Tuesday, September 23, 2008

There She Goes Again!

For an oceanographic scholar, + Katharine Jefferts Schori does not evidence much of a capacity for learning from experience. She is on course to repeat the same mistakes she made in San Joaquin, and which will make it that much more difficult for TEC to prevail in the Pittsburgh lawsuit it plans to file, once it has a puppet bishop named who can be the plaintiff. Here are just some of the problems that approach entails:

1. Since the entity recognized under Pennsylvania law as the "Diocese of Pittsburgh" (DoP) will have amended its Constitution to delete the language having it accede to TEC's Constitution and Canons, it is no longer capable of serving as a diocese of TEC under its Constitution.

2. That being the case, a new entity will have to be created, which can be (a) an Episcopal diocese, and (b) recognized as a legal entity under Pennsylvania law.

3. Since it will be a new entity, it cannot already belong to the Episcopal Church—it will have to join TEC after it has been organized.

4. And the only way a new entity can join TEC is to apply to General Convention to be accepted as a Diocese—i.e., it cannot become a diocese until July 2009 at the earliest.

5. That being the case, the members of Progressive Episcopalians Pittsburgh (PEP), the group that wants to remain with TEC, have from October 2008 until May 2009 to organize properly, hold a convention, elect a standing committee and approve (if they want) a provisional bishop.

6. But neither the provisional bishop nor the standing committee of the entity will have any basis on which to file suit against the former Diocese of Pittsburgh until next July, because they will not (and cannot) represent an actual diocese of TEC until then.

Watch the presiding bishop go for all the stakes, however, and try to claim that the changes to the DoP Constitution were unauthorized, and ultra vires. ("Under what language?" asks Mark McCall. "Under my reading of the Constitution, backed my my Chancellor, my Parliamentarian, and a number of leading canon lawyers who did not want me to reveal their names," she replies. "See you in court," says John Lewis.) She won't even bother to try to organize a new legal entity; she and PEP will claim that they still are the only lawful diocese around, and that they are still a diocese within the Church. (Will her lawyers try a sneak attack, as they did in San Joaquin, and file papers with the Pennsylvania Secretary of State to change the name back again? Probably, in an attempt to give themselves some superficial validity in the eyes of the law.)

But if that is the case, what is this entity they will be suing—that calls itself "the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in the Province of the Southern Cone"? How can a diocese sue itself? And how can a diocese be a member of two different provinces at the same time? And have two bishops, and two principal offices?

Such are the metaphysical mazes into which the current leader of TEC will lead both it and PEP. Only the Pittsburgh courts will be able to sort it out, and then after them there are the courts of appeal, and on up the ladder. Meanwhile, other dioceses will leave, similar lawsuits will be filed, and before long the entire structure of TEC will depend for its validity on the decrees of courts to come from four different states: California, Pennsylvania, Texas and Illinois---to say nothing of the U. S. Supreme Court.

Welcome to TEC, a church of either 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113 or 114 dioceses, depending on which attorney's opinion you get, and which court finally rules when.

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