February 28, 2007


I just heard a story on NPR’s “All Things Considered” about a resolution that has been introduced in the Arkansas legislature asserting that the singular possessive of “Arkansas” should be rendered as “Arkansas’s,” not “Arkansas’.” Apparently, the AP stylebook advises the use of “Arkansas’,” and the state’s largest newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is strongly in favor of that usage.

Whereas I’m sure that many will think the resolution introduced by Representative Steve Harrelson (D) is frivolous, I don’t. Not only is Representative Harrelson correct, but his resolution might encourage people think more deeply about the logic of grammatical rules concerning possessives. This may not fulfill a major purpose of the Arkansas legislature, but grammar rules need all the publicity they can get!

The AP apparently subscribes to the simpleminded rule that words ending in “s” form the singular possessive with the addition of a simple apostrophe. Most people would, in fact, write “in Jesus’ name” and would pronounce “Jesus’” in exactly the same way as they pronounce “Jesus.” However, some people would always—and other people would sometimes—add an extra sibilant syllable at the end of “Jesus,” which would, if spelling is to reflect pronunciation, cause the phrase to be rendered “in Jesus’s name.” Actually, I suspect that the AP rule is wrong at least as often as it is right. Would anyone really write “the boss’ daughter” and pronounce “boss’” as they pronounce “boss”? One could, I suppose, write the phrase this way and still say boss-es, but this suggests that the apostrophe itself can represent a syllable.

This, of course, is the problem with “Arkansas’.” In this case, however, there is not even a single sibilant at the end of the word to suggest any sort of plural or possessive. People pronounce the name of the state ahr-kuhn-saw, and they naturally pronounce the singular possessive ahr-kuhn-sawz. Surely, the extra sibilant cannot come from the apostrophe, which, after all, is a symbol that generally indicates that something has been left out, not that something invisible has been sneaked in! That sibilant must correspond to an actual “s.” Therefore, the only reasonable spelling is “Arkansas’s.”

I hope the resolution passes.

Anglican Ambiguity

I was reading Jim Naughton's latest blog post this morning and thinking about the communiqués we have come to expect from meetings of the Anglican primates. Jim and Kendall Harmon have been debating the meaning of the latest such document coming out of Tanzania. Tellingly, Kendall sees a “clear meaning” in the primates’ request regarding same-sex blessings, and Jim sees ambiguity, probably intended ambiguity. Jim would like to have the Archbishop of Canterbury clarify the intention of the document regarding the point in question. This likely won’t happen, and probably shouldn’t happen, since we have no reason to consider Rowan Williams’ opinion definitive, given that the communiqué was the product of a group process that reflected, however imperfectly, the intentions of dozens of people.

Most readers would have to admit that the primates’ communiqués of recent years have embodied a good deal of ambiguity overall. Putting aside for a moment the question of whether this is a good or a bad thing in the abstract, I suggest that ambiguity is inevitable as long as the primates insist on issuing a single, unanimous opinion at the conclusion of each of their meetings.

The pressure for unanimity must be enormous, given that our presiding bishops have signed the statements emanating from Lambeth, Dromantine, and Dar es Salaam, even though each statement was critical of the actions of The Episcopal Church. Given the devastating criticism and draconian demands that some primates have found in these missives, we must conclude either that our presiding bishops are spineless representatives of our church who are indifferent as to its future, or that they have been willing, at some level, to endorse the consensus of these meetings because they were able to read a more benign and acceptable message in their closing statements.

Of course, the nature of the “endorsement” implied by signing a Primates’ Meeting communiqué is itself ambiguous. I argued that Katharine Jefferts Schori should not have signed a communiqué “contrary to the interests of The Episcopal Church”—I believe the latest communiqué should be so characterized—but perhaps she signed with the understanding that her church, and not its nominal leader, should respond to the declarations of the primates. Nonetheless, reports suggest that Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria withheld his signature in order to strengthen the criticism of and demands on the American church. Did our Presiding Bishop threaten to withhold her signature? If not, why not?

In general, meetings of the primates address a variety of topics, and, even if not all of these are as sensitive as those touching on human sexuality, diverse opinions among the participants can be expected. The latest communiqué, for example, has 37 numbered paragraphs, aside from the attached “schedule,” and it is reasonable to assume that discussion of most of the issues treated involved some amount of disagreement. Introduction of ambiguity, shading of meaning, and the occasional explicit admission of disagreement are all ways of achieving a document that all are willing to sign. If this is a defect in the process, it is an inevitable one, as long as a single, unanimous declaration is required.

Increasingly, the Primates’ Meeting looks like a legislative body. (That the Anglican provinces have never empowered it to be such is a serious matter I will not deal with here.) Surely it is what is described in Robert’s Rules as a “deliberative assembly,” operating, in some sense, like a town meeting, state legislature, or the U.S. Congress. Every student of such assemblies knows that, the longer and more complex a proposition to be voted on is, the more compromise is required for passage and the more compromised the “message” of the proposition becomes. Are we to assume that the primates are as united in their endorsement of a worldwide study of hermeneutics as they are in the view that The Episcopal Church “has departed from the standard of teaching on human sexuality accepted by the Communion in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10”? Probably not, but no insight into the relative consensus of diverse points is to be had in a document signed—endorsed in some ambiguous way—by all participants.

In the past, I have viewed Anglican ambiguity as a tool that helped keep Anglicans together, a way of minimizing our differences and allowing everyone to save face, to tolerate in others viewpoints and actions they might otherwise feel compelled to condemn. I am beginning to feel differently about Anglican ambiguity, however. Archbishop Rowan Williams, addressing the Church of England General Synod earlier this week, described the reactions of the primates to the response to their requests made last year by General Convention:
About eleven provinces were fairly satisfied; about eleven were totally dissatisfied. The rest displayed varying levels of optimism or pessimism, but were not eager to see this as a life and death issue for the Communion. Of those who took one or the other of the more pronounced view, several on both sides nonetheless expressed real exasperation that this question and the affairs of one province should be taking up energy to the near-exclusion of other matters.
How did such a divided group of primates come to issue the severe communiqué that was released on February 19? Is our use of ambiguity beginning to work in ways that drive us apart? I think it is.

The angriest primates held out for treating The Episcopal Church harshly, demanding this as the price for achieving the “necessary” unanimity in the communiqué. More moderate voices were only able to accept this because of ambiguity in the document, both in its actual provisions and in the meaning that might be attached to a primate’s signature. Does our own Presiding Bishop approve of everything in the communiqué? Is she obliged to defend it to The Episcopal Church and to recommend that its provisions, in one form or another, be implemented? Who knows?

If the primates did not insist on everyone’s signing a final statement, Katharine Jefferts Schori could simply have said, “I will not sign.” The other primates could have accepted that—certainly an action the world at large would have understood—or they might have actually tried to accommodate her concerns so that she would sign. Better still, the primates could vote on individual provisions and, even if they did not announce the vote count, they could represent that, as a group, they endorsed certain positions. No recommendation (or demand) would thereby be foisted on the Communion by an actual minority of the primates. This would show clearly what the primates, collectively, support or do not support. Clarity, however, is not the Anglican way.

Of course, no one in full possession of his or her faculties believes either that every primate is 100% behind all the provisions of the Tanzania communiqué or that each primate understands it the same way. Beyond that, we know very little, however, and all sides are inclined to project their hopes and fears onto the necessarily ambiguous document, a process that fosters conflict, rather than reconciliation. The reality is that the process by which such statements are produced is fundamentally flawed, possibly dishonest, and is certainly driving the Communion to take more radical stands than it might in the absence of current constraints. Episcopalians, and Anglicans generally, for that matter, have little reason to put much faith in either the process for or products of the Primates’ Meeting. Given that the primates have no right to legislate or dictate to the various provinces anyway, that faith should be even further discounted.

February 22, 2007

Lambeth 1998 1.10

I have been feeling guilty for not having written more analysis of the communiqué that emerged from the primates’ meeting in Tanzania earlier this week. I have been reading gratefully analyses by others (e.g., Father Jake, Inclusive Church, Integrity, and Mark Harris), and particularly by some of our bishops (e.g., Mark Sisk, James Jelinek, and Marc Andrus). I feel completely overwhelmed by the list of blogs, press releases, and newspaper stories I want to read in the wake of the meeting of the primates.

I have, of course, read the communiqué and the report from the Covenant Design Group that was issued in the course of the meeting. It is fair to say that I am not happy with any of it, although I must admit, reluctantly, that it all could have been worse. (Of course, there are few times in life where we cannot make that statement!) We have, I think, reached a point where the response of The Episcopal Church will determine its trajectory and that of the Anglican Communion for decades, perhaps forever. Tempting as it is to do so at such a time, I have decided not simply to shoot from the hip. I need to reflect more on what has been demanded of us and on what is possible before saying much more.

I did participate in the writing of the 2/20/2007 press release for Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh, which some may find especially restrained. PEP and I are in the special position of being in a diocese that the primates are trying to “help,” although my parish and many others in the Diocese of Pittsburgh are looking only for help in escaping the misguided diocesan leadership we endure here.

My detailed analysis of the work done in Tanzania will have to wait, though it will be forthcoming eventually. For now, I will content myself with making some small observations on which I can later elaborate.

How could the Tanzania meeting have turned out as it did? Why is The Episcopal Church being scolded and disciplined like a disobedient puppy? One major reason is the elevation of a particular Lambeth Conference resolution to a status just above the Windsor Report and just below Scripture itself. Lambeth 1998 1.10 (or I.10, as originally rendered), “Human Sexuality,” with its infamous, if somewhat ambiguous, declaration of “homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture,” has become, in the communiqué and elsewhere, the “standard of teaching” of the Anglican Communion. “Resolution 1.10” occurs five times in the communiqué, and “standard of teaching” occurs six times!

Lambeth Conference resolutions have always been accorded serious consideration, of course, but the Conference has never been granted the power to enact canons for the Anglican provinces, nor have the primates been granted the power to enforce them, particularly in the obtrusive manner we see in the “Schedule” appended to the communiqué. I suspect that most of the bishops who voted for Lambeth 1998 1.10 did not believe that they were passing an inviolable “law” for all the provinces, although I do suspect that the American Anglican Council and its allies who lobbied for the resolution anticipated its use as a big stick in the future against The Episcopal Church.

There are many reasons why the Lambeth Conference is not a good legislative body for the Communion, even if one believes that such a body might be desirable. Most significantly, however, the gathering—it used to be referred to dismissively as a “tea party”—is attended only by bishops, and therefore lacks the perspective of priests, deacons, and, especially, laypeople. Although many in the communion would argue that teaching is a unique duty of bishops, this is clearly not the view in The Episcopal Church, in which bishops are selected more for their pastoral and administrative gifts than for their theological or scholarly ones, and all orders of ministers participate in making major, church-wide decisions.

Lambeth has a checkered record of legislative wisdom—of consistency, anyway—as can be seen in its pronouncements over the years on birth control or the ordination of women. Not only are the primates arrogating the power to enforce Lambeth resolutions, but, in the communiqué, they articulate the notion that “a change in the formal teaching of any one Province would indicate a departure from the standard upheld by the Communion as a whole” (¶11), hardly a idea supportive of the notion of Anglican diversity. There are many problems with such a statement, not the least of which is the matter of what constitutes a “formal teaching” of The Episcopal Church, which, frankly, is a fuzzy concept in a non-confessional church. Moreover, the position of the primates seems to be that no one can be right unless we’re all right; it’s fine to be wrong, as long as we’re all wrong together. (An aside: Did you know that the word “arrogate” is related to the word “arrogant”? Even without investigating etymology, one should be able to see the connection.)

The notion that Lambeth 1998 1.10 is some kind of official “teaching” or manditory canon of the Communion has been especially pernicious, particularly when combined with the concept that the Anglican primates have powers over the Anglican provinces beyond anything officially granted to them, simply because these princes of the church have assumed them. (Americans used to call this “tyranny,” but, in recent days, we seem to have gotten used to it.) Whatever the response of The Episcopal Church is to be to the demands emanating from the Tanzania meeting, the church should dispute aggressively the whole notion that Lambeth resolutions are, in any sense, mandatory.

Actually, Lambeth 1998 1.10 goes no further than saying that the Conference “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions.” The phrase “cannot advise,” however one imagines the Anglican Communion should operate, hardly seems an adequate mandate to threaten The Episcopal Church with expulsion and destruction of its autonomy for having declared, for example, “[t]hat we recognize that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.” Not even the General Convention has actually “advised” the blessing of same-sex unions.

Just as aggressively, we should dispute the proposition that the primates have any substantive power over The Episcopal Church or any other Anglican province. Perhaps, given their arrogant behavior, we should dispute that they have any moral authority, either.

February 20, 2007

A New Urgency

The question of consents for Mark Lawrence’s consecration pretty much dropped off The Episcopal Church radar screen for the past week or so. The primates’ meeting that concluded yesterday in Tanzania, however, has provided a new incentive to say “no” to the San Joaquin priest who would be Bishop of South Carolina. (See my last two posts, “The Consents Question, Again” and “Last Minute Thoughts on Consents.”)

According to “The Key Recommendations of the Primates,” released along with the final communiqué, the primates demand—the document uses the word “request,” but it is quite clear that a failure to accede to the “request” will lead to some sort of banishment from the Communion—that the bishops promise not to authorize rites for same-sex blessings in their dioceses or through the General Convention and that they assure the primates that resolution B033, passed at the 2006 General Convention, means that no partnered gay episcopal candidate will receive consents for consecration. This is perhaps not the worst insult to the polity of The Episcopal Church from the communiqué and from the proposed Anglican covenant, but it is particularly relevant to the consecration of Mark Lawrence.

The primates expect the House of Bishops to submit to their demands at the September 2007 meeting of the House of Bishops. Should Lawrence be consecrated in South Carolina, he will be a member of the House at that meeting and can influence what the bishops do. In his June 11, 2006, essay “A Prognosis for this Body Episcopal” in The Living Church, Lawrence blasted the democratic and autonomous polity of The Episcopal Church. His prescription was to turn over control of the church to the primates. “Surrender of the Episcopal Church’s autonomy is an admittedly radical suggestion,” he modestly observes, “but we are in need of lifesaving action.”

All standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction should know that granting consent for the consecration of Mark Lawrence is voting to implement his (and the primates) radical plan to emasculate The Episcopal Church.

February 18, 2007

Last Minute Thoughts on Consents

It was with a great sense of relief last night that I posted my essay on the recent letter from the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina, “The Consents Question, Again.” I spent a long time writing the post, mostly because I had to track down so much material on the Web for the “Background” section. After making some minor edits to correct problems found by a couple of friends, I’m going to leave the post alone, but I do have a couple of thoughts I want to add.

The South Carolinians asked that standing committees that have voted to withhold consent for Mark Lawrence’s consecration reconsider their vote. I suggest that standing committees that have given consent also reconsider. Resistance to granting consent is clearly strong, a fact that should give standing committee members pause. Votes that have gone against Lawrence were not cast frivolously. I hope that my review of material on the Bishop-elect of South Carolina will facilitate the evaluation of Mark Lawrence’s case, from whatever standpoint.

Tobias Haller, whose thoughtful blog is called “In a Godward Direction,” has offered an observation on item (a) in the South Carolina letter. He points out that, in the securities world, “investors are advised that ‘past performance is no guarantee of future performance.’” In the economy, of course, nothing is ever static, so one should never count on all things being equal. The Episcopal Church doesn’t look too predictable either. In any case, as Tobias points out, ordination vows “aren’t about the past or the present, but the future.”

February 17, 2007

The Consents Question, Again

The question of consents for the consecration of the Very Rev. Mark Lawrence as Bishop of South Carolina is again in the news. Episcopal News Service (ENS) yesterday released a story based on a letter from the president of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina. The letter, signed by the Rev. J. Haden McCormick, was recently posted on the diocese’s Web site. Presumably, it has been sent to standing committees that have already voted to deny consent for Lawrence’s consecration, as it requests that the decision to withhold consent be reconsidered. According to the Web site, “a similar but not identical letter has been sent to those Standing Committees who [sic] have not yet responded to the request for consent.” No one has come forward with a copy of that letter, though there is no reason to think it is much different from what has been made public already.

Lawrence is Bishop-elect of South Carolina, but he cannot be consecrated, under Episcopal Church canons, unless a majority of standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction each consent to his consecration. The voting on consents normally is carried out in obscurity, but the circumstances surrounding the episcopal election of September 16, 2006, have drawn the attention not only of Episcopalians throughout the church, but of many observers in the wider Anglican Communion as well. Consents from 56 standing committees are needed by March 9 if Lawrence is to become the next Bishop of South Carolina. It is rumored that, with somewhat more than half the church’s standing committees’ having responded, somewhat more than half of those have withheld consent.


In October 2006, I wrote an essay arguing that Lawrence’s consecration would not be in the best interests of The Episcopal Church. Copies of “No Consents: A Crucial Test for The Episcopal Church” were sent by Via Media USA (VMUSA), along with cover letters, to bishops and standing committees. Two weeks later, Episcopal Forum of South Carolina (EFSC), a Via Media USA alliance member, sent its own letter urging caution in considering whether to consent to Lawrence’s consecration. (ENS reported on both the VMUSA and EFSC initiatives.) Wake Up, a New York-based alliance favoring an inclusive church, subsequently issued its “Wake Up Call No.3, “There is an Impediment,” arguing against allowing Lawrence to become a bishop and urging Episcopalians to lobby their bishops and standing committees to prevent his consecration.

Even supporters of Lawrence quickly acknowledged that the San Joaquin priest could be a hard sell as South Carolina bishop. (“Lawrence’s consent may prove difficult,” South Carolina Canon Theologian Kendall Harmon observed a few days after the election.) Bloggers Father Jake, Tobias Haller, Mark Harris, and Christopher Johnson, among others, weighed in on the question of consents. Public controversy was reignited in early December, when Simon Sarmiento posted a letter from Lawrence on “Thinking Anglicans” intended, one assumes, to reassure his critics. (See ENS story of December 10.) It did nothing of the sort. Tobias Haller responded with a post titled, simply, “No.” Mark Harris gave his analysis of the Lawrence letter, and I posted an analysis, including a footnoted version of the Lawrence letter, that I called “The Annotated Mark Lawrence.”

It would be difficult to evaluate the current tally of consents from public sources alone, but the votes of a few standing committees have been made public. At least two standing committees, those of Bethlehem and Kansas, have not only announced their decisions to withhold consent, but have taken the extraordinary step of publishing their reasons for doing so. Andrew Gerns republished the Bethlehem statement on his blog, “Andrew Plus,” and commended the transparency achieved by Bethlehem to standing committees generally. Would that more of them would take this advice to heart.

The South Carolina Letters

As I suggested earlier, the consents required to consecrate Mark Lawrence have been slow in coming. ENS reported last month that the South Carolina Standing Committee had postponed Lawrence’s scheduled February 24 consecration. The deferment was attributed to “unanticipated delays in the mailing of the Consent Requests.” At best, this is wishful thinking. The Diocese of Newark, for example, elected Mark Beckwith a week after South Carolina chose Lawrence, and it endured the same bureaucratic trials in sending out its own consent requests. Nevertheless, Beckwith was consecrated Bishop of Newark on January 27, having received, without difficulty, the required consents both from standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction. The same day that the ENS story appeared, Lawrence wrote a rather petulant letter to his Bakersfield congregation explaining that plans to move to South Carolina were on hold.

Postponement of the Lawrence consecration, followed by the sending of letters, not only to standing committees that have not voted, but also to those that have already rejected Lawrence as a bishop, suggests some sense of panic in South Carolina. I am hardly one to suggest that the Standing Committee should not lobby for its point of view, however.

Has the Standing Committee contributed to a constructive dialogue, and, more to the point, will its letters likely achieve their desired effect on the standing committee vote? Certainly, the letters from South Carolina have inspired another round of blog posts, including this one. (Read, for example, “No more Bob Duncans” by the Admiral of Morality.) Before addressing these questions, it will be helpful to see what was actually written. The published letter is below. (I have not edited the text, which I copied from the Diocese of South Carolina Web site. Any errors are in the original.) The unpublished letter to standing committees that have not yet responded to the request for consents likely encourages the making of a timely decision; non-responses are counted as denials of consent.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I write this letter as the head of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina to address concerns expressed by various standing committees regarding consents for the consecration of The Very Rev. Mark Lawrence as our next Diocesan Bishop. This is an official request to those who have withheld consent to reconsider their initial action. We intend this letter to correct some of the misinformation surrounding our Bishop Elect.

a) Questions have been raised regarding Mark’s willingness and that of the diocese of South Carolina, should it be under his leadership, to continue to serve our Lord as faithful members of the Episcopal Church.

Response: The Diocese of South Carolina has operated faithfully within the canons of the The Episcopal Church (TEC) since 1795 and continues to do so. The Rev. Mark Lawrence signed the oath of conformity at his ordination as priest and has faithfully lived within the canons of the church for 26 years. When asked directly during our election process if he would be able to sign the oath of conformity as a bishop, he responded, “Yes”. Present behavior is the best indicator we have of the future. Statistics released at the last General Convention revealed that the Diocese of South Carolina was first in all categories of percentages of growth – average Sunday attendance, financial growth and baptized membership. Recent official church statistics show we are the only diocese that has grown faster than its surrounding population. The tree is known by its fruit.

b) Questions have been raised about the participation of the Presiding Bishop in the consecration of the new Bishop of South Carolina.

Response: When the election of the XIVth Bishop of South Carolina was scheduled to be held, (before the Church decided to withhold consent to all consecrations until June 2006) the Bishop of South Carolina XIII had negotiated with the Presiding Bishop’s office to find a chief consecrator acceptable to the Diocese of SC. A tentative agreement was reached with the Presiding Bishop’s office that this was indeed possible. Our Bishop-elect had nothing to do with this arrangement as this decision was worked out by the ecclesiastical authority of the Diocese of South Carolina before we held our election.

c) Questions have been raised about Alternative Primatial Relationships (APR), implying negative intentions about our relationship to The Episcopal Church (TEC)

Response: The Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina, after the General Convention 2006, requested APR), in order to restore peace to the diocese and to prevent happening in the diocese what was being experienced in other diocese within the Church. This was an action of the Standing Committee acting as the ecclesiastical authority of the Diocese prior to our Bishop’s election. This question is being answered by the Standing Committee for that reason. Alternative Primatial Relationship has never been defined, as it has never been requested by a diocese in the history of the Anglican Communion. In the context of the Windsor report and the scheduled primates meeting in Tanzania, the Standing Committee’s sole intention was to provide space for the conflict raging in TEC and to protect the common life and mission of a diocese that has grown faithfully for eighteen years. Our Diocesan Bishop XIII participated in a conversation regarding APR in New York in September of 2006 at the invitation of the Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and the Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts -Schiori and other bishops on all sides of the issues. We have consistently sought to deal with these matters within the framework of the Church as a sign of our long-term commitment to the mission of the whole Church. In the past, TEC has created a climate for discussions of these matters for congregations in an imaginative way and this is simply an expansion of that spirit.

In conclusion, neither the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina nor the Bishop-elect have any interest in a consecration that does not follow the canons of this diocese. We hope that you will find this information helpful as you re-consider the position you have taken concerning our Bishop-elect.

In Christ alone,
The Rev. J. Haden McCormick
For the Standing Committee

I find this letter quite curious, in that it seems more about the Diocese of South Carolina than about that diocese’s Bishop-elect. Perhaps it does clarify a few matters that, hitherto, were not crystal clear, but it fails to address the more important ambiguities in the statements made by Lawrence himself.

Consider first the most trivial issue addressed by McCormick, the matter of the chief consecrator of the new bishop. It may be interesting that Bishops Salmon and Griswold agreed that the Presiding Bishop need not be chief consecrator, but I cannot imagine that any bishop or standing committee would, for an instant, consider withholding consent merely because a diocese was unwilling to have the Presiding Bishop serve in that capacity. In any case, the canons do not require the Presiding Bishop to be the chief consecrator. (This matter is dealt with in Canon III.11.6. The reference to Canon III.16.5 in the ENS story is erroneous, referring to the 2003, rather than the 2006 canons.) Nonetheless, someone must have raised this issue, since Lawrence addressed it in his letter of November 6. As does McCormick, Lawrence there attributes aversion to participation of the Presiding Bishop in his consecration to the diocese. Whereas when McCormick’s places responsibility for raising the chief consecrator issue at the feet of the diocese, he seems to be assuming responsibility, when Lawrence does so, it seems like a dodge.

There have been rumors that, should the consecration of Mark Lawrence not be consented to by The Episcopal Church, the Diocese of South Carolina might consecrate him anyway, perhaps by importing Anglican bishops for the purpose from other provinces. It is not clear whether McCormick intends to dispel such rumors, but he surely seems to want to seem to do so. In his final paragraph, he advises that “neither the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina nor the Bishop-elect have [sic] any interest in a consecration that does not follow the canons of this diocese.” Personally, I would have been more reassured had McCormick expressed a desire not to violate the canons of the General Convention. Whether this statement is a prevarication or is simply not phrased wisely, I cannot tell. In any case, it fails to be reassuring.

Item (a) in the letter is a muddle. The argument made is something like the following: The diocese and its Bishop-elect have been well-behaved in the past. Therefore, they are likely to behave properly in the future. Moreover, the diocese is growing, so it must be doing good and godly things.

The first argument is simply ludicrous. It is generally true, one might suppose, that things generally go along as they always have, all things being equal. (This “principle” is analogous to Newton’s First Law of Motion.) One must not fail to add the all things being equal caveat, however. In the current circumstances, all things are decidedly not equal. The diocese has asked for an extra-canonical relationship without consulting the General Convention and with the clear intent of circumventing its canons. Mark Lawrence has expressed approval of this request and the similar request from his own Diocese of San Joaquin. Moreover, Lawrence made an even more radical recommendation in his essay “A Prognosis for this Body Episcopal” in the June 11, 2006, issue of The Living Church, namely that The Episcopal Church should simply surrender its autonomy to the Anglican primates. Taking this bit of advice would amount simply to tossing church canons overboard. If one looks at the recent actions of the Diocese of South Carolina and of its Bishop-elect, therefore, one might indeed be able to predict their immediate future trajectory. That trajectory is not reassuring to Episcopalians who believe that our canons should be observed and changed as needed, and not simply be violated whenever it seems personally convenient to do so.

As for the argument that the “prosperousness” of South Carolina is some indicator of its godliness, one can only suspect that the diocese is infected with a severe case of creeping Calvinism if it actually finds this argument compelling. Moreover, not all Episcopalians in the Diocese of South Carolina would agree that the fruit of the diocese has been all that sweet. In no case does the “success” of the Diocese of South Carolina, however measured, give it the right to ignore the canons of The Episcopal Church.

Item (a) is oddly phrased, speaking as it does, of the diocese and its Bishop-elect as “faithful members of the Episcopal Church.” The diocese, of course, is not a member of The Episcopal Church, but an integral component of it. Mark Lawrence is certainly a member, but he aspires to become one of its leaders, a position that carries special obligations regarding church governance. Given other infelicitous constructions in McCormick’s letter, however, I should not, I suspect, make too much of this.

Finally, item (c) is more curious still. It is most notable for its absolving Lawrence of any responsibility for the request of the diocese for what the letter calls “Alternative Primatial Relationships” (APR). Standing committees do not vote on the faithfulness of electing dioceses, however, but only on whether a Bishop-elect should become a bishop. Any argument that APR would be helpful for the diocese or for The Episcopal Church is irrelevant if APR is to be obtained unlawfully. The fact remains that the diocese’s request seeks to subvert the polity of The Episcopal Church and circumvent the canons of the General Convention. That Lawrence has expressed approval of this request is indicative, at the very least, of an insensitivity to the polity of the church that alone should disqualify him from becoming an Episcopal bishop.

I am frankly confused about what McCormick is asserting is needed and would be provided by APR. How is isolation from the Presiding Bishop going “to restore peace to the diocese”? Is the diocese at war? What is he referring to when he writes that he wants “to prevent happening in the diocese what was being experienced in other dioceses within the Church”? Are other dioceses at war? He is on target, however, in observing that “Alternative Primatial Relationship has never been defined.” Most readers would take this as an indication that the Standing Committee’s request for APR was simply irresponsible. McCormick several times refers to “these matters,” but nowhere does he define just what matters “these matters” are. Is he afraid to say? Again, I have no idea. He concludes his discussion of APR with this sentence: “In the past, TEC has created a climate for discussions of these matters for congregations in an imaginative way and this is simply an expansion of that spirit.” Does anyone know what he is talking about?

Has the Standing Committee of the Diocese South Carolina made a helpful contribution to the dialogue on consents for Mark Lawrence? No. The McCormick letter is a jumble of non sequiturs and irrelevancies. Will the letters have their desired effect? Probably not.

February 15, 2007

Latest Improvements

I don’t like writing posts about how Lionel Deimel’s Web Log has changed, but doing so seems necessary every now and then. So, let me explain the latest changes, some of which are obvious and some not. I’ll also use this post as a place to discuss how I view this particular enterprise.

Perhaps most importantly, I have increased the width of posts themselves. The goals in doing so were to make posts easier to read and to put more text on a page when posts are printed, so that we can save a few trees. In the process of making this change, I discovered some inconsistencies in the way pages of the blog were rendered by different browsers. I cannot claim that I have eliminated all inconsistencies, but I think that I have substantially decreased their numbers.

Visitors have probably noticed that my blog does not include a list of recent posts, although a handful of the latest posts are usually displayed. What has not been obvious from the blog itself is that the site map for Lionel Deimel’s Farrago includes a complete chronological list of posts and summaries, color-coded by topic. So this fact will be less of a mystery in the future, I have added a notice about this listing and a link to it in the top left box on all blog pages.

In this same box is a link to Technorati, as well as a Technorati search box. The Technorati search seems to be better than Blogger’s, and it yields only results from my blog. (The search page for Lionel Deimel’s Farrago gives results both for Farrago and Web Log.)

I’m not sure how many Mac users have ever found my blog, as I discovered an error in the code of the navigation buttons that direct people to it from Lionel Deimel’s Farrago. As far as I can determine, only Safari browsers were affected. In any case, I fixed the problem and hope to have more Mac readers in the future.

Finally, I should say a few words about how I use these pages. Lionel Deimel’s Web Log is informed by the same spirit as Lionel Deimel’s Farrago—both are eclectic in their content, both farragoes of stuff. Because of this, I don’t have many regular readers, since I can’t be relied upon to deliver a daily dose of anything in particular. As things have turned out, I seem to write more poetry and commentary on The Episcopal Church than anything else, but even my contributions in these areas are, at best, occasional.

This blog is a place for me to write random thoughts that seem too inconsequential to be essays at Lionel Deimel’s Farrago or, in some cases, seem to be too ephemeral for it. (The latter rationale explains the occasional long, polished essay on a topic of immediate interest that appears here.) I am sometimes interested in addressing a topic, but lack the time or patience to do it justice. I often simply drop these ideas or postpone dealing with them indefinitely. In the future, however, I may write more posts here, with the understanding that calling this a blog will allow me to toss out half-baked ideas now and them without fear of being criticized too vigorously for doing so.

Happy reading!

February 14, 2007

Nonbinding Resolutions

The Republicans have been critical of Democratic efforts to pass nonbinding resolutions opposing the latest tactical move in Iraq by the President. The argument that, if the Democrats really had the courage of their convictions, they would limit funding for the war or force a drawdown in troop levels certainly has merit. The Democrats likely don’t have the votes for such a move, however, and they surely could not pass the necessary legislation over a presidential veto. Unsatisfactory though it may be, a nonbinding resolution is about the only way the Democrats in Congress can express their displeasure in an official way with President Bush’s latest plan.

I don’t think that a nonbinding resolution of disapproval is, as the Republicans assert, a meaningless gesture. It is surely a gesture, of course, and not a powerful one. As I said, the Democrats are doing what they can. They have majorities in both the Senate and the House, but to say that they control Congress overstates their position. I suspect that their major accomplishments for the rest of the 110th Congress will be seen in what the Republicans are unable to do, rather than in what the Democrats actually do.

What a nonbinding resolution of disapproval accomplishes is to put the President, his administration, and, to a degree, his party on notice that many citizens—perhaps even a majority of them—believe his latest Iraq policy to be wrongheaded. President Bush has made it quite clear that he has no interest in the opinions of legislators, but, when this policy fails, as it likely will, he will be unable to say, as he did about the measure authorizing military action in Iraq in the first place, “You voted for it.” Instead, the Democrats will be able to say, “We told you so.” The gesture may not avoid national tragedy, but it will make it clear which political party should be entrusted with the authority to help the nation recover from it.

February 10, 2007

High Anxiety in Pittsburgh

Anxiety is high in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, and the emotion probably cuts across any divisions in the diocese one might identify. The cause is the upcoming meeting of the Anglican Communion primates in Tanzania and its possible aftermath. What is in store for the Diocese of Pittsburgh and, particularly, for the loyal Episcopalians who are living within its boundaries?

Words from the Bishop

Recent concern about right-leaning dioceses leaving The Episcopal Church has focused mainly on San Joaquin and South Carolina, but Episcopalians in Pittsburgh are beginning to worry about their own post-meeting future. The diocese has just released a hitherto secret third request for alternative primatial oversight (APO) that seeks arrangements that would effectively remove it from The Episcopal Church. Pittsburgh’s bishop, Robert Duncan, has been invited to Tanzania by the Archbishop of Canterbury, where he will surely lobby for the radical measures requested of the Global South primates in that APO request.

What also deserves attention is a pastoral letter from Bishop Duncan released the same day as the APO document and intended to be read in all churches. This letter, while seemingly less newsworthy, is, nevertheless, telling. Its purpose is clearly to reassure Duncan’s supporters, which he does by associating his actions with the admonition from I Corinthians to be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (I Cor. 15:58, RSV). Translation: we’re doing the right thing here, and everything will work out just fine. A quite different message is to be found by those who are unsympathetic to Duncan’s program, but who are nevertheless parishioners in his diocese.

The bishop uses his pastoral letter to excoriate Calvary Episcopal Church yet again for pursuing its lawsuit against the bishop and other diocesan leaders. “Scripture,” the bishop observes, “teaches that Christians are not to take one another to court.” Calvary initiated legal action in 2003 to protect Episcopal Church property from alienation at the hands of the diocese by one means or another. A settlement was reached after two years, but not before Duncan had threatened to use an obscure local canon to expel Calvary from the diocese. The current action by Calvary alleges that the diocese has not abided by the settlement agreement. In his letter, Duncan pledges a “vigorous defense” against the latest legal moves, insisting that matters at issue are “theological and ecclesiastical,” having “nothing to do with the property of the diocese.”

It is difficult not to see Duncan’s protestations as disingenuous. He may well be motivated by matters theological and ecclesiastical, rather than by greed and lust for power, but the movement that he leads has repeatedly manifested its interest in removing both congregations and real estate from The Episcopal Church. (Skeptics should reread the infamous Chapman Letter and study the actions of the breakaway congregations in the Diocese of Virginia.)

It is in his discussion of property—which, supposedly is not the issue, remember—that Duncan’s pastoral letter becomes chilling, at least for the thousands of people in the diocese who continue to identify themselves as unabashed Episcopalians:
The property of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will continue to be held and administered for the beneficial use of the parishes and institutions of the diocese. It is our continuing commitment to protect the interest the diocese has in its property—indeed to protect all that it is steward over—against any who would attempt to usurp that role, either from below (minority parishes) or above (national church).
As Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh explained in a recent statement analyzing the APO petition to the Global South primates, the Diocese of Pittsburgh is seeking from the upcoming Tanzania meeting some temporary structure for the “orthodox” faction within The Episcopal Church until such time as a completely new Anglican province can usurp The Episcopal Church’s Communion membership. In the meantime, the diocese—and, presumably, the Anglican Communion Network and its allies—are seeking “cover,” which is to say, some protection against The Episcopal Church’s use of its disciplinary and property canons that it might reasonably be expected to bring to bear against the “orthodox” dissidents.

Le diocèse c’est moi

Those who have not studied Bishop Duncan’s statements and actions over the years may be puzzled by what is going on here; his words do not always mean what they seem to say. The bishop begins the section of his letter titled “Steadfast, Immovable” as follows:
Our position simply stated is this: We are the Episcopal Church in this place and we have no intention of standing anywhere except where we have always stood (“the Faith once delivered to the saints”) or being who we have always been (mainstream Anglican Christians).
This statement seems relatively benign, especially when compared to declarations of the Bishop of San Joaquin, who is clear about wanting to sever all ties between the Diocese of San Joaquin and The Episcopal Church. One needs to understand, however, that Bishop Duncan has embraced several “legal theories” that guide his behavior and inform his rhetoric. These theories allow him to talk like an Episcopalian and to behave like a revolutionary.

They have left us. As is clear from the above quotation, Duncan maintains that he is not threatening to leave The Episcopal Church; rather, The Episcopal Church his left him and his diocese. Pittsburghers have heard this blame-the-victim argument since 2003. The decision of the 74th General Convention to consecrate a gay bishop was, even by admission of the Windsor Report, administratively proper. However, Duncan has argued that the preamble of the church’s constitution, which describes the church as “a constituent member of the Anglican Communion,” was violated by the 2003 vote to consecrate Gene Robinson. The nature of the violation has never been made—and probably cannot be made—crystal clear, but he has had great success selling it to his supporters. (Duncan asserted, in the September 2003 document “A Report, a Call and a Teaching for the Leadership”: “These actions also contradict the constitutional commitments of the Episcopal Church to constituent membership in the Anglican Communion and the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, as well as to ‘upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order.’” The argument presumably involves the “teaching” on homosexuality of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, even though the Communion has never really had any official teachings, and the Lambeth Conference is authorized by no one to articulate them.) Whatever the logic, Duncan has used it as an excuse that releases him from his vows as a bishop and from his allegiance to the General Convention.

The Episcopal Church as a federation of dioceses. Just as the Southern states argued that the Union was a federation from which they could withdraw at will, a difference in understanding with the rest of the Union that required civil war to resolve, Duncan has argued that the church is composed of independent dioceses that banded together to form The Episcopal Church. A fragmentary knowledge of church history might suggest the credibility of this idea, but church historian Joan Gundersen, drawing on a variety of sources, has argued convincingly that the church has a unitary structure, with dioceses that are the instruments of the General Convention and bound to its governance in perpetuity by virtue of provisions of the constitution. Duncan, of course, using his “diocesan-rights” theory, has removed the accession clause from the diocesan constitution. Some would argue that this, by itself, is a violation of his ordination vows and a presentable offense. Duncan’s theory is being used both to dismiss the canon law of the church and to rationalize an independent existence for the Diocese of Pittsburgh apart from The Episcopal Church.

The diocese is where the bishop is. Duncan’s most bizarre theory is that, no matter what he does, he leads the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. This notion is evident in the quotation above, which, significantly, uses the royal “we.” The utility of this idea is obvious; if Bishop Duncan leads the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, then, tautologically, he cannot abscond with property kept in trust by that diocese. The theory hinges on a very Anglican idea, the Anglican predilection against creating parallel jurisdictions. Anglicans generally acknowledge a single bishop as having jurisdiction over a particular territory. Duncan is relying on the Anglican aversion to parallel jurisdictions, calculating that, if he can detach the diocese from The Episcopal Church and be recognized as a legitimate diocese of the Communion, then he is, in a sense, home free; his can be the only diocese in Pittsburgh and environs. Not only would such a development be contrary to the longstanding—and, we once thought, inviolable—prohibition of interfering in other Anglican provinces, however, but it would violate the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church. Nevertheless, one has to admire the boldness of Duncan’s intention of removing the diocese from The Episcopal Church while maintaining that he continues to lead the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, at once claiming all property for himself and denying that any rival diocese can exist to dispute his claim. The notion of an Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh that is outside The Episcopal Church requires serious doublethink.

Whither Pittsburgh?

It is cold comfort that neither the traditions of the Anglican Communion nor the constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) nor the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church will allow the creation of the sort of independent ecclesiastical entity sought by Bishop Duncan in the latest plea for APO. (Composition of the ACC, which, arguably, either reflects or defines the membership of the Anglican Communion itself, can only be changed by a vote of two-thirds of the primates. No one believes that the votes are available to make such a change at next week’s meeting.) The Anglican Communion has ceased to act as a fellowship, however, and increasingly acts through intimidation, if not outright coercion. It is therefore foolhardy for The Episcopal Church to rely on what the Communion “cannot” do to guarantee its integrity and independence. (This is not the place for speculation about what The Episcopal Church should be doing in Tanzania. For thoughts on that topic, see my essays of January 9 and 11 on my blog.) There is widespread talk among Anglicans about what the Tanzania meeting will, should, or must do. (See, for example, the analysis from the Bishop of Winchester.) In the current climate, almost any outcome seems possible. What will happen to the Diocese of Pittsburgh if Bishop Duncan and his allies are granted some independent status by the primates?

For the past several years, votes taken at Pittsburgh’s annual convention have become increasingly lopsided in favor of whatever its bishop wants to do. The polarization has likely gone about as far as it can go, with a dozen or more parishes opposed to the bishop’s program and perhaps four times as many parishes playing the role of loyal followers. Whether precipitated by the Tanzania meeting or by some future development, the expectation is that most of the diocese will happily follow Robert Duncan wherever he leads. There may be some surprises, but no one is expecting many of them. Parishes committed to being part of The Episcopal Church face an uncertain and surely less happy future.

Duncan apparently plans to rid himself of these troublesome parishes. At a Diocesan Council meeting on February 6, he explained that, should his diocese be granted some status independent of The Episcopal Church, “those choosing to remain in Province III will no longer be in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.” (This quotation is taken from the notes of a member of the Council. Recall that the Pittsburgh convention voted to leave Province III of The Episcopal Church last November, although I have argued elsewhere that this action was improper.) Loyal Episcopal parishes in the diocese have repudiated Network membership and sent funds to The Episcopal Church, something the diocese no longer does. In light of the recent diocesan action distancing itself from Province III, some of these parishes have reaffirmed their membership in Province III, as well as in The Episcopal Church. Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh even sponsored a meeting in Pittsburgh for parish leaders and leaders of Province III. Seemingly, Province III affinity will mark a parish as in or out of the diocese, however. (It was mistakenly reported two days ago that the bishop planned to expel such parishes. Essentially, he has said that they will have removed themselves from his diocese.) My own parish, St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon, recently wrote the bishop reiterating our membership in The Episcopal Church and in Province III. If we are declared not to be a part of the diocese, where are we? The diocese might argue that the property of parishes such as mine, property that, after all, is held in trust by the diocese, should revert to the diocese. This is surely the worst fear of Calvary Church and its attorneys.

If Bishop Duncan is offered status as head of some entity independent of The Episcopal Church, it is not clear that the loyal Episcopal parishes of the Diocese of Pittsburgh can save themselves. The Episcopal Church must come to the rescue. It should, in such an eventuality, be obvious that Bishop Robert Duncan will have indeed abandoned the communion of the church in which he took his vows. This will be a major test for the church; its disciplinary mechanism is of no avail if its leaders are unwilling to use it even in response to egregious rebellion.

The church will also have to focus on the diocese itself. An objective reading of the church’s constitution makes it clear that a diocese is not a member of the church, as Duncan’s schemes require that it be, but an integral part of it. If Duncan is the head of some entity that claims not to be that integral part of The Episcopal Church in that region designated by church canons as the Diocese of Pittsburgh, then the see is vacant. All property, real and otherwise, will remain a part of the diocese and The Episcopal Church, not part of whatever it is that is headed by the former Bishop of Pittsburgh. The real Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will comprise only those congregations and parishioners who wish to be members of The Episcopal Church. It will be up to The Episcopal Church to enforce its rights, however, and it is a fair guess that the civil courts, and perhaps even the criminal courts, will have to be enlisted in the effort.

A post yesterday on the diocesan Web site announced that “Bishop Robert Duncan requested today that all in the diocese who are able undertake to pray for the Anglican Communion, its leaders and its future between February 11 and 19.” Episcopalians in Pittsburgh will surely be doing that. We will also be praying for the Presiding Bishop, for The Episcopal Church, and for sanity, charity, humility, respect, and lawfulness to be returned to the Anglican Communion. We will be praying that the Presiding Bishop has both a plan for next week and a bevy of talented lawyers ready to deal with whatever chaos the primates might create.

February 6, 2007

Going to Hospital

I have always been struck by the fact that the British say “go to hospital,” and Americans say “go to the hospital.” Likely, neither British nor American usage is completely logical in their use of “the” in these and similar phrases, but I try to make sense at least of American usage in a new essay of mine called “Going to Hospital” in the Language Notes section of my Web site. Comments are welcome, of course, particularly if you have any insight into such phrases that has eluded me.