November 28, 2009


With the recent changes to the format of Lionel Deimel’s Web Log, some posts turned ugly. The column containing posts themselves is narrower than before, so some wide graphics no longer fit within that column. I have gone through all the posts on the blog and have replaced too-wide graphics with narrower ones. Note that, in most cases, you can click on a graphic and see it on a page by itself. In a few cases, when you do this, you will see a larger version, generally the original version that has now been replaced in the post itself.

While fixing images that were too big, I took the opportunity to correct a few other formatting glitches. Most of the changes were subtle and won’t be noticed.

The Link Problem

What I did not change were URLs that are no longer correct. It is difficult to know what to do with broken links on my blog. Several situations arise:
  1. A page may simply have disappeared from the Web.
  2. A page may no longer be at its former address.
  3. A page may be completely different from the one originally cited.
  4. Changed circumstances may have made it unclear what page should actually be linked to.
Let me discuss these situations in turn. In each case, it may be necessary or desirable to explain what has been done.

A page is no longer available. This is a difficult situation to deal with. Alternatives are
  • Retain the link with or without comment. More explanation may be needed to tell visitors what they’re missing.
  • Cite another page with the same information, if one exists. In some cases, it may be possible to create a local substitute page.
  • Cite an historical version of the page in the Internet Archive if one is available. (Check out the Archive if you aren’t familiar with it.)
  • Simply delete the link, with or without explanation.
A page has changed location. Often, the URL of a page has changed because its site has been reorganized, because its domain has changed, or both. The fix here is easy if one can discover the new URL and there are no complicating factors. An explanation may be necessary.

A page’s content has changed. Webmasters are sometimes not looking to the future when they select page addresses. A page of recent news may look completely different in July from how it looked in January. I try to link to pages whose content seems likely to be stable, but this is not always possible. If the page’s content has disappeared and the old content is unavailable, removing the link may be the only option.

A changed context may make it difficult to choose a proper link. A trickier situation to deal with is one where the context has changed. For example, a link to the home page of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh Web site created before the diocese split is problematic. Linking to the Web site of either resulting diocese would be misleading. The current Episcopal diocese is the legal successor to the pre-schism diocese, but the current Anglican diocese maintains the Web site that changed little when the schism occurred, whereas the Episcopal diocese created an entirely new Web site. This is a case where one might want simply to delete the link. Linking to an Archive page might be reasonable, but not without an explanation.

Choosing Links

We all understand references in a book. We know that we can go to a library, find a referenced book, and know exactly what the author was referring to. Hyperlinks on a Web page are neat because the going-to-the-library step is replaced by immediate transportation to the referenced material. Unfortunately, the material may have disappeared entirely, been changed in subtle ways, or otherwise might not tell us exactly what we think it should be communicating. In many circumstances, we would like a Web page and all its links to be frozen in time, so that anyone visiting the page could read it like a book, except that the references would be both stable and immediately accessible. But, sometimes, we want a link to go to a page we expect to change, as when we cite a blog qua blog, rather than as a place to find specific content. (Even a blog can completely disappear, of course, so stability is always an issue.)

As a general rule, Web sites that are somehow journalistic in nature (newspaper sites, opinion sites, blogs) are not regularly reviewed to keep their links up-to-date. As for me, I do get upset when my links, in whatever way, degrade. I try to link defensively, citing explicit or probable permalinks whenever I can. I have been known to copy content to my own site, either citing it there or keeping it in reserve against its possible disappearance from its original Web home. This can raise copyright questions, so I do not do it routinely. Sometimes I simply do not create a link because I think the content will disappear. I might describe the content or copy excerpts as an alternative.

Were it up to me, every Web page ever created and every one of its variants would be archived and time stamped and could be linked to. That will never happen, of course. Although the World Wide Web is a kind of huge library, it seems more like a library created by Lewis Carroll than one created by Melvil Dewey. Somehow, we have to live with that.

If I get ambitious, I may make another pass through my blog posts with an eye to fixing broken or misleading links. Suggestions as to how to go about this are welcome.

November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day is here again, and I’d like to offer a Thanksgiving gift to my readers. I wrote the poem “Thanksgiving” in 2002 for a family gathering, and I have reproduced it below. More information about the poem can be found on Lionel Deimel’s Farrago here.

by Lionel Deimel

So many holidays for this and that—
But most are just a time for recreation,
Not opportunities for celebration
Or contemplation of their origins.

Who gives a thought to Martin Luther King?
He’s on our minds his day like any other,
When seldom do we think who is our brother
Or bother reaching out to those in need.

We see a baseball game on 4 July—
We sing our anthem, watch the color guard;
But Revolutionary thoughts are hard
To mix with scorecard, chili dog, and beer.

The labor on our minds on Labor Day
Is but our own that we don’t have to do.
We must instead to summer bid adieu
With picnics for a special few, or bed.

Ah, Christmas is a special time of dread—
That deadline of the frantic shopping season
Through which we march for half-forgotten reason
That escapes us fully when the day has come.

Thanksgiving, though, is different from the rest—
We gather in our family and friends;
We stuff the turkey and each person who attends,
And, in the end, how can we not be thankful?

Turkey and trimmings

November 25, 2009

Seat of Power?

According to the Web site of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), its headquarters is located at 1001 Merchant Street, Ambridge, PA 15003. Ambridge, which might seem an unlikely place for a church claiming 100,000 members spread across the U.S. and Canada and headed by an archbishop, is the former home of American Bridge Company. It is a less-than-affluent community a few miles down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh. The Merchant Street address is about a two-block walk from the campus of Trinity School for Ministry, the Evangelical seminary that used to have “Episcopal” in its name. Ambridge is within the bounds of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, if, in fact, that entity can be said to have bounds.

Yesterday, I received e-mail from a friend who happened to be in the Ambridge area the other day and, for whatever reason, decided to see what the ACNA headquarters looked like. He sent me some photos of 1001 Merchant Street along with a note, which included the following:
What I found was surprising. There is no indication that ACNA is really there. There is no signage, and it would appear that there is only one tenant in what used to be the police/fire station, and that’s a biblical literacy group. The side door had ten lock mailboxes, so it seems as though the building can house that many tenants. It’s a pretty ratty looking place. As you can see from the photos, the third story is boarded up.
Here is a view of the building from the corner of Merchant Street and 10th Street. The main entrance of the building, which faces Merchant, has the narrower façade. Tenth street runs along the longer side of the building.

ACNA headquarters?The front entrance has nothing to suggest that the offices of a nascent Anglican province can be found inside.

Main entranceNeither does the 10th Street façade.

10th Street side of buildingWhat is obvious is that the building is for sale. The asking price for the 13,500 square foot building is $470,000.

Signs currently on buildingAs indicated in the e-mail, the only conspicuous tenant of the building is WatchWORD Productions, which markets a narrated version of the Bible (The WatchWORD Bible) on DVDs. The sign above the For Sale sign (which may be hard to read in the above photograph) proclaims:

we plan to stay in our present
location; this sale will help us
in our work to spread
"His Word"

Make of that what you will.

Another tenant, not identified by my correspondent, might be Zeta Design & Development, a software firm. But maybe not.

Anyway, the building has an interesting history. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, it was built by American Bridge Company in 1904 and housed various municipal agencies until 1996. The building was later purchased and renovated by one Thomas E. Throckmorton, who was eventually sent to prison for trucking Mexican marijuana from Arizona to Pennsylvania and storing it in the Ambridge building. He sold the building to GDT CG1, LLC—apparently erroneously reported as “GDT CGI” in the Post-Gazette story—which supposedly was to turn the building over to WatchWORD Productions. It is unclear who owns the building now, but WatchWORD clearly expects to be staying put after any sale.

GDT CG1, LLC, seems to invest in distressed properties and donate them eventually to conservative Christian organizations. (See, for example, the lead story in the February 25, 2003, issue of The Liberty Champion.) How can GDT CG1 afford to do this? Where is the money coming from? There is probably an interesting story here, but investigating it is above my pay grade.

Anyway, where is ACNA? I don’t know. I was surprised when Ambridge was first mentioned as the location of its headquarters; actually working in Ambridge would have been quite a comedown for Bob Duncan, who had become used to the downtown-Pittsburgh Oliver Building, a Daniel Burnham skyscraper completed in 1910. The headquarters of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh is in the process of moving across the Allegheny River to Allegheny Center, hardly a slum, but a place where the rents are cheaper than in Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle. My friend suggested that ACNA may be part of the move. Perhaps the ACNA headquarters is wherever Archbishop Duncan is, which as been in the diocesan office. Perhaps there simply is no there there.

I see that the Web site of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh is actually using that name now, rather than “The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican),” as I note in my November 1 post “Questions for the Anglican Diocese.”

November 24, 2009

Enough Already

I am Episcopalian,” a site containing videos of Episcopalians explaining why they are a members of The Episcopal Church, has been on the Web since Ash Wednesday last. In principle, it is lovely piece of PR, though I don’t know if Episcopalians or seekers view its videos more.

I doI am Episcopalian have some criticisms of the site, however—five of them, in fact. First, it is left to the visitor to figure out just what the site is all about. There is a good deal of text on the home page—the site is basically a one-page site, with pop-up Flash video windows—but none of that text explains what content is available or how to access it. It is left to the visitor to figure out that clicking on one of the pictures at the top of the page will display a video of an Episcopalian explaining why he or she is Episcopalian. Perhaps the site is meant as a test of one’s cleverness and is intended to discourage dullards from discovering our church. More likely, graphic design simply got in the way of clarity.

My second criticism is that there is no way to search the site. The videos display the name of the person talking, but the site provides no easy way to bookmark a particular video, find a video contributed by a friend, or find a video dealing with a particular issue. The site does provide HTML code to embed each video on a Web page, information which, to most visitors, is likely to seem inscrutable.

Next, the site contains a Give to the Episcopal Churchgraphic labeled “Give to the Episcopal Church,” which links to a page where you can contribute to various Episcopal funds. Is this really appropriate on a site that is—at least I assume it is intended to be—an evangelistic site? After telling the visitor why Episcopalians are Episcopalians, shouldn’t the next message be “join us,” rather than “give us money?”

Fourth, the site contains links cryptically labeled “upload,” “share,” and “continue.” These facilitate, respectively, uploading a video; sharing the site via Facebook, Digg, Delicious, or Reddit—one has to recognize the icons one sees upon mousing over “share”—or, amazingly, going to the home page of The Episcopal Church. The function of these links has to be discovered, as it is not made explicit.

This brings me to my fifth and final criticism of “I am Episcopalian,” which is the real reason for this post and the source of its title. One can get to the site using the URL This is the most likely method of arrival if one is actually looking for it. One is also redirected to the site from or (the URL I often use because doing so requires so few keystrokes). Is this really necessary? Cannot there be a link and promo for “I am Episcopalian” on the Episcopal Church’s home page? There used to be a clearer link to the home page of The Episcopal Church at, but now we only have the link “continue,” which is, I suggest, less than intuitive, particularly if you intended to go to “I am Episcopalian.” I suspect that some visitors looking for the Episcopal Church Web site never figure out how to get there. In particular, last week’s Episcopal Church ad in USA Today gave the Web address of the church as “” Is it not confusing that this will take people to “I am an Episcopalian?”

So, enough already. It’s time to allow people trying to get to the Episcopal Church Web site actually to get there directly. The church can promote “I am Episcopalian,” but it shouldn’t hijack unsuspecting surfers who are trying to go somewhere else.

November 18, 2009

Learning from the Roman Catholics

I don’t follow the Roman Catholic Church very closely, but I have found quite interesting two stories by Ann Rodgers in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette dealing with a new English translation of the Roman Mass. “Bishops split over Mass translation” appeared on November 16, 2009, and “Bishops advance new Mass translations despite reservations by some,” appeared today.

In their meeting this week in Baltimore, Catholic bishops, among other matters, have been dealing with a new English translation of the Roman Mass, a project that has been in the works for more than a decade. Monday’s story offers this context for the bishops’ work:
Rome requires one international committee to translate for each major language, and this text is intended to serve nations as diverse as Ireland and Pakistan. The bishops can propose amendments, but Vatican officials have final say over the text.

In 2001, the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments published Liturgiam Authenticam, new rules for translation. It stressed faithfulness to fourth-century Latin texts that were translations from Greek, Hebrew and other languages. It encouraged a special vocabulary for prayer that differed from everyday speech.
Much of the new translation has already been accepted; only the approval of the translation of antiphons was on the agenda of the Baltimore meeting.

Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pennsylvania, a past president of the bishops’ committees on doctrine and liturgy, was attempting—unsuccessfully, as it turned out—to convince the bishops to reject the antiphons. His real objection was not to the antiphons themselves, but to the emerging translation generally. According to Rodgers, Trautman views the new Mass “as a ‘slavish’ rendering of Latin into convoluted, ungrammatical English.” She quotes Trautman as saying, “American Catholics have every right to expect a translation of the new missal to follow the rules for English grammar. But this violates English syntax in the most egregious way.”

The issues in play were not simply literary ones, however. Tautman argued that Vatican II required that translations of the Mass be approved by bishops in jurisdictions where they will be used. In response to complaints from English-speaking jurisdictions outside the U.S., however, the Vatican had urged American approval of the antiphons before American bishops had had the opportunity to weigh in on their appropriateness, and the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, obliged. Tautman argued that this was a violation of canon law. “I do not see how an unnamed Vatican official can trump a doctrinal statement of the second Vatican Council,” and he speculated on what other rights the bishops might surrender in the future.

Tautman wanted to insist on the approval of antiphons by the conference, a tactic intended to delay approval of the entire Mass and provide an opportunity to improve it. Instead, the bishops voted 194–20 to endorse Cardinal George’s ceding final approval to the Vatican.

Actually, what first caught my eye in these stories was the following in today’s report:
But some auxiliaries were vocal in the debate, including Bishop Richard Sklba [CQ} [sic] of Milwaukee.

He noted that Pope Benedict has recently announced plans to permit Episcopalians and other Anglicans to become Catholic but keep using their Book of Common Prayer. That means more Catholics will have exposure to that book.

“The language of the Book of Common Prayer is elegant … in its phraseology and cadence,” he said. “It has shaped our English language for almost 500 years. Our proposed text will be compared to that historical one, critically I’m afraid, and with less positive results. We need more time to prepare a text worthy of our church.”
Anglicans, particularly Episcopalians, can draw lessons from these stories of Roman Catholic decision making. First, it is gratifying that our prayer book is appreciated even among Roman Catholic bishops. It is worth noting, however, that the Book of Common Prayer has never been a literal translation of anything. From the beginning, it drew on many sources, was influenced by both Catholic and Protestant theology, and respected the population that was to use it in worship. The Roman Catholic approach to producing a new English Mass is very different.

That approach deserves more comment. The centralization of the Roman Catholic Church, even though it may formally require local buy-in, is cumbersome and unresponsive. Those inclined to accept an Anglican covenant should take note. Decision making by an institution that spans the globe and encompasses diverse popualtions with widely differing viewpoints is, at best, difficult. The necessary compromises often satisfy no one, and the tendency to circumvent perpetual discussion and gridlock by central-authority fiat can be difficult to resist.

Does the behavior of the Roman Catholic Church suggest what our Anglican future will be under a covenant? Part of the Anglican genius, I think, is the ability of individual churches to respond effectively to the pastoral needs of the people in their cultural context. The populations and Anglican churches of the U.S. and Nigeria are too different to expect that either church should dictate liturgical or doctrinal terms to the other, but that will be a part of our Anglican future under an Anglican covenant. This is a most fundamental argument against a covenant. Those who would have such a compact speak disparagingly of “culture.” Humans cannot exist without culture, however, and religion that is somehow independent of culture cannot but be irrelevant to people’s spiritual needs.

Those who would centralize power within Anglicanism are today concerned about morality and the nature of the clergy. If we adopt a covenant, it will, I predict send us down the road of increasing conformity. Soon, Anglicans will insist on a uniform prayer book, one as grammatical, lyrical, and relevant as the English Mass being produced by the Vatican. God save us!

No Anglican Covenant

November 16, 2009

Shall the ‘Orthodox’ Anglicans Win?

Harry Emerson Fosdick’s sermon “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” is well known. I had an opportunity to reread it the other day and was struck not only by its eloquence in opposing the Fundamentalism of the early twentieth century but also by its relevance to The Episcopal Church as today’s Episcopalians contemplate a possible Anglican covenant. As I read the sermon, I thought of writing a contemporary Anglican paraphrase of it, but, in the end, I realized that the unfiltered Fosdick delivers a clear message to our church: resist those who would bar the door of “Christian Fellowship” to any who do not subscribe to their own peculiar collection of Christian dogma. For this reason, and because most Anglicans have never read Fosdick’s most famous sermon, I have reproduced it below.

Harry Emerson Fosdick (5/24/1878 – 10/5/1969) was ordained a Baptist preacher and was pastor of New York City’s First Presbyterian Church when, on May 21, 1922, he preached “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" a sermon that led to his resignation in 1924 to avoid disciplinary action against him by the not-so-liberal Presbyterian Church. Fosdick’s misfortune was soon reversed, however. Baptist John D. Rockefeller built the interdenominational Riverside Church in New York’s Morningside Heights and, when it opened in 1930, installed Fosdick as its pastor. Fosdick’s picture (see below) landed on the cover of Time.

Fundamentalism was a reaction both to scientific discoveries about nature and to discoveries and insights arising from biblical studies. The Fundamentalists sought to preserve Christian orthodoxy, or their imagined version of it. (In speaking of the Fundamentalist vision of the second coming as involving Christ’s returning on the clouds to set up his kingdom, Fosdick said, “I never heard that teaching in my youth at all.”) Of the conflicts of the time, Fosdick said:
The new knowledge and the old faith cannot be left antagonistic or even disparate, as though a man on Saturday could use one set of regulative ideas for his life and on Sunday could change gear to another altogether. We must be able to think our modern life clear through in Christian terms and to do that we also must be able to think our Christian life clear through in modern terms.
Perhaps the “orthodox” Anglicans are not strictly Fundamentalists, but they too want to preserve, in the formaldehyde of an Anglican covenant, the so-called “faith once delivered to the saints,” the fundamental essence of a Christianity whose historical existence can be found only in the individual minds of contemporary “orthodox” Anglican militants. Against such a static—if not always clearly delineated—body of Christian knowledge, Fosdick proposes a vision of continuing revelation, of the Bible leading us toward truth, the fullness of which is yet to be realized.

The Fundamentalists, argued Fosdick, cannot address legitimate concerns of upcoming generations. To do that, Fosdick offered a two-pronged alternative: proceed in “a spirit of tolerance and Christian liberty,” and keep matters in perspective. “So now, when from the terrific questions of this generation one is called away by the noise of this Fundamentalist controversy, [someone watching men argue about the ‘tiddeledywinks and peccadillos of religion’] thinks it almost unforgivable that men should tithe mint and anise and cummin, and quarrel over them, when the world is perishing for the lack of the weightier matters of law, justice, and mercy, and faith.” One could make a similar statement about gay bishops and same-sex partnership blessings in the face of war, disease, injustice, and global warming.

So, is not Fosdick’s program for Christians as relevant to Anglicans in 2009 as it was to Fosdick’s “evangelical Christians” of 1922? Subscribing to an Anglican covenant to assure some sort of “mutual recognizability” among Anglicans is nothing more than an attempt to hitch the Anglican wagon to the dead horse of a static faith, rather than to embrace the dynamic and exciting Christianity to which Fosdick called his flock. No formulation of the Christian faith is adequate for all time. As Fosdick put it:
There are many opinions in the field of modern controversy concerning which I am not sure whether they are right or wrong, but there is one thing I am sure of: courtesy and kindliness and tolerance and humility and fairness are right. Opinions may be mistaken; love never is.
Read “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” for yourself, and judge for yourself if Harry Emerson Fosdick isn’t speaking to us today.

Shall the Fundamentalists Win?*

A Sermon by Harry Emerson Fosdick
Preached May 21, 1922

This morning we are to think of the Fundamentalist controversy which threatens to divide the American churches, as though already they were not sufficiently split and riven. A scene, suggestive for our thought, is depicted in the fifth chapter of the Book of the Acts, where the Jewish leaders hale before them Peter and other of the apostles because they have been preaching Jesus as the Messiah. Moreover, the Jewish leaders propose to slay them, when in opposition Gamaliel speaks: “Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will be overthrown: but if it be of God, ye will not be able to overthrow them; lest haply ye be found even to be fighting against God.”

One could easily let his imagination play over this scene and could wonder how history would have come out if Gamaliel’s wise tolerance could have controlled the situation. For though the Jewish leaders seemed superficially to concur in Gamaliel’s judgment, they nevertheless kept up their bitter antagonism and shut the Christians from the Synagogue. We know now that they were mistaken. Christianity, starting within Judaism, was not an innovation to be dreaded; it was the finest flowering out that Judaism ever had. When the Master looked back across his heritage and said, “I came not to destroy, but to fulfill,” he perfectly described the situation. The Christian ideas of God, the Christian principles of life, the Christian hopes for the future, were all rooted in the Old Testament and grew up out of it, and the Master himself, who called the Jewish temple his Father’s house, rejoiced in the glorious heritage of his people’s prophets. Only, he did believe in a Harry Emerson Fosdickliving God. He did not think that God was dead, having finished his words and works with Malachi. He had not simply a historic, but a contemporary God, speaking now, working now, leading his people now from partial into fuller truth. Jesus believed in the progressiveness of revelation, and these Jewish leaders did not understand that. Was this new Gospel a real development which they might welcome or was it an enemy to be cast out? And they called it an enemy and excluded it. One does wonder what might have happened had Gamaliel’s wise tolerance been in control.

We, however, face to-day a situation too similar and too urgent and too much in need of Gamaliel’s attitude to spend any time making guesses at supposititious history. Already all of us must have heard about the people who call themselves the Fundamentalists. Their apparent intention is to drive out of the evangelical churches men and women of liberal opinions. I speak of them the more freely because there are no two denominations more affected by them than the Baptist and the Presbyterian. We should not identify the Fundamentalists with the conservatives. All Fundamentalists are conservatives, but not all conservatives are Fundamentalists. The best conservatives can often give lessons to the liberals in true liberality of spirit, but the Fundamentalist program is essentially illiberal and intolerant. The Fundamentalists see, and they see truly, that in this last generation there have been strange new movements in Christian thought. A great mass of new knowledge has come into man’s possession: new knowledge about the physical universe, its origin, its forces, its laws; new knowledge about human history and in particular about the ways in which the ancient peoples used to think in matters of religion and the methods by which they phrased and explained their spiritual experiences; and new knowledge, also, about other religions and the strangely similar ways in which men’s faiths and religious practices have developed everywhere. Now, there are multitudes of reverent Christians who have been unable to keep this new knowledge in one compartment of their minds and the Christian faith in another. They have been sure that all truth comes from the one God and is his revelation. Not, therefore, from irreverence or caprice or destructive zeal, but for the sake of intellectual and spiritual integrity, that they might really love the Lord their God not only with all their heart and soul and strength, but with all their mind, they have been trying to see this new knowledge in terms of the Christian faith and to see the Christian faith in terms of this new knowledge. Doubtless they have made many mistakes. Doubtless there have been among them reckless radicals gifted with intellectual ingenuity but lacking spiritual depth. Yet the enterprise itself seems to them indispensable to the Christian church. The new knowledge and the old faith cannot be left antagonistic or even disparate, as though a man on Saturday could use one set of regulative ideas for his life and on Sunday could change gear to another altogether. We must be able to think our modern life clear through in Christian terms and to do that we also must be able to think our Christian life clear through in modern terms.

There is nothing new about the situation. It has happened again and again in history, as, for example, when the stationary earth suddenly began to move and the universe that had been centered in this planet was centered in the sun around which the planets whirled. Whenever such a situation has arisen, there has been only one way out: the new knowledge and the old faith had to be blended in a new combination. Now the people in this generation who are trying to do this are the liberals, and the Fundamentalists are out on a campaign to shut against them the doors of the Christian fellowship. Shall they be allowed to succeed?

It is interesting to note where the Fundamentalists are driving in their stakes to mark out the deadline of doctrine around the church, across which no one is to pass except on terms of agreement. They insist that we must all believe in the historicity of certain special miracles, pre-eminently the virgin birth of our Lord; that we must believe in a special theory of inspiration—that the original documents of the Scripture, which of course we no longer possess, were inerrantly dictated to men a good deal as a man might dictate to a stenographer; that we must believe in a special theory of the atonement—that the blood of our Lord, shed in a substitutionary death, placates an alienated Deity and makes possible welcome for the returning sinner; and that we must believe in the second coming of our Lord upon the clouds of heaven to set up a millennium here, as the only way in which God can bring history to a worthy dénouement. Such are some of the stakes which are being driven, to mark a deadline of doctrine around the church.

If a man is a genuine liberal, his primary protest is not against holding these opinions, although he may well protest against their being considered the fundamentals of Christianity. This is a free country and anybody has a right to hold these opinions, or any others, if he is sincerely convinced of them. The question is: has anybody a right to deny the Christian name to those who differ with him on such points and to shut against them the doors of the Christian fellowship? The Fundamentalists say that this must be done. In this country and on the foreign field they are trying to do it. They have actually endeavored to put on the statute books of a whole state binding laws against teaching modern biology. If they had their way, within the church, they would set up in Protestantism a doctrinal tribunal more rigid than the pope’s. In such an hour, delicate and dangerous, when feelings are bound to run high, I plead this morning the cause of magnanimity and liberality and tolerance of spirit. I would, if I could reach their ears, say to the Fundamentalists about the liberals what Gamaliel said to the Jews, “Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God ye will not be able to overthrow them; lest haply ye be found even to be fighting against God.”

That we may be entirely candid and concrete and may not lose ourselves in any fog of generalities, let us this morning take two or three of these Fundamentalist items and see with reference to them what the situation is in the Christian churches. Too often we preachers have failed to talk frankly enough about the differences of opinion which exist among evangelical Christians, although everybody knows that they are there. Let us face this morning some of the differences of opinion with which somehow we must deal.

We may well begin with the vexed and mooted question of the virgin birth of our Lord. I know people in the Christian churches, ministers, missionaries, laymen, devoted lovers of the Lord and servants of the Gospel, who, alike as they are in their personal devotion to the Master, hold quite different points of view about a matter like the virgin birth. Here, for example, is one point of view: that the virgin birth is to be accepted as historical fact; it actually happened; there was no other way for a personality like the Master to come into this world except by a special biological miracle. That is one point of view, and many are the gracious and beautiful souls who hold it. But, side by side with them in the evangelical churches is a group of equally loyal and reverent people who would say that the virgin birth is not to be accepted as an historic fact. To believe in virgin birth as an explanation of great personality is one of the familiar ways in which the ancient world was accustomed to account for unusual superiority. Many people suppose that only once in history do we run across a record of supernatural birth. Upon the contrary, stories of miraculous generation are among the commonest traditions of antiquity. Especially is this true about the founders of great religions. According to the records of their faiths, Buddha and Zoroaster and Lao-Tzu and Mahavira were all supernaturally born. Moses, Confucius and Mohammed are the only great founders of religions in history to whom miraculous birth is not attributed. That is to say, when a personality arose so high that men adored him, the ancient world attributed his superiority to some special divine influence in his generation, and they commonly phrased their faith in terms of miraculous birth. So Pythagoras was called virgin born, and Plato, and Augustus Caesar, and many more. Knowing this, there are within the evangelical churches large groups of people whose opinion about our Lord’s coming would run as follows: those first disciples adored Jesus—as we do; when they thought about his coming they were sure that he came specially from God—as we are; this adoration and conviction they associated with God’s special influence and intention in his birth—as we do; but they phrased it in terms of a biological miracle that our modem minds cannot use. So far from thinking that they have given up anything vital in the New Testament’s attitude toward Jesus, these Christians remember that the two men who contributed most to the church’s thought of the divine meaning of the Christ were Paul and John, who never even distantly allude to the virgin birth.

Here in the Christian churches are these two groups of people and the question which the Fundamentalists raise is this: shall one of them throw the other out? Has intolerance any contribution to make to this situation? Will it persuade anybody of anything? Is not the Christian church large enough to hold within her hospitable fellowship people who differ on points like this and agree to differ until the fuller truth be manifested? The Fundamentalists say not. They say that the liberals must go. Well, if the Fundamentalists should succeed, then out of the Christian church would go some of the best Christian life and consecration of this generation— multitudes of men and women, devout and reverent Christians, who need the church and whom the church needs.

Consider another matter on which there is a sincere difference of opinion between evangelical Christians: the inspiration of the Bible. One point of view is that the original documents of the Scripture were inerrantly dictated by God to men. Whether we deal with the story of creation or the list of the dukes of Edom or the narratives of Solomon’s reign or the Sermon on the Mount or the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, they all came in the same way and they all came as no other book ever came. They were inerrantly dictated; everything there—scientific opinions, medical theories, historical judgments, as well as spiritual insight—is infallible. That is one idea of the Bible’s inspiration. But side by side with those who hold it, lovers of the Book as much as they, are multitudes of people who never think about the Bible so. Indeed, that static and mechanical theory of inspiration seems to them a positive peril to the spiritual life. The Koran similarly has been regarded by Mohammedans as having been infallibly written in heaven before it came to earth. But the Koran enshrines the theological and ethical ideas of Arabia at the time when it was written. God an Oriental monarch, fatalistic submission to his will as man’s chief duty, the use of force on unbelievers, polygamy, slavery—they are all in the Koran. The Koran was ahead of the day when it was written, but, petrified by an artificial idea of inspiration, it has become a millstone about the neck of Mohammedanism. When one turns from the Koran to the Bible, he finds this interesting situation. All of these ideas, which we dislike in the Koran, are somewhere in the Bible. Conceptions from which we now send missionaries to convert Mohammedans are to be found in the Book. There one can find God thought of as an Oriental monarch; there too, are patriarchal polygamy, and slave systems, and the use of force on unbelievers. Only in the Bible these elements are not final; they are always being superseded; revelation is progressive. The thought of God moves out from Oriental kingship to compassionate fatherhood; treatment of unbelievers moves out from the use of force to the appeals of love; polygamy gives way to monogamy; slavery, never explicitly condemned before the New Testament closes, is nevertheless being undermined by ideas that in the end, like dynamite, will blast its foundations to pieces. Repeatedly one runs on verses like this: “it was said to them of old time . . . but I say unto you”; “God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son”; “The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent”; and over the doorway of the New Testament into the Christian world stand the words of Jesus: “When he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth.” That is to say, finality in the Koran is behind; finality in the Bible is ahead. We have not reached it. We cannot yet compass all of it. God is leading us out toward it. There are multitudes of Christians, then, who think, and rejoice as they think, of the Bible as the record of the progressive unfolding of the character of God to his people from early primitive days until the great unveiling in Christ; to them the Book is more inspired and more inspiring than ever it was before; and to go back to a mechanical and static theory of inspiration would mean to them the loss of some of the most vital elements in their spiritual experience and in their appreciation of the Book.

Here in the Christian church to-day are these two groups, and the question which the Fundamentalists have raised is this: shall one of them drive the other out? Do we think the cause of Jesus Christ will be furthered by that? If he should walk through the ranks of this congregation this morning, can we imagine him claiming as his own those who hold one idea of inspiration and sending from him into outer darkness those who hold another? You cannot fit the Lord Christ into that Fundamentalist mold. The church would better judge his judgment. For in the Middle West the Fundamentalists have had their way in some communities and a Christian minister tells us the consequence. He says that the educated people are looking for their religion outside the churches.

Consider another matter upon which there is a serious and sincere difference of opinion between evangelical Christians: the second coming of our Lord. The second coming was the early Christian phrasing of hope. No one in the ancient world had ever thought, as we do, of development, progress, gradual change, as God’s way of working out his will in human life and institutions. They thought of human history as a series of ages succeeding one another with abrupt suddenness. The Greco-Roman world gave the names of metals to the ages—gold, silver, bronze, iron. The Hebrews had their ages too—the original Paradise in which man began, the cursed world in which man now lives, the blessed Messianic Kingdom some day suddenly to appear on the clouds of heaven. It was the Hebrew way of expressing hope for the victory of God and righteousness. When the Christians came they took over that phrasing of expectancy and the New Testament is aglow with it. The preaching of the apostles thrills with the glad announcement, “Christ is coming!”

In the evangelical churches to-day there are differing views of this matter. One view is that Christ is literally coming, externally on the clouds of heaven, to set up his kingdom here. I never heard that teaching in my youth at all. It has always had a new resurrection when desperate circumstances came and man’s only hope seemed to lie in divine intervention. It is not strange, then, that during these chaotic, catastrophic years there has been a fresh rebirth of this old phrasing of expectancy. “Christ is coming!” seems to many Christians the central message of the Gospel. In the strength of it some of them are doing great service for the world. But unhappily, many so overemphasize it that they outdo anything the ancient Hebrews or the ancient Christians ever did. They sit still and do nothing and expect the world to grow worse and worse until he comes.

Side by side with these to whom the second coming is a literal expectation, another group exists in the evangelical churches. They, too, say, “Christ is coming!” They say it with all their hearts; but they are not thinking of an external arrival on the clouds. They have assimilated as part of the divine revelation the exhilarating insight which these recent generations have given to us, that development is God’s way of working out his will. They see that the most desirable elements in human life have come through the method of development. Man’s music has developed from the rhythmic noise of beaten sticks until we have in melody and harmony possibilities once undreamed. Man’s painting has developed from the crude outlines of the cavemen until in line and color we have achieved unforeseen results and possess latent beauties yet unfolded. Man’s architecture has developed from the crude huts of primitive men until our cathedrals and business buildings reveal alike an incalculable advance and an unimaginable future. Development does seem to be the way in which God works. And these Christians, when they say that Christ is coming, mean that, slowly it may be, but surely, his will and principles will be worked out by God’s grace in human life and institutions, until “he shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied.”

These two groups exist in the Christian churches, and the question raised by the Fundamentalists is: shall one of them drive the other out? Will that get us anywhere? Multitudes of young men and women at this season of the year are graduating from our schools of learning, thousands of them Christians who may make us older ones ashamed by the sincerity of their devotion to God’s will on earth. They are not thinking in ancient terms that leave ideas of progress out. They cannot think in those terms. There could be no greater tragedy than that the Fundamentalists should shut the door of the Christian fellowship against such.

I do not believe for one moment that the Fundamentalists are going to succeed. Nobody’s intolerance can contribute anything to the solution of the situation which we have described. If, then, the Fundamentalists have no solution of the problem, where may we expect to find it? In two concluding comments let us consider our reply to that inquiry.

The first element that is necessary is a spirit of tolerance and Christian liberty. When will the world learn that intolerance solves no problems? This is not a lesson which the Fundamentalists alone need to learn; the liberals also need to learn it. Speaking, as I do, from the viewpoint of liberal opinions, let me say that if some young, fresh mind here this morning is holding new ideas, has fought his way through, it may be by intellectual and spiritual struggle, to novel positions, and is tempted to be intolerant about old opinions, offensively to condescend to those who hold them and to be harsh in judgment on them, he may well remember that people who held those old opinions have given the world some of the noblest character and the most rememberable service that it ever has been blessed with, and that we of the younger generation will prove our case best, not by controversial intolerance, but by producing, with our new opinions, something of the depth and strength, nobility and beauty of character that in other times were associated with other thoughts. It was a wise liberal, the most adventurous man of his day—Paul the Apostle—who said, “‘Knowledge’ puffeth up, but love buildeth up.”

Nevertheless, it is true that just now the Fundamentalists are giving us one of the worst exhibitions of bitter intolerance that the churches of this country have ever seen. As one watches them and listens to them, he remembers the remark of General Armstrong of Hampton Institute: “Cantankerousness is worse than heterodoxy.” There are many opinions in the field of modern controversy concerning which I am not sure whether they are right or wrong, but there is one thing I am sure of: courtesy and kindliness and tolerance and humility and fairness are right. Opinions may be mistaken; love never is.

As I plead thus for an intellectually hospitable, tolerant, liberty-loving church, I am of course thinking primarily about this new generation. We have boys and girls growing up in our homes and schools, and because we love them we may well wonder about the church which will be waiting to receive them. Now the worst kind of church that can possibly be offered to the allegiance of the new generation is an intolerant church. Ministers often bewail the fact that young people turn from religion to science for the regulative ideas of their lives. But this is easily explicable. Science treats a young man’s mind as though it were really important. A scientist says to a young man: “Here is the universe challenging our investigation. Here are the truths we have seen, so far. Come, study with us! See what we already have seen and then look further to see more, for science is an intellectual adventure for the truth.” Can you imagine any man who is worth while turning from that call to the church, if the church seems to him to say, “Come, and we will feed you opinions from a spoon. No thinking is allowed here except such as brings you to certain specified, predetermined conclusions. These prescribed opinions we will give you in advance of your thinking; now think, but only so as to reach these results.” My friends, nothing in all the world is so much worth thinking of as God, Christ, the Bible, sin and salvation, the divine purposes for humankind, life everlasting. But you cannot challenge the dedicated thinking of this generation to these sublime themes upon any such terms as are laid down by an intolerant church.

The second element which is needed if we are to reach a happy solution of this problem is a clear insight into the main issues of modern Christianity and a sense of penitent shame that the Christian church should be quarreling over little matters when the world is dying of great needs. If, during the war, when the nations were wrestling upon the very brink of hell and at times all seemed lost, you chanced to hear two men in an altercation about some minor matter of sectarian denominationalism, could you restrain your indignation? You said, “What can you do with folks like this who, in the face of colossal issues, play with the tiddledywinks and peccadillos of religion?” So now, when from the terrific questions of this generation one is called away by the noise of this Fundamentalist controversy, he thinks it almost unforgivable that men should tithe mint and anise and cummin, and quarrel over them, when the world is perishing for the lack of the weightier matters of the law, justice, and mercy, and faith. These last weeks, in the minister’s confessional, I have heard stories from the depths of human lives where men and women were wrestling with the elemental problems of misery and sin—stories that put upon a man’s heart a burden of vicarious sorrow, even though he does but listen to them. Here was real human need crying out after the living God revealed in Christ. Consider all the multitudes of men who so need God, and then think of Christian churches making of themselves a cockpit of controversy when there is not a single thing at stake in the controversy on which depends the salvation of human souls. That is the trouble with this whole business. So much of it does not matter! And there is one thing that does matter—more than anything else in all the world—that men in their personal lives and in their social relationships should know Jesus Christ.

Just a week ago I received a letter from a friend in Asia Minor. He says that they are killing the Armenians yet; that the Turkish deportations still are going on; that lately they crowded Christian men, women and children into a conventicle of worship and burned them together in the house where they had prayed to their Father and to ours. During the war, when it was good propaganda to stir up our bitter hatred against the enemy we heard of such atrocities, but not now! Two weeks ago, Great Britain, shocked and stirred by what is going on in Armenia, did ask the Government of the United States to join her in investigating the atrocities and trying to help. Our Government said that it was not any of our business at all. The present world situation smells to heaven! And now, in the presence of colossal problems, which must be solved in Christ’s name and for Christ’s sake, the Fundamentalists propose to drive out from the Christian churches all the consecrated souls who do not agree with their theory of inspiration. What immeasurable folly!

Well, they are not going to do it; certainly not in this vicinity. I do not even know in this congregation whether anybody has been tempted to be a Fundamentalist. Never in this church have I caught one accent of intolerance. God keep us always so and ever increasing areas of the Christian fellowship: intellectually hospitable, open-minded, liberty-loving, fair, tolerant, not with the tolerance of indifference as though we did not care about the faith, but because always our major emphasis is upon the weightier matters of the law.
* There are multiple versions of this sermon on the Web. The text shown here was ”stenographically reported by Margaret Renton.” The spelling and punctuation of that record has been retained here.


No Anglican Covenant

November 15, 2009

Renewed and Guaranteed

Automobile dealers have long sought to make used cars attractive to customers. Often this has involved branding or characterizing the product as something other than simply “used.” Used cars have been tagged as “A-1” or “Certified.” Sometimes they have even been redefined as “pre-owned,” as if new cars begin their lives in the public domain!

Last night, while listening to Rhythm Sweet and Hot, co-hosted by my friend Mike Plaskett, I heard a Ford Motor Company radio ad that ran in 1936. The ad was part of a transcription of a musical broadcast. The ad promoted Ford’s V8-powered automobiles, but it also promoted Ford used cars, characterized as “renewed and guaranteed.” Apparently, the attempt to make a used car seem like a safe and smart purchase is not at all recent.

A Web search turned up the newspaper ad below, from Michigan’s Ludington Daily News of September 16, 1936. The ad announces that “R & G Used Cars” carry a “written money-back guarantee.” That’s something one seldom gets even today.

Ford used car ad

November 12, 2009

11/12/2009 Updates

I want to update a couple of recent posts.

Canonical Problem

On October 10, 2009, I posted “What Are the Episcopal Church Canons, Anyway?” which was based on my discovery that a phrase had been left out of published versions of Canon III.9.11. I had trouble eliciting much interest in what I considered a serious problem that I hoped was not the tip of an iceberg. One attempt to interest someone I thought would want to do something about the problem got no response. When I started searching for someone else to contact, I discovered that the Secretary of the General Convention is actually responsible for the production the official version of the constitution and canons after each general convention, so I wrote to the Rev. Canon Dr. Gregory Stephen Straub.

It quickly became clear that I had found the right person. Canon Straub explained that this was not the first time an error had been found in the published constitution and canons. He said that, for the past three triennia, the actual editing of the constitution and canons has been done by the Archives of the Episcopal Church, to which he promptly dispatched e-mail. This quickly resulted in e-mail from the Archives acknowledging the error and assuring me that an investigation was being initiated. A few days later, I was informed of the results of that investigation.

I was very impressed that an investigation was possible. The Archives apparently retains intermediate work products, which provide an audit trail for determining how the text of the constitution and canons made the transition from pre- to post-convention version. Although actual keystrokes are not logged, the investigation did yield a credible theory of how the phrase “a declaration of removal” could have been deleted from the text of Canon III.9.11. In the final version, “Declaration of removal.” appears as marginalia annotating the section in question. Such marginalia is usually copied from the text to avoid introducing spelling or other errors. In this case, the text seems to have been cut, rather than copied. One might have expected the error to have been caught by subsequent copyediting, but that apparently did not happen. I am told that, since extensive changes were made to Title III by the 2006 General Convention, all those changes will be reviewed for correctness.

It is unfortunate, of course, that the people at the Archives made the mistake that they did, but I cannot but be impressed by their diligence, even if they fail to achieve god-like perfection. I am responsible for maintaining the constitution and canons of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and I fully appreciate the difficulty of such a job. I must also admit that the process I use in carrying out this task is not as meticulous as that used by the Archives of the Episcopal Church.

The Lists Revisited

In my post “The Lists,” I reproduced the lists of priests and deacons “released” by the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh recently, as well as Bishop Price’s cover letter explaining the lists. The Rev. Dr. Bruce Robison, rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in the Highland Park neighborhood of Pittsburgh, pointed out in a comment that two of the priests on the list had died, making any attempt to remove them from the roll of Episcopal clergy seem both silly and inappropriate.

The priests in question are the Rev. Don H. Gross and the Rev. David MacKenzie. Gross died November 13, 2008, and MacKenzie died September 3, 2009. In other words, Gross died shortly after the realignment of October 4, 2008, and MacKenzie died nearly a year later, more than a month before the Episcopal diocese’s Standing Committee made its offer to realigned clergy. I have no doubt that both priests were in the camp of Robert Duncan, not of The Episcopal Church, but the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh acted too late either to punish these priests or to assist them in transferring to another church.

The release of dead priests by the diocese, which was almost certainly inadvertent, illustrates why Canon III.9.8 should have been followed more literally. That provision, “Renunciation of the Ordained Ministry,” begins as follows:
If any Priest of this Church not subject to the provisions of Canon IV.8 shall declare, in writing, to the Bishop of the Diocese in which such Priest is canonically resident, a renunciation of the ordained Ministry of this Church, and a desire to be removed therefrom, it shall be the duty of the Bishop to record the declaration and request so made. [Emphasis added.]
The Standing Committee’s notion that a non-response to its October 5 letter was the equivalent of a written request was crazy on the face of it, and it is crazier still when the non-respondent is a dead man. I won’t further belabor this point.

If the Standing Committee released some clergy in error, did it erroneously fail to release others? I tried to answer this question, but it was difficult to assemble the required information from available public sources. Working from a December 2007 diocesan clergy list in the 2007 convention journal (the list begins on page 17), the October 30 lists, the current Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh clergy directory, and the church’s on-line clergy database, I initially identified about 18 former Pittsburgh clergy whose status was unclear. There were also about as many “released” clergy whose past residency in the diocese I could not establish.

Checking with friends, I determined that one or more of the Pittsburgh clergy who were neither released nor are listed in the Episcopal diocesan directory is deceased. A few others seem to have transferred canonical residence to other dioceses. Because the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh has not posted a 2008 convention journal, which would be expected to list all diocesan clergy, it was hard to tell who was being construed as canonically resident in that diocese. I did, however, discover a diocesan prayer list for September 2009 to August 2010. If one assumes that the clergy to be prayed for by the Anglican diocese are to be taken as clergy of the diocese, the status of many priests and deacons can be clarified. Using this, my analysis yielded the following:
  1. I found no evidence that two priests on the released list are actually in the Anglican diocese. In any case, they may well want to be out of the Episcopal diocese.
  2. Six clergy listed as being Pittsburgh clergy in December 2007 are on the Anglican prayer list and are shown on the Web as being resident in Pittsburgh. The names of these people probably should have been added to the 135 names on the released lists.
  3. Four clergy are in the same situation as the above six, except that they are not listed at all in the Episcopal clergy database on the Web. The names of these people probably should have been on the lists as well, but their status should be clarified. Some may have joined another Anglican or “Anglican” jurisdiction.
  4. One priest is listed in the Episcopal Church database as being in Pittsburgh, but he is not on the Anglican prayer list. I have no idea what diocese he thinks he is in.
  5. One former Pittsburgh priest shows up nowhere.
  6. At least two priests are canonically in both dioceses. This is strange and, to my mind, unacceptable.
Make of this what you will. If the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh made mistakes in tracking clergy—they certain seem to have done so—then they surely have the excuse that the Anglican diocese has been unwilling to share records or, for that matter, to coöperate in virtually any way whatsoever. The process of relieving clergy of their vows to The Episcopal Church therefore involved a degree of guesswork. If mistakes were made, I hope they will be corrected. Certainly, it is to be hoped that the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will un-release the Rev. Don Gross and the Rev. David MacKenzie.

November 10, 2009

The Lists

As has been reported, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh recently “released” 135 priests and deacons who had left the diocese for the “Anglican” diocese led by Archbishop Robert Duncan. Letters reporting the status changes were sent October 30, 2009. In letters dated October 5, 2009, the diocese’s Standing Committee had offered an opportunity for deacons or priests to be “‘released from the obligations of the Ministerial office [as a Priest or Deacon in the Episcopal Church] and deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority as a Minister of God’s Word and Sacraments conferred at Ordination [in the Episcopal Church],’” and the October 30 mailing completed the process at the diocesan level that was set in motion on October 5.

Oddly, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has not published the lists of “released” clergy and, in fact, declined to provide them when asked. This is odd because the lists are hardly secret. In fact, a list of removed deacons, a list of removed priests, and a cover letter from provisional bishop Kenneth L. Price, Jr., was, according to the lists themselves, sent to
  • The Presiding Bishop
  • The Recorder of Ordinations
  • The Secretary of the House of Bishops
  • The Secretary of the House of Deputies
  • The Church Pension Fund
  • The Church Deployment Office
  • The Bishops of the Episcopal Church (or the Ecclesiastical Authority of each Diocese of the Episcopal Church in which there is no Diocesan Bishop)
  • The Secretary of the Convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh
  • The Clergy of the Diocese of Pittsburgh
  • The Vestries of the Diocese of Pittsburgh
  • The Chancellor of the Diocese of Pittsburgh
Presumably, the material was also sent to the 135 people on the two lists. In other words, literally hundreds of copies of the material were distributed. Moreover, it appears that the former Pittsburgh clergy already have been removed from the clergy database accessible from the Church Publishing Incorporated Web site.

Primarily because I think Pittsburgh Episcopalians deserve to know who is and is not a member of their church’s clergy, I am making available a copy of the material distributed on October 30. Knowledgeable Pittsburgh laypeople will find the list mostly unsurprising, though some names may be unexpected and the absence of others may be equally unexpected.

Bishop Price’s letter is generous and unremarkable. It does contain one piece of information I had been wanting to know: “When asked in a letter in October to notify us of their desire to remain in this diocese, none of those on these enclosed notices did so.” I suspected that this was so. Bishop Price’s letter then continues with this interesting revelation: “After the October letter went out, our Standing Committee received a letter sent on behalf of these clergy stating that if we did not hear from these clergy individually, it would be appropriate for us to adjust our records accordingly.”

You can read Bishop Price’s letter and the list here.

My commentaries on the handling of clergy who left the diocese can be read here and here.

November 8, 2009

Reports from the Anglican Diocese

The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, the “realigned” group led by now-archbishop Robert Duncan, held its first annual convention November 6–7, 2009. Some interesting reports on the convention are now available on the Web.

The convention was held at “St. Steven’s Church,” the Sewickley, Pa., facility led by Geoff Chapman (famous for his notorious 2003 letter) and arguably the property of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published stories on November 7 and November 8. Less helpful is the story published in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on November 8. More helpful still is the report from historian Jeremy Bonner, who attends Trinity Cathedral and, like the parish, appears to have a foot in both the Episcopal and Anglican camps.

Here are some highlights of the convention gleaned from the above reports:
  1. The diocese accepted a number of parishes from outside the physical limits of the historic Diocese of Pittsburgh. Parishes were accepted into the diocese from North Carolina, Ohio, and California.
  2. Diocesan clergy will be in the Anglican Church in North America, but they will remain in the Southern Cone to maintain their nominal inclusion in the Anglican Communion.
  3. Archbishop Duncan took a minor pay cut. With assets tied up in litigation, money is tight.
  4. The diocese’s fund for legal expenses has received $300,000 “from someone not associated with the diocese,” according to Bonner. Another $200,000 in 1–2 matching funds has also been made available.
  5. The dioceses is strongly committed to planting new churches.
  6. The diocese supports the current Anglican covenant draft, especially with the controversial Section 4 included.
  7. The diocese is strongly against abortion and perhaps only less strongly against contraception.
  8. The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is now being called the “rogue diocese” by leaders of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Read the cited reports, especially Bonner’s.

November 7, 2009

Help Wanted

A few days ago, I announced that Lionel Deimel’s Web Log had been given a new look, with new features. Since then, I have made a few minor changes. Today, for example, I changed the format of the timestamp on comments. (Previously, only the time was shown, which was confusing if comments on a post were left over several days.)

Because the changes to the blog affect all posts, it has not been practical to try catching every glitch that may have been introduced in the makeover. I am therefore asking readers not to overlook anything on the blog that seems amiss or inconvenient. Please report problems by e-mail (see link at right).

I also ask that you report errors in the text of posts—typographical errors, misspelled words, bad links, misused words, punctuation errors, and so forth. Not all authors appreciate having their lapses pointed out, but I am acutely embarrassed by errors on Lionel Deimel’s Farrago and Lionel Deimel’s Web Log, so I am much appreciative of being given the opportunity to correct them. I do try to read carefully everything I post, and I often ask friends to read behind me as well. Errors do get through, however.

I appreciate my readers, and no one should feel obligated to report anything. I should also warn everyone that I do try to adhere to certain conventions—I use commas liberally, for example—so we may not always agree on what is or is not an error, but I will consider all reports thoughtfully.

Well, with that shop talk out of the way, it is time to get back to business. Thanks for reading the blog.

November 6, 2009

Time for “Hooker Hymn”

I was reminded Tuesday that The Episcopal Church celebrates sixteenth-century theologian Richard Hooker on November 3. Alas, this is a feast we seldom celebrate, even though Anglicanism might have been markedly different had there never been a Richard Hooker.

The reminder came in the form of an e-mail request from a priest who wanted to use my hymn “Authorities” at that day’s chapel service at an Episcopal school. (Children attending Episcopal schools with chapel services get to celebrate more people on our church calendar than do ordinary Episcopalians.) I was delighted to give my permission.

I mention this incident mostly because it prompted me to realize that another occasion is fast approaching on which “Authorities” would be an appropriate hymn to sing, and perhaps some readers can work it into Sunday services on November 15, 2009. The collect for that day is
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
My own church has often sung “O Christ, the Word Incarnate” (Hymn 632, in the “Holy Scripture” section of The Hymnal 1982) with Proper 28, though I find the text to be something of a muddle. As I explain on my Web page about “Authorities,” I wrote the hymn to celebrate tradition and reason, in addition to Scripture. This brings Anglican balance to the matter of authority within the Church and explains the special connection of the hymn to Richard Hooker. In this time of upheaval in the Anglican world, emphasizing that balance as often as possible is particularly important.

I paired my text with “Munich,” the usual tune for “O Christ, the Word Incarnate,” but I have recommended “Ellacombe” and “Llangloffan” as alternatives. The schoolchildren, I was told, would sing the hymn to “Morning Light,” the usual tune for “Stand Up, Stand Up, for Jesus,” a hymn with which they were already familiar.

If you want to use “Authorities,” please write me for permission. (See e-mail link at right.) Unless you’re planning to use the hymn on a network television special, I cannot imagine my not granting royalty-free permission. I do like to track use of the hymn, however.

Alleged Shooter

Not surprisingly, NPR has devoted a good deal of air time on Morning Edition to the mass killing that took place at Fort Hood yesterday. At one point, a correspondent called Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan “the shooter.” He quickly corrected himself, referring instead to the “alleged shooter,” saying something about Hasan’s not having been convicted of anything.

This sort of defensive journalism is really rather silly. To call Hasan a “shooter” is not a statement about his guilt or innocence before the law. That, indeed, is a matter to be determined, and it is proper to insist that, as a legal matter, Hasan is innocent until proven guilty. In particular, it would have been incorrect to call Hasan a “murderer,” as that term does imply a legal judgment, though perhaps not in all contexts.

That Hasan was a shooter is widely attested by many eyewitnesses, and, although eyewitnesses are not always factual in what they report, the likelihood that Hasan shot no one at Fort Hood on November 5 seems vanishingly small.

The silliness of this journalistic caution becomes obvious when we compare the case of Hasan to other reporting where there are many witnesses and certain basic facts seem not to be in question. Reporters don’t talk about the “alleged” victim of a traffic accident or the “alleged” speaker at a political rally. Instead, ordinary events that take place in public are taken to be what they seem to be unless there is strong reason to suspect otherwise.

It is conceivable that Maj. Hasan was not a shooter yesterday, but, not being an experienced conspiracy theorist, I find it difficult to imagine a scenario in which this would have been the case. Media lawyers need to lengthen reporters’ leashes a bit.

November 4, 2009

Gone But Not Forgotten

An Episcopal News Service story yesterday explained that 135 priests and deacons have been “released” from The Episcopal Church. The story follows the announcement to that effect on the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s Web site, “Diocese Completes Non-Disciplinary Release of Clergy.” As I wrote in earlier posts (“Is Pittsburgh Treating ‘Realigned’ Clergy Properly?” and “Once More on Departed Pittsburgh Clergy”), I believe that it is improper to “release” these clergy under the provisions of Title III; they should have been subjected to the disciplinary canons of Title IV, certainly many of them, in any case.

The objectives I have heard advanced as being behind the handling of clergy by the Pittsburgh diocese have included the following:
  1. To be pastoral, rather than punitive (and, as an added bonus, to get some good publicity for the diocese).
  2. To get the unpleasant business of dealing with “realigned” clergy behind the diocese as simply and as quickly as possible.
  3. To make it easier to receive the sometime Pittsburgh clergy back into the diocese at a later time and under changed circumstances.
I won’t repeat my canonical arguments here, but I do want to address the above objectives, particularly the third one.

As for being pastoral, one can surely find scriptural warrant for treating one’s adversaries with compassion. No doubt, many people who have read in the local newspapers how Pittsburgh has dealt with its departed clergy have found the diocese’s actions laudable. Those of us who have followed the ongoing traditionalist insurgency against The Episcopal Church, however, cannot help but worry that the Pittsburgh approach, canonical or not, sends the wrong message. We believe it both prudent and moral to temper mercy with justice. Why do we even have disciplinary canons if we are so reluctant to use them?

For the affected clergy, at least in the short run, it matters little how The Episcopal Church removes them from the clergy roster and the list of those eligible to contribute to the Church Pension Fund. Their ability to find employment in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh or the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone or the Anglican Church in North America depends not a whit on whether they are released from The Episcopal Church with or without prejudice. Either way, our church has relinquished all authority over them, and recent events have led us to expect that its determination of fitness for ministry is not respected by other members of the Anglican Communion.

Do the released clergy care? Probably not. Ann Rodgers, in her story in today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, describes the release as “an unwanted gift.” She quotes Canon Mary Hays as complaining about the use of the canons. Rodgers did not point out that the only canonical alternatives available were disciplinary. (There is a discussion going on at TitusOneNine tied to the diocesan press release regarding whether Pittsburgh is misusing the canons. It is, of course, but with good intentions. As I have said, the canons need to be amended.) Unlike Rodgers, I have not spoken to any of the clergy who have left, but I suspect that the Rev. Dan Crawford’s contemptuous comment on the Post-Gazette story at TitusOneNine is representative of the attitude of most of the former Diocese of Pittsburgh clergy:
I can’t begin to tell one and all how grateful I am that I have been “released”, but then I hadn’t been aware I had been held captive. Having retired from the Corporation several months ago, need I inform the Registrar of Recognized Ordinations that I have also been “released”? The gracious [sic] of an act done on my behalf without my consent is beyond words and even comprehension.
Well, no good deed goes unpunished.

As for getting the deed done and over with, it has to be admitted that charging the priests and deacons with abandonment of the communion of The Episcopal Church would have entailed some more work, and drawing up presentments—surely overkill under the circumstances—would have required a lot more work. Administratively, there was something to be said for the abandonment route, however. It would have required an extra round of letters, of course, as clergy would first be inhibited and could not be deposed for six months. Given that the painfully small diocesan staff was already overwhelmed with work related to the recent convention, however, I would have thought that stretching out the work would have been an attractive alternative. Moreover, the situation in Pittsburgh (and the Communion) can hardly be said to be stable. In six months, some clergy might actually have found it in their interest to repent and return to the diocese.

That the procedures employed by the diocese make it easier for realigned clergy to return must be considered, at best, problematic. Imagine, improbably, what would happen if all the clergy and all the congregations that left the diocese decided, for some reason, that they wanted to come back. (This might be for pragmatic considerations. Surely many of the realigners could not be expected to have a change of heart absent something as momentous as the Pentecost experience of Acts.) Suppose, further, that the diocese actually took them back. The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, which has been transformed from a nasty, contentious jurisdiction in which a majority exercised unchecked power with a take-no-prisoners attitude to one in which people of divergent views are working to get along and seek reconciliation rather than victory—see my post “Doing Things Differently in Pittsburgh”—would be in danger of falling back into its old dysfunctional ways.

Do not misunderstand me. I prayed that as many congregations as possible would choose to stay with The Episcopal Church. But, although Bishop Price won’t say it—he may not believe it—I will: there are some congregations (and certainly many, many clergy) that our diocese is better off without.

The insurgency within The Episcopal Church is driven by priests and bishops. There are laypeople as militant as the worst of the clergy, but many ordinary parishioners are along for the ride. They want to continue worshiping where they have for years, and, when extremist priests lead their congregations, they go along with the new leadership, they become radicalized, or they leave. I had hoped that, when we experienced “realignment” last year, more of the going-along laypeople would have suddenly thought better of it and fought for their parishes. Clergy, even clergy who are not well liked, have a strong hold on their congregations, however, and the hoped for defections were fewer than I might have expected. At least one priest even stayed with his realigning congregation rather than leave it leaderless. In one closely divided congregation that realigned, Episcopalians drifted off to other congregations awaiting the day when they would be allowed to return from exile.

No doubt, there are congregations that now or at some future time could be re-incorporated into the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh without destabilizing the recovering diocese. All things being equal, their potential for rehabilitation will decrease over time. Other congregations can never be. The same can be said of individual clergy, some of whom are guilty of much more serious infractions than simply walking away with property and parishioners. They should never be taken back under any circumstances.

What if a realigned congregation sought to rejoin the diocese and did so with its rector? What should the diocese do? Clearly, the answer depends on the circumstances. It would seem suicidal on the part of the diocese to readmit a congregation with the same priest in place that had preached against The Episcopal Church and goaded parishioners into leaving the diocese for the Southern Cone. If everyone comes back, what should be done with the priest? One can imagine a situation in which, if one accepts my suggestion that extremist priests must be separated from their congregations, the diocese could have, on one hand, leaderless parishes, and, on the other, unemployable clergy. I don’t know how to handle this situation short of creating Episcopal re-education camps for clergy.

Perhaps these musings are what have sometimes been called baroque worries. The situations about which I have serious concerns seem improbable. Who knows what will happen, however, if the Anglican Church in North America collapses, diocesan assets are handed over to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, and the diocese begins claiming parish property? Our new provisional bishop and other diocesan leaders should think twice before erecting the “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” sign without any fine print.

November 3, 2009

Blog Now Supports Comments

When I began blogging in February 2002, I characterized Lionel Deimel’s Web Log by the tagline “Random quick takes by Lionel Deimel.” At the time, I viewed the blog as an extension of my eclectic Web site, Lionel Deimel’s Farrago. Blogger software allowed me to compose and post essays more easily than I could build pages conforming to the style I had developed for that site. I expected that my blog would, like so many other blogs of the day, become a diary of personal anecdotes and modest observations. At the time, I wasn’t looking for literary criticism or dialogue.

As time went by, comments on Olympic performances and anecdotes about running down my car battery gave way to political commentary and observations on the political struggles within The Episcopal Church. My “quick takes” sometimes became long and elaborately formatted. My blog, like my Web site, remains a kind of farrago, and some takes are still quick. I do think of myself as an Episcopal blogger these days, though, rather than simply a blogger. (I hope no one thinks I should be ordained before I can call myself an Episcopal blogger.)

In these changed circumstances, the initial decision not to support comments on my blog seems increasingly dysfunctional. When I write something that invites discussion, that discussion can only occur through private e-mail or through comments on someone else’s blog. I have, in fact, been accused of not being interested in dialogue because visitors have not been able to leave comments. That has never been true. The evolving character of Lionel Deimel’s Web Log has finally convinced me to support comments on my blog.

This decision was more troublesome than I expected, as my blog template was not easily modified for comments. I finally decided to drop it in favor of a new template that needed fewer customizations. As a result, Lionel Deimel’s Web Log looks a bit different today than yesterday. Well, change is good.

Since I have not hitherto run a blog that supports comments, please bear with me if it takes me a while to fall into a comfortable mode of dealing with them. (The look of the blog may require a few more tweaks, too.) My main reason for not implementing comments earlier had been fear of being overwhelmed with the management of them. I still harbor that fear, but I am trying to minimize the problems that comments might create.

At least for now, here are my guidelines for comments:
  1. Comments cannot be anonymous. I cannot force people to use real names, but some name is required, if only to identify multiple comments as coming from the same writer. My preference is that people leaving comments will use their real names, along with any other identification they think may be useful. I won’t insist on this.
  2. Comments will not be pre-screened, and I don’t even promise to read all of them, though I will try to do so. I have a high tolerance for language, but gratuitous profanity or libelous statements will not knowingly be tolerated. Send me e-mail if you think a particular comment inappropriate.
  3. I appreciate discussion, but I reserve the right to limit discussion that goes wildly off-topic. (We’ll have to see what this means in practice.)
  4. I reserve the right to remove comments that violate the above guidelines.
Please do not be intimidated by the above rules; I do want to encourage discussion. If you have concerns or suggestions about my guidelines, leave a comment here or send me e-mail (see link at right).

November 1, 2009

Questions for the Anglican Diocese

This past week, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican) announced simultaneously that it was going to appeal the decision of Judge Joseph James awarding diocesan property to the Episcopal Church diocese—see my October 6, 2009, post “Victory!”—and that it would henceforth be known as the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The Story on the Web

The diocese of Archbishop Robert Duncan not only issued a press release October 29, 2009, but also created a new Web site on which to place it. The new site, titled “Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh,” can be found at At the lower left of the home page of this site is a link labeled “Continue to diocesan web site,” which takes the reader to what has been (and, apparently, continues to be) the Web site of the breakaway diocese. This site, found at, still carries the title “The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican).”

Both Pittsburgh dailies carried stories of the announcement from the Duncan camp. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published “
Anglicans appeal ruling on property division” on October 29. An edited and shortened version of the story appeared October 30 with the title “Seceding Anglicans to appeal decision on assets.” The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review published “Churches plan appeal of Allegheny County judge’s ruling to keep assets” October 30.

Episcopal News Service ran a more detailed story containing useful links to related content. Titled “
Group plans to appeal diocesan property ruling,” it appeared October 29. The Living Church posted an October 30 story, “Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh to Leave Longtime Office,” which, despite its title, largely deals with the recent announcement regarding litigation.

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh published a brief reply to the promise of an appeal October 29, which can be found

The determination to appeal the decision in the Calvary lawsuit is a disappointing development, but certainly not an unexpected one. The militant traditionalists leaving The Episcopal Church have shown no hesitation to fight for property in the courts. (The biblical injunction about taking disputes among Christians to the secular courts apparently only applies to the infidels remaining in The Episcopal Church.) That they have had almost no success, except in a couple of Southern states where the War of Northern Aggression is still being fought, is of no consequence. They are confident that they are on God’s side—or is it the other way around?—and are therefore incapable of entertaining a rational cost-benefit analysis regarding costly and time-consuming litigation. They are used to declaring victory at every reversal—the honest “[w]e lost” in Archbishop Duncan’s recent pastoral letter was a welcome exception, but one that has quickly been forgotten—and charging forth with renewed confidence to fight the next battle.

The October 29 press release raises many questions, but, not really knowing what Archbishop Robert Duncan and his attorneys are thinking, I do not have many answers for them. Here are some questions that come to mind, however, and a few thoughts I can offer concerning them:

1. Who is bankrolling an appeal? Duncan’s new Web site (see sidebar), whose purpose seems to be to intimidate Episcopalians into capitulating and reassuring Duncan’s followers that all will be well, proclaims:
The appeal announced today will be funded from several significant contributions, the first of which is in hand. An Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh Defense Fund (The Staying Faithful Fund) has been established and is receiving donations. None of the ordinary gifts of our people or assessments of our congregations will be used to support the appeal.
(No information is offered concerning how one might contribute to the fund.) The money is likely coming from the same wealthy ideologues who have funded the Institute for Religion and Democracy and the American Anglican Council, people whose primary agenda may not necessarily be (for example) strengthening the Anglican Communion and its constituent churches. (See the report “Following the Money” from the Diocese of Washington, as well as the earlier report from Institute for Democracy Studies, “A Church at Risk: The Episcopal ‘Renewal Movement.’”) Although people in the pews of Duncanite churches are supposed to be reassured by the press release statement, they might well ask themselves whose agenda is being advanced here. Who is paying for an appeal, an appeal that does not seem to have much prospect of success?

2. Why announce an appeal now? No appeal has yet been filed nor will be filed until Judge James actually orders assets to be transferred to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. So why announce an appeal now? I doubt that the defendants think they are going to intimidate the leaders of the Episcopal diocese directly, though they may have been encouraged by a perceived lack of resolve in the diocese’s generous but misguided offer to release clergy from their obligation to The Episcopal Church. (See “Is Pittsburgh Treating ‘Realigned’ Clergy Properly?” and “Once More on Departed Pittsburgh Clergy.”)

The Duncan crowd may hope that their rhetoric will cause well-meaning Episcopalians to call for charitable treatment of those who have left the diocese and church. According to the new Web site, attempts by The Episcopal Church to reclaim its property would be “unfair, unreasonable, and unconscionable.” We are told that “[t]here must be an equitable agreement and distribution. There is a Christian way to resolve this dispute.” We are also told that “the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh is committed to protecting and expanding the extraordinary ministries of [its] dynamic congregations and agencies,” something it will be unable to do without appropriating resources from The Episcopal Church, apparently.

It is interesting to see what is going on here. Judge James’s decision only applies to diocesan property. A separate provision of the 2005 stipulation applies to parish asserts, and the disposition of parish property will only be considered after ownership of diocesan property is established. Duncan acknowledged this in his October 7, 2009, pastoral letter:
The court’s decision has nothing to do with PARISH property, including the funds held in trust for you. The stipulation of 2005 spelled out a mediated process for parishes wishing to leave the “diocese.” Your bishop, your standing committee, your diocesan council and your board of trustees will all work with your parish leadership toward this end. We invite the leadership of the Episcopal Church Diocese into working with us for the good of all congregations, both Episcopal Church and Anglican Church congregations.
There has been essentially no sympathy among leaders of the Episcopal Church diocese for ceding diocesan assets to the realigners. There is real concern among liberal Episcopalians of the diocese, however, that negotiation regarding parish property will become a much more personal affair, and conservative diocesan leaders may be reluctant to act against realigned priests, lately counted as friends, whose theology may be more similar to their own than to that of liberal diocesan clergy. Duncan and his followers understand this and are changing the subject to parish property, where their case has greater emotional appeal. The Anglican diocese asserts that “parish programs are threatened by the court decision, especially if a precedent is set for confiscating parish assets,” but it is not so much parish outreach that is being threatened as it is real estate, trust funds, and furnishings that are at risk.

I find this argument especially galling, as one of the mission projects listed on the new Web site is Shepherd’s Heart Ministries, a worthy enterprise that aids the homeless of Pittsburgh. My own parish, despite the diocesan schism of a year ago, has continued to serve monthly meals to the homeless at Shepherd’s Heart, not wanting to punish the homeless for the sins of their former Episcopal brothers and sisters. The Anglican diocese unashamedly takes credit for the work of Shepherd’s Heart, however, without any suggestion that it is an ecumenical ministry.

3. Why change the name of the diocese now from “Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican)” to “Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh”? The reason for this change may be simply that the former name was confusing to friends and foes alike. Maintaining the myth that Duncan presided over the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh seemed to be a major part of that group’s legal strategy, but Judge James dismissed the ploy derisively. I suspect that the basis of an appeal will not involve the name of the diocese. The name change raises another, likely unimportant, question: What will happen to the Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation by the name of Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh registered by Duncan in 2008? (See “Which Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh?”)

4. Why is the main Web site for the Duncan diocese still titled “The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican)”? The new Web site is clearly not a new diocesan Web site; it comprises only six pages. The site at has not changed its title, does not contain the latest press release, and does not mention the new site at Are the Duncanites trying to fly under the radar? Whose?

5. When was it decided to appeal? It would be interesting to know when Duncan and his attorneys decided to appeal the Court of Common Pleas ruling. My guess is within minutes of learning of it, in spite of all the temporizing and talk of prayer and seeking God’s guidance. They have always pursued a scorched-earth policy. As long as someone is willing to pay for ongoing litigation, Duncan can forestall his day of reckoning. Perhaps God will somehow pull him out of the fire before he has to admit legal defeat.