December 23, 2007

Welcome to my church...

The Episcopal Church has been much in the news in the past few years, but it is difficult to be thankful for all the publicity. Whereas, historically, The Episcopal Church has been notable for its ability to accommodate diverse points of view, even on important matters of theology, one could easily get the impression from reading the New York Times or the Washington Post that we are an especially contentious lot. Well, perhaps, we’ve always been that, but we have usually stayed together in spite of our passions.

The prospects for staying together in my own diocese, the Diocese of Pittsburgh, however, are not good. Our bishop, the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, has made it clear that he wants to remove the entire diocese from what he sees as a heretical church. That isn’t going to happen, of course, if only because many Pittsburgh Episcopalians are quite happy with our church, if not with our angry bishop and his angry followers.

Thinking that people in our diocese needed to hear from local Episcopalians who are content to be in The Episcopal Church, an ad campaign called “Welcome to my church...” was launched in October. The ads, which have appeared in the weekly church sections of three newspapers in Southwestern Pennsylvania, each picture an Episcopalian talking about his or her church and what it means to him or her personally. Each ad features a different church. There have been seven such ads so far, and more are on the way.

Here is sample. This one features my own church, St. Paul’s, in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania:

Welcome to my church... ad
A new Web site has just been unveiled that shows all the ads and, in addition, contains links to information about The Episcopal Church. You can click here to have a look. Perhaps a similar campaign could build goodwill for The Episcopal Church in your diocese.

December 12, 2007


The big news in The Episcopal Church (and, I suppose, in the Anglican Communion) is the Diocese of San Joaquin’s alleged “realignment” to become a diocese of the province of the Southern Cone. This was engineered by the diocesan bishop, the Rt. Rev. John-David M. Schofield, SSC, though not without with a good deal of arm-twisting within the diocese and conspiring with other “orthodox” bishops bent on schism and empire-building outside it.

The ugly events in Fresno this past weekend inspired me to write one of my occasional limericks today. I reproduce “Schism” below. For an illustrated and annotated version, click here to read and read about the poem in the poetry section of Lionel Deimel’s Farrago.
by Lionel Deimel

There once was a bish in the valley

Who asked his convention to tally

Its votes to secede

That would make his church bleed

Causing right-wing schismatics to rally.

Of course, I don’t think my modest effort here can compare to the new hymn composed by Susan Russell, “Come, Thou long expected Schism.” I’m not sure what tune Susan had in mind, but the Charles Wesley hymn “Come, thou long expected Jesus” is paired in Hymnal 1982 with Stuttgart. Appropriately, Wesley’s is an Advent hymn, as is Susan’s, in a manner of speaking.

December 10, 2007

Quick Monday Morning Thoughts

In light of the Diocese of San Joaquin’s reputed transfer from The Episcopal Church to the Southern Cone this past weekend, I find myself wanting to write long essays on a variety of related subjects. Since I do not have time to do that just now, permit me to offer a few quick takes on the situation.

First, I am wondering why Bishop Schofield has not yet been charged with abandoning the communion of The Episcopal Church under Canon 9 of Title IV. Surely, this time, no one can argue that an abandonment charge is being misused. This is exactly the sort of circumstance for which it was designed. (The charge would be brought against Schofield, of course, for his actually leaving, not for his fomenting schism, which, though an appropriate allegation under Canon 9, is a rather more abstract one.) The Presiding Bishop warned that an abandonment charge would be the result of Schofield’s following through with his plans. It is time for +Katharine to act. In fact, it is long past the prudent time to act.

An interesting question that has been bandied about on several blogs (on Preludium, for example) is the status of the now Bishop-elect of South Carolina, Mark Lawrence. Lawrence has been canonically resident in San Joaquin, and Bishop Schofield has declared that all clergy in the diocese are in the Southern Cone. He did, however, give them the option of staying in The Episcopal Church or taking time to think about it. Perhaps Lawrence’s canonical residence is in ecclesiastical limbo at the moment, but I would argue that he should immediately declare what province of the Anglican Communion he wants to be in. He cannot be in the Southern Cone and be consecrated Bishop of South Carolina.

What really set me off this morning, was an item on The “Lead”:
“Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has not in any way endorsed the actions of the Primate of the Southern Cone, Bishop Gregory Venables, in his welcoming of dioceses, such as San Joaquin in the Episcopal Church, to become part of his province in South America,” a spokesman for the Anglican Communion said.
Such a courageous declaration! The Archbishop is clearly more interested in evading personal responsibility for the current mess than he is in preserving anything that looks like order in the Anglican Communion, which has become an ecclesiastical Wild West under his “leadership.”

The big question, from my own vantage point in Pittsburgh, of course, is whether we are seeing the future of our my diocese unfolding in California. I hope not.

December 8, 2007

Now what?

This weekend, I watched the convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin on Anglican TV, as, with some jubilation, it changed its constitution and canons and declared itself free of The Episcopal Church. At the same time, the diocese declared that it had joined the Southern Cone, a small, South American province of the Anglican Communion. Now what?

The ENS story on the convention repeated the now-familiar message:
If Schofield is considered to have abandoned the communion of the church, he would have two months to recant his position. Failing to do so, the matter would be referred to the full House of Bishops. If the House were to concur, the Presiding Bishop would depose the bishops and declare the episcopates of those dioceses vacant. [There seems to be a lapse in editing here, as the story is supposed about only the Diocese of San Joaquin.] Those remaining in the Episcopal Church would be gathered to organize a new diocesan convention and elect a replacement Standing Committee, if necessary.

An assisting bishop would be appointed to provide episcopal ministry until a new diocesan bishop search process could be initiated and a new bishop elected and consecrated.

A lawsuit would be filed against the departed leadership and a representative sample of departing congregations if they attempted to retain Episcopal Church property.
This all sounds so cleverly well thought-out and straightforward, but is it really?

Consider Step 1: if someone thinks Bishop Schofield has abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church—am I the only person who concluded hours ago, without an iota of doubt, that this has certainly happened now, if not years go?—charges could be brought against the bishop and, if the three senior bishops of the church and the Presiding Bishop agree on the matter, Schofield could be inhibited, which prevents him from performing episcopal acts, such as confirmations, but does not prevent him from administrative actions, such as moving trust funds offshore. Inhibition is not necessary for the House of Bishops to consider whether Schofield is guilty as charged, and one might ask if it really even does any good. If charges are pressed, the church is likely to hear from the likes of Archbishops Venables, Akinola, et al., and their words are likely to be—how shall I put it?—unkind. Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury can be relied upon to make another of his now-famous ill-conceived statements guaranteed, likely inadvertently, to make the situation markedly worse.

And Bishop John-David Schofield will, I assure you, say that he is beyond the reach of the discipline of The Episcopal Church because he is a bishop in good standing in the province of the Southern Cone. He is not going to pay the slightest attention to the Presiding Bishop, Title IV Review Committee, or any vote of the House of Bishops.

The Episcopal Church has only one recourse: sue. It will, and the case will likely drag on for a long time. The outcome, irrespective of which side is in the right—I have no doubt that The Episcopal Church is right here—will, for years, perhaps, be in doubt. The publicity will not be especially good for evangelism.

Step 2 is interesting: organize a new diocesan convention to reconstitute a Standing Committee. (The Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin will, presumably, be running the diocese that continues to be headed by Bishop Schofield.) In this step, the church will be winging it, constitutionally speaking. By organizing a new convention, will the church be admitting that the diocese has (or, even, could) leave the church? Under whose rules will the convention operate: under those of the departed diocese or under some other rules? The church must argue, I think, that the real Diocese of San Joaquin has been hijacked and must, somehow, be returned to its rightful stewards. Meanwhile, we are likely to have what might best be described as “Dueling Dioceses of San Joaquin.”

Step 3, appointing an assisting bishop, presumably with the concurrence of the newly constituted Standing Committee, should be easy enough, but the appointed bishop seems unlikely to have much of a flock. The convention votes were, to put it delicately, overwhelming.

Step 4, suing, as noted above, should probably be Step 1 or, to provide more rationale for the action, Step 2.

The question that must be asked is why has the church not acted against Bishop Schofield before now. Charges against the bishop, before today, could not so easily have been ignored. Of course, abandonment of the communion charges were brought against Schofield last year and were dismissed. A presentment could have been brought against the bishop, which, though it involves rather messier procedures, also allows greater latitude in the charges. In any case, The Episcopal Church has a bigger mess to clean up today than it did yesterday.

Of course, I am especially interested in the situation in San Joaquin, as the Diocese of Pittsburgh is planning to do exactly as San Joaquin has done. The Presiding Bishop threatened Bishop Duncan—as, in fact, she did Bishop Schofield—about moving forward with constitutional changes just before the 2007 diocesan convention. He was unmoved, and the diocese, on November 2, did what Duncan asked it to do. It is now December 8, and the Presiding Bishop has not acted. Is the church going to wait until Pittsburgh follows San Joaquin into the South American sunset?