June 28, 2010

Barbed Wire and the Anglican Covenant

Judging from the number of comments elicited by her recent post about Executive Council’s encounter with Canon Kenneth Kearon, lots of people have been reading Katie Sherrod’s blog, Desert’s Child. I hope they will return to the blog to read Katie’s most recent post, “Barbed wire and the Anglican Covenant.”

Dove sculpture with barbed wireThe essay is a meditation on a piece of garden sculpture and the proposed Anglican covenant. According to Katie, the covenant “seeks to wrap rings of bureaucratic barbed wire around the Holy Spirit, imprisoning the Spirit in processes of discipline designed to enforce unanimity of theology, of interpretation of Scripture, and who knows what else.” Katie’s brief essay is worth reading in its entirety.

No Anglican Covenant

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Thought for 6/28/2010

This morning, I read a June 18, 2010, article in Church Times about the then upcoming General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC). In it, SEC Primus David Chillingworth is quoted as saying that “interdependence and co-responsibility are the essence of Anglicanism.” How can that be, since, for centuries, “Anglicanism,” if that term was used at all, could only refer to the Church of England? Even looking at a later time, say 1800, could anyone assert that the Church of England was interdependent or had co-responsibility with any other church? I think not.

How, indeed, has “interdependence and co-responsibility” become the “essence of Anglicanism” in the minds of some?

When I joined The Episcopal Church in the early 1980s, it was explained to me that the Anglican Communion was a voluntary arrangement whereby churches discussed matters of common interest and worked together on mission. Churches had no responsibility for one another. Likewise, although the Archbishop of Canterbury was the spiritual head of the Communion, he had no power over its members. Where is the binding agreement that changed that situation?

No Anglican Covenant

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June 23, 2010

Has Rowan Done Us a Favor?

There has been much discussion on the Internet about Episcopalians being removed from bodies involved in ecumenical discussions. It is difficult to add to what has been said already, but I would like to say a few words to frame the discussion.

There are, I think, two immediate issues: (1) Does the Archbishop of Canterbury have the power unilaterally (or otherwise) to remove people from the bodies in question? (2) Does such removal make sense?

There are secondary issues having to do with doctrine and with the operation of the Anglican Communion, but, today, I want to focus on the second question above and to do so as succinctly as possible.

Rowan Williams has expressed concern about our partners in ecumenical discussions knowing who speaks for the Communion. He doesn’t want to confuse our sister churches, and he doesn’t want Episcopalians expressing views to outsiders that misrepresent the mind of the Communion.

It is important that we unpack this point of view. First, it presumes that there is a mind of the Communion, at least in the sense that the Anglican Communion has an agreed-upon mechanism to articulate such a thing. This has not been the understanding within the Communion heretofore, and anyone advocating such a thing now—Rowan Williams, for example—is trying to implement a radical innovation under the guise of defending the status quo.

Also implicit in the archbishop’s position is the radical and destructive notion that Anglicanism is all about creating doctrinal uniformity, rather than providing space for exploring theological possibilities under the guidance of the Holy Spirit that might lead to a fuller understanding of God’s plan for our world.

If, in ecumenical discussions, we do not represent the Anglican Communion as being characterized by a certain theological diversity—which is what the Archbishop of Canterbury is trying to accomplish by banning Episcopalians from those discussions—we are either misrepresenting the Communion or conceding its transformation into a collection of conventional, confessional churches—not what the world needs us to be, I would suggest.

From my perspective, the very notion of a fixed Anglican orthodoxy is antithetical to the spirit of Anglicanism. (See my paper, “Saving Anglicanism.”) If this is how the Communion is representing itself to the world, The Episcopal Church should want no part of it. Perhaps Rowan is doing us a favor by relieving us from having to misrepresent who we really are. He certainly is telling us by his deeds that his words about the value of The Episcopal Church are just so much empty rhetoric.

The biggest question, of course, is this: If the Anglican Communion is abandoning Anglicanism as we understand it (and as it has been understood in the past), why do we want to be involved in the Communion at all? Do we really believe that being a part of the Anglican Communion is advancing Christ’s mission to the world as we understand it? How does that work, exactly?

As a certain political figure might put it to Episcopalians, “How’s that Anglican Communion thing workin’ out for ya?”

No Anglican Covenant

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June 19, 2010

National Symbols (Again)

Submissions to the Studio 360Redesign July 4th Challenge” are due by midnight tomorrow. (See my earlier post on the subject here.) After a few frantic days of work, I submitted a proposed replacement for the National Anthem this afternoon. I call my new anthem “Out of Many, One.” In crafting a new anthem, I had several design objectives and constraints in mind:
  1. The text should not be about war or the flag.
  2. The text should not invoke God. (We are a secular nation.)
  3. The text should be primarily about what is unique about our country—our people and our form of government, not our landscape.
  4. The text should be in familiar language.
  5. The text should actually name the country whose anthem it is.
  6. The tune should be singable by normal people.
  7. The tune should be stirring, probably in 2/4 or 4/4 time.
  8. The tune should sound like a national anthem, not like a pop song or aria.
My entry pretty much satisfies these criteria, though it is probably weakest with respect to (5). You can see my entry here. Other entries used to be on YouTube but eventually disappeard. I am indebted to Doug Starr, the organist and choirmaster at my church, who arranged my tune and played the organ for my less than stellar performance. Comments (on my anthem, not my performance—I don’t claim to be a vocal soloist)? The winner will be announced on the July 4th weekend. As best as I can tell, there are no prizes other than a mention on the radio.

June 18, 2010

Adjectives Becoming Nouns and Other Linguistic Adventures

I found myself writing about the ubiquitous remote controls for electronic devices that we all seem to have too many of these days. Not once did I write “remote control.” I referred to the devices only as “remotes,” as most people do these days.

When you think about it, “remote” is an odd term for an object, but the word, which has had a long career as an adjective, is now most commonly used as a noun. As I thought about it, I realized that the evolution of “remote control” into “remote” is an example of a common phenomenon, particularly in the naming of pieces of technology. Here are some additional examples that come to mind:

Original Term
Common Abbreviated
transistor radiotransistor
cell phonecell
microwave ovenmicrowave
jet airplane (or jet plane)
laptop computerlaptop
flat-screen televisionflat-screen
ink-jet printerink-jet
diesel-electric locomotivediesel
automatic transmissionautomatic
single-lens reflex camera single-lens reflex (or SLR)

A few comments are in order about this list. I find myself comfortable with most of the abbreviated forms, though I find “transistor” grating for some reason, and I don’t personally use “cell.” (When transistor radios were popular, I was very interested in electronics and probably thought “transistor” more ambiguous than did most people.) Interestingly, “automatic” can refer to a transmission or (sometimes) to the entire vehicle. Oddly, a “laptop” is something you might put atop your lap. (I was going to write “on top of your lap,” which suggests that a lap might have a bottom.)

The sort of abbreviations I’ve been talking about are not inevitable. Seldom does one hear a quartz watch referred to as a “quartz,” since virtually every watch is now a quartz watch. (This is less true in higher income brackets.) Thus, a quartz watch is just a “watch.” What used to be a “watch” is now more likely a “mechanical watch” or “wind-up watch.” Likewise, on most railroads, a diesel-electric locomotive has become simply a “locomotive,” since every locomotive on the property is a diesel-electric locomotive.

Anyway, I’m sure others can add to this list abbreviated form that have or have not become current. That list will only grow over time.

One final note on “remote” as a noun: There seems to be an earlier instance of such usage, but one that developed the same way. A broadcast originating outside a studio is called a “remote.” Originally, it was probably a “remote broadcast.”

June 17, 2010

Advice from Maggie Ross

Pillars of FlameThose of us in Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh have been saying since 2003 that the Anglican church wars are all about power. As the years have gone by, this has become an easier and easier proposition to support. Certainly, the push for an Anglican covenant is all about power—about who gets to define what “Anglicanism” is and about who gets to enforce that understanding. Many proponents of a covenant are unabashedly in favor of there being a worldwide Anglican Church, directed by the primates. This is a bad idea for so many reasons, not the least of which is the very intractability of governing such a far-flung empire by any scheme that looks at all democratic—not a problem for some, of course.

Anyway, I’m presently reading Maggie Ross’s Pillars of Flame and could not help reproducing this little passage from her oddly named introduction (“Abecedary”):
However, it will also become clear that official ecumenism should stop at intercommunion and recognition of one another’s clergy. Organic unity in polity among the larger churches especially is unwise because of what seems to be an ineluctable human tendency toward uniformity, reductionism, and tyranny.
Now, what might that advice be relevant to?

No Anglican Covenant

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June 13, 2010

National Symbols

Uncle Sam
The PRI program Studio 360 is running a “Redesign July 4th Challenge.” The producers suggest that Uncle Sam and the National Anthem could use some updating, and they are asking artists and musicians to try their hands at modernizing or replacing these two symbols of the nation. This is an intriguing idea, and I may even have a go at devising a replacement anthem. (Since my graphic capabilities are more or less limited to drawing circles and straight lines, I’ll leave the Uncle Sam challenge to others.)

The Studio 360 Challenge got me thinking that both the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem are about the American flag. In fact, even Uncle Sam is clad in clothing suggesting the flag, in some depictions, more strongly than in others. What is it about the flag, anyway?

U.S. flagUncle Sam’s flag attire seems entirely natural, since Uncle Sam, like the flag itself, is a graphical symbol. (He is a kind of meta-symbol, being a symbol referring to another symbol.) Neither the Pledge nor the National Anthem has an obviously necessary tie to the flag, however, yet the flag, in both instances, serves as a stand-in for more fundamental concepts of nationhood.

I don’t really know what to do with Uncle Sam, and I look forward to seeing what the artist-contestants of the Redesign Challenge come up with. As I have written elsewhere, I believe that the Pledge is defective in several ways, particularly in its indirection in its use of the flag. (I believe we should pledge our support of the Constitution.) The National Anthem is likewise indirect. It celebrates a military victory in the war that assured our continued independence from England. It is rightly criticized as triumphalist, militaristic, and possessed of impossibly contorted syntax. It seems out of place in 2010.

June 9, 2010

Ecumenical Discussions and the Anglican Communion

Episcopalians have now been bounced from ecumenical discussions carried on by the Anglican Communion. (See “Too Much Power Already.”) Surely, this is an indignity that requires a response. I’m not certain what response would best advance the interests of The Episcopal Church, however one might define that. There is little point to simply declaring our indignation.

That said, I think we really have to question the utility of having the Anglican Communion negotiate ecumenical agreements at all. Back in January 2007, I asked the question “Do We Need the Anglican Communion?” At that time, I said
There is value in [the Communion’s negotiating ecumenical agreements], I suppose, both for us and our partners in discussion. On the other hand, individual churches are likely to engage in the discussions that matter most (think of our relationship with the ELCA and our discussion with the Methodists). I realize that many will disagree with me, but I consider the Communion’s discussions with the Roman Catholic Church to be, at best, a complete waste of time, at least in my lifetime. At worst, they allow for unelected negotiators to sell out our beliefs in the name of an elusive Christian unity.
In fact, it has become increasingly obvious that, whereas some elements of the Anglican Communion would like to see a fixed collection of dogma that can be designated as “Anglican,” the theological gulf between churches in the Anglican Communion is considerably wider than that between, say, TEC and the ELCA. In other words, even in the best of circumstances, ecumenical agreements negotiated by the Anglican Communion (as opposed to efforts by individual Communion churches) are going to be either uselessly general or, to one church or another, intrusive and oppressive.

Now, of course, we have Lambeth manipulating ecumenical discussions to exclude certain Anglican churches from even participating. This threatens to redefine Anglicanism away from its special position of theological diversity to one of rigid theological uniformity. Rather than seeking to share the special charism of Anglicanism, we are sacrificing our heritage to gain stature as a world religious power.

Under the circumstances, perhaps the proper response of The Episcopal Church is to say that having the Anglican Communion negotiate ecumenical agreements (as opposed to working together with other churches on mission-oriented projects) has simply become another instrument to destroy historical Anglicanism. We therefore intend to support it neither with our labor nor our money.

No Anglican Covenant

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June 8, 2010

Diocese Distributes Parish Funds

According to Saturday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has distributed earnings from investment funds held by the diocese for the benefit of individual parishes. Distribution of earnings had been suspended following the October 4, 2008, schism pending the determination of ownership of diocesan assets.

Judge Joseph M. James issued an order January 29, 2010, awarding the Episcopalians diocesan assets, as cataloged by special master Stanley E. Levine. The order did not preclude the Episcopal diocese from requesting additional assets not cataloged. According to the news story,
[Bishop Price’s] diocese was awarded about $20 million in centrally held diocesan assets in a 2009 decision by Allegheny Common Pleas Judge Joseph James. Parish property is to be negotiated separately. However, the Episcopal diocese also held $2.5 million in endowment funds belonging to parishes that had pooled their money to get higher interest. The court decree indicated that parishes had the right to that money.
I assume that reporter Ann Rodgers is referring to this paragraph in the report from Levine, which was attached to Judge James’s order:
The line-item “Cash Held for Others” is listed among the investment assets of the diocese “that are subject to Paragraph One of the Stipulation” solely because investments relating to this line-item are commingled and jointly administered by the diocese; however, the Master believes that individual parishes for whom such property is administered have the right to withdraw the cash or investment asset value (which is separately accounted for on Schedule A) at any time, and thereby remove such property from the scope of Paragraph One.
Diocesan spokesman Rich Creehan is quoted as saying “that checks for five quarters of interest went to 31 parishes and five church-related organizations.” The “parishes” were in both the Episcopal and “Anglican” dioceses.

The court order supposedly was only about diocesan property, determining the meaning of the first paragraph of the stipulation to which all parties agreed in 2005. Mr. Levine’s opinion about the ownership of funds he determined were not diocesan funds is, I would think, irrelevant. No doubt, both Bishop Price and Archbishop Duncan would agree that the pooled investment funds belong to individual parishes. That is not really the question, however. The question is who represents the owning parishes.

That said, I must admit that I am only working from the public version of the court order. An un-redacted version is under seal. I hope that nothing more than account numbers have been removed from the public version. I do not know if other provisions or agreements are being kept secret, however. I doubt it.

In any case, I have serious reservations about distributing earnings to organizations not under the authority of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. I would have even greater objections to distributing the principal to churches under Archbishop Robert Duncan. The Post-Gazette story quotes Anglican Standing Committee president and rector of Trinity Church, Washington, Pa., the Rev. Karen Stevenson. “They did give us money,” she said. “It’s not as if they’re giving us their money. They’re just releasing the money that belonged to us.”

The money, I suggest, does not belong to the Rev. Mrs. Stevenson’s church or to any of the other parishes in Bob Duncan’s stable. As has been consistently asserted by Episcopal Church leaders, people can leave The Episcopal Church, but parishes cannot. All the money was invested on behalf of Episcopal Church parishes. The clergy and vestry of, for example, Trinity, Washington, do not represent Trinity, Washington, the parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. They are therefore not entitled to the money that has been given or to the money Stevenson would like them to be given.

The money in question, maybe 5% or so of the funds handed over to the Episcopal diocese, is perhaps seen as not worth fighting over. According to a diocesan press release,
Before that court decision [of October 6, 2009], the Episcopal Diocese agreed that the normal distributions from these investment accounts to the parishes should not be frozen.
Why that agreement was made, I do not know. Any concession that Episcopal parishes have indeed left the diocese would seem a dangerous price to pay to avoid more litigation or simply unhappiness among those who have left the diocese, particularly when the Episcopal diocese seems to have a strong claim on the funds on behalf of Episcopal parishes. I believe that the money has been distributed for pastoral (and perhaps for strategic legal) reasons and that the diocese is not conceding that any Episcopal parish has left.

Many former Episcopalians, of course, have left. So have many Episcopalians who just wanted to stay with their congregations. It is to be hoped that some of these folks will eventually find their way home.

The Episcopal Church Welcomes You

Milestone in Portugal

On May 4, 2010, I noted that Portugal, whose population is predominently Roman Catholic, was on the verge of approving gay marriage. (See “Progress in Portugal.”) That legalization is now a reality. According to the AP, the first gay couple, two divorced mothers, were wed yesterday in Lisbon. Additional details are available here.

June 7, 2010

Too Much Power Already

In response to a comment I made on Preludium, Mark Harris made the following observation:
My understanding is that appointment on these committees is by the Archbishop. I believe that being so he has the right (unless otherwise specified in some ACC or other document) to remove a person from such a committee.
We were discussing the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent Pentecost letter in which Rowan Williams “proposed” that members of churches that “have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order” should not participate in ecumenical discussions on behalf of the Communion and should be reduced to consultant status on the IASCUFO. “Particular provinces will be contacted about the outworking of this in the near future,” he said.

Today, we learn that the archbishop has unilaterally attempted to mete out his proposed punishment. A press release from the Anglican Communion Office includes the following:
Last Thursday I sent letters to members of the Inter Anglican ecumenical dialogues who are from the Episcopal Church informing them that their membership of these dialogues has been discontinued. In doing so I want to emphasise again as I did in those letters the exceptional service of each and every person to that important work and to acknowledge without exception the enormous contribution each person has made.

I have also written to the person from the Episcopal Church who is a member of the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order (IASCUFO), withdrawing that person’s membership and inviting her to serve as a Consultant to that body.

I have written to the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada to ask whether its General Synod or House of Bishops has formally adopted policies that breach the second moratorium in the Windsor Report, authorising public rites of same-sex blessing.

At the same time I have written to the Primate of the Southern Cone, whose interventions in other provinces are referred to in the Windsor Continuation Group Report asking him for clarification as to the current state of his interventions into other provinces.

These are the actions which flow immediately from the Archbishop’s Pentecost Letter.

Looking forward, there are two questions in this area which I would like to see addressed: One is the relationship between the actions of a bishop or of a diocese and the responsibilities of a province for those actions – this issue is referred to in the Windsor Continuation Group Report para 48.

Secondly, to ask the question of whether maintaining within the fellowship of one’s Provincial House of Bishops, a bishop who is exercising episcopal ministry in another province without the expressed permission of that province or the local bishop, constitutes an intervention and is therefore a breach of the third moratorium.

The Revd Canon Kenneth Kearon.
Clearly, the archbishop’s “proposal” was rather more than a proposal. And, as we have seen in the past, there are threats to other churches, but The Episcopal Church has again been singled out as the designated Anglican scapegoat.

Just who does Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams think he is? In his letter, he lamented that other Anglican bodies are constrained by “constitutional provisions which cannot be overturned by any one person’s decision alone.” He therefore seems to think that this gives him the duty to play Anglican Pope. It does not, and I hope that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori promptly will tell him that he has overstepped his meager authority and placed himself in the same category as King George III.

Archbishop Williams has consistently advanced his quest for power through the establishment of and appointments to Anglican bodies. (I cringe every time I learn that Williams has established another Windsor This or Windsor That.) That the Most Rev. Drexel Gomez was appointed to head the Covenant Design Group should have been clear evidence that any proposed covenant would be an instrument to punish The Episcopal Church. The deck, as they say, was stacked against us.

Why should The Episcopal Church even consider adopting the Anglican covenant, which would give additional powers to an Archbishop and to a Communion that is already acting in a tyrannical manner? We should, in fact, rein in the Archbishop of Canterbury by declaring that he cannot create bodies for the Anglican Communion on his own authority. Moreover, should the primates or Anglican Consultative Council create a body for their own purposes, we should insist that they, as a body, not the Archbishop of Canterbury as an individual, should appoint members of that body. Once appointed, no one should be removed except for cause.

The Episcopal Church needs to make it crystal clear that it will not continue to endure abuse at the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion tyranny should be stopped now.

No Anglican Covenant

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June 2, 2010

Marketing Opportunity?

I just received e-mail from Anglican Communion News Service announcing, among other things, that the Anglican Communion Office now has an on-line store. (The text of the message is available on the Web here.)

No doubt, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is concerned about not only the structural integrity of the Anglican Communion but also its financial viability. The shop might be a needed source of revenue, particular if The Episcopal Church, either voluntarily or involuntarily, finds itself beyond the loving embrace of communion with Canterbury.

Perhaps I should inquire if the new store would be interested in carrying my line of No Anglican Covenant merchandise. I would be willing to offer products at a very attractive price.

No Anglican Covenant

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Territorial Integrity

Although the analogy is imperfect, the churches (provinces) of the Anglican Communion are a lot like nation-states. They are autonomous and govern exclusive territories. The notion of territorial integrity is one of longstanding, dating at least from the Council of Nicaea, though some reinterpretation has been necessary to accommodate the multiple families of Christian churches in the modern world.

Anglican “leaders” have consistently stressed the importance of the three moratoria put forward in the Windsor Report, while generally downplaying the importance of territorial violations. Yet the prohibition of bishops’ invading sees not their own is both venerable and widely understood.

At the level of nations, a violation of territorial integrity is, quite simply, an act of war and is considered improper among the family of nations these days whatever the provocation short of a similar offense by the other side.

I suggest that the incursions into the exclusive territories of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada by the Southern Cone, Nigeria, Uganda, and other churches, incursions that began before the election of Gene Robinson, have been and continue to be the ecclesiastical equivalent of acts of war. Yet The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada have reacted with inappropriate tolerance that suggests the lack of simple self-respect.

If either church adopts the proposed Anglican covenant after the indignities to which they have been subjected, they will richly deserve the fate of rapid decline and loss of independence that will surely follow. This will not advance the Kingdom of God.

No Anglican Covenant

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