December 27, 2009

Communion Transparency, Take 2

Dr. Joan Gundersen has offered insight into the apparent changes that have occurred in the rules governing the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). (See “Communion Transparency.”) In particular, she has pointed out that the ACC decided to change its legal status at its 2005 meeting. I don’t know what kind of entity the ACC had been within the British legal system, but it has now become (or is becoming—there’s that transparency issue again) a charitable company. Also, I don’t really understand the significance of the change, but I think it is a response to modifications of British law and to concerns about liability. In any case, the resolution below (#3) was passed in by ACC-13:
Constitutional Change (ACC to be a charitable company)
The Anglican Consultative Council:
  1. notes and approves the draft memorandum and articles proposed by the Standing Committee in order to reconstitute the work of the Council within the framework of a limited liability company as requested by ACC 11 and ACC 12
  2. authorises the Standing Committee to make such final amendments to the documentation as may be needed in the light of this Council’s discussions and the views of the Primates Meeting, and in accordance with legal advice and any further comments received from the Charity Commissioners
  3. requests the Standing Committee to establish such a body with charitable status in accordance with the such approved draft Memorandum and Articles as amended as a result of any such views, advice or comments
  4. resolves to transfer to the new charitable company all the Council’s assets and liabilities in due course and to wind up the affairs of the existing legal entity once the new arrangements are in
The ACC-11 resolution referred to above apparently is the following, from the ACC’s 1999 meeting (see item d):
Resolution 6: Constitutional Amendments
  1. That the amendments to the constitution set out in the constitutional documents be adopted and referred to the provinces for ratification in accordance with article 10.
  2. That the amendments to the bylaws set out in the constitutional documents be adopted with immediate effect.
  3. Resolved that the Guidelines for ACC Meetings set out in the constitutional documents be adopted with immediate effect.
  4. That the Standing Committee consider, and if it thinks fit, adopt an appropriate legal structure for the ongoing work of the council within the framework of a limited company in accordance with legal advice and any directions of the charity commissioners for England and Wales, but so far as possible in all other respects in accordance with the existing constitutional arrangements.
It is less clear what ACC-12 resolution or resolutions are referred to in the ACC-13 resolution. Perhaps it is this one:
Resolution 41: ACC Constitution
This Anglican Consultative Council:
  1. asks that the Standing Committee appoint a committee to review the Constitution and By-Laws of the ACC, and to report to the Standing Committee;
  2. asks that the Standing Committee circulate such proposals for amendment to the members of ACC in advance of ACC-13.
In any case, another ACC-12 resolution is interesting, as it suggests that, no matter how implemented, the Standing Committee, not the ACC itself, was destined to be the body adding new ACC members:

Resolution 37: Future Alterations to the Schedule of Membership

This Anglican Consultative Council:
Resolves to amend the Constitution as follows: In the third line of clause 3 (a) delete the word “Council”, and insert the words “Standing Committee”.
So it appears likely that the “Articles of Association of the Anglican Consultative Council” referred to by Canon Kenneth Kearon in his letter to the provinces refers to a new but undisclosed governing document of the ACC required by its new legal status. Does this mean that the ACC constitution is no longer in effect? Did the Standing Committee take advantage of the latitude granted it by Resolution 3 of ACC-13 to transfer additional powers from the ACC to itself? What are the rules for the ACC now? In an organization with a tradition of acting transparently and respecting the least of those affected by its actions, we would not have to ask such questions. This is the Anglican Communion, however.

No Anglican Covenant

December 24, 2009

Communion Transparency

The Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) posted an essay two days ago about the adoption process for the Anglican covenant. “Committing to the Anglican Covenant” pointed out something that had escaped my attention but that is only tangentially related to the adoption process proper, namely, the mechanism by which a church becomes a part of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC).

The ACC has a constitution that contains a schedule of ACC members and that specifies how many people (and of what orders) each church may send to ACC meetings. (The Episcopal Church gets one bishop, one priest, and one layperson.) Paragraph 3a of the constitution sets out how a church is added to the ACC:
The Council shall be constituted with a membership according to the schedule hereto. With the assent of two-thirds of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, the council may alter or add to the schedule. “Primates,” for the purposes of this article, shall mean the principle [sic] Archbishop, bishop, or Primates of each of the bodies listed in paragraphs b,c and d of the schedule of membership.
The ACI noted blandly that “these procedures have apparently changed recently, although they have not been announced publicly.” The evidence for such a change is the following paragraph from Canon Kenneth Kearon’s letter transmitting the final covenant draft to the Anglican provinces:
Section 4.1.5 of the Covenant refers to the ‘procedures as set out by the Anglican Consultative Council for the amendment of its schedule of membership’. These procedures are to be found in the Articles of Association of the Anglican Consultative Council 2.2, which state ‘..with the assent of two-thirds of the Primates of the Anglican Communion (which shall be deemed to have been received if not withheld in writing within four months from the date of notification) the Standing Committee may alter or add to the Schedule’.
I have never heard of the ACC’s Articles of Association, and, apparently, the ACI hasn’t either. If there has been a change in how the ACC operates, why have we not been told about it, particularly in light of the fact that the last meeting of the ACC was way back in May? (There appears to be no ACC Articles of Association on the Web.)

A little investigation has not shed much light on the situation. I contacted two members of the Episcopal News Service staff, who were as clueless about Canon Kearon’s letter as I was. I have made other inquiries, but, its being Christmas Eve, I’m not expecting immediate (if any) responses. I have, however, uncovered a few interesting facts:
  1. The creation of the ACC was recommended by the 1968 Lambeth Conference in its Resolution 69. The resolution mentions a constitution, but not Articles of Association.
  2. Among the published resolutions of ACC-14 (the most recent ACC meeting), there is no mention of ACC Articles of Association.
  3. Among the ACC-14 resolutions is, however, the following:

  4. Resolved, 12.05.09 [May 12, 2009]

    The Anglican Consultative Council

    1. notes that the former “Joint Standing Committee” is named as the “Standing Committee” under the new constitution;
    2. amends the resolutions of this Anglican Consultative Council meeting so that the title “Joint Standing Committee” is replaced with the title “Standing Committee” wherever appropriate.
  5. Nowhere else among the ACC-14 resolutions is “constitution” or “new constitution” mentioned.


Yesterday, Adrian Worsfold, writing at Daily Episcopalian, likened the new Standing Committee to the Soviet Politburo, in that it has (or is assuming) broad powers and meets in secret. Not only is the operation of the Standing Committee not transparent, however, but even the workings of the ACC, the most representative and accessible “Instrument,” may also be, in important respects, opaque. What is the “new constitution” referred to in the ACC-14 resolution? Is it the “Articles of Association?” And what is the significance of the mysterious “2.2” in Canon Kearon’s letter? It suggests that the Articles of Association of the ACC are not new at all! The big question, of course, is whether the very rules under which the ACC operates are secret.

Many were disconcerted when the Standing Committee first referred to itself as the “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion,” suggesting an importance we did not think it had. The resolution renaming the “Joint Standing Committee” does not append “of the Anglican Communion” to the committee name. In fact, the committee had generally been known, rather helpfully, as the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting. In light of the resolution apparently passed by the ACC—I am beginning to doubt the literal truth of anything coming out of the Anglican Communion Office—perhaps the committee is now the “Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting.”

I cannot help noting something interesting about the creation of the ACC. Its advent was certainly an important milestone in the life of the Anglican Communion, though it would be hard credibly to argue that its long-term effect on the nature of the Communion is likely to be greater than that of the Anglican covenant, should the covenant be adopted. 1968 The Lambeth Conference resolution endorsing the ACC idea begins as follows:
The Conference accepts and endorses the appended proposals concerning the Anglican Consultative Council and its Constitution and submits them to the member Churches of the Anglican Communion for approval. Approval shall be by a two-thirds majority of the member Churches and shall be signified to the Secretary of the Lambeth Consultative Body not later than 31 October 1969.
Contrast this with the method by which the Anglican covenant (now referred to on the Anglican Communion Web site as “The Anglican Communion Covenant”) is to be adopted:
(4.1.6) This Covenant becomes active for a Church when that Church adopts the Covenant through the procedures of its own Constitution and Canons.
Rather an easier path to adoption, I should think. (The new way of adding members to the ACC also greases the path to approval, in that case by counting the absence of a vote against as a vote for, a notion contrary to Episcopal Church practice, except possibly in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.) It is also a path that is neither democratic nor sensible. What will it mean, for example, when only a single province adopts the covenant. (Someone has to be first.) Can that province bring complaints against other provinces and expect them to be adjudicated as specified in the covenant? The possibilities bear thinking about.

If I were not convinced before, I am surely convinced now that the covenant process (and perhaps the operation of the entire Anglican Communion bureaucracy) is opaque, manipulative, and disingenuous. It is past time to ask if we want to be party to the Anglican covenant. It is time to ask if we want to be part of the Anglican Communion itself.

No Anglican Covenant

December 21, 2009

European Bilocation

In a newscast earlier today, NPR reported on the problems Eurostar has had with its trains that run under the English Channel. Service has been suspended for three days, resulting in frustrated travelers. The NPR newscast, referring to travelers who have been unable to board a Eurostar train, spoke of the “many who remain stranded on both sides of the English Channel.”

Surely an NPR editor slipped up! The report should have referred to the “many who remain stranded on either side of the English Channel,” as it seems impossible that anyone was simultaneously stranded on both sides of the Channel. Alternatively, one could have spoken of the “many, on both sides of the English Channel, who remain stranded.” English is notable for its flexibility with respect to word order, but altering word order sometimes makes a big difference.

Screw the GOP

It is tiresome hearing Republican Senators complaining about the deals Democrats had to make to move the health care bill forward. I share the disgust of many Democratic Senators about that same issue. Whereas the Democrats have a right to complain, however, Republicans do not. The party of NO opted out of the legislative process. They, too, might have gotten deals had they been willing to vote for something, had they acted like statesman and -women instead of like petulant two-year-olds. It’s time the Grand Old Party were replaced by a responsible political party interested in governing, not merely in bitching because they are no longer in the majority. Does anyone want to step forward?


Until yesterday, I had never seen a 3D movie. I felt I needed an escape for a few hours, so I went to a theater to see James Cameron’s new movie Avatar. If you have not seen this movie in 3D, run, don’t walk, to your nearest theater showing it in all its full glory. You will probably pay a premium for the experience, but it will be worth it. I paid $9.75 at a matinee, which was about $3 more than I would have paid to see the conventional version of the movie. (I skipped the $7 bucket of popcorn, however, so the afternoon wasn’t all that expensive.)

As you may have heard, the plot of this movie is not extraordinary. Rapacious and heartless humans have come to the planet Pandora, where they plan to relocate the “primitive” Na’vi, a tribe of oversize humanoids who live at one with nature, so that corporate interests can mine a valuable mineral that, inconveniently, is buried beneath the Na’vi’s forest homeland. In the end, the Na’vi drive out the humans, and the human boy gets the Na’vi girl. Alas, many lives are lost on both sides in the process. The plot is a bit too magical for its own good, but magic is required to produce the movie’s happy ending.

The star of the movie is Pandora, a planet of enchanted forests inhabited by enormous trees, bioluminescent foliage, six-legged terrestrial beasts, giant pterodactyl-like creatures of the air, and levitating mountains. The richness of the world that Cameron has created is difficult to capture in mere words.

The images on the screen are enhanced when the movie is viewed in 3D, wearing the obligatory but unobtrusive polarized-lens glasses. Happily, Cameron has not chosen to exploit the 3D process to deliver cheap thrills. Flying through the air is more exciting in 3D, of course, but seldom does an object appear in front of your nose. (I did flinch once.) I was a bit surprised, however, that the effect of 3D is not quite to make the screen image appear completely natural, a phenomenon I have been thinking about since a few minutes into the film. (I assume that people will continue to talk about “films,” although I assume that Avatar exists only on computer hard drives.) Initially, the 3D images seemed to have a cartoonish character, as if the depth added by the 3D process were unnaturally exaggerated. This sense decreased as the movie progressed, but it never completely went away.

I am not an expert on human visual perception, but I think I have a few clues about why the 3D effect in Avatar was less than perfect and why 3D movies are likely to continue to be so until we can project a credible holographic image onto a theater stage. Two things are going on, I think. The less important one is the fact that the camera moves through the environment differently than a person does. A tracking shot that moves around a person, for example, may seem unnatural because people do not normally move as the camera does and, as a result, are not used to seeing what the camera sees. (The same shot seems perfectly natural in 2D because it is embodies a cinematic cliché we have grown used to.) More significantly, however, although the 3D camera may see what our eyes see, vision is, ultimately, created in our brain. What we “see” is both more and less than is captured by our eyes or by cameras standing in for our eyes.

Consider a scene in a large room with speaking characters in the foreground and other actors moving around in the background. In a 3D movie, the background is likely to seem clearer (hyper-real perhaps) than it would if we were standing where the camera has been positioned and were simply observing the action. This is because we attend to certainly elements in the environment and are only vaguely aware of ether elements in which we have little interest. The 3D movie shows us everything, however, with little discrimination, even if the background is slightly out-of-focus. Sitting in the theater, we can choose to look away from the focal point of the action on the screen, but the screen image does not change as would the image in our heads if we made the corresponding move on the actual movie set. (I would be interested in hearing how others react to 3D movies.)

All that said, the 3D process definitely enhances the verisimilitude of Cameron’s Pandora, but the world of the Na’vi would be engrossing even without that enhancement. Moreover, despite the rather predictable plot, I found myself in tears as I tried to read the credits at the end of the movie. This was less about the “happy” ending as it was about my anger at the insensitivity of most of the humans and my sadness at the wanton destruction and loss of life for which they were responsible. I have not cried that way over a movie since I saw The China Syndrome. I’m not sure it had anything to do with my tears, but leaving Cameron’s completely believable world of Pandora for the “real” world was also profoundly sad.

December 19, 2009

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

I'm sitting in front of my computer on the Saturday before Christmas and looking out my window at the snow that has been falling since about 10 o’clock last night. For now, I’m not going anywhere.

I heard a report on the radio that retailers are not at all happy with the snowstorm that has hit the eastern seaboard this weekend. The Saturday before Christmas is usually the biggest shopping day of the year, but it surely won’t be that in Pittsburgh in 2009.

The shopping that few are doing reminded me of a poem I wrote a few years ago. It is one of my least typical and probably one of my best. I offer it below as a Christmas gift of sorts. You can also read the poem on Lionel Deimel’s Farrago, where I offer background information about it.
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
by Lionel Deimel

The jingle bells are back,

Ringing jingle-jangle ding-dong-ding

On the street corners and at the mall,

Where the giant Damoclean snowflakes

Hang menacingly from the store ceilings

Over the heads of the make-up consultants,

Displaying their perfect faces, Santa Claus hats,

And belligerent helpfulness.

The colored outdoor lights are back,

Contending with high-pressure, sodium streetlamps

To banish night and veil the pallid twinkle of the stars,

Letting the phosphor-white icicles,

Dripping electrically from the eaves,

Highlight the unnatural landscape

Of rotund, glow-from-within snowmen

And teams of gene-damaged reindeer.

The entertainments are back—

The last-minute, Oscar-hopeful blockbusters

Playing beside cheap trifles luring the momentarily vulnerable;

Pick-up-choir, stumbling-through-the-notes Messiahs

Competing with earnest Amahls and Peanuts Specials;

The cute-but-clumsy, tiny ballerinas tripping through Nutcrackers

Sorely in need of crowd control;

And the latest made-for-TV, hanky-wrenching, feel-good melodrama.

The emotions are back,

With love-thy-neighbor, brotherhood-of-man yearnings

Schizophrenically vying with loathing for the driver ahead,

As we pursue our private quests

For perfect love-showing, obligation-meeting, or indifference-disguising gifts,

Our anticipating the giving-terror, receiving-embarrassment,

The disappointing joy, and the exhilarating letdown assuring us at last

That Christmas is upon us.


Big-screen TV
Have you noticed that some people are pronouncing “electronics” differently these days? The word crops up a lot in this season, as stores such as Best Buy and Walmart promote sales of high-definition televisions, GPS navigation units, and Blu-ray players.

I first noticed this phenomenon in a Walmart TV commercial, but I had to view the ad more than once to convince myself that my ears were not deceiving me. Instead of pronouncing “electronics” as i-lek-tron'-iks (or, less often, ee-lek-tron'-iks), the voiceover pronounces the word as el-ek-tron'-iks. Where did this pronunciation come from? “Electronics” is related to several other words. Do the people who say el-ek-tron'-iks also pronounce “electric” as el-ek'-trik, “electricity” as el-ek-tris'-i-tee, and “electron” as el-ek'-tron. No such pronunciations, I suggest, are standard.

The Walmark pronunciation of “electronics” may be gaining currency. The day I decided that I had heard the retailer’s ad correctly, I identified two other speakers on television saying el-ek-tron'-iks.

December 18, 2009

Changes to Section 4 of the Covenant Draft

The “Final Text”of the Anglican covenant was released today. It is, of course, a draft; there may never be an Anglican covenant, much less this one, but we shall see. The new version can be found here. Presumably, only Section 4 is changed from the Ridley Cambridge Draft. An explanation of why changes were made to Section 4 can be found here.

I haven’t really had time to read any of the new material, but it did strike me that it would be helpful to show the changes to Section 4 in a more perspicuous way. Therefore, I offer a PDF version of a Microsoft Word comparison between the Section 4 of the Ridley Cambridge Draft and that of the “Final Version.”

I apologize for not incorporating the comparison document into this post, but the required HTML simply got too complicated to fix in a hurry. I trust the formatting of the PDF file will be self-evident. (Black text is unchanged; red text is deleted; slate text is new.)

Not Again!

The following was just posted by Anglican Communion New Service:
From the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion

Posted On : December 18, 2009 1:33 PM | Posted By : Webmaster
Related Categories: ACO

The following resolution was passed by the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion meeting in London on 15-18 December, and approved for public distribution.

Resolved that, in the light of:
  1. The recent episcopal nomination in the Diocese of Los Angeles of a partnered lesbian candidate
  2. The decisions in a number of US and Canadian dioceses to proceed with formal ceremonies of same-sex blessings
  3. Continuing cross-jurisdictional activity within the Communion
The Standing Committee strongly reaffirm Resolution 14.09 of ACC 14 supporting the three moratoria proposed by the Windsor Report and the associated request for gracious restraint in respect of actions that endanger the unity of the Anglican Communion by going against the declared view of the Instruments of Communion.
How long, O Lord, do we have to endure this Anglican Communion Echo Chamber? The Anglican Communion has not had a new idea in six years, and probably a good deal longer than that. Isn’t it clear by now that Anglican provinces have both very divergent theologies and very divergent views of appropriate behavior within the Communion? The only effects of the “Windsor Process” have been delay, anger, and frustration; no minds or behaviors have been changed. The end game for this process is not going to be the big, happy, worldwide family so much desired by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Isn’t it time we admit that our current trajectory is destined to end badly and try, after six years of going along with the flow, to think of something else.

Why does The Episcopal Church want to be part of the Communion’s dysfunctional behavior? I certainly cannot think of a reason.

No Anglican Covenant

December 13, 2009

Archbishop Duncan and Uganda

It is gratifying that so many religious leaders have spoken out against the pending anti-homosexual legislation in Uganda. Yesterday, we even saw a statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury, albeit a somewhat unofficial one. In a George Pitcher interview in the Telegraph, we find this:
“Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades,” says Dr Williams. “Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers.” He adds that the Anglican Church in Uganda opposes the death penalty but, tellingly, he notes that its archbishop, Henry Orombi, who boycotted the Lambeth Conference last year, “has not taken a position on this bill”.
In introducing Rowan William’s remarks on the Uganda legislation, Pitcher notes that “some American traditionalists have markedly failed to condemn the Ugandan proposals” Perhaps he is speaking of my former bishop, now archbishop, Robert Duncan, head of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

Duncan, I suggest, has a greater moral obligation to speak out against the draconian Ugandan proposal because he and his diocese have had very close relationships with Uganda. In November 2004, the annual convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh formally ended a five-year partnership with Rwanda and embarked on a partnership with Uganda Christian University, noting that Pittsburgh priest Stephen Noll was (and continues to be) associated with the institution. As reported by Episcopal News Service, Uganda primate Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi attended the Pittsburgh convention and delivered the keynote address at the convention banquet. It was not the last time he would visit Pittsburgh.

Another priest in Uganda with Pittsburgh connections is the Rev. Canon Dr. Alison Barfoot. Although Barfoot appears no longer to be canonically resident in Duncan’s diocese, the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh Web site nonetheless devotes a page to her ministry as “the international relations assistant for Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of the Anglican Church of the Province of Uganda.” In this capacity, she often speaks for the archbishop, for example calling the recent election of the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool “funny and unbiblical.”

When The Episcopal Church deposed Duncan for his subversion of the church, Orombi was quick to lend his unqualified support to the erstwhile Pittsburgh bishop. And, of course, the Ugandan church was equally eager to declare itself in full communion with Duncan’s Anglican Church in North America upon its official establishment.

If Rick Warren, who has his own connections to Uganda and who has supported Duncan’s Anglican Communion Network and individual congregations that have broken away from The Episcopal Church, can speak out against the proposed Ugandan legislation, why can’t Bob Duncan?

Well, don’t hold your breath. The Church of Uganda is too important an ally and Duncan is too indebted to Orombi to expect any kind of critical statement from the new American archbishop. Instead, we have this item from the December 11, 2009, communiqué of the first annual Provincial Council of ACNA explaining what the Council did:
And, mindful of the controversy surrounding a bill concerning homosexual behavior that is being considered by the Uganda parliament, restated our commitment to the sacredness of every human person as made in the image of God, from conception to natural death and without regard for religious convictions or manner of life. We also gave thanks for the faithful witness of the Anglican Church of Uganda and encouraged them to stand firm against all forms of sexual exploitation and in their publicly stated commitment that “the Church is a safe place” for all persons, especially “those struggling with sexual brokenness.”
(The Anglican Church of North America is a province of nothing, of course, but having a “Provincial Council” sounds impressive.)

Let’s look at this statement in detail. First, it is interesting that ACNA considers the Ugandan bill controversial. It is not controversial to the State Department, to The Episcopal Church, to the Vatican, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, to the many other Christian groups that have spoken out against it, not even to Rick Warren. All these people and groups consider the legislation irredeemably evil. But ACNA finds it only controversial. Apparently, some people in ACNA approve of the legislation or cannot bring themselves to criticize such an important supporter as the Church of Uganda.

The pious claptrap about respect for all persons rings hollow in light of the repeated calls for pastoral care of LGBT persons by Anglican Instruments of Communion and the requirement in the legislation for anyone in authority (including religious leaders) to turn in to the civil authorities anyone known to be guilty of homosexual activities. Not even attempts to “cure” homosexuals would be legal in Uganda if this law is passed.

Finally, ACNA reports that the Provincial Council “gave thanks for the faithful witness of the Anglican Church of Uganda.” Thanks for what, homophobia? And what is the sexual exploitation that that church is being urged to stand against? How can any truly consensual sex be exploitative? If homosexual acts are inherently exploitative, who is being exploited? The exploitation in Uganda, I suggest, is the scapegoating of homosexuals to distract Ugandans from the real problems of their society. And how can any church in Uganda be a “safe place” for homosexual persons if church leaders have to hand them over to prosecution once the nature of their “sexual brokenness” is known?

The ACNA statement is, of course, but a fig leaf over the fact that neither ACNA nor Archbishop Duncan can bring themselves to criticize the moral brokenness of the Church of Uganda. Although the Archbishop of Canterbury “can’t see how it [the proposed legislation] could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades,” perhaps Archbishop Robert Duncan can.

December 11, 2009


I did a double take while reading a small item in Time recently. The magazine declared the Nissan Leaf, an all-electric automobile, to be one of theLeaf “50 best inventions of 2009.” I had never heard of the Leaf and thought the name rather odd, but no matter. What caught my eye was this last sentence of the story: “Nissan will produce 50,000 Leafs each year at its Oppama plant, southwest of Tokyo, starting in the fall of 2010.”

“Leafs?” Really? Shouldn’t that be “50,000 Leaves?”

It is easy to be confused when we need to pluralize a word that occurs in an unfamiliar context. When the computer mouse was new technology, I heard people talk of “computer mouses” more than once. People now seem comfortable speaking of “computer mice,” but it took some time for people to recognize that there was no reason that the name of the input device and the rodent shouldn’t have identical plurals.

The first time I remember someone’s getting tripped up when using a word with an irregular plural in an unfamiliar context was in seventh grade. The class was learning about poetry, and a classmate was asked to indicate the stressed syllables in a stanza. Before answering, Bruce, who was exceedingly conscientious, asked,“Do you want me to give the foots, too?” The teacher gently pointed out that, even in the context of poetry, the plural of “foot” is still “feet.”

Perhaps not always, however. In some circumstances, either because of the nature of the referent or the proclivity of speakers, the irregular plural is replaced by a conventional plural. For example, footlights are sometimes called “foots,” never “feet.”

Assuming that Time is following Nissan’s conventions, it may be that the car maker views “Leaves” as not too obviously referring to their new brand name. “Leafs,” while jarring for now, does not share that deficiency. If the Leaf catches on, we will, no doubt, get used to talking about a showroom full of Leafs.

It really is a stupid name for a car.

December 7, 2009

Background Press Briefing Concerning L.A. Episcopal Elections

Many stories have appeared in the press regarding the election of two women to be bishops in the Diocese of Los Angeles this past weekend. Stories both the the U.S. and elsewhere (e.g., the U.K.) have tended to get two matters wrong. For the benefit of the press, I offer below some background information, taken from the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.

Suffragan Bishops

First, the two candidates elected by the Los Angeles diocesan convention were not chosen to be assistant bishops, but suffragan bishops. This is not matter of simple nomenclature. Although the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church neither specify completely the roles of assistant and suffragan bishops nor clearly distinguish them from one another, the two types of bishops are chosen in different ways. A suffragan bishop is elected by a diocesan convention—note: elected, not appointed—much as a diocesan bishop is chosen in the American church. Generally one so chosen is a priest, although an existing bishop can also be elected a suffragan.

Assistant bishops, on the other hand, are appointed. The diocesan bishop, with the consent of the Standing Committee, asks the diocesan convention to authorize the designation of an assistant bishop. (Each diocese has a Standing Committee, comprising both clergy and laypeople, which acts as the bishop's council of advice and, in certain circumstances in which there is no diocesan bishop or the bishop cannot perform his or her duties, acts as the ecclesiastical authority in the diocese.) If the convention agrees to the hiring of an assistant bishop, the diocesan bishop appoints the assistant bishop with the consent of the Standing Committee. Someone so appointed must already be a bishop and is often one who is retired from another position.

The Consent Process

A number of reports and commentaries have indicated that the suffragan bishops–elect in Los Angeles must be approved by the individual dioceses of The Episcopal Church. The details of this process have usually not been made clear. A newly elected bishop must obtain the consent for his or her consecration from a majority of the bishops with jurisdiction (i.e., diocesan bishops) in the church, as well as from a majority of the diocesan Standing Committees.

Consents must be properly executed and must be received within 120 day of their being requested. The canons of the church do not specify criteria to be used by bishops with jurisdiction in giving or withholding consent for the consecration of the bishop-elect. Each Standing Committee, on the other hand, must certify that a majority of its members “testify that we know of no impediment on account of which the Reverend A.B. ought not to be ordained to that Holy Order [Bishop].” Possible impediments are not enumerated by canon. The likely upset of the Bishop of South Carolina, the Archbishop of Nigeria, or the Archbishop of Canterbury may or may not be seen as an impediment to consecration by one or another Standing Committee.


The foregoing omits certain details found in the church’s Constitution and Canons, but it includes all the rules likely to be relevant to the path to consecration for the Los Angeles suffragan bishops–elect. Other details sometimes do matter, however, as they did in the first attempt to achieve sufficient consents for Mark Lawrence to become bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. For simplicity, I have omitted actual references to the governing documents of The Episcopal Church, but most of the information likely to be of interest can be found in Title III of the Canons.

The consent process, particularly for the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool, will bear close watching. Bishops with jurisdiction who signed the Anaheim Statement pledging to uphold the three moratoria urged on The Episcopal Church can reasonably be expected to withhold their consent, and it is likely that most of the Standing Committees in their dioceses will do the same. (Standing Committees tend to be less independent than one might, in the abstract, wish.) The remaining bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees can hardly ignore the possible consequences of approving the consecration of another partnered gay bishop, but it is not clear whether such contemplation will work in Glasspool’s favor or against it.

Finally, however, we have the following provisions of Canon III.1:
Sec. 2. No person shall be denied access to the discernment process for any ministry, lay or ordained, in this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities or age, except as otherwise provided by these Canons. No right to licensing, ordination, or election is hereby established.

Sec. 3. The provisions of these Canons for the admission of Candidates for the Ordination to the three Orders: Bishops, Priests and Deacons shall be equally applicable to men and women.
This is the basis on which Bishop J. Jon Bruno has claimed that it is not proper to deny consent for Glasspool’s consecration. One can certainly quibble about this interpretation and, perhaps more to the point, one can question the enforceability of this interpretation, even if it is correct.

December 5, 2009

Joy and Challenge

With great joy I received the news that the Rev. Canon Mary Douglas Glasspool, a partnered lesbian—excuse my using this as my only characterization of Glasspool—was elected a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles today. The election followed that of another female Episcopal priest, the Rev. Canon Diane Jardine Bruce, to be a suffragan bishop in the diocese, thereby becoming the first female bishop in Los Angeles. (Episcopal News Service covered the election of both Bruce and Glasspool. Stories about the Glasspool election have been posted by the diocese and by the Los Angeles Times.)

Partnered gay candidates have participated in several episcopal elections recently, but Glasspool is the first to be elected since Gene Robinson in 2003. Despite the Presiding Bishop’s reassurances in a recent WABE-FM interview that “the door has been open [for gay and lesbian bishops] for many years,” I had lingering concerns about any diocese’s having the courage to elect an openly gay bishop in the current climate.

Now, of course, the challenge is laid before bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees to give consent for Glasspool to be consecrated. I presume that those bishops who signed the Anaheim Statement (about 30 bishops) will withhold consent. The remaining bishops will have to vote to consent by about a 2–1 margin, not normally a high hurdle, but not a slam dunk given the anticipated upset that is sure to follow in the Anglican Communion.

What I have learned from being in a repressive and cynically-led diocese for many years anticipating an inevitable split is that there is much to be said for getting the unpleasantness over with. The departure of Robert Duncan and his dissident followers was indeed painful, but it was also liberating and energizing to Episcopalians left in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Likewise, everyone knows that The Episcopal Church cannot really turn back from its path to full inclusion of LGBT persons in the church. Demonstrating that Gene Robinson’s election was not a fluke will send the message to the Anglican Communion that our commitment to the Gospel, as we understand it, is more important than indulging the prejudices of the Nigerias and Ugandas of the Communion. Consenting to the consecration of Mary Glasspool, as we must do, will create facts on the ground that will make acceptance of a covenant like the one presented to the Anglican Consultative Council last spring impossible to accept.

If, God forbid, Episcopal bishops sabotage Glasspool’s consecration, the campaigns to accumulate the required consents for episcopal consecrations will become battlegrounds, and the worst fears of the conservatives may be realized, namely that the church might decide that the consecration of any conservative bishop is not worth the attendant risks to the integrity of the church.

The Episcopal Church has wasted too much time and energy placating foreign “Anglicans” whose theology is somewhere between ignorant and repulsive. It is high time to move on. Let’s vote to consecrate Mary Glasspool and let the rest of the Communion figure out what to do about it.

December 1, 2009

The There There

I may have left the impression in my recent post “Seat of Power?” that the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) does not actually have an office in the building at 1001 Merchant Street in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. When I wrote the post, all I knew was that, if there were an office there, it was neither conspicuous nor magnificent.

Lest I be accused of trafficking in innuendo, I thought I should check out the ACNA office for myself. Besides, I had never really been to Ambridge, though I once went to a birthday party that might have been within the borough limits.

And so, this morning, I set out with digital camera on the half-hour drive to Ambridge. I parked the car on Merchant Street and walked to the building at Merchant and 10th. My first stop was the set of mailboxes on the 10th Street side of the building. Three mailboxes were labeled, for Watchword Productions (Suite 100), for Janet Vaughn (Suite 104), and for ACNA. That last mailbox lacked a suite number.

ACNA mailboxThe ACNA mailbox label was quite attractive and designed to avoid having mail inadvertently returned to the sender; it offers three possible recipients:

The Anglican Church in North America
Anglican Communion Network
Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses & Parishes

Conservatives do love to create new organizations (or new names)!

I walked around the corner to the front door. Looking up, I could see some nice architectural details, but also flaking paint and boarded up dormer windows.

Looking up from main entranceUnsurprisingly, the front doors were locked. I pressed a button and a representative of ACNA showed me into the building. Yes, Virginia, there is an ACNA office at 1001 Merchant Street. It is small and unremarkable, and, as I suggested earlier, one can find it only by knowing where to look. The office is clearly not set up for greeting visitors or for hosting meetings.

I introduced myself to the two people I met in the office using my real name. Either my name was unfamiliar or these people were too polite to ask me to leave. We talked for a few minutes about the building—suffering from deferred maintenance, I was told—and about Ambridge. I did not tarry.

The deferred maintenance was apparent in many places. This photo below, for example, is of the back of the building.

Roof detailMany of the windows that are not boarded up are covered in clear or black plastic sheeting.

Window facing 10th StreetBefore my field trip, with a little help, I did more research on the ownership of the building. If I read the public records correctly, WatchWORD Productions (or Watchword Productions, or Watchword International, or Watchword Ministries, depending on what document you’re reading) owns and is trying to sell the building. WatchWORD appears to have been given the building by GDT CG1, LLC, and to have subsequently obtained a $150,000 mortgage on it. In the April–May 2009 issue of Trinity, Robert Duncan’s breakaway diocese wrote about a bible literacy project that WatchWORD is part of. (Read the story here.) Actually, The WatchWORD Bible, is an intriguing product, though I don’t know how it wears after many hours. Sample it for yourself.

Anyway, having discovered as much as I wanted to know about ACNA headquarters, I decided to see a bit of Ambridge. Merchant Street was unprepossessing,

Merchant Streetbut Trinity Seminary, which was just down the street, was more attractive than I expected.

Trinity Episcopal School for MinistryAlso impressive was the municipal complex that is the successor to 1001 Merchant Street.

Ambridge Borough Municipal ComplexThe municipal center is across the street from a reminder of Ambridge’s industrial past, however.

Demolition siteWalking back to my car somewhat indirectly, I encountered, the lovely downtown P.J. Carl Memorial Park

P.J. Carl Memorial Parkand the Laughlin Memorial Library, which actually seemed a bit grand for Ambridge.

Laughlin Memorial LibraryI could not pass up picture taking when I discovered the Ambridge-Woodlawn Bridge spanning the Ohio River. (I’m something of a bridge freak.) Appropriately, the bridge, completed in 1927, has a superstructure built by American Bridge Company.

Ambridge-Woodlawn BridgeFinally, I ended my Ambridge tour walking along residential streets. The housing was modest and a bit old fashioned, but it was pleasant and well maintained.

Ambridge residential streetI hope this post will help you plan your next vacation.