Monday, May 31, 2010

Decoration Day

. . . was the name originally given to Memorial Day, about whose history you may read at this post. Many other sites have poems, essays and similar offerings in honor of the day (don't forget this memorable photo). I have chosen a performance by the San Francisco Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas of the tone poem "Decoration Day", by Charles Ives:

Here are Ives's own notes on the work:

In the early morning the gardens and woods around the village are the meeting places of those who, with tender memories and devoted hands, gather the flowers for the Day's Memorial. During the forenoon as the people join each other on the Green there is felt, at times, a fervency and intensity--a shadow perhaps of the fanatical harshness--reflecting old Abolitionist days. It is a day as Thoreau suggests, when there is a pervading consciousness of "Nature's kinship with the lower order-man."

After the Town Hall is filled with the Spring's harvest of lilacs, daisies, and peonies, the parade is slowly formed on Main Street. First come the three Marshals on plough horses (going sideways), then the Warden and Burgesses in carriages, the Village Cornet Band, the G.A.R., two by two, the Militia (Company G), while the volunteer Fire Brigade, drawing a decorated hose-cart, with its jangling bells, brings up the rear-the inevitable swarm of small boys following. The march to Wooster Cemetery is a thing a boy never forgets. The roll of the muffled drums and "Adestes Fideles" answer for the dirge. A little girl on a fencepost waves to her father and wonders if he looked like that at Gettysburg.

After the last grave is decorated, Taps sounds out through the pines and hickories, while a last hymn is sung. The ranks are formed again, and "we all march to town" to a Yankee stimulant-Reeves inspiring Second Regiment Quickstep-though, to many a soldier, the sombre thoughts of the day underlie the tunes of the band. The march stops-and in the silence of the shadow of the early morning flower-song rises over the Town, and the sunset behind the West Mountain breathes its benediction upon the Day [Memos, 101-102].

* * * *

Meanwhile, in the news on this Memorial Day, the Turkish flotilla carrying aid to Hamas in Gaza has achieved the confrontation it wanted by trying to run the blockade established by Israel to keep Arab countries from supplying rockets and other arms to the Palestinians there. Only one of the six ships resisted being boarded by Israeli troops, and that was the ship on which all the casualties occurred. Israel claims its soldiers were met with clubs and knives, and that they opened fire in self-defense after the passengers seized two of their handguns and opened fire (more information here). Hamas claims that the troops simply slaughtered innocent civilians. According to Stratford, Al Jazeera's Arab news is now reporting that most of those killed were Turks, including a member of the Turkish parliament, and that Israel has called on all its citizens in Turkey to leave immediately.

The diplomatic protests are pouring in, the U.N. Security Council has called an emergency session, and Turkey is preparing sanctions against Israel for acting in self defense. No doubt the same nations parading their outrage at Israel's conduct in this sorry affair will, any day now, direct similar protests and sanctions against North Korea for sinking a South Korean vessel -- an unprovoked act which resulted in the loss of 46 lives.

The left once again shows its double standards -- one for Israel, but none for Kim Jong-il.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Stakes Just Went Up: If the Shoe Fits, Wear It

Last Saturday, I put up a carefully researched post about the impending maneuvers at the Executive Council of ECUSA to ensure that the (newly ordained) Bishop Ian Douglas of Connecticut would be able to claim a continuing seat on the Anglican Consultative Council, and derivatively, on its 14-member Standing Committee, to which he was elected at the Council's 14th meeting ("ACC-14"), held in Jamaica a year ago. (The Archbishop of Canterbury makes, ex officio, the Standing Committee's fifteenth member, but one member has resigned, and another is not attending, for reasons explained in the earlier post.) Set out verbatim in the post were the plain-English provisions of Article 4 of the ACC Constitution, which preclude ECUSA or its Executive Council from taking any such step as proposed.

When the Rev. Ian Douglas was elected to the ACC's Standing Committee at ACC-14, he was serving as ECUSA's clerical representative. But when he was elected as the Bishop of Connecticut, and ordained last April 17, he was no longer a simple priest, and became from that moment disqualified to serve as ECUSA's clergy member on the ACC. He immediately resigned his post on ECUSA's Executive Council, because he had been elected to it as a clergy member. But he has since withheld his resignation from the ACC, to which he had also been elected as a clergy member.

The ACC's Constitution mandates that a member elected as a clergy representative step down when he ceases to be a member of the clergy; it does not allow switching orders in the middle of a term. "[O]n retirement from [the] ecclesiastical office [in which the member was elected]," it says, [b]ishops and other clerical members shall cease to be members [of the ACC]." (Constitution, Sec. 4 (d), with emphasis added. It is specious to argue that election to the episcopacy is not "retirement" from the priesthood, given that the whole point of the ACC is to have a body in which bishops, clergy and laity all share proportionate representation. And there is much more language, as demonstrated in the earlier post, that bears out this common-sense interpretation.)

"This is not rocket science," the post asserted, "but plain English." Nevertheless, because of what had been said in two posts put up by the Rev. Canon Mark Harris at his Preludium website (not linked here due to technical glitches, as explained earlier), the post called attention to the hypocrisy that would result if ECUSA's Executive Council proceeded as Canon Harris suggested it might, at its meeting next month, to "reappoint" Bishop Douglas to the ACC as a replacement for ECUSA's last episcopal representative.

The post itself was clear, both as to the reasons why that act would constitute hypocrisy, and as to the motives for saying so. Contrary to the Rev. Canon Harris' reaction to it, the post labeled no person a "hypocrite" -- after all, the action proposed has yet to be taken. But if it were to be taken, it would give ECUSA what no other province enjoys on the Standing Committee -- two of its bishops serving as members. And it would seek to prevent the Standing Committee from replacing its one clergy member with another -- in violation of the ACC's bylaws (see the membership listings linked above). All just because ECUSA wants it that way, and acts as final judge of its own members' qualifications, while blocking other provinces from selecting their members according to their own criteria.

Now, however, with the promulgation of the Pentecost letter by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the stakes for ECUSA have increased by quite a bit. As many other blogs have already noticed, the Archbishop very pointedly mentioned that he would be taking up with his fellow primates the issue of attendance and agenda at the forthcoming Primates' Meeting, scheduled for January 2011. This is a warning shot across ECUSA's bow. If 815 now attempts to re-vote Bishop Douglas onto the ACC in violation of its rules, it may find that it has marooned itself by running against the tide in the Communion, and is left stranded without any ability of ++Canterbury to throw it a helping line.

What is this "tide in the Communion" to which I refer? ++Canterbury's letter, I submit, has struck just the right Pentecostal tone to call every member of the Communion to re-examine the paths on which they are going -- to ensure that the call to which they are responding is from the Holy Spirit. Now is not the time to strike out on one's own course, or to continue blindly on the same heading as before:
And so the Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of ‘communion’ or fellowship (II Cor. 13.13). The Spirit allows us to recognise each other as part of the Body of Christ because we can hear in each other the voice of Jesus praying to the Father. We know, in the Spirit, that we who are baptised into Jesus Christ share one life; so that all the diversity of gifting and service in the Church can be seen as the work of one Spirit (I Cor. 12.4). In the Holy Eucharist, this unity in and through the self-offering of Jesus is reaffirmed and renewed as we pray for the Spirit to transform both the bread and wine and ‘ourselves, our souls and bodies’.

When the Church is living by the Spirit, what the world will see is a community of people who joyfully and gratefully hear the prayer of Jesus being offered in each other’s words and lives, and are able to recognise the one Christ working through human diversity. And if the world sees this, the Church is a true sign of hope in a world of bitter conflict and rivalry.
++Rowan Cantuar here is doing what he does best: pastoring the churches of the Communion, and calling them to account, to think deeply about the course they have set for themselves, and what it means for the Communion at large, as a family in Christ. He has no primatial powers within the Communion itself, and so he is using the force of his pastoral personality to its best purpose.

A vote by the Executive Council next month to send Bishop Douglas to the ACC -- before he even admits that he is no longer a member, by resigning the seat he held until he became a bishop -- would send exactly the wrong signal at exactly the wrong time to the rest of the Communion. (And once he admits he is no longer a member, he will have to concede the next step as well -- that the Constitution requires ECUSA to wait for at least six years before it can reappoint him.) Ignoring the facts on the ground, waving the hands and muttering something about "we can't allow the ACC to lose the benefit of his voice and experience; there has to be a less narrow reading of the provisions that will allow him to stay on" -- will proclaim loud and clear that nothing has really changed. If Dr. Williams and the ACC's Secretary-General were then to "overlook" such a perverse manipulation of the rules, it will change Canterbury's wonderful letter from a spiritual wake-up call into decorative wallpaper.

With regard to observation of the moratoria adopted by the Primates and the ACC itself, the "reappointment" of Bishop Douglas to the ACC would also be a finger in the Communion's collective eye at this point. The reason, as I explained in the previous post, is that Bishop Douglas now heads a diocese in which his predecessor had authorized rites for same-sex blessings, in defiance of the Windsor Report. The post observed that Bishop Douglas had made no move to rescind the authorization for same-sex blessings by the clergy who canonically are under him, and that he was thus every much as effectively "in violation" of the Windsor Report as had been the Rev. Ashey. Sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. If not, there is a double standard involved for those on the left: they are allowed to do as they please, while voting to exclude others for doing the same thing they do.

Apparently these observations failed in their Christian objective. They were not intended as calumny, or ad hominem attack, but like the Archbishop's much more elegantly worded pastoral letter, as a call by one Christian to another to stay upon the upright path. Forget and forgive, then, my paltry effort. To heed the Archbishop's call should now weigh uppermost in the mind of everyone in a leadership position at ECUSA.

There is still time to reflect and consider, on the part of everyone concerned. Let us pray that the Pentecostal Spirit will be upon us all.

* * * * * *
Postscript: To those loyal readers who might think I have sold my birthright for a pottage from the Archbishop of Canterbury, I say only that I write as a lifelong member of the Episcopal Church (USA), who has been in despair since the 1970's over its usurpation by social activists and its ensuing decline -- for more than thirty years now. As a member of the legal profession, I especially deplore its more recent descent into the morass of litigation over ill-defined and highly questionable "property rights". From where I observe ECUSA and the Communion, however, I can see no other hope of deliverance from the current troubles -- except that either ECUSA sinks under the weight of its own tenemental concupiscence, or that ++Rowan Cantuar is finally driven by ECUSA's machinations to make a stand independent of its perfidious goals, which if unchecked will grow to encompass the very see of St. Augustine. The current Pentecostal Letter offers a glimmer of hope in that latter direction, so I shall not detract from it in any way. Nor shall I disparage the scorn of the many who have grown tired of waiting for the Archbishop to take definitive action, because I recognize their right to disappointment based on everything that has come to pass thus far. Only time will tell, and until there are absolutely no options left whatsoever, I shall continue to pray that the Holy Spirit brings my church back onto the path of righteousness and truth.

Friday TED Talk: Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy on Recruiting Children as Suicide Bombers

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, a documentary film producer from Pakistan, has spent a good deal of time talking to young students recruited by the Taliban as future suicide bombers. In her talk below, given at TED this past February, she shows excerpts of her interviews, taken from her latest documentary. The message she conveys of cold-blooded manipulation in the name of religion that sees the world in binary terms ("followers" and "infidels") could not be more chilling:

There is more about Ms. Obaid-Chinoy at this page, and at her home page, where you can learn a good deal about all the films she has made. Watch her talk in a high-res version at this link; and download it in that and other formats from this page. The comments on her talk at the TED site are worth a read, too.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Her Last Voyage

Space shuttle Atlantis touched down for the last time yesterday at Cape Canaveral:

Hers is an inspiring record; this account of her last launch shows her capacity to inspire, and to embody man's best aspirations: ad astra per aspera!

Of all the records of Atlantis' last voyage, however, this one I believe is the most memorable, and the most inspiring (click on the image to enlarge, then click again):

What you are seeing is a truly remarkable photograph by astronomy blogger Thierry Legault (H/T: Bad Astronomy blog, whose author Phil Plait's comment on this picture is:




For those who have never been to/lived in Hawaii, "Haleakala" is the name given to Maui's extinct (?) volcano, from whose 10,000-foot summit it is traditional -- and inspiring -- to watch the sunrise. The Hawaiian word means "house (hale) of the sun.")

To make this picture, planned well in advance, Thierry Legault had to travel to Madrid, where he would be at just the right angle to the space station and Atlantis as they made their transit of the disk of the sun, at just the right instant. (The entire transit lasted all of one-and-a-half seconds.)

When you double-click to enlarge the picture to its full resolution, you will see the silhouette of Atlantis to the left of the silhouette of the international space station, framed against the backdrop of the sun's disk. (As Plait explains, "Mind you, Atlantis had just started its pitch maneuver, designed to show its belly to the crew on the ISS so they can inspect it for heat tile damage. That means this image was taken shortly before the Orbiter docked with the station, on May 16th.")

Simply beautiful.

Simply awe-inspiring.

(Believe me, we could all use some of that just now.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Widening Gyre

Maybe it's just this curmudgeon, but after perusing five blog posts this morning, I get the sense that things may be coming apart more than they are coming together. Echoes of Yeats's The Second Coming ran through my mind as I read through the following -- they are in no particular order:

First, as to coming together: the Rev. Dan Martins blogged about his recent return to Nashotah House for Alumni Day and Commencement. Despite recent signs of the center failing to hold in the Anglican Communion, Father Dan took heart from the sight of many clergy in different factions being united in celebrating their common Nashotah heritage. (I, too, have been lucky to visit there, and to have been given a tour of its peaceful and uncommonly beautiful grounds by its very gracious dean.) Father Dan is moved to ask: "What if they gave a schism and nobody came?"

Next, as to coming apart: Father Randall Foster of Bedford, Texas had put up a post questioning the implications of the recent news that AMiA was returning to a Missionary Partner status with ACNA. The post had drawn 29 comments as of this morning, and they make for engrossing, if somewhat disturbing, reading. If nothing else, they demonstrate the difficult uphill path to bringing us together in a way that will allow the center to hold.

Then, as to "coming together" in an Episcopalian sense, we have this item from ENS: Dr. Bonnie Anderson, president of ECUSA's House of Deputies, has written the June 6 ENS Weekly bulletin insert, and has taken as her text Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, ch. 12, vv. 4-7. She first makes the point that an unusual amount of change in episcopal leadership is underway in ECUSA over the next several months:
During May through August, seven bishops have been or will be ordained and consecrated in the Episcopal Church, two more bishops will be elected, and the consent process for three bishops will be underway. Two other consent processes, shortly to be underway, have not begun as of this writing. Thus, in the next few months, the church no doubt will publicly affirm changes in the ministries of 14 people.
Dr. Anderson then uses the occasion to sketch out the "traditional" view of the Church's episcopal hierarchy:
It has become fairly commonplace in the Episcopal Church to think of the ministries of laity, priests, deacons and bishops in a hierarchical way. A visual description of the hierarchy might be indicated by a pyramid, with the order having the smallest number of members — bishops — at the top. The clergy — both priests and deacons — fill the hierarchical pyramid as it widens.

The laity support the pyramid as the numerically largest base. . . .
Then she springs her pitch: this customary view is "erroneous"; the true hierarchy, you see, is in the form of a circle:
This model implies a certain erroneous order of importance and power in God's church. We are "hierarchical" in the way human communities inevitably are. But, true to our teaching, tradition and polity as God's Episcopal Church, laity, bishops, priests and deacons are called to live their daily ministries in a way that can be visually described as a circle where God's gifts and God's vulnerable servanthood mark and guide each of our lives and our ministries. . . .
But there is no hierarchy in a circle; all points on the circumference are equidistant from the center, which presumably is Jesus Christ. And so Dr. Anderson has to edit Paul's text a bit, and make it more "relevant" to the innate egalitarianism of Episcopalians today. She writes (with emphasis I have added):
As we are reminded by St. Paul, in a practice of equal exchange and honor, we draw upon the unique charism of each individual, whether God calls us as lay, diaconal, presbyteral or episcopal.

Each gift brought to the service of Christ is important, and God's call to each person is equally worthy to be affirmed, used and supported by God's church.
Notice that this places the emphasis on the equality of each person's gift in the eyes of the Church. St. Paul, however, is not concerned with the tenets of egalitarianism. What he emphasizes is not only that all the gifts are very different, and of a varying degree, but that they all have a common source, which is God:

12:4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 12:5 And there are different ministries, but the same Lord. 12:6 And there are different results, but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. . . .
Next, Paul goes on to draw his famous analogy between members of the Church and the members of the body -- which again are not all equal:

12:12 For just as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body – though many – are one body, so too is Christ. 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. . . . 12:20 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor in turn can the head say to the foot, “I do not need you.” 12:21 So now there are many members, but one body. 12:22 On the contrary, those members that seem to be weaker are essential, 12:23 and those members we consider less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our unpresentable members are clothed with dignity, 12:24 but our presentable members do not need this. Instead, God has blended together the body, giving greater honor to the lesser member, 12:25 so that there may be no division in the body, but the members may have mutual concern for one another.
Dr. Anderson concludes her message: "In Jesus the hierarchy becomes a circle, rooted in him and open to all Christians." (Notice the lower-case "him", and the absence of His defining title [meaning "Messiah," "Anointed One"] -- which, if you follow the link to the downloads of the bulletin itself, remain the same in the printed version. Apparently our Lord is just the human root, or hub, of a human wheel, and there is no hierarchy either of clergy, or of gifts or callings -- all are of equal merit in the eyes of the Church.)

Fourth, reflecting both aspects -- coming together and coming apart -- we have this pastoral letter to his congregation by a minister who is trying to remain true to the faith once received while keeping his flock within the ecclesial structure of ECUSA. In the letter, Fr. Rob Eaton explains just how he has managed to sustain his balancing act to date, and at the same time points to an unknown, and more precarious future:
St. John’s may be solitary and isolated in our diocese if only on the matter of the biblical teaching of sex, sexuality, and marriage, but at least we have a bishop with which we can maintain fellowship. It is not that Bishop Jerry Lamb doesn’t support the gay agenda within the Church, because he does. But he has publicly stated – and at this point in deference to St. John’s since there seems to be no other clergy or congregational opposition – that he will not ordain anyone in an openly homosexual relationship, nor allow for the blessing of same-sex unions while he is our bishop. His rationalization for that stance is that he understands the nature of a bishop of “provisional authority” to not be one who makes such fellowship-altering policies and decisions. In his words, that will have to wait until the diocese elects their own bishop. Well, then, despite our unquestionable differences with him and others in positions of power in the diocese which have caused us much unnecessary grief, we give thanks to God for that rationalization on his part.

We will have to deal with our relationship with the bishop anew if and when a new bishop is elected for our diocese who has no such reservations.
Finally, last but certainly not least, and in the same vein, the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner has published a long reflection on the current state of the Anglican Communion over at the website of the ACI. In the piece, which strikes a remarkable balance between melancholy and optimism, Father Radner echoes on the global scale what Father Eaton has described on the parochial scale: congregations are increasingly being left to their own devices to find their way through a broken world, without the benefit of strong leadership at the top.

I am not certain, but I sense that all of these five not-so-easy pieces are aspects of a common thread. As I indicated at the outset, for me that thread was expressed very succinctly in The Second Coming, by William Butler Yeats:

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Birth of a Meme

This is how a meme starts: a scholarly study is published, and makes its way to the Internet. In this case, the study is based on surveys of attitudes toward legislation of the kind that has become more notorious in recent years, given all the clamor and activism of one segment of society to draw attention to its "victimhood." The surveys go back in time for a period of ten years, and note how "progress" (or not) has been made in each of the fifty States toward enacting pieces of legislation to "protect" the group from its self-defined "discrimination" by the rest of society. (In today's hyperpolitical world, if a group defines itself by the degree to which it is removed from the norms of society, then the next step is for it to claim that society's inertia against any broadening of its norms is a form of "discrimination," and to seek court rulings and legislation which penalize the "discriminators" -- who in their unenlightened state simply embody society's norms.)

Now, please take note: the study says absolutely nothing about any kind of inevitability of the "progress" which it attempts to document. It simply documents what states have enacted which pieces of legislation, and measures this degree of legislative action against surveys of political attitudes in that particular state. Its methodology is thus to compare how attitudes measured by surveys of the state's populace track with the enactment of specific legislation in that state.

Here is a link to the study in question, entitled Gay Rights in the States: Public Opinion and Policy Responsiveness. Set aside, for the moment, the oxymoron represented by the juxtaposition of the two words "gay" and "rights", and accept that the study simply takes what the gays claim at face value, and then attempts to measure the response of the society at large to those claims, state by state. It is written by two professors at Columbia University, who appear to know what they are doing. They employ all the standard statistical measures and techniques for evaluating their data, and draw the appropriate conclusions from those evaluations.

One will simply have to overlook one highly obvious methodological flaw in their study -- highly obvious, that is, to anyone who does not, like our two professors, live in the City of New York. Remember, they are tracing society's reactions, in the form of legislation enacted, to claims about "gay rights" and "discrimination" across the whole United States. One yardstick they use to measure the gap between what a society "says" (in response to survey questions) and what it "does" (through the laws its legislators and governors enact) is what the authors call the "salience" of a given "gay issue." Let them explain what they mean in their own words:
Legislators and other elected actors need not do what their constituents want on each and every issue, but rather need to be responsive “enough” or perhaps simply more responsive than their (likely) opponents. This means they face a tradeoff in their reelection calculus: how do they meet their responsiveness “needs” trading across issues and within an issue area? To what extent do they represent their constituents and to what extent do they go their own way? We see one key predictor of how they will resolve these tradeoffs to be issue and policy salience—that is, importance and visibility to the public at large, and prominence in public discourse. [Pp. 8-9.]
In words that have been mocked by the actions of the 111th Congress, the authors go on to assert what people "expect" of their legislatures, especially with regard to issues that are more "salient" than others:
Elites also may be unaware of their constituents’ views, especially regarding those policies that are less salient. As Burstein argues, we should expect the government to do “what the people want in those instances where the public cares enough about an issue to make its wishes known” (1981, 295). For more salient policies, the electoral incentives are that much more clear: on one side, the legislators will have greater information about public opinion, and, on the other side, the greater visibility of policy choice should decrease ability to get away with shirking public will. (Page and Shapiro 1983 cite similar arguments for greater responsiveness in salient policy areas, particularly those of great social or moral concern.) By giving voters what they want on the more salient issues, legislators may be able to, in other policy areas, pursue their own policy goals, repay interest groups for prior and future support, satisfy core constituencies, etc.3

3Haider-Markel and Meier (1996, 2008) argue that when salience is low,“interest group politics” dominate and other factors matter less; when salience is high, “morality politics” dominates, and partisanship and attitudes matter more. [P. 9.]
One can see that these scholars are realists with regard to what has been observed in the past -- but how their techniques fare under the current administration and Congress is a highly debatable question. Nevertheless, they go on to assert that they have things under control:
We assess this empirically below. Nonetheless, the prediction for opinion is clear: higher salience means greater responsiveness. Salience should also lead to greater congruence between state policy and state majorities . . . [P. 10].
So how does one measure this "salience" of a given issue? Why, by reference to the New York Times, of course!
To measure salience across policies, we conducted a search of New York Times articles (2000-2005) using Proquest to count the number of times that the policy was mentioned in conjunction with the words “gay,” “homosexual,” or “same-sex.” Salience is the log of the number of such stories. The scores meet standards of face validity: the numbers by policy are second- parent adoption (254), hate crimes (149), health benefits (49), housing (53), jobs (143), marriage (2098), sodomy (170), and civil unions (1558). Marriage and unions receive the highest degree of attention by far, with health benefits at the other extreme, and adoption in the middle. [P. 21.]

What better index could exist of just what is exciting the nation's pulse than the number of articles that appear on the subject in the New York Times? I recognize that if you live in New York City and work at Columbia, you may have a certain perspective, most famously exhibited by Saul Steinberg in this 1976 cover for The New Yorker (click the image to enlarge):

Be that as it may, one sees that the conclusions of this particular study, such as they are, will inevitably have a certain built-in bias. That makes the study, of course, all the less appropriate to be the parent of a new meme. But the left does not concern itself with the objectiveness of studies. What especially interests those who beat its drums are any conclusions, no matter how tenuous or biased, which may be pressed to serve their current ends. And our Columbia professors happened to have filled that bill with two particular graphs they chose to include with the online version of their article.

Here is the first of the two graphs, with its explanatory legend (click to enlarge):

This graph traces the "success" of the advocates of same-sex marriage laws in the various states, over the years 1994-2009. The numbers on the X-axis reflect the percentages, in each state, of those surveyed which, in the opinion of the authors, could be estimated as being "in favor" of same-sex marriage; the horizontal lines trace the change over three isolated two-year segments in time, and the empty or filled nature of the geometrical shapes (triangle, square and circle) indicates the outcome for each segment: a solid, filled-in figure represents a state that allowed same-sex marriage in the time interval indicated. One sees a lot of shift rightward in the estimated percentages drawn from the surveys (which, the authors mention, go back only as far as 1999 -- so one has to wonder where their data from 1994-98 came from). However, of the arguably 16 states shown as favoring gay marriage by 45% or greater of those surveyed, only five are shown as actually having legislated it into existence. (And since Maine recently voted to repeal the legislation authorizing gay marriage, that number drops to just four out of the sixteen states, or a 25% success rate.)

The second graph tries to break out the data from the surveys according to age group, in a manner ("weighted towards the most recent levels of support") which the authors do not try to explain in any detail (since they do not say where their pre-1999 data comes from) -- click to enlarge:

Before I explain what this graph shows, let me demonstrate the left-biased meme to which it gave birth. Here is the version given by The Baseline Scenario blog (bold emphasis added):
Barring a backlash even bigger than the one we’ve seen over the last ten years (during which support for same-sex marriage increased in every state except Utah), time is on the side of same-sex marriage. That may still be small consolation to elderly couples who have been together for decades.
And here is how that post got translated into the meme which the left wants to see in all of this (bold again added for emphasis):
Gay Marriage Opponents Inch Closer to Death

HuffPo’s Jason Linkins phrases it bluntly: “This probably isn’t a very nice way of putting it, but basically, the most significant segment of the population that opposes gay marriage is the one that’s closest to death.” As evidence, Linkins presents this nifty chart showing the age discrepancy in gay marriage support across the 50 states. Old-timers in Alabama aren’t too keen on the idea; whippersnappers in Massachusetts are all for it. The District, which kicked off same-sex marriage this year, isn’t represented on the chart; Maryland and Virginia, both of which currently outlaw same-sex marriage, fall about in the middle of the pack.
But is that what the graph really shows? Certainly its authors made no such claim for it. And now, consider how it is constructed: It provides an estimated composite of opinions, broken down by age group, over the entire period from 1994 to 2008 -- with the data source before 1999 again unspecified, and with the estimates (for that is all they are) "weighted for 2008."

What can that mean? Obviously, since fourteen years elapsed between 1994 and 2008, those depicted as being in the "18-29 age group" were not all the same people during those years, maintaining a constant opinion throughout. No, as the authors say, they have weighted the data toward the end of the period, so that the graph depicts most clearly the opinion of those who were between 18 and 29 in 2008, or 2007-2008, or whatever range is favored by the (unspecified) "weighting." And thus some of those who are shown as being in the 65+ group in 2008 were members of the 45-64 group, say, in 2005 or before; just as some of those shown in the 45-64 group were in the 30-44 group earlier during the survey period, and so on.

Given this obvious fact, is not there an alternative interpretation of this graph, which is directly contrary to the conclusion touted by the left's own meme? Could one not interpret it as showing that, the older one gets, the more (mature) (conservative) (thoughtful) -- choose your own word, or invent another -- one becomes with one's opinions? The chart does not prove that those who "support" (however the authors determined it) gay marriage when they were 28 or 29 will continue to show that same level of support when they turn 50, or 60. In fact, it could be said to depict exactly the opposite. For example, look at the same graph inverted:

Viewed in this perspective, the graph could be said to show the weight of public opinion against gay marriage in all the groups 30 and older -- who form, of course, the great majority of America's population. Those shapes to the left of the dashed line down the middle represent the positions of those whose support for gay marriage is less than one-half of all those surveyed in that age group. Notice especially the vertical plot of black x's -- that represents a weighting of all the age groups, taken together. It shows that support for gay marriage is over 50% in only the following states (at the bottom): Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and New Hampshire (since we have to eliminate Maine, the next in rank). In all the rest of the states, it is barely 50% or lower.

Could it be only a coincidence that support for gay marriage, as measured by this survey, which depends for some of its weighting on the frequency of articles (on gay marriage, in this instance) in the New York Times, is shown as strongest in precisely those states where the circulation of that newspaper is the greatest?

And so a meme of the left is born. It will be picked up and recirculated again and again through their media channels, and never examined for its validity. The definition of a meme, after all, is "an idea . . . or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture." The reason it spreads is evolutionary -- it survives in the given culture because it is something which that culture wants to believe is true. As proof, look again at the way the Columbia professors' graph, tacked on to the end of their long article in its online version, and without any discussion or explication in the body of the article itself, was seized upon, and became the sole focus of the articles written about it.

The truth, I fear, is not what the left would like to believe. For even if there is a wave of support for gay marriage that is sweeping across America, the inverted graph above shows that at best, it is no more than a ripple for the time being. And as such, it is not the wave on which we should all be focused, in my humble view. Instead, I think the tidal wave that is approaching America is coming from an entirely different direction. And its magnitude, when it hits, will be so great as to swamp any ripples among the gay-marriage factions.

In short, not only does this meme identify as "unstoppable" a trend that scarcely qualifies as such; but it also expresses an illusion which will probably be engulfed and overtaken by the very forces with which it is most (at present) aligned.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Hypocrisy on the Left (or, Dog Bites Man)

Today's topic is that rarest most ephemeral evanescent, er, most eponymous and eidetic of qualities possessed by those on the left: their ability to embrace, and to be completely untouched and unfazed by, rank hypocrisy. (I know, I know: as the subtitle has it, this is about as newsworthy a topic as "dog bites man.") However, the study of hypocrisy in its native environment is nonetheless beneficial to those of us who can still see it, and call it out by name. For even if the left is not embarrassed by their hypocrisy, the rest of us can be vicariously embarrassed for them, and pray that God lead them back to the paths of truth and righteousness. After all, we ourselves cannot always tell when we, too, may have strayed from those same paths, because we are all sinners, whose given nature it is to stray. Thus there may be some redemptive value in pointing out when someone has so clearly gone off the path; one never knows who will find it instructive.

Now in order to appreciate the rank hypocrisy evidenced by the subject of this post, you will need the background supplied by these prior articles, on other Weblogs:

1. Battle over American seat on the ACC looms, by the Rev. George Conger. In this article, Fr. Conger traces the procedural (and substantive) dilemma relating to the seat occupied by the Rev. Dr. Ian T. Douglas, who was ECUSA's clerical delegate to the meeting of ACC-14 in Jamaica in May 2009. At that meeting, the assembled delegates from all the ACC members elected the Rev. Douglas to be an ACC member of the Standing Committee, which functioned at that time as a liaison between the Primates' Meeting of the Anglican Communion, and the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) itself (composed of laity, clergy, bishops and primates).

Interlude: A brief history. The Standing Committee of the ACC was originally a nine-member body established by the ACC Constitution's Article 7. Its function, as established by a later amendment, was to "act for the Council between meetings of the Council and [to] execute such matters as are referred to it by the Council." It met annually, while the ACC met only once every three (originally: every two) years. However, ACC-10 in 1996 adopted a recommendation of the Virginia Report (see paragraph 6.26 on pages 37-38) to increase the membership of the Standing Committee by including the five members of the Standing Committee of the Primates' Meeting. This created a Standing Committee of fourteen members (plus the Archbishop of Canterbury, ex officio), by the language added to Article 7, which included (as per paragraph [e] of the Schedule of Membership) "Five members of the body known as the Standing Committee of the Primates of the Anglican Communion[,] in each case for so long as they shall remain members of such Standing Committee." In time, and after several meetings in connection with the Primates' Meeting, this committee became referred to as the "Joint Standing Committee" of the ACC and the Primates' Meeting, and it accordingly had fourteen members (fifteen, with the ABC). At their latest meeting a year ago, the ACC approved a resolution changing the name of the group back to the "Standing Committee."

In his article, Fr. Conger reported that plans were afoot to hold an election at the forthcoming meeting of ECUSA's Executive Council in June, so that newly-consecrated Bishop Douglas could be elected to replace the current episcopal representative from ECUSA, the Rt. Rev. Catherine Roskam of New York. Bishop Roskam has now attended three consecutive ACC meetings (she had observer status only at ACC-13 in Nottingham, pursuant to the request made by the Primates at Dromantine), and so will need to be replaced by the time of the next one, in accordance with the membership provisions in the ACC's Constitution, which provide (Art. 4 [b]):
The term of office for ordinary members shall be either

i. six years calculated from a member’s first attendance at a meeting of the Council or
ii. three successive meetings of the Council whichever period shall terminate the later or,
iii. such shorter period as the appointing body shall determine.
Since the Council originally met every two years, the limit of three meetings or six years was at first a match. However, the language of this section was not changed when the Council went to a triennial schedule beginning with ACC-6 in 1984. As a practical matter, therefore, a member's term on the ACC runs for nine years, from the beginning of the first meeting attended until the end of the third. Thus, Bishop Roskam's term of office effectively ended a year ago, with the end of ACC-14. However, because any replacement's term does not commence until the start of ACC-15 (by the language of section 4 [b][i] and [ii] above), there is evidently a gap of time from the end of one ACC meeting until the commencement of the next -- during which there is no representative "in office."

Note that the ACC tried to fill in this gap with its Resolution 28, passed at ACC-4:
The Council resolves:
a. that those elected or appointed to the Anglican Consultative Council begin their membership as from the beginning of the first Council meeting following their election.
b. That membership continues until immediately prior to the meeting at which his or her successor takes his or her place.
2. That Standing Committee members take their place on the Standing Committee as from the end of the Council Meeting at which they are elected and hold their position until such time as their successors take their place or they retire for any other reason.
However, a mere resolution is ineffective to change the language of the ACC's Constitution, which can be amended only by a vote of two-thirds of the member provinces. Thus as a matter of constitutional and canon law, the language of Article 4 (b) would take precedence over the language of Resolution 4-28.

2. Asking the Wrong Question: New Zealand and The Covenant, by the Anglican Communion Institute ("ACI"). In this paper, the ACI examined, among other things, the consequences for the membership of the Joint Standing Committee of the election, last December, of the Rev. Ian Douglas to be the Bishop of Connecticut -- an election which, after being ratified by the requisite number of standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction in ECUSA, led to his consecration to that office on April 17 of this year. The ACI pointed out that since he was now a bishop in ECUSA, the (Rt.) Rev. Douglas was no longer eligible to be ECUSA's "clergy" delegate to ACC.

Under ACC's Constitution (Schedule of Membership, section b), ECUSA is entitled to three members on the Council, "consisting of one bishop plus one priest or deacon and one lay person." ECUSA's episcopal delegate to ACC-14, as already noted, was the Suffragan Bishop of New York, the Rt. Rev. Catherine S. Roskam. Under the terms of the ACC's Constitution again, her successor's term begins with their "first attendance at a meeting of the Council" (para. 4 [b][i], quoted above). The next meeting of the ACC (ACC-15) is scheduled for New Zealand in the late spring of 2012 -- some 24 months from now.

Thus, electing the Rt. Rev. Douglas (or any other bishop) as the successor episcopal delegate to the ACC this June will not have any effect on that person's membership in the ACC for at least two more years, which is when that person's term of office will officially begin. One wonders what the rush to elect a successor is all about. It is true that the ACC's Constitution (para. 4 [b][iii]) gives the appointing body the power to shorten its delegates' terms of office (i.e., it can revoke their appointment). However, unless the revocation occurs in the middle of an ACC meeting, there is nothing which the appointing body can do to cause a replacement to be seated until the start of the next ACC meeting.

3. On May 16, the Rev. Canon Mark Harris, who is a member of ECUSA's Executive Council, published a post in reaction to the ACI's article linked in Item #2 above. Since any linking from this blog to a post by the Rev. Canon Harris causes (due to a glitch in's software) a wholly undesired series of links to all kinds of unrelated posts on his blog, which his commenters (but not, thankfully, Canon Harris himself) have regarded as "spam" from this site, I shall not link to his post. However, you may find it by copying the URL below into your browser, and then replacing the symbols "[dot]" in the link by an actual period:


In this post, the Rev. Canon Harris asserts the following:
In the move from one state to another (ontological or otherwise) [Bishop Douglas] will have to relinquish his seat as The Episcopal Church clergy member of the Anglican Consultative Council.
Excuse me, Canon Harris, but you have chosen the wrong tense. Under its Constitution, section 3(a), the ACC "shall be constituted with a membership according to the schedule hereto" (emphasis added), and ECUSA's allotted membership slots consist of exactly one bishop, one priest or deacon, and one layperson. It is thus indisputable (by all except those on the left) that upon his consecration, the Rt. Rev. Douglas was no longer eligible to serve as the clergy delegate to the ACC. Accordingly, Canon Harris, it is not the fact that the Rt. Rev. Douglas "will have to relinquish" his seat on the ACC, but that upon his consecration as a bishop, he became ineligible from that point forward to serve as ECUSA's clergy member on the ACC. (One could even say that by confirming and consecrating him as a bishop, ECUSA exercised its prerogative to shorten the Rev. Douglas' term of office at the ACC, pursuant to Art. 4 [b][iii] quoted above.)

In other words, the decision is not up to Bishop Douglas as to when he chooses to "relinquish" his seat -- the "relinquishment" happened upon his consecration. It is a source of continuing wonderment to me that there are people who think that ACC membership is a matter of their deciding when they are no longer entitled, as opposed to the binding provisions of ACC's Constitution specifying who its members shall be.

Since, in the Rev. Canon Harris' view, it was up to Bishop Douglas to decide when he would resign from the ACC, there was nothing wrong, from his perspective, should Bishop Douglas regard himself as continuing to be a member of the ACC Standing Committee, until he actually deigned to "submit" his resignation. In that way, and by delaying the submission of any resignation for a few months, he could conveniently continue to "serve" on the Standing Committee until the Executive Council should have the opportunity in June to designate him as ECUSA's episcopal replacement for Bishop Roskam on the ACC. Ignoring the fact that ACC's Constitution provides that any such term of office will not begin until the start of ACC-15 in two years from now, the Rev. Canon Harris simply waves his hand and claims that Bishop Douglas thereby would not have to give up his seat on the Standing Committee:
Here the phrase from the Constitution is important. Persons serve on the Standing Committee “…subject to earlier termination in the event that such elected member shall for any reason cease to be a member of the Council.”

Knowing the circumstances under which Bishop Douglas rightly must resign his current seat on ACC, and provided he is elected to fill the Episcopal seat from TEC, and provided the Standing Committee and the ACC have neither one met, it would appear that TEC would then have essentially reconfirmed his membership on ACC and established a continuity of service on his part to the wider work of the Anglican Communion. My guess is that something like this reasoning will prevail.
For the time being, I shall reserve comment on the motivation behind this "guess", but please note the nonsensical basis of the assertions being made. As we have already seen, Bishop Roskam's "term of office" expired a year ago, with the close of ACC-14 in Jamaica. If it was desired to have a replacement for her in position, ready to go, why did the Executive Council of ECUSA not elect her successor at its very next meeting, held in Memphis in October 2009? And since they did not take any action to replace her then, what is the motivation for electing a replacement now, two years before that replacement may begin to serve? These are questions worthy of an answer.

Now take a look at the next article, which the ACI published in response to the original version of the Rev. Canon Harris' post (which had left it unclear whether Bishop Douglas had resigned from the ACC itself, or only from ECUSA's Executive Council):

4. ADDENDUM: Bishop Ian Douglas and the ACC Standing Committee (Note: the ACI has updated this article, in light of the update which the Rev. Canon Harris made to his post [to clarify that Bishop Douglas has resigned only from the ECUSA Executive Council, and not from the ACC itself]. However, to understand the significance of these updates, take a look at what the ACI wrote in reaction to Mark Harris' original post):
In our last post we noted that Bishop Ian Douglas was ineligible under the rules of the Anglican Consultative Council to continue serving on the ACC and its standing committee upon his consecration to the episcopacy in April. In a blog post yesterday, Father Mark Harris, a member of TEC’s Executive Council, discloses that Bishop Douglas in fact resigned from the ACC in February and announced this to the Executive Council at its February meeting. According to Fr. Harris, (then Fr.) Douglas recognized that he would not be permitted to continue to hold his clerical seat on the ACC upon his consecration. The fact of Douglas’s resignation had not been disclosed previously and greatly simplifies the analysis of what the ACC rules require in this situation. The implications of Bishop Douglas’s consecration and his resignation are now plain.
Alas, as Canon Harris hastened to make clear (in response to an email from Bishop Douglas), the good bishop had not resigned his seat on the ACC, but only his seat on ECUSA's Executive Council. (As before, the link has to be translated: http://anglicanfuture[dot]blogspot[dot]com/2010/05/question-of-seat-on-standing-committee[dot]html) Far from clearing up any confusion, this news simply exacerbated it. These are just some of the questions that now arise:

Q: Why did Bishop Douglas resign his seat on the Executive Council before being consecrated?

Well, he spells it out in crystal-clear language in the resignation letter which Canon Harris quotes in that last-cited post:
I am writing to formally resign my position as a presbyter elected by the 2006 General Convention to serve on the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church. This resignation is to take effect during the meeting of the Executive Council in Omaha, Nebraska, February 18-22, 2010.

The reason for my resignation is my “translation” to a new order as a result of being elected to the episcopate in the Diocese of Connecticut. I thus can no longer serve as a presbyter elected by the General Convention to the Executive Council.
So Bishop Douglas at least recognizes that his elevation to the episcopacy made him ineligible to serve as a clergy member on the Executive Council. Which observation then gives rise to our second question:

2. Why, if Bishop Douglas recognizes that he can no longer serve as a clergy member of the Executive Council, does he not apply that same logic to his ability to serve as the clergy appointee from ECUSA to the Anglican Consultative Council?

It is no answer to this question to point out that the Executive Council meets quarterly, while the ACC meets only once every three years. As already noted above, the Executive Council has let a full year go by without finding it necessary to elect a replacement for Bishop Roskam. But in any event, there is no function for any such replacement to serve as a member of the ACC until the start of its next regular meeting in 2012.

Under another provision of the ACC Constitution, clause 4(e), ECUSA has the power to appoint another member of the clergy to fill out the unexpired portion of the Rev. Douglas's term (but not of Bishop Roskam's term, which already expired a year ago):
Any appointing body as set out in the Schedule of Membership shall have power at any time and from time to time to appoint any qualified person to be a member to fill a casual vacancy to hold office for the unexpired term specified in Clause 4(b).
The key words here are "to appoint any qualified person . . ." That language has, among other things, reference to this further clause 4 (c):
On termination of his or her period of office, no member shall be eligible for re-appointment nor shall he or she be appointed an alternate member until a period of six years elapses from the date when such original membership ceased.
As we have already seen, the period of office of clergy delegate Ian Douglas terminated upon his becoming a bishop, with or without his written resignation (effectively, as already observed, it was shortened on that date by ECUSA's own act of consecration). At the very latest, therefore, it terminated on April 17, 2010. And under clause 4 (c) as just quoted, now-Bishop Douglas is thereafter not qualified to be re-appointed as the successor to Bishop Roskam, and would not in any event be qualified to serve again on the ACC in any capacity for at least six years.

All this rush to "replace Bishop Roskam" thus begins to look like mere smoke and mirrors. The Rev. Canon Harris -- who, as I noted, is a member of the Executive Council and thus knows the agenda for its meeting next month -- must also know whether the Executive Council will be electing a replacement for Dr. Douglas at that same meeting. But he has not said anything to that effect -- even though Dr. Douglas does have an unexpired portion of his term that could be filled by someone else. And why has Canon Harris not mentioned any such election? Could it be that there is a bit of a Catch-22 here? That is, until Bishop Douglas submits a formal resignation of his seat on the ACC, it would be unseemly of the Executive Council to elect someone to his unexpired term? And could it be that Bishop Douglas wants to withhold his "resignation" until he has been elected to follow Bishop Roskam, so he will not inadvertently remove himself from the Standing Committee?

The machinations that must go on in order to carry out this little scenario begin to look ridiculous. Consider:

(1) Bishop-elect Douglas immediately submits a letter of resignation to the Executive Council, because he recognizes he is no longer qualified to sit on it.

(2) Meanwhile, he holds back on sending a letter of resignation to the ACC, on which he is also no longer qualified to sit.

(3) His friends at the Executive Council conceive that since he is now a bishop, why not immediately elect him as the successor to ECUSA's episcopal representative?

(4) Never mind that such an election will be held before he has resigned his other seat on the ACC; he can always resign that seat after he has been elected to a second one.

(5) And never mind that he has no seat to resign, since his seat on the Council terminated in accordance with Article 4 (b)(iii), by ECUSA's own act in consecrating him.

(6) Finally, never mind that he has no seat to assume, either, since (a) he is not eligible to serve again on the ACC for six years; and (b) there is no seat to "fill" until the start of ACC-15 in 2012.

This is not rocket science, but plain English. And just in case this all is for any reason not crystal clear, the following provisions of the ACC's Bylaws (Art. 2 [f]) regarding membership on the Standing Committee spell it out for us:
Elected members of the Standing Committee shall hold office from the end of the Council meeting at which they are appointed until the end of the last ordinary Council meeting which they would be entitled to attend but subject to earlier termination in the event that such elected member shall for any reason cease to be a member of the Council. (Emphasis added.)
Once again -- when did the Rev. Douglas cease to be a member of the Anglican Consultative Council? Answer: At the very latest, on April 17, 2010. His membership terminated on that date, and with that termination, his seat on the Standing Committee also terminated, by virtue of the language just quoted.

The ACI drives a final nail in the coffin of Canon Harris' proffered analysis when it points to this further provision of the ACC's bylaws (Art. 7):
In the event of a casual vacancy occurring in the membership of the Standing Committee between Council meetings the Standing Committee itself shall have power to appoint a member of the Council of the same order as the representative who filled the vacant place and such member shall have full voting rights for the remainder of the term of service of the former member. Such member shall, subject to his or her eligibility for continuing membership of the Council, be eligible for re election to the Standing Committee at the next Council meeting. (Emphasis added.)
When Ian Douglas' seat on the Standing Committee terminated because of the termination of his membership on the ACC, he was serving as a priest. Consequently, not even the Standing Committee itself could re-appoint now-Bishop Douglas to his former seat; it has to select his replacement from among those priests or deacons who are currently sitting on the Council.

As if this were not enough, were Bishop Douglas to continue to serve on the Standing Committee as though nothing had happened, he would be the second American bishop on that Committee, since ECUSA's Primate currently serves on it as well. The ACC passed a resolution (No. 46 at ACC-6) expressing the criteria for election to membership on the Standing Committee, among which were the following (emphasis added):
1. That there not be more than one person from any one province as an elected member of the Standing Committee.
. . .
3. That efforts be made to achieve as balanced regional representation as possible.

4. That we seek to have a balance between bishops, clergy and lay persons . . . .
Of course, the ACC itself did not adhere to the first and third criteria when it elected the Rev. Douglas to the Standing Committee at ACC-14, but then the Committee also has two members from the Church of England, as well. That being said, I shall be very embarrassed for ECUSA if it goes through the shenanigans it feels are necessary to allow Bishop Douglas to claim that he never lost his seat on the Council. But according to the Rev. Canon Harris' latest post, "[Bishop Douglas'] resignation from the clerical seat on ACC [sic] remains a matter for the future." (Emphasis added.) And thus we come to our third and fourth questions:

3. Why should his resignation remain "a matter for the future"? Why should such a resignation be anything more than a formality, to acknowledge that his membership terminated with his eligibility, as of April 17, 2010?

4. Why this delay in acknowledging the inevitable?

I am afraid that the answers to which these questions point each signal that once again, ECUSA proposes to manipulate the machinery of the ACC for the sake of its own power and benefit. That is the only reason I can see for even taking up the issue of "replacing" Bishop Roskam suddenly at this point in time, instead of when her term actually expired, or instead of when a successor's term can actually commence. There is no other word for it -- this kind of manipulation for personal advantage and power is simply disgraceful.

It is also, shall we say, rather ironic in light of this post by the Rev. Ann Fontaine over at The Lead, in which she poses the question: "Who is the head of the Episcopal Church?" By way of answer (after acknowledging that it had to be Jesus Christ), she happened to cite to this passage from the May 15 edition of Forward Day by Day:
Matthew 7:28-8:4. Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

Authority is a concept that is often misunderstood and misused within the military, as well as outside of it. Some people assume that in the military, from the commanding officer on down, everyone is constantly being given orders which they must blindly obey.

The only time when immediate and unquestioned obedience to an order is essential is in the midst of battle or imminent danger, when a delayed response might endanger a sailor or other crew members. Otherwise, if officers rely solely upon the power given them to issue orders and do not earn the respect and loyalty of those they lead, they get at best only reluctant compliance.

In the church, canon law is written to help organize things. But as priests, if we must point to chapter and verse in the law to prove our point or enforce our authority, we have already lost our authority. Power is given by position, but authority can only be earned by winning the hearts and minds of those we lead.
And with that last paragraph as my text, we (finally) come to the hypocrisy in all this. For if what is happening here is a manipulation of the processes of the ACC and the Executive Council of ECUSA to benefit just one person, at the expense of the organizations' integrity, then what we have is hypocrisy of a high order -- an exercise of "power", flowing solely from position, without any real authority to back it up. The ACI points out just one instance of the hypocritical character in such conduct (if what takes place this June is what I have sketched above):
Indeed, there is a precisely analogous situation in Canada to that of Douglas and TEC. Stephen Andrews, like Douglas, went to ACC-14 in Jamaica as a clergy member for his first meeting. After ACC-14, Andrews was consecrated bishop by the Anglican Church of Canada. Canada understands that Andrews ceased to be a member of the ACC upon his consecration and therefore that he has now been replaced by his clerical alternate. Indeed, Andrews was elected bishop before ACC-14, but his consecration delayed until after the meeting in Jamaica (we are told) precisely because Canada understood the ACC implications of his consecration. If TEC is permitted to circumvent the ACC rules to keep Douglas on the ACC and its standing committee, especially after the decision to disqualify Uganda’s chosen ACC representative at Jamaica, any remaining trust in the ACC will be lost forever.
It is the latter reference that brings the point sharply home. At ACC-14, the powers that be refused to accept the credentials of the Rev. J. Philip Ashey to serve as a last-minute alternative for the clergy-member delegate from Uganda. The ostensible ground given was that since the Rev. Ashey was a member of the Province of Uganda who was serving in the United States, he was engaged in a cross-border violation contrary to the recommendations of the Windsor Report, and thus, in the view of the Standing Committee and its legal advisor, was not a "qualified" alternate under clause 4 (e) quoted above.

But Dr. Douglas is now the Bishop of Connecticut. His predecessor, Bishop Andrew Smith, authorized same-sex marriage blessings in his diocese, also contrary to the recommendations in the Windsor Report. Bishop Douglas has not rescinded his predecessor's authorization. Therefore, as the ACI points out,
Authorization of same sex blessings is “contrary to the Windsor Report” and to the moratoria that have now been affirmed by all four Instruments of Communion, including the ACC. Accordingly, Bishop Douglas is not, consistent with the interpretation articulated by the Secretary General, “qualified” to serve on the ACC under clause 4(e) of the ACC constitution.
"Hypocrisy" is doing one thing while saying the opposite. The left, of course, does this all the time -- every day, I must read dozens of blog posts pointing out the different standards which the left applies to its own, as opposed to what it expects from the rest of us. Thus, Uganda must not engage in border-crossing, or its representatives will be denied a seat at the Council. But ECUSA can consecrate all the gay or lesbian bishops it wants, and promulgate blessings for same-sex marriages too, without any consequences whatsoever for its representation among the so-called "Instruments of Unity" within the Anglican Communion.

The hypocrisy of ECUSA has now destroyed the unifying effects of those Instruments. Their integrity is in tatters after the farce of ACC-14 and the "final draft" of the proposed Covenant. If they now continue to recognize Dr. Ian Douglas as a member of the Standing Committee, and go along with the little charade that will be arranged (with Mark Harris' evident blessing) for the Executive Council meeting this June, then I agree with the ACI that "any remaining trust in the ACC will be lost forever."

Let's tally things up, shall we?

The Archbishop of Canterbury -- utterly ineffective ever since he failed to implement the consensus reached at Dromantine; credibility now shattered after his tortured silence in the wake of the consecration of Mary Glasspool.

The Lambeth Conference -- a big fizzle; an overall failure, thanks again in no small part to ++Cantuar's failure to implement Dromantine once more.

The Primates' Meeting -- utterly dysfunctional following Canterbury's failures to implement the Dromantine consensus (see the letter written to Dr. Williams by Bishop Mouneer Anis, followed by this letter of Archbishop Orombi).

And now,

The Anglican Consultative Council -- a hollow shell of a rubber stamp, manipulated completely by and for the primary benefit of ECUSA.

What, then, is left?

Please join me in prayer: Veni, sancte Spiritus . . .

Friday TED Talk: William Li and the Uses of Angiogenesis

Dr. William Li is the founder and head of the Angiogenesis Foundation, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Angiogenesis (Gr. angeion, "vessel, case") refers to instigating the growth ("genesis") of blood vessels. There are more than 60,000 miles of blood vessels in the human body, and they make the difference to the life or death of individual cells. Dr. Li's particular interest lies in anti-angiogenic therapy, or the prevention of the growth of blood vessels. What would be the use of that? Think about cancer cells: in order to grow and metastasize, they require an ever-increasing supply of blood to bring them nutrients.

Through the Foundation he started, Dr. Li describes in his TED talk the properties of various anti-angiogenic therapies which he and his colleagues have tested. The most promising line of investigation turns out to be the adoption of a diet high in natural anti-angiogenic substances, such as resveratrol in grapes and wine, or lycopene in tomatoes. The reason is that, as Dr. Li points out, by age 60 most men and women have cancer cells in their body -- women in their breasts, and men in their prostates -- and by age 70-80, all people have developed cancerous cells in their thyroid glands. Few of these cells, however, ever turn into malignant, metastasizing cancer, because they never trigger the angiogenesis required to furnish them with an adequate supply of blood.

Dr. Li is excited about the potential prevention of cancer (and perhaps even of obesity, because fat cells require a large blood supply as well) through the ingestion of anti-angiogenic foods. In the talk below, he gives a whole list of them, many of which you probably did not realize had those properties -- strawberries and blueberries, for example. As you watch his talk, look at the shrinkage of blood vessels which his lab slides demonstrate is caused by the growth-inhibiting substances found in common foods. Maybe you will be inspired to eat more of them!

Dr. Li's biography, and other links to his work, may be found at this page. Watch his talk (recommended) in its high-res version at this link, and download it in that and other formats from this page.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

An Unspeakable Mockery

The ceremony of "consecration" (to use the word in this connection is to desecrate it) in the Diocese of Los Angeles, May 15, 2010 (H/T: Stand Firm). (The link may not work, because so many are trying to view it. If so, count yourself lucky, and read the descriptions in the comments here.)

The Church of England might want to reconsider.

From 1 Kings:

11:4 When Solomon became old, his wives shifted his allegiance to other gods; he was not wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord his God, as his father David had been. 11:5 Solomon worshiped the Sidonian goddess Astarte and the detestable Ammonite god Milcom. 11:6 Solomon did evil in the Lord’s sight; he did not remain loyal to the Lord, like his father David had. 11:7 Furthermore, on the hill east of Jerusalem Solomon built a high place for the detestable Moabite god Chemosh and for the detestable Ammonite god Milcom. 11:8 He built high places for all his foreign wives so they could burn incense and make sacrifices to their gods.

14:22 Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord. They made him more jealous by their sins than their ancestors had done. 14:23 They even built for themselves high places, sacred pillars, and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every green tree. 14:24 There were also male cultic prostitutes in the land. They committed the same horrible sins as the nations that the Lord had driven out from before the Israelites.

From Habbakuk:

2:18 What good is an idol? Why would a craftsman make it?

What good is a metal image that gives misleading oracles?

Why would its creator place his trust in it

and make such mute, worthless things?

2:19 The one who says to wood, ‘Wake up!’ is as good as dead –

he who says to speechless stone, ‘Awake!’

Can it give reliable guidance?

It is overlaid with gold and silver;

it has no life’s breath inside it.

2:20 But the Lord is in his majestic palace.

The whole earth is speechless in his presence!”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

California Announces Boycott -- of Itself

Recently the Los Angeles City Council voted 13-1 to terminate some $7-8 million worth of contracts with Arizona-based entities, as part of a policy to boycott the latter State for its legislation allowing local law enforcement to request ID verification from immigrants. San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego passed their own boycott resolutions in short order, and more measures are pending before a number of other cities in California and other States.

However, a genuine journalist working for the Washington Times did the unthinkable, and actually carried out some research into California law. Kerry Picket discovered section 834b of the California Penal Code, which reads as follows (with added bold emphasis):

(a) Every law enforcement agency in California shall fully cooperate with the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service regarding any person who is arrested if he or she is suspected of being present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws. (b) With respect to any such person who is arrested, and suspected of being present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws, every law enforcement agency shall do the following: (1) Attempt to verify the legal status of such person as a citizen of the United States, an alien lawfully admitted as a permanent resident, an alien lawfully admitted for a temporary period of time or as an alien who is present in the United States in violation of immigration laws. The verification process may include, but shall not be limited to, questioning the person regarding his or her date and place of birth, and entry into the United States, and demanding documentation to indicate his or her legal status. (2) Notify the person of his or her apparent status as an alien who is present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws and inform him or her that, apart from any criminal justice proceedings, he or she must either obtain legal status or leave the United States. (3) Notify the Attorney General of California and the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service of the apparent illegal status and provide any additional information that may be requested by any other public entity. (c) Any legislative, administrative, or other action by a city, county, or other legally authorized local governmental entity with jurisdictional boundaries, or by a law enforcement agency, to prevent or limit the cooperation required by subdivision (a) is expressly prohibited.
Especially worthy of note is subsection (c) of the statute, which prohibits any legislation or other action by any local government which would hinder law enforcement from cooperating with the immigration authorities. This provision makes illegal all the various "sanctuary" legislation enacted by numerous California cities over the past years. But it would also appear to make illegal the various official boycotts of Arizona, one legal expert pointed out. "By trying to penalize Arizona for enforcing its own law," he said, "those cities are also hindering California law enforcement from working in tandem with the Arizona authorities to stem the flow of illegal immigrants across the Mexican border." He acknowledged, however, that his was a minority point of view "for the time being."

The exposure of the fact that California has for quite some time had legislation on its books which parallels that of Arizona has, however, much wider consequences, as recognized by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in a recent announcement. "To be consistent with our State's treatment of Arizona requires that California now boycott itself until this hate-filled legislation can be repealed," the Governor said. "While I did not sign the act that put this statute on the books, I note that it is no longer safe for me, a naturalized citizen from a foreign country, to take my aides out for ice cream if some police officer or highway patrolman decides to stop and interrogate me based on my accent. I call on all Californians to show our true greatness, and join me in boycotting this State until our legislature comes to its senses."

It was unclear at press time how the boycott would be carried out in practice. Governor Schwarzenegger urged all state employees to follow his example and refuse to accept their government salaries, but there was widespread resistance to such a step, particularly among the public sector unions, who were in the midst of their annual lobbying campaign for higher government pay and benefits. "How can we boycott the hand that feeds us?" asked one union leader, who asked to remain anonymous.

Meanwhile, Arizona has offered to help, by preventing all transfers of Arizona electrons to California outlets. No doubt as the news spreads of California's anti-immigrant legislation, other states will join the movement. "We've long been waiting for a payback moment like this," said one New York legislator, who asked not to be identified. "They think they can sue Wall Street -- well, that's a two-way street, as they will soon find out."

Inside California, however, confusion reigned following the Governor's announcement. It appeared as though each citizen was expected to find his or her own way to implement the boycott. "I'm through paying State taxes," said one. "And I'm not going to let any quail (the State bird) nest in my yard," said another. "No more Hollywood movies for me," said a third. "This'll show 'em," said a fourth, as he circulated a petition to have California rejoin Mexico.

California, it would seem, is once again called upon to lead the way -- for others to follow.