Carolina, received fully independent advice from a source other than the Presiding Bishop's personal Chancellor, or his law firm.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Nailing It

"Fathom the hypocrisy of a government that requires every citizen to prove that they are insured ...  but not everyone must prove they are a citizen.

"And now, any of those who refuse, or are unable, to prove they are citizens will receive free insurance, paid for by those who are forced to buy insurance because they are citizens."

-- An unknown but now immortal pundit (not Ben Stein)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sometimes a Picture Is All Words

A picture is worth a thousand words, they say, but what about a picture of words themselves?

Here the words say it all, and the picture is just the authenticating medium.

From the signboard of a Lutheran Church in Ohio (H/T: Ship of Fools):

Monday, February 18, 2013

Putting the Pope into Perspective

If there is one person within or without the Catholic Church who is qualified to place Pope Benedict XVI into a long-term perspective, it is James V. Schall, S.J., professor of political philosophy at Georgetown University. Father Schall has written and edited more than three dozen books and monographs, as well as countless articles (here are links to those published just in Crisis Magazine). Two of my favorites are his book on the paradoxes of G. K. Chesterton, and his book on Benedict's Regensburg Address.

Even with all of Fr. Schall's qualifications, his evaluation of the contributions made by Benedict XVI to our age may still come as a surprise. Here is an excerpt from his article, "On the Mind of the Pope", at The Catholic World Report:
Over the years of his life, Benedict has produced an enormous amount of writings. I suspect his Opera Omnia, when finally published in a German critical edition, will equal or surpass the collected works of Augustine or Aquinas , both of which are enormous. It would take most of an ordinary person’s lifetime just to read the works of Aquinas or Augustine or Benedict, let alone write and understand them. We now have the works that Joseph Ratzinger produced as a philosopher and theologian, together with that which he wrote and spoke as part of his Petrine office. As pope he gave hundreds and hundreds of talks, wrote encyclicals, exhortations, letters, even books....

What is the significance of the work, and of the mind of Joseph Ratzinger? Several commentators inform us that he is a shy man who never succeeded in coming out of the shadows of John Paul II. The two men were friends and in many ways possess very similar minds. Probably the work of both of them should be taken together as a whole. But what I think that Benedict has done, if I might put it this way, is to think through and put in order the basic features of the modern mind in the light of standard Catholic teachings about man, cosmos, and God. Benedict is a Thomist in the sense that he understands and states clearly and fairly that with which he disagrees. He is familiar not merely with classical and medieval thought, but most modern thought. Indeed, he knows personally a good number of the leading lights of the intellectual world in our own time. Anyone who is not aware of the intellectual caliber of Benedict simply reveals his own incompetence or incomprehension.
It boggles the mind to think of Benedict's output equalling or surpassing that of St. Augustine, the most prolific of the Catholic fathers. But what is most significant is the relevance of his vast output to the most pressing issues of today.
In Spe Salvi and in the Regensburg Lecture, in particular, Benedict has explained the modern mind in terms of its deviation from basic Catholic teachings. Almost any modern movement has its root explanation in its seeking ends and purposes that are essentially Christian but by means that reject the theological description and substitute a this-worldly, usually political and evolutionary hypothesis, that relocates the transcendent goods in this world. Once we understand this deeper root of modern thought, we will see that the work of Joseph Ratzinger has been a re-presentation of the classical Catholic views, though now in the light of those ideologies that proposed alternatives to transcendent ends. What is clear is that, once it claims independence of revelation and increasingly of reason, the modern mind will claim the “right” to do something that is evil in order to achieve its inner-worldly goal. Almost all the attacks on family, abortion, same-sex marriage, cloning, and human experimentation come from this origin. They are all presented in the name of benefiting mankind in this world. Any claim that they are not for the real good of actual human beings is rejected on the grounds of “rights” and “betterment” of human life and society. The pope spells out how we have in effect recreated in this world heaven, hell, purgatory, and death.
Here I think Father Schall has put his finger on the Pope's chief accomplishment. In bringing us back to the fundamental values that honor the image of God reflected in us, Benedict equips Christians today with the tools and the perspective needed to reject the modern church's progressive movement, with its emphasis on "rights" stemming from human-grounded "peace and justice." Benedict has shown that the single-minded pursuit of such objectives leads to the isolation of man from God's creation -- literally, to a hell on earth of man's own making:
The fact that what we in effect bring about is something much more terrible than anything we have yet known for man is rejected on the grounds of necessity and idealism. We are about producing a death, life, hell, and purgatory in this world considerably worse than the worst Christian descriptions of the four last things. We do this “work” in the name of science, technology, and human “rights.” Once it becomes clear in thought that such problems are really those at work in our reconstruction of society, we begin to realize that Benedict has in fact spelled out the nature of modern disorder. He has shown intellectually the superiority of the basic Christian understandings of human dignity founded on the faith that guides the plan of salvation that is involved in the Incarnation of Christ Himself.

God be merciful to us, and give us a successor worthy to follow in Benedict's shoes.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Adrift at Sea, without Rudder or Compass (UPDATED)

The Episcopal Church (USA) is a ship adrift on the seas of popular culture, carried hither and yon by the fads, inclinations and currents of the moment. Surrounded by the mists of their own smug self-confidence, those on her bridge have the illusion they are in control and direct her course.

But they have lost their rudder, and snapped the needle from their compass. The former was pitted  through by rust and corrosion that was never cleaned off, and it is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when it ceased wholly to function. Ignorant that it was gone, the officers on the bridge then deliberately snapped off the compass needle, after it continued to show their heading as the opposite of the direction in which (as they thought) they had fixed their course.

Confident of their steady progress, they yet believe that their vessel has become too sluggard in her response to their commands. The Captain and her mates would like to be at the helm of a nimbler bark.

To that end, they have assembled a committee, or as they call it, a Task Force -- to redesign the ship from top to bottom (while she yet floats). They have chosen the Task Force from among the ship's most capable passengers, crew and officers, and they have high expectations of it.

There is just one minor problem.

They have forgotten that the original architects of the ship left the plans for posterity to use, should they ever need to consult them. Those plans have long since disappeared into the bilge which has accumulated in the hold, and scarcely anyone currently aboard is mindful that they ever once existed.

So the Task Force has been charged to change the design of the vessel, and change it radically, without ever consulting any of the original blueprints. They will make their radical sketches and plans with no understanding of why the vessel was designed as she was, with no knowledge of what she began her voyage with, and not caring in the least to find such things out.

And there is an even bigger problem; indeed, it is the major problem.

For they have forgotten their ship's destination, and Who it was who promised to guide them there.

Indeed, few of the ship's current crew like to pronounce His name. Neither the Captain nor the First Mate could bring themselves to do so, in their opening remarks to the Task Force.

Instead, the Captain spoke of being members of His body -- that is to say, of being in the Church. But she could not be very clear about what was the object of being living members of the Body of Christ:
I believe our goal is the Kingdom of God, shalom, the beloved community, call it what you will —
Yes, call it what you will: your will, and not God's will, determines what shall be done. The task is all up to you, or rather, to us, to do it all as we deem fit and just:
... it means seeing this work through the lens of ensuring justice for all [i.e., here on earth now, rather than as the Father decrees, in heaven]. That involves addressing poverty and care of the earth, so that all have full and adequate access to food, the basic stuff of life, education, employment, dignity, access to just economic systems.
This message confounds Jesus' commandments to us here on earth (to feed the hungry, care for the sick, clothe the naked and visit those in prison, etc.) with His omniscient perspective over all who do and do not obey those commandments. That is to say, we should not do all those things so that we may bring about justice on earth; we should do them regardless of what our acts may accomplish here, and without anticipation of recognition or reward for what we have done, either on earth or in heaven.

We are to do those things to honor and reflect our Lord Jesus Christ,  and not to achieve any earthly, mortal or political goal such as "justice." It is solely for God, not man, to say what is just.

As for the First Mate's remarks to the Task Force, she likewise voiced her confidence that the Holy Spirit would show it what needed to be done. She made much of the fact that this re-design would spell the end for the "institutional church," and form at the same time the beginning of a new church that would somehow involve the laity, especially the younger laity, in its mission. Once again, however, the Task Force heard from the bridge that it was their responsibility to make this happen, even though the starting point was wholly undefined, other than as "the end" of what we have now. Not to worry, she said:
What it lacks in specificity it makes up for in faithfulness.
This assurance of the lack of any specificity to what is to be the Task Force's chief job is precisely what is so wrong about how the current leadership of ECUSA has handed them their task. For the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Congress had spelled out their task quite specifically: to revise the existing Articles of Confederation. Congress did not tell them to make an end of those Articles, and to start over on a blank slate. When the Convention nevertheless came to the conclusion that they would have to do just that, it was only after the most solemn and serious attempts at amendment all came to naught. Even so, they still based their new design on the foundations of the old, and supplied only that which the old design wanted, chiefly through a clear separation of powers, constrained by checks and balances.

Likewise, the conference that drafted the treaty to establish the United Nations at San Francisco in 1945 had the failed model of the League of Nations ever before them as they devised the new structure. But for this new Task Force, the six original principles which governed the formation of PECUSA between 1785 and 1789 are not even on the table, let alone in the contemplation of anyone currently in charge of, or participating in, the process.

Let me here repeat those six guiding principles verbatim, for they remain as timeless today as when they were first codified, based on an influential pamphlet published by the Rev. Dr. William White of Pennsylvania in 1782:
I. That the Episcopal Church in these States is and ought to be independent of all foreign Authority, ecclesiastical or civil.

II. That it hath and ought to have, in common with all other religious Societies, full and exclusive Powers to regulate the Concerns of its own Communion.

III. That the Doctrines of the Gospel be maintained as now professed by the Church of England; and Uniformity of Worship be continued, as near as may be, to the Liturgy of the said Church.

IV. That the Succession of the Ministry be agreeably to the Usage which requireth the three Orders of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons ; that the Rights and Powers of the same respectively be ascertained, and that they be exercised according to reasonable Laws, to be duly made.

V. That to make Canons or Laws, there be no other Authority than that of a Representative Body of the Clergy and Laity conjointly.

VI. That no Powers be delegated to a general ecclesiastical Government, except such as cannot conveniently be exercised by the Clergy and Vestries in their respective Congregations.
I doubt whether any parts of Nos. I, III, IV and V could be changed and have the resulting entity still be worthy of the name "The Episcopal Church in the United States of America." It is how the framers work out the balance between Nos. II and VI that defines what could be called the "top-heaviness" of the institution.

And as over two hundred years of history have shown, the inevitable tendency is for an episcopal-led body to grow more and more top-heavy over time.

Dr. White, in the same work where he set out the basis for the six principles quoted above, had warned against exactly such a phenomenon, which can tend only towards episcopal tyranny:
Wherever these churches have been erected [in the Colonies], the ecclesiastical government of the church of England has been adhered to; they have depended on the English bishops for ordination of their clergy, and on no occasion expressed a dissatisfaction with Episcopacy. This, considering the liberty they enjoyed in common with others, of forming their churches on whatever plan they liked best, is a presumptive proof of their preferring the Episcopal government . . . .
On the other hand there cannot be produced an instance of laymen in America, unless in the very infancy of the settlements, soliciting the introduction of a bishop; it was probably by a great majority of them thought an hazardous experiment. How far the prerogative of the king as head of the church might be construed to extend over the colonies, whether a bishop would bring with him that part of the law which respects ecclesiastical matters, and whether the civil powers vested in bishops in England would accompany that order to America, were questions which for aught they knew would include principles and produce consequences, dangerous and destructive to their civil rights.

From these two facts it may fairly be inferred, that the Episcopalians on this continent will wish to institute among themselves an Episcopal government, as soon as it shall appear practicable, and that this government will not be attended with the danger of tyranny, either temporal or spiritual.
(Bold emphasis added.) Today we have reached the point of both temporal and spiritual tyranny: the Church exercises and claims total control over every parish's real and personal property, and the assembled Bishops ensure that no one who will not stomach their revisions to doctrine and worship shall remain for long among their number.

And now that same spiritual and temporal tyranny has decided to revise itself, out of whole cloth, with no guiding principles whatsoever. The clergy are dominating the process; the laity who participate will be invited to share in the power once they agree to concentrate it. The end result can only be a Church oligarchy -- rule of the many by the few.

To which the guidance of "the Holy Spirit" will be but a fillip, a form of window dressing to justify the end reached by tyrannical means. After all, unlike Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit left behind no spoken and timeless words for the guidance of His Church. (Some in ECUSA's current leadership think of the Holy Spirit as a "she", anyway, and hence much more conducive to their need for authentication.)

The last fight for the independence of dioceses and their parishes will occur in the General Conventions to take place between 2015 and 2021. If that fight is lost, the Episcopal Church as it was once bravely founded will be a relic of things past.

[UPDATE 02/18/2013: Well, they have themselves and acronym ("TREC" - for "Task Force for Re-Imagining The Episcopal Church") and an opening statement, which is 100% true to form:
We have started the process of developing an engagement strategy that will enable us to live into our commitment to transparency while preserving the sanctity of holy conversation....
This is Episcospeak at the pinnacle of its ability to say nothing in many words. They have started the "process" of developing (whoops, we're not there yet) an engagement strategy to live into their "commitment to transparency" -- why, of course they have. Translation:
At some point we will have to be open about what we are doing. But we are not there yet, because our talk together at this stage is still "holy."

We hope eventually to have a strategy to dip our toes into the water. But first we have to develop such a strategy, and before we can do that, we have to undertake a process for developing such a strategy.

As of today, we may confidently state that we have contemplated the beginnings of that process.
I cannot bear to quote, let alone to translate, the rest. You will have to get through it on your own.

I shall have to begin referring to their new acronym as "T-REC" (short for "Train Wreck").]

Friday, February 8, 2013

Chesterton on How Jesus Regarded Children

All his life, G. K. Chesterton showed a love for children and the joys of childhood. Although he and his wife Frances were unable to have any of their own, they regularly entertained neighbors' and friends' children. Frances wrote poems and plays (especially Christmas plays) for them to read and to perform, which are still delightful today. G.K. wrote poems and made drawings of fantastical creatures for them, and loved to get down on his knees and play with them, as well. (One enthusiastic child startled his parents afterward with this report: "You should have been there to see Mister C. catch buns in his mouth!")

The foregoing serves as background and an introduction to a remarkable observation which G. K. Chesterton makes about Jesus' attitude towards children, as notably described in each of the three synoptic Gospels, for instance, in Mark chapter 10:
10:13 Now people were bringing little children to him for him to touch, but the disciples scolded those who brought them. 10:14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me and do not try to stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 10:15 I tell you the truth, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” 10:16 After he took the children in his arms, he placed his hands on them and blessed them.
(See also Mt 19:13-15 and Lk 18:15-17.)

Chesterton, like no earlier commentator of whom I am aware, points out just how remarkable these sentiments were for Jesus' time and place. No one in the first century would have understood, or even have been capable of imagining, how children could possibly be superior to adults -- especially in matters of religion. In chapter 3 of Part II of The Everlasting Man, Chesterton writes: 
The exaltation of childhood is something which we do really understand; but it was by no means a thing that was then in that sense understood. If we wanted an example of the originality of the Gospels we could hardly take a stronger or more startling one. Nearly two thousand years afterwards we happen to find ourselves in a mood that does really feel the mystical charm of the child; we express it in romances and regrets about childhood, in Peter Pan or The Child's Garden of Verses. And we can say of the words of Christ with so angry an anti-Christian as Swinburne:--
'No sign that ever was given / To faithful or faithless eyes  

Showed ever beyond clouds riven / So clear a paradise.

Earth's creeds may be seventy times seven / And blood have defiled each creed,

But if such be the kingdom of heaven / It must be heaven indeed.'
But that paradise was not clear until Christianity had gradually cleared it. The pagan world, as such, would not have understood any such thing as a serious suggestion that a child is higher or holier than a man. It would have seemed like the suggestion that a tadpole is higher or holier than a frog. To the merely rationalistic mind, it would sound like saying that a bud must be more beautiful than a flower or that an unripe apple must be better than a ripe one. In other words, this modern feeling is an entirely mystical feeling. It is quite as mystical as the cult of virginity; in fact it is the cult of virginity. But pagan antiquity had much more idea of the holiness of the virgin than of the holiness of the child. For various reasons we have come nowadays to venerate children, perhaps partly because we envy children for still doing what men used to do; such as play simple games and enjoy fairy-tales. Over and above this, however, there is a great deal of real and subtle psychology in our appreciation of childhood; but if we turn it into a modern discovery, we must once more admit that the historical Jesus of Nazareth had already discovered it two thousand years too soon. There was certainly nothing in the world around him to help him to the discovery. Here Christ was indeed human; but more human than a human being was then likely to be. Peter Pan does not belong to the world of Pan but the world of Peter.
This is just one of the ways, Chesterton notes, in which Jesus spoke for all times, and not just as a man of his own time and place. And for just such a reason, he concludes, we may know that Jesus was (and is) "the way, the truth, and the life."

Monday, February 4, 2013

So, Let Me Get This Straight ...

There is no budget currently before Congress, because for the fourth time in five years, and the third year in a row, the Administration of Barack Hussein Obama has failed to send one to Congress by the February 1 statutory deadline.

Missing four out of five? How does that stack up? Even Ronald Reagan missed the deadline only one time out of eight. So it is obvious we have a new low bar being set here. But does anyone in Washington care???

Not by all the evidence: there has been nary a press conference held by either the Republicans or the Democrats in Congress over this latest snub by the Obama Administration.

According to the Constitution, all measures to raise revenues must "originate" in the House of Representatives. But budgets are not measures to "raise revenues", so they may be introduced in either the House or the Senate.

The trouble is, the Senate has failed to pass any budget presented to it -- whether by the Administration, the House, or by individual Senators -- ever since 2009. Composed of Democrats the entire time, the Senate Majority clearly has zero interest in limiting government spending through any kind of budget.

So our Chief Executive doesn't care about having a budget, and our Senate majority Democrats don't care about having a budget. Budgets impose limits, which they instinctively avoid. They are happy to continue to spend and spend without limits, as long as they can muscle the House Republicans to approve their bills on pain of embarrassment and universal condemnation for being spoilsports.

And those are powerful incentives -- because, as we have seen, the House continually knuckles under to demands to (a) pass "continuing resolutions," which allow the government to keep going at the present (insolvent) levels without a budget; (b) raise the debt ceiling, to enable the government to borrow more and more as tax revenues decline in a tanking economy; and (c) to add to the deficit through endless "pork" provisions tacked on to any emergency or other necessity measure which simply must pass to avert calamity, such as to assist recovery from Hurricane Katrina, or Hurricane Sandy.

How long will Americans let these charades continue? Apparently as long as there is a punchbowl for them to imbibe from -- as witness their decision to re-elect the only President ever to fail to submit a budget three times out of four in his first four years, and who promptly broke his oath of office just eleven days after swearing to it.

Given those facts, what is a responsible Republican member of the House (or Senate) to do?

Well, I am glad you asked that question. Because there is only one response that makes sense, and at the same time fulfills that member's sworn duty to uphold the Constitution -- which, I remind you, requires that bills to raise revenues  originate in the (Republican-controlled) House.

The response is simplicity itself, and completely impervious to any kind of media attack. Each Republican member of the House should join in a simple House Resolution: there will be no more bills originating in the House to raise revenues, and there will be no more signing on to other bills to continue the status quo, until there is a budget from the Senate and the President (i.e., both must agree on a common budget) for the House to consider.

The days of the House passing its own budget, unless there is first a proposal before it at least from the President, are over. There is no point in bidding against oneself when all the other parties are sitting back and waiting for you to make the first offer, only then to say: "That's not enough. We won't make any counteroffer until you come back with more."

Let the media try to storm and rage about "partisan" and "uncooperative" Republicans. The answer is simply this:

"We are not being partisan, we are fulfilling our sworn duties to preserve and protect the Constitution. Without any budget, our colleagues on the Hill and in the White House are free to do without the Constitution, and that is not what they each swore to do when they assumed their offices.

"So let our Democratic colleagues, and let President Obama, demonstrate that they meant what they said when they took their oaths of office: let them give us a budget that enables us to live within our means, under the Constitution."

Throwing it back on their oaths puts the Democrats in an impossible quandary. Either they have to show how five years of dereliction meet the requirements of their oaths of office, or else they have to claim that the Constitution does not require them to produce a budget and stay within the government's means. (Sure, and the Founders set up a government that had no restraints on its ability to spend money -- tell it to the judge, on your way to prison.)

If Republicans will simply stick to the principles behind their oaths of office -- and hold the President and all other members of Congress to the same standard -- they will have an unassailable platform.

Unless we have reached the point where a majority wants to jettison the Constitution, in favor of voting themselves ever and ever more benefits.

In which case, America: you have consigned yourself, as Ronald Reagan once said of Communism, to "the dustbin of history."

And in which case, America, be sure to do your level best to like it there -- among all the offal, ordure and scrabbling scavengers.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Fisking an SC Blogger Who Distorts the Facts and the Law [UPDATED: Now AP Is Doing It, Too!]

All right -- normally I do not engage laypersons who are ignorant of the law, but in this case (because so many people are being misled), I shall make an exception to that policy. What this South Carolina (fellow) Episcopalian has posted on his blog is simply beyond the pale, and since he has chosen to make his lucubrations public, I shall respond to him in the same fashion. (In other words, there is no need, in this case, to observe the niceties of Matthew18:15-17.)

And please do not mistake my intent here, which is solely to rebuke someone who so distorts the law to others. I honor the law, and have served it for the better part of my adult lifetime. I continue to honor it even when it makes what I think is a wrong decision, or strays from the correct path dictated by hundreds of years of precedent. Criticism of such errors is completely valid -- and occurs here frequently. But what must not go unremarked, or unopposed, is an intentional and willful dragging down of the law, by misrepresenting and denigrating its decisions, just because it happens to have called someone on the carpet for playing charades.

And that is the specimen we have before us. No link shall be provided to the Episcopal blogger's Website, in order to prevent his audience from being even bigger -- you will read here his entire post, and so need not go there yourself to read the same ignorant words again.

This particularly ill-informed Episcopalian writes, to those who do visit his Website, as follows (his words are in black, and my fisks of what he writes are hereafter in blue):

'Diocese of Diane' Hearing Postponed 

Right off the bat, our Episcopal co-blogger discloses his bias (and don't get me wrong; biases are fine -- we all have them, your Curmudgeon included). But to use that title shows an extreme bias, which borders on the like of "My mind is made up -- don't try to confuse me with the facts." The "Diane" of his headline is the Hon. Diane Goodstein, Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of South Carolina in Dorchester County. 

A week ago Wednesday (January 23), she issued a Temporary Restraining Order ("TRO") which stopped in its tracks the ongoing identity theft which up until then was being committed (and accompanied by cheers from our co-blogger and his comrades-in-arms) by the self-appointed "Steering Committee" of the continuing Episcopalians in South Carolina. They were acting under the guidance of the Presiding Bishop's hired attorney (and former Chancellor of the Diocese whose identity they were misappropriating), Mr. Thomas Tisdale, Esq. 

Judge Goodstein's temporary restraining order prevented Mr. Tisdale and his cohorts from usurping the name of the legitimate Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, founded in 1785 and led by the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence (formerly of the Episcopal Church (USA), and now -- still regarded by everyone but ECUSA as an Anglican bishop -- of the Anglican Communion at large). The order threw a monkey wrench into Mr. Tisdale's and his friends' plans to hold a convention in which they could proclaim themselves as the genuine "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina", and our co-blogger was not happy with it. 

So now, let us parse his extremely biased headline in detail. "Diocese of Diane" is a snide attempt to insinuate that by her order, the Hon. Judge Goodstein forced the remnant group into a mold it does not like, and recognized Bishop Lawrence's Diocese as having certain legal rights, when she should have denied it any legitimacy altogether. What she in fact did, however, was to prohibit our co-blogger's group from arrogating to themselves the names and legal identity of Bishop Lawrence's Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. They tried to usurp the rights to those registered trademarks under South Carolina law by simply and brazenly using them in public and on the World-Wide Web without permission.

In plain terms, the remnant Episcopalians tried to assume an identity that was not theirs to take. They attempted their coup without going to court first to assert their claims; they simply began using the names and the diocesan seal, both in their communications to clergy in South Carolina, and on the Web. So Judge Goodstein's order put a stop to that theft, and our co-blogger does not like her having  done that. He lamely tries to strike back at her by insinuating that the true and lawful Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina (in existence since 1785, and still led by Bishop Mark Lawrence, despite what he or ECUSA thinks) has become the honorable Judge's own protectorate, aka "the Diocese of Diane."

Notice the deep disconnect here: the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina has existed continuously as an entity in South Carolina since 1785 -- before ECUSA itself ever came into being. Indeed, it was with the consent of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina that ECUSA itself did come into being, in 1789. And yet our fellow Episcopalian blogger, who ought to know his Church's history, tries to make it appear as though Bishop Lawrence's Diocese is the arbitrary invention of a South Carolina Circuit Court Judge just last Wednesday, January 23. Do you begin to see what I mean by characterizing such self-induced myopia as an extreme bias?  

Then we have the rest of the headline: "Hearing Postponed." This suggests that the hearing on the issuance of the preliminary injunction (which replaces the initial TRO until there has been a trial and a final judgment) has been adjourned to some certain date in the future. But that implication is simply not true. Once again, our co-blogger has tried to tilt the table, and assert as fact that which is not fact. There is no "postponed" date for the hearing; as we shall see below, the injunction will remain in effect until there is a final judgment, which could be (theoretically, if ECUSA wants to drag things out) years away. Judge Goodstein has now signed (with the consent of Mr. Tisdale -- see below) a preliminary injunction (confusingly called a "temporary injunction" in the courts of South Carolina) which will remain in effect until either she modifies it for cause shown, or until there is a final judgment in the case.

With that legal background, you are now in a good position to appreciate the extent of the Episcopal blogger's further misstatements and false claims. He next asserts:   

Both sides agree to a temporary extension of Judge Goodstein's controversial restraining order 

Well, no -- not in fact. There was agreement between both sides, but it was not to any "temporary extension" of the TRO, which by statute cannot last for more than ten days. That, indeed, is what Mr. Tisdale first proposed to the court, but Alan Runyan (Bishop Lawrence's attorney) objected that South Carolina law allowed no such extension of a TRO, and that the only way to keep a restraining order in force was to enter a preliminary (called "temporary" in South Carolina) injunction pending the trial of the case. And eventually, by signing just such an injunction, Mr. Tisdale conceded that Mr. Runyan was correct. By law, again, it will  remain in effect until the Judge who issued it agrees to modify it, or dissolve it, for good cause shown. 

And if it is not so modified or dissolved before the trial in the underlying case occurs, then it maintains the status quo ante until the case can be tried. By that, I mean that it keeps the parties in the same position they were before the dispute between them arose -- it is designed to prevent one of the parties from unilaterally moving the goalposts before the game can be played (i.e., before the case can be tried).  At the end of the trial, the court will decide either to make preliminary injunction permanent, or else to dissolve it once and for all.

So to imply that there is some future date certain when the parties and the Judge have agreed to revisit the injunction is simply false on its face. And to characterize the order as "controversial" is again, an extreme overreach -- but see more on that point below. Our co-blogger's opinionated piece continues, with my highlights of his distortions shown in red: 
ST. GEORGE - A full hearing on a restraining order issued last week by a controversial Dorchester County Judge has been postponed by mutual agreement between the Episcopal Church and the renagade group headed by ex-bishop Mark Lawrence. No reason was given
As you can see from my highlighting, this report demonstrates an unbelievable extreme of bias. Because she issued the TRO as requested, Judge Goodstein is suddenly now "controversial." The "group" that obtained the order is not called a "Diocese"; and more to the point, it is a "renagade" [sic - the word is spelled renegade] group. It is headed by an "ex-bishop" -- a statement which has truth value only within the limited (but, hey -- "inclusive") confines of ECUSA, and not at all within the wider Anglican Communion, the majority of whose provinces treat ECUSA as the "renegade," and regard those whom ECUSA evicts as faithful soldiers for Christ, whose eviction is a badge of merit.

Next, there was no "postponement," in the sense of agreeing upon a date on which to take up the injunction again. Instead, a South Carolina Episcopalian, wishing to inform himself / herself of the facts, would never learn from this extremely biased account that the attorney for the Episcopal Church (USA) -- the defendant in the pending lawsuit -- voluntarily and freely consented to the issuance of the preliminary injunction, which remains good until modified, or merged into a permanent injunction following trial. 

"No reason was given" -- hah! The reason was not given because there was no "postponement" to explain.  The law required that the TRO be either replaced with a preliminary injunction, or dissolved after ten days.  For once, the attorneys cooperated and jointly agreed to the first alternative. The reason for that agreement was, to speak in plain terms which our co-blogger simply cannot stand to hear, that ECUSA's attorney Mr. Tisdale could read the handwriting on the wall: he knew that his side would be unable to prevent the Judge from transforming the TRO into a preliminary injunction against his clients on February 1, regardless of what he said in opposition. So to forestall that open defeat, he consented to the issuance of the injunction in advance, without the necessity of any hearing.

Now: do you begin to see just how extremely biased this blogger's report of the proceedings is? If not yet, by some happenstance of (mis)communication, then please read on. 
S.C. Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein had scheduled the hearing for tomorrow in Columbia, but both parties agreed to an indefinite delay. A new date has not been set for the hearing, but either party may request it at any time. 
Not exactly: as we have noted above, ECUSA's attorney Mr. Tisdale agreed not to oppose the issuance of a preliminary injunction at the hearing scheduled for February 1 in Columbia (because that is where Judge Goodstein would be presiding on that date). There could have been no agreement to "postpone" the decision on a preliminary injunction "to an indefinite date", because as I explained above, that is not the way injunctions work. The TRO was going to expire by law on February 1, and unless it was replaced by a preliminary/temporary injunction, the remnant Episcopalians would have been free to resume their charades. 

So there was no "postponement" of any kind: the injunction went into effect a day earlier than scheduled, thanks to Mr. Tisdale's cooperation. 
Goodstein issued the order ten days ago at the request of the embittered Lawrence and his breakaway "diocese" as way of disrupting last Saturday's election of his successor, and embarrassing the Presiding Bishop who participated in the weekend of celebration in Charleston. 
Oh, dear -- oh dear. Not biased in the slightest, are we? Bishop Lawrence went to court to prevent the blatant theft of his Diocese's identity, by those who were (without any court order in their favor) simply acting as though they had every right to use the Diocese's corporate seal and name. And that makes him "embittered"? From the blogger's tone, rather, it would seem that the pot is trying to call the kettle black.

"Breakaway" is one of those loaded adjectives that could just as easily be turned upon its user. Yes, Bishop Lawrence's Diocese "broke away" from the Episcopal Church (USA), but only after the latter body had already broken away from the faith once delivered to the saints. Then ECUSA tried illegally to "break away" Bishop Lawrence from the Diocese that elected him and still honors him as their faithful Shepherd.

And ... "disrupt"? Please. Who is it that took upon herself to proclaim that Bishop Lawrence had "voluntarily renounced his orders" in the Church in which he became a bishop, without any written letter to her to that effect? And thereafter, who is it that encouraged her agents to engage in overt theft of the identity of Bishop Lawrence's Diocese? Talk about disrupting . . . again, this is one Episcopalian's projection of what the Episcopal Church (USA) tried to do to +Mark Lawrence and his Diocese first. And to note that fact says everything needed to be said about just who "embarrassed" whom.
Lawrence and his followers convinced Goodstein that they own the names "Diocese of South Carolina," "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, and "Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc," and its corporate seal even though they claim they are no longer in the Episcopal Church. 
Memo to a blogger ignorant of the etymology of "Episcopal": the word means "of or pertaining to a bishop", and not "of or pertaining solely to a certain Protestant church founded in the United States in 1789." At least half a dozen other churches in the Anglican Communion describe themselves as an "Episcopal" (i.e., "bishop-led) church; ECUSA has (and could never have) a monopoly on the adjective it chooses to describe itself. 

And on this very point our Episcopal co-blogger betrays his profound ignorance of current reality. He simply assumes as a given that the Episcopal Church (USA) is the only "episcopal" and "Anglican-Communion-sanctioned" entity in the United States. Well, guess again: by her increasingly divisive and arbitrary actions, the Presiding Bishop has alienated more and more of the members of the Anglican Communion, to the point where only a minority of Anglicans continues to acknowledge her position in the Communion. 

To the great majority of the Anglican Communion, the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA is an Anglican heretic -- and not only that, but because of her lofty title, she is called an arch-heretic. Those Episcopalians who want to continue to delude themselves that they are led by a bishop whom the worldwide Anglican Communion acknowledges are in denial, or else they just do not care. For them, a bishop is someone whom they, and they alone, select -- regardless of what the rest of the Anglican Communion may think of their choice (witness their continued backing of V. Gene Robinson, despite the Archbishop of Canterbury's overt refusal to invite or allow him to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference). Such delusion is a form of megalomania -- the idea that you are far more important to the rest of the world than you really are.

Our totally biased blogger continues with still more outright falsehoods:
Lawrence renounced his ministry in the Episcopal Church and, by association, the worldwide Anglican Communion last October. 
Bishop Lawrence never "renounced his ministry" in the Episcopal Church or elsewhere -- if you assert that as a fact, then you are delusional, and nearly as divorced from reality as is our Presiding Bishop. And if you conclude that "by association" Bishop Jefferts Schori's uncanonical and illegal pronouncement of Bishop Lawrence's "voluntary renunciation" had the same effect on Bishop Lawrence's status in the Anglican Communion, then you are not just delusional, but are completely as divorced from reality as is our Presiding Bishop. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the Episcopal Church (USA) positively deserves to have you in its congregation, just as it deserves our current Presiding Bishop.

Such profound detachment from reality, however, does not deter our Episcopalian co-blogger, who stalwartly soldiers on:
However, he still believes himself to be an Episcopal Bishop in an Episcopal Diocese, just not one in the Episcopal Church. No ecclesiastical (church) or judicial authority (court) in the world has bought into this fantasy except Goodstein, who issued the restraining order without even allowing the Episcopal Church to be heard on the matter.
Fortunately for our patience, we come to the end of these delusional ravings -- but not before our Episcopal co-blogger goes off the deep end in asserting that which is simply untrue (i.e., false).

1. +Lawrence does not just believe he is an Episcopal Bishop in an Episcopal Diocese -- he does not have to indulge in belief on that score, because he is the diocesan bishop of the Episcopal (i.e., bishop-led, and not +Jefferts-Schori-led) Diocese of South Carolina. If that were not a true fact, Judge Goodstein never could have issued her TRO at +Lawrence's request.

2. The vast majority of Anglican Communion members, acting through their elected primates and representatives, have indeed recognized Bishop Lawrence as a continuing bishop in the Anglican Communion. Our ignorant blogger's claim to the contrary is simply an invented claim, about whose truth he simply does not care.

3. It was not Judge Goodstein who decided "not to hear the Episcopal Church" on the TRO. Instead, it was the Episcopal Church (USA) who decided that it would not oppose the preliminary injunction, which is a duplicate of the TRO. The Episcopal Church (USA) was not represented at the hearing on the TRO for the simple reason that its attorneys had not yet entered an appearance in the case.

It is elementary, in civil lawsuits (such as we have here), that parties are represented only through attorneys, and that no such attorney or party is entitled to be heard by the court on a pending matter unless and until that party has appeared before the court and thereby submitted itself to the court's jurisdiction.

Emergency orders, such as TROs, are entered only after the court has been shown that the situation (the status quo ante) will change drastically if the TRO is not issued. In this case the remnant diocese was threatening to meet and adopt the names and corporate seal of Bishop Lawrence's diocese. Once the remnant group met in convention and adopted the name of Bishop Lawrence's diocese, the status quo ante would have unilaterally been altered, before the lawsuit could be adjudicated. And that is precisely why the Court issued its preliminary injunction -- to keep the status quo in effect through the trial phase of the case.

At this particular point, when ECUSA and its remnant have decided not to oppose the issuance of a preliminary ("temporary") injunction that duplicates the TRO, I see no basis for regarding the lawsuit brought by Bishop Lawrence and his diocese as either futile, or unsound. The object of the lawsuit is to gain a judicially enforceable declaration that the Diocese owns the rights to the marks which it registered earlier -- being the various versions of its name, and its corporate seal.

What ECUSA's capitulation does is immediately establish the following "facts on the ground" (namely, facts which ECUSA can no longer deny, given its consent to the injunction):

A. There is a legally cognizable "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina," whose legal existence began (under South Carolina law) in 1785. 

B. The remnant Episcopalian group may not either assume its name, or claim to be the same religious non-profit corporation under South Carolina law (i.e., assume its identity).

C. Thus, in South Carolina again, as occurred during the Civil War, a Diocese has actually separated itself in law from the Episcopal Church (USA) -- it exists, under its own State's laws, wholly separate and apart from the Church of which it formerly was a member.

D. The remnant group will thus be (under South Carolina law) a brand-new religious entity, whose existence (again, under South Carolina law) was not a legal reality until it met and organized itself on January 26, 2013.

These "facts on the ground" are fatal to the mantra so often recited by our Presiding Bishop and those who blindly follow her: "People may leave The Episcopal Church, but parishes and dioceses may not." South Carolina is living proof of the fact that Dioceses and their associated parishes may indeed, as is their constitutional right under the First Amendment, leave that oppressive (but "all-inclusive"!) organization. Those in the Church who would celebrate its "inclusivity" should examine more closely how it treats the parishes and dioceses who have dared to disagree with its reigning theology and false doctrine. 

There has been a bit of brouhaha over the name which the remnant Episcopalians are entitled to adopt under South Carolina law (as our Episcopal co-blogger virtually shouts out in a red banner on his home page). They may not, under the court's injunction, call themselves "the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina," and they have instead chosen to call themselves "The Episcopal Church in South Carolina." 

That title, however, does not include the magic word "Diocese." Thus I submit the name cannot remain for long, because only a diocese can (by its Constitution and Canons) be a member of ECUSA. Watch, therefore, what will unfold in the months to come. There will be another name chosen for the remnant entity -- whether "the Episcopal Diocese of Greater Charleston," or "the Newest Diocese in South Carolina," or some similar name, I do not pretend to know. All I can state with certainty is that the name will not be "the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina," "the Diocese of South Carolina," or "the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina."

And despite what South Carolina Episcopalians may read (or hope), as represented by our ill-informed co-blogger, nothing the Presiding Bishop or ECUSA may do at this juncture can rescue them from the realities stated in paragraphs A. through D. immediately above. They had best come to terms with their existence as an Episcopal minority in the State, and begin to act accordingly. They gain nothing by pretending to be otherwise.

[UPDATE 02/01/2012: And now we have even the Associated Press putting out false information about Judge Goodstein's order: its piece erroneously claims that she issued a permanent injunction -- and that is its headline, too.

Good grief -- can no one read English? Judge Goodstein's order, published and widely available on the Web, states right on its cover page: "TEMPORARY INJUNCTION".  "Temporary" is the exact opposite of "permanent." 

Please pray for all the Episcopalians in South Carolina -- for those who have remained with Bishop Lawrence, and for those who are casting their lot with Bishop vonRosenberg. There is so much misinformation swirling around them all that they will need God's help in the coming weeks to sort out the truth from the fiction.]