December 19, 2011

Dioceses React to Trinity Cathedral Decision

Both the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh have now posted responses to the vote last week by the Chapter of Trinity Cathedral to return the parish to being exclusively an Episcopal cathedral. (See “Trinity Cathedral Casts Its Lot with TEC.”)

The Chapter vote was taken Thursday night, December 15, 2011. The Episcopal diocese posted the story “Trinity Cathedral Reaffirms Tie to Episcopal Church” on Saturday. The story includes this explanation suggesting why it is now appropriate to end the unorthodox arrangement of being a cathedral in two different (and, in many ways, antagonistic) churches:
“Trinity's effort to serve two dioceses was well-intentioned in its time, which was a period of uncertainty,” said Bishop Kenneth L. Price, Jr. of the Episcopal Diocese. “With much of that uncertainly behind us, the Episcopal Diocese stands ready to help the Cathedral grow in its mission as a church open to all and serving all in the name of Jesus Christ in the heart of the city,” said the bishop.
Today, December 19, a story has finally been posted on the Web site of the Anglican diocese. It is worth quoting “Trinity Cathedral Withdraws from Anglican Diocese” in full:
Governing body reverses position by nullifying special resolution
On December 15, 2011, the governing body of Trinity Cathedral voted (11-7) to withdraw from the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh and affiliate exclusively with the Episcopal Church (TEC).

The motion, introduced by Mr. Andrew Thiros, was intended to nullify a special resolution passed overwhelmingly by members of Trinity Cathedral in 2008 to serve both the Episcopal Church diocese and the Anglican diocese. The vote was conducted when three members of the Anglican diocese were absent and without prior notification to members of the governing body. The special resolution under which Trinity Cathedral had been operating required a two-thirds majority of both the Cathedral governing body and a two-thirds majority of all members of the Cathedral to be altered or overturned, neither of which was satisfied by the December 15 motion. Nonetheless, the governing body, under the leadership Bishop Ken Price (TEC), contends that the motion to affirm the charter of Trinity Cathedral effectively invalidates the special resolution.

The December 15 motion was an about-face for the governing body of Trinity Cathedral, which had previously affirmed “their intention neither to withdraw from The Episcopal Church nor to withdraw from a realigned Diocese of Pittsburgh, and affirm[ed] that they do not wish to be associated with one exclusive of the other.” It is also a reversal of the position of the Episcopal diocese which had previously been supportive of sharing the space at Trinity Cathedral.

Trinity Cathedral had served as a point of unity for the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. It was used for Anglican ordinations and services for high holy days, such as Easter and Christmas.
“We are saddened to learn that Trinity Cathedral has decided to end their relationship with us. We have invested in their best interests over many years. They have chosen to embrace exclusivity, rather than inclusivity,” said Archbishop Robert Duncan.
The story from Archbishop Duncan’s diocese suggests that the vote was unfair. After all, three Chapter members from his diocese, it is claimed, were not present. Of course, if they had been present and voting, the vote would still have been 11–10 in favor of returning to the status quo ante. I have been told that “Special Resolution” appeared on the meeting agenda for Thursday night, and it would not have taken much of a leap of imagination to recognize that a motion such as the one actually passed could possibly be presented.

My reading of the Special Resolution does support the claim that two-thirds of the Chapter and two-thirds of the congregation were needed to retract the provisions of the Special Resolution. In any case, the Cathedral’s charter, which was never changed, requires that all members of the Chapter be members of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. Many—perhaps all—the provisions of the Special Resolution were improper from day one. Moreover, since only members of The Episcopal Church could properly vote, it is reasonable to expect that any valid vote on returning exclusively to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh would have been unanimous.

In reality, Trinity had not “served as a point of unity for the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.” Each diocese held events at Trinity, but the events were more or less exclusively attended by parishioners from whatever was the sponsoring diocese. Episcopalians and “Anglicans” came together at Chapter meetings and in regular worship services. The two-church arrangement was more a source of conflict than reconciliation and did not seem to have the potential to become otherwise.

It is disingenuous for Duncan to suggest that Trinity Cathedral has embraced “exclusivity, rather than inclusivity.” He has not made any of “his” parishes especially welcoming to Episcopalians! Trinity Cathedral is no more choosing exclusivity than would be a Lutheran church that did not also host Methodist services. The archbishop is simply bitter, as another property he tried to remove from The Episcopal Church has apparently slipped through his fingers.

December 16, 2011

Trinity Cathedral Casts Its Lot with TEC

Sign in front of cathedral
Sign designating Trinity as the Episcopal and Anglican
cathedral (click for larger view)
Pittsburgh’s Trinity Cathedral is once again exclusively the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. In anticipation of the split of the diocese in 2008, the Cathedral Chapter declared in a Special Resolution that the cathedral would be available both to the Episcopal and to what came to be known as the Anglican diocese. In recent years, members of the Chapter have come from the congregation and from each of the two dioceses, and Trinity Cathedral has been the cathedral of both dioceses. It had become increasingly clear, however, that this unorthodox arrangement was not really working.

At last night’s Chapter meeting, the question of returning to a strictly Episcopal church (and to being the cathedral for only the Episcopal diocese) was put to a vote. The question was carried, after which members of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh on the Cathedral Chapter walked out.

This afternoon, the following e-mail message was sent from the Trinity Cathedral office:

December 16, 2011

Dear Trinity Cathedral Family and Friends,

Yesterday evening the Chapter of Trinity Cathedral voted to re-affirm its Charter of Incorporation. Article II of the Charter states its purpose as “For the support and maintenance of a cathedral church for the public worship of Almighty God according to the faith, doctrine and discipline of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America” and Article V further clarifies Trinity Cathedral’s historic identity: “This corporation acknowledges religious allegiance to the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America and that portion of the same known as the Diocese of Pittsburgh and will be subject to and governed by the laws, rules, and regulations of the same as set forth in the constitutions and canons of said Church and said Diocese.” Chapter’s decision brings to conclusion the difficult and weighty matters with which they had been wrestling during the past six months. It also effectively ends the governance provisions of the Special Resolution which was adopted by Chapter in August, 2008 and ratified by the parish in September, 2008.

This decision was not made lightly or hastily. All the members present were given ample time to express their views before the vote was taken. Many, if not most of the comments made during the lengthy time of discussion had been previously raised in past several months of the Chapter’s work on discerning the best possible future for the Cathedral. This work began in discussions with the bishops of both the Episcopal and Anglican Dioceses of Pittsburgh and included the production of several drafts of a “White Paper” that attempted to explore all feasible options. In the end, the Chapter was not able to achieve consensus about the direction and the timing of the best path forward.

In the current Strategic Plan for Trinity Cathedral, the two central priorities are “Grow the Parish Family” and “Strengthen Our Role as Cathedral.” We believe that the clearer sense of our identity as an Episcopal Cathedral will help us to refocus our efforts and gain ground on both priorities. Our mission, “to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in the heart of this metropolitan community” remains unchanged. We will continue to be a “house of prayer for all people” and everyone is welcome in our worship and community. This vote, and the reaffirming of our Charter, does not compel anyone to leave our Cathedral, regardless of their affiliation. We would welcome opportunities to host the Pittsburgh diocese and larger body of the Anglican Church in North America should they choose to use our facilities for future events.

Our parish family should have an opportunity to discuss Chapter’s decision and its impact on our corporate future. With the Christmas season nearly upon us and many of you planning for travel and other obligations, there will be a Special Parish Meeting on Sunday, January 7, 2012 at 9:15 a.m. in the Blue Room. Until then, I ask that you would continue to keep Trinity Cathedral and its leadership in your prayers.

In Christ Jesus,

The Rev. Canon Dr. Catherine M. Brall, Provost


-- Kate Ferrick
Parish Administrator
Trinity Cathedral
328 Sixth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222-2508

Update, 12/17/2011, 6:50 PM: A story about the vote of the Trinity Cathedral Chapter is now on the Web site of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. The statement from Canon Brall is now also on the Trinity Cathedral Web site. I have seen no comment from either the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh or the Anglican Church in North America. As yet, Episcopal News Service has not reported on Thursday’s decision by the Chapter.

December 15, 2011

United States–Iraq War Ends

Although all American fighters will not be out of the country until the end of the month, a ceremony was held in Iraq today formally ending the Iraq War.

Perhaps now is a good time to be clear about what will be written in our history books and what we will tell our children and grandchildren.

Who were we fighting?

Did we win?

I cannot answer those questions. Can you?

December 14, 2011

Changes Needed in the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church

Having both participated in and observed the power struggles that have taken place in The Episcopal Church in recent years, I have often wished that the constitution and canons of the church were different than they are. I have long wanted to offer a comprehensive list of desirable changes to our church’s canon law, along with scholarly discussion justifying the need for change and the benefits to be gained thereby.

Episcopal Church shield
Somehow, my project has never really gotten off the ground, and I have even forgotten some of my brilliant proposals for canonical renewal. A General Convention is fast approaching, however, and a provocative hatchet job now may be more interesting—perhaps even useful—than a scholarly essay at some indeterminate future time.

I therefore will offer some suggested changes, along with at least a brief case for each one. I invite readers to offer their thoughts on my suggestions or to propose their own changes to the Episcopal Church constitution and canons.

Revise Constitution Preamble

I was speechless when, in September 2003, then Bishop of Pittsburgh Robert Duncan argued that, in approving the consecration of Gene Robinson to be Bishop of New Hampshire, the General Convention had violated its own constitution. I did not then—and I do not now—understand the logic of this charge, but it has often been repeated by conservative church militants. I think that two lines of argument have been put forth—that the church violated “historic Faith and Order” and that it somehow violated an obligation to the Anglican Communion. Neither argument makes any sense, but that is beside the point.

The Preamble, which was added to the constitution in 1967, reads as follows:
The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, otherwise known as The Episcopal Church (which name is hereby recognized as also designating the Church), is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer. This Constitution, adopted in General Convention in Philadelphia in October, 1789, as amended in subsequent General Conventions, sets forth the basic Articles for the government of this Church, and of its overseas missionary jurisdictions.
It is not apparent to the casual reader that the actual purpose of the Preamble is to establish “The Episcopal Church” as the legal equivalent to “Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.” Various unsuccessful attempts had been made over the years to shorten the church’s name. When, in the 1960s, such a change had become widely acceptable, concern were expressed that a name change might have unanticipated legal ramifications. It was therefore decided to create an alternate legal name. The wording of the Preamble was proposed by Dr. Clifford P. Morehouse, who was president of the House of Deputies. The text involving the nature of the church and its relation to the Anglican Communion was, as we would say in Louisiana, lagniappe. The Preamble was adopted by the General Convention without amendment.

There are two reasons for removing unnecessary provisions from the Preamble. First, they have been used as a cudgel against the church, unfairly, to be sure, but convincingly to some. Second, should we find ourselves not in the Anglican Communion at some future time—we could remove ourselves, we could be ejected, or the Communion could self-destruct, three plausible developments—references to the Anglican Communion that could not be removed for six years would, at best, be embarrassing. Conservatives have argued that separation from the Communion would present a “constitutional crisis.” This is silliness, but we have been harmed by silliness before. We would do well to remove the threat, if not to our legitimacy, at least to our tranquility.

In my post, “A Preamble Proposal,” I offered this alternative to our present Preamble:
This Constitution for the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (otherwise known as the Episcopal Church, which name is hereby recognized as also designating the Church), adopted in General Convention in Philadelphia in October, 1789, as amended in subsequent General Conventions, sets forth the basic Articles for the government of this Church, and of its overseas missionary jurisdictions.
I propose that this become the revised Preamble, though perhaps we should retain “The Episcopal Church,” rather than “the Episcopal Church,” as I suggested last year.

Mandate Support of the General Church

It is unconscionable that dioceses like my own, at least in the years before the departure of Bob Duncan and his merry band, demanded a diocesan assessment be paid by parishes to the diocese while refusing to contribute any funds to the maintenance of the general church. This is both poor stewardship and blatant hypocrisy. It makes it easier for dioceses to keep the rest of The Episcopal Church at arm’s length. General Convention should determine a fair contribution from each diocese and demand payment. Hardship exceptions are needed, but there should be consequences for non-payment. The assessment on dioceses should be a single figure, so that dioceses have no incentive to pay part while objecting to paying another part.

Bring Transparency to Consent Collection

Once a bishop is elected by a diocese, a majority of standing committees and a majority of bishops with jurisdiction must consent to the consecration of the bishop-elect. The collection of consents is usually a formality that proceeds quickly, concluding long before the expiration of the 120 days allowed by Canon III.11.4. This is not always the case, however. Votes by standing committees and (particularly) bishops are only made public if the voters themselves make them so. Knowing the status of the voting is helpful in the case of controversial bishops-elect. It could alert the electorate to concerns of which many may be unaware, for instance. At the very least, final vote tallies should be released, which is both a check against fraud and an acknowledgement of American democratic values.

One might also ask the question whether 120 days are really necessary to collect consents in the Internet age. Perhaps 90 days would be enough. (Those 90 days should be calendar days, however, and there should be no excuse for extending the period as the presiding bishop did after the first election of Mark Lawrence.)

Provide a Mechanism to Remove a Dysfunctional Bishop

Appropriately, it is difficult to remove a bishop from office. There are times, however, when the relationship between a bishop and the bishop’s diocese has become dysfunctional and, apparently, beyond redemption. Such a situation can exist even in the absence of offenses by the bishop that could lead to the institution of disciplinary procedures under Title IV. (The relationship of the Diocese of Pennsylvania and Bishop Charles Bennison comes immediately to mind.) There should be a way for the diocese to remove its bishop. Perhaps bishops should even be elected for a fixed term, as they are in some other churches. I don’t have a plan here, but one is needed.

Clarify that Accession is Irreversible

Section 1 of Article V of the church’s constitution, which relates to the admission of new dioceses, contains this sentence:
After consent of the General Convention, when a certified copy of the duly adopted Constitution of the new Diocese, including an unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of this Church, shall have been filed with the Secretary of the General Convention and approved by the Executive Council of this Church, such new Diocese shall thereupon be in union with the General Convention.
The clear intent here, I would argue, is that every diocese is to be forever bound by the provisions of the General Convention’s constitution and canons. Nevertheless, a number of dioceses have removed accession clauses from their constitutions, sometimes with the transparent intention of leaving the church altogether. I believe this was first done by the Diocese of Dallas and done most recently by the Diocese of South Carolina. It was done in my own diocese of Pittsburgh prior to the 2008 schism.

Dioceses that have removed or qualified accession clauses in their constitution have, as far as I have been able to determine, justified their moves by one of two arguments. South Carolina has argued that, as one of the original dioceses, the Article V restriction does not apply. Originally, however, all dioceses were required to accede to the constitution. (The required accession to the canons was added to the constitution much later.) The other argument, one used in Pittsburgh, is that, although a new diocese must have an accession clause in its constitution, Article V does not require that the clause remain in the constitution. The clause could be removed immediately after the diocese was admitted to the General Convention. This argument is silly and presumes that the General Convention is stupid, but there is a loopy logic to it.

It is time for the nonsense that dioceses are somehow sovereign and not necessarily bound to the constitution and canons of the General Convention to be put to rest. We need a constitutional amendment that declares that (1) every diocese must maintain a constitutional provision of accession to the General Convention’s constitution and canons, and (2) even in the absence of such a provision, the diocese is nonetheless so bound.

Clarify a Bishop’s Responsibility for Improper Changes to Governing Documents

Changes to accession clauses by dioceses have had few consequences. In the case of Pittsburgh, for example, Episcopalians in the diocese were able to get Executive Council to declare that the qualification of accession in the constitution was null and void. Well, we see how effective that determination was!

I argued in November 2006 that weakening a diocese’s accession clause is intrinsically unlawful and that support for it by a bishop is a punishable offense. (See “Unqualified Accession.”) Our church leaders, on the other hand, have had the view that crippling the accession clause is not an offense, but using the change to justify some otherwise improper action is. Thus, we wait until a diocese tries to leave the church before we take action! This is a bankrupt, even suicidal, policy.

The canons should state that any bishop who supports or abets the weakening of the diocesan accession clause should be subject to church discipline. Even this would not be an air-tight rule. Mark Lawrence has argued that changes to the South Carolina constitution were done by the South Carolina convention, not by him. Lawrence, of course, could have ruled the change out of order. He did not. (He might have a defense if such a ruling were overruled by the convention.)

Allow Clergy Discipline to be Handled Outside Diocese

Alas, Episcopalians have learned in recent years that dioceses sometimes run off the rails. They have also learned that there is little they can do about it when it happens. (See my recent post “Whither South Carolina?”) A few years ago, I consulted with members of another diocese that subsequently claimed to have left the church about a particular priest who seemed clearly guilty of canonical violations but who was presumably doing the bidding of his conservative bishop. Bringing charges against such a miscreant was pointless, as the diocese would never have found him guilty. As I understand the revised Title IV, this problem remains. Even if a bishop were removed for his or her part in gutting the diocese’s accession clause, there is presently no way to discipline clergy who voted for the change. We need a way to impose discipline on clergy from outside a diocese in extreme situations.

Provisions for Dealing with a Rogue Diocese

Consider the Diocese of South Carolina. Its bishop has been complicit in removing the accession to church canons and could conceivably be removed for that (see above). Even if Mark Lawrence were removed from the diocese, as I explained in “Whither South Carolina,” the church would still have a rogue diocese on its hands, one hostile to the general church and convinced of its own independence. Even if the more extreme clergy were deposed, South Carolina contains many laypeople holding similar views. What can The Episcopal Church do about such a situation now? Virtually nothing.  Despite charges that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is a tyrant intent on subduing the sovereign Diocese of South Carolina, she is, in actual fact, lacking usable tools to restore South Carolina to sanity.

The Episcopal Church needs a constitutional procedure for dealing with a diocese—South Carolina is but the latest example—that has gone rogue and divorced itself, virtually, if not literally, from the wider church. There should be a mechanism for the church to replace diocesan leadership with leaders friendly to the general church until such time as the diocese can be made a sane participant in church life.

No doubt, this will be seen as my most radical proposal, and I will be denounced as an enemy of democracy and a friend of tyranny. So be it. I love my church and am sick of seeing it undermined from within while Episcopalians stand by wringing their hands. Having a democratically governed church need not mean having a church at the mercy of small, but determined minorities.

Completing the Job

Careful readers will observe that the foregoing suggestions mostly have to do with maintaining the integrity of The Episcopal Church internally. To complete the job of protecting our church from all enemies foreign and domestic, we should reject the Anglican Covenant (see “A Revised Proposal for General Convention 2012”) and amend the constitution to protect ourselves both from agreements that would limit our autonomy and from dioceses that would attempt to enter into such agreements. (Some conservative dioceses have wanted to adopt the Anglican Covenant as a diocese.) I have not really thought of an appropriate wording for such an amendment, but I would like to see the Anglican Covenant be not only unwise but also unlawful for The Episcopal Church and for any of its dioceses to adopt.

This ends my quick-and-dirty list of tasks for General Convention. I’m sorry that my list is not clearer or more compelling; this is the best I can do in a hurry.

Readers, what do you think? Which ideas a good and which do you think demented? Do you have other ideas? Let’s have a discussion.

December 12, 2011


I bought a semi-boneless ham the other day. Isn’t semi-boneless an odd term? My ham does have a very conspicuous bone through its center. According to RecipeTips.Com, a semi-boneless ham is
A whole or half ham from the leg primal cut that has only the leg bone remaining. The hip or shank bone has been removed, making it easier to carve.
So a semi-boneless ham is boned, in the sense of having a bone and, at the same time, boned, in the sense of having at least one bone removed. A semi-boneless ham is not a boneless ham at all!

In the case of ham, the use of semi- has come to have a very specific, if curious meaning. Just think of the opportunities for using semi- to qualify otherwise definitive-sounding terms: semi-fat-free, semi-smoke-free, semi-salt-free, semi-gluten-free, semi-guileless, semi-fearless, semi-pointless, semi-moonless, and so forth. The possibilities are endless (or, perhaps, only semi-endless).

December 7, 2011


Because of some technical problems with one of my computers, it is very difficult at the moment to post anything to my Web site. Normally, I would add a page to the Poetry section of Lionel Deimel’s Web Log when I finish a poem. Since I cannot do that just now, I will offer my latest poem here.

There isn’t much I want to say about “Reciprocity” other than that it would be a mistake to read anything autobiographical into it. The repeated first stanza—inspired by I don’t know what—was written first, and the rest of the poem flowed from those four lines.


by Lionel Deimel

Would I be happy were I free
Instead of being blue
Because you’re now a part of me,
But I’m not part of you?

We seem to be a perfect pair—
I finish what you say,
I dress to match the clothes you wear,
And ask about your day.

You have so many thoughts to share
And stories to recite;
You awe me with your savoir faire,
Beguile me through the night.

Our music tastes are quite the same;
We often vote alike;
I hate the authors you think lame;
And love to ride your bike.

You sometimes call when you’ll be late,
But sometimes you forget;
You seem untroubled by my wait,
Evincing no regret.

You seem to have some other friends
Whom I have yet to meet;
I have a list of odds and ends
You never can complete.

I’ve learned to like the things you do—
That’s something you’ve not done;
Why can’t you try out something new,
Because I’d find it fun?

Would I be happy were I free
Instead of being blue
Because you’re now a part of me,
But I’m not part of you?

December 4, 2011

A Hymn for John the Baptist

I attended a wonderful Service of Nine Lessons & Carols for Advent at Pittsburgh’s Calvary Episcopal Church this afternoon. Music was provided by the Calvary choirs and Chatham Baroque. The service included a number of congregation hymns—it is always wonderful to sing hymns in a reverberant space with a large congregation—all on Advent themes.

The text of one of the hymns, “The son of Zechariah,” had unfamiliar words, though it was set to the familiar Es flog ein kleins Waldvögelein. As it happens, the hymn was written by Calvary’s rector, the Rev. Dr. Harold Lewis, who is responsible for quite a bit of poetry. The hymn is the only one I can think of that is substantially about John the Baptist. As I sang the hymn, which is reprinted below, the words alternately surprised and delighted me. (I have done my best to render the text, which was printed in the program with music, as a proper poem.)

The son of Zechariah


The son of Zechariah to Jordan’s shores once came.
The Harbinger, the Herald, in Jesus’ holy Name
He preached to all repentance, to crowds, the vipers’ brood,
With camel’s hair his raiment, and locusts as his food.

A voice, in desert crying, “Prepare for God a route,
Your Savior soon is coming, from Jesse’s Tree a shoot,
To rescue you from Satan, and from the snares of Hell,
To bring you to his bosom, the Lord, Emmanuel.

The people, so expectant, Messiah-seeking horde,
Asked John if he were Jesus, the long-awaited Lord.
“I baptize you with water. One mightier than I
Is coming; I his sandals, cannot presume to tie.”

“He will baptize with fire, the Holy Spirit’s blaze,
He old men will astonish, the youth he will amaze.
The tax collectors, soldiers, and folk of every kind
Will claim Him as Redeemer, and in him peace will find.”

Forerunner of our Savior, who leapt in Lizbeth’s womb,
Declared that in Christ’s Kingdom there is for sinners room.
You baptized Christ the Savior, and then the heavenly Dove
Descended on him boldly, sign of the Father’s love.

O blessed John the Baptist, with wonder, awe, and mirth
Help now to make us ready to celebrate Christ’s birth,
Attended by his angels and all the heavenly host,
We sing to God the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost.

Copyright © 2009 by Harold T. Lewis. Reproduced by permission.

December 2, 2011

Mary Roehrich on South Carolina

As regular readers know, I seldom offer guest postings. The essay below is one of my exceptions. It was written by my friend Mary Roehrich, a board member of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh and member of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

After I wrote my last post, “Whither South Carolina?,” I contacted Mary because she has complained more than once about how The Episcopal Church has dealt with the situation in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, and I thought she would find my post interesting. When I spoke to her, she shared the essay below, which she was about to send to various individuals and private lists. I asked for and received Mary’s permission to reproduce her message here.

Mary is, of course, responsible for everything in the essay below, which was written independently of my contribution. I have only edited her text for format.

To loyal Episcopalians in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina,

I am about to commit liberal blasphemy. Please hear my plea.

The faithful Episcopalians in the Diocese of SC are in a new place, not a very comfortable place, but different than where they were before. You desire to remain in your diocese and in TEC. As a veteran of the separatist wars in Pittsburgh I have a suggestion. You probably need a new approach. +Mark Lawrence has said he is and will remain a bishop of TEC. Take him at his word and challenge him to use your good offices to achieve his goal.

Meet with the Bishop and say “the strategy we have tried to keep SC in TEC so far has not been successful. If it is your desire to remain in TEC, it is also ours, and we are willing to help you in any way we can that does not threaten our integrity. The Bishop is the chief pastor of our diocese and we need pastoring as much as anyone else AND we are willing to support your goal of staying in TEC. What do you need that we can provide?”

He is probably annoyed with those of you who signed the deposition, and you are angry with what he has done. Try to put the anger aside and deflect his anger and find a way to demonstrate Christian forbearance and love in a material way that breaks through his isolation and your alienation. Get part of him on your side by showing him that your side has something to offer HIM and the diocese.

This approach was not tried successfully in Pittsburgh and I have always thought it was a major mistake. Robert Duncan is a different kettle of fish from +Mark Lawrence and I think you may have a better shot. In the end it is not what he has done that you have to answer for, but what you have done. You will have to put up with the consequences of everyone’s actions surrounding this issue but if you have gone the extra mile in spite of provocation you will be in a better spot.

The church center was of no use to us during the early stages of conflict with Bob Duncan and did not try to reach out effectively to him or to us in spite of repeated pleas from PEP [Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh] to pay attention (as early as 2003). They actually came late to the party, after the first vote for schism, and were best at informing us of what they wanted, not asking what they could do for us. I have the impression they are doing the same thing in SC and suspect it will be equally as effective.

So to all intents and purposes the ball is in your court. Call on +Mark Lawrence to be the best Episcopal Bishop he can be, and be to him the best, not necessarily the most compliant, Episcopalians you can be.

I am not directly involved in your diocese, and there is a great deal about your history and present situation I don’t know, and you probably don’t like being preached at from someone from the outside like me. BUT SOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE in order for your diocese to change its current disastrous course. Try getting the bishop to consider you as more than collateral damage. I know such a course will be exceedingly difficult, take a long time, make you vulnerable in ways you have avoided and it may not be what you want to hear. BUT desperate times call for desperate measures. Mix it up, catch ’em off guard.

Yours in faith and fear,
Mary C. Roehrich
Member of the Standing Committee, Diocese of Pittsburgh
Director of PEP

December 1, 2011

Whither South Carolina?

I was upset earlier this week when I learned that Bishop of South Carolina Mark Lawrence would not be charged with abandoning the The Episcopal Church. (I was in a meeting when I learned of this development, and members of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh can testify that I was visibly upset!) I can understand the decision not to charge Lawrence; there are reasonable arguments both for and against bringing charges. In fact, I have no doubt that Lawrence has violated his responsibilities as a bishop and should be subject to the disciplinary procedures of Title IV, but the proper charge probably is not one of abandonment.

Here is Section 1 of Canon IV.16, which deals with abandonment by a bishop:
If a Bishop abandons The Episcopal Church (i) by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of the Church; or (ii) by formal admission into any religious body not in communion with the same; or (iii) by exercising Episcopal acts in and for a religious body other than the Church or another church in communion with the Church, so as to extend to such body Holy Orders as the Church holds them, or to administer on behalf of such religious body Confirmation without the express consent and commission of the proper authority in the Church, it shall be the duty of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, by a majority vote of all of its members, to certify the fact to the Presiding Bishop and with the certificate to send a statement of the acts or declarations which show such abandonment, which certificate and statement shall be recorded by the Presiding Bishop. The Presiding Bishop shall then place a restriction on the exercise of ministry of said Bishop until such time as the House of Bishops shall investigate the matter and act thereon. During the period of such restriction, the Bishop shall not perform any Episcopal, ministerial or canonical acts.
Clearly, the issue before the Disciplinary Board for Bishops was whether Lawrence had abandoned the church “by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of the Church,” not whether he had in some way strayed from “the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of the Church,” which I believe he certainly has. It is not hard to argue that Lawrence has not made a relevant open renunciation, however. In fact, the bishop has consistently indicated his intention to remain in The Episcopal Church, even while failing to make a convincing declaration of loyalty to the church.

Almost certainly, the question of abandonment was raised because the charge of abandonment is handled differently and more expeditiously than other less ambiguous charges. That an abandonment charge led to the deposition of Pittsburgh’s Robert Duncan no doubt encouraged those who raised the abandonment question regarding Mark Lawrence. It must be admitted, however, that Duncan had gone further in distancing himself from the church. But, even in that case, one might question whether the open-renunciation requirement had been met.

I believe that Lawrence should be charged with violating the canons of both the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and those of The Episcopal Church, but I say this with trepidation. The situation in South Carolina is a mess, and The Episcopal Church lacks effective tools to deal with it.

It is true that Bishop Mark Lawrence has not acted as an ideal Episcopal bishop, but he is hardly the first conservative Bishop of South Carolina with an ambivalent (or perhaps unfavorable) view of The Episcopal Church. It was, in fact, inevitable that a Mark Lawrence (or someone even more antagonistic to The Episcopal Church) would be elected bishop in 2006. As I pointed out in my essay “No Consents: A Crucial Test for The Episcopal Church,” episcopal candidates were being asked to respond to very telling questions. Here are several multiple-choice questions asked of candidates and Lawrence’s answers:
  1. There should be room in the Episcopal Church for priests and bishops who accept homosexual conduct as a valid, non-sinful choice. Answer: disagree
  2. There should be room in the Episcopal Church for priests and bishops who consider homosexual contact a sin. Answer: strongly agree
  3. The church should not divide over this issue [homosexuality]. Answer: strongly disagree
  4. If the Diocese of South Carolina does not become separate in some formal way from ECUSA, I intend to resign my orders as an Episcopal priest. Answer:unsure
  5. If the Diocese of South Carolina separates in some formal way from ECUSA, I intend to transfer from this diocese to an ECUSA diocese. Answer: strongly disagree
  6. The solution to our problem in ECUSA is for ECUSA to repent of its actions and return to traditional standards. Answer: strongly agree
  1. The solution to our problem in ECUSA is time; we should wait and let the fuss die down. Answer: strongly disagree
  2. The solution to our problem in ECUSA is for the conservatives to go along and get along (not that big an issue). Answer: strongly disagree
  3. As a priest, I should not follow my bishop’s direction when it conflicts with Scripture, traditionally interpreted by the Anglican Church. Answer: strongly agree
Presumably, Lawrence’s answers were the sort the South Carolina electorate was looking for. Despite the existence of clergy and laypeople in South Carolina fiercely loyal to The Episcopal Church, evidence suggests that, on the whole, South Carolina Episcopalians are even more hostile to The Episcopal Church than is their bishop.

The widespread sentiment within South Carolina means that, if the church were to remove Bishop Lawrence, the South Carolina problem for the church would still be unresolved. The diocese, if it did not do something even more radical—there would be a lot of angry church members in the diocese in that eventuality—would simply elect another problematic bishop. At that point, all the church could do is refuse to consent to the consecration of the bishop-elect. It is unclear that the church would have sufficient resolve to reject bishops-elect until an acceptable one was chosen. Recall that Lawrence was rejected once—do not believe that his failure to receive sufficient consents was simply an administrative quirk—but he was given the required consents when elected again and after he provided a fig-leaf of reassurances that he would behave himself. Many of us suspected that the bishop-elect gave those reassurances with his fingers crossed.

Whereas it is not true, as Lawrence would have it, that Episcopal dioceses are sovereign, it is equally true that the general church has few options when a diocese deliberately runs off the rails. There is no way to remove or even discipline non-episcopal diocesan leaders from outside the diocese. This is, alas, a deficiency in our canons. Were Bishop Lawrence deposed, it is possible—likely even—that the  Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina would try to leave the church, perhaps aligning itself with the Anglican Church in North America. Or it might appeal for help from the Archbishop of Canterbury, who might view South Carolina as another Rwanda in need of his well-intentioned, if extralegal, intervention.

In other words, The Episcopal Church has no good options in South Carolina other than to encourage Episcopal Forum of South Carolina and other loyal Episcopalians to work for change from within. Given the state’s conspicuous hostility to outside authority generally and the conservative leanings of the people of South Carolina, I do not have high hopes for significant change anytime soon.

Should the church charge Mark Lawrence with an offense that can be successfully prosecuted? In the end, I don’t know. He deserves to be removed from office, but will his removal have consequences worse than those attendant to his continuance in office? I fear that The Episcopal Church will simply have to watch the train wreck and hope for the best.

In the meantime, General Convention should consider whether canons need to be changed to deal effectively with circumstances like those now present in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

Update, 12/3/2011: Yesterday, I posted an essay by Mary Roehrich dealing with the situation in South Carolina. I invite you also to read “Mary Roehrich on South Carolina” if you have not already done so.

November 30, 2011

Rowan’s Advent Letter

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has again used a pastoral letter to argue for the adoption of the Anglican Covenant. His Advent letter is available on his Web site, which also links to a PDF scan of the letter. Anglican Communion News Service issued a story about the letter today, which includes both the letter and a summary of it. The letter was sent to Anglican primates and moderators of the United Churches.

I believe that just everything Archbishop Williams says about the Covenant in his letter is either false or wrongheaded, and I was about to set to the task of debunking the Lambeth Palace propaganda when I received a note from Andrew Gerns alerting me to a post he wrote on his own blog about the letter. He did not write what I would have written, but his post, “Communion does matter; The Covenant is not the same as Communion” is perhaps more interesting.

For example, referring to the archbishop’s comments about his travels and the support offered by the Anglican Communion to particular churches, Andrew writes
To make the argument, Dr. Williams begs the question: since he did all the visits and all these events happened without the Covenant in place, then is it possible to be a Communion without the Covenant? Would these connections cease if the Covenant were to not pass? Would Anglicans stop working together or would our voice be diluted in any way without the Covenant in place?

Put another way, would the voice of Anglicanism be any stronger in Zimbabwe and would it influence Mugabe any more if they had the Covenant in their back pockets? Would having the Covenant stop Polynesian islands from being any more submerged and would the urban parish be any more relevant to it’s [sic] neighborhood with a fully empowered Anglican Covenant?
Andrew’s full post deserves to be read.

After Andrew’s essay was posted, the Rev. Canon Alan T. Perry weighed in on the archbishop’s letter on his blog, Insert Catchy Blog Title Here. His essay is titled “Of Advent Letters and Archbishops.” Here is a sample observation:
Well, actually, it [the Covenant] outlines the rough idea of a procedure, which is so vague that it’s practically useless, to make arbitrary decisions based on unclear criteria whether a given decision or action of a given Province is or is not “incompatible with the Covenant.” And, although it threatens “relational consequences” it doesn’t define them, so the Archbishop is incorrect to say that it indicates any “sorts of consequences.” The process, such as it is, is a recipe for arbitrariness.
This is more in the spirit of what I intended to write. Under the circumstances, however, why should I bother? Read Alan’s post, and, along with Andrew’s observations, you will have gotten a pretty thorough and intelligent critique of Rowan’s advocacy of Covenant adoption.

Cute Corporate Addresses

I was opening a jar of pickles today and noticed that Mt. Olive Pickle Company, Inc., is located at Cucumber and Vine, Mt. Olive, North Carolina. Specifically, the firm is located at the intersection of Cucumber Boulevard and Vine Street. Nearby streets, whose names are, no doubt, connected to the pickle company, include Pickle Street, W. Dill Street, and Relish Street.

One of my favorite corporate addresses is 1 Checkerboard Square, St. Louis, MO 63102, the address of Nestlé Purina (formerly, of Ralston Purina). Both the old and the merged companies use a red and white checkerboard logo.

Microsoft’s address is One Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052. (Incidentally, Google Maps does not identify Microsoft Way.) Apple has a more curious address, 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA 95014. Many other “appropriate” corporate addresses could be cited.

Of course, in the fast-changing American corporate world, such cute addresses can be tricky. I recently had to pick up some cable boxes from the Comcast facility in Blairsville, Pennsylvania. The address given on the Comcast Web site was One Comcast Drive, Blairsville, PA 15717. Google Maps failed to find that location, although one of the other Web map services did—I don’t recall which one. The reason was that Comcast Drive used to be Adelphia Drive, named for a cable company absorbed by Comcast. Google has since updated its database.

November 24, 2011


Today, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving, for which I offer the poem below. I wrote this poem for Thanksgiving 2002. You can find my poem and a bit more commentary about it on my Web site here.



So many holidays for this and that—
But most are just a time for recreation,
Not opportunities for celebration
Or contemplation of their origins.

Who gives a thought to Martin Luther King?
He’s on our minds his day like any other,
When seldom do we think who is our brother
Or bother reaching out to those in need.

We see a baseball game on 4 July—
We sing our anthem, watch the color guard;
But Revolutionary thoughts are hard
To mix with scorecard, chili dog, and beer.

The labor on our minds on Labor Day
Is but our own that we don’t have to do.
We must instead to summer bid adieu
With picnics for a special few, or bed.

Ah, Christmas is a special time of dread—
That deadline of the frantic shopping season
Through which we march for half-forgotten reason
That escapes us fully when the day has come.

Thanksgiving, though, is different from the rest—
We gather in our family and friends;
We stuff the turkey and each person who attends,
And, in the end, how can we not be thankful?


November 20, 2011

A Program for All Pennsylvanians

This American LifeDrilling for natural gas by means of hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale formation has been a controversial issue for some time in Pennsylvania. Gas drilling could create jobs in the commonwealth and make many landowners wealthy. It could— because of Republican control of the state government it probably won’t—solve Pennsylvania’s budget problems. Unfortunately, gas drilling will cause pollution, damage roads, and, in a variety of ways, negatively affect the quality of life of residents living near gas facilities. Natural gas may be a clean fuel to burn, but extracting it from the ground can be anything but clean.

I don’t claim to be an expert on hydraulic fracturing, and I am too busy doing other things to become a citizen advocate for dealing sensibly with Pennsylvania’s natural gas resources. I have seen the documentary Gasland, however, and it has me alarmed. I understand politics enough to know that the interests of the many are likely to be sacrificed for the benefit of gas companies and a small number of landowners in Pennsylvania.

In July, PRI’s This American Life devoted an entire radio program to issues around gas drilling in our state.What caught my attention when I first heard the program was the outrageous behavior of Range Resources, a major corporate player in the growing Pennsylvania natural gas drilling industry. At the time, Range Resources was running an aggressive TV advertising campaign portraying itself as a kind of savior of rural Pennsylvania. The campaign featured Pennsylvania landowners extolling the virtues of Range Resources, which was paying them buckets of money for the gas right to their land.

“Game Changer,” a 1-hour radio program from This American Life, offers a very different view of Range Resources from that portrayed in the TV ads. Every Pennsylvanian should listen to this program. Only the second half of the program deals with Range Resources, but the first 30 minutes, also about gas drilling in Pennsylvania, are equally fascinating. You can find both the radio program and a transcript of it here.

WARNING: This program will make you angry. (Republicans can ignore this warning.)

November 19, 2011

Farrago Updates

I’ve updated a couple of pages on my Web site, Lionel Deimel’s Farrago.

LIn response to various comments from readers, I have updated my page of words containing silent Ls. (There are more than you might suspect.) I have been maintaining this list since 2003 and am always looking for additional entries. I suspect that I have found most of the common words with silent Ls, but maybe not. You can read my list and not-very-scholarly commentary here.

Crazy person
In the Commentary section of Lionel Deimel’s Farrago, I have added to my list of original aphorisms. Admittedly, not all my compositions are equally clever, but I do think some of them bear repeating. “Aphorisms” also generates mail, but people seldom comment on particular aphorisms.

November 15, 2011

Does Anyone at WESA Know How to Run a Radio Station?

I had mixed feelings when WDUQ-FM was sold, changed its format, and morphed into WESA-FM. On the whole, however, I have been pleased with the new lineup. On the other hand, I do wish the station were more reliable.

This morning, for example, I was listening to a story on Morning Edition. In the middle of the story, WESA simply disappeared. Such broadcasting gaps have become commonplace. As I write this, WESA is still off the air. When the station returns after one of these incidents, I  never hear an apology or even an acknowledgement that a problem has occurred.

Having the station disappear is not the only common problem WESA experiences. Sometimes the scheduled programming disappears and is replaced by the BBC World Service. Of course, whenever I get interested in whatever is being broadcast by the BBC, it vanishes in favor of whatever was supposed to be on the air. It is also common for station announcements to interrupt programs or to be heard over the scheduled programming.

My favorite screwup to date has been a public service announcement warning listeners that daylight saving time would require them to turn their clocks back on the coming Sunday. Unfortunately, this announcement aired weeks after the time change occurred!

Does anyone at WESA know how to run a radio station?

Update, 11/17/2011: The station admitted on-air—it had been off the air for a while—that it is experiencing transmitter-related problems.

November 13, 2011

A Matter of Mottos

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to reaffirm “In God we trust” as the official motto of the United States. Of course, the motto was not about to expire, so the vote and the half-hour of discussion that preceded it were a complete waste of time. President Obama had once mistakenly identified “E pluribus unum” as the nation’s motto in a speech, however, and the Republicans saw an opportunity to embarrass, however trivially, the leader for whom they have such little respect.

This pointless incident in Congressional legislative history nonetheless offers an opportunity to consider just what our national motto might say about us. In fact, “In God we trust” and “E pluribus unum” seem to represent two views of America competing for ascendency.


“E pluribus unum,” usually translated “out of many, one,” is one of three Latin phrases on the Great Seal of the United States, which was adopted by Congress in 1782. (The other two are “Annuit cœptis” and “Novus ordo seclorum.”) Though a prominent phrase, “E pluribus unum” seems never to have been declared the official U.S. motto.

Great Seal of the United States “In God we trust” first appeared on U.S. coins during the Civil War, a practice recommended by Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon Chase. In 1956, during the Cold War against “godless Communism,” it was declared by Congress to be the official national motto. The next year, it was added to paper currency. This was the same period during which the words “under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance, presumably to distinguish us from our cold war rival, the Soviet Union. (See “The Pledge of Allegiance Revisited” and “Out of Many, One.”)

In 2006, the Senate, celebrating the 50th anniversary of “In God we trust” having been declared our motto, passed a resolution reaffirming the choice. The recent action by the House of Representatives was, of course, simply celebrating the raw political power of the Republican Party and its Tea Party wing.

That said, the House vote did not seem especially partisan. The resolution was carried by a 396–9 majority, with two members voting “present.” Even in what is supposed to be a secular state, voting against God is a tough thing to do. (Only one Republican did so.)

One might think that having a seemingly religious motto would be a violation of the First Amendment’s prohibition of laws respecting “an establishment of religion,” but the Supreme Court has allowed the invocation of God in the public square as innocuous instances of “ceremonial deism,” a term coined by the late Yale Law School dean, Eugene Rostow. Apparently, judges are as reluctant to vote against God as are legislators.

A Tale of Two Mottos

A motto is intended to say something important about the entity adopting it. It can articulate a guiding principle, or it can, in some sense, characterize that entity. Finding a motto for a nation is a particularly daunting task, as even harmonious and homogeneous countries are complex communities possessed of diverse aspects. Mottos are not essays, however, and the need for brevity necessitates merciless culling of candidate principles or attributes. Curiously, neither “E pluribus unum” nor “In God we trust” alludes to concepts such as liberty, freedom, or democracy, any one of which might be considered an essential element of the American experiment.

Nevertheless, “E pluribus unum” would make a splendid motto for the United States. Its primary defect is that the phrase is in Latin, which is not seen as a particularly democratic language.

Though terse, “E pluribus unum” manages to convey two distinct meanings. Originally, it referred to a nation formed of 13 separate colonies. Today, the phrase is more likely to be seen as referring to a nation formed of many ethnic, racial, religious, and economic groups. In both senses, “E pluribus unum” captures significant aspects of what our country is and strives to be. It is difficult to imagine applying “E pluribus unum” to any other nation.

“In God we trust,” on the other hand, is rather non-specific. It could equally be applied—some might say it would be better applied—to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Israel, or the Vatican. In fact, its Spanish equivalent, “En Dios Confiamos,” is actually the motto of Nicaragua, a country with which, I suspect, most Americans feel limited affinity.

“E pluribus unum” fairly characterizes both the nation’s political organization and its population. Significantly, there is no such thing as native American stock—even “native Americans” are not intrinsically American, since being American is not an ethnicity, but a state of mind. We become Americans by leaving our ethnicity behind and becoming something new—a new one. The American nation truly is—to borrow another phrase from the Great Seal—“Novus ordo seclorum,” a new order of the ages.

By contrast, “In God we trust” seems not at all true at the corporate level. We put our trust in our political system, in our military, in our market economy. Not only does our nation corporately not trust in God for its strength and preservation, but, in fact, the First Amendment would make such an explicit trust unacceptable. Ironically, the constitutional dodge of “ceremonial deism” drains the motto of the meaning its most enthusiastic proponents would like to invest in it.

“In God we trust” is perhaps easier to justify as indicating that the nation’s citizens, rather than the nation itself, put their trust in God. It is generally accepted that religious faith is more widespread in the U.S. than in most other Western nations. But, here again, there are problems. Although Americans overwhelmingly tell pollsters that they believe in God, not everyone does so, not everyone believes in the same God, and many who declare a belief in God show little evidence of actually trusting the God whose existence they so readily affirm.

However one interprets it, as a description either of the United States or of its citizens, “In God we trust” is, logically, simply not true.

If we are willing to accept acknowledged belief in a God as having “faith in God,” and if we are willing to ignore the fact that belief in God is not universal, one can make a case for “In God we trust.” But such a motto is more personal than corporate, and it fails to capture any fundamental or unique aspect of the American nation. Should not a national motto be about the nation, not about the personal beliefs of only some of the nation’s people?

The Fight for the Nation’s Soul

Admittedly, choosing a motto for the United States is not now a burning political issue. It is unlikely to become a topic of conversation in the 2012 presidential race. The apparent substantial consensus in the House of Representatives notwithstanding, however, “In God we trust” and “E pluribus unum” can be seen as representing very different views of the country whose partisans are vying for the nation’s soul.

In the minds of its advocates, “In God we trust” does not now—nor has it ever—referred to an abstract God of ceremonial deism. It refers instead to the Christian God, not to the Jewish God, not to the Muslim God, not even to the Mormon God or to the God of any other religion. The strongest proponents of “In God we trust” are the same folks who insist that the United States is (and must be) a “Christian” country, a country whose laws reflect “Christian”—which is to say their—values, which may not at all be the values embraced by more mainstream churches.

Those who insist that ours is a Christian country are not only historically ignorant but also misunderstand the whole American system. For them, politics is not the art of the possible, not a process of give-and-take among competing interests, but a winner-take-all contest of good versus evil. Alas, all too easily does “In God we trust” become “God’s will, as we understand it, must prevail over those of our fellow citizens.” “In God we trust” justifies banning abortion and gay marriage, limiting speech and immigration, teaching creation “science” and not evolution, and insisting on state sovereignty whenever the federal government gets something “wrong.” In practice, “In God we trust” is not about “we” at all, unless “we” refers to those adhering to a narrow, conservative brand of Christianity.

“E pluribus unum” suggests a different view of America. Those who resonate to this motto see the country as a fundamentally secular state, albeit one whose citizens are predominately believers. In this America, religious views are taken into account but are accorded no special status in our legislative halls. Strength is seen in diversity, and compromise for the common good is viewed as both possible and necessary. Advocates of this motto want us to discover our common humanity and interests as a community, not fight for sectarian supremacy that will mean freedom for some and oppression for others.

Unfortunately, in the political realm, trust in God does not have a good record of promoting justice, finding truth, establishing peace, or preserving creation. Neither does the history of the United States suggest that our nation has found the sure path to creating a free, just, and prosperous society. We have experienced triumphs and failures, but our political system has shown a remarkable ability to be self-correcting. We have been at our best when we have tried to act as one, even if some of us have had grave doubts about our chosen direction. Above all, Americans have always been of a practical bent, willing to sacrifice abstract doctrine to achieve practical success.

Such is the spirit of “E pluribus unum,” not an absolute principle, but a guiding light for our political undertakings. This motto represents community, inclusion, practicality, and a willingness to compromise. “In God we trust” represents a very different spirit—one of individuality, self-righteousness, and inflexibility. These are the forces now contending for supremacy in the Republic. Whatever our formal motto, I pray that it will be the spirit of “E pluribus unum” that guides our nation into the future.

November 7, 2011

Convention Report

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh held its 146th annual convention Friday and Saturday, November 4–5, 2011. Ironically, the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh claimed to be doing the same thing this weekend. That diocese is only three years old, but it still claims to be conducting its 146th convention. Early Christians emphasized their continuity with ancient Judaism, however, which bolstered their credibility as a religion in the Roman world, so the Anglicans are following longstanding tradition. I hope this works for them.

The Episcopal convention was held at Christ Church, North Hills. The facilities, the planning, and the support services provided by that church were first rate. The convention ran very smoothly and provided few surprises. This, of course, is a good thing.

Unlike so many conventions in the years before the diocese split, there were no controversial (and usually gratuitous) resolutions. No one thought it useful to offer a resolution on the Anglican Covenant, for example, an important matter to be taken up by next year’s General Convention. The 2012 budget, as well as various constitutional and canonical changes passed without dissent or discussion. Proposed new rules of order for the election of a bishop did lead to some confusing discussion. In the end, the rules were amended to assure more open dialogue concerning episcopal candidates at the session to be held the day before the April election.

Bishop Ken Price acknowledged a number of people for their work. Perhaps most notable among these were the Rev. Dr. Harold Lewis, rector of Calvary Church, and his senior warden and chancellor for pursuing the lawsuit that resulted in diocesan assets being awarded by the courts to the Episcopal, rather than the Anglican, diocese. When it was filed, the Calvary lawsuit was roundly criticized by liberals and conservatives alike, but Bishop Price’s presentation triggered an enthusiastic (and seemingly universal) standing ovation.

Also notable were the briefings given by chancellor Andy Roman on negotiations over parish property. The chancellor gave a report in plenary session and held a workshop, along with Board of Trustees president Russ Ayres, on the same topic.

Although much of what was said was familiar, the chancellor did offer new information about the negotiation process itself. A number of agreements have been reached with the Episcopal diocese through direct negotiations with departed congregations. Two developments had halted negotiations, however. In conjunction with the return of the All Saints, Rosedale, property, the Anglican diocese had released information—not all true, apparently—about confidential discussions. Our side found this very distressing. (See “Pittsburgh Property Update.”) Additionally, although Bob Duncan, now Archbishop of the Anglican Church of North America and Anglican Bishop of Pittsburgh, had no role to play in property negotiations by virtue of the stipulation he signed in 2005, he was determined to insert himself into the process. Last February, he issued a godly directive to his clergy “not to engage in, conduct, or conclude negotiations without first discussing such actions with me, or with Canon Mary, and with our chancellor.”

To allow negotiations to proceed, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh entered into an agreement which, apparently, neither will disclose. (In his workshop, the chancellor waved what looked like a two-page document purporting to be that agreement.) According to the agreement, nothing about negotiations over property is to be revealed publicly except that negotiations are taking place. In a private conversation, I expressed concern that an agreement with the Anglican diocese might be seen as conceding that parishes had validly left the Episcopal diocese. Andy assured me that the agreement  explicitly states that it does not prejudice the claims of either side.

As has been the tradition, a dinner was held in conjunction with the convention on Friday night. In the years before the departure of the “Anglicans,” many deputies skipped this event, as then Bishop Duncan selected conservative speakers critical of The Episcopal Church to provide the program for the banquet. This year’s dinner was quite different. Approximately 160 reservations were made for it, and the program was a humorous one. Kimberly Richards, aka Sister, dressed in a nun’s habit, discussed the history of Anglicanism. The satire was very clever and generally too complex for me to try to reproduce here. I very much appreciated how she characterized the Episcopalians who left the diocese and church in 2008, however—she called them the Angricans.

Update: After I wrote the above post, I remembered one other topic covered at the convention that deserves mention. The Nominating Committee, which is responsible for developing a slate of candidates for our next bishop, reported that about 500 Pittsburgh Episcopalians completed its survey intended to inform its decisions. One hundred twenty-three names of possible candidates were submitted to the committee. After these potential candidates were contacted, more than 60 remained in the process. The committee is now conducting telephone interviews. The committee is intending to present the diocese with four or five candidates by January 15, 2012.

Postscript: The Rev. David Wilson, although in the Anglican diocese, continues to be obsessed with the Episcopal diocese and with his conservative colleagues who chose not to leave The Episcopal Church as he did. You can read his latest thoughts here.

October 30, 2011

Engineer for an Hour

On Friday, I visited Rockhill Furnace, Pennsylvania, to ride the East Broad Top Railroad (EBT). In fact, I was to be an “Engineer for an Hour.” This EBT program, for a fee, allows one to ride in the cab on a regular trip over the tourist road and, for a few brief moments, to actually run a narrow-gauge steam locomotive.

I had been preparing for this trip for a while. Certain clothing—leather work gloves, boots, etc.—was required, and some other items seemed necessary to fully participate in the experience. I collected my outfit for the day over a couple of weeks, and I replaced my old engineer’s cap only the day before I arrived on the EBT property.

Ready for work
The Engineer for an Hour at the Orbisonia, Pa., station (manipulated photo; click for larger image)
I had to arrive by 9 AM for a pre-trip briefing. I didn’t quite know what to expect of the briefing, but I assumed that there would be some instruction on steam locomotive fundamentals, including operating procedures, and a good deal of talk about safety.

I was directed to the roundhouse, where Mikado No. 15 (BLW #41,196, 1914) was being fired, oiled, and inspected for the 11 AM trip. My briefing consisted of a quick trip to the cab, where I was shown the Johnson bar (i.e., reversing lever), throttle, and valves for the train brake and engine brake. Apparently, it was assumed that anyone who had signed up to be Engineer for an Hour already knew something about locomotives. There were no safety instructions.

Engineer’s side of cab (in roundhouse)
Engineer’s side of the cab. My briefing was here in the roundhouse. A work light provide illumination.
No. 15 in roundhouse
No. 15 being readied in the roundhouse.
When it was time to move No. 15 out to the turntable, I was sent to the station across the street to sign a release. Actually, I had to sign three releases, one for each of the corporate entities involved in the East Broad Top. (Don’t ask!)

Soon enough, the train was on its way to the station, where a handful of passengers were waiting to board.

Train heading for station
Train approaching the station for the 11 AM run.
Orbisonia station
Orbisonia station.
I boarded the locomotive shortly after it reached the station.

No. 15 before departure
No. 15 nearly ready for departure.
I had expected the cab to be somewhat cramped, given that the gauge of the EBT is 3 feet. There was little room between the firebox and the side of the cab. This locomotive was not intended to be operated by obese engineers! A particularly odd feature was the fact that the firebox door was at the very back of the cab. In some ways, I suppose, this was convenient; one could fire the locomotive standing on the tender, scooping coal from the bunker, and simply pivoting to throw the coal into the firebox.

The cab arrangement made it difficult to observe the engineer, however. To watch him, I had to stand on the narrow cab apron and grasp the handholds for dear life. It would have been easy to step off the apron and into the abyss. (In the picture above, the engineer can be seen in the cab window, and the fireman has one foot on the deck of the cab and one foot on the cab apron.)

The train ran about 5 miles, turned on a wye at a small park where it stopped for a few minutes, and then returned to the station after turning on another wye. On the return trip, I got to sit in the engineer’s seat. This was fun, but I had no intuition about what I should do. The locomotive had no speedometer, and the grades were hard to discern by eye. I couldn’t even determine for myself when to blow the whistle; there were no signs announcing upcoming grade crossings.Without crossing my fingers, however, I can say that I once controlled a real steam locomotive in revenue service.

By the way, the material describing the Engineer for an Hour program indicates that one would have the opportunity to shovel coal into the firebox. I didn’t get to do that, which was fine with me. I imagined that trying to fire the locomotive would have provided the greatest opportunity for personal embarrassment. Besides, that’s fireman’s work. 

When the trip was over, I received a certificate testifying that I had indeed been Engineer for an Hour.

My day with the EBT was memorable, and I would certainly commend the Engineer for an Hour program to any serious steam fan. There was one very odd thing about the day, however. I never introduced myself to the crew, and they never introduced themselves to me.

Improving Toilet Paper

I was changing the toilet paper in the bathroom of a friend with whom I was staying the other day. The thought suddenly struck me that the standard roll of toilet paper is not the ideal product for its intended purpose. Mostly, one does not use a single sheet of toilet paper, nor does one use connected sheets in a linear fashion suggested by their shape. Instead, toilet paper is usually wadded up in such a way that very little of its surface area constitutes what might be called the active area of the product.

Roll of toilet paper
Photo courtesy of Brandon Blinkenberg
Why, I thought, is toilet paper the product that it is? (Perhaps all the recent tributes to Steve Jobs have caused me to think more about design than I usually do. The Wikipedia article on toilet paper reviews some of the alternative devices that have been used over the years, none of which seems the ideal mass-market product.) Toilet paper is made of a material whose primary characteristic is its disposability. Other characteristics—tensile strength, softness, etc.—are secondary but can be manipulated to some extent.

The other significant characteristic of toilet paper is its packaging. The roll is easy to produce, is compact, and allows the product to be dispensed using simple and inexpensive appliances. Although the cardboard tube at the center of every roll creates significant waste, it may soon be eliminated, as Kimberly-Clark has devised a way to create toilet paper rolls without it. (See, for example, the USA Today story here.) As I mentioned earlier, however, what is dispensed is fundamentally the wrong shape.

I am not an inventor or an industrial designer, so I do not have an alternative to propose as a replacement for the standard toilet paper roll. Perhaps the solution to the personal hygiene problem needs to be completely rethought. Perhaps toilet paper should be packaged in a different fashion. Perhaps the dispensing appliance could be altered.

Here is one possibility: Perforate the paper into slightly longer segments, say, 8 inches. Devise a dispenser that folds these segments over one another. For example, one might begin with 2-ply paper and a dispenser that dispenses three folded segments, thus yielding a kind of 6-ply, 8-inch long “pad.” The number of segments in a pad could even be adjustable.

Any better ideas, anyone?

October 29, 2011

Waldo on Lawrence

In my recent post, “I Told You So, ” I suggested that the present disciplinary inquiry involving Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina should have been seen as inevitable and that, frankly, Lawrence should never have been made a bishop to begin with.

I take up the subject of Lawrence again in response to a comment from the Rev. Bruce Robison. I addressed some of the issues he raised in my own comment, and, in this post, I want to focus on the remarks of Bishop W. Andrew Waldo, to which my friend called attention.

Bishop Waldo’s October 19, 2011, guest editorial in The State is “Unity, diversity both necessary and possible in Episcopal Church.” Alas, this essay exemplifies the kind of fuzzy-thinking, head-in-the-sand, collegiality-at-all-costs inanity that makes me wonder if having bishops is really worth all the trouble they seem to cause.

Waldo begins with hand-wringing about what is going on next door to his diocese:
Episcopalians in the Columbia-based Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina are watching with heavy hearts as our brothers and sisters in the Charleston-based Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina contend with allegations that their bishop, the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence, has “abandoned the communion” of the Episcopal Church.
Waldo’s basic thesis is that Mark Lawrence is a capital fellow for whom we should make sacrifices in the name of theological diversity. He writes, “I consider Bishop Lawrence a friend and respected fellow-laborer in the vineyards of the Lord. I know him to be a loyal and faithful minister who seeks to raise valid and serious questions as to the theology, polity and structure of the Episcopal Church.”

I do not disagree with Waldo when he says, “Our church has a long history of theological diversity and respect for those with whom we disagree, and we can all benefit from the challenge of addressing these questions openly and in a spirit of mutual charity.” Waldo, however, like so many conservatives who have actually left The Episcopal Church, seems to believe that theology is important, but institutional rules are not. Waldo writes
…it is hard for me to see how the actions complained of against Bishop Lawrence rise to the level of an intentional abandonment of the communion of this church, as is charged. I have difficulty understanding why matters that are arguably legislative and constitutional in nature should be dealt with in a disciplinary context.
Because The Episcopal Church does have a tradition of theological diversity, it generally shies away from heresy trials. (The radical conservatives are not so skittish about theological witch hunts, as the late Bishop Walter Righter discovered.) In fact, no one is pursuing charges against Bishop Lawrence for his theology, whatever that might be.

We do, however, expect our bishops to “engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church” (BCP, p. 513). In particular, we govern our church in a democratic manner, and the constitution and canons of the General Convention are to be obeyed, even by bishops. If a bishop does not approve of our governing documents, he or she is free to suggest changes at the next General Convention. Such advocacy is perfectly acceptable.

Ours is a church of theological diversity, but not of trustworthiness diversity. The doctrine of The Episcopal Church is hard to pin down, but its constitution and canons are largely unambiguous. Although theological concepts, such as that of the Trinity, may be more “important” than “matters that are arguably legislative and constitutional in nature,” bishops are pledged to be trustworthy champions of the latter. “Diversity” in legislative and constitutional matters is insubordination, a refusal to play by agreed upon rules, a failure to keep a moral commitment. This is precisely what “should be dealt with in a disciplinary context” [emphasis added]. What kind of example is a bishop who pledges his sacred honor to uphold the rules under which our church has agreed to operate but who flagrantly disobeys those rules because he doesn’t like certain decisions the church has made?

In his penultimate paragraph, Waldo writes
In John 15:12-13, Jesus makes an arresting proclamation about Christian unity: He commands that his disciples love one another as he has loved us. He tells us that such love means a willingness even to die for the sake of each other. This requires a deep trust in God’s providential hand in human events rather than in our own “rightness”—regardless of whether we lean right or left.
I see no compelling reason why the church should make sacrifices for a bishop who believes he is above the mundane conventions by which the rest of us live our life together. No one is persecuting Bishop Mark Lawrence—not for his theology, not for his views on how the church should operate. It is not the duty of the church to accommodate a bishop who puts himself above the decision-making mechanisms established by the church. If Mark Lawrence cannot live within the parameters set by a democratic General Convention, he has an ethical duty to resign. Failing that, he must accept the consequences of what can only be seen as his transgressions.

Bishop Waldo has failed to understand the essentials of the situation in which Bishop Lawrence has placed himself. Whether Lawrence has abandoned the communion of The Episcopal Church is debatable—the canons are indeed unclear on just what this locution means. I have no doubt, however, that he has committed offenses deserving of deposition. The facts brought forward by the people of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina are not frivolous. Lawrence cannot blame changes to the South Carolina constitution and canons on his diocesan convention. As bishop presiding over the convention, he had the obligation to declare propositions clearly out of order to be such. He did not.

In opposing the giving of consents to Mark Lawrence’s consecration, I titled my argument “No Consents: A Crucial Test for The Episcopal Church.” Having first succeeded, then failed in that test, the church has been presented by Mark Lawrence with yet another test of its wisdom and resolve. Perhaps it will succeed this time.