Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Spin Double-Spun

Commenters on this and similar blogs noted how long it took for news of the decision by the Court of Appeals in Fort Worth to reach the Episcoleft's blogosphere. The decision was handed down late last Friday, and there were quickly stories about it here, on StandFirm, on TitusOneNine, VirtueOnline, and on the Episcopal Diocese's Website -- all within 24 hours. It seems, however, that no one on the left could trust these sources, and so their notice of the news had to await the publication of an official press release at Bishop Ohl's website, nearly 72 hours later. Only then did the Episcoleft start to blog about it, taking the press release word-for-word as their interpretation of what the decision actually said.

Bishop Ohl's press release offered quite a spin on the story. It began by asserting what the opinion did not say:
The Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth issued an opinion late Friday, June 25, granting the Southern Cone parties' petition for writ of mandamus regarding the order of the 141st District Court ruling on the Southern Cone parties' Rule 12 motion.

The Court's decision said there is one Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and one Corporation of the Diocese of Fort Worth. The procedural ruling was based on Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 12 and expressly was not a substantive decision on which faction—those bishops and officials who are members of The Episcopal Church or those bishops and officials who are now of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone—represents the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth or the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

It also was not a decision on which faction is entitled to the church property in dispute, a substantive matter which Judge John Chupp of the 141st District Court will decide. The Court also ruled that the stay imposed on the trial court proceedings was lifted to permit further action in the 141st District Court.
Even in that limited scope, however, the press release failed to get it right. In the first place, the Court of Appeals did not grant Bishop Iker's petition for a writ of mandamus outright; what it did was to issue a conditional grant. "Mandamus" -- Latin for "we command" -- is a form of order issued by a higher court to a lower one, or to a government official or agency, telling the court, official or agency what they must do in order to comply with the higher court's view of the case. In this particular proceeding, Bishop Iker and his co-petitioners had requested the appellate court to order the trial court to strike the pleadings which Bishop Ohl's predecessor had filed in the name of the "Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth" and its associated Corporation.

The Court of Appeals, as I say, issued no order to that effect. It simply indicated that it would issue such an order unless the trial court promptly struck the pretenders' pleadings. In that way, it gave the trial court room to act on its own first without being formally ordered. And one can bet safe money on the fact that the trial court will do as required, so that there will never be a need to grant the petition for mandamus outright.

Next, while it is true that the Court of Appeals did not decide "which faction" represents the Episcopal Diocese and its Corporation, such a circumlocution is equivalent to how a one-time Soviet newspaper treated the results of an auto race between an American car and a Russian car, in which the former won handily. The Soviet paper reported the story with this headline: "Russian car finishes second in international race; American car comes in next to last."

What the Court of Appeals did decide was that there was only one Diocese and one related Corporation, both founded in 1983. And it struck the pleadings of Bishop Ohl's group, who were claiming to represent them. In doing so, it let stand in place the pleadings which Bishop Iker's group had filed in the name of the 1983 entities. So while, no, the court did not decide who was in control of those entities, it left Bishop Iker and his colleagues in full control of them, and able to plead and appear in court on their behalf. If that is not deciding "which faction . . . represents the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth or [its Corporation", then I guess the person who wrote the press release must be playing games, and must mean the 2009 entities when referring to the "Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and its Corporation", because the Court in fact did not say anything about those entities, either.

Actually, if the truth be told, I believe there is no such entity currently in existence as a "Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth" that was incorporated in 2009. As I explained in this earlier post, Bishop Ohl's predecessor did not bother to form a new corporation, but simply filed false papers with the Secretary of State claiming to have changed the officers in the 1983 Corporation controlled by Bishop Iker. Now that the Court of Appeals has barred his attorneys from acting on behalf of that Corporation, it will be instructive to see whether Bishop Ohl will incorporate a new one. My best guess is that he will not, because that would operate as an admission that he had no rights over the 1983 Corporation and its assets. Instead, he will probably argue in Court that only he has the right to control the Corporation, because only he is a currently ordained bishop in the Episcopal Church (USA).

Anyway, back to the spinning of the press release. In two subsequent paragraphs, it manages to turn the case 180 degrees around, by making it appear as though it was Bishop Iker and his troops that had failed to achieve "their objective" in the case:
The Court emphasized that "[t]he trial court did not determine on the merits which Bishop and which Trustees are the authorized persons within the corporation and the Fort Worth Diocese, nor do we. The question of ‘identity' remains to be determined in the course of the litigation." Thus the Southern Cone parties failed to achieve their goal of getting the Court of Appeals to declare that Bishop Iker represented the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and its Diocesan Corporation.

The Court also noted that "[w]e are aware of no statute or common law rule allowing attorneys to prosecute a suit in the name of a corporation or other entity on behalf of only one faction or part of that corporation or entity against another part or faction." As applied to both factions in the litigation, the bishops and trustees from each faction are already named as parties in the case pending in the 141st District Court.
As I just explained, what the appellate court did was reserve for the main trial on the merits the issue of whether, in voting to withdraw from ECUSA, Bishop Iker's Diocese was entitled to maintain all of its bank accounts and assets intact. The appellate court recognized that Bishop Ohl's group disputes their claim to those assets, on the ground that "dioceses can never leave the Church; only people can." So, no -- the appellate court did not purport to decide that issue. But as already noted, what it did was leave Bishop Iker in full control of the entities which own those assets. And since Bishop Ohl's attorneys were unable to point the trial court to a single canon or constitutional provision which prohibits a diocese from leaving the Church, I fail to see how they are going to convince Judge Chubb on remand why a diocese cannot withdraw.

If you wanted to learn about what the court actually decided, therefore, and to understand its import, you would have had to do quite a bit of homework after reading just Bishop Ohl's press release. But now I want to show you a stellar example of what I have called the left's "echo chamber" -- how things posted by a recognized source on the left get picked up and repeated by other liberal sites without any independent editing, or thought, whatsoever. Take a look at how the blogger over at Three-Legged Stool handled the story based on the press release. Here is his full story, in its entirety, word-for-word, typos and all:
The Second Court of Appeals issued it's ruling that
Thus the Southern Cone parties failed to achieve their goal of getting the Court of Appeals to declare that Bishop Iker represented the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and its Diocesan Corporation.
The decision continues:
We are aware of no statute or common law rule allowing attorneys to prosecute a suit in the name of a corporation or other entity on behalf of only one faction or part of that corporation or entity against another part or faction.
The Southern Cone has not responded, yet, and I'm sure they will file an appeal. Remember, the schismatics are not interested in the property, folks, but don't hold your breath.

Read the decision here.
The author should have followed his own advice, and read the opinion before posting this. As you can see from my quoting of the press release above, the author has taken a passage from the release and quoted it as though it were taken word-for-word from the Court's opinion! Not only that, the passage sounds so unfavorable to Bishop Iker, that the author concludes that it is certain that he will "file an appeal" -- from a decision which he won!

Thus is the spin on the left double-spun. And thus does their echo-chamber function to get the true word out to the faithful.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Behind the News: an Enormous Gamble

The recent meeting of ECUSA's Executive Council in Maryland has garnered a lot of media attention because of the impromptu visit to it by the Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion, the Rev. Canon Kenneth G. Kearon. Canon Kearon was on vacation at the time he was prevailed upon to attend a question-and-answer session, with all-too-predictable results. The members of the Executive Council asked him questions, but they did not like the answers, and soon stopped listening -- as is evident from all the snide and insulting reports they have since blogged about the encounter, to which I shall not link here.

(Was it worth it, Canon Kearon? Welcome to the club.)

For a look at what really went on at the meeting of the Executive Council, we can take the official press accounts only as a point of departure, and then fill in the gaps. When one takes the effort to do this, the picture that emerges is very different indeed from the one ENS tries to sell you.

Here is the ENS account of what took place on the opening day of the meeting (June 16):
The Episcopal Church's Executive Council began its three-day meeting here June 16 by hearing about the efforts to rebuild two dioceses: Haiti and San Joaquin. . . .
And now, for some reality: as the largest of all of the dioceses affiliated with ECUSA, Haiti serves to point up why San Joaquin is not a diocese, either in canon law or in fact. According to ECUSA's latest available statistics, the average Sunday attendance (ASA) for Haiti went from 15,807 in 2007 to 16,631 in 2008; in contrast, San Joaquin went from 3,965 in 2007 to just 896 in 2008. In other words, it would take almost 20 "San Joaquins" to equal just one Haiti. San Joaquin is on a par with Eau Claire (892 ASA in 2008), Northern Michigan (653), Quincy (935), North Dakota (804), and Western Kansas (801) -- all dioceses which are struggling to survive.

Back to the ENS story:
Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies and council vice president, yielded the majority of her time for opening remarks to Diocese of San Joaquin Provisional Bishop Jerry Lamb who updated the council on the work to rebuild the central California diocese since the group met there in January 2009.
"I want to tell you clearly and loudly that the clergy and laity of the Diocese of San Joaquin are committed to the Episcopal Church and to the Episcopal sense of what it is to be God's people," he said.

He said that the Episcopalians who remained after the former leadership and a majority of its members joined in December 2007 the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone have tried to reconcile, revive, renew and rebuild. Lamb said that efforts to reconcile with those who left "bore very, very little fruit" . . .
Let me see, now -- why might that be, Bishop Lamb? Could it be your arbitrary and uncanonical deposition of sixty-one San Joaquin clergy? No? Oh, I know -- it's your systematic campaign of lawsuits filed against now five of the largest incorporated parishes. Yes, that would certainly make "reconciliation" very, very difficult. . .
. . . but that 21 worshipping communities have reformed and 18 of them have shown "significant but slow growth."

"They are becoming much, much stronger," Lamb said.
"Much, much stronger," Bishop Lamb? Then why did you come to the Executive Council Meeting -- just to tell them this? It wasn't to ask them for more money, was it?
He said he has recently experienced "a palpable shift" of attitude in many congregations from survival mode to how to be active in mission and ministry in their wider communities. "We truly are a missionary diocese in San Joaquin," he said.
Whoops -- "a missionary diocese": wrong choice of words, Bishop Lamb. Very bad for ECUSA's litigation strategy. For example, take a look at what ECUSA recently alleged in its lawsuit against the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth (emphasis added):
26. The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is not a Missionary Diocese. The Constitution and canons of the Church do not provide for or permit the release, withdrawal, or transfer of any diocese that is not a Missionary Diocese.
No, you definitely want to stay away from the concept of a "missionary diocese", Bishop Lamb. Missionary Dioceses are permitted under the canons to join another Province of the Anglican Communion (and many revisionists use that point as an argument from silence -- a very weak silence, to be sure -- to contend why regular dioceses may not do so).
The diocese had to be rebuilt from "nothing but a commitment to remain in the Episcopal Church," Lamb said. Much work needed to be done and still needs to be done to teach the basics of the Episcopal expression of the Christian faith as well as its polity and tradition, and leadership skills in general, he said.
Yes, all that litigation you initiated can be very distracting from the main goals, can't it -- unless the "main goals" of your outfit are to sue every Anglican church in sight to get their buildings and bank accounts. And we shall see more about your "main goals" as this story unfolds.
The diocese has created an equality commission to look at ways to incorporate women, gays and lesbians and people of color into the church and "to renew that sense of the church as a wide tent," he said.
Whenever possible, turn something as basic as equality over to a commission to produce a report, which can be filed away. That's the American way.
Property litigation "has been enormous and extremely lengthy" and even though the state courts have consistently ruled in favor of the diocese and with the wider church, "yet we are quite a bit behind where we thought we would be" in the effort to regain property, he told the council.
Quite a bit behind where you thought you would be, Bishop Lamb? Could that be because the "state courts" in San Joaquin have not exactly "consistently ruled in favor of the diocese," as you say, Bishop Lamb? Given that to date, there has been only one such decision in your favor, by a trial court in Fresno -- whose decision is even now under review by the Fifth District Court of Appeals? Aren't you stretching things a bit, Bishop Lamb?
Lamb also said that he had recently asked the diocese and Jefferts Schori to begin a search for a second provisional bishop. He said he realized earlier this year that "I was wearing out and I needed a break." Lamb has been the diocese's provisional bishop since March 2008. He said he has only had a few months off since he retired from the Diocese of Northern California in January 2007.
All those depositions, and all those lawsuits on the burner certainly can wear one out. And what better time to pull out, before anything has been decided against you? That way, your successor will have to deal with any consequences of all the lawsuits you have filed. But meanwhile -- there is that little matter of money, isn't there? Because, as you hinted above, litigation can be enormously expensive and lengthy. However, the ENS story about San Joaquin ends at this point, and we have to look elsewhere to see what happened at the Executive Council Meeting.

Let's go to this report by ENS of all the actions approved by the Executive Council over its three-day session. There we find, buried in a long list of measures adopted, that the Council:
Supported the Diocese of San Joaquin in its protection of diocesan properties and continuing operations by making available for loan $500,000 for legal actions, drawable at any time through 2012; and $350,000 for operations, drawable during calendar year 2011 (loan terms, which may include deferral of interest payments, to be determined in consultation between the diocese and DFMS treasurer, the presiding officers and the chief operating officer) (FFM024). (DFMS refers to the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Episcopal Church, the legal name of the church in the United States.) [Bold emphasis added.]
Now let's do some math. According to those statistics quoted earlier, San Joaquin had just 2,246 members in 2008, of which an average of just 896 went to church each Sunday. And what Bishop Lamb just did for them, as his parting act, was to commit them to repayment of a further $850,000 in loans, in order to finance litigation and the operations needed to be carried on while the litigation is making its way through the courts. And that is on top of $125,000 previously borrowed from the DFMS, and $420,000 previously received from the DFMS -- the latter apparently as a "grant", which perhaps means it will not have to be repaid.

Add those numbers up: the total comes to one million, three hundred and ninety-five thousand dollars in grants and loans to a diocese of just 2,246 people: that is over $620 for every man, woman and youth in the diocese (or nearly $1,600 for just those coming to church). That is a humongous subsidy for such a small part of ECUSA; on a per capita basis, it dwarfs the amounts paid by ECUSA to subsidize any other diocese. (Nor does this take into account the other ways in which ECUSA uses its trust funds to prop up its Potemkin diocese, as we shall examine in the next part of this post.)

Of course, looked at the other way, that is an enormous debt with which to saddle any group in the Church -- with zero results to show after Bishop Lamb's more than two years in office, and in the face of the many shortcomings and inadequacies to which Bishop Lamb admitted. In a second installment of this post, I shall examine the religious and social dimensions of such a huge gamble, and what it entails for persons like Bishop Lamb and groups like the Executive Council, who should be acting as fiduciaries to the people who elected them.

Friday, June 25, 2010

ECUSA's Strategy Goes Down in Flames in Fort Worth

As predicted last September on this blog, the Court of Appeals for the Second District of Texas has shot down the claims of ECUSA and its puppet Bishop Gulick to be able to come into court pretending they are the true "Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth" and its associated Corporation. The Court's opinion and order represent an unqualified victory for the Diocese and Corporation headed by the Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker, which were both established in 1983. Here is the essential quote from the Court of Appeals' opinion (footnotes are omitted; bold emphasis added):
It is undisputed that there is only one Corporation and only one Fort Worth Diocese, regardless of how those entities are named or characterized in the underlying suit - whether as entities, as individuals "holding themselves out" as those entities, or as individuals "associated with" one or the other Bishop. There is a single Fort Worth Diocese and Corporation, which both a majority and a minority faction claim to control. The attorneys whose authority is challenged are either authorized to represent those two entities or they are not. But the trial court has barred them from representing only the Corporation and the Fort Worth Diocese associated with the Iker Group. We are aware of no statute or common law rule allowing attorneys to prosecute a suit in the name of a corporation or other entity on behalf of only one faction or part of that corporation or entity against another part or faction.
This is correct, both as a matter of law and of common sense. As I explained in my earlier analysis,
The original motion under Rule 12, as I explained in the first post linked above, called on the plaintiffs' attorneys to prove they had the authority to file pleadings on behalf of the "Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth" and its "Corporation", given that those two entities, first organized in 1983, already had a Bishop (Iker) and trustees elected at the Diocese's previous Annual Conventions. The attorneys responded to the motion by disclaiming any intent to represent the entities which were under Bishop Iker's control; they maintained that the entities they were representing still belonged to the Episcopal Church (USA), because the vote to leave the Church taken at the last Annual Convention of the Diocese had been beyond its powers. Thus neither the "Diocese" nor its Corporation had ever really left, they argued: only their bishop and officers had left, and the Presiding Bishop had kindly stepped in to call a "Special Convention" (since there was no Bishop or Standing Committee left to do so) to fill the vacancies thus created. And once a new bishop and standing committee had been elected, they were the ones who authorized the plaintiffs' attorneys to file suit in the name of the Diocese Which Had Never Left, and Its Corporation Which Never Left Either.

. . .

However, as I also pointed out in the earlier posts, both the complaint (petition) filed by the plaintiffs, as well as the amended one filed a few months later, stated in unequivocal language that the plaintiff "Diocese" had been started in 1983, as had the plaintiff "Corporation." Now maybe in the spiritual realm it is possible for one religious corporation to split into two, which then can be superimposed on one another to still look like one, but that does not fly in the temporal world. There is and can be in law only one Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth which was incorporated under the Texas statutes in January 1983. And likewise, there is and can be under Texas law only one voluntary association called "the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth" that was formed in 1983, as well.
Thus, the Court of Appeals has soundly rejected ECUSA's Machiavellian strategy, as I laid out in this earlier post. Although ECUSA's own complaint (and motion for summary adjudication) will stand for the time being, Bishop Gulick and his five "trustees" will have all their pleadings stricken, and so will have to start from scratch (with Bishop Ohl, who replaced Bishop Gulick during the proceedings, in the lead). They will have to admit this time that the entities they claim to represent were newly organized in 2009, and that will undermine ECUSA's position as argued in its motion as well. So my guess is that if this decision stands (and there is every reason to expect that it will, since it is so straightforward), ECUSA will have to refile its motion for summary adjudication also. Given the appellate court's ruling as quoted above, ECUSA cannot go forward on its preferred theory that "dioceses never leave, only people do." That is why this decision is such a huge victory for Bishop Iker and the true Diocese of Fort Worth.

The left, of course, will see this post as a gloat -- because had they prevailed, that is what they would have indulged in. But I do not gloat. I celebrate simply the ability of rational analysis to carry the day in the face of obfuscation and distortion, aimed at securing a quick advantage. (This post went up just after 9 PM PDT on the day the decision was handed down. As of this writing, the pseudo-diocese has not acknowledged the decision, while Bishop Iker's diocese already has it posted on their Website. It will be instructive to see how the left deals with the news, since they studiously avoid linking to analyses on this blog.)

[UPDATE 06/26/2010: The one and only Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth has now posted this statement about the decision on its Website, as of 12:30 pm PDT, and other sites in sympathy, such as TexAnglican and Apostolicity, have quoted it as well. Meanwhile, the Potemkin diocese's Website is still silent about the news, as are the usual sites in the left's echo chamber: Episcopal Cafe, Thinking Anglicans, and individual blogs such as Katie Sherrod, Grandmère Mimi, Preludium, Lionel Deimel and the Three-Legged Stool. It would seem as though the latter Websites do not recognize news until it is published on an authenticated, left-recognized Website. So be it -- do you see why it is better to follow as many blogs as you can on all sides, instead of just those who form the left's echo chamber? The news is still the news, whether commented upon to one's liking, or not. (This is so much fun to watch in real time -- when will they acknowledge the decision, and who will be the first to take the hit?)

UPDATE 06/28/2010: I just cycled through all my links above to the Episcoleft's blogsites again, at 10:30 a.m. PDT, and amazingly enough, there is still not one word being written about the decision -- 67 hours after it was handed down! One now sees it, clearly: news simply does not exist for those people unless they hear it from one of their own first. They are a closed system, admitting and reflecting nothing but what others of their own ilk say. FURTHER UPDATE: At last, we have a press release from the pretenders, and now the echo chamber has been able to begin its work of spreading the spin. The release states in part (I have added the emphasis):
The Court emphasized that "[t]he trial court did not determine on the merits which Bishop and which Trustees are the authorized persons within the corporation and the Fort Worth Diocese, nor do we. The question of ‘identity' remains to be determined in the course of the litigation." Thus the Southern Cone parties failed to achieve their goal of getting the Court of Appeals to declare that Bishop Iker represented the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and its Diocesan Corporation.

The Court also noted that "[w]e are aware of no statute or common law rule allowing attorneys to prosecute a suit in the name of a corporation or other entity on behalf of only one faction or part of that corporation or entity against another part or faction." As applied to both factions in the litigation, the bishops and trustees from each faction are already named as parties in the case pending in the 141st District Court.
Two rejoinders: 1) The motion by Bishop Iker achieved its objective of requiring the pretenders to prove they had authority from the "one Diocese and the one Corporation [organized in 1983]" to represent them in court. As both the trial and the appellate courts found, they failed to carry their burden of proof on that point. Since they are not able to continue their pretense of acting for those 1983 entities, that leaves Bishop Iker and the attorneys he hired to act for them. So without having to decide the merits, the appellate court as a practical matter has left the 1983 entities fully in control of Bishop Iker and his trustees. As I note in the comments below, the only avenue this leaves for the pretenders is to show that ECUSA's Constitution and canons prohibit dioceses from voting to leave, and this they cannot do.

2) The suit by the pretenders was a suit on behalf of an admitted minority faction against the bishop and trustees elected by the majority, and was brought in the name of the diocese and corporation, as though they were controlled by the minority. The third-party petition filed by the Diocese itself against Bishop Gulick and his "co-trustees" was not brought on behalf of any "part or faction of the Diocese." It was brought by the whole Diocese itself, for a declaratory judgment that the pretenders had no authority to govern in the name of the Diocese. So the meaning of the passage cited is not quite what the pretenders would like to have it say.]

But now back to earth, in the year 2010. It is my fervent prayer that ECUSA and its attorneys will cease playing this game, which has thus far managed to succeed with trial judges, but which has now met with its first defeat on appeal. Still to come is a decision by the Court of Appeal in Fresno, which has yet to announce any date for oral arguments.

If ECUSA and Bishop Gulick's attorneys seek a mandamus review of this ruling by the Texas Supreme Court, then we will all know how high of a premium they place on their strategy. But such a review would be wholly dependent on whether the Supreme Court thought there was reversible error in the decision. One of the virtues of higher appellate courts is that they usually have the time and the acumen to sort through the hyperbole and fluff, in order to reach the substance. Texans may take justified pride today in their Second District Court of Appeal, who stuck to basic legal principles, and as a result, got it right. I thus do not give any great chances for the success of a petition in the Supreme Court, but we shall see.

P.S.: If there is a mandamus petition to the Texas Supreme Court, it occurs to me that it may be dictated by the immediate need of the Rev. John Stanley, Ms. Cherie Shipp, The Rev. James Hazel, Mr. Robert M. Bass, and Dr. Trace Worrell to try to avoid the liability that they might incur to Bishop Iker and his diocese for damages under Texas law resulting from their filing official documents misrepresenting who they were, as I noted long ago in this post, which I entitled "To Whom It May Concern." Well, now they know: the post was addressed to them. They may want to request, perhaps, that a certain entity headquartered at 815 Second Avenue, New York City, New York step up to indemnify them -- if it would not serve to point up just who is controlling this little stage-piece. (I cannot say anything about the possible additional criminal liability mentioned by JoeMonk at that post, as I am not a Texas lawyer, and besides, any such charges would probably have to be brought by public prosecutors, and not by the aggrieved parties. Perhaps some readers who are familiar with Texas criminal procedure will comment, in light of the decision by the Court of Appeals.)

Friday TED Talk: Michael Sandel on Concepts of Justice

This is an outstanding TED talk, and I recommend you find some quiet time to listen to it all, and follow the links below. You will be well rewarded.

Michael Sandel teaches political science and philosophy at Harvard, and has done so for years. He has perfected the "Socratic method," by which students are prodded into defending different positions, in response to his probing questions. Then the interplay of views is examined critically, and what results is a civilized, public debate -- an art which the Greeks handed down to us, but which the modern pace of media, and our own tendencies to rush to judgment, have largely made us forget.

In the video below, watch how Prof. Sandel restores the art of debate with the TED audience in Long Beach earlier this year, as they examine and test the contrary views expressed in a well-known case that reached the Supreme Court: PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin, 532 U.S. 601 (2001). The Court was presented with the question of whether the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) required that a golfer afflicted with a degenerative circular disorder should be allowed to ride a golf cart in PGA tournaments:

You may read more about Michael Sandel at this page, where there are other links. His most recent book is Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? You can access even more of his materials online: here is a page where you can read about the course in justice which he teaches at Harvard (and packs Sanders Theater for his lectures), and here is his online Justice Project, where there are weekly videos and lots, lots more.

You may watch his TED talk in high-resolution video at this link, and download it in that and other formats from this page.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Cure for Low Spirits

It seems to me that with all the dismal and unpleasant news these days, from Southwark to Kabul, the following two items might serve as a bit of a pick-me-up. First, some ingenious Germans figured out a way to install a "fast lane" in a Berlin subway station (note the lack of bureaucratic interference with the installation). The looks on the faces of those who can only observe the fun are priceless:

Next, a father, viewing a forlorn post on his son's Facebook page, offered him some sage advice on how to weather what he thought was a romantic breakup (click on the image to make it more readable):

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Modern Fable

Edwin H. Friedman, an ordained rabbi and practicing family therapist, is famous for his volume of Friedman's Fables, a collection of short psychological tales that illustrate conditions which are commonly encountered in dealing with people today. His last book, published after his death in 1996, is called A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, and builds upon the insights he gained from a career spanning over thirty years as a therapist. But his fable -- actually, closer to a parable -- published in the earlier collection, and titled "A Nervous Condition," is the starting point for his psychological analysis of "leadership in the age of the quick fix."

As such, it is well worth bringing to the forefront in the current crisis brought about by ECUSA's intentional deviations from the norms of the Anglican Communion, as laid out by the Lambeth Conference in 1998, and its wounded reactions on being suddenly called to account for those deviations. (To those who would object that the Lambeth Conference is not normative, I regret to say that your objections will not be entertained here. Comments attempting to make the point that Lambeth resolutions are not "binding" on member churches will be summarily rejected, not only because [a] readers of this blog already know they are not binding, and so the point is worthless, but also because [b] Lambeth resolutions are normative, at least on matters which pertain to the character of bishops who are acceptable to the whole Communion. In stomping on all such comments, I simply adopt the approach advocated by Rabbi Friedman in the fable reproduced below.) :>)

I do not know whether or not, by quoting Friedman's fable (one of 24) in toto, I transgress the "fair use" parameters of the copyright statute. Certainly there is no revenue earned from this site, or from the featuring of his tale and the book from which it was taken. Let the parable, therefore, now be set forth, and let those to whom it applies, or for whom it makes a point, draw the appropriate conclusions:

* * * * *

A Nervous Condition

When little John was about a year old, his parents noticed very thin fibers protruding through his pores. After another few months the fibers had extended themselves. They began to form curls. The condition alarmed his parents, so they took little John to a doctor. The physician, after examining him carefully, called in several specialists. They, in turn, summoned their colleagues and, after conferring for several hours, announced: Little John was unique in medical history -- his ganglia [nerve endings] were growing outside his skin.

Since there was no record of this having happened before, it was not clear what the ultimate effects of such a condition would be, and since little John was otherwise in excellent health, it was decided to do nothing for a while but observe.

Of course, one immediate problem was little John's rapidly developing, extreme sensitivity to everything and everyone around him. The doctors alerted his parents, warning them that they must be supersensitive to his every move and touch. Being very sensitive people anyway, they agreed.

As little John grew, so did his ganglia, until they trailed about him as he walked. While it was not a pretty sight, surprisingly it turned out to have some advantages.

He learned from the very beginning, for example, first from his ever-concerned parents and the from others, that he could always count on someone watching out for him. Indeed, he learned early in life that anyone who came into his orbit would always pay attention to his every move for fear of hurting him. He found that he could plow a path through any group of friends by just walking toward them. People would always retreat at his advance for fear of "stepping on his feelings." When he engaged in sports, or when he just wanted to be first in line, all he had to do was start in the direction he chose, and his approach itself proved to be an "open sesame."

Sometimes he encountered people who had not been forewarned about his condition, and then he had to point it out as early in their relationship as possible. Once they understood, however, they never tried to get in his way.

All of this is not to say that individuals never felt resentment toward little John. Some of his classmates, and one of his brothers in particular, who were most competitive with him for certain goals, felt handicapped by his handicap, but they never spoke it aloud. All managed to quiet their resentment with self-recriminations about their own insensitivity.

And so it went. Little John graduated high school (having done fewer homework assignments than any other child who ever attended), and he obtained a secure job, though less qualified than most of those seeking the same position.

One day he met a woman whom he liked. Being extremely shy and not having enough confidence or experience to refute her own poor image of herself, she was thrilled at the advances of this very attentive, if somewhat strange, creature. She treated him with the utmost deference, and her pity soon became love. Everywhere they went she watched out for him. In time, the guiding principle of her life became, "How can I help this man avoid pain?"

But after they had been married a while, she began to tire. Still she tried, for this poor man could not help himself. But it became increasingly difficult for her to be constantly mindful of his needs. She decided to confess her increasing insensitivity to her friends. She mentioned it to her family, to her minister, to her doctor. She sought professional help. All comforted and sympathized but could offer little practical advice, and so they urged her to be more patient. She tried again to shape her existence to his needs. Then the headaches started. Then the little tic in her eye. Soon she found she was losing weight. Colitis further restricted her freedom, and it was not long before her thoughts were bordering on suicide. She dared not tell little John, of course, for fear of hurting him. Why, if he knew that all of this was due to his condition, he would be inconsolable.

One day, as she was walking home, she chanced upon a mother cat giving suck to her newborn kittens. As they scrambled over one another in their thirst, the mother carefully guided each one to its turn, stretching out a firm but gentle paw as she lay contentedly on her side. Then little John's wife noticed that one of the kittens had been born lame; its leg had not been fully formed, and it had more difficulty maneuvering than the others. Strangely, it was also the most aggressive. While the other kittens, when satisfied, went off to sleep, this one kept coming back to wiggle its way in front of thirsty others. Each time, however, the mother cat pushed it away, at first gently, then with successively harder whacks.

Little John's wife watched the poor kitty and the "inhuman" mother. But when she returned home, upon finding her husband reading in a room, she planted herself in the doorway and began to stare. A little while later, little John, desiring to enter another room, marched straight for the doorway that framed his wife. She did not budge. Closer he came, closer, never thinking actually to ask her to move (after all, he had never had to ask anyone to get out of his way before). Suddenly, he stopped, confused. What should he do? First he assumed his most wounded look. Then he tried one that was more winsome and boyish, but his wife was like a rock. In desperation, he finally spoke. “Move. You know I cannot squeeze by.” Nothing. “What's the matter with you?" he yelled. "What are you trying to do to me? This is like a trap." Then she did begin to move, not aside, but rather directly toward him. He retreated. She continued on. He moved back faster, but still on she came. Soon he was cornered.

“Have you lost your mind?" he said incredulously. "Careful there, you almost hurt me,” he said pathetically. That did it. She raised a foot and STOMP, with all her might came down hard on one of his trailing nerve endings. He screeched, either from pain or shock. Again she stomped, and again and again. He ran past her, but she pursued. He screeched again, and the scream encouraged her more. STOMP, STOMP, she continued chasing him from room to room, up and down stairs, to the cellar, to the attic, through the kitchen, to their bedroom, until, exhausted, they both collapsed and fell asleep.

When little John's wife awoke, her headache was gone for the first time in months. Her eye, too, had lost its quiver, and for the first time in a very long time she sighed without a pain and felt relaxed. But more astounding still was what she saw beside her. For, when she looked over at little John, she found that his ganglia were no longer curled around him all about the floor. On closer examination, she realized that they had disappeared altogether. In fact, they had completely recoiled inside his skin.

* * * * *

[If you visit the link to the Google Books excerpts from Friedman's Fables, be sure to read as well the fable that follows this one, called "The Friendly Forest." It also has relevance to the situation in the Anglican Communion today.]

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Never-Ending, Circular Dialogue

[A dialogue. Two Episcopalians, Quincy and Alex, are exchanging views over their cups of coffee.]

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (USA) has explained to us the constitutional framework within which the election and confirmation of a new bishop in the Episcopal Church (USA) takes place. As Primates, it is not for us to pass judgement on the constitutional processes of another province. We recognise the sensitive balance between provincial autonomy and the expression of critical opinion by others on the internal actions of a province. Nevertheless, many Primates have pointed to the grave difficulties that this election has raised and will continue to raise. In most of our provinces the election of Canon Gene Robinson would not have been possible since his chosen lifestyle would give rise to a canonical impediment to his consecration as a bishop.

If his consecration proceeds, we recognise that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy. In this case, the ministry of this one bishop will not be recognised by most of the Anglican world, and many provinces are likely to consider themselves to be out of Communion with the Episcopal Church (USA). This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level, and may lead to further division on this and further issues as provinces have to decide in consequence whether they can remain in communion with provinces that choose not to break communion with the Episcopal Church (USA).
Q But all the Primates in the Communion have no authority over our Church. They cannot tell us what to do.

A They didn't try to tell us, as that excerpt just quoted says. They asked us not to go ahead with +Robinson's consecration.

Q All right, and we turned them down. If they can't compel us to do anything, what's wrong with that?

A But who is this "we" who turned them down?

Q The bishops who consecrated +Robinson -- and the ones who just consecrated +Glasspool.

A And are those bishops the whole Episcopal Church?

Q No, of course not.

A So what gave those particular bishops the right to turn down the unanimous request of all of the assembled Primates of the Anglican Communion?

Q They did it to demonstrate their solidarity with gays and lesbians. As our baptismal vow says, we are to "seek and serve Christ in all persons," and to "strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being."

A But I never took that vow. I was baptized long before 1979, and so were a number of the bishops who consecrated +Robinson and +Glasspool. And anyway, the vow is far too general to claim that it mandates one to "tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level." So I repeat my question: who authorized those bishops to turn down, in the name of the whole Episcopal Church, the unanimous request of the assembled Primates of the Anglican Communion -- a request signed, I might add, by our own Presiding Bishop at the time?

Q Well, as Presiding Bishop Griswold said, when he responded to the objections made at the ordination ceremony for Bishop Robinson by those who did not want the consecration to proceed, "We're learning to live the mystery of communion at a deeper level." I guess he meant the level at which the Primates said the Communion would tear.

A You just dodged my question -- and there's that "we" again. Just whom did +Griswold mean by "we", in your opinion?

Q The Episcopal Church.

A The whole Episcopal Church?

Q Yes.

A But not everyone in the Episcopal Church agreed with his decision to go ahead despite the objections of all of the other primates. In fact, don't you agree that the majority of Episcopalians probably would not have agreed to go forward if they had been told of the consequences that would ensue -- the depositions, the lawsuits, the millions of dollars wasted?

Q What makes you say that? How do you know it would have been a majority? Did you ever take a vote?

A That's my point. The bishops who consecrated +Robinson, and the ones who just consecrated +Glasspool, never asked anyone whether the consequences which have flowed from those actions would be acceptable, did they?

Q They didn't have to. The canons authorized the Presiding Bishop to perform the ordinations; if there were consequences from following the canons, then the ones who enacted the canons should have thought of that at the time. No doubt that is what the Presiding Bishop meant when he said that as a result of the consecration of +Robinson, the Episcopal Church would be "learning to live the mystery of communion at a deeper level" -- he accepted that there would be consequences.

A And who gave the Presiding Bishop the authority to decide that all Episcopalians should learn "to live the mystery of communion at a deeper level", and should accept whatever consequences should happen to flow from his act?

Q He was elected Presiding Bishop in accordance with our canons.

A Yes, I know that, but I cannot find in the descriptions or duties of his position the power to perform an act that results in most of the rest of the churches in the Communion declaring us "out of communion" with them.

Q He did it because, as he said, he was bound by his conscience.

A Granted -- but how does that give him the right to act out his conscience in the name of all the rest of us?

Q What do you mean?

A Consider the case of Martin Luther King, who also acted out of his conscience. Imagine how ridiculous it would be if he had said, "Out of my conscience, I am going to disobey what the City of Birmingham wants us to do under 'their' law. But I will let you also suffer the consequences of my act, because I am going to tell them that I am doing it in your name, with your authority. Then you can go to jail, too." The point is that civil disobedience is an individual, and not a collective, act. Individuals have to suffer and accept the consequences of their individual actions, otherwise there is no purpose to them. No one commits civil disobedience so that others may be punished for something they did not authorize, or ratify.

Q Well, under our canons, the Presiding Bishop is the one authorized to "take order for the consecration of Bishops, when duly elected". So once their dioceses elected +Robinson and +Glasspool, and once a majority of diocesan bishops and the standing committees or Convention deputies approved their elections, they had to be consecrated.

A Are you saying that if our canons made horses eligible to be bishops, that a horse which was duly elected and confirmed would have to be ordained as a bishop in the Church -- regardless of what the rest of the Communion thought?

Q No, of course not. Now you're being ridiculous. A majority of the Church would never authorize a canon that allowed a horse to become a bishop.

A What makes you so sure? Is there any passage in Scripture which forbids making a horse a bishop? The supporters of +Robinson and +Glasspool argue, you see, that properly understood, there is no passage in Scripture which prevents the ordination of a same-sex partnered individual as a bishop. So why not a horse?

Q Our canons currently prohibit the denial to any person, on the grounds of sexual orientation or otherwise, of access to ordination to any of the orders in this Church. The operative word is "person," not "creature." So don't be ridiculous.

A But General Convention amended that canon in 1994 to add the words "sexual orientation". So what's to stop General Convention from adding other categories in the future?

Q Nothing, really. I agree that the powers of General Convention are unlimited. But we aren't there yet, and so I don't have to deal with it. It's enough that our canons say what they say, and that we followed them in electing both +Robinson and +Glasspool. If the rest of the Communion doesn't like it, that's their problem, not ours.

A Why is it just "their" problem? Isn't it a fact that neither +Robinson nor +Glasspool can be recognized as bishops in those provinces which disagreed with our action?

Q True, but that does not make them anything less than bishops. We (ECUSA) are a member church of the Anglican Communion, and so the bishops we elect and ordain are all Anglican bishops in the apostolic succession, regardless of what anyone else says.

A Is that really the case? We just saw an instance of where our Presiding Bishop was not allowed to function as a bishop in the Church of England, because it does not yet have authorization from Parliament to ordain women as bishops. So it is not correct to say that whoever ECUSA chooses to ordain as a bishop may function as a bishop throughout the Anglican Communion, is it?

Q No, but that does not mean we are not Anglican. Nobody has the power to tell me that I am not an Anglican, if I belong to the Episcopal Church.

A Well, if the supporters of +Robinson and +Glasspool want to be sure that whoever they ordain as a bishop will be recognized as a bishop, then why did they not split off and form their own church? What gave them the right to impose their vision on the majority of Episcopalians?

Q But any church that split off would not automatically be a member of the Anglican Communion -- look at ACNA. And you just said that the majority of provinces disagreed with us, so they obviously would not vote to admit the new church to the Communion.

A So as a member of ECUSA, you want to be a member of the Anglican Communion?

Q Absolutely, yes.

A But you don't want to accede to the request of all the other provinces not to ordain same-sex partnered individuals to be bishops, whom they cannot then recognize as bishops in the Communion?

Q What is wrong with ordaining same-sex-partnered persons as bishops of the Episcopal Church?

[Return to the beginning, and start again. Continue ad infinitem.]

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.]

In Lieu of Friday's TED Talk: TEDxOilSpill Blog

No TED talk this morning -- I am working on another post to put up soon about the "Mitregate" kerfluffle. In lieu of the usual talk, I want to link to the blog of the TEDxOil Spill Expedition, and recommend that you visit it to get an on-the-ground perspective on the scope of the environmental and economic destruction flowing from the Deep Horizon Disaster.

Remember that "TED" stands for "Technology, Entertainment, Design". It is a nonprofit organization that holds a number of conferences throughout the world each year to which leading and innovative speakers are invited to share with everyone, in just eighteen minutes or less, an "idea that will change the world." The "x" in "TEDx" signifies a TED-type event that is independently organized -- not by the TED outfit itself, but usually by persons who have attended one or more TED conferences.

The TEDxOil Spill Expedition is just one such event, created to document and measure the effects of the spill. It will present its results and findings at an all-day conference to be held at the International Trade Center Amphitheater, at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., on June 28, 2010; registration is required. Speakers at the event will include such notables as Sylvia Earle, Philippe Cousteau (yes, the son of Jacques), David Gallo and others whose TED talks I have posted here from time to time; a full list of the speakers is at this link.

If you can't make it to Washington, there are a series of 63 Meetups thus far organized at various locations throughout the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, to focus on the topics documented by the Expedition on its blog. In the meantime, I encourage you to visit that blog, view the comprehensive photos posted thus far by its official photographers Duncan Davidson, Kris Krüg, and Pinar Ozger, and read the daily posts -- such as this one showing the track of the seaplane flight taken by those photographers to view the source, and put it into perspective. You will come away much better informed about the effects of the spill, and about the scope (and frustration!) of local efforts to mitigate them.

Then, if you are not yet motivated enough to fire off some angry letters to the Coast Guard, the Department of Energy and the other federal bureaucrats whose battles over turf, and nitpicking over meaningless regulations, have aggravated the disaster tenfold, I urge you to read this brief post at Six Meat Buffet: "Why Has the Federal Government Declared War on the States"? Why, indeed.

For dessert after that buffet, here is a delightful concluding vignette from that ever-reliable source, Father John Hunwicke, SSC: "Pulped."

Have a nice day. Check back later in the day for the definitive (canonical, of course) analysis of "Mitregate."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Nadir in Communion Relations

Relations between ECUSA and the Anglican Communion have reached a nadir, propelled by the stubborn determination of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, egged on by her Chancellor, to stand her ground and defy the (thus-far private) requests made of her by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The latest developments are playing themselves out on different levels, both public and private. In public, Bishop Jefferts Schori strained the terms of her license to officiate as a priest at Southwark Cathedral last Sunday. Neither the Church of England nor its Archbishop of Canterbury had any canonical remit to license her to function as a bishop, because neither the Church nor Parliament has made the necessary canonical alterations required to allow women to be bishops in the Church. Thus when the Dean of Southwark, the Very Rev. Colin Slee, asked Lambeth for a license for Jefferts Schori to officiate at Sunday services, Lambeth made it very clear that she would be licensed only as a priest.

And how did Jefferts Schori return Lambeth's gracious favor? By insisting --- unlike any other priest in any church in the entire Anglican Communion -- on processing down the aisle with a bishop's mitre tucked under her arm. (The contrast to her predecessor could not make the point clearer: ECUSA's male bishops may [if licensed] function fully in other churches of the Communion, while its female bishops may not.) Oh, she did not wear it on her head, all right, and she carried no crosier, but she made the point of her defiance plain. (Could it be that she is incensed that the bishop of Winchester, the Rt. Rev. Michael Scott-Joynt, has invited his old friend Archbishop Robert W. Duncan to officiate in his diocese as a guest bishop, and to perform confirmation rites?)

ECUSA insisted on being in the vanguard on ordaining women as priests and bishops, but the childishness of its passive-aggressive approach when the rest of the Communion does not immediately follow suit does no credit to its standing in the Communion. The news sites and blogs have been full of snide and ill-tempered remarks about what they regard as Canterbury's "rudeness." As usual, since those in the lead at ECUSA have no respect for their own canon law, they are unable to understand it when other churches in the Communion adhere to their own canons and procedures -- including requiring the Presiding Bishop, just like any other foreign licensee, to supply proofs of ordination. ("It is bizarre; it is beyond bizarre," Jefferts Schori said of the canonical requirements for her license. Perhaps she would care to characterize the requirements that she herself imposed on Bishop Henry Scriven when he left the Diocese of Pittsburgh to take up an episcopal post with the Diocese of Oxford?)

At any rate, it is now plain in public that there is bad blood between ECUSA's Presiding Bishop and the Communion's Archbishop of Canterbury. She took it on herself to promulgate a lengthy riposte to the Archbishop's Pentecostal letter, which took him personally to task for evidencing what she disparagingly termed "colonial attitudes." That Pentecostal letter had warned that persons within ECUSA serving on the various ecumenical bodies of the Anglican Communion would have to step down from their positions:
We are at a point in our common life where broken communications and fragile relationships have created a very mistrustful climate. This is not news. But many have a sense that the current risks are greater than ever. Although attitudes to human sexuality have been the presenting cause, I want to underline the fact that what has precipitated the current problem is not simply this issue but the widespread bewilderment and often hurt in different quarters that we have no way of making decisions together so that we are not compromised or undermined by what others are doing. . . . It is significant that there are still very many in The Episcopal Church, bishops, clergy and faithful, who want to be aligned with the Communion’s general commitments and directions, such as those who identify as ‘Communion Partners’, who disagree strongly with recent decisions, yet want to remain in visible fellowship within TEC so far as they can. . . .
. . .

But some decisions cannot be avoided. . . .
And when a province through its formal decision-making bodies or its House of Bishops as a body declines to accept requests or advice from the consultative organs of the Communion, it is very hard (as noted in my letter to the Communion last year after the General Convention of TEC) to see how members of that province can be placed in positions where they are required to represent the Communion as a whole. This affects both our ecumenical dialogues, where our partners (as they often say to us) need to know who it is they are talking to, and our internal faith-and-order related groups.
I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces – provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) – should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged. I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members. This is simply to confirm what the Communion as a whole has come to regard as the acceptable limits of diversity in its practice. It does not alter what has been said earlier by the Primates’ Meeting about the nature of the moratoria: the request for restraint does not necessarily imply that the issues involved are of equal weight but recognises that they are ‘central factors placing strains on our common life’, in the words of the Primates in 2007. Particular provinces will be contacted about the outworking of this in the near future.
I am aware that other bodies have responsibilities in questions concerned with faith and order, notably the Primates’ Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Standing Committee. The latter two are governed by constitutional provisions which cannot be overturned by any one person’s decision alone, and there will have to be further consultation as to how they are affected. I shall be inviting the views of all members of the Primates’ Meeting on the handling of these matters with a view to the agenda of the next scheduled meeting in January 2011. . . .
The recent statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury about the struggles within the Anglican Communion seems to equate Pentecost with a single understanding of gospel realities. . . .
. . .

The Episcopal Church has spent nearly 50 years listening to and for the Spirit in these matters. While it is clear that not all within this Church have heard the same message, the current developments do represent a widening understanding. Our canons reflected this shift as long ago as 1985, when sexual orientation was first protected from discrimination in access to the ordination process. [Ed. Note: as documented here, the language about "sexual orientation" was first proposed at GC 1985, but was not enacted until GC 1994.] At the request of other bodies in the Anglican Communion, this Church held an effective moratorium on the election and consecration of a partnered gay or lesbian priest as bishop from 2003 to 2010. When a diocese elected such a person in late 2009, the ensuing consent process indicated that a majority of the laity, clergy, and bishops responsible for validating that election agreed that there was no substantive bar to the consecration.

The Episcopal Church recognizes that these decisions are problematic to a number of other Anglicans. We have not made these decisions lightly. We recognize that the Spirit has not been widely heard in the same way in other parts of the Communion. In all humility, we recognize that we may be wrong, yet we have proceeded in the belief that the Spirit permeates our decisions.

We also recognize that the attempts to impose a singular understanding in such matters represent the same kind of cultural excesses practiced by many of our colonial forebears in their missionizing activity. Native Hawaiians were forced to abandon their traditional dress in favor of missionaries' standards of modesty. Native Americans were forced to abandon many of their cultural practices, even though they were fully congruent with orthodox Christianity, because the missionaries did not understand or consider those practices exemplary of the Spirit. The uniformity imposed at the Synod of Whitby did similar violence to a developing, contextual Christianity in the British Isles. In their search for uniformity, our forebears in the faith have repeatedly done much spiritual violence in the name of Christianity.

We do not seek to impose our understanding on others. We do earnestly hope for continued dialogue with those who disagree, for we believe that the Spirit is always calling us to greater understanding.

We live in great concern that colonial attitudes continue, particularly in attempts to impose a single understanding across widely varying contexts and cultures. We note that the cultural contexts in which The Episcopal Church's decisions have generated the greatest objection and reaction are also often the same contexts where women are barred from full ordained leadership, including the Church of England.

As Episcopalians, we note the troubling push toward centralized authority exemplified in many of the statements of the recent Pentecost letter. Anglicanism as a body began in the repudiation of the control of the Bishop of Rome within an otherwise sovereign nation. Similar concerns over self-determination in the face of colonial control led the Scottish Episcopal Church to consecrate Samuel Seabury for The Episcopal Church in the nascent United States – and so began the Anglican Communion.
. . .

We are distressed at the apparent imposition of sanctions on some parts of the Communion. We note that these seem to be limited to those which "have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion." We are further distressed that such sanctions do not, apparently, apply to those parts of the Communion that continue to hold one view in public and exhibit other behaviors in private. Why is there no sanction on those who continue with a double standard? In our context bowing to anxiety by ignoring that sort of double-mindedness is usually termed a "failure of nerve.". . .
Lambeth did not deign to respond directly to this attack; the Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion simply announced, while he was attending General Synod in Canada, that he had sent letters out to the Episcopalians affected, notifying them that they were removed from their positions.

Thus one can begin to see some of the backdrop to the little charade acted out last Sunday in the aisles of Southwark Cathedral. But there is more, much more. For as the Rev. George Conger has now revealed in an article originally published in The Church of England Newspaper and now available on Fr. Conger's own website, the Archbishop delegated that same Secretary General, the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, to deliver to the Presiding Bishop on April 17, as she was preparing to ordain the Rev. Ian Douglas to the episcopate, a private, personal letter. (This was before she led ECUSA's "consecration" of lesbian-partnered Canon Mary Glasspool in Los Angeles on May 15.) No one either at Lambeth or at 815 will confirm what was in the letter, and the Presiding Bishop's spokesperson refuses even to concede that there was a letter.

But according to reports received by the Rev. George Conger (which I have confirmed through an independent source), the Presiding Bishop's Chancellor, David Booth Beers, told some ECUSA bishops gathered for the Living Our Vows training session at the Lake Logan Episcopal Center in North Carolina (held from May 24-28) that the Archbishop had conveyed to the Presiding Bishop a private request that she withdraw from her position on the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, and not attend the next Primates' Meeting. It would thus appear that since there was a letter delivered, the request either was in the letter itself, or else the letter asked Bishop Jefferts Schori to listen to what Canon Kearon would say to her in private. (The latter option, if true, would permit spokespersons on both sides of the Atlantic to deny that any "written request to step down" had been sent.) But Chancellor Beers left no doubt: the request was made. And whichever way it was made, it also would seem, to put it mildly, that the request was not well received.

According to Chancellor Beers again, the Presiding Bishop responded in private that she would not step down from the Standing Committee, because she had been elected to the Committee by the collected primates of North and South America, and the Archbishop had no power to remove her. (If the account as related to Fr. Conger is correct, there would be some degree of overstatement involved: of course the Archbishop would not claim any authority to remove persons from the Standing Committee, since no such authority is given to him by the ACC Bylaws. But he would certainly be within his moral authority to request that Bishop Jefferts Schori voluntarily step down.)

We have a sort of back-handed confirmation of private correspondence being exchanged between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Presiding Bishop in this little news item buried in an ENS article about the latter's response to the announcement of sanctions (bold added for emphasis):
Before the sanctions were imposed on the Episcopal Church as a consequence for having consecrated a lesbian bishop, Jefferts Schori said she had written a letter to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams expressing her concern.
There would have been no occasion to write the Archbishop before he announced the sanctions, unless he had written her first in private to inform her about his decision. Thus this story tends to confirm Fr. Conger's information and Chancellor Beers's report.

There is no report of what was said between the two bishops about Jefferts Schori's attending the next Primates' Meeting; traditionally, it is the Archbishop who convenes the Meeting, and so theoretically he could simply instruct Lambeth that no invitation go to the Presiding Bishop. However, it is clear from Chancellor Beers's remarks as reported to Fr. Conger that the Presiding Bishop challenged any move by the Archbishop "to ban her from the councils of the Church." (If he indeed spoke the word "Church", Chancellor Beers meant to say "Communion", of course. After all, his law firm just got done arguing to the Virginia Supreme Court that the Anglican Communion is not a "church.")

ECUSA, its Executive Council, and its Presiding Bishop appear to be marching straight ahead, as though nothing were amiss. According to yesterday's ENS story about the deliberations of the Executive Council, the manipulations to allow now-Bishop Ian Douglas to maintain a seat on the Standing Committee of the ACC are in full execution mode:
While in Linthicum Heights, the council is also expected to:
. . .
elect the episcopal member of the church's Anglican Consultative Council delegation who will be a successor to Diocese of New York Bishop Suffragan Catherine Roskam whose term ended after the May 2009 ACC meeting. The election was delayed during the council's February meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, so that then-fellow council member and then-Diocese of Connecticut Bishop-elect Ian Douglas could be consider[ed] for the seat. Douglas, who has since been ordained and consecrated, attended the first ACC meeting of his three-meeting term in May 2009 as the church's clerical representative.
As I have previously explained at length, the words "whose term ended after the May 2009 ACC meeting" are a gross misstatement of the ACC's Bylaws. Instead, they confirm that Bishop Roskam's term ends just before the commencement of the next ACC meeting, in the spring of 2012. Thus, not only is there no current vacancy to fill, but even as her successor, Bishop Douglas would not be able to do anything until that next meeting commences. He certainly should not be allowed to function as part of the Standing Committee in the interim, because he was elected to it as the ACC's sole clerical (not episcopal) member, and he has since ceased to be a priest.

In other words, Bishop Douglas, as a bishop, is no longer qualified to serve on the Standing Committee in the capacity in which he was elected. (He managed to resign from the Executive Council because he recognized that, as an elected clergy member of it, he was no longer qualified to serve in that capacity. But that was the Executive Council, and this is the Standing Committee, don't you see?)

No, frankly, I do not see any difference. In May 2009, the same Standing Committee found that Uganda had failed to designate a qualified clergy member to represent it at ACC-14:
On April 29, Kearon wrote to Orombi expressing concern that "a person not resident in the Province of Uganda should be asked to represent your province."

Orombi's response to Kearon on April 30 said that Ashey "is a priest in good standing of Ruwenzori Diocese" and noted that he had relinquished his press credentials.

Kearon responded the same day saying that the ACC/Primates Joint Standing Committee had discussed the matter at length and concluded that Ashey's "current status means that we cannot regard him as a 'qualified' member according to Section 4(e) of the current [ACC] constitution."
So a priest canonically resident in Uganda, but whom ECUSA deems to be transgressing diocesan boundaries by serving in the United States, and who therefore violates the Windsor Report's moratorium on border-crossing, is not "qualified" to be designated as a representative to the ACC. But a bishop who sanctions same-sex marriages in his own diocese, and who thereby also violates one of the moratoria in the Windsor Report, is "qualified" -- because he is from ECUSA, while the other person was from Uganda? (And remind me -- who is it that called the Archbishop of Canterbury's response to ECUSA's latest Windsor violations "colonial"?)

In that double standard lies the festering sore with which ECUSA has infected the whole Communion. ECUSA is simply repeating all over again its betrayal of the Communion, when it abandoned its collective promise "to exercise restraint" by saying, in effect, "that was then -- this is now." And in the process, by leading the Glasspool ceremonies so closely on the heels of her earlier letter to Archbishop Williams which assured him that nothing had changed as a result of GC 2009, Bishop Jefferts Schori has destroyed her own credibility with the rest of the Communion in exactly the same manner as did her predecessor.

When, however, has ECUSA ever allowed a little matter of canons or bylaws to interfere with what ECUSA is determined to do? Look at how the Executive Council deliberately delayed its determination to replace Bishop Roskam "so that then-fellow council member and then-Diocese of Connecticut Bishop-elect Ian Douglas could be consider[ed] for the seat." The level of duplicity and condescension toward the ACC involved in the Council's current manipulations simply adds fuel to the fire-bomb that ECUSA has thrown into the midst of the Communion with its truly outlandish ceremonies purporting to elevate a partnered lesbian to the Anglican episcopacy.

The Global South exhausted its patience with ECUSA long ago, and since that time it has nearly lost faith in Rowan Williams, whose store of patience was even greater. But I have to offer a tip of the Rumpolean bowler to my Lord the Archbishop of Canterbury -- he has been perfectly consistent in warning ECUSA in recent years not to stray again from the path of conformity to the Windsor Report. At his press conference at the end of ACC-14, before there was any thought of a "Bishop Glasspool", he warned ECUSA in these words:
Williams was asked how he would interpret a move by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church to countermand Resolution 2006-B033, which asked bishops and diocesan standing committees not to consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate "whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."

"Action to negate that resolution would instantly suggest to many people in the communion that the Episcopal Church would prefer not to go down the route of closer structural bonds and that particular kind of mutual responsibility," he said.
Two months later, the Archbishop made a direct and very pastoral appeal in person to the deputies and bishops assembled in Anaheim for GC 2009 (emphasis added):
Of course I am coming here with hopes and anxieties – you know that and I shan't deny it. Along with many in the Communion, I hope and pray that there won't be decisions in the coming days that will push us further apart. But if people elsewhere in the Communion are concerned about this, it's because of a profound sense of what the Episcopal Church has given and can give to our fellowship worldwide. If we - if I – had felt that we could do perfectly well without you, there wouldn't be a problem. But the bonds of relationship are deep, for me personally as for many others. And I'm tempted to adapt what St Paul says to the Corinthians in the middle of a set of tensions no less bitter than what we have been living through and in the wake of challenges from St Paul a good deal more savage than even the sharpest words from Primates or Councils: 'Why? Because we do not love you? God knows we do.'
In his response to the letter written to him by the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies following GC 2009's adoption of Resolution 2009-D025, Archbishop Williams again chided ECUSA for waffling on its 2006 promises, and then gave specifically an understated (and typically British) warning of what he would be forced to do if it did not adhere to the Windsor moratoria (emphasis added):
There is also an unavoidable difficulty over whether someone belonging to a local church in which practice has been changed in respect of same-sex unions is able to represent the Communion's voice and perspective in, for example, international ecumenical encounters.
My goodness gracious! So the Archbishop of Canterbury is actually capable of carrying out in May what he said he might have to do the previous July! Oh, the infernal consistency of it all!

The embittered responses to date from the Presiding Bishop and her supporters make it clear that sanctions were long overdue -- and that more will be needed before the lesson is learned. And if the Presiding Bishop and her supporters had the strength of their convictions, they would accept the sanctions gracefully, instead of fighting them to the last barricade. (Imagine how the Rev. Martin Luther King would have harmed his case before the world had he resisted arrest on his way to the Birmingham Jail.)

The Archbishop of Canterbury has his hands full with ECUSA, that much is clear. It will be interesting to see exactly what kind of "question-and-answer session" with Canon Kearon takes place at the Executive Council meeting tomorrow morning.