Friday, June 18, 2010

A Canonical Analysis of "Mitregate"

Pity the bishops from ECUSA (and all other branches of the Communion) -- they each have to submit the following application, with copies of their letters of ordination to each clerical office -- before they can receive a license to officiate at Eucharist within the Province of Canterbury in the Church of England (my thanks to Keith Töpfer for the image; click on it, and then click again to enlarge to readable size):

"Bizarre, it's beyond bizarre," the bishops from ECUSA say. "Unfair, it's an insult to our Presiding Bishop," still others say.

How about trying to understand something about the church you propose to minister in before you go there? Such as: the Church of England is a STATE church, and so has requirements laid down for it by PARLIAMENT (for example: the 1967 Statute referred to at the top of the Application).

Since there is no law in force allowing a woman to officiate as a bishop in any church of the Church of England, Bishop Jefferts Schori had to apply for a license to officiate as a priest. That statute provides, in relevant part, as follows (bold emphasis added):
(1) If any overseas clergyman desires to officiate as priest or deacon in the province of Canterbury or York, he may apply to the Archbishop of the province in which he desires to officiate for written permission to do so.
. . .
(4) Any permission granted under this section shall be registered in the registry of the province.
(5) An application for a permission under this section shall be made on a form approved by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.
(6) It shall be an offence against the laws ecclesiastical, for which proceedings may be taken under the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963 for any overseas clergyman to officiate as priest or deacon in the province of Canterbury or York otherwise than in accordance with a permission granted under this section, and for any clergyman knowingly to allow such an offence to be committed in any church in his charge.

But they are not done with their complaints, even after they are shown the application form, and the law of the realm that requires it. "She should have been allowed to wear her mitre instead of being forced to carry it," they say. "Look -- others have been allowed to wear their mitres -- here's one of Bishop Griswold at Southwark -- here's one of Bishop Katherine at Salisbury Cathedral." And here's an account of a Canadian bishop who wore her mitre during the whole Communion service, with the Diocesan bishop standing right beside her, Mark Harris says.

To which I respond: look at the words of the statute, and of the form required pursuant to its terms. Do you see that word "officiate"? Bishop Griswold did not officiate (preside at the Communion) in Southwark -- nor did Bishop Tottenham of Toronto. They assisted, but they did not officiate. The same is true of Bishop Jefferts Schori at Salisbury before Lambeth in 2008 -- she preached at the service, but she did not officiate at the Eucharist. This was the first time she ever preached and presided in an English cathedral. (And hence, it was the first time that she ever had to fill out the form above and supply her proofs of ordination.)

If a visiting clergy does not preside at the Eucharist, but only assists, or preaches, then the position of the Legal Office of the Province of Canterbury has been that no license is required by the statute, and the Archbishop of Canterbury does not have to concern himself with the details of the ceremony, or with who wears what. But a license to officiate under the Archbishop of Canterbury is a license to perform an ecclesiastical function at a service within the Church of England's Canterbury Province, and neither the Archbishop nor Queen Elizabeth II has any legal power to license a woman to preside as bishop over a Eucharist anywhere within the Church of England. The Canons of the Church on this point are explicit (emphasis added):

Canon C2 (5): Nothing in this Canon shall make it lawful for a woman to be consecrated to the office of bishop.

Canon C4B (1): A woman may be ordained to the office of priest if she otherwise satisfies the requirements of Canon C 4 as to the persons who may be ordained as priests.

Canon C8 (5): A minister who has been ordained priest or deacon –
(a) by an overseas bishop within the meaning of the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967;
. . .

may not minister in the province of Canterbury or York without the permission of the archbishop of the province in question under the said Measure . . .
To have allowed Bishop Jefferts Schori to wear her mitre in the Cathedral would have made her indistinguishable in function, in celebrating the Eucharist, from a bishop of the Church of England -- especially as the post of the Bishop of Southwark, whose see is the Cathedral, is currently vacant. Not only would it have signified an authority in the Cathedral which she did not have and could not have, but it would have made Dean Slee and any other clergy participating liable for prosecution under Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure of 1963, as noted under subsection 6 of the Measure quoted above.

[UPDATE 06/24/2010: People in ECUSA and the Church of England still do not grasp the distinction made by the Province's Legal Office between officiating (presiding) at the Eucharist and assisting another bishop who is the presider. Today the Church Times carried a story about the visit of another American female bishop to the Church of England, in which an unnamed "staff reporter" wrote:

It began when the US Presiding Bishop, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, was requested by Lambeth Palace not to wear her mitre during a service at Southwark Cathedral a fortnight ago. Dr Jefferts Schori described the ban as “bizarre — it is beyond bizarre”.

Since then, the “Mitregate” saga has refused to die down. Last week end, another woman bishop from the United States, the Bishop of El Camino Real, the Rt Revd Mary Grey-Reeves, presided at the eucharist in Gloucester Cathedral. She was in Glou cester with the Bishop of West Tanganyika, the Rt Revd Gerard Mpango. Bishop Grey-Reeves was permitted to wear her mitre.
The Bishop of Gloucester, Dr Michael Perham, who invited Bishop Grey-Reeves, said in an ex­planatory note that the law governing visiting bishops from overseas needed urgent revision. He had none the less applied for, and been granted, permission for Bishop Grey-Reeves to officiate, under the provisions of the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordina tion) Measure of 1967.
But then, in the very next paragraph comes the decisive point (emphasis added):
Dr Perham writes: “The Measure makes no reference to what the bishop wears. . . On Sunday, when she stood at my side when I presided at the eucharist, and again when she preached at a Partnership Service later in the day, she did . . . wear her mitre.”
Thus not even the Bishop of Gloucester appreciates the difference. Since he himself was presiding over the Eucharist, as the diocesan bishop in his own cathedral, there was no need for him even to have applied for a license for the visiting bishop. That he did so may have demonstrated an abundance of caution. But it by no means points up any inconsistency in the treatment given to Bishop Jefferts Schori. At the service at which she presided, there was no diocesan bishop alongside her -- as noted above, the diocesan position is currently vacant. In Gloucester, they had no difficulty recognizing their own bishop; but in Southwark, the matter was entirely different. As I said earlier: to have allowed Bishop Jefferts Schori to wear the mitre and carry the crozier of a bishop in Southwark Cathedral would have conferred upon her an authority which she did not have, and could not have, in that Cathedral.

Sometimes details are inconsequential, and other times they are crucial. Neither the Province of Canterbury nor its Archbishop was guilty of the slightest offense or rudeness to ECUSA's Presiding Bishop -- after all, he could have simply declined to grant her a license to preside altogether. Then the Very Rev. Dean Slee would have had to officiate, and she could have flaunted her mitre up and down the aisle, for all the good will it would have earned her. I would suspect, given the churlish way in which she has refused to understand the terms under which she was licensed, that the Presiding Bishop may have presided over her last communion service in the Church of England for the time being -- at least, until Parliament authorizes a change in the law. In the meantime, it's The Ugly American all over again.]


  1. Mr. Haley,

    It would appear that I may not have been as close to the reality of the truth in my tentatively posited explanation of the PB's inability to read the straightforward English of TEC's canons, in this comment on your earlier thread, A Nadir in Communion Relations, as I had then thought.

    Based on the widespread inability to grasp simple concepts displayed in Mitregate by her clerical colleagues in TEC (both presbyteral and episcopal), it now appears that the cause may rather be something on the order of an infectious agent, i.e., a communicable (IOW contagious) disease. Or, then again, perhaps it is something that exhibits both lack of maturity and contagion—something along the lines of a communicable ergotamine.

    This will require further study and reflection.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  2. Right you are, Keith. It fairly boggles the mind that there are so many on both sides of the Atlantic who simply assume that the laws of the realm mean nothing, and can be waived for ECUSA's benefit at the drop (or should it be doffing?) of a mitre.

    In fact, the more the comment pours out about Canon Kearon's words to the Executive Council today, the more clearly is shown that ECUSA has already left the Anglican Communion, because ECUSA wants no part of what there is of the AC except that which it can take over and control by itself.

  3. While the form does not ask for the clergyman's sex, the rules say:

    "...he may apply to the Archbishop of the province..."


  4. UP, that issue is also resolved by the Canons -- the version you are quoting dates from before the time when Parliament enacted legislation to allow the CoE to have women priests. The Canons were then amended as well, in order to ensure that references to the male gender included the female, for example:

    1. For any relevant reference to ‘he’ or ‘him’ there may be substituted the words ‘she’ or ‘her’.

  5. UP, in publishing my previous comment, my acknowledgment that yours was satirical (;>) was unfortunately left out. Do not take, therefore, my response as a misreading of what you were saying.

  6. The sacramental theology point is troubling. In trying to pretend this is not a snub of the PB, you are making a distinction between the Eucharist as celebrated by a bishop and one celebrated by a presbyter. The requirement in sacramental theology is one in right authority, which can be a person of either order. Also, a person consecrated bishop bears an indelible charism. If ++KJS is a validly-ordained bishop, which the ABC would not question, then she ALWAYS celebrates as a bishop, whether or not she is wearing a mitre. Clothing has nothing to do with charism. By this line of reasoning, a bishop in cassock and surplice cannot perform confirmations, as they would do so as a priest. If "celebrating the Eucharist as a bishop" by a woman would cause a breach of canon law, that has occurred whether she is was wearing the hat or not. In that case, the ABC should have refused her license altogether.

  7. FrSimmons, I do not "try to pretend" anything whatsoever. This blog is dedicated to upholding the historic norms and canons of "the faith once delivered to the saints," and to documenting and demonstrating the late, uncanonical departures from the same by those who are in charge of the Episcopal Church (USA).

    Given the history of the Church of England, no one can reasonably claim that the PB is not governed first and foremost by the laws enacted by Parliament, which every citizen of the realm, and every ordained clergy in the Church, is required to obey. I am perfectly aware that considered sacramentally, a bishop is still a bishop, regardless of whether he/she wears a mitre. All orders of the clergy --deacons, priests and bishops -- are ordained into "the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church."

    The canons to which I refer in Bishop Jefferts Schori's case are the particular canons and statutes which govern clergy in the Church of England. Your argument based on sacramental authority conferred by ordination confuses authority in the Church universal with authority in the Church temporal -- that is, with the Church as subject to the laws of particular nations.

    Bishop Jefferts Schori may, perhaps, function in the eyes of God as a "bishop" wherever she presides, with or without a mitre. But in the eyes of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England with whose spiritual leadership he is entrusted, she can never be in public anything more than a priest when she wants to officiate at Communion. For you to argue that it was a "snub" not to allow her to preside as a bishop is fundamentally to disrespect the tradition and Scripture to which the Church of England currently subscribes.

    In other words, you want to argue that all American Episcopal orders are from God, and therefore they must be everywhere recognized. If that were so, then the application for, and the granting of, a license to officiate in any particular Diocese of another denomination would be entirely superfluous. Can you not see that for an American bishop to demand that the Church of England recognize him/her as a full bishop is of the essence of "being in communion", and that, to the extent one church advances ahead of the other's pace of discernment, it is to that extent "out of communion", or "in impaired communion" with that other church, and thereby has forfeited its claim to automatic recognition of its orders until such time as the two churches are again on the same track?

    If ECUSA conscientiously adhered to its role as a single member of the Communion, and did not claim to be its all-defining authority, then it could not push its orders onto other branches of the Communion. The whole theological and sacramental basis underlying the ordaining of a bishop is, as the BCP itself affirms (p. 510),

    "that the threefold ministry is not the exclusive property of this portion of Christ's catholic Church, but is a gift from God for the nurture of his people and the proclamation of his Gospel everywhere. Accordingly, the manner of ordaining in this Church is to be such as has been, and is, most generally recognized by Christian people as suitable for the conferring of the sacred orders of bishops, priest, and deacon.

    By licensing Bishop Jefferts Schori as a priest to preside at a Eucharist in the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury was recognizing the validity of her orders as a priest, but no farther -- in the Church of England. And her submission to that recognition -- by applying for a license as a priest only -- was a recognition of the limitation being placed on her abilities to function ecclesiastically. Ordinary courtesy and grace, in my opinion, would have acceded to those limitations, instead of resisting them in a passive-aggressive manner by insisting on carrying one's mitre into the service.

  8. Nevertheless, the distinction would seem somewhat arbitrary. If a woman can't function pontifically in the CoE, then she can't. But once you say, it's alright as long as she's only preaching - or, if she is presiding, mitreless - then we begin to get into some fine casuistry. I won't question your reporting of what the CoE rules are, just their consistency.

    I don't think anyone has argued that ++Rowan was not within his authority, but as the Legal Office made clear in question time at General Synod, such decisions are at his discretion, so it is disingenuous to claim that his hands are tied. And given that ECUSAns are still feeling the wound of his most recent snub, they can perhaps be forgiven for seeing this incident as confirmation of it, even if, as you claim, it's completely unrelated.

  9. Geoff, thank you for coming here to comment. I think you may still miss the difference between being granted discretion by a statute, and being commanded by a statute.

    In this matter, the ABC had no discretion under the law. Look at its language in the passages I have quoted: see all those "shall"s? "Shall" is the language of command, of mandate -- one disobeys the statute at peril of being prosecuted.

    It was the PB who should have recognized that when in Rome, she was obliged to do as the Romans do. She was the one who applied for the license. I suggest it was disingenuous of her to act as though she understood the requirements, only to come close to flouting them so that she could make her point, in total disrespect of her hosts, that the CoE needs to hurry up and allow women to be bishops. She managed to turn a sacramental occasion into a political one, and I am amazed at the lack of ability on the left to perceive how much of an insult that was.

  10. While this canonical analysis may be right, a clear statement from Lambeth Palace about the matter would have been helpful.

  11. Mr. Haley,

    Or perhaps since we are discussing the Law of the 'Realm of England,' 'My Learned Friend.' Thank you for an excellent explaination for Americans of English legal proceedure especially as pertaining to the Established Church of England. I believe I may be correct in saying that the Church of England is the only remaining Province of the Communion this is true for, hence frequent confusion on these matters, as it is a very 'different beast.' Indeed the licensing would also prevent the PB from a civil charge of 'impersonating a clergyman' which I also believe is still on the statute books in the UK (though rarely used). I am not a lawyer called to any bar, just what I remember from my canon law class.

    However if you will permit me, I would like to make a 'Point of Information.' There is no 'Queen of England!' Such title ceased to exist by Act of Parliament with the Union of 1707 and subsequently amended when things happened with Ireland. Yet, I also understand the confusion that exists for many in the United States as to how to refer to Queen Elizabeth II. I realize it is a mouthful but the correct title, I believe you are looking for is "Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Nth Ireland (and Her other Dominions and Territories, if one wishes to be polite to Canada, Australia and New Zealand for example)." I realize also many Americans will find this trivial but as a Scot I would point out that the same Act placed the title King/Queen of Scots (for the Land belongs to God and the King is only the Prince and 'Father' of the People) in suspension as well. Many do use the term Queen of England but that is like calling the former USSR, Russia.

    I greatly enjoy reading your posts and exegesis of some of the finer legal points I would not normally have access to a detailed and relevant summary.

    To my Reverend Brother, Fr. Simmons, I would point out that this is one of the perplexities of the Anglican Communion that it comes and views as a 'Fons Spiritual' the See of Canterbury. Whatever the role and status of the PB within the USA, within the Realm of England, the Law specifically mentions the non authorization of women bishops in the changes you pointed out. As such it would have been a crime for her to 'preside' in any 'Pontifical' role. Even VGR realized he was in a no win situation there during the Lambeth Conference, hence both he and the PB got on a train to my old Province of Scotland where it is not the Established Church and therefore has none of the legal prerequisites that English Law imposes, to 'preside' at Eucharist while in the UK.

    'Mitregate' has done the TEC no favors within the Communion, and indeed I think there may even be a collective sign of relief at the possibility of an 'Episcopal Communion.' If they were to refuse the discipline of the Communion then it would have been they who walked away, and I wonder just how that would affect any current litigation, since I believe the Virgina Supreme Court did accede there was a 'Division.'

    Yours aye,

    Alasdair Harding+

  12. Fr. Harding, thank you so much for the "point of information", and your other fine observations. (I have corrected the post to read just "Queen Elizabeth II".) It seems that though this post has done something to clear the air, there are still those who will not (or cannot?) read plain English (which they choose to call "drivel"). They think that all the paperwork for the Presiding Bishop must already have been on file with the Province of Canterbury as a result of her previous visits, and so that to ask her to fill out the form again was pure harassment. To the contrary: this was her first time presiding at Eucharist, and so this was her first time to submit an application -- which as you kindly point out, prevented her from being charged with "impersonating a clergyman"! :>) (What happens to Rowan Atkinson when he does one of his skits?)

    Once again, the overweening smugness of some of my fellow ECUSA members embarrasses me. (How things have changed from when the nascent PECUSA needed the CoE to ordain its first bishops!) I trust you will accept my assurance that for every arrogant outburst on an Episcopalian blog, there are yet those of us who sincerely are urging our brethren to walk a bit more humbly, and not assume that they know everything without having to be told.

    (By the way, tonight my family and I are looking forward to hearing some of the folk music of your fine country, as interpreted by another Scotsman named Alasdair.)

  13. There you go again, inserting sanity and reason into the innanity and unreason.


  14. As always enjoyed this post. Thanks for delving and getting to the truth of the matter. Thanks, Mr. Haley, for a fine analysis of "Mitregate".

  15. "While the form does not ask for the clergyman's sex, the rules say:

    "...he may apply to the Archbishop of the province..."


    UP, for all your sarcasm, the English language still uses the 'he' pronoun as the general, catch-all pronoun. The only gender-specific pronoun is 'she', so the Canons could only be regarded as chauvinistic if they used this gender-specific pronoun.