February 27, 2010

Mainline Status Report on Gay Clergy

We often speak of mainline (Protestant) churches in the U.S. It is not always clear what churches are being referred to, how big those churches are, or just where they stand on particular issues.

The AP published a helpful story today that appeared in a number of newspapers on where mainline churches stand on gay clergy. The Episcopal Church isn’t exactly out front, but there certainly does seem to be a trend of which our church is a part. Read “Largest US Protestant churches on gay clergy” for more information.

Help for Chile?

I’m sitting in front of my TV watching CNN and awaiting the tsunami triggered by the substantial earthquake that took place in Chile this morning.

Chile, of course, is a diocese in the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. I would expect that Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) will offer aid to the devastated areas of Chile. Given the hostility of the Southern Cone to The Episcopal Church, it will be interesting to see if aid is accepted or rejected.

The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) still has connections to the Southern Cone. (Archbishop Robert Duncan claims, improbably, to be in both ACNA and the Southern Cone.) Moreover, its relief agency, the Anglican Relief and Development Fund (ARDF), unlike ERD, seems to limit its work to areas that are part of “orthodox” Anglican provinces. Its Web site emphasizes that it works in the Global South. (“ARDF’s unique personal connection with many dioceses and their leaders in the Global South allows us to discover, evaluate and fund projects which can target specific people and problems, not broad segments and ideas.”) Under the circumstances, ARDF would seem to have some special obligation to help in Chile.

As I write this, the Web sites of neither church and neither relief agency has any information about the Chile earthquake.

When the establishment of ARDF was first announced, I thought it sounded rather mean-spirited, given that those responsible for putting it together were still in The Episcopal Church. I also thought that the move was another indication that Duncan and his fellow-travelers were in the process of building an independent church. (Would that more Episcopalians had seen it for what it was!) Well, now that Duncan has his church, let’s see if he, through ARDF, can do as well in Chile as ERD has done in Haiti.

February 25, 2010

Calvary Decision Appeal

Deposed Episcopal bishop Robert Duncan and his fellow defendants in the Calvary lawsuit filed a notice of appeal today. This fact was acknowledged in a story on the Web site of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh:
Attorneys representing the former leaders of this diocese are seeking to appeal the decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County that determined the rightful trustee of diocesan assets to be the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church in the United States, which is currently led by Bishop Kenneth L. Price, Jr.
In its statement, the diocese expressed disappointment, though not surprise at this development and ended with the following paragraph:
The parties agreed in the 2005 Stipulation that “their claims in this action have been settled and resolved” and Judge James has ruled the Stipulation means what it says. We will continue to enforce the 2005 agreement, and will respond with an appropriate defense within the courts.
Curiously, though not surprisingly, no statement issued from the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, which maintains Web sites here and here. The latter site was created last October, seemingly for the sole purpose of publicizing the fact that defendants intended to appeal the decision to award diocesan property to the Episcopal Diocese. Official notice of that appeal was filed only today.

The notice of appeal indicates that the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania is being asked to review Common Pleas Court decisions and orders dating from January 29, 2010, all the way back to May 8, 2007. It contains no indication of the basis on which the appeal is being made. My understanding is that the appeal may be rejected as untimely, but we shall see.

Meanwhile, the transfer of assets from the control of Archbishop Duncan to that of the Episcopal Church continues apace.

February 24, 2010

Thank You, Visa

As it has done with other sporting event, Visa has been sponsoring Winter Olympic Games coverage and advertising that Visa is the only card accepted at the Vancouver games. We are obviously supposed to be impressed with the utility of our Visa cards.

Thank you, Visa, for inconveniencing participants and spectators by negotiating an exclusive agreement with the event organizers and making it impossible for everyone to use other charge cards.

New and Somewhat Worsened

The constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church reflecting changes made by the 2009 General Convention have recently been posted on the Web. They first appeared on the site of the Archives of the Episcopal Church. More recently, they were were posted on the site of the Executive Offices of the General Convention, along with other 76th General Convention publications. It is, of course, good news that our revised governing documents are available, as the 2009 versions are the current ones. (The General Convention publications page mentioned above also contains a link to the 2006 versions of the constitution and canons.)

Also good news is the fact that the omission I discovered in Canon III.9.11 (see “What Are the Episcopal Church Canons, Anyway?”) has been fixed. I don’t know if there were other errors that required correction.

The bad news is that it is harder to get around the new PDF document that contains the constitution, canons, rules of order for the houses of the General Convention, and index. (Both sites link to a single file containing all the listed items. The Archives site also links to PDF files containing specific subsets of the material.) In particular, the 2006 edition contained bookmarks that allowed quick access to, say, individual canons. An equally useful, though less perspicuous navigation aid would be to have page numbers in the Table of Contents be hyperlinks. This is what I built into the PDF containing governing documents for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. I inserted actual bookmarks only for the subsections—constitution, canons, etc.

The final piece of bad news is that the 2009 PDF is neither a tagged PDF nor one optimized for Web viewing. PDFs are tagged to make it more easily for devices such as PDAs or cell phones to display them properly. The fast Web view feature allows for display of part of a PDF before the entire file is downloaded, a useful property of a file containing hundreds of pages of text. Neither of these properties were features of the official 2006 PDF.

Update (3/20/2010): The Archives has posted new files on its site. See “New and Improved (Over the Last Version).”

February 23, 2010

Back to Normal

My hosting service, WestHost, has now restored all services related to Lionel Deimel’s Farrago and Lionel Deimel’s Web Log. More details can be read in my earlier post, “Hosting Problems,” which incorporates several updates.

Thank you for your patience.

February 22, 2010

It’s Been a Long, Long Time

Despite the seeming objectivity of time in our daily lives, both our perception of time and of descriptions of time intervals can be affected by circumstances. The dull sermon seems to go on forever, and there is now empirical evidence that time does seem to pass more quickly for the elderly than for the young.

Most especially, the writer can manipulate the reader’s sense of time. In yesterday’s essay “Hosting Problems,” I wrote: “This explanation was posted nearly 24 hours after the incident.” Substituting “one day,” “a day,” or “1 day” for “24 hours” would have made the delay seem shorter, or, in any case, less significant. Choices are limited, however; writing “84,400 seconds” would have seemed both unnatural and transparently manipulative. A slightly different example is the use of “quarter century” in lieu of “25 years.” The period referred to in the former wording seems longer than that of the latter.

What got me thinking about descriptions of time is a story I read yesterday on the Catholic Online Web site. “Forward in Faith Anglicans in Australia Unanimously Vote to Become Catholic” is about a group of Anglo-Catholics in Australia who are planning to take up the Pope’s recent offer to become Roman Catholic while retaining limited Anglican traditions. The story contained this paragraph:
The Bishop [David Robarts] explained that the Anglican Church was moving away from orthodox Christian belief and practice and leaving them behind: “In Australia we have tried for a quarter of a decade to get some form of episcopal oversight but we have failed… We’re not really wanted any more, our conscience is not being respected.”
Bishop Robarts is trying very hard to elicit sympathy for his long struggle against his Anglican oppressors. But a quarter of a decade? Really? Two-and-a-half years? Considering the speed at which churches change, that is the blink of an eye, which leads me to think that the bishop may be lacking impulse control. Robarts has employed a rhetorical trick here that simply does not work. “Decade,” at least in some contexts, has a bit of gravitas; “quarter of a decade” seems merely petulant. Perhaps Robarts would have preferred saying that “we have tried for 77,067,750 seconds.” Ah, the saints are long-suffering.

February 21, 2010

Hosting Problems

I was away from my computer for much of yesterday, mostly to shovel more snow and take my cat Zeke to the vet. When I did get back to my computer, I was surprised to learn that my blog had had many fewer visitors than usual. It took me a few minutes to realize that I could not visit my blog myself.

As it turns out, my Web hosting service, WestHost, had suffered a significant outage that took out Lionel Deimel’s Farrago and Lionel Deimel’s Web Log, not to mention other sites for which I am responsible. WestHost kept moving into the future the time when the problem was supposed to be fixed. Not until this afternoon did the company offer an explanation:
On Saturday, February 20 2010, at approximately 2:20 p.m. MST during an annual fire system inspection of our data center the fire suppression system was inadvertently triggered and discharged into the data center environment. The discharge of the fire system has affected the hardware and operations of our servers. Not all servers have been affected by the discharge. We are working to restore servers and services as quickly as possible. Due to the nature of this interruption we will be experiencing extended outages.
This explanation was posted nearly 24 hours after the incident. Before that, WestHost had provided only vague explanations about what had happened. Did it really take these folks 24 hours to figure out that their servers were covered with fire-suppressant foam or were they trying to avoid admitting what had happened?

Anyway, I am happy to report that my Web site, blog, and e-mail all seem to be working again. I apologize for any inconvenience, and sincerely hope this problem will not recur.

I should say that I am a WestHost client for good reason, and what happened yesterday was an extraordinary event. Even with the ongoing crisis, I was able to speak to a tech support person whose native language was clearly American English without too long a wait on the telephone. At the moment, however, I am not a happy camper.

Update (2/22/2010, 8:05 AM ET): Although my blog and Web site are on the Web today, my e-mail and ftp service are not working. WestHost estimates a fix will take another two hours.

Update (2/22/2010, 1:36 PM ET): WestHost is now estimating another 8-1/2 hours to a fix. Still no e-mail.

Update (2/23/2010, 7:34 AM ET): When I went to bed last night, the status of my hosting account was unchanged, but everything seems to be working this morning. WestHost has provided more information about the failure and their response to it. Some servers may be down until Friday. Apparently, a contractor was responsible for triggering the fire suppression system.

February 19, 2010

Recycling at Best Buy: Crossed Wires

I was delighted the other day to see a TV commercial from Best Buy announcing that the store now recycles electronics for free. I have a number of pieces of equipment I would like to get rid of responsibly, and the best deal I had known about previously was offered by Office Depot. That store sells boxes of various sizes (for $5, $10, or $15) that one can fill up with electronic devices that will be recycled when returned to the store.

Before I made a special trip to Best Buy, I thought it prudent to check out the URL I had copied down from the commercial, http://bestbuy.com/recycle. This was a wise move; when I consulted it, I learned that Best Buy accepts only two items per household per day:
What We Take
  • Two items per household per day.
  • Nearly everything electronic, including TVs, computers, DVD players, monitors, or cell phones.
  • We charge $10 for TVs under 32", CRTs, monitors and laptops. But you receive a $10 Best Buy gift card.
  • Desktop or laptop computers with the hard drive removed. See this Geek Squad video for Do-it-Yourself instructions, or we will remove it for $19.99.

What We Don’t Take
  • Internal & External computer hard drives.
  • Console TVs, or TVs and monitors larger than 32". Use our haul-away or pickup programs for these items.
  • Electronics containing Freon, like mini refrigerators or air conditioners. Please contact your local waste disposal department.
  • Appliances. Use our haul-away or pickup programs for refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, washers and dryers, ranges and microwaves.
Armed with Best Buy’s description of its recycling program, I packed up a dead router and an unused cordless telephone and headed off to the Best Buy store in nearby Bethel Park. After stops at Penzoil and Office Depot, I took my shopping bag containing the devices to be recycled into the Best Buy store. I explained my mission to the person who met me at the door, and he put a sticker on my bag and directed me to the customer service counter.

I walked up the the counter, placed my bag on top of it, and told the clerk what was in it. That’s when things started to go wrong. Routers and cordless phones, I was told, were not accepted. “We only accept things with screens,” she said. I protested that this is not what the Best Buy Web site said. The clerk then carefully examined a letter-size card that explained what was and was not accepted—I did not insist on reading the instructions on the card—after which she consulted a nearby Geek Squad employee. No, Best Buy would not recycle my router and telephone.

When I returned home with my shopping bag of rejected recyclables, I rechecked the Best Buy Web site, then called the store. I asked if routers and cordless phones were accepted for recycling. I was told that they were. “Well,” I said, “you seem to have a training problem, since I was just in the store and was told otherwise.”

In retrospect, Best Buy may have more than a training problem. The clerk in the store was clearly following written instructions, and she consulted with another employee when I suggested that her understanding was faulty. It seems likely either that the instructions were unclear and the clerk did not understand them, or that the instructions were produced locally and did not reflect the corporate policy clearly enunciated on the Web. Whatever the reality, the local Best Buy store managed to turn an opportunity to build customer loyalty into an opportunity to inconvenience and infuriate an otherwise loyal customer. Maybe I’ll try to recycle my router and telephone at Best Buy next week.

Maybe I’ll just buy a box from Office Depot.

February 18, 2010

Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence

It is not often that I find an essay from the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) to be genuinely helpful, but “The Making and re-making of Episcopal Canon Law” by the Rev. Robert W. Prichard, the Arthur Lee Kinsolving Professor of Christianity in America at the Virginia Theological Seminary, is a welcome exception. Prichard has given us a brief history of the Episcopal Church’s constitution and canons, with special attention to three periods: that of the founding of the church; the period of extensive revision at the beginning of the twentieth century; and the 1960s, in which the end of colonialism led to some rethinking of the nature of the Anglican Communion.

Although I have a suspicion, conditioned by long experience with the ACI, that the Prichard essay is part of wider ideological campaign, “Making and re-making,” taken in isolation, seems both factual and objective. I have a few quibbles, but they mostly involve clarifications I would like to have seen, rather than objections to Prichard’s explicit assertions or opinions.

What I found especially intriguing was the discussion of Prichard’s third period of interest, which is discussed under the heading “The Church in a Big World.” The central event of this time was the third Anglican Congress held in Toronto in the summer of 1963. “Roughly a thousand delegates attended from throughout the Anglican world,” Prichard explains. “Many came from churches in newly independent or soon-to-be independent former British colonies in Africa and Asia.” This unofficial Anglican gathering produced the declaration “Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ.”

I had already been thinking about the term “interdependent,” which, in Anglican discussions of the past few years, is often and confusingly juxtaposed to “autonomous.” To describe an Anglican church as “autonomous and interdependent” has always seemed oxymoronic. I understand “autonomous,” but in what sense are Anglican churches “interdependent,” and why is that seen as a given, as self-evident, or even as desirable? Reading “Making and re-making” reminded me of the source of the phrase “mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Body of Christ,” something I should have remembered from paragraph 8 of the Windsor Report. (Actually, the Windsor Report seems to have misquoted the phrase as “mutual interdependence and responsibility in the Body of Christ,” but it quoted all the right words, even if it permuted them a bit.)

In the draft Anglican covenant text, “interdependence” appears three times. “Autonomy” appears four times, once in the phrase “autonomy and accountability” and once juxtaposed to the clause “while upholding our mutual responsibility and interdependence.” Although “interdependence” is never defined nor its scope explicated in the proposed covenant or, as far as I can discern, anywhere else, it is clear from the overall thrust of the revised Ridley Cambridge draft that interdependence is a limitation imposed on provincial autonomy. The effect of “interdependence” in light of the covenant is that virtually any province can object (and potentially block) any action of any other province. “Interdependence” between Anglican churches in this sense is neither reasonable nor desirable, but I will save the arguments for this assertion for another day. Instead, let us cast our gaze back to 1963.

First, an aside: the 1963 Congress was not a gathering only of bishops, but its major product, in lamentable Anglican style, is written in the voice of bishops. The text begins: “Meeting for the first time since Lambeth 1958, we have spent two weeks considering the present needs and duties of our churches in every part of the world.”

The text quickly gets to the main theme of the document:
It is a platitude to say that in our time, areas of the world which have been thought of as dependent and secondary are suddenly striding to the center of the stage, in a new and breath-taking independence and self-reliance. … It is now irrelevant to talk of “giving” and “receiving” churches. The keynotes of our time are equality, interdependence, and mutual responsibility.
The document then asserts three “central truths” (italics in the original):
The Church’s mission is response to the living God Who in His love creates, reveals, judges, redeems, fulfills. It is He Who moves through our history to teach and to save, Who calls us to receive His love, to learn, to obey and to follow.
Our unity in Christ, expressed in our full communion, is the most profound bond among us, in all our political and racial and cultural diversity.
The time has fully come when this unity and interdependence must find a completely new level of expression and corporate obedience.
As becomes obvious in the next section, what all this means is that the emerging churches of the communion continue to need financial and human resources contributed by the more established churches, but the younger churches expect mission not to be dictated by the donors but worked out coöperatively. It is actually amazing how indirectly this simple message is stated—there’s that Anglican-speak again—but it cannot be missed. This is really the meaning of “mutual responsibility and interdependence.” In particular, “interdependence” is not the alternative to independence, but the alternative to dependence. The Congress was declaring that churches should work together, not dictate to one another or insist on some kind of doctrinal unity. Significantly, “Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence” acknowledges, without apology, “our political and racial and cultural diversity.” Its call is for working together in mission:
Finally, we must face maturely and without sentimentality the nature of the Anglican Communion, and the implications for us all of the one Lord Whose single mission holds us together in one Body. To use the words “older” or “younger” or “sending” or “receiving” with respect to churches is unreal and untrue in the world and in our Communion. Mission is not the kindness of the lucky to the unlucky; it is mutual, united obedience to the one God Whose mission it is. The form of the Church must reflect that.
So what happened between 1963 and, say, 2004? A catch phrase that entered the Anglican vocabulary as a plea for coöperative work in mission, seen largely in terms of evangelism, became detached from its original context and was transformed into a weapon to be used against the more liberal churches of the Communion. Ironically, “interdependent,” a term intended to rescue emerging Anglican churches from becoming merely compliant mendicants is being used to turn more established Anglican churches into guilt-ridden and compliant donors.

Since 1963, Anglican churches have become interdependent, in the sense that they regularly work together on mission goals. Becoming “interdependent” was never intended to turn autonomous churches into one another’s nannies, however. It is time to declare that, in particular, The Episcopal Church is accountable to its members and to God, not to members who have deserted it or to foreign Anglican churches that understand neither our church nor the society in which it operates.

No Anglican Covenant

Mark Harris’s January 28, 2007, post “Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence Incarnate” is also helpful in discerning what “mutual responsibility and interdependence” was originally intended to mean. The link to Bishop Mdimi Mhogolo’s letter in that post is no longer current, however. You can find the letter, however, at Daily Episcopalian.

Should the Government Get Out of the Marriage Business?

A February 12, 2010, article in The Salt Lake Tribune got me thinking about gay marriage and, indeed, marriage in general. The story is titled “Should government get out of the marriage business?” The title caught my attention because there has been discussion recently in Episcopal Church circles about whether the church should get out of the marriage business. Episcopal priest Mark Harris, for example, explained in a blog post last year that he objects to acting as an agent of the state in the conventional wedding ceremony. But he has also eschewed officiating at weddings in protest of his church’s failing to provide liturgical materials and support for the blessing of same-sex unions.

Anyway, I thought, somebody needs to be in the marriage business, whatever that business is, exactly.

The Tribune article begins by pointing out the anomalous character of “marriage”:
When a bride and groom exchange vows in a cathedral, chapel or temple, they receive a marriage license, blessed simultaneously by their clergy and their state.

But why? Other religious ceremonies aren’t wedded to civil ones. The county clerk doesn’t issue a baptism license. A priest doesn’t deliver a funeral eulogy and then sign the death certificate.
Reporter Rosemary Winters goes on to describe a resolution to the gay-marriage public policy standoff proposed by Pepperdine University law professors Douglas W. Kmiec and Shelley Ross. Kmiec and Ross suggest that California law remove all references to “marriage” and define only civil unions, a status open to all, regardless of sex. “Marriage” would then become the exclusive domain of religious institutions, in which the state had no interest or say. The proposal is especially attractive in the California context—Pepperdine in in Malibu, California—given that state’s recent, confused experience with gay marriage. Alas, Winters finds that advocates on both side of the public debate over gay marriage have objections to the Kmiec/Ross suggestion.

One seemingly trivial objection to a de-marriagification of state law, but one not easily dismissed, is that it would change the name of the status of currenly married couples. Is a couple joined by a justice of the peace “unioned,” whereas a couple wedded in a church is both “unioned” and “married”? In such cases, language, ideally, should reflect differences that matter. Most people do not now make distinctions dependent on how two became one, and I suspect that, whatever term the law uses, ordinary folk will continue to use “marriage” and “married” indiscriminately. There are, however, social reasons (other than indulging one’s prejudices) to distinguish heterosexual marriages from homosexual ones. When Chris and Leslie (or Chris and Sarah) are described as “married,” one might want to know more to avoid socially awkward situations. The existence of gay unions exposes other linguistic problems: “spouse” becomes only so helpful, and what about “husband“ and “wife”? It is tempting to propose a set of solutions to the linguistic challenges of gay unions, but people seldom adopt terms merely because some pundit has advocated doing so. (Words like “Ms. offer hope, however.)

Of course, Winters had no trouble finding an evangelical Christian willing to be quoted as saying that the
Kmiec/Ross solution would “weaken the institution of marriage.” My standard reply to such an assertion is, “How?” The line did get me thinking about the dual civil/religious nature of marriage and the benefits conferred thereby. This is an interesting line of inquiry, to which I now turn.

Heterosexual marriage confers many civil benefits, and obtaining these benefits for homosexual couples is probably the major motivation for advocacy of marriage equality. Married couples receive tax and inheritance benefits, can make medical decisions for one another, enjoy privileged communication, and get to make final arrangements for their spouses. (This list is not meant to be exhaustive.) Other benefits (e.g., various fringe benefits) may accrue from non-governmental actors. Since the government is largely out of the sex police business—concerns with prostitution and abortion are notable exceptions here—marriage is no longer necessary to sanction intercourse, but, in this and other areas, there are significant social benefits conferred by marriage.

What are the religious benefits of marriage or the blessing of marriage by a church?
Surprisingly few. (I write from the perspective of an Episcopalian here, and, although my comments are not intended to refer only to The Episcopal Church, there may be exceptions of which I am unaware. See also below.) Churches generally do not discriminate between couples wedded in a civil ceremony and those wedded in a church. Most church activities are indifferent as to whether participants are married or not, though some non-liturgical, non-sacramental events targeted to couples qua couples surely exist. Speaking for my own church, there are two benefits of a church wedding: (1) the intangible spiritual blessing conferred thereby and (2) the commitment of the congregation to support the couple getting married. I know of no way to measure the former, and churches I have encountered neither encourage couples specifically because they were wedded in a church nor fail to do so because they were not. There are, I suppose, churches that consider a wedding as granting a license to engage in sex, and those churches may ostracize or otherwise discriminate against sexually active singles. A civil wedding, however, is seen as conferring the same license. Like the civil authorities, my own church has largely discarded its sex police function, in practice, if not in theory.

An exception to much of what I have said above may have to be made for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As I understand it, Mormons have a more complex theology of marriage, a state that extends into the afterlife. Winters indicated that the Mormon church
“does not endorse the civil-unions-for-everyone concept.”

As should be apparent from the above discussion, it is difficult to identify any obvious loss to heterosexuals, either on the civil or religious side, that would result from the regularization of gay marriage. There is, of course, some degree of one-upmanship in being able to deny to others a right accorded oneself, although I would argue that indulging this ugly emotion is not the American way. Additionally, some, though not all, civil advantages that accrue to heterosexual couples have a social cost. Extending such a benefit to homosexual couples would impose that cost on everyone else, including on heterosexual couples. Of course, one might ask why everyone is being asked to bear those costs for the benefit of heterosexual couples to begin with. Although we often do it in practice, Americans do not like the thought of putting a price on justice.

February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday Haiku

We wear black crosses,
Dismissed to a holy Lent.
How shall we keep it?

From “Haiku Meditations on the Church Year” by Lionel Deimel.

February 15, 2010

A Celebration of New Ministry

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh marked a milestone yesterday as the new ministry of the Rt. Rev. Kenneth L. Price, Jr., as provisional bishop was celebrated at the downtown Trinity Cathedral. Bishop Price, who retains his position as suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Southern Ohio, was elected provisional bishop of the Pittsburgh diocese at its convention last October. As a singer in the combined diocesan choir, I was one of sixty or more people playing a formal role in the event.

The service was a joyous event and, in most ways, a quite traditional one. There were some jarring contemporary elements, however, as when Bishop Price was presented with a laptop to “help us to communicate clearly and fully to the people of this Diocese” or when the bishop offered a gift of coffee “as a sign of our fellowship and support of one another.” There were few glitches, however, and the service was followed by a reception in the cathedral lunchroom.

Service bulletin
Service Bulletin

At the suggestion of a friend, I took a digital camera along, even though, as a choir member, I knew I would have little opportunity to photograph the service itself. I did take a few photos of varying degrees of quality—I still am more comfortable with my Canon SRL in hand—and I wanted to share them here.

As I walked from the parking garage to the cathedral carrying my choir robe, I encountered this sign on the cathedral fence:

Sign outside Trinity Cathedral
Sign on Cathedral Fence

Trinity Cathedral has been straddling the fence—no, not the above fence—with regard to the two dioceses resulting from the schism of 2008. It has cast its lot decisively neither with the Episcopal diocese nor the “Anglican” one. As you can see from the sign—here and elsewhere, click on a picture for a larger version—the cathedral claims to be serving both “The Anglican Church in North America” and “The Episcopal Church in the United States.” Many are uncomfortable with this claim and believe such a status is untenable long-term, but the cathedral is making a sincere effort to live up to the declaration on its sign.

Because I arrived early to practice with the ad hoc choir, the church was nearly empty when I entered through the west portal:

Trinity Cathedral interior
Trinity Cathedral Interior

After the service, I managed to snap the picture below of the bishop, his wife Mariann, and, I think, representatives from the Diocese of Southern Ohio. The pose was being struck for the benefit of other photographers. I just happened on the scene and hurriedly took this photo before anyone had a chance to move:

Bishop Price poses after the service
Bishop Price Poses after the Service

Finally, I should note that, as the choir was lining up in a hallway for the coming procession, I noticed a directory board on the wall. It was another reminder of Trinity’s ambiguous status. My picture of it is my worst effort of the day:


Since you likely cannot read the text in this photo, let me reproduce the first two entries:





Seal on bishop’s chair
Seal on Bishop’s Chair

February 13, 2010

Declaring Victory and Moving On

The Anglican Church in North America certainly failed to earn the Church of England’s imprimatur in the General Synod Wednesday as lay member Lorna Ashworth’s resolution was adopted only after being amended beyond recognition. (See “A Shot Across the Bow.”) ACNA did not get nothing—The Episcopal Church would have preferred that the Ashworth proposal simply be voted down—but it got little more than a modicum of sympathy and the implied advice that it should seek Communion recognition in the standard fashion. The Ashworth ploy was a high-risk gamble that did not pay off. Matthew Davies’ excellent story for Episcopal News Service suggests that ACNA had invested heavily in the General Synod maneuver.

So, what was the reaction of ACNA to its failure in the General Synod? The story on the ACNA Web site carries the headline “General Synod Affirms Anglican Church in North America.” The subhead on that story immediately belies the headline: “General Synod, the national assembly of the Church of England, affirmed the Anglican Church in North America’s desire ‘to remain within the Anglican family.’” Well, this isn’t saying much, is it? ACNA wanted recognition; it got recognition that it wanted recognition.

The original, eviscerated Ashworth motion is never quoted in the ACNA story, lest readers recognize the chasm between what was asked and what was offered. Yet minor variations of “affirms our desire to remain within the Anglican family” are repeated in each of the first three paragraphs of the ACNA story. If said often enough, we are supposed to believe that such affirmation is of some real significance. In fact, ACNA is already a part, albeit a rather embarrassing part, of the “Anglican family.” It is, of course, not a part of the Anglican Communion, and, God willing, never will be.

In the second paragraph of the ACNA story, Archbishop Bob Duncan is quoted as saying, “It is very encouraging that the synod recognizes and affirms our desire to remain within the Anglican family.” He told The Washington Times reporter Julia Duin essentially the same thing. He then departed from his message (and the truth) by explaining to Duin, “They have basically said they favor overlapping provinces here.” (You can read The Washington Times story here.)

Anyone who thinks that what was passed by the Church of England’s General Synod represents a validation of the Anglican Church in North America and advances its aspiration to replace The Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada as members of the Anglican Communion should read the Rev. Brian Lewis’s description of how the General Synod got from the originally proposed motion to the one that was finally adopted. You can find it on Mark Harris’s blog, Preludium. For readers up for a more sarcastic (and more amusing) view of what happened Wednesday in the General Synod, I recommend this post on GAFCON (God and Father Christian: Obscuring Nothing).

Predictably, Bob Duncan has done what he always does when he is delivered a defeat: he declares victory and moves on. It is anyone’s guess how long his followers will continue to fall for this. The wisdom of that great sage Phineas Taylor Barnum suggests that Duncan may have a long run.

February 12, 2010

The Winter Olympics Begin

I’m Olympic ringswatching the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics as I write this. Doing so reminded me that one of my first posts on this blog—actually my ninth post, written ten days after my first—was about the 2002 Winter Olympics. It concerned the spectacular figure skating performance of American Sarah Hughes. You might want to read “Sarah Hughes” to remind yourself how exciting the Olympics can be. If you actually saw Ms. Hughes’ performance, my little essay may bring back a very happy memory.

Alas, there are worse things than the agony of defeat at the Olympic games. Requiescat in pace, Nodar Kumaritashvili.

Update: YouTube did not exist in 2002, but it does now, and I only just thought to look for Sarah Hughes’ long program performance. You can view it here.

February 10, 2010

A Shot Across the Bow

This afternoon, the General Synod of the Church of England passed the following resolution:

That this Synod, aware of the distress cause by recent divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America and Canada,
  1. recognise and affirm the desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family;
  2. acknowledge that this aspiration, in respect both of relations with the Church of England and membership of the Anglican Communion, raises issues which the relevant authorities of each need to explore further; and
  3. invite the Archbishops to report further to the Synod in 2011
The resolution, of course, was amended from a more objectionable one that would have put the General Synod on record as desiring the Church of England to be in communion with ACNA. The amended resolution borders on the innocuous, though it doesn’t quite get there. Here are some thoughts on the resolution as passed:
  1. The distress referred to in the opening paragraph is attributed to no one in particular. Whereas some might assume the distress refers to that of members of ACNA, members of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada could just as easily be distressed. Clearly, the distress extends to members of the Church of England, otherwise why would the CoE need such a resolution? Actually, I think the paragraph is disingenuousness; we are almost assuredly supposed to attribute the distress to ACNA members.
  2. What does it mean that ACNA members want to remain within the “Anglican family”? Arguably, they are already in the Anglican family if, by that, we mean being in a church tracing its lineage back to the Church of England. Of course, members of ACNA desire to be in the Anglican Communion. Because they are not in it now, it is untrue to say they want to remain in the Anglican Communion. (Some members of ACNA, such as Archbishop Bob Duncan, claim dual membership—itself a stretch—in both ACNA and the Southern Cone, a province of the Anglican Communion.) Many members of ACNA have never been in the Anglican Communion (members of the Reformed Episcopal Church, for example). I suspect that we are intended to read “Anglican Communion” for “Anglican family,” but that isn’t what the resolution says.
  3. Even I recognize that members of ACNA want to remain in the Anglican whatever. I am troubled by the General Synod’s use of “affirm,” however, which suggests approval of ACNA’s aspirations.
  4. Item (b), in its use of “Anglican Communion” seems to confirm the legerdemain represented by the use of “Anglican family.” The ACNA aspiration most certainly does raise issues needing to be explored. One might have hoped that the relationship of ACNA to The Episcopal Church and to the Anglican Church of Canada would have been mentioned here, since admission of ACNA into the Anglican Communion would create parallel jurisdictions hitherto anathema to the Communion.
  5. Who are the relevant authorities referred to in item (b). Leaders of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada are certainly relevant, but I doubt they will be consulted. How is the needed exploration to take place?
  6. I assume that “the Archbishops” of item (c) are the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York, but the resolution does not make this clear. Tobias Haller reports that CoE polity assigns to the two English archbishops the matter of communion with other churches. If I have understood (c) correctly, the General Synod is simply referring the matter (with not much guidance, actually, to those in charge of the matter of churches in communion with the CoE. Other groups for whom issues are raised (e.g., the Anglican Consultative Council) are not mentioned. In any case, whether “proper” or not, we have here another instance within the Anglican Communion where important decisions are being left to bishops. (Significantly, the revised wording of the resolution came from a CoE bishop.)
  7. I was surprised that the archbishops are being give a year to report, rather than being asked to report at the next meeting of the General Synod. Perhaps CoE bishops are not in too much of a hurry to climb out on what could be a very slim limb.

So what is the immediate effect of the resolution on The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, or, for that matter, ACNA? Really, not much. The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada should, however, see the resolution, even in its diminished final form, as a warning shot across the bow. It is significant, I think, that the desirability of continued communion with them is not mentioned in the resolution. It may not be correct to say that the CoE (or its General Synod) is overtly hostile to The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, but it is clear that there is much hostility there. This is very disappointing.

February 9, 2010


A few days ago, I began writing about the snowstorm of February 5–6, 2010. The media pretty much ignored the problems it caused in Pittsburgh, which received only 20 or so inches of snow. (Residents had been told to expect 6–8 inches.) Virginia, Philadelphia, and the District of Columbia got all the media attention, since they received a good deal more snow.

Pittsburgh hasn’t yet recovered—transit service is spotty, most schools are closed, and many streets are barely passable—and I am sitting in front of my computer awaiting another snowstorm scheduled to arrive in a couple of hours. I really don’t have time to finish writing about my harrowing trip home after attending the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra concert downtown, the 20 hours without electricity, the interminable shoveling of snow to clear my driveway, or the sparsely attended service at my church on Sunday.

I do, however, want to share a couple of photographs. I thought the view through my kitchen window was interesting:

Bird feederIn the foreground is snow piled atop a picnic table on my second-story deck. Beyond that is snow piled atop the deck railing, which is not visible. The bird feeder is attached to the railing. The falling snow left a couple of openings where birds could actually get to the seeds in the feeder. The picture below shows a male cardinal who found the little hole in the snow where seeds were to be had:

Cardinal at feederTiming was critical in taking these photos. When I returned to the window a few minutes later, all the snow on the railing had tumbled to the ground.

February 3, 2010

Now What? Part 2

Episcopalians cannot but be pleased with Friday’s court order requiring that control of substantial assets be transferred from the control of Archbishop Robert Duncan and his minions to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. The sudden acquisition of these assets, however, probably valued at $25 million or more, comes with their own set of challenges and obligations. I don’t know if the diocese has been preparing to deal with the day that is fast approaching, but, whether it has been or not, some independent reflection of what needs to happen next may be helpful.

Real Estate

No doubt, people on both sides of the Pittsburgh divide were surprised at how much real property is owned by the Board of Trustees. Some items on the special master’s list that is Schedule C are of minor significance. The governing board of Sheldon Calvary Camp, an institution that traces its beginning to Calvary Episcopal Church, has always been loyal to The Episcopal Church, and it will pursue its mission as it always has. Of course, there are some oddities on the list. I had no idea that the diocese would be re-acquiring two cemeteries, and I must admit that I know nothing about them and nothing about what it means to own them. They may be significant assets; they may be significant liabilities.

Church properties—there are more than 30 of them—are another matter. Some of these properties already have Episcopal congregations (St. Brendan’s, Franklin Park, for example), and the court order is of little consequence for them. At least one (Emmanuel, North Side) has participated to a degree in both dioceses. That title to its building is now vested in the Episcopal diocese may make it easier for the congregation to decide where its allegiance should be.

Many churches now owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh are housing non-Episcopal congregations. What is to be done with them?

The diocese has several fiduciary responsibilities. First, it needs assurance that the buildings are adequately insured and that any mortgages are being paid. Loans payable to the diocese (detailed on Schedule B of the special master’s report) also need to be paid. Because the properties have not been subject to diocesan oversight for some 15 months, physical inspection is probably in order. Diocesan canons require diocesan approval for projects that modify buildings substantially, so the diocese should be aware of construction projects accomplished, in progress, or anticipated.

What of compensation by non-Episcopal congregations for future (and perhaps even past) occupancy? The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh does not exist to provide churches for non-Episcopal denominations. Renting or leasing is an obvious possibility here. Requiring no compensation would constitute fiduciary malfeasance.

Renting church buildings occupied by non-Episcopal congregations is bound to be controversial. Some will see requiring rent as uncharitable; others will see allowing “Anglicans” to use the buildings at all as unacceptable. Two issues must be kept in mind, however:
  1. Judge James has declared that building occupants cannot be evicted without permission of the court nor property sold without such permission.
  2. The diocese is not prepared immediately to assume the maintenance of 25 or more empty churches.
As for the restriction on eviction of breakaway congregations, no one knows what it would take for the judge to give his permission to remove a congregation (or to sell a building). I am told that Judge James has expressed concern for people who might be deprived of their worship space, but this is the situation in which many Episcopalians have found themselves. Moreover, the reluctance of Judge James to evict interlopers seems to be a personal concern, rather than one rooted in law. In any case, if only for the sake of the buildings in wintertime, it is best not to empty “our” churches all at once—certainly if no Episcopal congregation is prepared to occupy them immediately. Requiring rent has the dual advantage of replacing lost assessment income to the diocese and, if the rent cannot or will not be paid, giving the judge a reason to allow eviction.

The diocese will have to decide how to set a fair rent. In most cases, I suspect that it will be difficult to identify comparable properties that could suggest a fair monthly rental. The diocese could, of course, base rent on the assessment that would be required of an Episcopal parish, but this would be substantially blow the market rate for rental property, which is what these churches would become, at least in the short term.

In some cases, of course, there may be a substantial number of former parishioners willing to return to a building they have abandoned to the “Anglicans.” If so, the diocese may be able to convince Judge James that eviction of the “Anglicans” is neither unfair nor unreasonable.

Ultimately, the Episcopal diocese will have to deal with all parish property occupied by departing congregations, whether in buildings owned by the diocese or buildings merely dedicated to Episcopal Church mission by the Dennis Canon and other instruments. The diocese will, I suspect, make as few distinctions between these two groups as possible. Recall that the stipulation agreed to in the Calvary litigation distinguished diocesan property from parish property. Although there still may be quibbles about what is and is not diocesan properties, the court orders of October 2009 and January 2010 have settled the diocesan property issue—the property belongs to the Episcopal Church diocese.

Paragraph 2 of the stipulation requires that:
In the event a parish in the Diocese (hereinafter “Parish Church”) shall elect to disaffiliate with the Diocese, the Parish Church shall give written notice of that election to the Diocese by delivering a copy of the notice, signed by the Rector and the Vestry, to the Diocesan Bishop (hereinafter “Bishop”), to the Board of Trustees of the Diocese (hereinafter “Board of Trustees), to each member of that Parish Church and to the Rector and Vestry of each other Parish Church of the Diocese.
There follows description of a procedure involving negotiation and, if necessary, mediation and litigation. In this paragraph, “Diocese” now refers to the Episcopal diocese. It is difficult to see how, given the Dennis Canon and the disciplinary canons of The Episcopal Church, the diocese can relinquish its claim to the property for anything less than fair market value. The Presiding Bishop, in fact, has made it clear that she does not want to see churches sold to breakaway “Anglican” parishes at all. This may not be a practical stance where so many church properties are involved. Sales or short-term leases may have to be granted. (The latter would make it easier for a congregation to return to the Episcopal fold later.) Unfortunately, the Paragraph 2 process may, in many cases, not lead to a quick agreement, and the court may again have to step in. One could argue, of course, that none of the breakaway congregations gave the necessary notice required by Paragraph 2 and that those parishes are therefore ineligible to participate in the negotiation process outlined in the stipulation.

Some Episcopalians have argued that we should be generous in giving away parish property because it is either old and expensive to maintain or new with an expensive mortgage and, in any case, of no use to anyone other than its current congregation. This, of course, is nonsense. It is impossible to generalize here, but some churches simply should have been closed and sold off years ago. Others could flourish with less intolerant leadership. In some cases, the real estate could bring in a large windfall if the land were subdivided for suburban housing or used for condominiums. The Episcopal diocese can put the money derived from such sales to better mission use elsewhere. The Pittsburgh diocese has, in the past, closed parishes in undesirable locations and used the money for new, better sited parishes. My own church benefited from such an action.

Cash and Investments

The most immediate effect of the court order will be to put various investments back under the control of the Episcopal diocese. This will improve the balance sheet of the diocese and will restore access to their investment funds by individual parishes. My own church normally receives more than $7,000 each year in earnings from a trust fund held by the diocese. It did not receive any money in 2009 because funds had been frozen by the court. At our annual meeting last Sunday, parishioners were told to expect two year’s worth of earnings from the fund in 2010.

In its press release about the recent court order, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh said that it “plans to quickly make arrangements so that all parishes may again have access to their investment funds that were frozen by financial institutions during the legal proceedings.” According to a story in today’s Post-Gazette, diocesan spokesman Rich Creehan, in response to a question from reporter Ann Rodgers, said that “any parish that had been participating in that fund from whatever time, we are making arrangements so they can access those funds.” If this is the intended policy of the diocese, I hope that it will be reconsidered. If someone has given you something of value to hold and has, at the same time, stolen some of your property, prudence (and, in this case, fiduciary obligation) might suggest that you should hold on to their property at least until your own belongings have been restored. How can the diocese argue that real estate must be returned because, as an Episcopal parish, assets were dedicated to the use of The Episcopal Church, whereas cash and investments were not? The intention to allow breakaway congregations access to their funds is a bad idea.

Of course, there is another reason not to allow breakaway congregations to withdraw funds. The position of The Episcopal Church is that parishes (i.e., institutions) cannot be removed from the church, but people, even whole congregations, can depart. The “Anglican” leadership of a departed congregation may legitimately lead that congregation, but it cannot be the legitimate leadership of the Episcopal parish, for which the funds were originally accepted.


The Episcopal Diocese has been operating out of a small office with a very small staff. Plans have been in the works to expand both the staff and office space somewhat, but one has to ask if a staff of perhaps two full-time equivalent workers is adequate to deal with the ongoing needs of the diocese and, at the same time, responsibly incorporate newly restored assets and negotiate for others. Simply taking stock of the properties of Schedule C would keep a full-time person busy for a couple of months! Keeping tabs on tens of millions of dollars of assets probably requires more than a few minutes of thought every few days, which is probably all that it can be given now. The diocese needs quickly to assess its needs realistically and to hire appropriate people in temporary or permanent positions to do the work that needs to be done. It is very difficult to do mission successfully on the cheap. If the diocese has inadequate resources to determine and fight for what legitimately belongs to it, it may resort to giving away the store out of sheer inability to do anything else.

Be assured that Archbishop Duncan and his followers will fight for every farthing they can wrest from The Episcopal Church. As Canon Mary Hays was quoted as saying in the Post-Gazette story, “We have always wanted to find a way where both sides could have the resources appropriate to their share.” In other words, “If we can’t steal it outright, we’ll try to con you into dividing it equally.” It is not pastoral sensitivity to fall for this ploy. Doing so will only encourage theft in other diocese. Keep your eyes on Albany and South Carolina.

February 2, 2010

The Coming Transition

I received an e-mail message from Blogger today that, in less than two months, I will not be able to publish my blog in the same way I am now. If Lionel Deimel’s Web Log is to continue to use Blogger, it will have to reside on a Blogger (i.e., Google) server, rather than on the same server used by Lionel Deimel’s Farrago . If I have understood everything correctly—not at all a surefire assumption—I will be able to make the needed transition without too much trouble, and perhaps without having my blog disappear for 24 hours or so.

It is important for me to make the necessary changes quickly, as I am responsible for at least one other blog whose transition is likely to be more complex, and I need to gain some experience and perhaps warn others that URL’s will need to change for that blog.

If all goes well, Lionel Deimel’s Web Log will continue to be accessible at the address http://blog.deimel.org. Although I am not certain exactly when I will attempt the transition, when I do, I will keep readers informed of my progress on my home page, http://deimel.org. Be sure to check there for an update if my blog seems to have disappeared.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

NPR carried a story this morning about the U.S. military’s finally moving toward eliminating its morally bankrupt “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. It suddenly struck me that Americans did not invent this policy. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” has long been the policy of the Anglican Communion with regard to its bishops. With the consecration of Gene Robinson, The Episcopal Church began the dismantling of the policy in our corner of the Communion. By consenting to the consecration of Mary Glasspool, we have the opportunity to eliminate this particular hypocrisy once and for all in our own church and to become a beacon of light, albeit an unwelcome one, to the rest of the Communion.

February 1, 2010

Now What? Part 1

Now that Judge Joseph M. James has ordered property returned to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh from the breakaway diocese led by Archbishop Robert Duncan, it is time to note some reactions to this development and to begin taking stock of what happens next. (See my earlier posts beginning here.)

Episcopal News service ran a story today about Friday’s court order. You can read it here. Note, however, that the link to information about the litigation given in the story does not actually take you to the proper page. To access the public documents available in Calvary v. Duncan, go here, enter the case number, GD-03-020941, at the top of the page, and click on OK at the bottom of the page.

Curiously, nothing about the court order has been posted on the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh site. (As noted in my earlier post, the Episcopal Diocese has made a statement here.) AnglicansUnited.com, however, has both a press release from the Anglican diocese and a note from “Archbishop Bob.” The press release, from January 29, 2010, the day of the court order, reads as follows:
The Allegheny Court of Common Pleas today issued an order to “transition to” the TEC Diocese “the possession custody and control of the real and personal property identified in the Special Master’s Report” which was presented to the court on January 27, 2010. The Anglican Diocese will appeal this order.

The property identified in the Special Master’s Report includes all of the diocese’s bank and investment accounts as of October 4, 2008. This includes the diocese’s investment accounts with Morgan Stanley which have otherwise been frozen since January 2009. The property identified in the Special Master’s Report also includes all real property deeded to the Board of Trustees for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

With regard to the real property covered by today’s order, the court’s order specifically provides that “no real property shall be sold or current occupants removed without further Order of this Court.”

With regard to parish funds held in the Morgan Stanley investment accounts, the Special Master’s Report provides that “parishes for whom such property is administered have the right to withdraw the cash or investment asset value … at any time….”
The message from Robert Duncan, dated January 30, 2010, reads:
Dear Friends,

Yesterday evening, you received an email describing Friday’s court action, written by our lawyers. We wanted you to have this information as soon as possible. This morning, I wanted to write to assure you that we will continue to work diligently for the protection of all our parishes and for the good of our mission and ministry. We also intend to keep you updated – as fully and quickly as we are able to. Please continue to keep these matters in your prayers, remembering that we serve a faithful and mighty God.

Archbishop Bob
The reassurances of January 30th are, you might think, somewhat vague and do not reiterate the assertion that an appeal is forthcoming.

My understanding—but remember that I am a computer scientist, not a lawyer—is that Judge James’s order of October 6, 2009, determined that the Episcopal diocese is entitled to diocesan property held by the diocese before its division in 2008. The court order of January 29 only clarified what that property is and how fast it must be transferred from those who currently and improperly are enjoying the use thereof. Although the defendants can quibble about the schedule and the details of the asset list, an appeal to the decision that the property is to be controlled by the Episcopal Church diocese had to have been made within 30 days of October 6. It was not. It therefore appears that no appeal by the defendants will prevent the loss of a majority of the assets of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The asset list prepared by the special master and attached to Judge James’s order did not mention a whole class of assets, namely, office furniture and equipment, computers, photographic equipment, and the like. I would expect that these, too, should be turned over to the Episcopalians. I do not know whether Archbishop Duncan’s vestments are personal or diocesan property, but I suspect that there are some episcopal vestments stored in Trinity Cathedral that also belong to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

More thoughts on the fallout from the court order will be the subject of my next post.