January 29, 2010

More on the Court Order

Two earlier posts dealt with the court order issued by Judge Joseph M. James today in the Calvary litigation. They are available here and here.
Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas judge Joseph M. James issued an order today in the litigation first brought by Calvary Episcopal Church against then-bishop Robert Duncan and other diocesan leaders in October 2003. (You can read that order here. This PDF version is searchable and has all pages in an upright orientation.) A year later, the parties filed a stipulation agreeing that diocesan-owned property would stay with The Episcopal Church, come what may. The stipulation also described a process to be followed if a diocesan congregation wanted to leave The Episcopal Church. Since a majority of deputies to the diocesan convention voted in 2008 to remove the diocese from The Episcopal Church, litigation has focused exclusively on the diocesan-property issue.

Although Duncan, through his attorneys, argued that the stipulation does not mean what it seems to mean, Judge James disagreed and, in October 2009, issued an order that the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh should “hold and administer the real and personal property that is subject to Paragraph One [which deals with diocesan property].” That property was inventoried by a special master appointed by the court, attorney Stanley E. Levine.

Today’s order states that:
  1. The court accepts Levine’s inventory as a list of property subject to paragraph 1 of the stipulation. It leaves open the possibility that the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh could seek additional property.
  2. There is to be both a public and a confidential version of the court order. Since the report of the special master is attached to the order, the public version includes a redacted version of the report that eliminates confidential information such as account numbers. The confidential order is under seal.
  3. Financial institutions and repositories holding diocesan funds are to take instructions only from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. A similar requirement is placed on trustees and fiduciaries.
  4. Real property listed by the special master is rightfully held and administered by the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. None of the property can be sold or current occupants removed without the permission of the court.
  5. Recipients of “altar artifacts” (presumably liturgical furnishings owned by the diocese but on loan to parishes) should take instructions regarding their disposition from the Diocese of Pittsburgh and may not sell, transfer, or move the artifacts to another location without the permission of the court.
  6. Persons or entities having taken out loans from the diocese are to take instructions for repayment from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.
  7. Defendants are to provide to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh within 20 days financial and other records needed by the diocese to hold and administer the property covered by the order. They are to provide “ongoing cooperation” to implement the provisions of the order.
  8. The order takes effect immediately, and the court “retains jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter to enforce the Stipulation and Order of October 14, 2005, the Opinion and Order of Court of October 6, 2009, and [the current] order.”
The order is followed by the report of the special master, which accounts for most of the 32 pages of the document issued today. Highlights of assets enumerated by Levine include:
  1. $22 million in cash, cash equivalents, receivables, and investments. This includes some $2.5 million in parish funds held in a common investment pool.
  2. Various trusts, not all of which have specific values attached to them.
  3. Approximately $1 million in outstanding loans due the diocese (included in the $22 million, above).
  4. A substantial amount of real property, including the “Donegal Property,” 151 acres of rural property on which Duncan once proposed building a conference center, and Sheldon Calvary Camp, a summer camp facility in Ohio on Lake Erie. Also included is Old St. Luke’s, an historic church without a congregation, and two cemeteries.
Perhaps the most interesting fact to come to light in the special master’s report is that the Board of Trustees—which is to say the Board of Trustees of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh—owns quite a few church buildings, many of which are occupied by departed congregations. Among this group is Trinity Cathedral in downtown Pittsburgh—Trinity claims to be in both dioceses—and St. Philip’s, Moon Township, one of the largest churches in the Anglican diocese.

Update (1/31/2009): My statement above about Trinity Cathedral is incorrect. See comments for more information.

Defendants Have 20 Days

As is now clear, there are public and confidential (redacted) versions of today’s order in the Calvary lawsuit. The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has on its Web site a story on the court order which includes a link to the public version of the order.

This post will update my earlier post “Judge Orders Asset Transfer?”; I will post more analysis later today.

The bottom line is that Judge Joseph M. James is ordering that diocesan property, as defined in the October 2005 stipulation and inventoried by attorney Stanley E. Levine, is to be turned over to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. That property is currently controlled by deposed bishop Robert Duncan, now bishop of the so-called Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh and archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America.

According to the court order:
Defendants shall, within twenty (20) days of the entry of this Order, provide to the Episcopal Diocese the financial records and other documents and electronically stored information reasonably needed by the Episcopal Diocese to hold and administer the real and personal property that is the subject of this Order of Court. The Defendants shall also provide such ongoing cooperation to the Episcopal Diocese as is reasonably necessary to implement the provisions of this Order.
More to follow, including commentary and a more easily read PDF of the order.

Judge Orders Asset Transfer?

(Updated 1/29/2010 at 1:51 pm)

Nearly four months after Judge Joseph M. James declared that diocesan property should be held and administered by the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and set in motion a process for the orderly transition of assets being held by those who split from The Episcopal Church in 2008, he has issued an order presumably aimed at effecting that transfer. It is expected that Archbishop Robert Duncan and other defendants in the Calvary lawsuit will immediately appeal.

Unfortunately, Judge James’s order is apparently under seal and is not available on the usual Web site, so one can only speculate as to its contents and why it is not being made public. I suspect that the reason the order is not being released is that it contains confidential information (e.g., numbers of accounts to be transferred). It is unfortunate that we do not now know the basics of what is being required by the court.

I hope that more information will be forthcoming shortly, perhaps from the Episcopal diocese.

January 26, 2010

Not Lovin’ It

I am not a person inclined to rail against materialism, but rampant materialism was at least partly responsible for my being upset when I visited my local McDonald’s for breakfast this morning. In front on the cash register—actually, I’m not sure which side of the cash register is considered the front—was a small sign that said “gift an Arch Card” over a picture of a prepaid McDonald’s cash card.

My first reaction to the sign was to object to the use of “gift” as a verb. Why turn a noun into a verb when a perfectly serviceable verb, namely “give,” is readily available? Moreover, there was no reason that I could see, neither grammatical nor graphical, why the first word on the sign should not be capitalized.

I then began to think more deeply about the use of “gift.” Perhaps there is a semantic difference between “to give” something and “to gift” something. Whereas “giving” stress an act, usually one of generosity—one can give a cold or give heartburn to someone, however—“gifting” emphasizes the (usually material) thing that is given. McDonald’s, apparently, is not so much interested in encouraging generosity as it is in marketing the Arch Card. In this, McDonald’s isn’t much different from most other merchants, though it is perhaps more crass about it.

A visit to the McDonald’s Web site gave me more insight into the marketing of the Arch Card. On the Arch Card page, I found the following text, along with explanations under each heading:
  • load it.
  • gift it.
  • love it.
  • track it.
Under “gift it.” was the following: “Givin’ is good. Perfect for business, fun holidays, birthdays, or just because.” The word “business” was linked to a corporate order form. Although I was happy to learn that McDonald’s thinks that “givin’” is good, perhaps McDonald’s believes that the real money to be made is in corporate sales of the card. Corporations are less interested in the goodness of “givin’” and more concerned about the benefits they might reap from giving away trinkets such as Arch Cards. No sentimentality here!

The aforementioned page also led me to realize that the lack of initial capitals is a graphical style recently adopted by McDonald’s. Before now, I had not noticed that the new McDonald’s tagline begins with a lowercase letter. In fact, “i’m lovin’ it” manages to violate two grammatical rules in just the first character.

I’m not “lovin’” McDonald’s corporate folksiness, either, but I’ll spare you that diatribe.

Note: “Arch Card” and “i’m lovin’ it” are registered tradmarks of McDonald’s Corporation.

January 24, 2010

January 23, 2010

Eve in a Basket

I’ve been doing laundry and cleaning up in my bedroom. Before I left home this afternoon to run some errands, I had thrown a blanket on top of a laundry basket. When I returned, I found my cat Eve curled up at the bottom of the laundry basket on top of the blanket.

Eve is a Bombay, and Bombays, which are all black, are very hard to photograph. The pose was cute, however, so I decided to grab my camera and have a go at taking a few pictures. The best of the lot—I took four—is below. It shows off Eve’s eyes nicely. (Click on the picture to see a larger version.)


January 16, 2010

Glasspool, Bruce, and Consents

The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles reported January 12, 2010, that the 120-day consent process has begun for suffragan-bishops-elect Mary Glasspool and Diane Jardine Bruce. Requests for consent for Canon Glasspool’s consecration went out on January 5, and those for Canon Bruce’s went out January 8. The press release from the diocese indicated that the dates by which consents must be received are May 5 and May 8, respectively. For the consecration of a bishop to go forward, of course, a majority of Standing Committees in the church and a majority of bishops with jurisdiction must consent to the consecration within 120 days after requests for consent have been sent. I am grateful that we have the transparency of knowing these dates, even if we are likely to have little visibility into the balloting as it proceeds.

I was surprised that the consent deadline in each case was given as what we would normally think of as four months (not 120 days) after the beginning of the consent period. Since there has been some questionable counting of days in the past, I was relieved to discover that, for example, May 5 is indeed 120 days after January 5. Under what circumstances, I wondered, can this be the case. It is not always true; if the requests for consent are made on, say, October 5, 120 days later would take us only to February 2.

In a year that is not a leap year, it turns out that the beginning and end of a 120-day period are both on the same day of the month only when the period begins in January, February, November, or December. In a leap year, it never happens.

While pondering that little piece of trivia, mark your calendars.

January 14, 2010

Section 4 Decoded

When the final draft of the proposed Anglican covenant was released, I was eager to understand the revised Section 4, what some have called the enforcement provisions of the covenant. What, I wanted to know, would really happen when serious disagreements arise among churches of the Anglican Communion? After a good deal of reading, thinking, and drawing, I have to admit that I know and I don’t know the answer to this question. Section 4, it turns out, maps out responsibilities and relationships, and it outlines some basic procedures. It leaves a lot to the discretion of Anglican leaders (mostly bishops), however, so it is difficult to know how matters will play out in practice.

To help me understand just what the draft says, I drew a couple of diagrams, and I offer them here for your edification or amusement. (My apologies to Dave Walker for treading on his turf. I’m not really a threat to Dave, of course, since he can actually draw.) My first diagram attempts to set out the players and their responsibilities. I think it should be reasonably self-explanatory. The numbers in brackets refer, of course, to the notes, which explain, inter alia, the location in the covenant draft providing justification for the corresponding element in the figure. Recall that the Standing Committee comprises representatives of the Primates’ Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council. It is therefore heavily weighted toward bishops generally and primates in particular. Since it meets so seldom, the Lambeth Conference is unlikely to have much to do with dealing with conflicts unless a Conference is scheduled at a time of ongoing disputes. The figure below is hard to make out, so you can click on it to see a larger version.

Institutional Relationships Specified by Section 4 of Anglican CovenantI’m not sure what it means that the Standing Committee monitors the functioning of the covenant on behalf of the Instruments of Communion but is only described as responsible to the Primates’ Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council.

More interesting is the next figure, which illustrates the specifics of how the Communion proposes to deal with conflicts. Again, you can click on the figure to see a more readable version.

Issue Handling Specified by Section 4 of Anglican Covenant
Notice that, according to paragraph 4.2.8 of the draft covenant, “Participation in the decision making of the Standing Committee or of the Instruments of Communion in respect to section 4.2 shall be limited to those members of the Instruments of Communion who are representatives of those churches who have adopted the Covenant, or who are still in the process of adoption.” This could mean, for example, that, if Parliament decides that the Church of England cannot subscribe to the covenant, the Archbishop of Canterbury could not play a role in settling disputes. But what does “in the process of adoption” mean? Since The Episcopal Church cannot act on the covenant before the 2012 General Convention, are we now “in the process of adoption”? Can we draw out the discernment process indefinitely, remaining part of the decision-making process by looking at, say, only one paragraph of the covenant at each General Convention? Who knows? This is only one of many imponderables embedded in the draft.

The Standing Committee only gets to grapple with an issue when “a shared mind has not been reached.” What does that mean, and who makes the determination? We are not told how this provision is made operational. Also, when is it “appropriate” for the Standing Committee to refer a question to the Primates’ Meeting and Anglican Consultative Council? The covenant has those bodies delegating authority to the Standing Committee. Can the Standing Committee give the authority back?

The big question, of course, is what sanctions can be imposed on churches that do not “behave,” i.e., ours (at least primarily)? The covenant is silent on the question, merely saying that “relational consequences” can be recommended to the Instruments of Communion and the churches, which, in fact, do not have to accept the recommendations. The “Covenant Working Party Commentary on Revisions to Section 4” is helpful here:
A further question has concerned the “relational consequences” which may follow a declaration of “incompatibility with the covenant”. A reality which has to be acknowledged is that if there is autonomy of governance in the Churches of the Anglican Communion, then a necessary corollary of this is that the autonomy of a Church’s relationships of Communion also cannot be constrained. What the covenant seeks to do is to find an ecclesial framework by which a common response to tensions can be discerned and articulated. This contrasts with the present situation where no agreed mechanisms for action exist, and this lack has seriously threatened the integrity of the Communion. What the relational consequences might be were explored by the Covenant Design Group in their meeting in Singapore in September 2008, and were set out in the Lambeth Commentary at page 25. There they were deliberately listed in a range from the lightest “no action”, to the most serious “breaking of ecclesial communion and walking apart”.
I don’t know that I fully understand this paragraph of Anglican-speak, but the “Lambeth Commentary” referred to can be found here. No obvious authority exists for the imposition of some of the suggested sanctions.

I hope this is helpful. I have made every effort to faithfully represent the content of Section 4 of the covenant draft. Do let me know if you think I have made any mistakes.

January 7, 2010

Communion Transparency, Take 4

Let me begin by saying that, when I wrote “Communion Transparency, Take 3” this morning, I did not expect to write a post with the title of this one. What changed my mind was a story by George Conger over at Religious Intelligence. Although “Anglican body backs blocking of lesbian bishop” is not really about the organizational structure (such as it is) of the Anglican Communion, Conger, commenting belatedly on the December 8, 2009, communiqué from the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith, and Order, made the following helpful, if gratuitous remarks:
The formal communiqué also makes reference to the “Anglican Communion Office” and the “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion” two legally non-existent bodies. Under Archbishop George Carey, attempts by the staff of the Anglican Consultative Council to operate under the name of the “Anglican Communion Office” were discouraged.

Under Archbishop Rowan Williams the ACC staff have taken on the working name of “Anglican Communion Office”, but as the review of the finances of Lambeth 2008 noted, this was not its legal identity, but a nickname.

The communiqué’s statement that the new commission will report to a hitherto unknown body called the “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion” refers to the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council, a staffer said.
Clearly, Conger has not been talking to Canon Kenneth Kearon. I suspect he is technically correct, however, about the “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion,” though that name (perhaps without the “of the Anglican Communion” tag) may soon become official. (See “Communion Transparency, Take 3.”)

I was completely taken aback by Conger’s remark about “Anglican Communion Office,” however, yet I have little reason to doubt what he said about the (fictional?) entity. Nevertheless, at the bottom of the home page of the Anglican Communion Web site, we find (today, anyway):
Editors Note:

Following the Lambeth Conference of 2008 there have been a number of changes in the administration of the Anglican Communion Office, including the work of communications department. Initial enquires from the press should now be directed for the present to David Craig
Office +44 207 313 3928.
Mobile +44 07535 946 362.
Whereas this note suggests the reality of the Anglican Communion Office, the last line on the page implies that it is not a legal entity that can hold a copyright:
Published by the Anglican Communion Office © 2010 Anglican Consultative Council
Oddly, however, on the page titled “Help Pages - Copyrights & Disclaimers,” permission seekers are referred to
Copyright Manager,
Anglican Communion Office ,
St Andrew’s House,
16 Tavistock Crescent,
London W11 1AP
Tel: +44 (0)20 7313 3900;
Fax: +44 (0)20 7313 3999;
Making matters even more confusing, Ruth Gledhill, in a Religious Intelligence story posted 14 minutes after Conger’s story, uses “Anglican Communion Office” without irony, apology, or explanation.

So, is there an official entity called the “Anglican Communion Office”? Damned if I know, but I suspect not. Most likely, the use of “Anglican Communion Office” is yet another strategy of those trying to convince the naïve that the Anglican Communion is (or should be) more than it actually is.

Communion Transparency, Take 3

I have more to report on the governance of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC).

On Christmas Eve, I wrote a post titled “Communion Transparency,” which raised a question about the document(s) governing the operation of the ACC. In particular, Canon Kenneth Kearon, in his letter to provinces concerning the revision of the Anglican covenant draft, mentioned something called the ACC’s Articles of Association, about which there seemed to be no information on the Web. The day before, I wrote to the Anglican Communion Office for clarification, but my e-mail would have arrived after close of business in December 23, so I was not anticipating an immediate reply.

Three days later, I published “Communion Transparency, Take 2.” Dr. Joan Gundersen had suggested that the Articles of Association referred to by Canon Kearon were required by a change in the legal status of the ACC. In my post, I cited several ACC resolutions that supported this theory.

The folks over at The Lead were also trying to figure out what was going on with the ACC and also made inquiries. Dean Nick Knisely published an explanation from Canon Kearon on January 4, 2010. (You can read the explanation here. A version of the statement exhibiting the original formatting can be read here.) As Dr. Gundersen suggested, a change in the legal status of the ACC was indeed the source of the “mystery” of ACC governance. Canon Kearon’s statement including the following:
The outcome of this process was a recommendation based on legal advice to the Joint Standing Committee to ACC 13 to change the status of the ACC from that of Charitable Trust to a Charitable Company limited by guarantee.
Although this change was mostly about limiting liability, Canon Kearon noted:
Some other changes were incorporated into the process, the most significant of which is to make the Primates’ Standing Committee ex-officio members of the ACC and of its Standing Committee (hence the name change of the Standing Committee).
Yesterday, Canon Kearon responded to my e-mail, which he had only just seen. His statement published by The Lead was attached to his message, which read as follows (reproduced here by permission):
Dear Dr Deimel,

I refer to your email of 23rd December last, and first may I apologise for the delay in responding - it was not forwarded to me until the office re-opened on Monday last.

The Constitution of the ACC has been through a long process of change, first proposed in 1999, as outlined in the enclosed background statement. Part of this included a change of status from a Charitable Trust to that of a Charitable Company. As a charitable company it requires 'Articles of Association'. These articles closely reflect the Constitution of ACC but also conform to the requirements of the Charity Commissioners in the UK. These were available at the ACC meeting in Jamaica in 2009 and were discussed at the recent Standing Committee meeting. These were sent to the Charity Commissioners for final approval immediately after ACC in 2009, but we have not yet received a response, and until that happens we are procluded for [sic] publishing them on the website.

Your email has of course pointed to a difficulty in my letter, and I have now altered my letter on the web to include a footnote referring to the Constitution of the ACC, as well as the direct quotation from the Articles.

Thank you for pointing this anomaly out to me. I hope it has now been corrected.


Kenneth Kearon,

Secretary General of the Anglican Communion,
St Andrew's House,
16 Tavistock Crescent,
London, W11 1AP

Tel: +44 (020) 7313 3903
The letter, I think, clarifies a few points not covered by Canon Kearon’s statement. In particular, it offers a reason for the Articles’ not being available on the Web.

Nonetheless, I think it has to be admitted that fundamental changes in the operation of the ACC are in the process of being effected, if not in secret, then at least in some obscurity. Final approval of new operating rules for the ACC is now in the hands of the Charity Commissioners, but it is not clear to me who is precluding disclosure of the Articles of Association before that approval is given. Is there a legal prohibition, or does the Anglican Communion Office simply not want to publish the Articles of Association before they become effective? If the latter, it is odd that Canon Kearon speaks as though the Articles, rather than the Constitution, govern the ACC now. I suspect that he anticipates that, by the time any Anglican body makes a decision governed by ACC rules, the Charity Commissioners will have approved the Articles of Association.

January 2, 2010

Bad Fruit from Bad Seed

As regular readers know, I don’t often post material from others on my blog. The essay below is an exception to my usual practice. The Rev. Jim Stockton, rector of Austin’s Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, posted a version of this essay about the proposed Anglican covenant on the Houses of Bishops and Deputies e-mail list on December 30, 2009. I was impressed with Jim’s insights and asked for his permission to reproduce an updated version of his essay here.

Bad Fruit from Bad Seed
The Rev. Jim Stockton

It is a given, I think, that most Episcopalians view the proposed “Anglican Covenant” as the fruit of a bad tree. It derives from the envy of a small number of emerging-world primates and the homophobia of some influential North Americans. The effective disturbance they raised together as far back as 1998 at the Lambeth Conference planted the seeds of conflict and caught the primates by surprise, especially the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, and our own Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold. The surprise that these primates’ highly un-Anglican behavior achieved enabled their effort to gain momentum. While the Churches of the Communion continued to work and pray in accordance with Anglican norms, the ‘family’ of a few primates and their North American sponsors continued to work in a manner that owes more to guerrilla politics than to Christ-like or apostolic fellowship.

The combination of political ambition and social xenophobia that the groups shared continued to fester until it erupted around the possibility that the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. might ratify the diocesan election of a bishop who is unapologetically gay. At this juncture, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, had before him an important choice. He could have served the Communion through his leading by example, i.e., he could have responded to the claimed angst of the vociferous minority by reminding all those claiming to be Anglican that the Churches of Anglicanism are interdependent in mission and independent in polity. However, he chose instead to invest his personal attention and the prestige of his office in validating the unsubstantiated claims of the envious and the homophobic. The bad seed of mischief had grown to a flourishing shrub.

The Archbishop himself assured that shrub’s growth to the full stature of a gnarly tree when he established the Lambeth Commission on Communion and gave it the task of producing what has come to be known as the Windsor Report. The Report was reactionary rather than investigatory. The Commission might have inquired of the primates claiming to take offense at Bishop Gene Robinson’s life-style whether their claims of real harm to their own churches as a result of Robinson’s election were, in fact, true. Instead, the Commission chose to accept the word of the most ill-behaved and loudest-crying children in the room, and thereby reacted against the Churches of the Communion that were most fully engaged and financially supportive of the Church’s mission. The Report was the first bit of bad fruit to fall from the bad tree. The proposed “Covenant” was the second, and the more obviously poisonous.

Anyone who has read the first proposed “Covenant” understood immediately that it was punitive in nature. The only question was whether or not one was in favor of punishing the American and Canadian Churches for their daring recognition of gay Christians as a genuine expression of God’s love for all. That the proposed “Covenant” was an instrument of punishment was never in doubt. This instrument has now been revised to yield the current and “final” version. The punitive nature of it has been muted but not at all eliminated. In fact, if the punitive aspects of the thing were eliminated, there would be hardly any interest remaining in driving its adoption forward. Hence, the intense focus on Section Four. Were Section Four not the intent of the thing, then it would have been dropped when people first raised their objections to it in the first draft. The proposed “Covenant” remains a device for the xenophobic and envious to punish those ecclesiastical bodies that are otherwise beyond their control because of democratic polity and the movement of the Holy Spirit. That it remains about punishment, coercion, and control demonstrates that the proposed “Covenant” is the worst of the bad fruit from the bad tree of emerging-world envy blended with privileged North American bigotry. To suppose that this bad fruit from this horrific tree can now somehow be nourishing for Christian fellowship is simply mad.

The current revision of Section Four employs high-sounding rhetoric about intentions for the proposed “Covenant,” but the text shows signs of being the garbled product of a committee. Section 4.1.1. reads in part: “Each Church adopting this Covenant affirms that it enters into the Covenant as a commitment to relationship in submission to God. Each Church freely offers this commitment to other Churches in order to live more fully into the ecclesial communion and interdependence which is foundational to the Churches of the Anglican Communion.” A cursory reading might suggest that the commitment to relationship is being said to be “foundational to the Churches of the Anglican Communion.” Analyzing the grammar more closely, it appears that “ecclesial communion and interdependence” (or perhaps simply “interdependence”) is offered as “foundational to the Churches of the Anglican Communion.” The problem with either interpretation is that the section presupposes that any of these are in fact “foundational” to any of the Anglican Communion Churches. The plain fact is that they are not. The Anglican Communion did not exist when the Church of England declared its governance to be independent of Rome. The Scottish Episcopal Church, and later the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, did not regard as foundational their interdependence upon one another, certainly not upon the Church of England. There was no such thing as an Anglican Communion upon which any of the Churches descendant from the Church of England built themselves. The first Lambeth Conference was not held until 1867. The current form of the Anglican Communion did not exist before 1969 with the establishment and first meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. Until that time, and even since that time, the Churches that grew from the Britain’s colonial efforts were and have been independently governed, with each Church’s primates and bishops meeting voluntarily, but always proceeding absolutely independently of one another regarding their respective Church polities. To the contradiction of the proposed “Covenant,” history demonstrates that neither the “ecclesial communion and interdependence” nor a commitment to same are foundational to any of the Churches of the Anglican Communion. Thus, the draft “Covenant” is an attempt to put into place something new, but using language that implies that it has always existed.

Section 4.4.1 reads in part: “The Introduction to the Covenant Text, which shall always be annexed to the Covenant text, is not part of the Covenant, but shall be accorded authority in understanding the purpose of the Covenant.” Since this section refers us to the Introduction, it is helpful to turn there. Paragraph 7 includes this: “Our life together reflects the blessing of God (even as it exposes our failures in faith, hope and love) in growing our Communion into a truly global family. The mission we pursue is aimed at serving the great promises of God in Christ that embrace the peoples and the world God so loves.” I must confess, I did not know that it was a goal of the Churches of the Anglican Communion to “grow” “our Communion into a truly global family.” Instead, I rather thought we were already precisely that. Certainly, as is true of any real family, there are disputes among us, but I fail to see how a “Covenant” document, a new bureaucracy, a new organizational power given to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and a procedure for punitive repercussions for daring to disagree with him will heal damaged relationships. Paragraph 7 continues: “This mission is carried out in shared responsibility and stewardship of resources, and in interdependence among ourselves and with the wider Church.” It seems, then, that the “Covenant” embodies a vision that involves not only a centralization of authority over Communion Churches, but also a centralization of their respective resources as well. The “Covenant” is a device to circumvent that pesky movement of the Holy Spirit in a particular context amongst a particular people. It trusts instead a Lambeth bureaucracy to decide the polity of that people’s Church, and the allocation of that people’s funds and the use of their resources—all of this in conjunction with the supreme irony of the high likelihood that the British Parliament will be unwilling to cede authority over the Church of England to anyone outside the Church of England. We can set aside concerns around the anomaly of a two-tiered Communion. If this “Covenant” moves forward to adoption, it will be the Church of England that moves to a new, and decidedly un-Anglican, third and upper tier. One hopes that enough of the primates will remember and appreciate that they are Protestants, and so head this thing off.

People will continue to claim that such concerns about centralization and shift in organizational power back to Britain are alarmist. To these I say that, if the “Covenant” is about relationship rather than power, then do away with Section Four entirely. But they are then left to defend the proposal of a “Covenant” itself. And so they should be. The Churches of the Communion are already in effectual relationship. Those who choose not to be so will not change upon the adoption of a “Covenant.” It is obvious, then, that if this “Covenant” is adopted, it will alter forever the meaning of what it is to be Anglican, at least until a sufficient number of Churches act to abolish the thing and to end the existence of the enhanced “Standing Committee.”

Anglicanism’s unique witness to world about what it is to be Christian has been that the Creeds of the Church are and have always been sufficient to define Christian fellowship. The polity of the Episcopal Church has never put being Episcopalian, much less being Anglican, ahead of being simply Christian. Being “a covenanting Church,” in the language of the proposed “Covenant,” redefines every Episcopal Church congregation, every entity of the Church, every thing and every person having to do with the Episcopal Church. It would do likewise for every other Church of the Communion. Britain might prefer it this way. It is painfully evident that Archbishop Williams would. However, the proposed “Covenant” is a stark contradiction of every Protestant impulse, every inclination among the people that led to the expulsion of the influence in England of Rome, and that of England from the Church in the U.S. Familial relationship is one thing; governance is quite another. Confusing the terms does not change the distinction. This “Covenant” is poisonous fruit from a bad and dying tree.

January 1, 2010


One thing is certain: today is the first day of two thousand ten (or is it twenty ten?). Be that as it may, the media universally have been celebrating the end of a decade, variously described as the noughts or the first decade of the twenty-first century. Most of us are indeed eager to put the past 10 years behind us, a period of our history tainted by terrorism, endless (and often pointless) war, and bitter partisanship unconcerned with either democracy or the common good. A lesson about decades is in order, however.

We are used to speaking of the 80s or 90s, by which we mean the periods 1980–1989 or 1990–1999, respectively. They represent 10-year intervals and can properly be called decades. The years 2000–2009 presented a problem, however. By analogy, these years should have been the 00s. How does one pronounce that? Of course, we also spoke of the 1980s or 1990s, and the analogy here, 2000s, works a little better, though context is needed to distinguish between a reference to a decade and one to a century. (Most people would now construe 1900s as a reference to a century.)

The period 1900–1909 was, apparently, referred to as the noughts, referring to the zero or nought in the third digit of each of the included years. Thus, many have referred to the 2000–2009 decade as the noughts. Since naught or aught can also mean zero, we can also properly speak of the naughts or aughts. Rather rarely is ought used to mean zero—the usage is not unheard of—so I view use of the oughts (here, for example) as something of an illiteracy. (This latter usage is too easily confused with obligations.)

Logically, the years 2010–2019 present us with another linguistic problem. Inevitably, I suppose, this decade will be called the teens, and we are unlikely to see them referred to as the 10s or the the 2010s. Strictly speaking, however, only the numbers 13–19 are teens. (A twelve-year-old is not considered a teenager.) The teens is a bit of a misnomer, but one we are likely to live with.

Of course, those people saying goodbye to the first decade of the twenty-first century are simply celebrating a year too early. The first decade of the twenty-first century comprises the years 2001–2010. There was no year 0, so the first decade of the first century comprised the years 1–10. This means that the twentieth century ended in 2000, not in 1999. Nobody seems to remember that.