August 28, 2010

Forward Slash

Some words or phrases are completely dispensable. My top nominee for this category is “forward slash,” meaning, of course, slash, that is, the character “/.” The symbol has been around for a long time, but there was no excuse to call it a “forward slash” until the backslash (“\”) was invented some 40 years ago.

The backslash might have remained an obscure, little-known character were it not for its use in DOS and Windows to separate directory names. Traditionally, the slash itself was a bit obscure, being used only for fractions (e.g., 3/5), some abbreviations (e.g., c/o), and in a few other ways (e.g., and/or). The DOS/Windows convention was much like similar conventions for Unix and the World Wide Web, except that a slash, rather than a backslash is used there. Ordinary computer users, recognizing the similarities in, say, “C:\Windows\Documents and Settings\Deimel” and “,” can easily get confused as to which symbol is used in which context.

What got me to thinking about these two symbols is that my local NPR station, in giving URLs over the air, reads “/” as “forward slash.” I suspect they think that, in some people’s minds, the backslash has become the “usual” slash, and the use of “forward slash” will shake these people up a bit and decrease the likelihood that they will use a backslash within a URL. Or maybe not. All I know is that adding two extra syllables per slash in a long URL is redundant and annoying. One also sees “forward slash” in print, of course, and I have to ask why, analogously to “backslash,” it isn’t written as “forwardslash.”

Do we need “forward slash” as a synonym for “slash”? Surely not. As it is, a slash can be called a solidus, slant, or virgule, in addition to about half a dozen other names. Let’s dump “forward slash” for good.


August 24, 2010

Big Truck

I visited my son and daughter-in-law in Ithaca, N.Y., this past weekend. On the way home, I saw an amazing site at a rest stop on I-79. The vehicle below was parked in the truck area: Big truck (front view) The driver wasn’t in the cab, and I didn’t see him (or her) anywhere. The truck didn’t look like it was ready to leave the rest stop; the front end of the depressed center section was on the ground. Anyway, here is the view from the rear: Big truck (rear view) Count ’em—this rig has 19 axles! The cargo must be very heavy to justify this kind of transport. The cargo had a white cover and didn’t seem excessively large. It must have been excessively dense. Sorry that I didn’t think of photographing the cargo up close. The carrier was Miller Transfer.

August 16, 2010

Unhappiness in Pennsylvania

Bishop Charles Bennison returns to his episcopal duties in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania today after the overturning of his conviction, on a technicality, for conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy. (See Episcopal News Service story here.) There have been calls for the bishop to resign for the good of the diocese—see stories by Episcopal News Service and VirtueOnline—but this is not expected to happen.

The diocese’s Standing Committee, which, in the past, has clashed with Bennison, has seemed resigned to the bishop’s return. It issued a rather bland statement August 8, 2010, at a meeting of the diocese at Philadelphia Cathedral. (See “Pennsylvania Episcopalians to Gather.”) Perhaps the gloves are coming off, however. A friend in the Diocese of Pennsylvania tells me that the standing committee sent a letter via e-mail to Episcopalians in the diocese this morning.

The contents of the letter are reproduced below. See, especially, the final two paragraphs. The letter appears on the diocesan Web site here.
An Open Letter to the People of the Diocese of Pennsylvania
From the Standing Committee of the Diocese

August 16, 2010

Let us pray for the Church:

Gracious God, we pray for your holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it, where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer, page 816

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

We write to share our thoughts in response to Bishop Bennison's publicly stated intention to return and resume his responsibilities as Bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania. We are grateful for the counsel that many of you have offered. We listened with care to the words spoken by many of you at our Cathedral this past Sunday and are grateful for your prayers. We write to you with humility and conviction.

We grieve the pain endured by the victim of abuse, and by her family; our prayers are with her and with all who suffer.

We are committed to nurturing and supporting the Mission of the Church and the Proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the last two+ years, the leadership and congregations of this Diocese have adopted procedures and practices that stress transparency, openness, and shared responsibilities in the administration of the Diocese and in our lives together as a Christian community.

In particular, we lift up the good work that has begun by the members of this Diocese and are committed to their continuation. We call upon Bishop Bennison to honor these and other new relationships and the work that has begun over these past two+ years.

  • The strong pastoral support to the people of the Diocese by Bishops Bartlett, Lee and Michel through visitations, the ordination process and the care and nurturing of individuals
  • The Consultation teams that are working with parishes in distress led by Bishop Allen Bartlett
  • The Mission Strategy Planning Commission established by Convention 2009
  • The newly developed diaconate program
  • The strong youth program and the development of City Camp at St. James the Less
  • The major review of the diocesan canons by the Constitution and Canons Committee
  • The financial controls and transparency
  • The regularly held meetings of the Council of Deans and the Cathedral Chapter
  • The shared leadership by so many more members of this Diocese
In the last two+ years, the elected and appointed leaders of this Diocese have been nurturing open working relationships within the diocesan bodies of which they are a part - e.g., on Diocesan Council, the Committee for Finance & Property, etc. - and among and between those bodies. We have, in effect, been weaving a broad web of relationships; building trust and sharing responsibilities so that we may work as one body in Christ. We shall continue and nurture this fragile web, and we invite all in this Diocese to participate - through your congregation, your deanery, and in the councils of the Church.

We recognize our differing perspectives and experiences as a source of blessing and opportunity, not of weakness. We are committed to continuing our good work and relationships together, to clarifying our vision and mission, supporting the weak and vulnerable among us, and seeking new ways to proclaim the love of God and the Good News of Jesus Christ.

We are committed to ensuring the spiritual, emotional and physical safety of all within this Diocese and all whom we seek to serve in the name of Christ. We are committed to serving the weak and most vulnerable in our midst, those who are oppressed, and the children and youth of our Diocese.

We do not believe that Bishop Bennison has the trust of the clergy and lay leaders necessary for him to be an effective pastor and leader of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, nor that he can regain or rebuild the trust that he has lost or broken.

We believe that it would be in the best interest of the Diocese that Bishop Bennison not resume his exercise of authority here.

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Pennsylvania:
Mr. Christopher Hart; Ms. Jo Ann Jones, The Reverend Ledlie Laughlin (Member of the Executive Committee); The Reverend Glenn Matis (President of the Standing Committee and member of the Executive Committee), Mr. Norman McCausland; Ms. Arlene McGurk (Secretary of the Standing Committee and member of the Executive Committee); The Reverend Isaac Miller; The Reverend D. Joy Segal; and Ms. D-L. Wormley
The Reverend Samuel Adu-Andoh is in Ghana and was unable to sign the statement.

August 9, 2010

Losing the “E”

What is the name of the evangelical Anglican seminary in Ambridge, Pennsylvania? No, this is not the first line of a joke. The seminary in question used to be known as Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry. Many of its graduates and leaders are now members of the Anglican Church in North America or other schismatic groups, and the word “Episcopal” in the seminary name apparently has become an embarrassment.

For quite some time, “Episcopal” has been downplayed in Trinity’s name, which has lately been styled Trinity School for Ministry, in most contexts.

An article titled “Name dropping: Episcopal School weighing name change” in the November 15, 2003, issue of WORLD included this paragraph:
“We would just drop the word Episcopal from our name,” the Rev. Peter Moore, dean and president, told WORLD. Nothing is final, but such talk underscores the potential realignment in the Episcopal Church (ECUSA) following the consecration of gay Bishop Gene Robinson.
Three years later (November 2006), a fund-raising letter from then dean and president Paul F. M. Zahl contained this explanation:
We feel as if we are wandering a little in the Wilderness just now. We are having to put on our ruby slippers, but unlike Dorothy, we have not yet clicked ’em together. We are not yet back home! We have been called out, like Abraham, not knowing exactly where we will end up. We can no longer identify with the Episcopal Church—because of its wild swing over into ersatz Christianity—but we also identify with the historic Anglican expression of Christianity.
As recently as December 2006 (and probably more recently), the home page of Trinity’s Web site at carried “Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry” in its page title. More recently, on the Web and in Trinity publications, “Episcopal” has appeared less and less frequently in the seminary’s name.

Trinity publishes a magazine called Seed and Harvest. The March–April 2008 issue carried this return address (on the last page of the PDF file):
Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry
311 Eleventh Street • Ambridge, PA 15003
phone: 724-266-3838 or 1-800-874-8754
fax: 724-266-4617 •
(I have no idea why “for” is rendered in italic, by the way.) The next issue, that of May–June 2008, offered this return address:
Trinity School for Ministry
311 Eleventh Street • Ambridge, PA 15003
phone: 724-266-3838 or 1-800-874-8754
fax: 724-266-4617 •
The issue also sported “Trinity School for Ministry” below the magazine’s title on the cover. These conventions were adhered to in subsequent issues through that of November–December 2008. The January–February 2009 issue, however, showed this return address:
Trinity School for Ministry
311 Eleventh Street • Ambridge, PA 15003
phone: 724-266-3838 or 1-800-874-8754
fax: 724-266-4617 •
The Trinity Web site was now located at, not Moreover, all e-mail addresses in Seed and Harvest were now shown as being in the, not the, domain.

A year and a half later, there is no Web site at The domain is registered to “South America Missionary Society - USA,” and the Trinity graphic from Web siteadministrative contact is “Trinity School for Ministry.” The current Trinity Web site can be found only at Ironically, that domain is registered to “Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry,” although the administrative contact is “Trinity School for Ministry.” The e-mail contacts for both registrations are the same, The word “Episcopal” does not appear on the home page of the seminary anymore.

So what is the official name of Trinity Seminary? I assume it is still “Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry,” since that’s how it is listed with the Pennsylvania Secretary of State. (There is no listing for “Trinity School for Ministry.”) Trinity does not want to acknowledge The Episcopal Church, however, “because of its wild swing over into ersatz Christianity.” Well, fine, but The Episcopal Church should not recognize Trinity School for Ministry as an acceptable seminary to train Episcopal Church clergy.

It is time for Trinity to click its ruby slippers together to transport the seminary to Kansas or Oz or wherever its board—which includes the likes of Alison Barfoot, Geoff Chapman, Bob Duncan, Mark Lawrence, and John Rodgers—thinks it belongs.

August 6, 2010

Pennsylvania Episcopalians to Gather

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania has sent e-mail to members of the diocese inviting them to Philadelphia Cathedral Sunday afternoon for a “a time of open conversation and an opportunity to share our thoughts and feelings” in light of the recent court ruling in favor of Bishop Charles Bennison. The agenda includes Evening Prayer and refreshments afterward.

According to the e-mail message (available on the diocesan Web site here), Bishop Bennison will return to the diocese on August 16, but has asked Assisting Bishop Rodney Michel “to continue for a time.” “Initially Bishop Bennison will meet with diocesan leaders as we enter a new stage in our relationship together.”

The Standing Committee continues:
Surely our responses to the decision of the Court vary broadly; from fear, anger, hurt, and profound disappointment, to relief and joy, to bewilderment and curiosity. If we have learned anything in recent years, it is that we must not allow these differing feelings and reactions divide us. Each of us is a member of the body of Christ, each of us striving to be faithful in the best way we know how. Let us be careful to honor one another. This is not the time to withdraw and go our separate ways; this is the time to come together, to recommit ourselves to our baptismal vows and to our common life, to offer our unique gifts and resources, to provide a beacon of hope, and together be agents of God’s justice and mercy in this Diocese of Pennsylvania.
No doubt, the Standing Committee is planning how it can make the best of what is clearly a bad situation. In light of Bishop Bennison’s past actions and his conflicts within his diocese, Episcopalians should pray that Bishop Bennison is led to resign his see. Pennsylvania Episcopalians should demand it.

August 5, 2010

Proposition 8 Overturned

Because I was busily preparing for a meeting of the diocese’s Committee on Canons yesterday afternoon, I had little time to explore or revel in the U.S. District Court decision invalidating California’s Proposition 8. Today, however, I have at least looked at the decision (you can do so here) and am pleased with what I see. Alas, the opinion is 138 pages long, so it may take me a while to get around to reading it all. The last few pages, however, are especially noteworthy. Here is a sample from page 135 (137 of the PDF file):
Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians. The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples. FF 76, 79-80; Romer, 517 US at 634 (“[L]aws of the kind now before us raise the inevitable inference that the disadvantage imposed is born of animosity toward the class of persons affected.”). Because Proposition 8 disadvantages gays and lesbians without any rational justification, Proposition 8 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The court, I think, is right on the money. Thank God for the U.S. Constitution.

August 3, 2010

Rule and Ultimate Standard of Faith

I have been surprised that Anglican liberals have generally expressed few problems with the Sections 1–3 of the proposed Anglican covenant, while expressing nearly universal dislike of Section 4. The action taken by the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia exemplifies this phenomenon. Sections 1–3 deserve more scrutiny, however, before it’s too late.

Perhaps we are seeing the beginning of a greater skepticism regarding provisions that seem, on the face of it, comparatively innocent. (See, for example, Paul Bagshaw’s somewhat quirky analysis here.) In what follows, I want to raise a concern that should be obvious to all, but, due to the familiarity of the wording in the covenant draft, is likely to be missed.

Before doing so, however, let me say something about the structure of the draft and its significance. The covenant begins with an Introduction that, we are told, must be printed with what follows but is not actually a part of the covenant. I have been perplexed by this characterization and have suspected some hidden agenda behind it. I still do, but I have concluded that the Introduction is incoherent to the point of being of no consequence. I applaud Paul Bagshaw for trying to make sense of it. (See his comments here.) Sections 1–3 of the covenant draft set out the propositions around which future (or continuing) arguments within the Communion will center. Because of this, it is important to be completely comfortable with all of it, both now and forever (into the foreseeable future, at any rate). Finally, Section 4 sets out how Communion churches will fight over disputes involving the text of Sections 1–3.

I now call your attention to §1.1.3: “[Each Church affirms:] the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as containing all things necessary for salvation and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith [4].” The corresponding footnote cites the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1886/1888. The Quadrilateral is widely known and accepted, making its “sides” obvious propositions for incorporation into a covenant. There are problems, however:
  1. The Quadrilateral was never intended to define Anglicanism, although it is often thought of as fulfilling that function.
  2. The Episcopal Church has relegated the Quadrilateral to the Historical Documents section of the prayer book. It does not now articulate official church doctrine.
  3. The wording of §1.1.3 is taken from the resolution of the 1888 Lambeth Conference. It has never been voted on by The Episcopal Church.
The Chicago version of the Quadrilateral, incorporated in the resolution passed by The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops in 1886, said the following: “[We account t]he Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the revealed Word of God.” I consider this statement to be rather too broad and to invite serious questions about what it really means. On the other hand, I love the beautifully Anglican characterization of the Scriptures “as containing all things necessary for salvation.” This formulation says just enough, but not too much.

The covenant draft, however, says too much. Consistent with Resolution 11 of the 1888 Lambeth Conference, §1.1.3 describes Scripture “as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.” What does that mean? What could it mean? It appears to say that, of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, Scripture always trumps the other two. And yet, Anglicans eat pork, play football, and seem unconcerned that John places the Last Supper on a different day than do Matthew, Mark, and Luke. We do not seem to treat the Old and New Testament as being “the rule and ultimate standard of faith.”

I don’t doubtKing Bible that many Anglicans read the 1888 Lambeth formulation with an understanding that allows them conscientiously to eat pork, play football, and lose no sleep concocting bizarre sequences of events that allow John’s account of the Last Supper and those of the other evangelists simultaneously to be historically “true.” There are those, however, who will take “rule and ultimate standard of faith” as sanction to elevate particular verses to the status of ultimate, incontrovertible doctrine. I predict that, among such verses, will be Romans 1:26–27.

In other words, §1.1.3 entails Communion approval for and invitation to prooftexting or worse. Arguably, approval of the proposed covenant would represent the adoption by the Anglican Communion of sola scriptura and a rejection of the Hooker trio of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason as sources of authority in Anglicanism. Mischief will result.

No Anglican Covenant

Get your No Anglican Covenant merchandise at the Farrago Gift Shop