January 28, 2015

How Does the Anglican Communion Office Count?

Anglican Communion News Service announced January 19, 2015, that the Anglican Church of Melanesia adopted the Anglican Covenant at its November General Synod. ACNS noted that Melanesia “is the 12th Province to adopt or subscribe the Covenant.” The story also provided a link to what I take to be the official Anglican Communion Office tally of Covenant acceptances and rejections.

The Living Church dutifully picked up this story two days later under the headline “12th Covenant Affirmation.” Interestingly, Episcopal News Service ignored the development.

As Episcopal Church Convenor and Webmaster for the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, I was naturally interested in the story out of Melanesia. At the very least, I needed to update our own reckoning of decisions about the Covenant in the various Anglican churches.

I had assumed that updating the status table on the No Anglican Covenant Web site would be quick and easy. A little spot checking, however, made me realize that many of our links documenting the progress of actions involving the Covenant were no longer available on the Web. I therefore embarked on the lengthy project of fixing broken links. In most cases, I was able to retrieve a page from the Internet Archive. In a few cases, I had to delete a link or link to a different page. To the best of my knowledge, the No Anglican Covenant Coalition’s status table is now correct and up-to-date.

The Coalition’s tally differs in some significant ways from that of the ACO. Most conspicuously, the Coalition has attempted to document all the steps leading to a final decision on the Covenant, something that is not an objective of the listing on the Anglican Communion Web site. We note the current status of the Covenant in The Episcopal Church, for example, citing two General Convention resolutions, a resolution from a diocese, and three pages documenting resolutions proposed for the 2012 General Convention. The Episcopal Church has not yet made a decision about the Covenant, and this fact is unreported by the ACO. Fine, that’s not the purpose of its listing.

Two omissions from the official list of Covenant decisions are notable, however. Bishops of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines voted against Covenant adoption in May 2011. This has not been especially well documented or explained—but see this story—and we have taken this to be a Covenant rejection. More distressing is the omission of the Church of England’s rejection of the Covenant. There seems to be an unwillingness to admit that the Mother Church of Anglicanism has, in fact, failed to endorse the project so ardently supported by its former Archbishop of Canterbury. No doubt, the rejection of the Covenant by a majority of English dioceses is somehow deemed less than definitive by the ACO. The church could reconsider, after all, but so could a church that has unambiguously adopted the Covenant.

Most distressing, however, is the claim by ACNS that 12 churches have adopted the Covenant. Even counting in the most generous fashion, the Anglican Communion Web page lists only 11 adopters! The Coalition, on the other hand, counts 9 unquestioned adoptions and 2 ambiguous ones. Our listing for the Church of Ireland notes
The Ireland church “subscribed” to the Covenant on 13 May 2011. The General Synod intended to make it clear that the Covenant did not supplant existing governing documents of the Church of Ireland. Source
Is the action taken by the Church of Ireland substantially different from a simple adoption? Who knows? Only time will tell.

Our listing for the Church of the Province of South East Asia is the following:
The church “acceded” to the Covenant and published an explanation of its understanding of the action on 7 May 2011, which seems to go beyond the Covenant text itself.
The South East Asia’s “Preamble to the Letter of Accession” reviews Covenant history and recent Anglican Communion conflicts from a conservative, Global South perspective. It also sets out expectations of churches adopting the Covenant, expectations not contained in the Covenant text itself. Moreover, the Preamble asserts that “our accession to the Anglican Communion Covenant is based” on those extra-covenantal expectations. We therefore believe that South East Asia’s acceptance of the Covenant is conditional.

Even if Ireland and South East Asia are counted as adopters, the page from the ACO shows that only 11 churches, not 12, have adopted the Covenant. A screenshot from the page, on which I have highlighted adoptions in green, rejections in red, and ambiguous adoptions in orange, is shown below. (These are the colors we use on the No Anglican Covenant page.) Click on the image for a larger view. A PDF file showing the entire page, annotated as in the image below, is here.

Partial page from Anglican Communion Web site

So, can the minions of the Anglican Communion Office not count, or are they willing to engage in sleight of hand to promote the Covenant? Who knows?

January 27, 2015

Ultracrepidarian

I learned a new word the other day—ultracrepidarian. I haven’t yet been able to work it into conversation, but I look forward to doing so. The word describes a person who offers opinions, judgments, etc., beyond his or her expertise. As a noun, it refers to such a person.

Ultracrepidarian is such a great word to describe Republicans who pontificate on subjects such as human reproduction, climate change, or economics. In fact, by extension, I think one might refer to the Republican Party as the ultracrepidarian party.

January 25, 2015

The Anglican Covenant, Yet Again

The Very Rev. Kelvin Holdsworth
The Very Rev. Kelvin Holdsworth
Photo by Gordon Smith. Used by permission.
Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow, has written an excellent essay lamenting the Church of England’s deal with the Devil that has simultaneously brought women bishops and bishops who believe that God forbids women from having authority over men as permanent fixtures of that church.

On one hand, the Church of England has declared that it is “fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all, without reference to gender.” At the same time, it not only vowed to tolerate those who are unequivocally committed to the view that only males should be ordained but also “committed to enabling them to flourish [emphasis added] within its [the Church of England’s] life and structures.” Once again, in the name of unity, the Church of England has institutionalized internal conflict with the apparent intention to nurture that conflict in perpetuity.

I think the craziness attendant the approval for women bishops in England is, at least in part, the product of establishment. The established church, which views itself as besieged in a sea of indifference, has abandoned its mission of providing moral leadership for the nation in favor of pursuing the quixotic goal of making everybody happy. Hardly anyone is happy.

My purpose here is not really to cover the same ground as Holdsworth. He does an admirable job of pointing out the foolishness of the path being taken by the church to his south. What I want to do instead is to consider the Church of England’s actions with respect to the Anglican Covenant.

For those who have forgotten about the Anglican Covenant or, mercifully, have never heard of it, you can read it here. Various churches of the Anglican Communion have adopted the Covenant; others have rejected it; some have not acted definitively one way or the other. The status of the agreement in the various churches can be found here. The Covenant states that it becomes effective for a church (i.e., binding) upon adoption by that church. No time limit has been imposed on adoption, and it is possible that some churches will defer the adoption decision indefinitely.

The Church of England has rejected the Covenant, though some would dispute the fact. The previous Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was a strong advocate for the Covenant; Justin Welby, the present Archbishop of Canterbury, not so much. To my knowledge, Archbishop Welby has never mentioned the Covenant in public. He has certainly not promoted its adoption. The Church of England, then, has no obligation to adhere to the requirements of the Covenant. But what if it did?

According to Paragraph 3.2.3 of the Covenant, action by a church that will be controversial, new, or otherwise problematic should be “tested by shared discernment in the life of the Church,” and (according to Paragraph 3.2.4) the church should “seek a shared mind with other Churches, through the Communion’s councils, about matters of common concern.” The Covenant goes on to say that “[e]ach Church will undertake wide consultation with the other Churches of the Anglican Communion and with the Instruments and Commissions of the Communion.” In Paragraph 3.2.5, churches pledge “to act with diligence, care and caution in respect of any action which may provoke controversy,” and in Paragraph 3.2.6, churches are required “in situations of conflict, to participate in mediated conversations, which involve face to face meetings, agreed parameters and a willingness to see such processes through.”

The Church of England did none of this before authorizing women to be consecrated bishops. Moreover, many inside and outside the church, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, saw providing for women bishops as an urgent need. The Covenant-mandated consultation would have taken years, perhaps decades. The Church of England did not need consultation with other Communion churches to determine if its action was going to be controversial. Some Communion churches remain opposed to the ordination of women generally, and unhappiness with the authorization for the consecration of women bishops was expressed both before and after the final steps were taken by the English church. Even in churches that could be expected to celebrate the Church of England’s attempt to treat male and female clergy alike—in The Episcopal Church, in the Anglican Church of Canada, and in the Scottish Episcopal Church, for example—there is surely unhappiness in the manner in which England has institutionalized opposition to a theological position it purports to hold. (This is what Holdsworth expressed so clearly.)

If the entire Anglican Communion had adopted the Anglican Covenant and took it seriously, the Church of England would be in hot water now. Section 4.2 provides for the Standing Committee to request that a church defer a controversial action. Obviously, it is too late for that. After the fact, however, and after widespread consultation, the Standing Committee could recommend that the Church of England be subjected to “relational consequences” (Paragraph 4.2.7) for taking action “incompatible with the Covenant.” Neither of these terms is precisely defined in the text of the Covenant, and their meaning alone would likely be a source of conflict. Widespread discussion of the Church of England’s action would surely lead only to more controversy and chaos in the Communion, rather than any “consensus fidelium” (Paragraph 3.1.4).

Isn’t it time for Anglicans to ask themselves if God would be more pleased if the Anglican Communion focused on policing its member churches to insure that those of Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, England, and the United States articulate an identical theology and ethics, or if churches concentrated on preaching the Gospel to their neighbors, worshiping God, ameliorating human suffering, seeking justice, and protecting our environment? The answer, as the song says, is blowin’ in the wind.

One impetus for writing this essay is the recent news that the Church of the Province of Melanesia adopted the Covenant a couple of months ago. It seems, on one hand, that the time for the Covenant has passed, and many have written it off as dead (or have considered doing so). The passionate essays for and against the pact are no longer forthcoming. Nonetheless, the number of adopters is very slowly increasing, raising the possibility of non-adopters saying “what the hell” and taking the plunge. The effect of Covenant adoption to date, after all, has been precisely nil.

The Covenant was born of an angry pressure-cooker era in which the Anglican primates seemed to be meeting every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It has now been a while since the primates have met, and, although there have been many angry meetings sponsored by conservative Anglicans, it isn’t clear that the rest of the Communion is paying them much attention. In a recent New York Times interview with Justin Welby, reporter Michael Paulson noted
He [Welby] has declared the Church of England, which he leads, to be declining in numbers and influence, and has deemed the Anglican Communion, where he is viewed as first among equals of bishops around the world, to be so fractured over gender and sexuality that it is not worth trying to meet collectively any time soon.
Welby, I suggest, has figured out that what the Communion really needs is not engagement, but disengagement, exactly the opposite of what the Covenant strives to achieve. Let the churches do mission as they understand it and refrain from trying to correct the perceived errors of one another. The Covenant is not so much about how Communion churches can get along as it is about how they should fight. Why fight to begin with?

Finally, this brings me to the upcoming General Convention of The Episcopal Church, which will be held in Salt Lake City this coming summer. General Convention has a lot on its plate this year. It will be electing a new Presiding Bishop; figuring out what to do with resolutions from the Task Force on Reimagining The Episcopal Church (TREC); considering whether something is to be done about seminary education, which seems to be in crisis; and examining whether, in light of the Bishop Cook debacle, we need to change our procedures for selecting bishops—all this in addition to “normal” business like approving a budget. No one, it seems, is thinking about what our church should be doing with the Anglican Covenant. Frankly, some Covenant opponents think that’s just fine.

I am not among them. Our last General Convention passed a timid resolution asserting that Episcopalians were too divided on the question of Covenant adoption to make a decision at that time. This was a farce. If every issue before the Convention were treated the same way, nothing would ever be passed, since there are always dissenting voices. The reality is that there is no significant enthusiasm in The Episcopal Church for the Covenant, but our pathological Anglican niceness makes it difficult to acknowledge the fact.

We need a 2015 resolution rejecting the Covenant less to protect The Episcopal Church, the church that, along with the Anglican Church of Canada, the militant traditionalists in the Communion love to hate, than to send the message that the Covenant project is destined to fail. If The Episcopal Church decisively rejects the Covenant in 2015, Canada will like follow suit when its General Synod meets in 2016. At that point, the Covenant will be useless, which is much better than malevolent, which it now has the potential to become.

I hope that Episcopalians will realize that they have an obligation vis-à-vis the Covenant and the Communion. General Convention can help save the Communion from the misguided Covenant project and point the Communion back to mission, its real purpose.

One could imagine a General Convention resolution that acknowledges in detail the position in which we find ourselves three years after we ducked rejecting the Covenant in 2012. On the other hand, the resolution proposed by the No Anglican Covenant Coalition would do just fine. You can find it here,

January 23, 2015

Some Thoughts on Cuba

Cuba and the U.S. have been negotiating terms for the resumption of normal diplomatic relations. I hope the Americans are inclined to be generous. We have acted with malice toward our neighbor to the south for far too long and to no rational purpose other than to indulge the animosities of a few dispossessed Cubans.

What, then, should we be striving for in future U.S.-Cuba relations? Here are a few ideas.

Cuba and U.S. flags
Image from Cuba Travel USA
We should do everything we can to assure the opening of a Cuban embassy in the U.S. One hopes that Cuba will make it easy for us to re-establish our embassy in Havana.

Cuba wants to be off the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Surely, at one time, Cuba sought to export revolution and may have deserved to be on such a list. (Some of the revolution Cuba encouraged was long overdue, but that’s another matter.) I haven’t seen any evidence that Cuba should be on the U.S. list at the moment, and, unless I am greatly mistaken, this is a wish we should grant as soon as possible.

There are, no doubt, commercial claims against the Cuban government. If any damages can be obtained from Cuba, fine, but I don’t think we should expect much. At some point, we simply have to accept facts on the ground. This has largely been our attitude toward native Americans, after all.

The trade embargo should be lifted as soon as possible and tariff barriers should be eliminated. Congress is going to be a stumbling block here, but many businesses that support Republicans are eager to sell goods and services to Cuba. The other problem may be Cuba’s ability to pay. In any case, there is a lot more that Cuba wants from us than we want from Cuba. (Pretty much everything, actually.) From Cuba, we would like to buy cigars, rum, and sugar. We really should be buying sugar from Cuba anyway, as it is a much better place to grow sugarcane than the U.S., which only grows the stuff because our government subsidizes it. (Thank the government for high sugar prices.)

I hope that American firms will be allowed to invest in Cuba. In particular, Cuba needs tourist facilities—hotels, restaurants, etc. Cuba was once a major tourist destination for Americans. It can be so again. Of course, commercial air transport between the two countries is necessary. If flights by American carriers have to be balanced by flights by Cuban carriers, so be it.

We should encourage the development of Cuba’s communication infrastructure, with connections to the outside world, but we should be patient. This will come in time.

Cuba is not happy that refugees fleeing the country are immediately granted asylum if they reach our shores. This is a policy we should rescind. It is curious that those most insistent that we “secure” our borders believe that our border with Cuba should pretty much be open. Our policy is a slap in the face to refugees from South American countries who, in many cases, are fleeing lives at least as burdensome and significantly more dangerous than those experienced by Cubans. Congress will be a problem here. (But isn’t it pretty much a problem generally?)

Finally, we should negotiate the return of the Guantanamo Naval Base to Cuba, being, as it is, the last vestige of American colonialism in the world. (Of course, we conquered and colonized Hawaii, but we made up for it by making the place an American state. We probably don’t want to do that with Cuba.) We can do without Guantanamo. Perhaps we can give them the base if they agree to take the prison with it. That would be a moral victory on two fronts.

Is all this an America-hating, liberal wet dream? Not at all. We can afford to be generous. We have much more to gain than does Cuba. Cuba stands to gain material benefits, but so do Americans. A more open relationship will put pressures on the Castro regime to loosen its grip on, well, pretty much everything. Will Cuba become a liberal democracy next year? Surely not, but if the lives of ordinary Cubans are improved, is not that progress? Besides, Americans will gain access to great cigars.

Update, 1/23/2015. In my original post, I neglected to say anything about the U.S. unhappiness with Cuba’s human rights record. We are apparently going to finesse that issue for now. Realistically, nothing much is going to happen on the human rights front anytime soon. To insist otherwise would be pointless.

While reading the current issue of Time, I ran into this sentence: “China is Cuba’s largest trade partner and its biggest creditor, but normalized relations with the U.S. could open the door to game-changing moves between Havana and Washington.” I mention the China connection only because it’s interesting. Make of it what you will. (The Time article is here.)

January 20, 2015

Countering the State of the Union Address

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address tonight. As has become customary, the Republican Party—or should I say the Republic Party, to mirror the standard slur against Democrats from the party of the rich and the clueless—will be given the opportunity to dispute everything the President has to say. Whereas in recent years there was a single Republican response, there have lately been several, reflecting the full diversity of the Loyal Opposition—wacky, demented, and stark-raving bonkers. Wacky is represented this year by freshman Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst, who will, not doubt, be taking her symbolic knife to the President’s symbolic private parts. (See Steve Benen’s comments on the MaddowBlog.)

Why do the Republicans get the chance to dispute the President’s message on national television anyway? The Constitution requires that the Chief Executive report to the country on the state of the Union, but it says nothing of giving equal time to dissenting opinions. Republicans may be interviewed after a presidential news conference, but opposing politicians are not given free air time to say anything they choose. And why don’t other parties get to make a national address cutting into our prime-time viewing? Where is the Green Party response? The Communist Party response? 


Actually, the Greens are planning their own response on the Web. I don’t think the Communists are planning anything similar, but it seems they may simply be satisfied with what the President has to say. (See their current action items here.)

If the Republicans or any other party wants to address the nation after the President’s speech, I think they should buy time. Isn’t that the free enterprise way?

Of course, Republicans have a particular need to respond quickly to President Obama. Unless they are immediately told that what he says is wrongheaded, grassroots Republicans might be swayed by Mr. Obama’s logic and rhetoric. Since most of the party base will be watching Fox News, this is a minor concern, but some people may have simply kept the television on the channel of whatever program they were watching before the State of the Union address. That channel might not have been Fox News.

January 12, 2015

The Missionary Society (Again)

The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs released “Report to the Church 2015” on January 9. The press release announcing the new publication described the 200-page Adobe Flash document as “an innovative online magazine detailing the mission and ministry, accomplishments and achievements of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society during the current triennium.”

The Report

“Report” contains text, graphics, and a good deal of video, and its production was clearly a major project. Its size is daunting, particularly since it contains neither table of contents nor index. Moreover, readers may find the format inconvenient. (One cannot easily copy text from the document, for example.) A PDF version can be downloaded from the menu bar above the page images, but be warned—the PDF file is about 77 MB in length.

The characterization of “Report” as a magazine is curious, as there is no indication that it is a periodical, and it contains none of the boilerplate one expects in a magazine. There is no publication date and no indication of authorship. There is not even a title page! Perhaps the intention is to produce such a report every three years six months or so before the General Convention meets.

A bit more than half of “Report” is organized around the Five Marks of Mission. The remainder of the document is an appendix that lists activities by diocese. The casual observer might imagine that “Report” is a summary of Episcopal Church accomplishments in the current triennial, a feel-good piece in an age of cynicism, declining membership, and fiscal retrenchment. It is nothing of the sort.

“Report to the Church 2015” is actually 200-page advertisement for the church’s administrative bureaucracy, an advertisement that the Office of Public Affirs generously notes “can be downloaded at no charge.” (“815” has increasingly become the target of deputy dissatisfaction, not least because of the apparent incompetence attending the adoption of a budget at the last two General Conventions.) The response of management has been to cloak the Episcopal Church Center in the mantle of the Five Marks of Mission and to style the bureaucracy as the “Missionary Society.”

In the aforementioned press release, Chief Operating Officer Stacy Sauls is quoted as saying
We’re in the midst of trying to create a change in the culture of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society—toward being a service organization supporting and contributing to mission at the local level and away from being a regulatory agency.
The “regulatory agency” charge is something of a bum rap, but it captures the perception of many and is not without some justification. It is certainly true that the churchwide administration was much less helpful than it might have been when the Diocese of Pittsburgh was being undermined by its subsequently deposed bishop, Robert Duncan. Thus, I have my own dissatisfactions with 815. Nonetheless, there are churchwide functions that need to be performed, and they are frequently under-appreciated. (The Rev. Nathaniel W. Pierce’s recent essay on Episcopal Café, “What is the job description of the Church Center?” provides useful perspective.)

No doubt, the move toward a more deliberately service-oriented churchwide administration has resulted in part from a defensive concern for self-preservation. I believe the change is real, however, and should be welcomed. Its effectiveness, though, at least for the moment, is an open question.

The Missionary Society

What is upsetting about “Report”—aside from the contemplation of how much it must have cost to produce—is the use of the term “Missionary Society.” That name began cropping up about a year and a half ago. I wrote about this phenomenon in “The Missionary Society” in October 2013, an essay I strongly recommend you read before proceeding. (I will offer some essentials from that post here.) When I wrote “The Missionary Society,” it was clear that something was being re-branded, though it was not clear just what. I thought that perhaps an attempt was being made to re-brand the church itself, taking advantage of the popular buzzwords “mission,” “missional,” and “missionary.” At Pittsburgh’s annual convention that November, Anne Rudig, who had been designated as Pittsburgh’s primary contact person at the Episcopal Church Center, declared, “I work for the Missionary Society of the Episcopal Church.” (See “Observations on the Diocesan Convention (Part 2).”) It should have been clear that it was the administrative bureaucracy of The Episcopal Church—“815,” if you will—that was beginning to be referred to as the Missionary Society.

Now for some of the promised background. In its early days, The Episcopal Church was struggling to figure out how to extend into newly settled areas of the country and to pursue missionary efforts abroad. In 1821, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (DFMS) was created for the purpose. Initially, the DFMS was financed by subscription. It was eventually incorporated in the State of New York and, by canon, included all Episcopalians as members and was governed by Executive Council. Since neither the General Convention nor The Episcopal Church is incorporated, the DFMS has served as a kind of holding company that exists solely to conduct the financial affairs of the church. (Additional details of the convoluted history of the DFMS are to be had in my post “The Missionary Society,” cited above.)

Two points need to be understood. First, had the General Convention (or perhaps The Episcopal Church) been incorporated, we would have no need of the DFMS today. Second, it was recognized long before the present day that all Episcopalians share in the project of gospel mission and were therefore incorporated into the DFMS by canon.

Let me now return to “Report” On page 5, under the heading “WHAT IS the MISSIONARY SOCIETY?,” we find the following:
The Missionary Society is the people—the Presiding Bishop and staff members—who serve The Episcopal Church by working to support, equip, and empower all Episcopalians engaged in mission and ministry at a local level, wherever that may be, around the world.

The Missionary Society explains both the content of our work and the values that drive it. The Missionary Society communicates that the Church exists for the purpose of mission, and that the staff exists to support and serve Episcopalians engaged in mission locally and around the world.
The terms “Missionary Society,” “Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society,” and “Episcopal Church” all occur with some frequency in “Report,” and one suspects that any conflation of these terms is not totally unintentional. In particular, Bishops Sauls and Jefferts Schori seem intent on subtly taking advantage of the existence of the DFMS to re-brand 815 as the Missionary Society. (Workers at the Episcopal Church Center are paid from a DFMS account, of course, so it is not much of a stretch to say, as Anne Rudig did, that they work for the Missionary Society.)

This change in nomenclature evolved by degrees (or was rolled out by degrees, rather like the boiling of the mythical frog in the slowly warmed saucepan). The Missionary Society was first described as a program or strategy. For example, in September 2013, the page on the Episcopal Church Web site labeled “The Missionary Society” contained this paragraph (see capture in the Internet Archive here):
The Missionary Society is a strategy [emphasis added] for achieving our common purpose, building partnerships throughout the Church to engage God’s mission to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
That same paragraph—see page here—now reads
The Missionary Society refers to the staff serving The Episcopal Church worldwide. It works to achieve our common purpose, building partnerships throughout the Church to engage God’s mission to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
There are several thing wrong with the above description of the Missionary Society. First, if the term is meant simply to be a cooler name for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, it rather misses the mark. The Executive Council, which acts as the board for the DFMS is not church staff, but seems excluded from the definition of the Missionary Society. Moreover, if a simple renaming is taking place, it is simply wrong. Ordinary Episcopalians are members of the DFMS but are not mention on The Missionary Society page of the church Web site. Staff members who are not Episcopalians—surely there are some—are clearly not members of the Missionary Society if the society is equated with the DFMS.

A more serious issue is the fact that the church administration is pursuing an advertising campaign intended to create goodwill for itself and, I suspect, keep the Episcopal Church Center in New York City, where many think its operation is too expensive and too insular. The new message from 815 is “We’re the Missionary Society, and we’re here to help.” I am willing to grant that there is indeed a new commitment to supporting those of us in the hinterlands, but calling churchwide staff the Missionary Society detracts from the from the missionary intentions and competencies of provinces, diocese, and parishes. In fact, some would argue that one of the problems with 815 is that it is too much its own society; calling it the Missionary Society isn’t very helpful here. In the effort to reimagine The Episcopal Church, many Episcopalians are looking for more decentralization. The notion of the Missionary Society, however, seems to concentrate wisdom and competence regarding mission in New York City.

On page 73 of “Report,” one finds a sentence that exhibits what is profoundly wrong with the message being sent: “We’re eager to hear your ideas and to count you as a partner of the
Missionary Society.” In other words, the Missionary Society is on top of things, and we’d like to have you come along.

It is time to find another name for the Episcopal Church Center—why not “Episcopal Church Center,” by the way?—other than the defective “Missionary Society.”

Finally, I must mention that the Task Force on Reimagining The Episcopal Church (TREC), in its final report, proposes to amend the canon defining the DFMS. As best as I can tell, TREC has not bought into the Missionary Society thing, but its proposed revision to Canon I.3 contains at least two surprises. First, it renames the DFMS, eliminating “of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.” I can get only so excited about this, though the change hardly seems necessary. More significantly, however, the proposal (Resolution A009) eliminates the provision that all members of the church are members of the DFMS. In fact, Resolution A009 indicates who the officers of the DFMS are, but fails to say who the non-officers are. This seems a mindless oversight, but it plays into the program to glorify the churchwide staff. Like much of the final TREC report, Resolution A009 would benefit from more discussion and clear thinking.

Manhunt?

In recent days, I have repeatedly heard news organizations refer to the search for Hayat Boumeddiene, as a “manhunt.” Boumeddiene, of course, is the woman associated with the gunmen who terrorized Paris last week.

Apparently, law enforcement does not yet have a gender-neutral equivalent of “manhunt” or even a feminine analogue. Should we be using “womanhunt,” “personhunt,” or “humanhunt”? Stay tuned while the language catches up.

Hayat Boumeddiene
Hayat Boumeddiene