Saturday, July 31, 2010

Something Different: Spectacular Summer Shrimp

Spectacular Summer Shrimp -- yes, I know, you can't have shrimp from the Gulf these days, and the shrimp fishermen there are hurting. Meanwhile, even aficionados on the Gulf can purchase summer shrimp -- from Mexico (the Pacific Coast), Thailand, Indonesia -- you name it; the choice is still there. Without the resources of the Gulf, we may have to, for a while, indulge in this pleasure a little less.

So let's assume you buy some fresh shrimp from one of those sources, still in the shell. How do you cook them? Ah, now you're talkin'. (This post is dedicated, in fact, to Mississippi resident Greg Griffith -- who, I assume, eats his share of shrimp, and who, in any event, shares his Southern recipes with us less fortunate ones who do not live there. I shall let him expound on the niceties of Southern barbecued shrimp, which is a whole different kettle of fish.)

The main decisions, as you will see, depend on whether you decide to serve peeled and deveined shrimp, or shrimp in the shell. In either case, use a serrated knife or shrimp deveiner to separate the two halves of the shell on top and bottom, and to pry out any gunk in the vein. Do this under running cold water. If serving the shrimp without their shells, then peel off the two halves of the shell, and leave only the tail, attached to a deveined body. If leaving the shell on, then leave it as split by the knife/deveiner, and remove any clinging legs.

Depending on what you decided in the previous step, the directions from this point vary accordingly. For example, if you decided to keep the shells on, then you will want to toss the shrimp in a bowl with some olive oil, chopped or minced garlic, seasoned and toasted bread crumbs, and any dried herbs / seasonings and liquor as discussed below. Let the mixture rest at room temperature for at least two to three hours before grilling or broiling (and turning the shrimp in accordance with the directions below). Sprinkle more herbs, grated cheese, and lemon juice on the finished platter of grilled or broiled shrimp. People will then eat the shrimp whole, and peel off and discard the shells (in a supplied bowl) according to taste.

If one is removing the shrimp from the shell before cooking, then different principles apply to their preparation. The first principle to realize is that it doesn't take very long to cook an individual shrimp through. Whether in the pan, under the broiler, or on the grill, shrimp cooks quickly on one side, and then on the other, in a matter of just minutes -- when it's pink on top and fleshy white all the way to the middle underneath, that side is done. Turn it over, and cook to the same degree on the other side. The total cooking time of the shrimp has to be minimal (under ten minutes, for certain, and optimum at around five to six minutes) -- just enough to turn each side that telltale pink on top, with white (not gray) flesh all the way to the middle. (If you're dealing with a hot grill or oven, both sides can turn pink at the same time, so be mindful of how fast it's cooking -- see these finer tips on grilling.) Overcooked shrimp are tough, flavorless, and unpleasant to chew -- so Rule No. 1 is:

1. Don't Overcook the Shrimp.

The next principle is to realize what ingredients go with grilled/sauteed/baked shrimp, and to act accordingly. Here, individual tastes will vary, but I shall assume that certain time-tested classics will prevail, no matter what part of the country you're in. (And if anything suggested here is new, then by all means, try it out! You either will like it, or not -- but in either case, you've learned something which you can put to use the next time.) My favorite flavors with shrimp, in no particular order, are the following:

1. Lemon

2. Butter

3. Bread crumbs (toasted and seasoned)

4. Garlic (minced or crushed)

5. Parmesan cheese (fresh grated)

6. Sherry (can also be vermouth, madeira, white wine, or even cognac, according to taste -- in the Southwest, they even use Tequila!)

7. Chives / green onions

8. Pepper (fresh ground); paprika

9. Other green herbs (basil, parsley, chervil, tarragon, and even dill and/or rosemary)

10. Capers

11. [If you're really feeling decadent] -- then real (not tofu) Bacon bits, tossed on the platter before serving

Each of us will have our likes and dislikes in that list. The important thing to recognize is that there are certain principles to combining those ingredients, given the short cooking life of shrimp. The point is to arrive at a moment when everything is done simultaneously -- the shrimp, and the chosen ingredients / accompaniments.

For example, let's start with garlic. Unless they've been previously roasted for about forty minutes, whole cloves of garlic should not be cooked with shrimp -- and then they should be added to the final dish at serving, instead of being cooked further. You can dice or mince the fresh, uncooked garlic cloves beforehand, but first you have to peel them (take off their outer skin). To do that most efficiently, flatten the individual cloves under the blade of a knife, by setting the flat blade on top of one or two of them, and then mashing down on the blade with the base of your hand. The clove will separate, the skin can be easily lifted off, and you have crushed garlic, to add to your dish at the appropriate moment. If you want to dice or mince the pieces finer, using a knife or garlic press, go ahead at that point. (Certain stores have already minced forms of garlic on hand -- these are fine, as long as you recognize that developing full flavor will require the addition of a crushed fresh clove or two.)

Garlic (whether crushed, minced or otherwise) burns easily over heat, and so that leads to Rule No. 2:

2. Add whatever garlic you want only after (a) there is sufficient melted butter or oil in the pan or oven dish, and (b) you have cooked the shrimp on their first side, and turned them over (see above).

The second side of the shrimp, and any garlic thus added, will take about the same time to cook, for maximum flavor without bitterness. (Again, make sure that any pan, or oven, is not so hot that the butter and garlic will burn.) If grilling the shrimp after marinating, the marinade should keep any minced garlic from burning before the first side is turned over -- this is a test of a grill heated to the proper temperature for cooking shrimp.

Rule No. 3 is very simple:

3. If you are adding sherry, vermouth, madeira, cognac or white wine, add it to the sauté pan/ baking dish only right after you add any fresh garlic, and then cover the pan to allow the liquid to be absorbed.

If you need to reduce the resulting sauce, do so on high heat after first removing the cooked shrimp and as much garlic as you can (with a small strainer or slotted spoon).

If you want to grill the shrimp instead, then as mentioned above, first coat the shrimp in olive oil, some bread crumbs and minced herbs, then sprinkle in some sherry / vermouth / cognac / white wine and let stand for at least two to three hours before placing the shrimp on the grill.

Another alternative when baking or sautéing peeled shrimp is first to dust the shrimp with flour before putting the shrimp into the hot (clarified, so it won't burn) butter or oil. Then, either before or while the shrimp is starting to cook, make up a quick sauce by adding equal parts of clam juice and madeira to a flour-and-butter roux. When the shrimp are not yet done on their second side, crush lots of garlic into the sauce, add lemon juice, pour it over the shrimp, sprinkle grated Parmesan or Gruyère over the top, and brown under the broiler. (You will want lots of fresh warm French bread to soak up that sauce!)

And those are the basics of Classic Summer Shrimp. The rest of the applicable principles derive from experience -- feel free to test them yourself, and come up with your own variations:

A. Lemon should be added absolutely last to any pan, or platter of grilled shrimp -- its flavor fades away the longer it stays in the frying pan or oven. The same is true of capers, and pepper.

B. It's OK to add a little Parmesan cheese as the shrimp is cooking, but you want to save the real addition until the shrimp is sitting on a warm platter, in its butter, herbs, garlic, capers and pepper. Grate fresh Parmesan over the top of the shrimp, and then pass the platter around with more fresh Parmesan in a bowl on the side. If you are using Bacon Bits, sprinkle them over the platter at the same time, or pass in a side dish for people to add as they prefer.

C. Fresh or dried chives, or sliced green onions, should be added to the pan / oven dish when the garlic is first added, and sauteed together with it and the shrimp. Fresh chopped, minced chives may also be sprinkled over the platter -- as may chopped parsley, and other fresh herbs. Dried herbs, on the other hand, should be added to the sauté pan or oven dish right after the garlic is added. (If you are grilling, then add the dried herbs to the marinade before grilling, and sprinkle any cheese/additional garlic/pepper/capers over the platter just before serving.)

D. If you follow the above directions carefully, you will not miss any salt. But if you absolutely must add salt, then leave it to the individual diners to do so, after they have helped themselves to the shrimp and the other flavorings. No amount of salt is right for everybody, so let each diner choose the preferred degree of saltiness on their own.

E. If you do cook this recipe with sherry, make it a good genuine Spanish variety, such as a Dry Fino or Amontillado, which you have tasted beforehand for quality. Madeira should be dry, not sweet (Rainwater, Sercial or Verdelho, not Boal or Malmsey). Any vermouth, cognac or white wine should likewise be of good quality -- you are not using that much, after all.

F. In all cases, serve the shrimp with crusty pieces of warm French bread, or other artisan breads, so that people may soak up the sauce / marinade.

And there you have it -- Spectacular Summer Shrimp. Enjoy!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday TED Talk: Elif Shafak on Reaching Out Through Stories

Elif Shafak was born to Turkish parents in Strasbourg, France (her mother was a diplomat). Her parents divorced; she stayed with her mother, spending her teenage years in Spain, and then returned to Turkey, where she obtained an undergraduate degree in International Relations, a Masters in Gender and Women Studies, and a Ph.D. in Political Science.

In 2002 she came to the United States for the first time, on a fellowship, which she spent at Mt. Holyoke. From there she went to Michigan, and then to the University of Arizona, where she taught in the Near Eastern Studies Department (her courses include "Literature and Exile", "Politics of Memory", and "Sexualities and Gender in the Muslim World"). For a while, she divided her time between Tucson and Istanbul; after the birth of her daughter (about which she speaks in this wide-ranging interview), she took a position at Bilkent University in her home city, Ankara.

As she explains in her TED talk below, she has had a lifelong interest in storytelling, and published her first novel in Turkey in 1998. Since then, she has written nine books, of which seven are novels; she is the most widely read female author in Turkey today. She writes in both Turkish and English, and has a love for the different ways she can express herself in each. (She originally wrote her most recent novel, The Forty Rules of Love, in English. Then she had an expert translator turn it into Turkish, after which she revised the translation; then she returned to her English version, and rewrote that as well before publishing it earlier this year.)

When she grew up with her mother, she absorbed the latter's fear of assassination (as a Turkish diplomat) by Armenians, in revenge for the genocide of 1915, as happened to a Turkish cultural attaché walking down the Champs-Elysées in 1979. But as she experienced, in the foreign countries she visited, the attitudes towards Turks in general, and toward their steadfast refusal to acknowledge what happened, she began to explore the stories behind the event. What came of those explorations, and of her prosecution in Turkey in 2006 for "insulting Turkishness", as a result of a speech by a character in her novel The Bastard of Istanbul, is told in this Wikipedia article, and there is even more background here. (She alludes briefly to the prosecution in her TED talk.)

I find her talk eloquent and fascinating; her fluency in English is astonishing, and her rhythms of speech almost mesmerizing. Her message comes through clearly: we are in danger of letting the politics of identity isolate us from our neighbors, and those with whom we most disagree. It is through storytelling that we transcend political and ideological boundaries, and connect with our common roots as humans, and with the mystical aspects of our souls (she has long studied Sufism, and works its themes into her writing). This was one of the best-received talks at the 2010 TED Global Conference:

Elif Shafak's TED page is here; her home page on the Web is here. Watch her talk in its high-res version at this link, and download it in that and other formats from this page.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Curmudgeon's Manifesto

I shall have to stop blogging about the "Anglican Communion" -- an entity which exists, after all, in name only. My recent efforts to chronicle its "Current Issues" have consistently drawn the lowest number of visits to this blog.

No one cares what the Anglican Communion Council is doing, ever since the debacle that was ACC-14 showed how it was so easily misled as a group. (The definitive critique of the ACC's inherent inability to represent the "Communion" as a whole remains this post.) They have now announced that ACC-15 will convene in 2012 in Auckland, New Zealand, but reactions to the current meeting have ranged from "Irrelevant!" to "What Do they Think We Are" to "Not One Dime for Support." I would say that the Anglican Communion Council has talked (indabaed) its way into obscurity -- which is shown by the most recent news that, before making any unsettling recommendations (pace, Fr. Harris -- that's all the SC can do, is make recommendations), its "Standing Committee" will wait for the results of the continuing indaba discussions to be held in various quarters across the "Communion". Those discussions, of course, are being designed so as minimize and deflect the "divisive content" of hard scriptural passages such as Romans 1:24-27 and 1 Corinthians 5:1-13.

Once, when we had spent four days in Venice, and were leaving on the train to return to mainland Italy, I explained to my seven-year-old daughter that if she ever returned to Venice as an adult, it might not be the same as she had seen it on this visit -- and indeed, that unless smart people found a way to stop it from sinking into the Adriatic, Venice might not be there altogether. Her response was classic. Looking back at the diminishing skyline of Venice, she said: "Ah, Venice is sinking. Well, X-off Venice." Mutatis mutandis, we now could say: "Ah, the Anglican Communion is sinking. Well, X-off the Anglican Communion."

And indeed, why should anyone any longer care? The Anglican Communion has devolved from a State-church led union of national churches, sharing common doctrine and worship, into a cacophony of scattered voices, the loudest of which proclaim "doctrine" which would make Archbishop Cranmer despair that his own noble witness to the Anglican cause (as it then was) had been utterly in vain. As others have observed, there is today no longer a "Communion", but a "Dysunion."

The-Communion-that-was has, through its Orwellian-named "Instruments of Unity", given up the Geist to the Zeitgeist. There can be no turning back, but only a continued devolution, because the Zeitgeist is defined by the Zeit, and not by the Geist -- Heilige or otherwise. (For the non-German-reading visitors, "geist" means "ghost", "zeit" means "time", or "age", and "Heilige Geist" is the "Holy Spirit".) The tragedy of our age is that the nominal leader of the "Anglican Communion", one of the most brilliant theologians in the Church, has thus far been incapable of resisting the invasions of the Zeitgeist. This age calls, sadly, not so much for a ++Rowan Williams, as a ++Thomas Cranmer, who well knew -- and superbly emulated, in his liturgies for the Book of Common Prayer -- that tradition to which he recognized his Church was indebted.

There will be today no dramatic burnings at the stake, for witnessing to either truth or lies. Instead, the Anglican Consultative Council, once a more or less democratic institution that is now replaced in legal function by its undemocratic "Standing Committee", will become a largely irrelevant group of member-trustees who are alien to the least sort of risk (financial or evangelical), whose days will be occupied in reviewing summaries of indaba groups, and in affirming meaningless and toothless resolutions. The aforesaid "Standing Committee" will morph into a conveniently newsworthy synecdoche for the Communion itself -- which is to say that all the relevant news about the "Anglican Communion" will soon be encapsulated in reports of the Committee's comings and goings. And people will very soon forget that there is any kind of parent organization. The word "Anglican" itself will cease to have any referent, and the word "Communion" has already become an oxymoron.

There will be a significant vacuum thus created: what will fill it? Turn your eyes to the Global South and its leaders. There is a new "Communion" aborning in the wings -- the communion of all those whom ECUSA has marginalized, rejected, and calumniated, and to whom +Cantuar, by failing to lend it sufficient support, has become functionally obsolete. That new Communion will define future Christianity within the Anglican tradition, while ECUSA and its supporters will just as plainly define the "Church of Me", or what should be termed "Egonanity." Egonanity (or maybe it should just be "i-nanity") will compete with Global South-led Christianity, and the former will atrophy as the latter flourishes.

There is no mystery to this: it has been ever thus since the days of the Apostles. The Gnostics, the Arians, the Nestorians, the Marcionites -- they have all flourished in their time, and then succumbed to their own in-directedness. That is to say, instead of relying upon an eternal God to whom they submit themselves in the faith of Christ, and from whom they draw the sustenance of the Holy Spirit, the various heresies of the past depended primarily on the resources which they themselves brought to the fray -- and as history repeatedly has demonstrated, those resources do not last. (These are the limitations of the Zeitgeist again on display. It can do nothing other than appeal to the resources of its own age from which it springs and sustains itself -- for a while.)

Today we are engaged in seeing whether a new heresy -- the heresy that declares equal all forms of creaturely love -- can long endure. The outcome of the conflict cannot be in doubt, although the endpoint is yet blurred and indistinct. What Saint Paul warned Christians about so long ago was not a temporary phenomenon, peculiar to that age. The one who claims so is the Zeitgeist speaking, and not the Heilige Geist. How can I be sure? The answer is simple: Paul was delivering a message that had been revealed to him, and on which he staked his own life. If you think that Paul spoke only to his contemporaries, then you are making Paul a servant of the Zeitgeist, and not of the Heilige Geist. And you thereby marginalize Paul for all subsequent believers, which is to deny the timeless essence of Christianity.

No, there is no passage in the New Testament which records Jesus explicitly condemning same-sex acts. To grant that fact, however, is not to succumb to the message of the Zeitgeist. To the contrary -- if you deny or attempt to marginalize Paul's testimony, by arguing it was addressed only to his contemporaries, you take it upon yourself to transform Paul from a founder of Christianity into just a first-century interpreter of its timeless message. And with that transformation, you have transformed the timelessness of the message into the current Zeitgeist, which privileges itself to decide anew, in each age, the fraction of the original message which it will take to heart as true.

I thus declare an anathema upon the Zeitgeist. No longer will its anemic representations of the human spirit be sympathetically received or entertained on these pages, except only for the purpose of contrasting and exposing its follies with the acid of truth. I am done with trying to convince, through reason and logical argument, those whom it misleads. A good example is the best sermon. That means speaking the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth -- so help me God.

Honi soit qui mal y pense.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Shifting the Deck Chairs: the ACC's Standing Committee In-Action

In the Anglican Communion Office's report of the second day of proceedings at the meeting of the ACC's "Standing Committee", we find this paragraph:
A proposal from Dato' Stanley Isaacs that The Episcopal Church be separated from the Communion led to a discussion in which Committee members acknowledged the anxieties felt in parts of the Communion about sexuality issues. Nevertheless, the overwhelming opinion was that separation would inhibit dialogue on this and other issues among Communion Provinces, dioceses and individuals and would therefore be unhelpful. The proposal was not passed, and the group agreed to defer further discussion until progress on Continuing Indaba project had been considered.
Dato' Stanley Isaacs is a Malaysian attorney, and one of four lay persons serving on the fifteen-person Committee. The next meeting of the ACC will be his last, because he has already served at the two previous meetings. The fact that his motion did not pass is a reflection of the composition of the Committee, as discussed in this earlier post. Its membership now comes largely from ECUSA and those provinces sympathetic to it.

Canon Kearon, the Secretary-General of the ACC, delivered a verbal report which closed with the following remarks:
He concluded by noting that the credibility of the Primates' Meeting and the ACC was being openly questioned by some and this criticism was increasingly focused on the Standing Committee itself. Chair Bp James Tengatenga stressed it was important for everyone to remember that ACC members were elected and sent by their own Provinces and Synods and represented a very wide spectrum of views across the world. Vice Chair Canon Elizabeth Paver said the Committee needed to respond to criticisms "positively and robustly", welcomed the appointment of the ACO's new Director for Communications and said that improved communication and openness would promote trust and better understanding of the work of the Instruments.
Bishop Tengatenga would seem to be unaware of the problem Canon Kearon identified. The problem is not that the (non-Primate) members of the "Standing Committee" are each elected by their respective Provinces; it is, as I documented in this earlier post, the the current membership of the Committee reflects only a minority of those provinces, with no representatives from the major provinces of the Global South. A full one-third of its fifteen members come just from ECUSA, the Church of England, and the Church of Wales (whose archbishop previously announced his intention to ignore Lambeth Resolution 1.10 from 1998).

However, moves appear to be afoot to alter further the structure of the ACC and its "Standing Committee" significantly in the coming years. First, the Archbishop of Canterbury indicated that he would like to see some changes:
Archbishop Rowan Williams questioned whether the ACC's committee structure was appropriate for this new century. He said questions needed asking about whether revised Instrument structures were required to better foster the relationship-building parts of the Communion's life, "so when it comes to looking at the complex questions of the Communion we have a better foundation upon which to build."

Later in the meeting, the Committee asked a small group of Standing Committee members to prepare a proposal for ACC-15 on undertaking a strategic review and planning process relating to ACC membership and meetings and Standing Committee structure and operation.
Moreover, it appears that the ACC is finally getting around to dealing with the 2009 request made by the Primates to give them a majority of eight positions on the fifteen-member Committee, instead of the current five (however, see the Note below -- it would appear that the "Standing Committee" [inadvertently? deliberately?] changed the Primates' proposal somewhat):
After extensive discussion on the Primates' Meeting 2009 request to increase its Standing Committee membership from five to eight, the Standing Committee:

1. noted the request from the Primates' Meeting 2009 to increase from 5 to 8 the number of Primates on the Standing Committee

2. affirmed that the proper body to make a decision about this request is the ACC

3. without expressing a view for or against the request asked the Legal Adviser to draft constitutional changes to implement the following structure for the Standing Committee for consideration at the next Standing Committee meeting and eventually by ACC-15: The President, the Chairperson, the Vice-chairperson, 8 Primates, 8 other Trustee-members (non-Primates) [Ed.: Note that this proposal would increase the number of Trustee-Members from 15 to 19, so that the 8 Primates plus the ABC would not be a majority unless the Chair or the Vice Chair were also a Primate, whereas if they were both clergy-laity, then the Primates would be in a minority.]

4. requested the Finance and Administration Committee to advise on the financial implications of this proposal.
(And don't forget that the ACC passed a resolution at ACC-14 asking the Primates to "include an equal number of non-Primatial members of the Standing Committee as non-voting participants in the Primates' Meeting." If that happens, we would see a gradual fusing of the two bodies over time.)

Who is really running this show? There is no question that the Primates are gradually bringing their weight to bear against the structure of the ACC, using as a lever the change in its status from a public charity to a private limited company, as detailed in this post. Nevertheless, to understand what is really going on, one has to go a little behind the scenes. For it must be said: both the "Standing Committee" and its legal adviser, the (honorary) Canon John Rees, have lost a good deal of their credibility as a result of the seating of the Rt. Rev. Ian Douglas as one of its members.

At Jamaica in May 2009, it was Canon Rees and the (then) Joint Standing Committee who, meeting a day in advance of the start of ACC-14 itself, declared that they had ruled that the Rev. J. Philip Ashey was not "qualified" to serve as an alternate representative of the Province of Uganda, because although canonically resident in Uganda, he was physically resident in the United States, and thus was violating the moratorium against border-crossing. Sources informed us at the time that the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori argued vehemently against allowing him to be seated, and her views prevailed in the Committee.

After one of the sessions at ACC-14, Canon Rees participated in a press conference, where he gave some background to the impending constitutional changes for the ACC, and answered questions from the floor. There is an .mp3 file of the session which may be listened to or downloaded from this page. The first question addressed to Canon Rees had to do with the interpretation which the JSC had given to the word "qualified" so as to refuse to seat the Rev. Ashey, and he was asked whether anything would be different under the new constitutional structure.

If you listen to his response (beginning at about 07:30), you will hear Canon Rees first point out that the same language about a "qualified" representative appears in the new articles. He goes on to say that nothing in the new provisions should cause any change in the interpretation of the word "qualified":
The Joint Standing Committee, meeting and making that decision, if it were faced with the same decision again, I would imagine would approach it on the same sort of basis: and the basis, the underlying basis, must be that . . . as charity trustees, they have an overriding duty to see that the overall purposes of the charity are sustained, and so if a decision is being made which appeared to be undermining the arrangements for the charity generally, then I would expect them to approach it the same way on another occasion.
Except that, this time, in the case of Bishop Douglas, who is in continuing violation of the moratorium against allowing same-sex blessings in his diocese, Canon Rees advised the Committee that it could seat him, nonetheless. One sees clearly by this decision who controls the "Standing Committee", and just whom Canon Rees is really serving with his "advice."

To claim that seating a representative who was engaged in "border-crossing" would undermine "the arrangements for the [ACC] generally," thereby triggering the duty of the Trustee-Members to take action to prevent it, while now seating, as one of the very Trustee-Members of the ACC, a representative who sanctions the blessing of same-sex unions by the clergy under his pastoral directions, is another of those hypocritical acts which is the hallmark of those who lean to the left. In their mind, there is no hypocrisy. For in the first instance, the Committee acted to block a representative who was inimical to the views of its majority, while in the second instance, it upheld the status of one who espouses those views.

The high-minded appeal to the "arrangements for the ACC generally" is just so much legal salad-dressing. It makes palatable what would otherwise taste raw and crude, and stick in one's throat. But it has nothing to do with what we are being asked to swallow.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sweeping the Dust under the Rug

"The Standing Committee", as it now prefers itself to be called (could that be by way of analogy to the organization that wishes to be identified simply as "The Episcopal Church"?), currently meeting in London, has issued a communiqué detailing its first day of discussions and actions taken. "The Standing Committee", aka "the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion", and formerly known as the "Joint Meeting of the Standing Committee of the Primates' Meeting with the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council," is chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury. After a number of recent resignations, the "Standing Committee" consists of the following representatives from the various provinces of the Anglican Communion (I have grouped them geographically, for purposes of affinity, and those appointed by the Primates' Meeting have a "+" before their names):

United States and Great Britain (ECUSA and the churches of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland):

Archbishop Rowan Williams (President) (CoE; ex officio)
+ Archbishop Barry Morgan (CoW)
+ Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (ECUSA)
Bishop Ian Douglas (ECUSA)
Canon Elizabeth Paver (Vice-Chair) (CoE)

Churches of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa:

+ Archbishop Phillip Aspinall (CoA)
Canon Janet Trisk (CoSA)
Dr Anthony Fitchett (CoANZP)

Churches of the Provinces of Central and West Africa:

Bishop James Tengatenga (CPCA)
Mrs Philippa Amable (CPWA)

Churches of the Province of Southeast Asia, and of Bangladesh and Ceylon:

Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe (Ceylon)
Dato' Stanley Isaacs (CPSEA)
+ Bishop Paul Sarker (Bangladesh)

According to its newly adopted articles, the "Standing Committee" is supposed "to have regard to the desirability of achieving so far as practicable regional diversity and a balance of representation between clergy and laity and between the genders." But as just listed, the Committee (of nine, not counting the Primate-elected members) has three episcopal members, one clergy member, and four lay members, of which five are men and three are women. (The ninth member, elected on the first day as described, will be identified only upon acceptance.) The listing by geography shows that none of the major African provinces of the Communion, with more than 60% of its total members, is even represented on the Committee. It follows that the current make-up of the Committee is designed to effectuate the will of a minority within the Communion.

This conclusion is borne out fully by the actions the Committee took as soon as it met. In the communiqué issued concerning its first day of deliberations, there were these informative paragraphs:
Membership Issues

The Anglican Consultative Council’s (ACC) legal adviser Revd Canon John Rees explained that while the approval of the new ACC Articles of Association by the Provinces had been reported to ACC-14 they had not been formally registered by the UK’s Charity Commission in December 2009 when the Committee last met.

This meant the old ACC Constitution had still applied at that time and the casual vacancy left by the resignation of Ms Nomfundo Walaza therefore should have been filled with someone of the same order: a lay person. Canon Rees said that, under the (now registered) new ACC Articles of Association that replace the old ACC Constitution, the Committee could now choose to ratify the selection of Canon Trisk to fill the vacancy, or could select another candidate.

He explained that the new Articles of Association had been drawn up between 2002 and 2005, before submission to the Provinces between 2005 and 2009, and had specifically addressed the issues of electing someone of the same order when replacing a casual vacancy on the Standing Committee. The Articles now give ACC members maximum flexibility in ensuring a balance of region, gender, and order on the Committee.

After further discussion of the criteria and the present need for clergy representatives (to redress a shortfall in that category) a motion that Canon Trisk (who had been absent from the meeting thus far) should fill the vacancy was put to the vote and unanimously carried. She then joined the meeting. Canon Trisk will see out the remainder of Ms Walaza’s term on the Standing Committee.
Is that clear? Let us see just how the decision to confirm the appointment of Canon Trisk from South Africa, an act by the ACC which violated its own Constitution, helped ensure "a balance of region, gender, and order" on the Committee. Both Canon Trisk and her predecessor are women, so nothing changed there. But it was noted that Canon Trisk's confirmation would have the salubrious benefit of redressing "a shortfall in [the clergy] category."

It is true that the confirmation of Canon Trisk increased the number of clergy currently on the Committee from none to one, which matched the number of clergy who had previously served. But the reason for the "shortfall" in that category was that the prior clergy member had in the meantime been elevated to the episcopate:
The Committee then heard that because Bp Catherine Roskam had ended her term as The Episcopal Church’s bishop representative at the last ACC meeting in Jamaica Bp Ian Douglas’s election by Executive Committee to that position following his consecration had been entirely within its constitutional powers. It did not constitute a fresh appointment and would not extend Bp Douglas’ period of service.
So Bishop Ian Douglas, a previously elected clergy member of the Committee, was replaced by Canon Trisk from South Africa, thereby keeping the clergy number at one. Isn't that convenient?

Not really: by accepting the charade expressed in the seven words "because Bishop Roskam had ended her term . . ." the Committee also managed to maintain its episcopal members (not counting the five bishops appointed by the Primates' Meeting) at three. But as explained in this earlier post, and this later one, there is no provision in either the old constitution and bylaws, nor in the new articles, for an elected member's term to end before the start of the next ACC meeting, which happens in the spring of 2012.

Who told the "Standing Committee" that Bishop Roskam had "ended her term"? No one -- because it is not up to Bishop Roskam to end her term, but to the body which appointed her: ECUSA itself (acting through its Executive Council). There has been no report of Bishop Roskam sending in a letter of resignation; but if she had, the appropriate response would have been to schedule an election for her successor before the start of the next ACC meeting in the spring of 2012, and not to elect a "successor" now. Nor has has there been any news out of the Executive Council that they exercised their prerogative to remove her from office before the end of her term. (And the current communiqué states unequivocally that it was Bishop Roskam, and not ECUSA's Executive Council, who decided to "end her term.")

So this is all flim-flam and folderol. It is designed to confuse, and to distract attention from what is really going on. In the process, the domination of (what is left of) the ACC (and equally of the Communion itself) by an alliance between ECUSA and its dependent (or sympathetic) provinces is brought to fruit -- with the cooperation of the Anglican Communion Office and its legal advisor, under the chairmanship of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Consider the raw numbers: the fifteen-member "Standing Committee" now has a majority of at least eight on it, and in practice still more, who ally themselves with the agenda of ECUSA, by default. (Otherwise, they would not unanimously have voted to approve the seating of Canon Trisk and Bishop Douglas.)

However, as presently constituted, ECUSA and its adherents represent a distinct minority within the Anglican Communion. I find it noteworthy that ECUSA is all for majority rule, except in two areas: in those of its dioceses which (by majority vote) have chosen to withdraw, on account of its apostasy, and in the case of the majority of the provinces of the Anglican Communion, which for the same reason disagree with its current course. In the process of taking over the reins of the ACC, ECUSA is assuring itself that it will need the votes only of those provinces in the Communion which either agree with its apostasy, or which believe themselves financially dependent upon it for survival. Those provinces, however, are a minority within the Communion as a whole.

Thus the "Anglican Communion" is in the process of redefining itself. On the outward side, we have the Covenant adoption process, which will take another six to ten years. But internally, we have the "Standing Committee", which is establishing itself -- including as the decision-maker in the event of disagreements about the Covenant -- as representing only the minority of those in the Communion.

This is a recipe for schism and breakup. Those who cannot achieve fair representation on the "Standing Committee" (which decides all discretionary matters under the Covenant) will not sign on to the Covenant. And those who believe themselves so represented, but who object to the current provisions in the Covenant, will not sign either. The Covenant will as a result become an irrelevant joke. And the Anglican Communion as we know it will be no more.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday TED Talk: Dimitar Sasselov on the Search for Life in the Universe

One of the biggest questions facing science today is: does life as we know it exist elsewhere in the universe?

Riding on the answer to the question is the current hegemony of Darwinian evolution. If the primitive one-cell organisms (prokaryotes) self-assemble from inorganic materials, given the proper environment, natural selection, and a sufficient amount of time, and if all multicellular organisms (eukaryotes) evolve in turn from them by the same mechanisms, then the question boils down to whether there is anything particular or different about Earth's environment to suggest that life could have "evolved" only on this planet. Given that the universe is some 14.7 billion years old, and that the Earth is only about 4.5 billion years old, with the fossils of the first prokaryotes dating to about 3.7 billion years ago, there would seem to be no reason why the scenario that science assumes took place on Earth should not have been repeated many times over elsewhere in the universe.

In today's TED talk, astronomer Dimitar Sasselov explains how science is addressing the problem of life's origin from two different directions. On the one side, the recently launched Kepler telescope is supplying data on multiple Earth-like candidates which can be detected in rotation around distant suns. With such a rich list of candidates, astronomers are using the full range of their techniques to determine such parameters as atmospheric composition, size, mass, distance from the parent star, the presence of water, and so forth, in order to establish just how probable it is that other Earth-like environments exist in which life as we know it could flourish. Should they find any evidence of organic compounds, or other telltale markers for life, the Darwinians believe that their hypothesis of methodological naturalism would become more probable. (Logically, of course, no such conclusion would follow. If Kepler demonstrates that there are 100 other life-bearing planets out there, or 10,000, such an observation would still be consistent with life originating through someone's intelligent design. It just would mean that the designers have been somewhat busy in the past fifteen billion years, that's all.)

On the other side, astrobiologists and biochemists are combining their investigative resources to try to model a stable chemical pathway for the evolution of life from inanimate matter. As I discussed in this earlier post, they have their work cut out for them, because the evidence to date does not support that the intermediate molecular assemblies which they envision would remain stable enough in the primitive Earth's environment to allow them to form stepping stones to the next stage of evolution. We can show the spontaneous formation of organic molecules in a simulated environment, but the more complex they become through combination, the more susceptible they are to being broken down rather quickly by outside environmental factors.

Professor Sasselov is the head of Harvard's Origins of Life Initiative, in which the disciplines of astronomy, biology and molecular chemistry come together to try to solve the riddle of life's origin. Although I find science's current dismissal of intelligent design as an explanation for how life began rather amusing, given that the biogenetic code carries not only complexity, but also information, and given that the only known source of information to date in the universe is intelligence, I am willing to listen to and study all the mechanisms for spontaneous and random assembly which scientists trot out from time to time as explanations for what might have happened. It is rather like physicists investigating all the colors and ink molecules in a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, and positing how this color has an affinity for this one, while this size ink molecule attracts others of this size -- and so forth and so on, to explain how such a phenomenon "spontaneously" came into existence over time, without any need for Bill Watterson.

Thus as you watch Prof. Sasselov's talk below, keep in mind that the "bridge" he envisions being joined from both sides may well have hard data from the astronomical side, with more to come as Kepler downloads its observations. But the data thus far from the other side -- the biomolecular data -- is still nothing more than computer simulations and fancy programming, which themselves are the product of scientists' intelligent designs (i.e., knowing in advance what they are seeking -- unlike "blind" nature itself):

There is more about Professor Sasselov on this page; and here is a link to the Origins of Life Initiative, where you can read much, much more about the current research they are undertaking. Watch this talk in its high-res version from this link, and download it in that and other formats from this page.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A New Look for the Blog

Blogger has come out with a whole new series of templates, and it is time to try one of them. This one uses a backdrop of the Pont Alexandre III in Paris (suitably Dickensian for a Curmudgeon), captured at twilight. In the coming days, I will try out some different backdrops.

Let me know in the comments what you think -- readability, layout, design, etc. The world's our oyster.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

For Canon Lawyers: New VTS Journal Launched

This will be a brief notice to my colleagues who regularly deal with the canon law of the (Protestant) Episcopal Church (USA). Under the editorship of Prof. Robert Prichard, the Virginia Theological Seminary has launched a new online Journal of Episcopal Church Canon Law. The Journal will be published online twice a year, in July and in February, and its articles may be downloaded (in Adobe Acrobat format) from its Website. Its purpose is stated thus by its editor:
The journal is intended to be a resource for all with interest in canon law and particularly for those with concern for the canonical tradition of The Episcopal Church. It is hoped that this will include the chancellors of The Episcopal Church and its several dioceses, the participants in diocesan conventions and the General Convention (who enact canon laws for The Episcopal Church), canon lawyers, and those who like the editor have responsibility for teaching canon law to Episcopal seminarians. It is further hoped that canonists and scholars from other parts of the Anglican Communion and from other religious traditions will find the material of interest.
The first online issue contains several articles of interest to church chancellors, including one on modern-day Standing Committees, an analysis of the practice in appointing the committees through which General Convention works, and a particularly fascinating history of oaths of conformity in the Church of England, which traces the evolution of the requirement in Article VIII of ECUSA's Constitution to sign a declaration upon ordination to conform to the "doctrine, discipline and worship" of the Episcopal Church (it is not an oath or a vow, for example). (Those interested in the niceties of the evolution of that provision, and the Catch-22 which it causes for ordinands today, should also consult this earlier post.)

Of especial interest to Episcopal canon lawyers, however, is a downloadable reprint of the first fifty or so pages of the very first commentary on PECUSA's Constitution and canons, authored by the redoubtable Rev. Francis Lister Hawks, published in 1841, and out of print ever since. The reprint contains Dr. Hawks's full commentary on the initial articles in PECUSA's Constitution, together with an historical explanation of how that Constitution came into being. Given that there are just fifteen copies of Dr. Hawks's treatise remaining in public libraries across the United States, and that none of them have been heretofore scanned, this is a very welcome publication indeed (OCR errors notwithstanding; they can be easily fixed).

I salute Dr. Prichard and his staff on a most welcome and timely endeavour.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Your American Media at Work

Those new to this topic will need some background:

First, read this account about Newsweek columnist Ezra Klein's Journolist, a private Google Group he created in February 2007 to exchange ideas and communications securely with other journalists on the left.

Next, read this story about the group by Michael Calderone, which appeared on the Politico blog in March 2009.

Bits and pieces of various exchanges from Journolist were leaked on some blogs from time to time (Micky Kaus, and most recently, the flap about the Washington Post's "conservative" journalist/blogger Dave Weigel). These tended to show a certain self-reinforcing camaraderie, a mutual egging-on and patting-on-the-back which gave the group confidence that they were in the right when it came to the attacks on conservative politicians, writers, Tea Party "racists" and other assorted liberal hobgoblins. But nothing really serious emerged before Ezra Klein shut the group down this past June, as a result of the Weigel flap.

Then Andrew Breitbart, who had earlier offered $100,000 in cash to anyone who could produce a video documenting the famous "n-word incident" on the steps of the Capitol, made a stunning announcement after no such video ever turned up:
I’ve had $100,000 burning in my pocket for the last three months and I’d really like to spend it on a worthy cause. So how about this: in the interests of journalistic transparency, and to offer the American public a unique insight in the workings of the Democrat-Media Complex, I’m offering $100,000 for the full “JournoList” archive, source fully protected. Now there’s an offer somebody can’t refuse.
The race was on. But it turns out it was the Daily Caller, a general news site, which came up with the goods. Yesterday, it published a three-page blockbuster of a story with stunning excerpts of Journolist emails exchanged at the time the story about Jeremiah Wright emerged to threaten the success of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. All the "right people" are present and reporting for duty:
The crisis reached a howling pitch in mid-April, 2008, at an ABC News debate moderated by Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos. Gibson asked Obama why it had taken him so long – nearly a year since Wright’s remarks became public – to dissociate himself from them. Stephanopoulos asked, “Do you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do?”

Watching this all at home were members of Journolist, a listserv comprised of several hundred liberal journalists, as well as like-minded professors and activists. The tough questioning from the ABC anchors left many of them outraged. “George [Stephanopoulos],” fumed Richard Kim of the Nation, is “being a disgusting little rat snake.”

. . .
Thomas Schaller, a columnist for the Baltimore Sun as well as a political science professor, upped the ante from there. In a post with the subject header, “why don’t we use the power of this list to do something about the debate?” Schaller proposed coordinating a “smart statement expressing disgust” at the questions Gibson and Stephanopoulos had posed to Obama.

“It would create quite a stir, I bet, and be a warning against future behavior of the sort,” Schaller wrote.

Tomasky approved. “YES. A thousand times yes,” he exclaimed.

The members began collaborating on their open letter. Jonathan Stein of Mother Jones rejected an early draft, saying, “I’d say too short. In my opinion, it doesn’t go far enough in highlighting the inanity of some of [Gibson's] and [Stephanopoulos’s] questions. And it doesn’t point out their factual inaccuracies … Our friends at Media Matters probably have tons of experience with this sort of thing, if we want their input.”
And it just gets worse from there, going on for two more full pages. Be sure to read the whole mind-bending story, and get the unvarnished truth about the "mainstream media" bias at last.

Andrew Breitbart, fittingly, gets the last word:
American journalism died a long time ago; today Tucker Carlson got around to running the obituary. What The Daily Caller has unearthed proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that most media organizations are either complicit by participation in the treachery that is Journolist, or are guilty of sitting back and watching Alinsky warfare being waged against all that challenged the progressive orthodoxy. The scandal predictably involves journalists posing as professors posing as experts. But dressed down they are nothing but street thugs. They deserve the deepest levels of public consternation. We must demand that they do.

The only way that the media will recover from the horrifying discoveries found in the Journolist is to investigate and investigate until every guilty reporter, professor and institution is laid bare begging America for forgiveness. Will they do it?

If the powers that be don’t comply with this demand, we can always call Jonathan Alter and Eric Alterman racists.*

(H/T: Mrs. P.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Explaining Much, But Not All: New ACC Articles Filed

[UPDATE 07/19/2010: In the post below, I have addressed only how the new articles compare with the ACC's old Constitution and bylaws. I have not touched upon the larger issue, which is how the new articles have been ratified and adopted in the first place. The old Constitution provides in art. 10:
Amendments to this Constitution shall be submitted by the Council to the Constitutional bodies listed under clauses (b), (c) and (d) of the Schedule of Membership and must be ratified by two-thirds of such bodies provided that no amendment shall be made which shall cause the Council to cease to be a charity at law.
However, what we have here is not an amendment to the old Constitution as such, and a continuation of the old charitable entity, but the registration of a brand-new private limited company under British law. In a later post, I will address the very interesting subject of how this new ACC will, apparently, bootstrap itself into existence.]

The articles of association which establish the Anglican Consultative Council as a private limited company under the Companies Act of 2006 have now been filed with the Companies registrar as of July 12, 2010. (H/T: Fr. George Conger. As of this writing, I am not able to find a copy on the official ACC Website; however, its old Constitution and bylaws are still available for downloading, as a comparison to the new articles.)

Before the filing of the articles, the Anglican Consultative Council was a public registered charity (No. 276591) in England and Wales. It was registered on October 30, 1978 based on its original Constitution adopted by the member provinces of the Anglican Communion effective November 1, 1969. The members of its Standing Committee (originally nine members, plus the Archbishop of Canterbury ex officio) were incorporated under the Charitable Trustees Incorporation Act of 1872, and served as its legal trustees under British law. When the Primates' Standing Committee was joined to that of the ACC (see this earlier post), the group's membership increased to fifteen, but the official number of ACC Trustees remained at ten.

Up until the Lambeth Conference of 2008, the finances of that gathering were included within the ambit of the ACC. Growing dissension within the Anglican Communion, however, coupled with the increasing size and scope of the Conference, led to a decision to incorporate the Lambeth Conference as a separate public charity in 2007. As is well known, the withdrawal of nearly 300 bishops from the Global South before the Conference, and numerous innovations introduced at its 2008 gathering, resulted in a sizeable deficit in its operations, which was covered in the short term by loans from the Church Commissioners and Archbishop's Council. (The full loan facilities were not used, as total expenditures turned out to be less than anticipated. Private fundraising to repay the loans reduced the obligations to about £200,000 by August 2009, and the deadline for repayment was extended until the end of October, 2010.)

As a consequence of Lambeth, the staff of the ACC became cognizant of the fact that its own current finances were on a precarious footing, as well. In its annual report filed with the Charities Office for 2008, the ACC disclosed certain "risks to which the charity is exposed, particularly business, operational and financial risks." It said that (emphasis added):
Procedures will be introduced to manage and reduce the identified risks, and for future reviews to take place regularly. The skills needed by the Trustees[Standing Committee members] and the need to document and communicate governance arrangements are two challenges faced by the ACC. . . .

The Trustees are aware that the Council is insufficiently resourced by the member churches at present for the programme of work it is charged with carrying out and therefore has to seek additional funding from outside sources. Financial viability is essential and insufficient income generation and the fact that over half of the member contributions come from two provinces [ECUSA and the Church of England] are significant risks, especially when relationships within the Communion are strained.
The 2008 Report also included this disclosure:
ACC 14 [the May 2009 meeting of the ACC in Jamaica] will be asked to receive a report to consider changes in the constitution, the aim of which would be to incorporate the ACC as a charitable company limited by guarantee.

The Trustees feel that this is a step on the road to improved governance with a better balance between the Instruments of Communion. Instead of a Joint Standing Committee made up of ACC Trustees and Primates Standing Committee, there will be one Standing Committee with Primates Standing Committee members becoming Trustees of ACC. The Inter Anglican Finance and Administration Committee will become a subcommittee made up of members of Standing Committee instead of being separately elected by ACC.
Before the Companies Act of 2006, the trustees of public charities could have personal liability for the obligations of the charity which they approved. The deficit run by the Lambeth Conference 2008 showed up exactly the dangers to which this kind of liability could have made the trustees of the ACC subject under the former law. This gave impetus to the move to bring the ACC within the ambit of the 2006 law, as well. (The Lambeth Conference charity itself took full advantage of the provisions of the 2006 law to limit the liability of its three trustees -- including the Rev. Canon Kennth Kearon, Secretary-General of the ACC -- to just £1 each. The new articles of the ACC limit the liability of its Trustee-Members to "a sum not exceeding £10" each.)

Now we have the results of this change in the ACC's status. A side-by-side comparison of the former constitution with the new articles is instructive. The following are the highlights which this one chancellor has identified:

1. The status of the ACC has changed from a registered public charity under former UK law to a private company limited by guarantee of its trustees under the 2006 Companies Act, as explained above. See this Wikipedia article for further details on the differences.

2. All fifteen members of the Standing Committee (formerly called the "Joint Standing Committee"), including the five Primates from the Primates' Standing Committee, appointed "as [the Primates] may decide from amongst themselves," are now full Trustee-Members of the ACC itself, with corresponding responsibilities under UK charitable law.

3. The new articles of association supplant all the former provisions of the old Constitution and bylaws with regard to the appointment, terms and qualifications of members of the ACC's Standing Committee. Those members are now called "Trustee-Members", because they assume (by signing a "declaration of willingness to act" before they may vote) all the responsibilities of private company trustees under UK law. For example, this old requirement of Bylaw 7 has been eliminated, with respect to filling "casual vacancies" on the Standing Committee (emphasis added):
Casual Vacancies on the Standing Committee
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.
Instead, the new articles provide that such casual vacancies among Trustee-Members shall be filled as follows (emphasis added):
8.8 In the event of a casual vacancy occurring amongst the Trustee-Members:
8.8.1 the remaining Trustee-Members shall have power to fill the vacancy by the appointment of a suitably qualified Member (having in mind the Object of the Council and the importance of achieving appropriate regional diversity and the balance of representation between clergy and laity and between the genders);
8.8.2 such replacement Trustee-Member shall have full voting rights for the remainder of the term of service of the former Trustee-Member and
8.8.3 such replacement Trustee-Member shall, subject to his or her eligibility for continuing as a Member, be eligible for re-election as a Trustee-Member at the next Plenary Session.
This change, dropping the requirement that the replacement be a member of the same order as the person whom they are replacing, is apparently the reason for the recent explanations from the ACC that the appointment of the two latest additions to the Standing Committee conforms to the new articles, rather than to the old bylaws. The parenthetical exhortation in paragraph 8.8.1 of the new articles tracks word-for-word the requirements in article 8.2.1 with regard to the election of Trustee-Members generally (whether regular or Primate Trustee-Members), and carries over the language from article 2 (e) of the old bylaws -- so that nothing changes with regard to the (desired) balance on the Standing Committee as a whole.

4. Perhaps one of the most significant changes from the old constitution to the new articles is in the specification of the ACC's objects and powers. In the old constitution, the sole object of the ACC was defined as: "to advance the Christian religion". In the new articles, the objects are now restricted to the following:
The Council's objects ("the Objects") are specifically restricted to the following: to advance the Christian religion and in particular to promote the unity and purposes of the Churches of the Anglican Communion in mission, evangelism, ecumenical relations, communication, administration and finance.
5. Likewise, the old article 2 of the constitution spelled out some eighteen specific powers which the ACC would have in furtherance of its object of "advanc[ing] the Christian religion", and then added the limitation that its conferred powers were "not further or otherwise". In contrast, the new article 5 begins as follows (emphasis added):
The Council has power to do anything which is calculated to further its Object(s) or is conducive or incidental to doing so. . . .
6. And there follow not eighteen, but thirty such separately enumerated powers. A close comparison shows that none of the older powers was eliminated or significantly curtailed, while among the twelve additional powers, added by the new article 5, are the following:
5.2 To share information about developments in one or more provinces of the Anglican Communion with the other parts of the Communion and to serve as needed as an instrument of common action.
This provision would seem to be tailored for dealing with the current problems engendered by the formation of ACNA. It did not exist in the previous ACC Constitution.
5.5 To establish, authorize, sponsor, or otherwise endorse (as the case may require) such Commissions, Networks or similar bodies as shall advance the Council's Object.
One can only wonder what "Commissions, Networks, or similar bodies" are envisioned here. Would, for example, the precursor of ACNA, the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, be included within the sweep of this language, and so (by extension) ACNA itself?

Former Article 2 (l), which read as follows (emphasis added):
To establish an emergency fund or funds for the support of clergy in special needand for other charitable purposes in any part of the world.
has now been replaced by this expanded language in article 5.11 (emphasis added):
To establish an emergency fund or funds for the support of clergy and lay church workers and their dependants [sic] in special need and for other purposes in any part of the world.
The remainder of the newly specified powers are fairly standard for corporations subject to the usual supervision of the law, but these two new provisions are worth noting, at least (bold emphasis again added):
5.18 To establish or support any charitable trusts, associations or institutions formed for any of the charitable purposes included in the Objects;
. . .
5.21 To undertake and execute any charitable trusts which may lawfully be undertaken by the Council and to assist any charitable body or bodies financially or otherwise.
7. The remainder of the new provisions in the articles are generally welcome, and deal with such topics as conflicts of interest, new bylaws, indemnity for Trustee-Members, notice, and the like -- which are standard in such corporate documents. However, note should be taken of the following changes in the provisions for the election/appointment of member-representatives by the various churches in the Anglican Communion. The provisions in the old Constitution dealing with this subject were as follows:
3.b. Members shall be appointed as provincial, national or regional machinery provides. Alternate members shall be appointed in a similar manner, and shall be invited to attend a meeting if the ordinary member is unable to be present for a whole session of the Council. Any appointment of a member or alternate member may be revoked by the body which made the appointment.
The new corresponding provisions read as follows (emphasis added):
15.1 Members shall be appointed as provincial, national or regional electoral machinery provides but each of the appointing bodies shall have regard to the desirability of ensuring that any Member appointed to represent it at Plenary Sessions of the Council shall be a member of its own representative structures and that such person shall be given appropriate opportunity to report the proceedings of the Council to its own decision-making bodies and to convey the views of such decision-making bodies to the Council.
. . .
15.6 Deputy or alternate Members may be appointed (and such appointment revoked) by the relevant appointing body, and such deputy or alternate Members shall be invited to attend a meeting if the ordinary Member is unable to be present for a Plenary Session of the Council; a deputy or alternate Member may be re-appointed as a deputy or alternate Member, or may be appointed as an ordinary Member, unless he or she has already replaced a Member at two Plenary Sessions of the Council.
One has to ask how these new provisions would have applied in the case of the Province of Uganda's appointment of the Rev. Philip Ashey as an alternate to replace a previously elected member to ACC-14 who was unable, at the last minute, to attend. On the surface, they place no restrictions whatsoever upon any such appointment. One has to recall, however, that the Standing Committee at the time assumed the authority to disqualify the Rev. Ashey from so acting, on the basis of the following language in Article 4 (e) of the old constitution (emphasis added):
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).
This same language is now carried forward in the new Article 15.5. However, it did not stop the Standing Committee of ACC-14 from misapplying it then, and so there is no reason to expect that matters will be any different after the adoption of the new articles. Because the Rev. Ashey was physically resident in the United States, while being canonically resident in the Anglican Church of Uganda, the Joint Standing Committee at ACC-14 decided on its own that he was not "qualified" under this provision to replace -- even temporarily, and not for the balance of the delegate's unexpired term of office -- a delegate from Uganda who was unable to attend that particular session of ACC-14. In the new articles, the language about a "qualified person" is repeated unchanged -- but again, with regard to a person appointed to fill the unexpired term of a member unable further to attend ACC meetings. So there is nothing in the new articles which will prevent the Standing Committee from exceeding its powers once again, if that is what it decides to do as it did in the case of the Rev. Ashey.

8. Next, note this change in how the Schedule of Membership in the Anglican Consultative Council may be altered. Former constitution section 3 (a) provided:
The Council shall be constituted with a membership according to the Schedule hereto. With the assent of two-thirds of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, the Standing Committee may alter or add to the Schedule.
But under the new articles, positive assent by a two-thirds majority of the Primates is not required. Their failure to object to a proposed amendment within four months is deemed to be a consent to the change, according to new article 7.2:
7.2 The Member-Churches of the Council shall be those bodies listed in the Schedule to these Articles each of which shall be entitled to send the specified number of Members to the Plenary Sessions of the Council mentioned in Article 16 below; with the assent of two-thirds of the Primates of the Anglican Communion (which shall be deemed to have been received if not withheld in writing within four months from the date of notification) the Standing Committee may alter or add to the Schedule.
The Schedule of Members attached to the new articles does not list in section 3 the Church of Ceylon as a member entitled to send one delegate, although it was so listed in Schedule (d) of the old constitution. On the official Website, that Church now "continues as extraprovincial under the Archbishop of Canterbury."

9. Finally, what do the new articles provide in the case of the Rt. Rev. Ian Douglas, Bishop of Connecticut, who previously served as ECUSA's clergy delegate to ACC before he was ordained to the episcopate in April 2010? As detailed in this previous post, the Executive Council's recent election of Bishop Douglas to serve as ECUSA's successor to its previous episcopal delegate to ACC violated both the ACC's Constitution and bylaws. The new articles carry forward the same restrictions on successorship as existed in the old constitution and bylaws. Article 8.5 provides, the same as did section 2 (f) of the old bylaws:
The Trustee-Members . . . shall hold office from the end of the Plenary Session at which they are elected until the end of the last ordinary Plenary Session which they would be entitled to attend as Members but subject to earlier termination in the event that such Trustee-Member shall for any reason cease to be a Member.
In April 2010, the Rev. Ian Douglas was consecrated as a bishop in ECUSA. At that point, as argued in the post previously linked, he became no longer eligible to serve as ECUSA's clergy delegate to the ACC, in accordance with article 4 (d) of the old constitution:
Bishops and other clerical members shall cease to be members on retirement from ecclesiastical office.
Arguably, "retirement from ecclesiastical office" would include Bishop Douglas' leaving the priesthood to become a bishop in ECUSA, given that he could no longer serve as the clergy member elected to the ACC from ECUSA. But the language of new article 15.3, if anything, is even more explicit on this point, due to the addition of the word "relevant" (emphasis added):
Primates and other clerical Members shall cease to be Members on retirement from relevant ecclesiastical office.
If Bishop Douglas thus "retire[d] from relevant [i.e., clerical] ecclesiastical office" when he was ordained to the episcopacy in April 2010, how was he eligible for election as ECUSA's episcopal delegate two months later? For under both the old constitution and the new articles, Ian Douglas was not eligible for immediate reappointment. Old section 4 (c) of the constitution -- in effect in April 2010 -- provided:
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.
And the corresponding provision of the new articles is, if anything, even more explicit (emphasis added):
15.4 On termination of his or her period of office, no Member shall be eligible for reappointment nor shall he or she be appointed a deputy or alternate Member until a period of three years or one ordinary meeting of the Council in Plenary Session (whichever shall be the longer period) has elapsed from the date when such original involvement with the Council ceased.
The Rev. Douglas's initial involvement with the ACC began with his election as a clergy member to attend ACC-14 in May 2009. That involvement ceased with his election to the episcopacy in April 2010, since he could no longer serve as ECUSA's clergy member from that point forward. The fact that he delayed his resignation from the ACC so that Executive Council could "elect" him as its "new" episcopal delegate in June 2010 does not change the circumstances, under either the old or the new language. The term of ECUSA's previous episcopal delegate, the Rt. Rev. Catherine A. Roskam, had not yet expired as of June 2010, so there was no vacancy in that position to fill.

10. And now, a postscript: we learned recently that Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda had in May of this year resigned his position on the ACC Standing Committee, after not attending its meetings in 2009, and announcing he would not attend any meetings in 2010. Now, look at what the new articles provide -- for the first time -- in section 8.7.5 (emphasis added):
8.7 A Trustee-Member's term of office automatically terminates if he or she:
. . .
8.7.5 is absent without the permission of the Trustee-Members from two successive ordinary meetings and a majority of the Trustee-Members resolve that his or her office be vacated.
Unlike the case for Bishop Douglas, the handwriting was on the wall for Archbishop Orombi. His resignation from the Standing Committee, out of sheer integrity before the new provisions would have allowed the Standing Committee meeting later this month to remove him, provides a shining counterexample to the base manipulation of ECUSA, its Executive Council, and Bishop Douglas himself in arranging for the latter to keep his seat on the ACC, in violation of every applicable provision in both its then and currently existing governing documents. (How rich it is for ECUSA's Presiding bishop to accuse the Archbishop of Canterbury of supporting a resurgence of "colonial" attitudes in the Anglican Communion.) If one wanted to look for an explanation of the current gulf dividing the Anglican Communion, one would be hard-pressed to find a greater contrast between the principled conduct of those in the Global South, and the shameful, disgraceful conduct of those in ECUSA.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday TED Talk: Charles Leadbeater on True Innovation

Charles Leadbeater, an English researcher, journalist and author, has studied the origins of genuinely new advances in technology and the arts, from mountain bikes to rap music, to computer games in China. He has a surprising take on how real innovation comes about: not from lone geniuses, or the R&D departments of large corporations, but from the interactive and collaborative efforts of passionate amateurs. This nineteen-minute talk was given at the first TED Global Conference, in Oxford in 2005 (you will need to adapt to some British pronunciations, such as "pay-tents" for the American "patents"), but it is still timely:

There is more about Charles Leadbeater at this page (with links to his books), and this is his home page on the Web. Watch the high-res version of his talk at this link, and download his talk in that and other formats from this page.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Church of England Bishops Allowed . . . What!??

NB: I am not the author of the following item. Indeed, I deplore the uncharitable spirit in which it was conceived. Shame on you, Damian Thompson!

Church of England bishops
'will be allowed to become nuns,'
according to Synod source

I thought this was a spoof at first, but it seems not: a General Synod working party is exploring whether the Church of England’s male bishops can join religious orders previously reserved for women. In other words, become Anglican nuns.

As usual, the Synod’s topsy-turvy ecclesiology is a mystery to me, but I gather that the idea is that bishops would be entitled to take vows in orders of nuns so that they can provide special episcopal oversight to the sisters. It’s a typically ingenious Anglican response to the forthcoming ordination of women bishops. “There will be jokes about bishops in wimples, but having bishop-nuns would introduce a degree of mutual cooperation that could make the introduction of women bishops much smoother,” says my Synod source.

And just when I thought things couldn’t get any weirder, I learn the identity of the bishop who is rumoured to have volunteered to take nun’s vows: the Rt Rev Nick Baines, Bishop of Croydon, often spoken of as a successor to Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury. Says my informant: “Nick is a big fan of Sister Act, and we knew he was keen to ‘get ahead,’ as it were, so he was the obvious person to ask. And apparently he was delighted, because he’s all about challenging gender stereotypes.”

Take it easy, CJ -- you're still writing the best Episcopalian comedy around. (And Johnson's First Law remains one of the great pronouncements of the twenty-first century.) It's just that others are learning how to do it now, too.