November 27, 2006

Three Parents?

Holy Baptism was celebrated at my church yesterday. Before the service, I checked the bulletin to find out who was being baptized. Here is what I read:
Elizabeth Bahia Steiffert, daughter of Julie & Patrick Seiffert and Steven L. Fong.
I puzzled over this for some time, trying to figure out how Elizabeth Bahia Steiffert could be the daughter of three people, two of them male. Eventually, I realized that a comma had been omitted before the final “and,” which I might have suspected earlier had I read the preceding line:
St. Paul’s welcomes its newest members to the Church:
This would have suggested that at least two people were being baptized. Also, the use of both the ampersand—a surprise in this relatively formal context—and the conjunction “and” suggested that Julie and Partrick were related more closely to one another than either was to Steven. How did I know that Steven was not the sperm donor for Elizabeth, however? (We live in a complex age.)

I thought the error was rather idiosyncratic, but some have suggested that such errors are quite common. The error, of course, is the failure to include the second comma setting off a non-restrictive element. In this case, the non-restrictive element is the appositive “daughter of Julie & Patrick Seiffert.” By not indicating where the appositive ends, the sentence invites misreading. (See How to Use Commas for more examples.)

In general, commas highlight sentence structure and prevent misreading. Unfortunately, writers are becoming increasingly parsimonious in their use of commas, and even The New Yorker allows the omission of a comma after an introductory phrase. When commas become optional, the reader can no longer rely on them to be reliable beacons of sentence structure. Instead, the lack of a comma where one might be expected could mean that there is no reason for a comma, but it could also mean that the writer simply chose not to use one.

Uncertain expectations regarding commas have even confused me when proofreading my own writing. My last post includes the following sentence:
For whatever reason the church failed to react to these constitutional changes, the failure was, I believe, a serious mistake, both tactically and canonically.
The sentence is punctuated correctly, but, in reviewing it—I was concentrating on mechanics and perhaps not paying sufficient attention to meaning—when I came to “reason,” I asked myself if I had left out a comma. Acting as copyeditor, of course, I was being a particularly suspicious reader, but, encountering the same sentence from a different writer, my general lack of confidence in others’ use of commas also would have disturbed the flow of my reading.

Proper comma use is not invariably needed to avoid ambiguity or to provent a sentence from leading the reader down the garden path, but it sometimes is, and writers do not invariably recognize the misreadings it is within their power to prevent. Using commas properly all the time, without consideration of when the rule “doesn’t matter” would be a great blessing for readers. Because inconsistent comma use requires exceptionally vigilant readers, we are all doing extra work becasue writers are lazy.

November 25, 2006

Unqualified Accession

A recent story from The Living Church began with the following news:
On the eve of Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s investiture as the 26th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, her chancellor, David Booth Beers, has written identical letters to the chancellors of two traditionalist dioceses demanding that they change language “that can be read as cutting against an ‘unqualified accession’ to the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church.”
The two dioceses referred to are Fort Worth and Quincy. Two other dioceses in similar situations, Pittsburgh and San Joaquin, apparently did not receive letters. What these “problem dioceses” have in common is that they have removed provisions from their constitutions acceding to the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church, a requirement the constitution has always imposed on new dioceses. The current wording of this requirement is as follows (taken from Article V, Section 1 of the church’s constitution):
After consent of the General Convention, when a certified copy of the duly adopted Constitution of the new Diocese, including an unqualified accession [emphasis added] to the Constitution and Canons of this Church, shall have been filed with the Secretary of the General Convention and approved by the Executive Council of this Church, such new Diocese shall thereupon be in union with the General Convention.
In contrast, and by way of example, the recently amended constitution of the Diocese of Pittsburgh reads as follows (Article I, Section 1):
The Church in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, being a constituent part of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, accedes to, recognizes, and adopts the Constitution and Canons of that Church, and acknowledges its authority accordingly. In cases where the provisions of the Constitution and Canons of the Church in the Diocese of Pittsburgh speak to the contrary, or where resolutions of the Convention of said Diocese have determined the Constitution and Canons of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, or resolutions of its General Convention, to be contrary to the historic Faith and Order of the one holy catholic and apostolic church, the local determination shall prevail.
Ironically, the Pittsburgh wording captures both the spirit of what the church’s constitution requires and illustrates that this particular diocese now accepts the constitution and canons with its fingers crossed behind its back.

The story from The Living Church invites two obvious questions: On what basis did the four dioceses think they could get away with what they did? and Why did The Episcopal Church take so long to object to the constitutional changes? The second question is the more perplexing, but I believe that I can offer some helpful thoughts on both.

How might a diocese rationalize a right to abrogate its accession to the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church? There is little wiggle room here. The constitutional requirement of accession, unchanged in substance since 1785, is clearly intended to make the General Convention the supreme authority of the church. (One cannot prevent individuals from exercising a right of dissent based on their personal theological beliefs, of course, but individual opinion cannot be given a veto over institutional decisions. Dissenting individuals must take the consequences of exercising their conscience against duly constituted covenants, whether they be being overruled or being subject to disciplinary action. No one, on the other hand, can be held in The Episcopal Church against his or her will, so leaving is always an option.) It would make no sense to require unqualified accession of a diocese if, once admitted to the church, the diocese could renounce its accession, as, indeed, the four errant dioceses have now done. This being the case, advocates of the right to qualify accession must do so on narrowly legalistic grounds. Virtually the only argument available to them is that neither the constitution nor the canons of The Episcopal Church contain an explicit prohibition of such a move.

One suspects—and the Living Church story certainly implies—that the church’s apparent change in attitude on this matter is related to differences in disposition between Frank Griswold and Katharine Jefferts Schori, the previous and current Presiding Bishop, respectively. In the past, however, action against dioceses that have altered their constitutions may also have been inhibited by the view that abrogating accession, whether lawful or not, was harmless, in itself, until such time as a diocese used its abrogation as justification for some overt act contrary to the church’s constitution or canons. For whatever reason the church failed to react to these constitutional changes, the failure was, I believe, a serious mistake, both tactically and canonically. That the Diocese of Fort Worth was not challenged when it first changed its constitution in 1997 has only encouraged other traditionalist dioceses to make similar changes. I believe that the changes are themselves canonically prohibited and that the advocacy of them is an intrinsically schismatic and presentable offense.

Consider the nature of accession. To accede to is to agree to or consent to. The term has a strong connotation of subordinating one’s will to that of another, and it sometimes suggests that this is not done willingly (consider the common phrases “accede to the terms” or “accede to the demands”). This is clearly what is being communicated in the church’s constitution, namely, that, in all matters, it is the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church that govern in cases where there might be conflict with the desires of an individual diocese. This is made especially clear in the current formulation of “unqualified accession,” although it can be argued that anything short of unqualified accession is not accession at all. Certainly, the weaselly wording in Pittsburgh’s present constitution would (and should) be unacceptable to the General Convention if presented in a proposed constitution for a new diocese.

Let us now suppose that a diocese has a constitution that accedes to the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church, presumably the understanding of both the diocese and the General Convention when the diocese first became part of the church. Can the diocese remove or weaken its accession, on the basis that there is no explicit canonical prohibition against doing so? Surely not, and a detailed analysis of the constitution of the diocese is not needed to establish the fact. For such a change to be lawful, it would need to be permitted—or at least not prohibited—by the diocesan constitution. For this to be the case, the constitution would have had to have reserved for the diocese the right to make such a change, meaning that it did not make an unqualified accession to the church’s constitution and canons. But everyone agreed that it did, so our supposition that the change is allowed—a supposition that leads to a false conclusion—must itself be false.

If qualifying accession in a diocesan constitution is intrinsically unlawful, then the action of a diocese that claims to have done so is, in principle, null and void. Like any law, however, the logical constitutional restriction is meaningless unless there is some mechanism by which it can be enforced. If the diocesan convention has made an illegal change to the constitution, the diocesan bishop merely has to declare it invalid. In most cases, that will end the matter. The situation is troublesome in the more likely case that the bishop has supported, encouraged, or initiated the amendment process, however. In this case, the bishop could be presented and, eventually, deposed for (1) violating the diocesan constitution, an offense under Canon IV.1(f), and (2) for violating his or her ordination vows “to conform to the doctrine, discipline [emphasis added], and worship of the Episcopal Church” (BCP, p. 513), an offense under Canon IV.1(h). Evidence addressing intent would likely strengthen the latter cause of action, since the constitutional change was probably undertaken to facilitate some more radical assault on church polity, rather than for an abstract concern for diocesan independence.

Were a diocese actually to use the change it claims to have made to its constitution to circumvent the canon law of The Episcopal Church, the additional charge of violating directly the constitution or canons of the General Convention could be asserted under Canon IV.1(e).

Alas, removing a bishop of a diocese that has amended its constitution to weaken accession would not immediately remove the schismatic threat to the church posed by that diocese, since not only the bishop, but also a substantial portion of the diocesan leadership must have been complicit in the actions that resulted in the trial and conviction of the bishop and in the wider plan to subvert church polity. (The disciplining of priests who voted to change the diocesan constitution is a diocesan responsibility, unlike the disciplining of bishops, so that they are not so easily requited for their actions by their own diocese.) Deposing the bishop would be a necessary start toward restoring order to the diocese, however, and, although it might take years to accomplish the task, the revolt of such a diocese could almost certainly be put down, leaving the diocese in the hands of Episcopalians actually committed to the church’s doctrine, discipline, and worship.

In summary, I believe that amendments to diocesan constitutions to qualify their accession clauses are intrinsically unconstitutional and, even ignoring the transparent plans of the bishops of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes to subvert the polity of The Episcopal Church, the bishops of the dioceses of Fort Worth, Quincy, Pittsburgh, and San Joaquin could be presented, found guilty, and deposed at any time for the constitutional changes they have effected alone. Given the conspiracy against Episcopal Church polity of which these bishops are major instigators, I believe that they should be.

POSTSCRIPT: The foregoing takes what I think is a strict-constructionist view of the church’s canon law. Other paths of argumentation are possible that are not necessarily incompatible with my own. The long-term problem of dealing with a rogue diocese is, I think, problematic, as it is unclear—to me, at least—what the church can do absent action by the General Convention. Also, a bishop could be removed using Canon IV.9, although this is controversial. Anyway, the interested reader should read the thoughts of Mark Harris (here and here) and of Father Jake. Particularly obsessive readers may also want to read two briefing papers prepared by Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh in 2003, when the diocese first considered changing its constitution. The papers may be read here and here.

According to an ENS story, on June 14, 2007, the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church “passed Resolution NAC023, reminding dioceses that they are required to ‘accede’ to the Constitution and Canons, and declaring that any diocesan action that removes that accession from its constitution is ‘null and void.’” The dioceses of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, and Quincy were cited explicitly in the resolution as having made such changes. ENS later reported on reactions to the resolution.

October 31, 2006

What Does the Diocese of Pittsburgh Really Want?

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh holds its annual convention this Friday and Saturday, November 3 and 4. The main business of the convention this year will be dealing with a resolution approved by the standing committee and Bishop Duncan on June 28, 2006. Among other things, that resolution appealed “to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates of the Anglican Communion, and the Panel of Reference for immediate alternative Primatial oversight and pastoral care.” The diocesan convention is being asked to declare that it “accepts ... the resolution adopted by the Bishop and Standing Committee on June 28, 2006, as its own resolution.”

Of course, the original resolution is schismatic, and asks for an unconstitutional dispensation that none of the persons to whom it is addressed is empowered to grant. This being the Diocese of Pittsburgh, led by the moderator of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, such trivialities will not stand in the way of a little (or, I suppose, a good deal of) episcopal grandstanding. There are other problems here, however.

The first problem, though perhaps not the more important one, is semantic. What does it mean to make your own a document that says, for example, “the Bishop and Standing Committee believe it is necessary for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh to disassociate itself from those actions of the 75th General Convention”? Should the convention interrogate the bishop and standing committee members, so that the body can conscientiously attest to what they sincerely believe. Actually, it might be interesting to do so in order to learn if they indeed “recognize that the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church has elected to walk apart from the Anglican Communion” or whether they are just looking for an excuse to, once again, trash their current church home. Why does the resolution before the Pittsburgh convention not ask the convention to make its own declaration of what it believes?

The bigger problem is that the resolution that the diocesan convention will rubber stamp this Friday asks for alternative primatial oversight. (The actual resolution to be voted on incorporates the earlier resolution. Whoever put this together has read Robert's Rules rather too often.) Alternative primatial oversight is what the leadership of the Pittsburgh and several other dicoeses requested as an immediate reaction to the 75th General Convention. The Archbishop of Canterbury was apparently not pleased with receiving multiple requests from Network bishops—one must suspect that he was not pleased with receiving any requests at all—so he asked that the requests be consolidated. Because not all dioceses had asked for the same thing, the replacement combined request did not correspond exactly to what was asked for previously. In particular, although Pittsburgh had asked for “alternative Primatial oversight,” the combined request asked for the appointment of a “Communion Commissary.” (The Bishop of London sent representatives called commissaries to the Colonies in pre-revolutionary times. The colonists actually wanted bishops, however.) That request was dated July 20, well in advance of this week’s convention.

So, what does Pittsburgh actually want? Why is the convention being asked to endorse a request that essentially has been withdrawn, rather that supporting a request that is actually on the table? Is the Bishop of Pittsburgh just trying to confuse matters? Did no one have the energy to draw up a new resolution? Are we asking for two things, in hopes that we will get one or the other? Who knows?

One thing is clear: the militant traditionalists who are disrupting The Episcopal Church have consistently made outrageous requests, so that they can claim to be persecuted when those requests are not granted. Aren’t two outrageous requests better than one?


As has been its custom, Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) has prepared briefing papers on issues related to the diocesan convention. Papers on the resolution discussed above and on the proposed budget, along with diocesan documents such as the pre-convention journal, can be found on the PEP Web site. The briefing papers “Being Episcopalian and Anglican” and “Alternative Primatial Oversight is Unnecessary and Unconstitutional” are of particular relevance to the matters discussed above.

October 25, 2006

What, Me Worry?

The message the Bush administration wanted to send yesterday was that the Republican Party is not going to lose control of either the House or the Senate in next month’s elections. The President expressed this view with his confident, Alfred E. Neuman smile, and a similar message was being put out by his underlings and handlers. This, in spite of negative polls and a constant string of news items unfavorable to the administration and the Republican Party. Of course, the President may be right. American voters have embarrassed many a pollster over the years, but the Democrats seemingly have their best opportunity in years to regain national influence.

Putting on a happy face when the news is bad, of course, is a well-established political tradition. More distressing was another message coming from the Bush administration, namely that the White House is so confident that Republicans will retain control of Congress that no plans are being made to deal with a divided government. This is not a surprise, of course. The administration likewise had no plans to deal with Iraq when our soldiers were not greeted as liberators. Apparently, contingency planning just isn’t a Republican thing.

October 7, 2006

Trying Too Hard II

In a recent post, I commented on pronunciations that appear to be the product of well-meaning ignorance. I though I had found another example of this phenomenon in “columnist.” I pronounce this word kol-e-mist, but I frequently hear it pronounced kol-em-nist. I was surprised when I looked up the word in the dictionary. The preferred pronunciation (first-listed, anyway) is kol-em-nist. My surprise caused me to consult several dictionaries, always with the same result. This is very curious. No dictionary suggests that that the “n” in “column” is ever pronounced, so why should it suddenly be voiced when a suffix meaning “one who makes or produces a particular thing” is tacked on to it? (The word “column” comes from the Latin columna, by the way. The “n” lost its vowel along the way, and is therefore not voiced.)

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “columnist” is a relatively new word, appearing first in the U.S. in the 1920s. The first example of its use given in the OED actually uses the spelling “colyumist.” (“Colyum” is listed as a “jocular spelling” of “column.”) A second example uses the conventional spelling. Just as suffixing a contraction of “not” to the word “did” should not be expected to change the initial sound of the resulting word, it is a surprise that this expectation is often not realized when “ist” is suffixed to “column.” My suspicion is that the spelling “columnist” is simply too suggestive, making the pronunciation kol-em-nist more common than kol-e-mist, even if it is less logical.

September 29, 2006

Eat How?

I heard a phrase in a television commercial today that one hears often. The phrase is “eat healthy,” presumably meaning eat lots of fruits and vegetables, avoid saturated fats, etc. Walking back to the kitchen to clean up the dinner dishes, however, it suddenly occurred to me that this is an odd phrase. A check of the dictionary confirmed my intuition. “Healthy” is an adjective and needs to modify something, as it does in a phrase like “healthy food.” If one is told to “eat healthy,” the obvious question to ask is “healthy what?” Of course, what is really meant is something like “eat in a manner that promotes good health.” Our phrase need an adverb, not an adjective. (I do hope that no one will try to convince me that “healthy” is—or ever can be—a noun.) In other words, we should say “eat healthily.” That doesn’t sound very idiomatic, of course. “Eat healthfully,” which can mean the same thing, sounds a bit more natural, though still a trifle strange. Perhaps if we used a gramatically correct phrase more often, however, it would not sound so odd.

September 23, 2006

Trying Too Hard

Have you noticed that some people’s scrupulous pronunciation gets them into trouble? Sometimes this appears to be the effect of wanting to articulate one’s speach so as to sound intelligent and to be clearly understood. There is a woman in Pittsburgh, for example, who appears in local commercials and whose speech always sounds stilted. She makes “school” into a two-syllable word: skoo-wul. I have also heard a number of young people lately use an odd pronunciation of “didn’t.” Rather than saying did-nt, they say did-dent, which, besides being wrong, is actually rather difficult to say. I’m not sure what’s going on here; contractions are supposed to leave out sounds, and this pronounciation seems to be adding them. “Didn’t” is a contraction for “did not,” so where does the other “d” come from? Then there is the unfortunate word “often.” Centuries ago, the “t” in this word was always pronounced. As part of a wider trend, however, the “t” was dropped. In recent times, presumably because people trust spelling more than they trust their ears, the “t” is being put back into “often,” so much so that some dictionaries consider this a standard, though not the preferred pronounciation. Curiously, some words have been imumune to this sort of misguided carefulness. No one puts a “t” in “listen,” for example. On the other hand, one regularly—and mistakenly— hears an “l” in words such as “calm” and “balk.” (See my essay on words containing a silent “l” in Language Notes.)

September 14, 2006

Update on New York Meeting

The bishops meeting in New York this week issued a joint statement Wednesday morning, September 13. The statement, as reported by Episcopal News Service, was brief and to the point. The key sentence is the following: “We could not come to consensus on a common plan to move forward to meet the needs of the dioceses that issued the appeal for Alternate Primatial Oversight.” Apparently, bishops loyal to their ordination vows held the line against the Network bishops.

I should note, by the way, that the list of likely attendees that I gave in my previous post was almost the same as the list of actual attendees. Only Bishop of Texas Don A. Wimberly did not attend. He, of course, is hosting his own meeting of “Windsor-compliant” bishops later this month.

A number of the bishops who participated in the meeting have commented on it. Readers can find those comments elsewhere; they offer little insight into what happened.

It is worth mentioning a statement by Network Moderator and Bishop of Pittsburgh Robert W. Duncan, as reported in a follow-up ENS story:
Describing the meeting as “honest,” Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, moderator of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (NACDAP), said it became clear that “the division in the American church is so great that we are incapable of addressing the divide which has two distinctly different groups both claiming to be the Episcopal Church.”
This is a curious statement. Technically, all the participating bishops are, at least for now, part of The Episcopal Church. The Network has sometimes claimed, however, as the Moderator seems to be doing here, that it represents the real Episcopal Church (and, of course, the General Convention, Presiding Bishop, and 90% or so of Episcopalians in the church do not). This is nonsense, and it is unfortunate that the ENS story did quote anyone directly disputing such a disengenuous remark.

September 11, 2006

Bishops Meeting Again

A small number of Episcopal bishops, including the Presiding Bishop and the Presiding Bishop-elect, are meeting for three days in New York City beginning today. The meeting, suggested by the Archbishop of Canterbury through his representative, the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, has been surrounded by mystery and circumspection. NPR had a brief report on the meeting this morning, but ENS has been silent about it since it published a letter from Presiding Bishop Griswold on August 22 clarifying his understanding of the nature of the meeting.

According to Bishop Griswold’s letter, because the Archbishop of Canterbury has no authority to interfere in the affairs of The Episcopal Church, he has urged the church to find a way to resolve the requests Network bishops have made for oversight of their dioceses effectively outside The Episcopal Church. (The consolidated request from the seven dioceses has only just become public and can be found, of all places, on the site of the Connecticut Six, who would benefit directly from the proposed arrangement.) Bishops Lee (Virginia) and Lipscomb (SW Florida) will serve as conveners for the meeting, and Canon Kearon will be present, representing Archbishop Williams. Presiding Bishop Griswold will be joined by Presiding Bishop-elect Jefferts Schori, as well as Bishops Wimberly (Texas), Henderson (Upper South Carolina), O’Neill (Colorado), and Sisk (New York). Of the bishops who have asked for “alternative primatial oversight” or something similar, Bishops Iker, Duncan, Salmon, and Stanton will also be present. (The NPR report spoke of “six bishops,” so one should not consider this list definitive.

What are we to make of this meeting?

To begin with, it is yet another meeting of bishops. (Canon Kearon represents the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is apparently unwilling to visit our shores.) Ever since the votes at the 2003 General Convention, only bishops seem meet to discuss the “crisis” in The Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion. It is high time that priests, deacons, and laypeople assert that bishops are not the church, particularly not The Episcopal Church. Whereas bishops have demonstrated considerable talent in fomenting discord in the Communion in recent years, they have shown little capacity for defusing it. The whole church met in General Convention in June, of course, but, even in that gathering, bishops exercised what many consider inappropriate and, perhaps, destructive, influence when relations with the Anglican Communion were being discussed.

This meeting can be seen as one between militant traditionalists, represented by Iker, Duncan, Salmon, and Stanton, and institutional representatives from The Episcopal Church. The matter at hand is the desire of the traditionalists to separate themselves from The Episcopal Church without having to pay a price for doing so. Bishops Griswold and Jefferts Schori, while usually described as “liberal,” are attending by virtue of their offices, although the Network bishops have made clear that they consider both bishops’ authority unacceptable because of their theology and understanding of the church. The remaining bishops may be meant to be, but can hardly be considered to actually be, representative of the breadth of opinion within the church. Where are the likes of Bishops Bruno, Chane, Mathes, or Robinson? This lack of balance is certainly cause for anxiety among loyal Episcopalians.

That this meeting is taking place at all is distressing—certainly that it is taking place at the behest of Archbishop Williams. Bishop Griswold began his explanation of the origin of the meeting as follows: “Shortly after the General Convention, Kenneth Kearon, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, shared with me some conversations he had had with the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding the whole notion of “alternative primatial oversight” and the difficulty in making a response.” What, we must ask, was the nature of Archbishop Williams’ difficulty? He has no authority over The Episcopal Church; the Presiding Bishop’s letter acknowledges that the archbishop knows this. Moreover, it is perfectly clear to anyone who might look at them—which may or may not include the archbishop—that the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church neither allow for the kind of isolation asked for by the Network bishops nor give the Presiding Bishop, the House of Bishops, the Executive Council, or anyone else the right to negotiate or grant such a radical arrangement. The response of Rowan Williams to the appeal of the Network bishops should not have been “I have difficulty deciding what to do” but “get a life!”

Leaving aside for the moment whether there is reason to talk, consider what the two “sides” want. The Episcopal Church wants its bishops and clergy to obey their ordination vows and to act within the established polity of the church. It expects bishops to participate in church governance, not to subvert it by perverting its canons, building their own organizational structures, and negotiating with other churches as though they represented an autonomous church without connection to The Episcopal Church. It expects toleration of divergent views, certainly those consistent with the parameters of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and the ongoing development of Anglican traditions in this church and elsewhere. It expects those who, for reasons of conscience, cannot support The Episcopal Church to have the integrity to renounce their authority within the church and to leave empty-handed, their reward being the conviction that they are following Christ to the best of their understanding. This is what other groups dissatisfied with The Episcopal Church have done in times past.

And what do Bishops Iker, Duncan, Salmon, Stanton, et al., want? Institutionally, these people want a church best described as neo-Puritan—narrow theologically, moralistic, ruled by bishops, and dedicated to the principle of sola scriptura. At a more practical level, the Network seeks (1) effectively to be free of The Episcopal Church, (2) to be, in its own right, a member of the Anglican Communion, and (3) to retain the property of parishes and dioceses of which its members are currently in effective control.

Short of simply throwing away the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, which is as immoral as it is illegal, where are the issues that could reasonably be subject to negotiation? Although loyal Episcopal bishops cannot, on their own authority, promise very much to the insurgents, they certainly can agree to try to convince the House of Bishops to act so as to enforce certain kinds of agreements. The bishops effected a moratorium on the consecration of new bishops prior to the 75th General Convention, for example, and appear to be committed to enforcing some continuing moratorium by virtue of resolution B033. The Network bishops could, therefore, be offered an agreement—one that would have to be sold to the House of Bishops—that they would not be presented by their colleagues for past misdeeds if they uphold church order in the future. The bishops cannot bind clergy and laypeople to such an agreement, however, and it is unclear that bishops could agree conscientiously not to move forward presentments not originating from bishops. Such an offer, and no other, should be made to Bishops Iker, Duncan, Salmon, and Stanton.

But where, you say, is the Christian charity in a position of such uncharacteristic resoluteness?

It is time, I think, to suspend the endless arguments about theology; they are largely beside the point. Although I find the theology articulated by the Network hateful, disingenuous, ignorant, and self-serving, that is not the point. Believing that the genius of Anglicanism subsists in its willing embrace of theological diversity, however, I would exclude it from Anglicanism only because of its categorical rejection of differing opinions and the authority of those who hold them. This posture recalls nothing so much as the ancient controversy known as Donatism, which no less orthodox a figure as Augustine of Hippo repeatedly and successfully denounced as heretical. Even this is not a reason to eschew discussion of accommodation, however, as one might, in principle, imagine the Network agreeing to be more tolerant without sacrificing its other theological positions.

The Episcopal Church should take a hard line against the insurgents not because they are “conservative,” “orthodox,” “Evangelical,” or whatever—not, in fact, because of their expressed theology at all. These bishops and all who follow them, particularly those in holy orders, must be treated harshly because of the way they behave—because they are willing to lie, cheat, and, ultimately, steal, to achieve their goal of an independent “pure” American church—a church whose assets will, largely, be furnished by “liberating” them from The Episcopal Church. This is appalling and unacceptable behavior. All who engage in it demonstrate that they are unfit for Christian ministry, and The Episcopal Church has every reason to purge itself of people who behave in such a manner before they do more damage to it.

I will offer a more detailed argument for this position at a later time, though many Episcopalians are perfectly capable to documenting the ways in which the Network has subverted the church, lied about its intentions, and recklessly misrepresented and violated our Constitution and Canons, to say nothing of the Ten Commandments. In fact, their appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury is reminiscent of the story of the boy who murders his parents, then pleads for mercy because he is an orphan. The Episcopal Church is being asked to resolve a crisis created by the Network (and its predecessors) in a way that gives the Network virtually everything it is seeking until such time as it can negotiate being given everything it is seeking. Balderdash! Extortion is extortion, and putting a veneer of religion over it does not make it a holy enterprise.

What do I actually expect from this meeting? Not much. For now, I will be happy if the non-Network bishops simply refrain from giving away the store. For many Episcopalians who want to get back to being the church but who are unwilling to trade our rich Episcopalian heritage for ecclesiastical peace, I pray that Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will prove to be a defender of The Episcopal Church when she becomes Presiding Bishop in November. She sacrificed a degree of prestige in urging passage of B033 at General Convention. She perhaps has an opportunity now to get some of it back. If not now, let us hope, then soon.

Meanwhile, all of the rest of us can do is to pray for the church.

September 8, 2006

Apply Directly to the Whatever

There has been a good deal of comment on the Web about the bizarre and cheesy TV commercial for the headache remedy HeadOn. Besides having production values that suggest that the ad might have been produced by a crew of not-quite-talented middle schoolers, the commercial consists only of the directions for use, repeated three times: “HeadOn—apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn—apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn—apply directly to the forehead.”

Once I recovered from my initial disgust over the HeadOn commercial, I thought about the pronounciation of the word “forehead,” both in the ad itself and in the commentaries on it. (See and listen to the commentary by Brian Unger from NPR, for example.) Everyone seems to pronounce the word as fore´hed these days. I was taught to pronounce the word as fawr´id (or perhaps for´id), however, and the dictionaries I have consulted agree, at least insofar as they list such pronounciations first.

I suspect that the pronounciation fore´hed has become so common because it is analogous to the pronounciation of a whole list of nouns beginning with “fore” that do not change the pronounciation of the element that follows it: forarm, forebrain, forecast, foredeck, forefinger, forefoot, foreground, foregut, forehand, foreleg, forelimb, forelock, foremilk, forename, forenoon, forepaw, foreplay, etc. All these words begin with the prefix “fore,” indicating before, front, or superior. A number of verbs begin with this prefix as well, though these words generally do not emphasize the first syllable: forebode, foreclose, forefeel, forego, forejudge, etc. (“Forecast” is an exception, but this word is also a noun that occurs in the previous list.)

A small number of nouns that begin with “fore,” in addition to “forehead,” do alter the pronounciation of what follows: foreland, foreman, and forecastle (!). In any case, whenever I hear the pronounciation fore´hed, I begin thinking of where one’s afthead must be.

September 6, 2006


I had to perform a hard reset of my Palm V yesterday My choice seemed to be to try a hard reset or to throw away the unit and buy a new one. The digitizer had gone banannas, and I could not access the menu to recalibrate it. But that’s another story. My Palm V seems to be working fine now.

While tapping from screen to screen to assure myself that the organizer had been fixed once I had synchronized it with Microsoft Outlook, I was reminded that I had a note called “favicon.ico” on it, a note intended to remind me that, someday, I wanted to add a favicon to my Web site. A favicon is a “favorites icon,” originally an icon associated with a Web page saved as a favorite in Internet Explorer. Different browsers now use favicons in various ways, and Internet Explorer seems to use them less extensively than do other browsers. Firefox, for example, displays the favicon next to a page’s URL and on a page’s tab, as well as showing it when bookmarks are displayed. You have almost certainly seen Google’s “G” favicon or Wikipedia’s “W.”

Anyway, when I first learned about favicons, they seemed difficult to construct, so I put the task aside for another day. Upon rediscovering my Palm V note, however, I went to Google and looked up “favicon.ico.” There, I quickly found a page called “FavIcons from Pics,” which promised to generate favicons from nearly any graphic. This seemed worth a try.

Of course, one reason I had not gotten too excited about creating my own favicon was that my Web site, Lionel Deimel’s Farrago, did not really have a logo. The offer of a free, easily generated favicon, however, got me thinking. It took me little time to get the idea of using existing graphic elements from my site to create an attractive icon. I took the backgroun for the page banners used on most pages, compressed it horizontally into a square, and superimposed a white “LD.” (I tried superimposing “Farrago” in red over the result, but this produced a design that was too busy and that would not reduce well to a 16x16-pixel graphic.) I saved the result, tried the free favicon generated, and liked the result.

All this is by way of saying that almost every page of my Web site is now changed, which I explain only because visitors may be perplexed that, on my Site Map page, almost all page dates are 9/6/2006. This seems a small price to pay for better “branding” for my Web site. If you have a Web site, why not try getting your own favicon?