Saturday, October 4, 2008

Logic Wins in Pittsburgh!

No doubt he can't help it: the Rev. Mark Harris provides us with a textbook example of a liberal's utter lack of logic in commenting for his readers on what has in fact happened today with the Diocese of Pittsburgh:
If it is the majority [that votes to change the Constitution], they will claim that "The Diocese of Pittsburgh" has left. That will be completely inaccurate. What will be true is that a majority of the delegates representing their parishes will have voted to leave. Not all the members of a parish voting to leave will do so, just as not all members of a parish voting not to leave will stay. Instead, PEOPLE will leave or stay.
(Bold added for emphasis.) It is woolly thinking such as this that has landed The Episcopal Church in all its current difficulties.  The Rev. Harris sits on TEC's Executive Council---just think how that body reacted to the proposed changes by various dioceses to their Constitutions: it passed a resolution proclaiming the changes to be null and void. Groupthink of the kind engaged in by Mark Harris and his liberal colleagues who currently hold the reins of The Episcopal Church has produced the current atmosphere of unChristian lawsuits, depositions and dunderheaded proposals for more legislation "to fix the problem."  (Hint to the liberals [which they will never get, but I'll make it anyway]: If you are the problem to begin with, what do you think passing yet more loopy laws and crazy canons will accomplish?  That's right: more problems.)

Regular readers of this site will already know what is wrong with the Rev. Harris' logic. (If you need a refresher, you can start with this, and follow it up as you like with this and this.) Allow me a brief and direct response: Mr. Harris, what is true is not just that a majority of the delegates representing their parishes and their orders will not only have voted to leave, but to change their Diocesan Constitution in accordance with its terms for amending it.  That change (along with a corresponding change to their Canons) makes it canonically impossible for the unincorporated association which is in law "the Diocese of Pittsburgh" to continue to be a diocese of The Episcopal Church.

Do you understand? The entity which was the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh cannot remain as such once the changes were approved.  The people who want to stay in TEC are not a "diocese"---they have no Constitution or canons of their own (they will have to meet, in a duly noticed convention with a legal quorum of clergy and deputies present, to adopt them), they have no Bishop (they themselves---particularly those in Calvary Church---have seen to that), and they have no legal Standing Committee (another body that only a duly convened diocesan convention can create and elect).  The body that elected the former Standing Committee has left, and taken its Standing Committee with it (along with however many vacancies created by those choosing to stay in TEC). The ones remaining are no longer members of that Standing Committee, and they themselves do not constitute a "Standing Committee" until a new and properly called convention elects them to one.

Logic is not your strong suit, Mr. Harris, and so I do not expect you to be able to follow what I have said. But allow me to remark on one further characteristic of your post: its sarcastic and elitist tone:
So, Bishop Duncan as consultant will either reemerge as Bishop of the Leaving one way or another. Either a majority or minority of clergy and people will go with him. [Tsk, tsk---such logic! Watch out, or it might catch hold of you.] The property issues will be a mess, as they always are. When he gets to that far shore it will only be for a short visit. Very soon I suspect the powers that be in the GAFCON Primates Council will proclaim the Common Cause Partnership, or some portion of it, sutable [sic] as the so called [sic] orthodox presence in North America.
"So called orthodox presence in North America," Mr. Harris? Why (to give it its proper hyphen) only "so-called"? Do you really claim that TEC is "the true orthodox presence in North America" today? For if you do make that claim, you demonstrate once again how liberals and their loose attitude toward language and logic are themselves the problem.

Fact: you cannot be both "orthodox" and propose a novelty such as the ordination of openly avowed, active homosexuals in direct contravention of Holy Scripture.  

Fact: you cannot be both "orthodox" and ignore the plain and unambiguous language of the canons to achieve your nefarious ends.

So do not even attempt to wrap yourself in the cloak of orthodoxy, Mark Harris. Otherwise, like the cloak that Medea gave to her rival, you might find that it burns you.

At the Pittsburgh Convention, Dr. Joan Gundersen raised a point of order against the proposed Constitutional amendments, on the ground that they were contrary to "a higher law." She referred to this section of Robert's Rules of Order:
Votes that are Null and Void even if Unanimous. No motion is in order that conflicts with the laws of the nation, or state, or with the assembly's constitution or by-laws, and if such a motion is adopted, even by a unanimous vote, it is null and void. No rule that conflicts with a rule of a higher order is of any authority; thus, a by-law providing for the suspension by general consent of an article of the constitution would be null and void . . .
Dr. Gundersen claimed that the proposed changes were contrary to Article V of TEC's Constitution, which provides in its entirety:
Sec. 1. A new Diocese may be formed, with the consent of the General Convention and under such conditions as the General Convention shall prescribe by General Canon or Canons, (1) by the division of an existing Diocese; (2) by the junction of two or more Dioceses or of parts of two or more Dioceses; or (3) by the erection into a Diocese of an unorganized area evangelized as provided in Article VI. The proceedings shall originate in a Convocation of the Clergy and Laity of the unorganized area called by the Bishop for that purpose; or, with the approval of the Bishop, in the Convention of the Diocese to be divided; or (when it is proposed to form a new Diocese by the junction of two or more existing Dioceses or of parts of two or more Dioceses) by mutual agreement of the Conventions of the Dioceses concerned, with the approval of the Bishop of each Diocese. In case the Episcopate of a Diocese be vacant, no proceedings toward its division shall be taken until the vacancy is filled. After consent of the General Convention, when a certified copy of the duly adopted Constitution of the new Diocese, including an unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of this Church, shall have been filed with the Secretary of the General Convention and approved by the Executive Council of this Church, such new Diocese shall thereupon be in union with the General Convention.
Sec. 2. In case one Diocese shall be divided into two or more Dioceses, the Bishop of the Diocese divided, at least thirty days before such division, shall select the Diocese in which the Bishop will continue in jurisdiction. The Bishop Coadjutor, if there be one, subsequently and before the effective date of the division shall select the Diocese in which the Bishop Coadjutor shall continue in jurisdiction, and if it not be the Diocese selected by the Bishop shall become the Bishop thereof.
Sec. 3. In case a Diocese shall be formed out of parts of two or more Dioceses, each of the Bishops and Bishops Coadjutor of the several Dioceses out of which the new Diocese has been formed shall be entitled, in order of seniority of consecration, to the choice between the Bishop's Diocese and the new Diocese so formed. In the case the new Diocese shall not be so chosen, it shall have the right to choose its own Bishop.
Can anyone see any connection between this Article, whose subject is the formation of new Dioceses and their admission into TEC, and the changes to the Constitution of the existing Diocese of Pittsburgh?  (Hint: you can see the "connection" only if you use the "logic" of a liberal.) It is sad to see a capable historian of the Church like Dr. Gundersen support such an illogical reading of the Constitution, but it is, alas, all too typical of the kind of thinking evidenced by those currently leading The Episcopal Church.

The argument that once a Diocese adopts a Constitution that contains "an unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of this Church", it can never change its Constitution to remove that language and replace it with something else, is another illogical argument frequently made by liberals. The argument is illogical because, first, Article V does not say any such thing, as you just read above. That is, it is a condition of joining the Church that a Diocese have such language in its Constitution, and perhaps keeping the language in its Constitution is also a condition of remaining in the Church once it has joined. (However, there are a number of dioceses which have no such language in their Constitutions, and which have never had it in them.) But that just means, in consequence, that if the language is subsequently changed to make the Diocese part of a different Church (or Province), then that Diocese can no longer be a diocese of The Episcopal Church; it does not mean (unless you are illogical) that the language can never be changed.

The Episcopal Church, like each of the Dioceses which make it up, is itself an unincorporated association. What does that mean? An unincorporated association is, first of all, not incorporated---that is to say, it is not a permanent legal entity, as is a corporation.  Second, it is an association---which is to say that it is a voluntary assembly of people who choose freely to belong to it. While they are members, they must obey its rules. But if the association had a rule that "members who join us may never leave us," that rule itself would not only be unenforceable in any court, but it would violate the very definition of an association, in an effort to turn it into a permanent, corporate-like entity.

Thus as members of The Episcopal Church, its Dioceses are free to come and go, as they choose. Nothing can legally be done to stop them from leaving, which they do by simply saying: "We are no longer bound by your rules; we no longer accede to your Constitution and Canons."

Once a Diocese has left, there is a geographical hole in The Episcopal Church.  That hole is not, and cannot be, a "diocese" in its own right, until it has gone through the procedures spelled out in Article V quoted above. It has to form itself as a new diocese, deciding which churches and parishes will make it up. Until it does so, it will be a mission territory---or it can simply, if it wishes, be annexed into a neighboring diocese, if that diocese agrees.

The liberals will not and cannot see this; their illogic prevents them. They will purport to meet and elect a Standing Committee and a bishop, and they and The Episcopal Church will go on as though nothing ever happened. No one will object to this unconstitutional procedure (or if some do, they will not be heard), because no one in charge cares about what the Constitution and canons say when they forbid the Church from doing what it wants to do. 

Thus The Episcopal Church is literally a lawless church. Those who support it, and those who lead it, do not consider themselves bound by any law when not convenient. In the same way, they do not consider themselves bound by any passage of Scripture which they find inconvenient. The two attitudes go hand in hand, and they are why the Church is where it finds itself today.

The vote at Pittsburgh is announced as I am writing this.  For the lay order: out of 191 ballots cast, 119 were "aye", 69 were "nay", and 3 abstained.  In the clergy order: there were 160 seated, and 159 ballots cast; ayes were 121, nays were 33, 3 abstained, and 2 ballots were ruled invalid. So the measure to amend the Constitution passed by the required majority in each order: 62% in the lay order, and 76% in the clergy order.  The Diocese of Pittsburgh is no longer a diocese of The Episcopal Church.  (And---surprise! The Rev. Harold Lewis of Calvary Church showed that he recognized this fact by announcing that he and his delegation were leaving the convention there and then. However, as I say, I expect him to lead those who will claim to be "the diocese of Pittsburgh" without bothering to go through the legalities of creating one.)

Announcement of the vote was followed by an announcement of the Standing Committee, calling a Special Convention of the Diocese for Friday, November 7, for the purpose of 1) electing a diocesan bishop, and 2) admitting new parishes into the diocese. Then came the announcement that the Most Rev. Gregory Venables had appointed the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop of the Province of the Southern Cone, as Episcopal Commissary to the Diocese of Pittsburgh. (Note to Dr. Gundersen, Harold Lewis, Mark Harris and their ilk: Do you see how it gains one respect when one can say that one is following the procedures prescribed by the canons?) 

[UPDATE 11:30 a.m.: The declaration of war has been made.  Hidden within the Presiding Bishop's statement of superficial appeasement in reaction to the vote are these threatening words:
The actions of the former bishop of Pittsburgh, and some lay and clergy leaders, have removed themselves from this Church . . .
As the "former Bishop of Pittsburgh" remarked in the press conference that followed the Convention, no clergy in the Diocese of Pittsburgh other than he himself has been deposed for proposing to leave the Church, and the Canon which would allow the diocesan Bishop (not the Presiding Bishop!) to remove lay members of vestries and standing committees for even daring to think about leaving has not been enacted yet. So there is no reason for the Presiding Bishop to observe that "some lay and clergy leaders have removed themselves from this Church" unless she plans to take the position, as she did in San Joaquin, that the "Standing Committee" is disqualified by reason of their failure "to oppose" the vote to leave. That will leave the way open for Dr. Jim Simons, who was a member of the Standing Committee until the vote, and who revealed his dissent from the vote on the floor of the Convention, to have her blessing in appointing "replacements" to hold the office until the next noticed "Diocesan Convention."  (Why have they not already announced the date?  I thought they had been making plans for what they were going to do.) (UPDATE to Update: Sigh. I see that they have announced their plans.  Well, I announce that a fisk of their announcement will appear in due course, as I have time.)

[But this is all a charade in contravention of the canons, as I have shown above.  There is no Standing Committee left in the Episcopal Church to reconstitute, because the Diocese to which the Standing Committee belongs has left The Episcopal Church. When it leaves, its Standing Committee goes with it. Any declaration of "vacancies" is a pretense to get around the canons---in an attempt to sustain the untenable position, as TEC is trying to do in San Joaquin, that a diocese cannot leave the Church.  So, here we go again!]

During the Morning Prayer service at the Convention, Assisting Bishop Henry Scriven read one of my all-time favorite prayers from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.  I think it is most appropriate for the divided world into which we Episcopalians and Anglicans now enter, and I heartily commend it to you: 
O God, the creator and preserver of all mankind, we humbly beseech thee for all sorts and conditions of men; that thou wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them, thy saving health unto all nations. More especially we pray for thy holy Church universal; that it may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life. Finally, we commend to thy fatherly goodness all those who are in any ways afflicted or distressed, in mind, body, or estate; [especially those for whom our prayers are desired]; that it may please thee to comfort and relieve them according to their several necessities, giving them patience under their sufferings, and a happy issue out of all their afflictions. And this we beg for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.



1 comment:

  1. The chess match proceeds as predicted. Queen takes bishop, bishop takes Queen, pawns get sacrificed, Church gets rooked out, Irate fallen Queen throws board and pieces up in the air and stomps out.