September 27, 2009

A Perspective on the Pawleys Island Case

It was with considerable dismay that I learned about the South Carolina Supreme Court decision in All Saints v. Campbell, the property dispute between the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and All Saints, Pawleys Island. In preparation for the weekly post on the news blog Pittsburgh Update last week, I asked attorney and Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh vice president Ken Stiles to read the opinion and provide some perspective on it. As it happened, Ken provided more perspective than Pittsburgh Update could use, so I asked him if I could post his thoughts on my own blog. He graciously agreed, and I hope that his remarks, now somewhat expanded, will help put the decision into perspective. (Readers who have not seen it should also see Nick Knisely’s post on The Lead concerning the decision.)
On September 18, 2009, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled against the Diocese of South Carolina and The Episcopal Church to allow the All Saints, Waccamaw (Pawleys Island), to disaffiliate from The Episcopal Church and join Rwanda’s Anglican Mission in America (AMiA, now Anglican Mission in the Americas) with its property. The Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling. This matter had been it litigation since 2000, when the diocese filled court papers claiming a trust interest in the parish’s property. In 2004, the parish vestry voted 9 to 1 to leave The Episcopal Church and join the AMiA.

The Supreme Court decision is a rare loss for The Episcopal Church in property litigation, but one has to look behind the immediate outcome to get a better sense of what this decision is and is not. The two issues of interest here are the Court’s treatment of the Dennis Canon and the cavalier way it approved the disassociation with The Episcopal Church.

The negation of the Dennis Canon is not as shocking as it seems. While all Episcopal Church parishes are assumed to have a trust relationship with their dioceses (and The Episcopal Church), the diocesan trust here was rendered null and void in 1903, when the Diocese of South Carolina signed a quitclaim deed giving any property interest the diocese had to the parish. (At issue was a question about the validity of the parish’s incorporation.) It is sometimes overlooked that the Dennis Canon did not and could not create a trust where none had existed before. The underlying assumption of the Dennis Canon is that there is always a trust relationship between a parish and the diocese dating from the establishment of the parish. To date, state courts have agreed with this. In this case, the diocese had given up its trust rights, so that there was nothing for the Dennis Canon to attach to.

The more troublesome aspect of this case is the Court’s holding that the parish had legally terminated its relationship with the diocese and The Episcopal Church:
Turning to the 2005 Action [in which a vestry loyal to The Episcopal Church sued for control of the parish], we find that the trial court applied the deference approach, determined that the congregation was part of a hierarchical organization, and deferred to the Diocese’s ecclesiastical authority’s determination that members of the minority vestry were the true officers of All Saints Parish, Waccamaw, Inc. We disagree.
First, the Court held that the deference approach was no longer allowed in South Carolina. Instead, it applied the “neutral principles of law” test. Both approaches are allowed by the United States Supreme Court.
Church disputes that are resolved under the neutral principles of law approach do not turn on the single question of whether a church is congregational or hierarchical. Rather, the neutral principles of law approach permits the application of property, corporate, and other forms of law to church disputes. …

The 2005 case turns on a determination of whether the Articles of Amendment approved by the members of All Saints Waccamaw, Inc. on January 8, 2004 were adopted in compliance with the South Carolina Non-Profit Act. See S.C. Code Ann. § 33-31-1001, et. seq. We find that the Articles of Amendment were lawfully adopted and effectively severed the corporation’s legal ties to the ECUSA and the Diocese. Therefore, we find that the members of the majority vestry are the true officers of All Saints Parish, Waccamaw, Inc. …

Pursuant to the South Carolina Non-Profit Act, a religious corporation may amend its Articles of Incorporation to add or change a provision permitted in the articles or delete a provision not required in the articles. … Amendment to a corporation’s articles, to be adopted, must be approved by (1) the board of directors, (2) the members “by two-thirds of the votes cast or a majority of the voting power, whichever is less,” and (3) any person whose approval is required by the Articles of Incorporation. … The passage of the Articles of Amendment approved by the congregation on January 8, 2004 complied with all three of these requirements. …

Finally, nothing in the All Saints Parish, Waccamaw, Inc. by-laws or the Constitutions and Canons of the ECUSA or Diocese requires third-party approval for amendments to the congregation’s corporate charter, therefore the congregation’s adoption of the Articles of Amendment complied with the requirements of S.C. Code Ann. § 33-31-1003(a)(3). The statutory provisions pertaining to a religious corporation’s amendment of its corporate charter were amended in 1994 so as to add the option of third-party approval. See 1994 S.C. Acts 384. There is no evidence in the record that, since that time, the Diocese has ever attempted to gain approval power over amendments to the All Saints Parish, Waccamaw, Inc. corporate charter.
S.C. Code Ann. § 33-31-1003(a)(3) refers to S.C. Code Ann. § 33-31-1030, “Approval of the articles of incorporation and bylaws by third persons”:
The articles of only a religious corporation or public benefit corporation may require an amendment to the articles or bylaws to be approved in writing by a specified person or persons other than the board. The article provision may be amended only with the approval in writing of such person.
The Court is saying here that, since the diocese did not require the parish to add the “third-party approval” language to the parish charter after 1994, the parish was free to change its charter in any way it wanted.

This conclusion of the Court is troublesome because nowhere in the opinion was the accession clause of the diocesan constitution (see Article I) mentioned or explanation given as to why it did not apply to this case. If an accession clause had been found present and effective, the actions of the parish, even if they had been unanimous, would have been beyond their authority and therefore of no effect. Moreover, although it is difficult to do a complete analysis of the case in the absence of the corporate charter of All Saints—the charter does not seem to be on the Web—the Diocese of South Carolina’s Canon XXX, Section 1 (see canons here), would seem to prohibit what the Supreme Court of South Carolina has allowed:
It shall not be lawful for any Vestry, Trustees or other body authorized by laws of any State or Territory to hold property for any Diocese, Parish or Congregation, to encumber or alienate any dedicated and consecrated Church or Chapel, or any Church or Chapel which has been used solely for Divine Service, belonging to the Parish, Mission or Congregation which they represent, without the previous consent of the Bishop, acting with the advice and consent of the Standing Committee of the Diocese.
It would seem that the court is saying that the only document that need be considered is the parish charter; the diocesan constitution and canons count for naught. The failure of the South Carolina Supreme Court to address this issue is both surprising and distressing.

Note: Readers who want more insight into the case, may wish to read the trial court opinion. (Warning: this is a large file. It is, however, searchable.)

September 25, 2009

Why No Anglican Covenant: Part 2

This is another of a series of posts on the proposed Anglican covenant. Earlier posts include “No Anglican Covenant” and “Why No Anglican Covenant: Part 1.” These posts are being presented in no particular order.
There is much to be said about what is in the Ridley Cambridge Draft proposed as an Anglican covenant. Too little attention has been paid to what is not in the draft, however. In this essay, I want to discuss an important provision that is missing.

We have been told repeatedly that members of the Anglican Communion must observe the three moratoria first articulated in the Windsor Report (see paragraphs 134, 144, and 155) and reiterated by the primates. Despite protestations that the current conflicts are not about sex, however, only the moratoria involving homosexual persons seem to be of significant interest to the elements of the Communion upset with The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. Neither the primates generally nor the Archbishop of Canterbury in particular have condemned border crossings with conviction. They surely have done nothing to stop them. Primates who have violated provincial boundaries or have countenanced such incursions by their bishops have been swift to justify such activity as unimportant when considered beside the blessing of same-sex unions or the consecration of partnered gay bishops. They view incursions as necessary to provide pastoral care for supposedly persecuted “orthodox” Anglicans, despite the fact that incursions violate longstanding Anglican tradition.

It is curious that “orthodox” elements of the Communion continue to advocate the three moratoria while conspicuously ignoring ongoing (and expanding) incursions. It is also curious that the proposed covenant, while requiring churches to do and to believe all manner of things, is silent on the matter of not messing in the affairs of sister Communion churches. Perhaps that is because the purpose of the covenant is to mess in the affairs of other churches.

Before considering why overlapping jurisdictions are a bad idea, I want to make some general observations about the concept of episcopal jurisdiction. The situation we see today is more complicated than that of the fourth century, when the Council of Nicaea dealt with the matter. There is no longer a universal (or nearly universal) Church. In Pittsburgh, for example, churches are overseen by Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, and Episcopal bishops, not to mention whatever kind of bishop Bob Duncan might be. Overlapping jurisdictions are a fact of life almost everywhere, but the Anglican Communion has traditionally invoked Nicaea Canon 8 as requiring unique jurisdiction insofar as Anglican Communion bishops are concerned. Although there is not a single, unified Anglican Church, Communion churches act, at least in this regard, as though there were—until recently, at any rate.

Why is it important that this should be so? There are, I think, at least three reasons. First, having parishes of multiple Anglican churches in the same geographical area is confusing to people who might want to attend them, not to mention journalists who might need to report about them. Whereas Lutherans or Baptists may be used to paying close attention to the exact denominational flavor of a church carrying their generic designation, Anglicans are not. Of course, people could learn to live with overlapping jurisdictions, but, as one living in two versions of the “Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh,” I can attest that such a situation is indeed uncomfortable and confusing to many, especially to people shopping for a church.

In fact, another problem with overlapping Anglican jurisdictions is that it puts Anglican Communion churches in competition with one another for parishioners. If the overlapping dioceses are themselves already in conflict with one another—as they are in northern Virginia, for example—the competition is likely to exacerbate existing tensions and make it increasingly difficult for the churches to coöperate in mission of any sort, which, one might argue, is the whole point of the Anglican Communion. The close juxtaposition of Anglican parishes of mutually hostile dioceses has more insidious consequences, however. First, it encourages the demonization of those Christians in the other jurisdiction. (The Pittsburgh experience could be cited here as well, at least with respect to the parishes that left the Episcopal diocese for the Southern Cone.) Also, it sends the message that Anglicanism is a narrow, rather than a broad, Christian tradition and that, whether locally or when traveling abroad, it is important to find the right flavor of Anglican houses of worship. In other words, overlapping Anglican jurisdictions drive Anglicans further apart.

Finally, overlapping jurisdictions give reason to question the whole notion of an Anglican Communion. They make it abundantly clear that the Communion is not a unified church, that its pretensions to being the “third largest Christian grouping” or some such is so much puffery, and that the Communion cannot credibly speak with one voice to the world at large. In the present circumstances, the Anglican Communion seems to be a group of competitors vying for adherents, rather than a fellowship of coöperating, geographically localized Christian churches. Worse still, it acts like a den of pirates intent on poaching souls and absconding with property. One might think that an Anglican covenant should ban overlapping jurisdictions in order to avoid such embarrassing activities.

The Anglican covenant is presumably meant to offer both a carrot and a stick to potential signatories. From the standpoint of The Episcopal Church, however, it appears that no one remembered to include the carrot. If The Episcopal Church cannot even be granted a restoration of its exclusive franchise within its ostensible borders, signing on to the covenant can only be seen as the self-flagellatory act of an organization lacking a clear self-image and simple self-respect.

That said, I do not personally care if the Church of Nigeria, Uganda, or even England plants churches on our shores. In The Episcopal Church, we are used to having parishes with different worship styles and theological viewpoints check by jowl in any given diocese. I believe this acceptance of diversity is both healthy and, to many people, attractive in an ecclesiastical landscape often hostile to ideas different from those articulated in one’s own church. Episcopalians should not fear competition from intolerant “Anglican” churches sponsored by foreign provinces.

It is difficult not to believe that the churches of the Anglican Communion are too culturally and theologically diverse ever to agree on some issues, even if one takes the broadest possible view of Anglican tolerance. The Anglican Communion should therefore be concentrating on mission, not dogma. It is time to let individual Anglican churches try to be the best that they can be, give up pretensions to being a rival to the Roman Catholic Church, admit that the Archbishop of Canterbury is just the Archbishop of Canterbury (and technically, not even the head of the Church of England), and forget about adopting an Anglican covenant.

No Anglican Covenant

Where Has My Opinion Gone?

I have been preparing a blog post on the recent Supreme Court ruling in South Carolina (All Saints v. Campbell). I discovered this morning, however, that the opinion had seemingly disappeared from the South Carolina Judicial Department Web site. A couple of telephone calls to South Carolina helped me determine that a simple technical error was responsible for the disappearance, rather than, for example, some ACNA or Episcopal Church plot. The opinion was originally published at This morning, that page is essentially blank. The case number of the litigation is actually 26724, not 29724. The opinion can now be found in its proper place at

I hope that bloggers and others who may have cited the opinion will see this post and change the links on their Web sites.

September 18, 2009

Goodbye, Mary Travers

Mary Travers, the “Mary” of Peter, Paul & Mary, died Wednesday from complications of treatment for leukemia. She was 72.

When I heard the news on the car radio the night of Mary Travers’ death, it was hard for me to believe that PP&M was no more. I first heard their wonderful music when I was in high school, and I have listened to their songs with varying regularity ever since. I own more of their albums than those of any other singer or singing group. I bought them over a long period; PP&M had a long run. Happily, some of those albums are products of a reunion that took place after what seemed like the breakup of the group in 1970. (Beatles fans, eat your heart out.)

I loved Peter, Paul & Mary. I loved their clean-cut, yet slightly funky look. I loved their evident joy in singing together, as well as their passion both for their music and its often provocative message. I loved their stage presence. Most of all, I loved their sound, polished and harmonious—the kind of sound that made a choral singer like me melt (and want to sing along).PP&M Debut Album Jacket I wasn’t actually in love with Mary, but one could not but be struck by her long, straight blond hair and what others have called her drop-dead gorgeous looks.

“Peter, Paul & Mary” was one of the first popular LPs I ever bought. (I might have bought the Kingston Trio’s first album before I discovered PP&M.) I was introduced to PP&M by the first girl I ever dated. She was a bit older than I, and, although we never really became an item, the association of a first date and my introduction to PP&M was certainly a pleasant one. For many years, I eagerly purchased every album the group released. I also bought Mary’s first solo album, which was lovely, but which lacked the appeal of PP&M. My post-reunion collection of CDs is incomplete, but I may have to change that.

I am not fond of pop concerts, and I have attended few of them. Ticket prices are high, and getting close to the stage is often impossible. There are usually too many people at such events, and the sound is invariably inferior to the recorded sound one is used to listening to. Nonetheless, I attended two PP&M concerts years apart, and I don’t regret paying for tickets that put me near the stage. PP&M were exciting to watch, as well as to listen to. I cherish the thrill of experiencing the group live.

When I was introduced to PP&M, I described myself as a political conservative. Although the politics of the group were for many years different from my own, I could not help but listen to their music and at least think about their lyrics. (One could always understand the lyrics, of course, a feature not universal in the popular music universe.) And their presence at events such as the 1963 March on Washington made a powerful statement. In the end, I’m not sure that I can say that PP&M converted me to liberalism, but they may have had something to do with it. Music, after all, calls forth a powerful emotional response. Album Jacket of “Moving”(I have often thought that unions had the success they did because they had better songs than the corporations they struggled against.)

Of course, Peter, Paul & Mary required Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey, in addition to Mary Travers. It is difficult not to think of the bronze-toned voice of Mary Travers as the glue that held their sound together and was, in large measure, responsible for the success of the group. I am bemused by the Kingston Trio’s ability to swap personnel over the years and remain the “Kingston Trio.” It is difficult to imagine PP&M without Peter Yarrow or Paul Stookey. It is impossible to imagine the group without Mary Travers.

With the death of Mary Travers, I feel a very personal, very emotional loss. I thank God that she touched my life. In a small way, I feel what her friends and fellow singers have had to say (I have made minor changes in capitalization):
I have no idea what it will be like to have no Mary in my world, in my life, or on stage to sing with. But I do know there will always be a hole in my heart, a place where she will always exist that will never be filled by any other person. However painful her passing is, I am forever grateful for Mary and her place in my life.

— Peter Yarrow

I am deadened and heartsick beyond words to consider a life without Mary Travers and honored beyond my wildest dreams to have shared her spirit and her career.

— Noel Paul Stookey

In lieu of flowers, the family has suggested a contribution to the Mary Travers Healthcare Fund at Danbury (Conn.) Hospital.

Album art courtesy Rhino Records.

September 14, 2009

Illusion and Reality

We are surrounded by media of all sorts, and our artificial creations sometimes play tricks on us, momentarily confusing us about what is real and what isn’t. I offer three examples, but I don’t think these stories have any morals or cosmic significance.

1. While I was in the U.S. Army Pacific Band many years ago, I remember passing by a narrow room with an open door and seeing a fellow bandsman sitting in a chair that faced the doorway reading a copy of Sports Illustrated. The magazine’s cover had what must have been a life-sized picture of a football player’s helmeted head. Because the soldier was holding the magazine in front of his face with both hands, it appeared that the football player’s head was actually his. I did a double take as I walked by. I wonder how many people have had similar experiences.

2. When I’m seated in from of my computer, my cats are often somewhere nearby. More often than not, Eve, my Bombay, is lying atop my monitor. The big Sony CRT provides a warm place to sleep. If not there, she is usually climbing down from her perch to climb up on my shoulder. Ezekiel, my big tabby, can be almost anywhere, though a favorite spot seems to be lying on the papers in front of me on my desk—that is, on the papers I’m working with. Zeke is a classic brown tabby that looks a lot like millions of other tabbys. On the wall to my left, above a television, is my current calendar. This year it’s a cat calendar. (There have been exceptions, but the calendar usually sports either cats or trains.) The cat for September is a tabby that could be Zeke’s twin. The cat is sitting on its haunches and looking at the camera. Except for its size, the calendar photo looks like a real Zeke, and I find that, from time to time, I get the feeling that Zeke is above the TV looking at me. I turn my head left only to realize that “Zeke” is just an illusion.

3. A somewhat different illusion presented itself the other day. My church choir recently sang the Fauré requiem, and we are now rehearsing the Duruflé requiem. Most choir members, including myself, have a CD containing the two works. I have been listening to the CD in the car. On this particular day, I took my CD out to the car, as I had taken it inside to listen to the Duruflé and sing along with my score. I started the car and immediately heard the Fauré coming from the sound system, though the tone quality was rather poor. Was there something wrong with the CD? I then realized I had the CD on the seat next to me, or so I thought. I opened the jewel box, and, sure enough, the disk was in it. When pushing the eject button on the sound system produced no result, I realized what had happened. When I had parked the car, I had been listening to a West Virginia radio station, the reception for which in Pittsburgh is spotty. West Virginia Public Radio just happened to be playing the Fauré requiem when I started the car, and the tone quality was poor because reception was poor where the car was parked. I hadn’t heard the CD playing at all.

September 11, 2009

The Politics of Ignorance

Like many Americans, I was appalled by the crazed, right-wing reaction to the prospect of the President’s addressing school children. From the beginning, it was clear to most people that Mr. Obama’s address was simply going to be a pep talk, telling students to work hard, stay in school, etc., etc. It was, in other words, going to be a talk about what are usually considered “family values.” To some parents, mostly evangelical Christian Republicans who listen to talk radio rather too much, the President’s pep talk was really satanic propaganda designed to turn ordinary children into robots supporting Mr. Obama’s “socialist agenda.” School administrators were intimidated. Many schools decided not to air the speech or to allow parents to have their children opt out of being subjected to the President’s words. In the end, not even releasing the speech a day in advance mollified large numbers of irate parents or terrified school administrators.

With this incident behind us, I would like to make a few observations. First, the speech was not anything its detractors suggested it would be. It was encouraging, inspiring, and nonpartisan. (You can read the full text here.)

Second, it is discouraging that some Americans tried to impose a kind of prior restraint on a speech by the U.S. President. Can we not give Mr. Obama the benefit of the doubt and let him give his talk, exercising our right afterward to criticize him if he misuses his office? Has this President, who has been in office less than a year, behaved so outrageously that we must censor his words from our children? Have we no respect for, if not the President, then for the office he holds? The answer to this last question, at least for some element of the citizenry, is clearly no. It is not a coincidence that Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina (also not a coincidence) accused the President of the United States of lying in the middle of his joint address to the Congress.

When I first began thinking about writing this post, the point I am about to make seemed in the realm of political satire—certainly sarcastic and perhaps just a bit over the top. After listening to an interview with author Max Blumenthal yesterday, I’m not so sure. Blumenthal is the author of the new book Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party, and he was interviewed on Fresh Air by Terry Gross. Introducing her guest, the host said, “The Right is trying to de-legitimize the Obama presidency according to my guest, journalist Max Blumenthal.” The interview was chilling. Listen to it all on the NPR Web site here.

Now on to point three. Republicans may be mean-spirited demagogues who confuse the American political arena with the ancient Roman Colosseum, but they know where their interests lie. Their success depends on ignorance and misinformation. It is surely not in their interest for children to study hard, absorb the lessons of history, think for themselves, and learn how to distinguish fantasy from reality. In other words, for the Republican Right—there are, of course, no longer any Republican moderates or liberals—the President’s speech was indeed subversive.

God preserve us!

September 9, 2009

Why No Anglican Covenant: Part 1

I have been slow to deliver on my promise to elaborate on my opposition to an Anglican covenant made in my August 6, 2009 post “No Anglican Covenant.” Readers may consider this a first installment of my fulfillment of that promise.
I want to begin by considering how the notion of an Anglican covenant has been promoted and the actual nature of the covenant drafts that have been proposed. Everyone else seems to capitalize “covenant” in the phrase “Anglican Covenant,” by the way. I will do so when it makes sense to talk about the Anglican Covenant. We are not there yet.

Not just any agreement among churches of the Anglican Communion could properly be called a covenant. In fact, the sort of agreement I advocated in “The Covenant We Do Need” is not so much a covenant as it is an administrative agreement about the mechanics of how we will do certain (largely non-controversial) things. I will return to the idea below.

The Ridley Cambridge Draft, as well as the drafts that preceded it, are properly called “covenants,” not because of anything they have in common with agreements between God and Noah or between God and Abraham, but because of their similarity to so-called “restrictive covenants” common in the real estate realm. They attempt to constrain the actions of signatories, and they specify, at least in general terms, a mechanism to enforce the intended constraints.

The covenant—I will now limit my remarks to the draft currently before us, including its controversial Section Four—is a classic camelid product of a committee. It is part confession of faith, part mission statement, part constitution, and, of course, part restrictive covenant. This is perfectly consistent with the recommendations of the Windsor Report, itself a product of a committee. (See especially the section titled “Canon Law and Covenant,” which begins at paragraph 113.)

Like the real estate mechanism, the Anglican covenant is inwardly focused: it is not about declaring to the world what Anglicans believe or do, but about restricting internal diversity and enforcing doctrinal uniformity among Anglican churches. One of its purposes is to tell the Anglican churches what they must believe. Episcopalians should have no illusions about this. The parts of the Ridley Cambridge Draft that are least restrictive-covenant-like are mostly—and I emphasize mostly—provisions of the apple-pie-and-motherhood variety, sugar coating to divert readers from the poison pill within.

A fundamental problem with the Anglican covenant is its dishonesty. While claiming to preserve the essence of the Anglican Communion, it is instead radically altering it. As I said in “Reflecting on the Archbishop’s Reflection,”
In fact, what [Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan] Williams and other primates have been doing is portraying themselves as conservatives, preservers of the Anglican status quo. In reality, they are revolutionaries, trying to hoodwink the naïve and the over-courteous into abandoning the fellowship that has been the Anglican Communion in favor of a radical centralization intended to enforce doctrinal uniformity. This is the underlying purpose of the Anglican covenant. Terms such as “mutual responsibility” are thrown about by the archbishop as a kind of spiritual blackmail intended to intimidate churches such as our own into giving up their birthright of ecclesiastical autonomy. Williams derisively dismisses “mere federation” as though it were not what the Communion has been these many years.
A similar view is expressed in the excellent analysis provided by the Modern Churchpeople’s Union paper “Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future: MCU’s reply to Drs Williams and Wright”:
Yet [Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan] Williams and [Bishop of Durham N.T.] Wright both write as though this authority [to impose a particular view—even a majority view—on the whole Communion] was already there, already competent to discipline the Americans for disobeying instructions. We must therefore ask why these two senior clergy, who know full well that Anglicanism does not have central authorities with that authority, condemn the Americans on the basis that it does. It is difficult to avoid the obvious conclusion: that (perhaps without realising it) they are in the process of creating an authoritarian centralised system, and are identifying themselves with it. The Americans are to blame for the controversy only from the perspective of those claiming more authority than they have.
Serious dishonesty at the Anglican Communion level is evident in the Windsor Report, which either creates or propagates myths about the relationships between Anglican churches. No one doubts that churches of the Communion are, in some sense, interdependent. They consult with one another on various issues, and they coöperate in such projects as delivering disaster relief. The Virginia Report, prepared in 1997 for the 1998 Lambeth Conference, spoke of autonomy and interdependence this way:
3.28 In the development of the Anglican Communion there is no legislative authority above the Provincial level. (How far this is a result of the Royal Supremacy in the Church of England is a matter for reflection. Other historical factors in other Provinces have also affected the question of autonomy and interdependence.) There has been an insistence upon the autonomy of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion. However, while autonomy entails the legal and juridical right of each Province to govern its way of life, in practice autonomy has never been the sole criterion for understanding the relation of Provinces to one another. There has generally been an implicit understanding of belonging together and interdependence. The life of the Communion is held together in the creative tension of Provincial autonomy and interdependence. There are some signs that the Provinces are coming to a greater realisation that they need each other's spiritual, intellectual and material resources in order to fulfill their task of mission. Each Province has something distinctive to offer the others, and needs them in turn to be able to witness to Christ effectively in its own context. Questions are asked about whether we can go on as a world Communion with morally authoritative, but not juridically binding, decision-making structures at the international level. A further question is the relationship between the autonomy of a Province and the theological importance of a diocese which is reckoned to be the basic unit of Anglicanism.
The Virginia Report never became the holy writ that the Windsor Report has become. Its authors acknowledge provincial autonomy as real independence, but they long for stronger bonds of obligation among the churches. Interestingly, the chair of the group that produced the Windsor Report, Archbishop Robert Eames, played the same role in writing the Virginia Report. In the Windsor Report, the description of provincial autonomy becomes the following:
73. Although there is a sense in which the Church of England’s break with Rome in the sixteenth century was an assertion of that Church’s ‘autonomy’, in more recent times the concept of ‘provincial autonomy’ in Anglican thinking was developed in its early twentieth century context to signify ‘independence from the control of the British Crown’. The established Church of England of the Reformation was, and remains, subject to the royal supremacy, and many overseas Anglican churches at one time or other had been similarly subject; speaking of their ‘autonomy’ came to refer to their disengagement from that supremacy.
The seeds of this argument can be found in the Virginia Report, of course. The Windsor Report then goes on to make a kind of Orwellian argument that autonomy is subjection:
76. A body is thus, in this sense, ‘autonomous’ only in relation to others: autonomy exists in a relation with a wider community or system of which the autonomous entity forms part. The word ‘autonomous’ in this sense actually implies not an isolated individualism, but the idea of being free to determine one’s own life within a wider obligation to others. The key idea is autonomy-in-communion, that is, freedom held within interdependence.
The Windsor Report uses the argument that autonomy is not autonomy as justification for an enforced accountability among Anglican churches, put forward as normative. Here is what Dr. Joan Gundersen, church historian and General Convention deputy from the Diocese of Pittsburgh recently said about paragraph 73 of the Windsor Report in a post on the House of Bishops and Deputies Mailing List (I quote Dr. Gundersen with her permission):
My problem is that this statement is at odds with the actual historical development of a number of provinces in the Anglican Communion. First of all, the communion had ALREADY been formed by a group of national churches that included those that saw themselves as truly “independent” of each other before the second British empire began breaking up. (The first empire, of course, took a beating in the late 18th century.) Furthermore the Anglican Communion includes a number of provinces that NEVER were part of the British empire and thus this entire statement is alien to their understanding of the relationship between their church and the rest of the communion. Last time I looked Japan, Mexico, Rwanda, the Congo, the Philippines, the Southern Cone, Korea, and Brazil had not been part of the British Empire. A majority of the countries in two regional provinces (Central America and West Africa) were not part of the British empire. There are other regional provinces where specific countries included in the province were not part of the British Empire (such as Liberia in W. Africa).

If statement number 73 is removed for its historical incorrectness, the entire chain of logic in the Windsor Report leading to the idea that provincial autonomy still means subordination to the communion falls apart.
We are being led to think that Anglican churches are not giving up their independence because they are not now independent anyway. This is simply not true. That our fellow Anglicans are trying to hoodwink us into accepting this historical revisionism is sufficient reason to reject the whole enterprise of developing a covenant as a bad idea and unholy enterprise.

Diversity within the Communion should actually be seen as a strength, rather than a weakness. The Virginia Report acknowledges this on one hand—“[e]ach Province has something distinctive to offer the others, and needs them in turn to be able to witness to Christ effectively in its own context”—and then immediately speculates whether the Communion can maintain its moral authority without enforcing a uniform orthodoxy. There is, I think, a certain amount of papal envy among Anglican primates, including the present Archbishop of Canterbury. The world does not need another Roman Catholic Church, however. We have one already, and most Episcopalians believe that is already one too many.

Whereas it is true that various Lambeth Conference resolutions are suggestive of strong ties among provinces and a desire for even stronger ones, I must point out that such resolutions are not binding and have never been binding on Communion churches. This fact seemed well understood until Lambeth 1998 I.10 became the Eleventh Commandment, another example of Anglican use of the Big Lie. Certainly, Episcopal bishops have no authority to bind their church to Lambeth Conference resolutions, nor should they without the restraining influence of priests, deacons, and, most especially, laypeople.

Institutionally, the Anglican Communion is a mess. It is more of a dysfunctional camel than even the proposed covenant itself, which could actually make things worse. (Frank Turner recently even went so far as to suggest that the Anglican Communion is more imaginary than real.) We now hear talk of the four so-called Instruments of Communion each having its own list of who is in and who is out of the Communion, and we hear serious talk of creating a two-track Communion, an idea that has the potential of giving us eight distinct lists of who is in and who is out. The proposed covenant, if adopted, will effectively overlay the current chaos with more confusing and competing mechanisms.

We should abandon the idea of an Anglican covenant and start asking more fundamental questions such as
  1. What is the purpose of the Communion?
  2. What mechanisms will advance the purpose of the Communion?
  3. How can all orders, including the lay order, participate in Communion activities?
  4. What does it mean to be in or out of the Communion?
  5. How does a church join or leave the Communion?
  6. What is to be done with the handful of isolated dioceses currently in the Communion?
  7. Who is the leader of the Communion and what authority does that person have?
  8. Should the leader of the Communion be chosen by the members of the Communion?
  9. What obligations do churches have with respect to geographical boundaries?
  10. What obligations do churches have to respect the ordinations and depositions of other churches?
  11. Who speaks for the Communion and under what circumstances?
  12. In particular, does it make sense for the Communion to engage in ecumenical talks when the churches of the Communion are not of one mind on any number of issues?
  13. What is a fair way to finance Communion activities?
There are, no doubt, other important questions that we should ask. Our first order of business, however, should be to drop the idea of a covenant and to recognize that the diversity and messiness of the Anglican Communion are strengths to be celebrated, not weaknesses to be obliterated.

No Anglican Covenant

September 6, 2009

Adjectives Ending in ly

Yesterday, I finished writing an article on Lionel Deimel’s Farrago about adjectives ending in ly, that is adjectives that look like adverbs. I became interested in such words when I was made aware that “friendly” is an adjective (“the friendly neighbor”), but not an adverb (not “the neighbor greeted us friendly”). Using my imagination, and with the help of Google, I was able to identify about 150 adjectives ending in ly. Some of these words are also adverbs, e.g., “weekly.” Some, arguably, have no adverbial form, but authors disagree about which ones are in this category. (My favorite is “thistly.” It is difficult, though perhaps not impossible, to imagine a use for an adverbial form of this word.) Then there are words like “friendly,” which form admittedly rare adverbs by replacing ly with lily. Not everyone acknowledges that “friendlily” is a real word, but it is in dictionaries. One can certainly imagine uses for the word—“all the neighbors behaved friendlily”—but its use is easily avoided (e.g., “all the neighbors behaved in a friendly manner”).

Decide for yourself which adjectives ending in ly have useful adverbs ending in lily by reading “Odd Adjectives.”

September 1, 2009

Canadian Math

I read an Anglican Journal article the other day titled “Re-thinking how we do church.” (For the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with it, I should point out that Anglican Journal is a publication of the Anglican Church of Canada.) The article is dated today, but was posted a few days ago. It is the usual jeremiad about declining church membership, high average age of churchgoing Anglicans, and the apparent contrasting success of more evangelical churches. The article is the first of a series about a “paradigm shift” supposedly taking place in the Canadian church.

The unusual thing about this story is its math. Things are bad enough without computing statistics wrong. According to Anglican Journal, Anglican Church of Canada membership declined from 1.3 million to 658,000 from 1961 to 2001. This is a lamentable decline, to be sure, but it is not the 53% decline mentioned in the article. One doesn’t even need a calculator to see that a 53% decline has not occurred. If there were a 50% decline, attendance in 2001 would be half of the 1961 attendance or 650,000. But the 2001 attendance was 58,000 more than that! In fact, the decline was just over 49% (i.e., [1,300,00 - 658,000]/1,300,000). Try as I might, I cannot figure out where the 53% figure comes from, even if I assume the figures presented were rounded but the calculations were made with more precise numbers. Of course, the article also reports “that the Anglican Church in Canada has lost more than half of its membership in the past 50 years,” but the period of 1961 to 2001 is only 40 years. Go figure!

The Anglican Journal article has more computational errors, however; it also offers statistics on the decline of membership of The Episcopal Church. We are told that, from 1965 to 2007, Episcopal Church membership dropped from 3.5 million to only 2.2 million. This decline is reported to be even higher, 55%. Again, notice that half of 3.5 million is 1.75 million, so Episcopal Church membership certainly declined less that 50%. In fact, assuming the numbers in this article are correct, the decline was just over 37% (i.e., [3,500,000 - 2,200,000]/3,500,000). There is quite a significant difference between 55% and 37%.

What is going on here? Do the values of integers in Canada fluctuate with the value of the Canadian dollar? Is math taught in Canada? (This may be unfair, as the article is reporting on the views of the Rev. Gary Nicolosi, who, we are told, is a “transplanted American.”) I have no idea, but the Rev. Mr. Nicolosi, the writer, or the editor—perhaps all three—need serious remedial mathematics education.