April 9, 2008

Even I Am Not That Paranoid

In his introduction to the February-March issue of Trinity, the house organ of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Bishop Robert Duncan’s introductory message (on page 2) was all about a prophesy he had received from the Rev. Mark Stibbe, an English Evangelical who contributed to a recent clergy conference in Pittsburgh. Stibbe’s pronouncement “2008 Is the Year of the Gate” appeared below the bishop’s message. Although the bishop and his staff were reputedly cheered by Stibbe’s prophesy, like most prophesy, ancient and modern, this particular example of the genre is ambiguous. The bishop may see in the message a coming liberation from the despised Episcopal Church. I can as easily read a coming liberation from an oppressive diocese and a joyous reunification with a reinvigorated Episcopal Church. I will let my bishop take comfort where he can, however.

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh took virtually no notice of the Stibbe prophesy. It has become harder and harder for the bishop to surprise or shock us, and we were too busy discussing when the bishop might finally be deposed. At some point, however, liberal Episcopalians discovered the prophesy and discussed it a good deal. (See, for example, the conversation at Father Jake Stops the World.) Well, material in an official diocesan publication is surely fair game, and most Episcopalians put little stock in fortune telling.

A few days ago, a friend was complaining that she had not yet received her copy of the latest (April-May) Trinity in the mail. Not only that, she said, but it had not yet been posted on the Web, as it usually is. Soon thereafter, those who had been discussing the Stibbe piece began discussing the fact that the magazine “containing Bishop Duncan’s comments and the prophecy have been pulled from the Diocesan web site.” (See post on The Lead.) The implication was that the bishop or his staff were trying to manipulate the bishop’s public image to spare him embarrassment.

In fact, although the bishop’s views on myriad matters is quite at variance from my own, even on what one would think are issues of fact, Bishop Duncan is not shy in proclaiming his beliefs, nor is he much inclined to apologize for them or to deny acknowledging what he has said. (Calvary Church’s attorney, who has more evidence of Bishop Duncan’s declarations at his disposal, might have a different view.) Anyway, I checked the diocesan Web site this morning and discovered that, indeed, I could not bring up the February-March Trinity. It was listed on the proper page, however, just below a link to the latest issue, which now is on-line.

I have maintained a few Web pages for my church’s worship commission, where I have posted such documents as minutes, one after another, as links to the actual documents. A number of times, while using Wordpress to add a new document, I inadvertently caused the identification of two documents to be incorporated into a single link to one of the documents. Given that the link to the latest Trinity was new, I suspected that a simple HTML error, not a nefarious plot, was responsible for the earlier issue’s having been “pulled.” I wrote a note to Peter Frank, who runs communications for the diocese, and Peter thanked me for pointing out the problem and assured me that the disappearance of the February-March issue was really a clerical mistake of the Internet age. The links have now been fixed, and you can find the listings of Trinity issues here.

Are we all getting a little paranoid here? Why was I the first person to go the the diocese to ask what was really going on? There are enough strange things happening in our church that we don’t need to go about inventing others. Everyone should chill out.

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