Friday, March 28, 2014

Who Wrote as "William Shakespeare"? - the Authorship Controversy

About sixteen years ago, I participated in a fundraiser for our (then) local theater organization, in the form of a mock jury trial centered on the question: Who Wrote the Plays Attributed to William Shakespeare? The trial was couched as a hypothetical lawsuit between the Mayor and citizens of Stratford-on-Avon, the birthplace of the man we call William Shakespeare (1564-1616; also known as "Shakspere", "Shaxpere", "Shagspere", and numerous other 16th and 17th-century variants), and the City of Castle Hedingham, the birthplace of the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere (1550-1604), whom many regard as the true author of all the works in the Shakespeare canon.

As the attorney for the plaintiffs from Stratford, I had the job of discrediting the case our opponents made for de Vere. One aspect made that task much lighter. Since de Vere unquestionably died in June 1604, his supporters needed to explain how he managed to write all the plays (23 out of the total of 37!) that appeared in print (or were first mentioned) after that date (including King Lear, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, The Winter's Tale, and The Tempest).

Actors from the theater company portrayed William Shakespeare of Stratford, Ben Jonson, the 17th Earl of Oxford, and the "Dark Lady" of the Sonnets, who were each called as witnesses by the respective sides, and cross-examined according to their evidence. In addition, one expert witness testified for each side.

The two juries (one preselected from the notable lights of the community, and the other drawn by lot from the audience that night) retired separately to their deliberations following the trial, but they both returned the same verdict: William Shakespeare of Stratford was indeed the author of the canon, and not de Vere. Given the date of de Vere's death, and the completely pedestrian nature of the poetry that survives under his name, I was not surprised by the verdicts. I left the event that night convinced that the Stratford Shakespeare had prevailed on his own merits, and not just due to clever lawyering.

Lately, however, I was required to revisit the question of authorship, and to update my results in light of the plethora of new candidates put forward as the true authors of the Shakespearean canon. Oxford's case, while still pressed vigorously by his supporters, appears to have waned in influence; ever-new candidates, such as the Earl of Neville and even Queen Elizabeth herself, are pushed forward in preference to Oxford, who is now seen in many other anti-Stratford camps as passé.

But do the new candidates for the authorship of the canon fare any better than Edward de Vere? They do not, and in this post it is my purpose to explain why Shakespeare, the man of Stratford, retains -- and is fully entitled to -- the pride of authorship in his own works.

The problem with every proposal of an alternative to the Stratford Shakespeare is that they are all based on the same criteria: matching the candidate to references, allusions and inferred standards of education and experience drawn from the Collected Works. Because the Works are so universal and all-embracing, so is the list of candidates which may be fashioned by a close reading of their content.  Indeed, the more the candidates multiply, the more they prove the point that the criteria for selecting them are too subjective and open-ended.

The real Shakespeare must have been well-educated? Then de Vere, Bacon, Marlowe, Jonson, Neville, and even the Countess of Southampton will each fit the bill. (Meanwhile, we have Ben Jonson's own testimony that Shakespeare of Stratford was not as learned in Latin and Greek as Jonson was, but that he still knew Latin, and a little Greek -- so he was educated according to his time.)

The real Shakespeare must have spent time on the ground in Italy? Again, de Vere, Neville, Bacon  and a host of other English aristocrats will qualify. (As for Shakespeare of Stratford, we have evidence that he was an intimate acquaintance of the Italian tutor in the Earl of Southampton's household, John Florio, and could have acquired much of his knowledge of Italy and things Italian there.)

The real Shakespeare must have been intimately familiar with the law? That lets in Bacon, William Stanley, the 5th Earl of Derby, and a goodly number of other noblemen who were squires at their county seats. (We also today have evidence that Shakespeare of Stratford served as a law clerk, and wrote his name in several law books that have come down to us, one of which is in the Folger Library. It's also how he would have acquired a greater than elementary-school proficiency in Latin.)

The real Shakespeare knew hawking and falconry? Once more, so did most English nobles of the day -- and Shakespeare (the deer-hunter) of Stratford could have picked up the terminology easily from Southampton, who was his earliest patron.

When it comes to tracing parallels between the content of the Collected Works and the individual life of any given candidate, however, the gates open wide. From Edward de Vere to Fulke Greville, the individual incidents which afford comparison are infinite in range and variety -- and with 37+ plays and 154 sonnets to interpret, one can never run short of material. Needless to say, there are many parallels with Shakespeare's own life, and with events that he (but not, e.g., de Vere) lived through, as detailed here.

The problem with all the authorship proposals, therefore, is not just that the absence of evidence is treated as evidence of absence (i.e., the lack of evidence about Shakespeare of Stratford means that he had nothing to do with the Collected Works); but the presence of particular evidence is taken as evidence of a particular presence (i.e., that somebody else more "suited" must have written them). Logical inference is piled upon inference until the result is sheer speculation. What is worse, blatant conjecture is treated as the equivalent of "it-must-be-so" fact, when no facts are at hand.

The lack of historical facts about Shakespeare is not a fault of his milieu, or the consequence of a tremendous conspiracy that would have had to reach to the highest levels, and have continued from 1593 all the way to 1623 and beyond, i.e., for more than thirty years, and through a complete change of government. The motives that have to be invented for such an extensive authorship conspiracy far surpass, in degrees of convolution, the explanations for why Stratford's Shakespeare indeed could have been the author of all those magnificent works. It is far less remarkable to observe a few simple factors in mitigation of why Shakespeare was not more celebrated in his own time:

1. We have documentation proving that Shakespeare of Stratford was both an actor and an investor -- for more than twenty years -- in the theaters where his acting company performed. During this time, he made a significant fortune -- not from an actor's salary, or from simply owning a piece of some theaters, but from the revenues of plays performed in those theaters -- most of which were attributed (in contemporaneous quartos and other sources, as well as in the later First Folio) to his authorship. The popularity of plays written by "Shakespeare" during those 20+ years is simply undeniable, and accounts for the fortune that he earned as a major shareholder in the venues where they were performed.

2. The plays themselves, however, were not in Elizabethan law regarded as the intellectual property of the playwright, but rather of the person who registered them with the authorities when they were printed. And from the registers we have from that time, that person was, most often, either the publisher, or the one responsible for staging the plays in the theater, i.e., the head of the acting company (who also was usually a significant owner in the theater). This person does not ever appear to have been Shakespeare. To repeat, because the point is crucial: The author William Shakespeare never appears to have registered (i.e., claimed ownership of) any of his own plays. (And that fact accounts for the entire absence of their mention in his last will and testament.)

3. Many Shakespeare scholars attribute the numerous "bad" quarto editions of the individual plays  which were printed during this time period to "rogue actors and producers" who tried to reconstruct the plays (as we know them from the authoritative First Folio) from their imperfect memory. But a much more reasonable hypothesis, when the texts of the quartos are compared to the eventual Folio versions, is that they were the records of the versions as their author had (up to that point) written them -- i.e., that he was constantly revising and improving them as he went along, and that it was only after his death that his fellow actors gathered the final versions from those who had registered them, or who otherwise held the rights to them, and published them as the First Folio.

4. The fact that the First Folio took seven years to produce, after Shakespeare's death, is again not a fault of his fellow actors and producers. They faced an enormous task of gathering and obtaining the rights to all of the 37 texts -- while they continued, no doubt, to earn their living by acting in and staging some of the plays -- and the fact that they persevered against considerable odds is testimony to their devotion to their colleague, and not to their careless neglect of his fame and reputation. Indeed, during this process, one of the printers of the First Folio collaborated with another to rush into print an edition of ten of the plays, based on previous quarto editions to which he held the license (the so-called "False Folio"). That was just three years after Shakespeare died, and it took another four for William Jaggard and Edward Blount to obtain the rights to the remaining 27 of his plays.

5. Meanwhile, without the plays yet being published for posterity, Shakespeare's own town of Stratford saw to it that he was buried most prominently in the local church, with a fitting monument (and inscription) celebrating his achievements. Most of his fellow citizens were probably little aware of the actual extent of those achievements, and had never seen any of his plays: the inscription on the monument celebrates his fame as though won in a distant land, and in a manner not fully understood, but nevertheless great, indeed, and worthy of commemoration. This is exactly the sort of memorial one would expect from the burghers of Stratford who could appreciate that their native son had done great things, without being conversant with any of the particulars.

In other words, take the First Folio's and Stratford's own testimonies at their word: William Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the works of Shakespeare. They were his contemporaries, and their testimonies are accordingly entitled to the most weight. All else is speculation and conjecture, centuries after the fact: it may agree in some points with the historical record, but it is never wholly consistent with just a single viewpoint, as are the First Folio and the Stratford monument. Instead, all of the collective, present-day speculation about authorship is consistent, in one way or another, with anything and everything -- and thus (to use Shakespeare's own idiom) amounts to a protest that proves too much.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Simply Stunning Illogic of Sen. Boxer

[Warning to my usual readers: this is a thoroughly political, curmudgeonly rant. Normal programming will resume with the next post, after your host cools down a bit.]

For not the first time in her distinguished career as a California Senator, Barbara Boxer demonstrates to the illiterati her absolutely mind-boggling command of logic:
“I have never heard Hobby Lobby or any other corporation, I could be wrong, or any other boss complain that Viagra is covered in many insurance plans, practically all of them, or other kinds of things, you know, for men, which I won’t go into,” Boxer said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Jansing & Co.”  
The California Democrat was discussing the lawsuit before the Supreme Court Tuesday morning arguing that companies like Hobby Lobby, which brought the suit, shouldn’t have to provide for employees’ birth control because it violates their religious beliefs.
Host Chris Jansing pressed Boxer as to whether she could compare Viagra and birth control, saying Hobby Lobby and other advocates argue that birth control is a “life issue.” 
“I have never heard them put any type of moral objection, remember, this is a moral objection, to men getting Viagra, but they have a moral objection to women getting certain types of birth control,” Boxer said. 
So let us get this straight, shall we? One of our distinguished California Senators equates (on moral grounds!) a drug that promotes conception with measures designed to prevent conception. Further, she is puzzled as to why she has never heard any religiously-minded employers complain about having to fund the former ("go forth, and multiply") while also being required by ObamaCare to fund the latter ("go forth, and subtract").

(And in point of fact, Sen. Boxer, have you ever been told what the co-pay is to purchase Viagra, even with insurance? It is anything but "free" -- try $20 to $25 per dose.)

Not content with laying out her stupefying ignorance of logic in public for all to see, the distinguished Senator then proceeded to double down on her idiotic remarks, after being questioned as to whether she really meant to sound so dumb:
“What’s their next moral objection, do they then object to vaccinations? Where do you take it from here? … 
Vaccinations?? Vaccinations??? She takes the syllogism in one moment from the killing of sperm to the killing of viruses?  So now, the distinguished Senator not only equates the promotion  of conception with the prevention of conception, but she equates sperm with viruses?

Where, indeed, "do you take it from here," Sen. Boxer?

Just listen -- the Honorable Lady from California isn't done yet:
“There has been a well-documented study by a university that gave women free birth control for several years. Abortions went down by 50 percent, Chris. So if you are for life and want to attack this issue for abortion, this is a place we could work together and reduce the number of abortions.” 
Oh, so now the point is that if employees don't get to kill sperm with free contraceptives paid for by their employer, they are going to kill more zygotes and fetuses instead? Well, that certainly makes sense.

Let's see if I can restate the proposition in equivalent terms: “If you were willing to pay women to kill men's sperm, then you would pay less for women to kill their fetuses and babies." Oh, yes -- that now makes perfect sense to someone who doesn't want to be forced to pay for either -- thank you, Sen. Boxer.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained -- Sen. Boxer adds, just in case we couldn't understand her the first time:
... [I]t’s the rights of the employees that are being restricted, not the employers. 
Once again, the Senator's superior brand of logic may escape you -- so let me translate:

Employers who are forced, against their sincerely held religious beliefs, to pay for sperm- and baby-killing measures for their own employees must not look at the fact that they are being compelled, just because they choose to hire employees, to violate those beliefs. No, sir -- once they hire employees, they lose those rights -- or at least, we (your benign Government) no longer recognize them as existing. You choose to go into business, you lose your First Amendment rights.

Not only that, but we (your benign Government, whom you elected) will create, out of whole cloth, the "right" to have your killing of sperm and babies paid for by your employer -- and in fact, we will even see to it that the human detritus so extracted from wombs will be used very efficiently -- to heat hospitals, for instance. And that right to kill for free, exercised by your employees, trumps your right not to have to pay for the killings if you don't support abortion as an option when it comes to human life. And if you don't agree, you are part of "the war on women."

Whoops -- I jumped ahead of the distinguished Senator a bit. She is still not through with displaying her superior logic that so entitles her to represent, in our august Senate, the low-information voters of California.
“I view this as very much an anti-woman position to take,” Boxer said. “And it’s important to note that women take birth control, more than half of them, as a medication for other conditions, so it is an attack on women. I think it’s an attack on the religious freedom of the women who work there. Remember, no one is forced to take birth control. It’s an individual right, and this is America, and this is the 21st century, and this is shocking.” 
Note first that no one -- and certainly no employer -- is preventing women from taking "birth control" measures, for any reason. (And never mind that if the medication is needed to treat other conditions than preventing fertilization, the employers' insurance will pay for it.) Likewise, as the Senator admits, no woman is being forced to take birth control measures against her will.

The only forcing that is going on is the forcing of employers to pay for their employees' "right" to birth control measures kill sperm and babies, regardless of whether that killing violates the employers' religious beliefs. But Senator Boxer is incapable of recognizing such forced funding of abortion and contraception as any form of compulsion -- for her, it is just making sure that employers  freely give their employees that which is, after all, their "right".

Since when did killing sperm and babies become a right to be paid for by others? Only since the Democrats rammed ObamaCare illegally through Congress -- that's when. And thus do they turn their violations of our rights into our supposed violation of their invented "rights."

It is all so topsy-turvy that even Alice herself would confess it made her head spin.

Is it any wonder that with Senator Boxer railing against American men having access to Viagra, our President is so willing to show the world how to stand up to tyranny without it? See what a difference the Democrats make with their logic?

Indeed, their logic dictates that there are not enough Democrats elected yet -- because the world still exists with people in it. So the conclusion for Christians is obvious: promote the Second Coming -- elect more Democrats!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

815 in Transparent Move to Punish Fort Worth

Your Curmudgeon has just received reliable word that ECUSA and its attorneys intend to ask the United States Supreme Court to review the (interlocutory!) decision by the Supreme Court of Texas in Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth v. Episcopal Church (USA), in which the Texas Court recently denied ECUSA's petition for a rehearing. The decision is called "interlocutory" because it is not a final one -- the case still has to go to trial before Judge Chupp in Tarrant County District Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court, as a rule, accepts review of interlocutory decisions only in cases of extreme emergency, where further proceedings in the lower court could wipe out a party's chances ever to take a future appeal from the final decision, when it is eventually entered. (Recall that the Court denied the petition for review ("certiorari") filed by St. James parish, in Newport Beach, following the interlocutory decision by the California Supreme Court in The Episcopal Church Cases -- which returned those cases for trial, just as in Texas.)

Moreover, we have seen SCOTUS now deny review of no less than three already final decisions in recent church property cases: from the courts in Connecticut, Georgia and Virginia. So not only are the odds of the Court's granting review of the Texas interlocutory decision virtually zero, but even if the decision were final, the odds would still be vanishingly small.

To waste ECUSA's resources on such a petition to SCOTUS (which I estimate will cost ECUSA approximately fifteen to twenty-five thousand dollars), therefore, is a vain act which can be motivated only by another goal. And what could that other goal be? Why, of course -- to keep up the financial and administrative pressure on Bishop Iker and the parishes of his Episcopal Diocese for as long as conceivably possible.

When ECUSA prevailed on summary judgment before Judge Chupp, it exacted a $100,000 cash bond from Bishop Iker's Diocese to be paid into the court's registry. The bond was a condition of the Diocese's being allowed to take an appeal to the Texas higher courts without having to turn over all its properties to the rump group in the meantime. Moreover, ECUSA persuaded Judge Chupp to require each and every one of Bishop Iker's parishes to complete and deliver to the rump group a monthly report of the parishes' operations and status pending the appeals. This allowed 815 and their attorneys to monitor, over the last 18 months, exactly how Bishop Iker and his Diocese were functioning under the pressure of the pending lawsuit.

(How have they been doing? Hint: they haven't been getting smaller.)

With the complete reversal of Judge Chupp's judgment by the Texas Supreme Court, the bond money should be returned to Bishop Iker's corporation, and the requirement of monthly reports ended, once the mandate (the official notice of an appellate court's ceasing jurisdiction over an appeal) returned to Judge Chupp's court from the Supreme Court. The petitions for rehearing were denied on Friday, March 21, and Judge Chupp's clerk indeed received the mandate from the Supreme Court yesterday, March 24. So the case is now officially back before the trial court, which accordingly has the jurisdiction to enter further orders in the case.

Today, Bishop Iker's attorneys filed a motion with Judge Chupp to dissolve his earlier order requiring the posting of the bond and the monthly reporting. However, today ECUSA's attorneys notified Bishop Iker's attorneys that they will be filing with the Texas Supreme Court a motion to recall the mandate from the trial court, pending their filing of a petition for certiorari with SCOTUS, and pending that Court's final action on their petition.

There is no need for the Texas Supreme Court to grant ECUSA's motion and to recall its mandate -- unless the odds favored an acceptance of review by SCOTUS, and ECUSA could make a case that Bishop Iker's Diocese would dissipate the $100,000 and allow its parish buildings to fall apart in the meantime.  The mandate can remain in the trial court while ECUSA pursues the vain hope of getting SCOTUS to intervene. (Were that Court -- incredibly -- to do so, the mandate would automatically shift to the Supreme Court until it rendered its decision in the case, and all petitions for rehearing of that decision had been denied.)

But -- and here is the motive for ECUSA's trying to get the Texas Supreme Court to recall it -- if the mandate remains with Judge Chupp while ECUSA prepares its petition to SCOTUS, Judge Chupp could in the meantime grant the motion of Bishop Iker's attorneys.  That would result in the immediate repayment of the $100,000 to the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, and it would also relieve all the parishes of filing reports at the end of this month.

If the mandate returns to the Texas Supreme Court, only that Court could grant a motion setting aside the requirements of Judge Chupp's order -- and again, upon a showing that there was no irrevocable harm that could occur to ECUSA by dissolving the order in the meantime.

So the burden of proof would shift. Right now, before Judge Chupp, the burden is on ECUSA to make a showing that it would suffer irreparable harm if the money was returned and the reporting requirement lifted pending its application to SCOTUS for relief. But if the Texas Supreme Court recalls its mandate, the burden would then be on Bishop Iker's group to make a showing that ECUSA and its rump group would not suffer any such harm in the interim.

And that is the strategy underlying ECUSA's game in Texas. Never mind the cost, and never mind the miniscule chance of ever securing review by SCOTUS: make things as expensive, as drawn out and as uncertain as possible for Bishop Iker and his faithful parishioners, because punishment and revenge are the main goals here, and not victory in the courts.

ECUSA has shown already that it is following the same strategy of punishment and revenge in South Carolina (where it likewise tried to appeal an interlocutory order), in Illinois (where it got the Court of Appeals to reinstate the freeze on the funds of the Anglican Diocese of Quincy, pending the current appeal), and in California -- where it even tried to prevent St. James from being allowed to answer its complaint after the California Supreme Court ruled that the complaint stated a claim for relief. It will leave no stone unturned, no avenue not taken, in its abiding effort to crush all of those who dare oppose it financially, and through the sheer burden of multiple lawsuits that seek the maximum in punitive damages from individual rectors and vestry members.

815, in short, has become a litigious monster that is out of control. Its litigation policy is not guided by any Christian motives, and is not being checked by the House of Bishops, or by any other branch of the Church. The so-called Task Force on Reimagining the Church is babbling its way to irrelevancy, while the real power in the Church yields not one inch toward making things different. Worse still, the Presiding Bishop indicates that she is "open" to being renominated for a second term!

We are witnessing what I predict will be beginning of the end for ECUSA and the powers that run it from their comfortable perches at 815. When all prudence and caution is tossed out the window in an effort to prevail at any cost, the desperation of the need to win grows more and more acute with every new setback and loss. And please believe me -- none of these current moves by ECUSA will result in anything but setbacks and losses. The judicial system may be slow and ponderous, but for that very reason it is not susceptible to being bent long for personal ends.

Meanwhile, Episcopalians in non-litigating parishes and dioceses should be asking: Why the silence? Why is 815 being allowed to run amok with the Church's precious resources? Who is really in charge? Where are those who helped put the Presiding Bishop into power, and who will act now to curb her irrationality and her grasping at straws?

Your Curmudgeon is doing what he can to point out the dangers and to sound the alarm, but a single blog cannot do enough alone. This donnybrook needs to be discussed on the floor at the current HoB meeting, and the Presiding Bishop held to account to the full House for her unconscionable and vindictive litigation tactics. And once that is done, the parishes and bishops in the non-litigating dioceses need to keep up the heat -- just as the PB herself is doing -- until she is reined in, and called to account. To do anything less is, for the entire Church, a scandal which will rest upon all our heads.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

SC and TX Courts Show 815 Which Way the Wind Blows

In recent appellate decisions, the courts in both South Carolina and Texas have pointed to a decisive judicial rejection of the Dennis-Canon-based litigation strategy of the powers at 815 Second Avenue in New York, headquarters of what I (still) call ECUSA. If they ever choose to reassess that strategy (as the Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker urged them to do, after his recent win against 815 in the Texas Supreme Court), in light of the fiduciary standards to which they ought to be held accountable, now would be a very good time.

In South Carolina recently (see this earlier post for background), the Court of Appeals mooted the Diocese's motion for transfer to the Supreme Court by entering an order dismissing 815's appeal outright. This was a correct decision because, as I had pointed out in the post just linked, 815 and its puppet ECSC were trying to appeal from a discovery order, which is not a final order. The Court of Appeals, citing just one case, agreed and ordered the matter back to Judge Goodstein's court for trial, which is scheduled to go forward this July:
Respondents [Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and its member parishes] have filed a motion to dismiss this appeal, alleging the underlying order is not immediately appealable. After careful consideration, Respondents' motion is granted. See Lowndes Prods., Inc. v. Brower, 262 S.C. 431, 433, 205 S.E.2d 184, 184-85 (1974) (finding an order refusing to compel discovery not immediately appealable ).
Could 815 and ECSC try to drag out matters further by filing a petition for rehearing with the Court of Appeals? On the face of things, they should not. Rule 221 (c) of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules states:
The appellate court will not entertain petitions for rehearing on a motion or petition unless the action of the court on the motion or petition has the effect of dismissing or finally deciding a party's appeal.
ECSC and 815 could try to renew their (rather elliptical) argument that the trial court's refusal to grant them discovery into Bishop Lawrence's emails with his attorneys spells the end of their case below, but in effect the Appellate Court's order granting the motion to dismiss was already a ruling on the merits of that argument. Thus I do not expect the clerk of the Court of Appeals will delay issuing the remittitur (the official document by which the Court returns the jurisdiction of the case to the trial court) for fifteen days, as Rule 221 instructs him to do for normal appellate judgments. And if he does not so delay its issuance, the case will be back in front of Judge Goodstein before any further petitions are, or could be, filed.

In another recent but unpublished decision, the same Court of Appeals disposed in one paragraph of an appeal by a Baptist Church Conference from a judgment finding it had no ownership or trust interest in the property of one of its churches (Haselden v. New Hope Church, No. 2012-213355, March 19, 2014) (h/t: commenter "Joe"). The per curiam opinion is self-explanatory:
The General Conference of the Free Will Baptist Church of the Pentecostal Faith ("the Conference") appeals the circuit court's order granting summary judgment in favor of New Hope Church ("New Hope") on the grounds that New Hope owned the property on which it was situated free and clear of any legal interest claimed by the Conference. We affirm pursuant to Rule 220(b), SCACR, and the following authorities: Rule 56(c), SCRCP (stating that summary judgment is proper when no genuine issue exists as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law); Jones v. Wolf, 443 U.S. 595, 603 (1979) (stating that when resolving disputes over the ownership of church property, courts must rely "exclusively on objective, well-established concepts of trust and property law familiar to lawyers and judges."); S.C. Code Ann. § 62-7401(a)(2) (Supp. 2013) ("To be valid, a trust of real property, created by transfer in trust or by declaration of trust, must be proved by some writing signed by the party creating the trust."); All Saints Parish Waccamaw v. Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of S.C., 385 S.C. 428, 449, 685 S.E.2d 163, 174 (2009) ("It is an axiomatic principle of law that a person or entity must hold title to property in order to declare that it is held in trust for the benefit of another or transfer legal title to one person for the benefit of another.").  
Since it is unpublished, the opinion has no precedential value (i.e., it cannot be cited to any other South Carolina court), but its summary disposition is still a strong indicator of the way the wind blows in South Carolina. The Court found applicable Jones v. Wolf's holding that state courts may apply traditional concepts of trust and property law in resolving church property cases; a South Carolina statute setting out the legal requirements for a valid trust in the State; and the Supreme Court's opinion in the All Saints Waccamaw case, which ruled against a similar argument made by ECUSA and the then-EDSC. Taken together, those three authorities are all a court needs to cite in order to find a Dennis-Canon type of claim invalid and of no consequence under South Carolina law.

Meanwhile, over in Texas, we have the first appellate decision in a parish / church property dispute since the Supreme Court's ruling in the Masterson case (discussed previously here and here). In Windwood Presbyterian Church, Inc. v. Presbyterian Church (USA) and Presbytery of New Covenant, Inc., __ S.W.3d ___, 2014 WL 47750, 2014 Tex.App.LEXIS 114 (No. 01-10-00861CV, January 12, 2014), the trial court had ruled in favor of the Presbytery and PCUSA, by enforcing the latter's trust clause (equivalent to the Dennis Canon in ECUSA) so as to rule that the parish could not retain its property once it withdrew from PCUSA. The parish appealed, and in August 2012 the First District Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's ruling, based on its analysis of what was then Texas law.

The parish applied for a rehearing and rehearing en banc (a hearing with all the justices of the Court of Appeals sitting, rather than just a three-member panel). While the decision on that petition was still pending, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the Masterson case, which required all Texas courts to apply neutral principles, and indicated that the Dennis Canon could easily be revoked by a parish under standard Texas trust law.

In light of that ruling, the Windwood court granted the petition for rehearing, withdrew its former opinion, and drafted a new one that reversed the trial court's decision, since it had deferred to PCUSA's trust clause without applying neutral principles. The case will now go back to the trial court, where the Windwood parish may be expected to prevail on that kind of an analysis, just like the San Angelo parish in Masterson.

These appellate rulings are strong indicators of the anti-Dennis Canon atmosphere that now prevails in both Texas and South Carolina. As such, they call into serious question the wisdom of ECUSA's  (and PCUSA's) continuing to devote their religious resources to secular litigation with individual parishes and dioceses in those States. In South Carolina, as I long ago indicated, it was always going to be an uphill battle for ECUSA in light of the All Saints Waccamaw decision, and now it is evident that its chances of ever prevailing on its Dennis Canon in that State are nil.

For 815 to continue to pour money into the current property litigation in both those States is nothing less than an actionable waste of charitable resources on a purely punitive mission, and as such is a breach of fiduciary duty at the highest level. With the recent report that disciplinary charges have already been filed against the Presiding Bishop (about which more later), it seems that she wants to add fuel to the fire. This cannot turn out well -- either for ECUSA, or for the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Friday, March 21, 2014

TX Supreme Court Denies Rehearing in ECUSA Cases

Today the Texas Supreme Court denied the losing parties'  petitions for rehearing in the two ECUSA cases pending before itNo. 11-0265Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, et al. v. The Episcopal Church, et al.; and No. 11-0332Masterson v. Diocese of Northwest Texas. The Court had delivered its opinions in the two cases last August 30. In the first case, the Court had sided with Bishop Iker's Diocese by a closely split vote of 5-4, reversed the summary judgment of Circuit Judge John Chupp which had awarded all of the property and assets of Bishop Iker's Diocese to the Episcopal Church and its rump diocese, and sent the case back to the trial court. The majority held that the trial court had improperly failed to apply a "neutral principles of law" analysis to the issues. The four dissenters did not disagree with that result, but instead believed that the Court lacked jurisdiction to hear a direct appeal from the trial court's judgment in the case.

In the second case, the Court by a vote of 7-2 reversed the Court of Appeals' decision requiring the Church of the Good Shepherd in San Angelo to turn over its building and all other assets to the Diocese of Northwest Texas. The Court definitively ruled that all Texas courts must follow "neutral principles of law" (rather than deferring to an ecclesiastical hierarchy), and that based on such an analysis, the Dennis Canon was not effective under Texas law (or that if it were effective to create a trust, the trust was not expressly irrevocable, and so could be revoked by the parish in question).

Both cases now return to their respective trial courts for further proceedings -- but in a new environment: not "deference to hierarchy," but "neutral principles of law," will govern the Texas courts from this point onward. And given ECUSA's complete lack of ability to prove any ownership interest in diocesan or parish property under the latter standard, the odds favor Bishop Iker and his diocese, as well as the Church of the Good Shepherd in San Angelo.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Edward Snowden Appears at TED

At the end of the opening session of this year's TED Conference in Vancouver, there was a surprise speaker: Edward Snowden, who appeared via a telepresence robot transmitting from an undisclosed location in Russia. The host for the Conference, Chris Anderson, interviewed him, and did not shy away from any tough questions.

He also took a straw poll on the spot from the TED audience as to whether they considered Snowden to be a hero or a traitor. Not everyone, it became apparent, was prepared to decide, based on what is known so far.

But two things came clear from the interview: Snowden did what he did not in the pay of any foreign power, nor with any illusions about what it might cost him. Rather he exposed the NSA's machinations because to him, what the NSA is doing can lead only to the complete corruption and undermining of the Internet. And (one of the unique advantages of the TED environment) as you will see, no less a person than the Internet's inventor, Dr. Tim Berners-Lee, agrees with him.

Listen closely to this fascinating interview, and make up your own mind.

[UPDATE 03/20/2014: Chris Anderson offered NSA equal time to present their side of the matter, and they took him up on his offer. The NSA's Deputy Director, Richard Ledgett, appeared on the TED screens at this morning's session, and answered Chris Anderson's questions while critiquing Mr. Snowden's version of the facts:

From the exchange of the two views, I would conclude that the biggest problem the NSA has with Edward Snowden is not what he has disclosed to the press already, but the nearly two million documents that he has yet to make public. One unnamed security official was quoted to the effect that "Compared to Snowden, what [Julian] Assange / Bradley (Chelsea) Manning leaked was just a mosquito bite." The issue is whether a private contractor's employee, even one with all the clearances Snowden must have had, is in any position to judge the significance to America and its allies of what those yet undisclosed documents would reveal to our enemies.

Clearly, getting the facts right should be the first order of business here. But that is very difficult given the pressure that is being applied to Snowden and those aiding him -- and will be even more so with the new frigid relations between Russia and the United States.]

Monday, March 10, 2014

Heartbreaker: U. S. Supreme Court Denies Falls Church Petition

The order list published this morning by the United States Supreme Court shows that, after relisting the case for its conferences four times, it has denied certiorari (review) in No. 13-449, The Falls Church v. Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, et al. Under its rules, the Court grants certiorari when at least four of the nine justices are interested in a given case; it takes five justices to make a majority.

This was potentially a huge decision for those suffering from years of the courts' misreading of Jones v. Wolf (1979), 443 U.S. 595, as detailed in numerous posts on this blog. The significance is that it would have been the first church property dispute which the Court has accepted for review since Jones -- some 35 years ago. While the decision below (from the Virginia Supreme Court) is not based on ECUSA's Dennis Canon, it nonetheless is grounded in a misreading of how a national Church can unilaterally establish a trust in its favor on all parish property without the parishes themselves declaring the trust in question. Similar bad readings of the dictum in Jones have come from the Supreme Courts of Connecticut, Georgia, New York and California.

It also means that the Diocese of Virginia will now go ahead with its plans for The Falls Church campus. Furthermore, it means that the approximately $3 million that TFC has paid into the Court's registry since April 2012 will now be handed over to the Diocese -- added to the already $10 million worth of real property it received, the Diocese is the beneficiary of a real windfall, if ever there was anything that went by that name.

The Court thus seems willing to live with the disorder and confusion created by its dictum in Jones, at least until its current membership changes. And ECUSA will go on sowing discord and confusion in the State courts.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Modest Proposal to Reform ECUSA (II)

In Part I of these posts, I went through the concept of rethinking the Episcopal Church (USA), or ECUSA, in such a way as to restore its pastoral and missional capabilities. The solution was to downsize its grossly overweight administration, by first reducing the number of dioceses from 110 to just ten (or a similar small number, such as 12, or 7), along with the number of diocesan bishops.

The heart of ECUSA is its 7,000+ parishes and missions. That is where the real spiritual work of the Church gets done. As I said in Part I, "[a]ll else is administration or abstraction."

That same observation permeates the rest of my Modest Proposal, as presented in this Part II.

The current administration of ECUSA is topheavy to a stultifying degree. In addition to the offices and staff at 815 (most working for the Presiding Bishop), we have the 38-member Executive Council, the corporate staff of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS), and the officers and staff of General Convention. No one -- not even the Presiding Bishop -- is ultimately in charge. And that is why ECUSA, with over $300 million in trust funds and an annual budget of $30 to $40 million, is run as though it were accountable to no one. (If no one is in charge, then there is no one to hold anyone accountable, except God Himself.)

This, too, is a disgrace that must end. The collective bishops have shown that they are unable, or unwilling, to rein in the waste at 815. The Executive Council spends more time these days fighting to control its own agenda (which 815 also wants to have firmly in hand) than it does minding the store. And the DFMS just writes the checks, while never asking how the money is spent.

A corporation the size of ECUSA would never get away without having a proper management. And neither should ECUSA be cut any slack, just because it is a religious organization. If anything, because those who run ECUSA are ultimately accountable to God, as well as to its 1.8 million pledging members, one should hold them to the very highest of fiduciary standards.

As I say, however, it is impossible to do so given the current disorganization of the organization. So once again, the solution lies in identifying what is needed, and then in ruthlessly eliminating anything that stands in the way.

ECUSA itself is an unincorporated association of member dioceses. That is an appropriate form, given the nature of dioceses, so I do not propose to change it.

But ECUSA also has a corporate arm -- the DFMS (a New York religious corporation). And corporations are an ideal form with which to provide management that is accountable.  DFMS has, for instance, a Chief Executive, a Board of Directors, and other officers such as a Secretary and a Treasurer.

Thus there is no need to reinvent the wheel here. We simply make the DFMS the true manager of ECUSA.

To manage ECUSA properly, the DFMS has to be well and truly independent of it. Currently the Executive Council functions as its Board, and the Presiding Bishop is its chief executive. They both have to go, as do all other ties and connections with 815, or the bishops, or General Convention.

Run the DFMS, I say, with a eleven-member, professional Board that is selected for excellence in management. Let them all be pledging Episcopalians from their respective parishes -- but do not let all of them come from Trinity Wall Street. Let each of the ten dioceses choose their most qualified lay person (clergy may not apply), for a five-year term, with the possibility of being re-elected once.  Finally, let the Episcopal Seminaries (any seminary which prepares Episcopal priests) together elect the eleventh Board member.

The DFMS Board is thus ultimately accountable to the member dioceses (and the seminaries), which is as it should be. But the dioceses (who ultimately control the Church's constitution) could also set up, if they wished, a "Board of Overseers" made up of Episcopal clergy and laity to visit the DFMS from time to time, observe its operations, and make recommendations back to the dioceses for any needed changes.

The DFMS Board is responsible for hiring the Church's officers -- the CEO, the Secretary and the Treasurer; and each officer hires their own staff within the limits of the budget. The qualifications for each office will be the same as those for a Fortune 500 company. Each officer will serve at the pleasure of the Board.

The officers, overseen by the Board, are responsible for running the entire operation of the Church. They establish and budget for the costs of each of the ten dioceses, for the DFMS, and for the Council of Guardians -- based upon the revenues from pledges and from trust fund income. Individual parishes continue to raise and spend their own funds on their own expenses as before; they each send ten percent of their pledge income to the DFMS directly (not to their diocese).

The budget for each diocese includes the salary for a Mission Coordinator, whose sole job is to coordinate (but not direct) the mission efforts of individual parishes in that diocese. The Mission Coordinator acts as a clearing house for mission projects and mission information; all missions themselves originate with, and are overseen by, one or more parishes.

The budget for each diocese also includes a subsidy component for those congregations in that diocese which are not yet self-sustaining. All of those subsidies fall under the jurisdiction of a Vice President for Development, whose main job is to see to it that no congregation stays on perpetual subsidy, but progresses steadily toward self-sustainability. If a parish decides to plant a new congregation, and wants the DFMS to assist it, it coordinates its plans and budget with the Vice President for Development.

The idea here is to divorce all of the Church's financial aspects from the Church's clerical positions, so that the bishops, vicars and rectors can concentrate on being purely pastoral. (There has never been any correlation proven between financial acumen and pastoral ability.) The professional managers will see to it that the Church spends its money wisely, so as to achieve its pastoral and missional goals. (For example, they would never, ever authorize spending $40 million on "litigation to protect properties" -- can you see any major Fortune 500 franchise operation that would allow itself to fall into that trap?)

Now, what about General Convention? Again, my proposal is simple: we abolish it. With the Council of Guardians being responsible for clerical and disciplinary canons and the BCP, and the DFMS being responsible for its own corporate bylaws, there is (on purpose) no official function left for General Convention to perform. (The member dioceses can adopt a procedure for approving changes to the Constitution that does not involve gathering in a convention, but only action at the diocesan level by each member diocese.)

Therefore, if the laity and clergy still want some sort of collective body, let them establish it themselves. Let any such replacement be expressly unofficial -- that is, there is no longer any body which has any authority to speak publicly on behalf of the whole Church. (It is forbidden from using the word "Episcopal" anywhere in its name, because it has no bishops involved -- the canons prohibit any bishop from belonging to any such organization.)

Let it be wholly voluntary, mainly Web-based, and let it, too, be financially self-sustaining through subscriptions and user/participant fees -- no money comes from the DFMS for its activities. If it wants to get together for periodic meetings, it does so completely on its own devices. Its reputation will be entirely what its members make of it -- and that is as it should be.

So that is the full Modest Proposal: downsize drastically, streamline administration and divorce it fully from clerical / pastoral functions. Free the Church up to be more pastoral- and mission-directed; it is already wealthy enough to do good things, if only the wealth can be professionally and disinterestedly managed.

Oh, yes -- and in case the reader hadn't noticed: since the only canons left will be the ones spelling out clergy qualifications and standards for discipline (the current Titles III and IV), there will no longer be any Dennis Canon, and there never can be anything like it again!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Modest Proposal to Reform ECUSA (I)

The Task Force to Reimagine the Episcopal Church (TREC) has been busy reporting on the ideas it is considering to restructure how ECUSA works, and its proposals have been garnering both positive and negative comments. The most recent split seems to be between those who view ECUSA as their personal vehicle for "social justice", and those who would like to make General Convention "more efficient."

Briefly, TREC has proposed to limit the kind of resolutions that General Convention may consider -- only those which would amend the Constitution, Canons, or Book of Common Prayer, or which fulfill election duties entrusted to it.  Gone would be the hordes of special interest resolutions -- and presumably also, the innumerable Agencies, Boards, Committees and Commissions which generate them. 

It is a good proposal, as far as it goes, but it comes too late in the day. As a body, General Convention has grown too large -- but for a New Hampshire Town Meeting, the Chinese National Peoples' Congress, and the British Parliament, it is the largest legislative body in the world. For a national Church, that is ridiculous -- General Convention is far too unwieldy, far too expensive, and far too ineffective for all the money that is spent upon it.

Limiting its competence will not make it more competent. What is needed is a major downsizing.

But to downsize General Convention means we first have to downsize the Church it represents -- i.e., the number of dioceses, and consequently, the number of bishops, needs to be greatly reduced.  Make the Church structure a workable one, and General Convention will take care of itself.

Fortunately, your Curmudgeon has been a student of ECUSA's polity for all of his adult life. And though the powers at 815 did not see fit to accept my offer to work on the Task Force, I can still (through this blog) put forward my Modest Proposal for the Church's thoughtful consideration.

A bit of background, first. There is a huge gap between ECUSA as 815 and their lawyers think of it, and ECUSA in reality. For 815, the standard mantra is that the Church is a "hierarchy" of three tiers: General Convention is at the top, the 110 dioceses are subordinate to General Convention, and the 7.000+ congregations are subordinate to the dioceses.

Viewed in that way, ECUSA is only an abstraction of the intellect (and a meme in the courts that have blindly bought into 815's abstraction, because they never see or experience the reality). In real life such a tiered structure is unworkable, principally for the reason that General Convention is like the Village of Brigadoon -- it comes together for a brief moment in the present, and then vanishes into the mist, never to be experienced by the same people in the same way, ever again.

Imagine if the U.S. Congress completely reconstituted itself every other week -- and then agreed to meet only every 156th week. Do you see what I mean?

After the required three years pass, a new General Convention springs into being -- unable and incapable of maintaining any continuity with all of its predecessors, and once again existing for just the few moments of its delusional triumphs. The Convention disbands, and without anyone left to sustain them, the triumphs of the moment quickly turn into wilted flowers and rotten fruit.

How can a Church be run by a body so ephemeral? It can't -- and that is one key to my Modest Proposal.

The next tier down -- the dioceses -- is likewise, if one considers it a monolithic structure, an intellectual abstraction. You can't get 110 dioceses (let alone 7,000+ parishes) to agree on anything, not even eternal salvation through Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Face it: ECUSA is an unwieldy and unworkable agglomeration of individual units that cannot, and never will, work together toward one common goal. It is more akin to a 110-ring circus, with individual acts succeeding one another in gloriously haphazard fashion, as the culture and the times dictate to each ringmaster.

The only glue that even begins to hold it together is money. The dioceses feed off the ingrained habit of individuals' contributions and pledges to their parishes, and 815 feeds off the dioceses.  General Convention, with funding from all three sources, feeds off everything in the Church, and (since its inherent ephemerality means it can never be held accountable) wastes millions and millions of dollars for its follies.

The other factor that holds together a part of the Church -- and only a very small part -- is the social activism of many who get involved at the diocesan and national levels. But it is this very activism that puts the leadership (such as it is) at such odds with the masses who fill (to a lesser and lesser degree) the pews Sunday after Sunday.

The leadership pretends it must be doing something right, because the "quality" of Episcopalians is improving generation after generation, even though their numbers are declining severely with each generation.

Translation: "We like ever more and more the activists who are floating up to join us at our level -- they are kindred spirits. You can ignore the slaves in the galley -- they are there just to fuel the engines, and there are still plenty enough of them for our purposes. Plus, all their fathers and grandfathers had the foresight to entrust us with their hard-earned wages for future purchases of engine fuel, so we won't be running out any time soon."

What a picture, eh? In need of reform? You bet!

But how to reform such a monstrosity, that has gone so far off course from its original moorings?

Break it down into its component parts, that's how.  Come, reason with me --

Herewith my Modest Proposal:

All the existing parishes and missions remain intact as they are, because they are the physical reality of "The Episcopal Church". All else is administration or abstraction.

Parishes elect their own vestries, just as before. And parishes call their own rectors, again just as before -- though so do the missions, if they are functioning (a change from before, where a bishop chooses the priest/vicar for a mission). But the screening process is more rigorous -- meaning there are more hoops to jump through. Every new rector, for example, must serve a probationary period for one year, and then the parish  or mission votes whether or not to retain that rector, or to start the process to find another. No bishop can ever force a rector on a functioning parish or mission.

The number of dioceses is reduced from 110 to 10, modeled on the existing nine provinces (and breaking Province VIII into two along the northern borders of California, Nevada and Utah). The 110 "diocesan" bishops become vicars of their respective regions, which are mostly the former dioceses, but now purely geographical, rather than administrative, units.  The former dioceses are broken down further as needed to provide continuing employment for current suffragans and assistants. All such vicars have chiefly pastoral -- and very, very little administrative -- duties. That is, they make parish visitations, baptize and confirm, and ordain new priests and see to their training, but they do not have a budget of their own. Instead, they are all salaried, on a scale that goes up with experience and pastoral merit, as voted by the parishes in the vicar's jurisdiction every five years. The parishes don't think their vicar is doing his job? No raise for another five years.

The vicars are not called "bishop", and they do not get to go to Lambeth, or to anything called a "House of Bishops." They are pastoral representatives of the true episcopal authority of the Church (read on).  Although they can certainly hire more staff out of their own pockets, they are each authorized to have only one paid staff member, and an office rent allowance for the cost of five hundred square feet, at going local rates (which they can locate in their own residences, if they wish).

The idea is to keep the regional vicars close to the parishes they can pastor within a given year, and to foster their identification with a manageable number of parishes. As I say, suffragan and assistant bishops will likewise become vicars of their own regions, so that no one vicar has to supervise more than is practicable. Visits once a year mean a maximum of fifty congregations -- and even that would be higher than the ideal, of thirty to forty (say). 7000 (congregations) divided by 35 (average number of congregations per vicar) equals 200 vicars needed to cover them all, which is well within the number of bishops ECUSA has already. A limit of 35 or so congregations per vicar also ensures that no one region will be too large to administer.

[UPDATE 03/07/2014: In response to a commenter's concern about non-bishops performing the traditional duties of a bishop with respect to ordinations, confirmations, etc., I am willing to modify my Proposal to give all the ones I have called "vicars" the title of "Assisting Bishops," and let them keep their miters and croziers. They would still not be bishop diocesans, and so they would not be eligible to go to Lambeth. Nor would there be any national, church-wide  "House of Bishops" for them; there would instead be a House of Bishops in each of the ten dioceses, where they would come together to meet with their diocesan twice a year. The bishops in each diocese will be in charge of disciplining and consecrating their own; the only church-wide disciplinary tribunal would be a court for the trial of a bishop, and a review body, to deal with canonical charges against any of the eleven diocesans.]

A regional vicar is elected by the parishes of that vicar's region, from among the rectors in that region. (No more pastoral surprises from outside.) If a region ceases to have enough parishes to keep a vicar busy, it is merged into a neighboring region by the Church's Administrative Office (see next post). Rectors, on the other hand, are welcome from other regions -- but only after going through the rigorous vetting process to ensure that they will be good pastors to their congregations.

Face it -- this reform means that ECUSA can no longer serve as a welfare organization for incompetent and misguided priests. If they cannot preach and practice the faith so as to make their parishes want to keep them, then they are out, and if they cannot find another parish that wants them -- well, it is time to look into another career. The former bishops (now vicars) will have no patronage privileges, and no ability to protect unwanted priests from unemployment.

The ten dioceses will each be headed up by a true bishop, so ECUSA will have in all just ten bishops, who rotate annually through the post of Presiding Bishop. Thus every bishop will serve as Presiding Bishop for one year out of every ten. But the only duties of the Presiding Bishop are to chair the regular quarterly meetings of the ten bishops -- now called the "Council of Guardians", to emphasize their true role in the Church. As one of ten diocesan bishops, the Presiding Bishop will have primary responsibility for the pastoral operation of his own diocese, and will specifically (by canon) have no other role as a spokesperson for the national Church.

The ten individual bishops will have the primary duty to guard the faith and the traditions of the Church, as the same have been handed down from the saints.  They shall be chosen from among the vicars in each diocese, and confirmed by a vote of two-thirds of the Council (seven out of nine -- because there will be a vacancy), before being consecrated by the traditional laying on of hands by the members of the Council. They are required to meet with the assembled vicars in their respective dioceses twice a year, in order to discuss and go over diocesan issues, amendments proposed to the BCP and Canons, hold diocesan court sessions, and similar functions. Additionally, they have full archiepiscopal powers within their diocese to issue pastoral directives, disciplinary sentences and the like with respect to the vicars and rectors in that diocese.

To the Council is entrusted the responsibility to publish the Church Canons, as well as to oversee and maintain the Book of Common Prayer in the tradition handed down to us from Cranmer.

Unlike the current model, the Canons which the Council has the power to publish will be limited to just standards for the clergy and their discipline administered by diocesan courts and bishops. Liturgical matters will be covered by the rubrics of the BCP. No individual bishop will any longer have the power to "supplement" or "grant dispensations from" the liturgy of the BCP. If it's not in the BCP, it's not part of the Church's liturgy, period.

If the Council wants to propose a revision to the BCP, they first must pass such a revision at two successive meetings a year apart, and the proposal is circulated to each diocese for distribution to each and every parish in that diocese in the intervening twelve months, so that they may provide feedback as they choose to the Council.

Once a proposal to amend the BCP has passed the Council by two votes a year apart, it then officially circulates, first to all the vicars, and then to the rectors for discussion with their vestries and congregations. For the proposal to be finally adopted and effective, it will need to receive a favorable vote from two-thirds of the parishes at their annual meetings in each and every region, plus the approval of two-thirds of the vicars in any given diocese. Only then does it come back for a final vote in the Council of Guardians, where it requires a minimum of eight out of ten votes to become finally effective.

This process will guarantee a stable BCP, and prevent any faction from ruining it with the fads of the age.  And with that, we have taken care of the main missional and pastoral functions of the Church. The rest is just administration -- oh, and allowing venting for "social justice."

I will cover those aspects in my next post.

Monday, March 3, 2014

No Word Yet from SCOTUS on The Falls Church Case

The order list published this morning by the United States Supreme Court shows that it still has taken no final action on the petition for review in No. 13-449, The Falls Church v. Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, et al. Under its rules, the Court grants certiorari when at least four of the nine justices are interested in a given case; it takes five justices to make a majority. The postponement can mean only that either the justices are still discussing what disposition will be made of the case, or that there are one or more dissents from what has been decided (but not yet announced). If the latter is the case, we will eventually learn that less than four justices voted to grant review, and that they were taking the time to write a dissent to be published with the announcement.

As soon as the Court updates the docket sheet, we will have a better idea of which of these alternatives may be the case. The Court's next conference is this Friday, March 7.