Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Representing Jesus at GC 2009

I have briefly commented in the past about the peculiar mental fog that besets the leadership of the House of Deputies in the Episcopal Church. For a group of people that assembles together for just two weeks out of every 156, they can do remarkable damage. (Of course, they need the House of Bishops to cooperate. But that House has been enshrouded in fog ever since it failed to deal with Bishop Pike, and is now haunted by his ghost.)

The problem in a nutshell is this: the House of Deputies does not see itself as a representative body. Instead, it prides itself in being a group of up to 880 people who meet for two weeks every three years and are guided solely by the Holy Spirit when doing so. Listen to their current President, Ms. Bonnie Anderson, D.D. (I have added the bold in each case, for emphasis):
“In the Episcopal Church the belief that God speaks uniquely through bishops, laity, priests and deacons, enables our participatory structure and allows a fullness of revelation and insight that must not be lost in this important time of discernment . . . . [T]he joint work of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops is the highest institutional expression of this belief.” ---April 2008 letter to the Deputies
"The highest institutional expression", you say? Now what was your title again, Ms. Anderson?

Next, here is her official statement on the Primates' Communiqué from Dar-es-Salaam:

As I read the Communiqué from the Primates' Meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I am deeply troubled by its implications for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.
. . .

The polity of the Episcopal Church is one of shared decision making among the laity, priests and deacons and bishops. The House of Bishops does not make binding, final decisions about the governance of the Church. Decisions like those requested by the Primates must be carefully considered and ultimately decided by the whole Church, all orders of ministry, together.
. . .

Our baptismal promise to seek and serve Christ in all people must be very carefully considered when we are being asked as Episcopalians to exclude some of our members from answering the Holy Spirit's call to use their God-given gifts to lead faithful lives of ministry. Our promise to strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of all people binds us together. The Episcopal Church has declared repeatedly that our understanding of the Baptismal Covenant requires that we treat all persons equally regardless of their race, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, disabilities, age, color, ethnic origin, or national origin.
. . .

As president of the 800-plus member House of Deputies, it is my duty to ensure that the voice of the clergy and the laity of our Church will be heard as the Church discusses and debates the Primates' requests and that that process will not be pre-empted by the House of Bishops or any other group. . . .

In recent times . . . we have spent too much of our time, talent and treasure debating if we ought to deny some people a place at the table to which Jesus calls us all. Instead, we must listen to each other – really listen and not just read reports – so that we can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit moving through all of us and calling us to be more faithful.
And on the official Website of the House of Deputies, there is a page entitled "Role of a Deputy", from which this illuminating excerpt is taken:
The nature of the events that took place in America between 1782 and 1789, and the use and meaning of the word “deputy” help us to understand our role as deputies today. We are elected to General Convention by our own diocese. As deputies, we know our diocese, and the people of the diocese know us. We are not elected simply to represent the views of our diocese or any particular constituency. Deputies are extraordinary representatives who, “ideally. . . should reflect the will of the whole Church, act for the whole Church, and speak to the whole Church.”

We are deputies because we are trusted by our diocese and by the deputies from other dioceses to be informed and to prepare ourselves through study and prayer prior to General Convention. While at General Convention, we are charged to listen to other deputies, bishops and guests; to share our own thoughts and ideas; and to attend and vote at all legislative sessions. We are trusted to cast our votes informed by prayer, factual information, and the workings of the Holy Spirit. . . .
"The nature of the events that took place in America between 1782 to 1789 . . .". Now just what was the "nature of [those] events"? Let's look at the paragraphs which precede the quote just given:
To understand the role of the deputy in the General Convention, it is helpful to look back at the history of how that role and its title evolved. The first Episcopal Church convention was in 1785. The Journal reads: “Clerical and Lay Deputies from several states assembled. . . . ” . . .

Not surprisingly, the earliest Diocesan conventions adopted existing legislative models. The Episcopal Church in America was not immune to revolutionary ideas of the English reformation, including representative governance in church affairs, and these ideas prevailed in the early Episcopal church councils. Representatives to church councils were deputized to act fully and freely on behalf of what they thought to be the best interests of the church while they deliberated in the confines of council.
I have added the bold again for emphasis, because this statement stands history on its head. Anyone who has taken the trouble to read my earlier posts about how the Episcopal Church (USA) got started, or---even better---who has studied the correspondence and resolutions that preceded the first conventions in 1785-1786, will know that this assertion is simply not true. To take just a few contemporary examples by way of refutation, let us begin with this letter from the Rev. David Griffith of Virginia written July 26, 1784 to the Rev. Dr. William White of Pennsylvania, who had issued a call to the Church in each State to send delegates to a national convention (it appears on p. 46 of the volume linked earlier, which may be downloaded in a number of formats):
Dear Sir,

Your different letters, to the Convention at Richmond and to myself, on the subject of a general meeting of the Episcopal Clergy at New York, were all received, but not time enough to be laid before Convention, which sat only three days. The Episcopal Church in Virginia is so fettered by Laws, that the Clergy could do no more than petition for a repeal of those laws---for liberty to introduce Ordination and Government and to revise and alter the Liturgy. The session is passed over without our being able to accomplish this. The few Clergymen at Richmond to whom your Letter was shewn, approved of the Plan and proceedings of the Pennsylvania Convention, and also of the general meeting at New York, but no delegates have been appointed to attend. In the Present State of Ecclesiastical affairs in this State, the Clergy could not, with propriety, and indeed without great danger to the Church, empower any Persons to agree to the least alteration whatever. I shall be able to explain to you the necessity of their acting with this caution when I shall have the pleasure of seeing you. Having some business in New York with the Executors of my Mother in Law, I shall endeavour to be there about the time of the general Convention . . . .
(Italics added.) When Virginia did pass legislation the next year enabling the Church in that State to organize, the delegates assembled adopted the following resolutions at their first meeting in Richmond, on May 18, 1785 (p. 47 of the volume linked earlier; italics added):
Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee that deputies be appointed to represent the Protestant Episcopal Church of Virginia in the General Convention to be holden in the City of Philadelphia on the Tuesday before the feast of St. Michael next.

Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee that the deputation to the General Convention consist of two clergymen and two laymen; any two of whom shall be considered as a representation.

Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee that instructions be prepared for the conduct of the said deputies.

Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee that the said instructions be so framed as to leave the Convention of this state at liberty to approve or disapprove of the proceedings of the General Convention.
Now contrast with the account given on the HoB Website as quoted above the following instructions given to each Virginia delegate in 1785 (id. at 48):

During your representation of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the General Convention, we recommend to your observance the following sentiments concerning doctrine and worship. We refer you at the same time, for these and other objects of your mission, to our resolutions on the proceedings of the late Convention at New York.

Uniformity in doctrine and worship will unquestionably contribute to the prosperity of the Protestant Episcopal Church. But we earnestly wish that this may be pursued with liberality and moderation. The obstacles which stand in the way of union amongst Christian societies are too often founded on matters of mere form. They are surmountable therefore by those, who breathing the spirit of Christianity, earnestly labour in this pious work.

From the holy scriptures themselves, rather than the comments of men, must we learn the terms of salvation. Creeds therefore ought to be simple: And we are not anxious to retain any other than that which is commonly called the Apostles creed.

Should a change in the liturgy be proposed, let it be made with caution; And in that case let the alterations be few, and the stile of prayer continue as agreeable as may be to the essential characteristics of our persuasion.

We will not now decide what ceremonies ought to be retained. We wish, however, that those, which exist, may be estimated according to their utility; and that such as may appear fit to be laid aside, may no longer be appendages of our church.

We need only add that we shall expect a report of your proceedings to those whom we shall vest with authority to call a Convention.
And lest I be accused of citing only to Virginia documents (which are particularly instructive), here is an extract from the resolutions adopted for the delegates attending from New York (id. at pp. 54-55; italics added):
Resolved, That the Reverend Mr. Provoost, Reverend Mr. Beach, and Reverend Mr. Moore, of the clergy ; and the Honorable James Duane, Daniel Kissam, and John Davis, Esquires, of the laity, be appointed for the above mentioned purpose; and they are hereby authorized to proceed on the necessary business which may be proposed for their deliberation at the said convention, so far as they conform to the general principles which are established to regulate their conduct in this matter.
The Churches in the various States of New England were just as explicit that their deputies were under binding instructions to represent their views to the national body. The letter to their delegates stated in part (id. at p. 65):
Reverend & Honoured Brethren.

Having been favoured with the Minutes of the Meeting of the Clergy & Lay Delegates from sundry Congregations of the Episcopal Church in the State of Pensylvania held at Philadelphia the 25th of May last, communicated to us by your Chairman, We the Clergy of the Episcopal Churches in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts & State of Rhode Island met in Convention at Boston Septemr. 8th, 1784, have duly considered the same and have unanimously adopted the fundamental Principles or Instructions to which you are bound, and think the same not only unexceptionable but such as the Episcopal Churches in the united States ought to adopt. We have indeed thought proper to add a Restriction or an explanatory clause to the first and fifth Article, more for the Sake of avoiding any Mistakes hereafter than because we suppose we differ from you in Sentiment. . . .
More precedents could be cited, but the point is, I think, sufficiently documented. It may safely be concluded that, contrary to the rewriting of history found on the House of Deputies' official Website, the very last thing that any of the founders of our Church expected was that deputies to the national conventions should be freed of any responsibility to represent the views of their own State churches in all deliberations. Why else would they have used the following language in the ECUSA Constitution, which has remained almost unchanged since its first version in 1789?

The Church in each Diocese which has been admitted to union with the General Convention . . . shall be entitled to representation in the House of Deputies by not more than four ordained persons, Presbyters or Deacons, canonically resident in the Diocese and not more than four Lay Persons, confirmed adult communicants of this Church, in good standing in the Diocese . . . Each Diocese . . . shall prescribe the manner in which its Deputies shall be chosen.

(Art. I, Sec. 4 [originally Art. II]; emphasis added.) What is the point of having a Diocese choose its deputies, and to guarantee that it is "entitled to representation", if the Deputies are not bound to represent it? And why continue the historical anomaly of voting by orders, with the requirement that each of the orders concur for a measure to pass, if each of the Deputies is a sovereign voter with the duty to vote as the Holy Spirit directs? (Surely the Holy Spirit would not guide one order to vote differently from the other, or provide a greater degree of inspiration to the one while withholding it from the other.)

Unfortunately, the vice attendant upon freeing deputies to vote "as the Holy Spirit guides them" now permeates all levels of Church government. For the simple truth is that those who feel the strongest about any given cause of the day are the ones who volunteer to be elected as representatives: the parishes elect their vestries, which contain a generous proportion of such activists; they in turn volunteer to be the deputies to the diocesan convention (has anyone, in any Episcopal parish but the largest ones, ever experienced a contested election for the post of diocesan deputy?); and since the concentration of activists at the diocesan level is very high, the deputies they elect to General Convention are also mostly the same activists.

How shall we check this tendency of the ones who are most sure of themselves to determine the direction of the Church? Looking back at how deputies were selected and sent off to General Convention in the early years, we see that they were subject to instructions. Today, however, even if it were still the uniform practice to instruct deputies to General Convention, their instructions would come from others already in authority who share their activist viewpoint. They probably would not, in fact, differ greatly from these instructions given by the President of the House of Deputies to a conference of (please note) "social justice advocates and grant seekers" in the Diocese of Southern Ohio last August:
Within the Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church is the only province with a baptismal covenant, said Anderson. "Our baptismal covenant brings us to an understanding of the gifts of laity that isn't really understood in the same way by the rest of the communion … [In the Book of Common Prayer] the catechism says that the ministers of the church are lay persons, bishops, priests and deacons -- in that order. And so we are called by God to do the work we are given. . . ."

"Take the authority of your ministry seriously," she said. "Insist that other people take you seriously as well."

Too often, she said, "We give our authority away." Anderson urged the group to dismiss the preconceived, triangle model of ministry, with the bishop at the top and the lay people at the bottom. In reality, she said, ministry is a circle, and lay people should look to clergy and bishops to help -- not tell -- laity how to discern gifts and carry out ministry.
. . .

"Does one person, like the Archbishop of Canterbury, for instance, have a ‘corner on the truth market?'" asked Anderson in her sermon. "Has one particular group been given the gift of pure truth and the rest of us just can't hear it?

"I don't think so. Right now the how of coming to the truth is as important as getting to the truth. Right now, the way in which the Anglican Communion goes about the search for the elusive truth is as important as the truth itself."
. . .

"Listen to yourself, trust your insights," Anderson added. "Your primary job is to represent Christ in this world." Her last challenge was, "pray to see the work of God in everything."
(Bold added.) So now Episcopalians are called upon not to represent just their local parishes or dioceses, but to "represent" Christ Himself. Coming from a minister in a Sunday sermon, such a sentiment might be no more than moral encouragement---to be Christian, after all, is to let the light of Christ shine through you. I have no problem with "representing" Christ in that sense, but I do not hear Ms. Anderson as saying only that. She is speaking in her role as the President of the House of Deputies, she refers to that Baptismal Covenant again (which applies---does she realize?---only to those in the Church who are under 30), and she is telling people that "how" we arrive at the truth is just as important as is the "truth" itself.

(My goodness---and all along I thought that the truth was not something which each new generation has to "arrive at" or "get to" on its own, but which has been carefully handed down from each generation to the next. Elevating the process of the individual's or the group's "arrival" to the same importance as the message itself tends to undercut the fact that the message is not new, and that what has been handed down is far more important than that which you can discover unaided. If you want to repair your car and do the job correctly, you consult the manual. And if you want to know the truth of your religion, you start with the Bible.)

Thus with all the background I have given concerning her other remarks above, I find this statement symptomatic of much that is wrong with today's Episcopal Church. The arrogant presumption of those deputies who take it as their duty to "represent Christ" to the Church as a whole is at bottom what is tearing this Church apart: there are all too many deputies at General Convention who claim to speak for Christ! (Or at least, to speak for their version of Him.) Where do they find His instructions to them, if not in Holy Scripture? Listen to the Rev. Canon Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton speak in opposition to a resolution introduced at GC 2006 to rescind the decision of the Executive Council to affiliate the Church with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, which supports a woman's right to choose abortion (the account is written by a deputy who supported the resolution):
It was then my turn to address the committee. I noted that personal agendas should not control the direction of the Episcopal Church and the issue should be put before the entire GC to vote on and I gave three examples (see side bar) of how the RCRC publications make statements that are counter to the Episcopal Church’s statements of belief found in the Book of Common Prayer, Lambeth Resolutions, and resolutions.

The Rev. Canon Elizabeth Kaeton from the Diocese of Newark (also a board member of RCRC and the Social and Urban Affairs Committee) was the next speaker. She referred to a quote by Martin Niemoller, and then said, “while abortion may not be favored by local churches, we are deputized to follow the Holy Spirit, not the wishes of the folks back home."

(Emphasis added.) Could there be a plainer example of non-sequitur "reasoning"? The Holy Spirit is in favor of abortion, even if local churches are not? Notably, the Reverend Canon Doctor provided no scriptural source for her assertion of what the Holy Spirit supported. And she must consider that the Holy Spirit was simply absent when the authors of the Didache [v. 2.2] or the Epistle of Barnabas [19:5] were writing their plainspoken condemnations of abortion during the earliest years of the Church.

The resolution to rescind ECUSA's affiliation with RCRC was eventually tabled at GC 2006. ECUSA remains affiliated with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, no doubt in part because the latter organization inculcates the same philosophy of sovereign individualism in its clients that the President of the House of Deputies advocates for deputies. According to another speaker in favor of the unsuccessful resolution:
NOEL’s Administrative Director Sheila Bracken, speaking for the first time before a GC legislative committee, said “RCRC does not encourage parental involvement in the issue of abortion. They encourage girls to seek truth from within. . .".
"Seeking the truth within", instead of relying on traditional authority such as families and the Church itself, is the hallmark of today's postmodern creed. In fact, the very name "Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice" is an oxymoron. It is self-contradicting to assert that religion can be linked in the same breath as abortion. Yet we see it every day, do we not? (Think of Nancy Pelosi or Joe Biden.) Can anyone still wonder that the Church is being undermined by those who reserve the right to "make up their own minds", rather than by following what Holy Scriptures or a bishop---not least, the Bishop of Rome---tells them?

To those who are determined that the Church must reflect their own activist views on issues of "social justice", I say: You are promoting an oxymoron, not a religion. The very words "social justice" point to something other than God's justice, which you cannot be content to accept; no, for you, justice is something that must come out of, and be defined by, the society of sovereign-minded individuals in which you find yourself. So, go ahead: establish your own secular philosophy of sovereign individualism, where everyone is entitled to equal "rights", as long as they are in accord with what you think those rights ought to be. Just don't pretend to be in a church, and don't call yourself "religious".

And to the Deputies headed for GC 2009, I say this: rather than trying to "represent" Christ to the whole Church, or to express His will through your individual, sovereignly divined votes in General Convention, I suggest that you might begin by ascertaining the true will of those parishes that elected you. See if they truly believe that the Holy Scriptures support abortion. See if they really think the national Church should be able to impose a trust on their parish's property without their consent. See if they believe it is a fine thing that the Church is spending more than $2 million a year on litigation with former Episcopalians. And while you are at it, you might want to find out how ready they are to spend the money to send you down to Anaheim (right next to Disneyland!) for two weeks next summer, all expenses paid, so that you and 879 other deputies can spend several million dollars, and hundreds of hours, debating, voting on, and then printing up "peace and social justice" resolutions that no one ever implements, or ever hears of again.

Just think---if you recognize the possibility that the Holy Spirit speaks in the gatherings of individual parishes, and through them to the whole Church, you might---to the extent you resolve first to discern, and then to represent, their wishes to the best of your ability---actually be pleasantly surprised that it doesn't all have to ride on "you". That is, in emptying yourself to do the will of those you represent---as best as you have been able to learn it---you might just end up helping His will to be done. After all, you have the perfect example to follow, as Paul reminds us in Phil. 2:5-7:

You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had,

who though he existed in the form of God

did not regard equality with God

as something to be grasped,

but emptied himself

by taking on the form of a slave,

by looking like other men,

and by sharing in human nature.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Crucify Him! (Do We Care?)

Caroline Glick is a very sharp reporter and columnist at The Jerusalem Post. I try to follow her pieces on a regular basis, because she is often the only voice I can find in the Middle East who does not shirk from speaking the truth, regardless of the consequences. She keeps tabs on all the ins and outs of Israeli politics, and at the same time she is a source of much information about what is going on in the Arab world.

But you cannot count on American (or even British) media to report the same things that she does. Here is the most recent example, taken from an article she filed on Christmas Day. I will wager that you did not read about this in any major Western news source---here are the lead paragraphs:

Both Iran and its Hamas proxy in Gaza have been busy this Christmas week showing Christendom just what they think of it. But no one seems to have noticed.

On Tuesday, Hamas legislators marked the Christmas season by passing a Shari'a criminal code for the Palestinian Authority. Among other things, it legalizes crucifixion.

Yes, you read that right. The Hamas government in Gaza has authorized the penalty of crucifixion---for "traitors". So much for the apologists of Islam's much-touted "Shari'a law", including the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Try this experiment: go to Google News, type in the word "crucifixion", and see what you find. As I said, you will not find any stories in the major news media. You will find this post at a blog called "Right Side News", which draws on Ms. Glick's article. And you will find this post at News Blaze, which helpfully translates some of the details from the Arabic at the al-Arabiya Website:
Section 59 of the law establishes that "punishment of death will be enacted on any Palestinian who intentionally does one of the following: Raised a weapon against Palestine on behalf of the enemy during war, was appointed to negotiate with a foreign government on a Palestinian issue and negotiated against Palestinians' interest, performed a hostile action against a foreign country in a way that endangers Palestine in war or in harming political relations, served a foreign army in time of war, advised or helped soldiers to enlist in this army, weakened the spirit or the force of resistance of the people, or spied against Palestine especially during war."
A post at "Strategy Page" adds another interesting detail about how Hamas dealt with the publicity---mostly in the Arab media---about its new Shari'a laws:
Hamas seems to have painted itself into a corner. Unable to loosen up its Islamic radical view of the world, it feels compelled to get stricter, and more vicious, with real, or perceived, enemies. In short, Hamas believes it is better to be feared than loved. At least in Gaza. When word of its new laws reached the Western media, Hamas denied it. But in Gaza, the Arabic media made it clear that the new laws were very real, even if embarrassing when trying to explain it to the infidels.
"Embarrassing"? In whose eyes? Obviously the Gaza legislators were not embarrassed to pass the law. I submit that the "embarrassment" is only perceived by the (unsigned) Western author who picked up the story for "Strategy Page". If Hamas tried to deny the facts to Western media, I conclude from the sparse coverage resulting two things:

1. Hamas' denials would not be based on any "embarrassment", but rather on the well-attested Islamic teaching of Taqqiyah ("dissimulation"), or lying to infidels when doing so will advance the spread of Islam. (Many Muslims advance a more narrow concept of the term, as justifying dissimulation only to avoid imminent death or capture, but Hamas has never done so.) 

2. Whatever goes on internally in Gaza, Western media simply do not care; it is of no interest to them, and completely beneath their radar screen.

Ms. Glick agrees strongly with the second point, not the first. She says, later in her article:
The reason that the West remains ignorant of the views and goals of the likes of Hamas and Iran is not that the latter have hidden their views and goals. It is because the leading political leaders and foreign policy practitioners in the West refuse to listen to them and deny the significance of their actions.

As far as the West's leaders are concerned, Iran and its allies are unimportant. They are not actors, but objects. As far as the West's leading foreign policy "experts" and decision-makers are concerned, the only true actors on the global stage are Western powers. They alone have the power to shape reality and the world. Oddly enough, this dominant political philosophy, which is based on denying the existence of non-Western actors on the world stage, is referred to as political "realism." 
She cites a recent example of such "realism":

The "realist" view was given clear expression this week by one of the "realist" clique's most prominent members. In an op-ed published Tuesday in Canada's Globe and Mail titled, "We must talk Iran out of the bomb," Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, argued that given the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran and the dangers of a US or Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear installations, the incoming Obama administration must hold direct negotiations with the mullahs to convince them to end their nuclear weapons program.

In making this argument, Haass ignores the fact that this has been the Bush administration's policy for the past five years. He also ignores the fact that President George W. Bush adopted this policy at the urging of Haass's "realist" colleagues and at the urging of Haass himself.

Moreover, Haass bizarrely contends that in negotiating with the mullahs, the Obama administration should offer Iran the same package of economic and political payoffs that the Bush administration and the EU have been offering, and Teheran has been rejecting, since 2003.

Even more disturbingly, Haass ignores the fact that Teheran made its greatest leaps forward in its uranium enrichment capabilities while it was engaged in these talks with the West.
She goes on to cite further instances of such pseudo-"realism" in dealings with Hamas, Syria and even North Korea. (I'll bet you didn't hear anything in the major media about their threat to destroy South Korea when they broke off the latest talks with the Bush administration---talks which Western media elites had earlier accused Bush of deliberately avoiding, because the President simply was more interested in "bullying" than in "success." And after two years of talks, what "success"! No one in the West is even sure whether Kim Jong Il is still alive and able or willing at this point to conduct further "negotiations".)

The ultimate irony of the Western ability to ignore anything out of the Middle East was evidenced by the UK Channel Four's recent decision to air a "Christmas message of peace" from Iran's President Ahmadinejad. By offering air time to him, the British media showed how thoroughly none of its audience would actually listen to what he had to say. Channel Four's spokesman unbelievably claimed: "We're offering him the chance to speak for himself, which people in the West don't often get the chance to see." As Caroline Glick powerfully demonstrates, exactly the opposite is the case:

While [Channel Four's claim] sounds reasonable, the fact is that Westerners see Ahmadinejad speaking for himself all the time. They saw him at the UN two years in a row as he called for the countries of the world to submit to Islam; claimed that Iran's nuclear weapons program is divinely inspired; and castigated Jews as subhuman menaces to humanity.

They saw him gather leading anti-Semites from all over the world at his Holocaust denial conference.

They heard him speak in his own words when he called for Israel to be "wiped off the map."

And of course, over the years Ahmadinejad has often communicated directly to the British people. For instance, in 2007 he received unlimited airtime on UK television as he paraded kidnapped British sailors and marines in front of television cameras; forced them to make videotaped "confessions" of their "crime" of entering Iranian territorial waters; and compelled them to grovel at his knee and thank him for "forgiving" them.

The British people listened to Ahmadinejad as he condemned Britain as a warmongering nation after its leaders had surrendered Basra to Iranian proxies. They heard him - speaking in his own voice - when he announced that in a gesture of Islamic mercy, he was freeing their humiliated sailors and marines in honor of Muhammad's birthday and Easter, and then called on all Britons to convert to Islam.

Yet as far as Channel 4 is concerned, Ahmadinejad is still an unknown quantity for most Britons.
So crucifixion for traitors to the Palestinian cause? No problem to the Western media. Their attitude is as untroubled as that of this prospective juror in Alabama, who was being examined about his attitude toward the death penalty by the defense attorney in a murder case:

Attorney: Now, you know that my client is charged with murder, is that right?

Juror: Yes, that's right.

Attorney: And you know that the penalty for murder in this State is death, right?

Juror: Yes, I do. 

Attorney: Does that bother you in any way? I mean, can you participate in an endeavor in which the ultimate result might be death by lethal injection?

Juror: Well, let's see now---they do that up in Huntsville, don't they? Yes, I could do it---if it was on a weekend.

Ignorance has its price, but it can be remedied by a willingness to learn. Arrogant ignorance is not as readily cured. Those who argue that all President Obama has to do is sit down with the mullahs to reach an understanding are being willfully blind: blind to the history of the negotiations that have been going on for the past five years, and blind to the culture that the mullahs fiercely claim as their own, and are willing to impose by force on others. In that culture, death by crucifixion is no more barbaric than is death by stoning, or death by beheading. 

It is also interesting to see how modern-day Palestinians, who proudly assert that their ancestors predated the Jews in Israel, are turning to execution methods introduced by the Romans, and probably taken by them from the Persians through Alexander.  The article just linked explains the intent behind its use:
Crucifixion was never performed for ritual or symbolic reasons; usually, its purpose was only to provide a particularly painful, gruesome, and public death, using whatever means were most expedient for that goal.
(Notice that crucifixion was never used on Roman citizens, but was reserved for subjugated people. Paul---the Roman citizen---was reportedly beheaded, while the simple Galilean fisherman Peter was crucified.) 

Thus in Palestine today, the same people who danced in the streets after seeing the gruesome pictures of September 11, 2001 are supporting execution by one of the most gruesome and prolonged means ever devised by the mind of man. In doing so, they are following in the recent steps of those at Dachau, of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and of the Japanese in the Sino-Japanese war. The only other regime reported to use crucifixion today is the Sudan.

And the liberals are silent---but not because they want to hide anything. Rather, since it is not Western torture, like waterboarding (1,190,000 results on Google), or humiliation in Abu Ghraib (2,790,000 results), crucifixion by the Palestinians (4 results) just doesn't rise to the level of their attention.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

We Interrupt This Blog for an Important Message . . .

I was in the midst of preparing another post in my series on Professor Frank Tipler's remarkable book, The Physics of Christianity, when I came across a link at Powerline's blog to a site, Urgent Agenda, that has just posted an email from Prof. Tipler on yet another subject that is dear to my heart: Anthropogenic Global Warming, or AGW for short ("anthopogenic" means "man-generated", from the two Greek words that make it up, anthropos - "man", and genos - literally, "birth").

For some background on Professor Tipler's credentials, you may refer to this earlier post, and this comment. Urgent Agenda introduces his email in this way:
Frank Tipler, the distinguished mathematical physicist at Tulane University, is an Urgent Agenda reader. We recently asked him for his view of the global-warming controversy, and he was kind enough to send us this thoughtful reply. We reprint it in full. Recommended reading:
I shall also reprint it here in full, because what Professor Tipler has to say needs to be shouted from all the rooftops. Essentially, he is saying that "the Emperor (in this case, AGW) has no clothes!" Please read carefully:

As regards global warming, my view is essentially the same as yours: Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is a scam, with no basis in science.

A few comments on my own particular view of global warming:

(1) I am particularly annoyed by the claims that the "the debate is over," because this was exactly the claim originally made against the Copernican theory of the Solar System. Copernicus' opponents said the idea that the Earth was the third planet from the Sun was advanced by Aristrachus in 300 B.C. (true), and had been definitely refuted by 100 A.D. The debate is over! Sorry, it wasn't: the Earth IS the third planet.

(2) It is obvious that anthropogenic global warming is not science at all, because a scientific theory makes non-obvious predictions which are then compared with observations that the average person can check for himself. As we both know from our own observations, AGW theory has spectacularly failed to do this. The theory has predicted steadily increasing global temperatures, and this has been refuted by experience. NOW the global warmers claim that the Earth will enter a cooling period. In other words, whether the ice caps melt, or expand --- whatever happens --- the AGW theorists claim it confirms their theory. A perfect example of a pseudo-science like astrology.

(3) In contrast, the alternative theory, that the increase and decrease of the Earth's average temperature in the near term follows the sunspot number, agrees (roughly) with observation. And the observations were predicted before they occurred. This is good science.

(4) I emphasized in point (2) that the average person has to be able to check the observations. I emphasize this because I no longer trust "scientists" to report observations correctly. I think the data is adjusted to confirm, as far as possible, AGW. We've seen many recent cases where the data was cooked in climate studies. In one case, Hanson and company claimed that October 2008 was the warmest October on record. Watts looked at the data, and discovered that Hanson and company had used September's temperatures for Russia rather than October's. I'm not surprised to learn that September is hotter than October in the Northern hemisphere.
Accurate prediction is what science is supposed to be about. As Professor Tipler shows, the current crop of scientists who claim to predict global warming have done nothing but "adjust" their scenarios to account for the observations after the fact---and that is not science. Any layperson, on the other hand, can follow the weather trends predicted by the presence or absence of sunspots:

It snowed here in New Orleans last week and it was the second heaviest snowfall I've seen in the 25 years I've lived in New Orleans. According to the local newspaper, it was the earliest snow had fallen in New Orleans since records were kept, beginning in 1850. I myself have looked at the relative predictive power of Copernicus's theory and the then rival Ptolemaic theory. Copernicus was on the average twice as accurate, and the average person of the time could tell. Similarly, anybody today can check the number of sunspots. Or rather the lack of them. When I first starting teaching astronomy at Tulane in the early 1980's, I would show sunspots to my students by pointing a small $25 reflecting telescope at the Sun, and focusing the Sun's image on the wall of the classroom. Sunspots were obviously in the image on the wall. I can't do this experiment today, because there are no sunspots.
The AGW "predictions", however, are not just bad science. In an analogy to Gresham's Law in the realm of economics, the bad science of AGW, led by a modern-day form of scientific "Inquisition", is driving out the good science that used to be the pride of our universities (I have added the link to explain his reference to the "Maunder Minimum"):

(5) Another shocking thing about the AGW theory is that it is generating a loss of true scientific knowledge. The great astronomer William Herschel, the discoverer of the planet Uranus, observed in the early 1800's that warm weather was correlated with sunspot number. Herschel noticed that warmer weather meant better crops, and thus fewer sunspots meant higher grain prices. The AGW people are trying to do a disappearing act on these observations. Some are trying to deny the existence of the Maunder Minimum.

(6) AGW supporters are also bringing back the Inquisition, where the power of the state is used to silence one's scientific opponents. The case of Bjorn Lomborg is illustrative. Lomborg is a tenured professor of mathematics in Denmark. Shortly after his book, "The Skeptical Environmentalist," was published by Cambridge University Press, Lomborg was charged and convicted (later reversed) of scientific fraud for being critical of the "consensus" view on AGW and other environmental questions. Had the conviction been upheld, Lomborg would have been fired. Stillman Drake, the world's leading Galileo scholar, demonstrates in his book "Galileo: A Very Short Introduction" (Oxford University Press, 2001) that it was not theologians, but rather his fellow physicists (then called "natural philosophers"), who manipulated the Inquisition into trying and convicting Galileo. The "out-of-the-mainsteam" Galileo had the gall to prove the consensus view, the Aristotlean theory, wrong by devising simple experiments that anyone could do. Galileo's fellow scientists first tried to refute him by argument from authority. They failed. Then these "scientists" tried calling Galileo names, but this made no impression on the average person, who could see with his own eyes that Galileo was right. Finally, Galileo's fellow "scientists" called in the Inquisition to silence him.
And it is ominous that government is playing an increasing role in shaping the "politically correct" direction of scientific research:

I find it very disturbing that part of the Danish Inquisition's case against Lomborg was written by John Holdren, Obama's new science advisor. Holdren has recently written that people like Lomborg are "dangerous." I think it is people like Holdren who are dangerous, because they are willing to use state power to silence their scientific opponents.

(7) I agree with Dick Lindzen that the AGW nonsense is generated by government funding of science. If a guy agrees with AGW, then he can get a government contract. If he is a skeptic, then no contract. There is a professor at Tulane, with a Ph.D in paleoclimatology, who is as skeptical as I am about AGW, but he'd never be considered for tenure at Tulane because of his professional opinion. No government contracts, no tenure.
Contrast this perplexing situation to the situation in physics at the turn of the last century:

(8) This is why I am astounded that people who should know better, like Newt Gingrich, advocate increased government funding for scientific research. We had better science, and a more rapid advance of science, in the early part of the 20th century when there was no centralized government funding for science. Einstein discovered relativity on his own time, while he was employed as a patent clerk. Where are the Einsteins of today? They would never be able to get a university job --- Einstein's idea that time duration depended on the observer was very much opposed to the "consensus" view of the time. Einstein's idea that light was composed of particles (now called "photons") was also considered crazy by all physicists when he first published the idea. At least then he could publish the idea. Now a refereed journal would never even consider a paper written by a patent clerk, and all 1905 physics referees would agree that relativity and quantum mechanics were nonsense, definitely against the overwhelming consensus view. So journals would reject Einstein's papers if he were to write them today.

Science is an economic good like everything else, and it is very bad for production of high quality goods for the government to control the means of production. Why can't Newt Gingrich understand this? Milton Friedman understood it, and advocated cutting off government funding for science.
That completes Professor Tipler's email on the subject of AGW. The editor at Urgent Agenda is reminded by Tipler's final observation of a prescient warning given to us long ago, when government funding of scientific research was in its infancy:

We should add that President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his famous farewell address as president - the "industrial-military complex" speech - also warned of the intersection between science and government. This is what he said:

"Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

"The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.

"Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite."

Indeed it could; in fact, the relationship between the scientific-technological elite and the Federal government is now more than one in which the latter is the "captive" of the former---it has become throughly co-dependent and symbiotic.

It is ironic to have to note that Federal-funded science is not all that distinguishable from a medieval religion. Like the Catholic Church of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it is wholly supported by public funds and by grants from the wealthiest parts of commercial society; it has its own priestly order; it has its theology of global warming; it has its ecumenical councils, at which its theology is expounded and declared in common; and it has its own Inquisition to suppress and stifle dissent.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose . . .    

P.S.: We can also enjoy a little seasonal humor on this topic, thanks to the folks at Minnesotans for Global Warming (M4GW).

Friday, December 26, 2008

A New Low in ECUSA's Tactics in San Joaquin

In an earlier post, I asked the rhetorical question: "How Low Can the Sun Sink on the Episcopal Church?" The answer is that after having already sunk, the sun can sink on it apparently lower still---especially if one is talking about the Church's legal tactics.

I have covered the Church's previous, questionable tactics in its San Joaquin lawsuit in a series of posts which you can find grouped under that heading on the Guide to This Site page. Although the case is technically "at issue", meaning that Bishop Schofield and the diocesan property entities which he heads have answered the second amended complaint filed by ECUSA and Bishop Lamb, and by their so-called "Diocese of San Joaquin", the plaintiffs apparently do not plan to let matters rest there. For they---the fifteen percent or so who stayed with ECUSA, that is---are not content with laying claim to all of the current Anglican Diocese's property and funds. (But of course, the law always agrees that 15% of a former group are entitled to 100% of the group's property---don't you realize that it is the Episcopal Church that we are talking about?) Now they want to go after funds which the original and true Diocese of San Joaquin (the one that existed before the vote on December 8, 2007 to leave ECUSA) paid out to its attorneys in anticipation of the lawsuit that ECUSA would bring.

Remember---ECUSA first managed to push Merrill Lynch, who is the brokerage house that manages many of the accounts maintained by Bishop Schofield and the departing diocese (as well as the funds of ECUSA itself), into placing a hold, or "freeze" on all those accounts so that no further money could be withdrawn from them without the Church's and Bishop Lamb's consent. They did this not by obtaining an attachment order and by putting up a bond, as a normal plaintiff would have to do. No, they accomplished the same result by the simple expedient of naming Merrill Lynch itself as a party defendant. Merrill Lynch panicked at being sued, and froze the accounts. It is now trying to pay them into the court to let it decide to whom they belong.

Before it can do so, however, the court has told both Merrill Lynch and ECUSA that since ECUSA requested, and Merrill Lynch cooperated in, the freezing of investment accounts held by churches like St. John's in Tulare, St. John's in Porterville, and St. James's Cathedral in Fresno---whom they did not name as defendants in the case---they would first have to come to some form of agreement with those entities about the use of their funds, or add them to the lawsuit. Thus far, some agreements have been reached, but some of the accounts still remain frozen.

It's pretty neat, don't you think, when you are a big enough bully that you can get a bank to freeze a person's account just by suing the bank as a defendant, while not bothering to sue the person who actually put the money into the account? ECUSA accomplishes this by citing its ubiquitous Dennis Canon. "Since all those parish moneys were actually held in trust for us as a result of the Dennis Canon," they say, "we get to have them frozen when they try to leave the Church." 

(Well, St. John's Tulare remained in ECUSA, and did not vote to join the diocese in leaving for the Southern Cone. But that did not help it with its Merrill Lynch account: ECUSA and Bishop Lamb asked to have it frozen, and have demanded that they be allowed to approve expenditures as a condition of unfreezing the account. In just such a way is the Episcopal Church [USA] attempting to establish a legal precedent for stepping in as both a "trustor" and "trust beneficiary" to assert its supposed rights under the Dennis Canon.)

But wait---now comes the latest bullying tactic from ECUSA and its legal team. They demanded, as part of the lawsuit, that Merrill Lynch turn over to them copies of all of the diocesan account statements over the previous year. When it obliged, ECUSA found that Bishop Schofield's diocese had written a retainer check to its law firm, in anticipation of the lawsuit that TEC was expected to file over the impending withdrawal, in the amount of $500,000. (ECUSA has only recently admitted that it spent nearly $2 million on legal fees in the year 2008 alone---$1.5 million over budget. Its budget for 2009, including an unbelievable $600,000 just for legal fees, is in the red by $2.5 million---a feat made possible only because of accumulated prior surpluses.) And guess what: ECUSA---and Bishop Lamb, of course---now want those funds turned over to them, as well!

In other words, ECUSA and Bishop Lamb are trying to see that the money which the diocese budgeted for legal expenses cannot actually be spent for that purpose. And in doing so, the plaintiffs propose to amend their current complaint a third time to name the law firm of the Co-Chancellor of the Anglican Diocese as a new defendant. I have no doubt that this is a prelude to bringing a later motion to disqualify the firm from acting as counsel for the defendants in the lawsuit.

These are vile tactics, that should make any Episcopalian ashamed of their Church. To begin with, the Dennis Canon, which is of dubious validity to begin with, does not apply here. Why is that? Because the Canon applies only to property held "by or for the benefit of any parish," and not to property held by a diocese itself. (The diocese to which the parish belongs is a co-beneficiary of a Dennis Canon trust, and even the Episcopal Church (USA) has to recognize that an unincorporated diocese cannot hold property in trust for itself. Thus it would be nonsensical to try to apply the Dennis Canon to property in the name of a diocese.) So the Church has no grounds on which to claim that the money must be held in trust because of the Dennis Canon. Instead, it is simply waving its wand and contending that its "Constitution and Canons" generally require that all diocesan property be held in trust for, and be used only to benefit, the Episcopal Church (USA). (Could we expect any less of an argument from the Supreme Metropolitan and her Chancellor? No doubt they'll make it much more explicit at GC 2009.)

In the next place, the (Anglican) Diocese of San Joaquin has the right to defend itself when sued, and to use its own funds for that defense. The money belonged to the diocese when it was paid; the national church had no more right to the money then than it does now. Again, it would be a pretty easy route to victory if you could get the court to freeze your opponent's assets at the start of a lawsuit.

So what plausible claim can the plaintiffs make to have the funds frozen? Well, they claim that, as the group representing the one-sixth or so who chose to "Remain [Purely] Episcopal", they are the only lawful "successor" to the original Diocese of San Joaquin, and as such are entitled, as I reported, to one hundred percent of the former diocese's assets! How is that for an equitable (and Christian) division of property? Doesn't such evident charity, and true imitation of Christ's teachings in the Gospels ("But I say unto you . . . if a man takes your coat, let him have your shirt also") just make one proud to call oneself an Episcopalian? Why, the dear folk who choose to remain "Episcopal" are so proud of what they are doing that they have even agreed to give every penny of what they are contributing each Sunday just so those nice, kind (but rather expensive, at $500+ per hour) lawyers they have hired will be able to present their Christ-like position in the court, and so the dear, charitable national Church's money can be spent on "mission"! 

(Note that the latter term is defined as "spending money to benefit anyone except for those who used to go to church with you." Those dastardly folk, you sue!) 

O.K., end of sarcastic rant. (My apologies to all you well-meaning "Remain Episcopal" folk in San Joaquin, but sometimes, no matter how well-meaning you may be in your own hearts, you arouse this curmudgeon's ire.) Turning serious now, I submit that with their utterly outlandish claim to their opponents' legal funds, the San Joaquin plaintiffs have exposed the soft underbelly of their lawsuit to attack. For the facts on the ground are that:

1. "Remain Episcopal" has never organized properly as a full-fledged "diocese" pursuant to ECUSA's Constitution and Canons. It can only be recognized as such if its claims succeed in court, and under the California law of unincorporated associations, that is anything but a given.

2. The "Convention" at which it was organized was not given the notice required by the very Constitution which the "diocese" insists governs it, nor was the notice given by its Ecclesiastical Authority, as that Constitution again mandates. ("There wasn't any 'Ecclesiastical Authority' around to give it," they say. And just who, do you think, claimed the unprecedented and uncanonical authority to remove (sorry---depose and "derecognize") the Ecclesiastical Authority? Isn't that akin to shooting your mother and father, and then begging for the court's understanding on the ground that you are now an orphan?) 

3. The "Convention" did not have a legal quorum of canonically resident clergy present to do business, and probably was lacking a Constitutional quorum of parishes as well.

4. As "approved" by the pseudo-Convention acting without authority and without proper notice or a quorum, Bishop Lamb is "no bishop of no see", and so is not a proper party to come into court; and

5. The earliest date at which it would be possible for the Episcopal Church (USA) to have a duly reconstituted "Diocese of San Joaquin" is July 2009, the date of the next General Convention, which, under ECUSA's claim to be "hierarchical", has to approve the creation of all new dioceses.

Consequently, the party which alleges it has the right to the funds is not a proper party at all to the lawsuit. It's as if, say, you and I used to belong to the Duffers' Golf Club, but after a lot of playing we thought we were better than the others, and wanted to admit some pro golfers who we felt were more like ourselves. The majority said "Nothing doing---we're duffers, and this is our Club," and  so we quit (or the Club expelled us---same difference). So in revenge, we meet together and file papers making ourselves look like we are the "Duffers' Golf Club," and then we file suit in court to make the real Duffers' Golf Club turn over all its assets to us! Pretty good trick, if you can make it work. The trouble is that once the court started looking into just how we formed our "Duffers' Golf Club," it would see at once that we have no right to make such a claim. And until ECUSA goes through the procedures spelled out by its Constitution and Canons to create a legitimate new diocese in the region of San Joaquin, a court should not entertain a lawsuit brought by a party who is not what it claims to be.

I can safely predict from my armchair that ECUSA will never get its ducks in a row and cause a proper diocese of San Joaquin to come into being at GC 2009. To do so would be to admit the total error of its approach in San Joaquin thus far. No, GC2009 will come and go, and ECUSA will squander another opportunity to follow its own canons. The result will be that it will be at least 2012 before ECUSA is forced to put its house in order.

Things are about to get mighty interesting in San Joaquin---and not just for those involved in the lawsuit there. Pittsburgh, Ft. Worth and Quincy will all be watching. Will the California judge, as Judge Bellows as able to do in Virginia, see through ECUSA's "hierarchical" smokescreen? With their latest hardball tactic, the San Joaquin plaintiffs have certainly found a way to get his attention.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Musical Meditation for Christmas

Ach, Herr, du Schöpfer aller Ding

Ach Herr, du Schöpfer aller Ding,

Oh Lord, Creator of us all,

Wie bist du worden so gering,

How art Thou now become so small,

Dass du da liegst auf dürrem Gras,

That there Thou liest on hard straw bed,

Davon ein Rind und Esel ass?

From which both cow and donkey fed?

(Music: Heinrich Schütz, 1585-1672 [SWV 450]; Text: Martin Luther, 1483-1546 [Stanza 9 of Vom Himmel hoch da komm' ich her, 1536]; Performance: Hendricks Chapel Choir, December 1978; Art: Fra Angelico, The Nativity, 1439-1443.)

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI reminds us of a possible answer to Martin Luther's question:

The medieval theologian William of Saint Thierry once said that God – from the time of Adam – saw that his grandeur provoked resistance in man, that we felt limited in our own being and threatened in our freedom. Therefore God chose a new way. He became a child. He made himself dependent and weak, in need of our love. Now – this God who has become a child says to us – you can no longer fear me, you can only love me.

(H/T: the Rev. Canon Kendall Harmon, Titus19)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Height of Folly: Tinkering with the Canons

The "Title IV Task Force II on Disciplinary Policies and Procedures" has issued their draft report for the Blue Book that will be distributed to bishops and deputies attending General Convention 2009 in Anaheim. It is quite an accomplishment, in the sense that they have managed to make what was already a bad thing even worse. No doubt the members of the Task Force are well-intentioned, and meant to do no harm. But it is obvious, from a perusal of the draft Report, that they are way too close to their subject, and have no grasp of the larger picture within which their tinkering will have its unfortunate effects.

Rather than give at this point a catalog of all the faults I could find with their draft, I shall content myself with just a close look at their treatment of the current text of Canons IV.9 and IV.10, with which I am very familiar (the so-called "Abandonment Canons", to which I have devoted four earlier posts: this one first, then this, next this, and last of all, this). For in their approach to these two Canons, they reveal what is wrong with their concept generally, and from the mistakes made with just these Canons, many lessons may be drawn.

We first must place the need for reform of the Canons in context. As I demonstrated in the second and third posts linked above, Canon IV.9 (and its companion, Canon IV.10 for clergy) have been increasingly abused in recent years, in ways that their drafters never could have foreseen. "Abandonment" within the historical sense of the two Canons had always been understood as walking away from the Anglican Communion as such, and not just the Episcopal Church (USA). The idea was that such a person would not be around any longer to defend himself (or more lately, herself) against the charges of "abandonment", so the formality of a trial was not really necessary. But a bishop or minister who joined another Church in communion with ECUSA would keep his or her orders and always be welcome to come back and, with the permission of the diocesan responsible, assist in services.

Thus, within the Anglican Communion, orders were seen as valid in all member Churches---all that was needed to celebrate Holy Communion elsewhere was a license from the bishop with jurisdiction. (Witness how the Archbishop of Canterbury this summer refused to grant the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson a license to celebrate Communion within his province, because his orders were not recognized as valid within the wider Anglican Communion.) There was hardly ever any need to invoke the "abandonment" canons, because true abandonment was a relatively rare occurrence.

Then came Bishop Bennison, however, and things were never the same afterward. He was the one who first employed the abandonment canon to get rid of a priest with whom he disagreed, without the necessity of bringing charges and having a trial. The Rev. Dr. David Moyer initially did not want to leave ECUSA; he simply did not want the heresies that Bishop Bennison was backing to receive recognition or sanction in his parish. In Bishop Bennison's eyes, however, Father Moyer's intransigence in refusing to receive him for a pastoral visit, and in failing to present candidates to him for confirmation, were "proof" that he had "abandoned the communion of [ECUSA]" by openly renouncing the "doctrine, discipline or worship of the Episcopal Church."

Such charges quickly became commonplace in cases of a doctrinal disagreement between a priest and his bishop. The result was to place clergy in an impossible position. When charged under Canon IV.10, the charge was almost always based upon an alleged violation of the priest's vow, subscribed at ordination in accordance with Article VIII of the Constitution, "to conform to the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of the Episcopal Church." (Thus the oath is in the conjunctive---the ordinand swears to conform to all three. But as just noted, the Abandonment Canons define "abandonment" in the disjunctive, so as to render the punishment easier to apply, for renunciation of either the Doctrine, or the Discipline, or the Worship of the Episcopal Church.)

What is seldom appreciated is that the written oath which the ordinand signs is only part of a more comprehensive vow which explains and amplifies just what the "Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of the Episcopal Church" is. This can be seen from reading the full text of the exchange between the Bishop and the ordinand in the Book of Common Prayer (p. 526):

The Bishop says to the ordinand

Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of
Christ as this Church has received them? And will you, in
accordance with the canons of this Church, obey your bishop
and other ministers who may have authority over you and
your work?


I am willing and ready to do so; and I solemnly declare that I
do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments
to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to
salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine,
discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church.
This exchange shows that the "doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church" are supposed to be equivalent to "the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them." The problem arises, then, when a conscientious priest sincerely believes that his bishop, or the Church as a whole, has departed from the "doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them." Indeed, the entire dispute over ordaining practicing gay persons to the ministry comes down, in this vital respect, to whether such ordinations do in fact conform to the doctrines and teachings of Christ as they were received by this Church.

A person does not have to take sides in that dispute to appreciate the dilemma that results from the abuse of the Abandonment Canons as just outlined. All one has to be is fair enough to acknowledge that there is room for honest and conscientious disagreement on the question. And if that is the case, why should the punishment for such disagreement be one's deposition from holy orders without even a trial?

Indeed, this observation could be used as the starting point for an entirely different criticism of the current Title IV of ECUSA's Canons. One could devote an entire article to a comparison of the ease with which the deposition of a disagreeable priest may be procured under the current version of Canon IV.10---"disagreeable" in the sense that he/she maintains (traditional) doctrines that are different from those (more "modern" and "inclusive" doctrines) maintained by the diocesan bishop---with the sheer difficulty of deposing a bishop under Canon IV.3.21 for "holding and teaching publicly or privately, and advisedly, any doctrine contrary to that held by this Church." (The difficulty in the latter case is intentional---the result of a report growing out of the controversy over Bishop Pike's demand for a heresy trial to clear him of charges made by his critics.)

A bishop may not be deposed on such a charge unless ten other bishops first request a "Statement of Disassociation" from the alleged heretical doctrine, and the House of Bishops agrees by majority vote to issue such a Statement at its next regular meeting. That will be the end of the matter unless ten bishops next file a Presentment with the Presiding Bishop, together with a statement of reasons "why the issuance of a Statement of Disassociation was not a sufficient response to the acts alleged". After a full briefing of the issues on both sides, the proceedings may not continue unless at least one-third of the members of the House of Bishops votes to allow them to continue. Only then do the charges go before the Court for the Trial of a Bishop, which consists of nine other bishops elected for just that purpose. (However, any such bishop who had signed the presentment, or who was part of the one-third vote allowing the presentment to be brought, would thereby be disqualified, and so the court would have to be stacked with those bishops who had not agreed to the presentment in the first place.) Do you begin to see why no bishop has been deposed on charges of heresy since 1924, and why that bishop was the only one ever to be so deposed in the entire history of the Church?

To depose a priest on charges of "abandonment" growing out of doctrinal differences with his bishop, however, requires but the vote of three-quarters of the diocesan standing committee, and the concurrence of the diocesan bishop. There is no reliable tally, on account of the wide variety of factual differences, but it is safe to say that, in contrast to just one bishop more than seventy years ago, hundreds of priests have been so deposed in just the last six years alone.

Thus one of the criteria by which I propose to judge the Task Force's draft report is how well it addresses and manages to solve the problem of rampant abuse of the Abandonment Canons, in contrast to what it does (or does not do) with the cumbersome procedure for charges of episcopal heresy.

And at the outset, I have to conclude that the Report gets off to an egregious start. For the very first change to be noted between the current Canons IV.9 and IV.10 and the new draft is in the title itself. Current Canon IV.9 is entitled "Of Abandonment of the Communion of this Church by a Bishop", and Canon IV.10 is titled the same way, with a substitution of "Priest or Deacon" for the word "Bishop". The proposed new canon combines these two, and is titled simply: "Of Abandonment of The Episcopal Church." (Emphasis added.)

Uh-oh. This spells big trouble. As I showed in my earlier posts on the history of the Abandonment Canons, they were not concerned with clergy or bishops who left this Church for another church in the Anglican Communion. Indeed, their definition of "abandonment" carefully specifies that it consists of the act of "formal admission into any religious body not in communion with [this Church] . . ." (emphasis supplied). And so the ominous change in the title suggests that this distinction will no longer be maintained. (In consequence, as I have argued elsewhere, the Episcopal Church will increasingly isolate itself from the rest of the Anglican Communion.)

But then, what do we find, on reading the new language itself? The Task Force proposes to retain the same definition of "abandonment" as is in the old canons! In the case of a Bishop, it says:
If a Bishop abandons the Episcopal Church (i) by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of the Church, or (ii) by formal admission into any religious body not in communion with the same, or (iii) by exercising Episcopal acts in and for a religious body other than the Church or another church in communion with the Church, so as to extend to such body Holy Orders as the Church holds them, or to administer on behalf of such religious body Confirmation without the express consent and commission of the proper authority in the Church . . .
(The definition for a priest or deacon is also the same, including the additional open-ended phrase "or in any other way . . ." at the end. It was proposed in the earlier draft version to add this catchall language to the definition of "abandonment" for a bishop as well, but the Task Force seems to have rethought that particular change. As an attorney, I think the open-ended language is an invitation to open-ended abuse. The Task Force's failure to eliminate it, while choosing at the same time not to add it to the definition of a bishop's abandonment, demonstrates clearly its intent to maintain the double standard in the current Canons that favors bishops in every instance over priests and deacons. And that failure, I submit is completely at odds with the Task Force's avowed mission of "reconciliation, to free and strengthen the Church in its true mission to the world" [Report, p. 4].)

So what is to be made of this deliberate adherence to the old language? The only conclusion I can draw is that it amounts to an affirmation, almost sub silentio, of the current practice of deposing bishops and priests for "abandonment" whenever they leave the Episcopal Church (USA), period---regardless of whether they transfer to another province in the Anglican Communion or not. And the result is to render meaningless the second clause of the definition: "by formal admission into any religious body not in communion with the same". Formal admission into a body that is in communion with ECUSA will instead be treated as a violation of the first clause, i.e., a renunciation of one's ordination vows, read in the restrictive sense that one is swearing allegiance not to the "doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ", but only to "the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church."

This proposal is thus a disaster, and constitutes the worst of both worlds. We are, as I say, off to an egregious start.

To continue for a moment with the proposal as it deals just with bishops: the next thing to note is that it dispenses with the check on abuse of power which the current Canon IV.9 provides by requiring the three senior bishops with jurisdiction to consent to any proposed inhibition of the bishop charged with abandonment. If a charge clears the Disciplinary Board (which replaces the old Title IV Review Committee, and has twice as many members [18 instead of 9]), then the Presiding Bishop must impose a "restriction" (the new, and softer-sounding, replacement for "inhibition") on the bishop so charged; the three most senior bishops are not consulted. So that takes care, at least, of the problems that were engendered by the Presiding Bishop's unilateral decision that she could simply bypass the senior bishops in instances where they did not agree with her, as in the cases of Bishop Cox and Bishop Duncan. (Score one more point for the Imperial---or rather, Metropolitan---Presidency to which the Church is now de facto subject.)

Well, after these explications, you must be dying to know how the Task Force proposes to solve the claim of the Presiding Bishop, her Parliamentarian and Chancellor, and of Bishop Sauls and his Property Task Force (?!) that the second part of Canon IV.9 was "ambiguous" in calling for a consent to the proposed deposition by a "majority of the whole number of bishops entitled to vote." Remember that at the recent meeting of the House of Bishops in September, at which it illegally took up a resolution to depose Bishop Duncan (who had never been inhibited, as an express requirement for proceeding to a vote on deposition), the Presiding Bishop and her Parliamentarian took the extraordinary (and extremely uncanonical) step of announcing in advance of the meeting their parliamentary "rulings" resolving this claimed "ambiguity". They decided, in plain violation of Roberts Rules of Order, that the quoted language was "ambiguous" because it could mean either---

(1) a majority of the "whole number" of bishops present and qualified to vote at the meeting; or

(2) a majority of all of the bishops with a seat and vote in the House, whether present at the meeting or not.

Since the latter interpretation (which was the uniform interpretation applied in all previous cases of abandonment, except for the most recent ones of Bishop Davies of Ft. Worth and Bishop Larrea of Ecuador) required an inconvenient number of retired bishops to show up and vote, the Presiding Bishop and her Parliamentarian settled on the first interpretation, thereby making the words "the whole number of" superfluous and meaningless. Many conscientious members of the Church were troubled by this arbitrary reading of the plain language, and called for the Canon's language to be "clarified" at General Convention 2009.

Those who were so troubled will just have to wait, and propose a "clarification" from the floor. For the Task Force once again shows its mettle by retaining the old language, unchanged! What I want to know is this: does the Task Force mean by this recommendation to affirm the reading of this language imposed by the Presiding Bishop and her Parliamentarian last September, or is it thereby signaling that we should return to the traditional interpretation that was uniformly applied up until 1993? Or is it taking no position on the issue? How is anyone supposed to tell? The result in any event is unhelpful, to say the least.

The only other significant change in the procedures under the old Canons is a shortening of the six-month period of inhibition before a priest or deacon may be deposed to just a sixty-day period. Doubtless this is intended to expedite the current proceedings against disagreeable clergy, and to hasten their enforced separation from the Church when their bishop fails to see eye to eye with them.

Oh, yes---and what about the procedure for deposing a bishop on charges of heresy? Did the Task Force recommend any expediting changes for that process? Answer: not in the slightest. It remains every bit as difficult and cumbersome as before.

With this examination of the changes to the abandonment canons at an end, I hope that the larger picture presented by the draft Report will be more clear. In general (except in cases of heresy maintained by a bishop), the Task Force is recommending changes to the disciplinary process that will expedite and shorten the period of time in which troublesome dissenters may be removed from the Church. It accomplishes this feat in at least two ways: by removing former checks on authority and shortening time periods, as we have seen in the case of the abandonment canons; and by imbuing the disciplinary authorities with a vast amount of discretion as to which manner of discipline is appropriate to a given case. The choices will now be four, to be selected solely in the discretion of the triumvirate consisting of the Intake Officer, the diocesan bishop involved, and the president of the diocesan Disciplinary Board (known collectively as "the Reference Panel"); they are as set forth in proposed Canon IV.6.8:

Referral options are (a) no action required other than appropriate pastoral response pursuant to Canon IV.8; (b) conciliation pursuant to Canon IV.10; (c) investigation [for possible presentment and trial] pursuant to Canon IV.11 or (d) referral for possible agreement with the Bishop Diocesan regarding terms of discipline pursuant to Canon IV.9.
One can safely predict that if GC 2009 adopts the Task Force's recommendations, there will be a rise in depositions for abandonment, both of bishops, as well as of priests and deacons. Freedom in bringing and concluding charges will tend to produce, over time, a much more homogenized Church than at present.

But the result will not be all that lamentable, given the impending formation of a new North American province. For with the homogenization of ECUSA, the choice between it and the alternative will become that much more clear. Those who enjoy the untrammeled discretion of arbitrary power will much prefer ECUSA, while those who enjoy being bumps on the log will find ample room for their personalities in the looser structures of the new province. Whether the choice will remain as clear over the long run is much more difficult to foresee, given the inevitable tendency of any institution over time to concentrate power at the top. The already topheavy structure of ECUSA will become even more so, especially with the current precedents being set---without any meaningful objection or opposition---by the Presiding Bishop, who is gradually arrogating to her office the full powers of a metropolitan.

However, the one factor which the Presiding Bishop and her minions cannot control is the courts, and they are risking an awful lot in more and more legal proceedings in more and more States. There will be some victories, but also some inevitable losses. Should the latter come to be more numerous than the former, the office of the Presiding Bishop will come under severe pressure to pull in its horns, and to deal with what remains and can be safely managed. Even under those circumstances, however, I think the concentration of power will inexorably continue---if not during the term of the incumbent, then during that of her successor.

It may be trite to say it, but the trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings just might provide a fair analogy to understand the processes that are going on around us in the Church today. Think of how the forces of Mordor first dominated, and then how that domination produced over time its own self-correcting reaction---even down to the most imperturbable of all of Tolkien's creatures, the Ents. When they had had enough of Sauron, they had had enough, and proceeded to do something about it. I do not wish to push the analogy too far, because the future is inscrutable; there are just too many variables. What will help in any event is to keep one's mind focused on resisting arbitrary power at every little stone bridge that presents itself on the way. For only in that manner can arbitrary power be ultimately checked and brought to bay.