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.

October 26, 2011

P-G: No Supreme Court Appeal

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette finally got around to reporting on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s refusal to hear an appeal from Bob Duncan, et al., in the Calvary Church litigation. (See “Pa. High Court Rejects Duncan Appeal.”) Ann Rodgers’ story “Property litigation involving Episcopal Diocese is over” appeared in today’s edition.

There was not much that is new in the Post-Gazette article, but there was this:
After the Pennsylvania Supreme Court last week denied an appeal from the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, which had argued that it owned the property, the Anglican decided diocese it will not appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, spokesman David Trautman said.

“This whole string of litigation is ended, is done,” he said.
Appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court seemed foolhardy, since the issue adjudicated by the courts in the Calvary litigation was the plain meaning of the stipulation agreed to be all parties in 2005, not the interpretation of church canons or trust law. Prudence has not always characterized the legal moves of church dissidents elsewhere, however, so it was a relief to know that litigation, at least over the diocesan property in Pittsburgh, is at an end.

“We remain committed to reaching a negotiated settlement [of outstanding issues] with the Episcopal Church diocese,” Archbishop Duncan has declared. (See “Duncan Responds to Supreme Court  Order.”) Although Duncan and the people of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh have no right to occupy the properties that were part of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh before the October 2008 “realignment,” it may eventually take lawsuits and sheriff’s deputies to evict the squatters from Episcopal churches, particularly in the case of large and valuable churches such as Church of the Ascension.

October 25, 2011

Just the Facts

Like many Episcopalians, I was very upset by a recent story in The Wall Street Journal by Mollie Ziegler Hemingway. The October 7, 2011, story was titled “Twenty-First Century Excommunication,” and it was all about how The Episcopal Church has mistreated its dissidents who wanted to leave the church. Much of the story is true, as far as it goes. The problem with the story is that the other side was not represented. The dissidents have been at least as nasty to The Episcopal Church as the church is accused of being to them in the Hemingway story. Moreover, the church has had its reasons for engaging in litigation for parish property. Even if one does not agree with those reasons, failure to acknowledge them suggests that the leadership of The Episcopal Church is just mean and vindictive. That is unfair.

Here is what I wrote as a comment on the WSJ Web site (I have taken the liberty of correcting a typographical error and adding italics):
I am not a regular reader of the WSJ. I can see that I haven’t been missing much. This is the most biased piece of journalism I have seen in a long time in what claims to be a mainstream publication. I cannot believe that Ms. Hemingway’s story would have gotten past the editorial desk of The New York Times or The Washington Post. Did it occur to your reporter that there might be another side to this story? Apparently not. Trust me, there is, and some of us are unimpressed with your reporter’s sources.
Apparently, the story has caused quite a stir, and not just here in Pittsburgh. George Conger wrote about the WSJ story on the GetReligion Web site. His story is titled—this is too cute for words—“Mollie and the Spin Doctors.” The Conger piece includes a video interview with Hemingway and is largely about the question of how factual the original story was.

When I read “Twenty-First Century Excommunication,” I thought the story was basically factual. I thought one could quibble with some of the details, but the writer was not simply making things up. My problem was that the story was not balanced; it made no real attempt to tell the story from the point of view of The Episcopal Church. Katharine Jefferts Schori was quoted in the story but, apparently, not interviewed for it.

The Conger analysis has not changed my mind about how one-sided the WSJ story was, but it did raise questions about how The Episcopal Church deals with negative publicity. The church issued talking points in an attempt to refute what Hemingway wrote. (The talking points appeared on the church’s Perspectives page on October 13, 2011, along with previous statements from the church. The talking points alone can be read here.) The church offered some facts that advanced its side of the story. For example:
It is inaccurate and misleading to suggest that those who have broken away from the Episcopal Church are the persecuted faithful, when in reality those who have remained have felt deeply hurt, and now in some cases are exiled from their own church buildings by the Anglican Church of North America.
As a Pittsburgh Episcopalian, I thought that that particularly needed to be said.

The Perspectives piece did less well in other areas. One of the statements in the WSJ story whose truth Conger explored in “Mollie and the Spin Doctors” was this: “Of the 38 provinces in the global Anglican Communion, 22 have declared themselves in ‘broken’ or ‘impaired’ fellowship with the more liberal American church.” The church’s response was the following:
The author of the article stated that, “Of the 38 provinces in the global Anglican Communion, 22 have declared themselves in “broken” or “impaired” fellowship with the more liberal American church.” As recently as Monday, October 10, Lambeth Palace confirmed that there is no basis for this claim by the author.
Apparently, neither the Church Center nor Lambeth Palace was helpful in clarifying the matter further.

I don’t know if 22 is the right number, but it is certainly true that many churches in the Anglican Communion (or their primates) have declared that they are in impaired or broken communion with The Episcopal Church, and there is no shame in admitting it. In fact, even before the election of Gene Robinson, some Communion churches were not on good terms with The Episcopal Church over the ordination of women. Moreover, there is little enough agreement on what being in communion means and certainly no generally accepted definitions of impaired or broken communion. So some churches are mad at ours. We should wear that as a badge of honor, not try to pretend the situation is not what it is.

Conger dealt at some length with two errors of fact The Episcopal Church alleged in the Hemingway story. In addition to the matter of broken or impaired communion, the talking points contained this item:
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori did not make any of the statements that the author claims she made in the article.
The Hemingway article included the following paragraph:
“We can’t sell to an organization that wants to put us out of business,” said Bishop Jefferts Schori, who added that her job is to ensure that “no competing branch of the Anglican Communion impose on the mission strategy” of the Episcopal Church. Indeed she has no complaint with Muslims, Baptists or barkeepers buying Episcopal properties—only fellow Anglicans.
I was surprised to find myself quoted as a source for at least part of this paragraph. “We can’t sell to an organization that wants to put us out of business” is a quotation from my blog post of August 24, 2011. The presiding bishop did in fact say this at a public gathering in Pittsburgh’s Trinity Cathedral on the evening of April 19, 2011.The following quotation seems to have come from a different source, so that the phrase “who added” may be a bit misleading.

It seems to me that the talking point about Jefferts Schori’s not making any of the statements attributed to her is, in its essence, false. If there is an argument from the church that would make the assertion true, it would have to be a highly technical one, for example, that the juxtaposition of the two statements made the quotation false because the statements, thought legitimate quotations on their own, were not actually made sequentially.

I do not believe the presiding bishop’s views were misrepresented in the WSJ story, and the church has not helped its cause by quibbling about the quotations.

The Episcopal Church, in answering its critics, should admit its true positions and, above all, stick to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

And yes, the Hemingway story was a hatchet job.

October 21, 2011

Pittsburgh Property Update

Bishop of Pittsburgh Ken Price and the diocesan chancellor Andy Roman wrote a letter on property negotiations to rectors, wardens, and vestries on October 6, 2011. For some reason, the letter has not yet been posted on the diocese’s Web site.

Included with the letter was a copy of a letter from Bishop Price dated May 11, 2011, on the same subject. Both documents can be read here. The text of the new letter is reproduced below.

October 6, 2011

Rector, Wardens and Vestry

Dear Friends in Christ:

We write this letter to provide you and all members of your parish with current information on the property litigation and related negotiations involving the Diocese. It is meant to update the Bishop's letter of May 11, 2011,another copy of which is enclosed for your convenience.

As you will recall, earlier this year, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania issued their opinion affirming in all respects the rulings of Judge Joseph James of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas that under the terms of the 2005 settlement of the Calvary suit, our Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh was the proper entity to hold and administer the endowments and other permanent funds of the Diocese. These court rulings also applied to the buildings being used by over 20 congregations of former Episcopalians who look to the Most Rev. Robert W. Duncan to be their Bishop as part of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh and their Archbishop as part of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

After the Commonwealth Court decision, we openly invited these ACNA congregations to enter into a conversation with us in the hope that we could amicably resolve all lingering issues between us regarding the use of the real and personal property of the parish. Sadly, since then, the process for having such a dialogue on property issues has suffered from a variety of ills ranging from counterproductive rumors to outright mischaracterizations of proposals made during confidential negotiations. We write now to clear up certain mistruths that have circulated and to avert speculation over our future intentions regarding these property matters.

First, please know and share with others that the Episcopal Diocese has asked no ACNA congregation to leave the buildings they are presently occupying. Two ACNA congregations (St. James, Penn Hills and All Saints, Rosedale) voluntarily, and on their own timetable, chose to leave the buildings they were using, and another ACNA congregation (St. Christopher's, Warrendale) voluntarily chose a year ago to cease use of the building on Sundays, and has held no services in the building since February 2011.

Second, we want to communicate clearly that the Episcopal Diocese has no present intention to ask any ACNA congregation to leave the buildings they are occupying, and to dispel all rumors that we are forcing them to leave. Even if that was our desire, which it is not, we could not do that without the agreement of the congregation or the approval of Judge James. In addition, the ACNA Diocese has, on behalf of its congregations, asked the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to allow a further appeal of the court rulings in favor of our Diocese, and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has not yet ruled on this request. Although our Diocese has opposed this request for a further appeal, the ACNA Diocese and its congregations are entitled to see their challenge to the court rulings through to conclusion.

It is also important for all to understand that the media coverage early in September of the ACNA congregation's decision to leave All Saints, Rosedale came as both a shock and a deep disappointment to us. Our negotiating team, comprised of numerous Diocesan leaders, had worked hard to develop proposals that would have provided fair and positive solutions for both sides, and was prepared to bargain even further, but the ACNA congregation called an early end to the negotiations. Just the opposite impression was conveyed by two unorthodox press releases issued by the ACNA Diocese and used as the basis for the news coverage. Because we see no future in negotiating through the media, however, we reluctantly declined to correct the serious flaws in the story as reported or the mischaracterizations in the ACNA press releases.

So where does this leave us? We continue to see no future in negotiations conducted with an eye toward media coverage the moment one side declares an impasse. Time will be needed to restore lost trust, and to see whether both sides can agree to a common set of ground rules for future discussions. But even as we take time to recreate an atmosphere more conducive to success, we want all to hear and know the remaining points in this letter.

First, the Episcopal Diocese will continue to invite all former Episcopalians to return to active participation in the Episcopal Church, and will continue to reassure all ACNA congregations who may be receptive to this message of reconciliation that if they did choose this path there would be no repercussions. In particular, the congregation would not be obligated to pay any assessments or similar fees to the Episcopal Diocese for the period that the parish was inactive.

Second, there is no reason for any of the ACNA congregations still using the buildings covered by the court orders to leave the buildings they are using at the present time, unless they choose to do so completely on their own. They can remain where they are simply by being good stewards, paying the bills, protecting the property, and showing the care and respect due to any place of worship, irrespective of who owns it.

Eventually, of course, we will have to address the longer term issues of use of these properties, but as long as they show they are being good stewards, time is not of the essence.

Finally, we need to explain that, in addition to the buildings described above that are covered by the existing court orders, there are approximately 15 other situations involving ACNA congregations where the parish property was not listed in the court orders issued in the Calvary suit. This occurred because at that time, the property was titled in the name of the parish and not the Diocese, and the court rulings only listed the propertIes titled in the name of the Diocese. It is our legal position that these additional properties are held in trust for our Diocese and the Episcopal Church and are canonically owned by our Diocese. The ACNA congregations do not agree with that, however, and these property issues, too, must eventually be resolved.

We remain hopeful that in due time, property negotiations can resume and that solutions to all of these issues can emerge from those negotiations. But even if litigation becomes necessary, you should not assume that we have given up hope in reaching a settlement. Negotiation will always be our preferred means for resolving these matters as long as there is any chance of success.

Each of the numerous Diocesan leaders who have been devoting their time and energy to these property matters is eager to put this challenge behind us, but all realize much work lies ahead, and patience is needed. We ask for your continued support and prayers for all those affected by these issues.

The Rt. Rev. Kenneth L. Price, Jr.

Andrew M. Roman

This letter has been analyzed (and attacked) by David Ball, who is, I assume, a member of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. David Wilson has posted part of Ball’s analysis on his blog, and the full analysis is available on Scribd. (Note that the last paragraph and the signatures are omitted in the Scribd document. Perhaps Ball did not have access to the final page.)

I would like to make a few remarks about the state of property negotiations in the diocese in light of the above letter and the comments by Mr. Ball. First, however, I want to make an editorial observation. It was not immediately obvious to me why “Calvary” is twice underlined in the letter. On reflection, I assume that the reference is to the title of the lawsuit, not to the church. (Others surely were wondering the same thing I was.)

Note also that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has rejected Archbishop Duncan’s request for an appeal, which it had not at the time the letter was written.

The press releases concerning All Saints, Rosedale, were apparently very upsetting to the negotiators from the Episcopal diocese. Negotiations had been understood to be confidential, and the details released by the other parties were deemed a serious breach of trust. This is a lawyer thing I do not completely appreciate personally. Apparently, however, it is an expectation that counsel even for miscreants—property has been misappropriated, remember—are expected to behave honorably and see to it that the client does also.

Negotiators for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh have been frustratingly uncommunicative about both their approach to negotiations or the details of particular negotiations. I do not know for a fact, and I don’t believe the other side knows for a fact, just what terms are negotiable and what terms are not.

Ball bemoans, “It is disappointing that TEC cannot even acknowledge that the ACNA and the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh exist.” I have no idea where this sentiment comes from. There is no evidence that the Episcopal diocese or The Episcopal Church itself is pretending that the Anglican Church in North America or its Pittsburgh diocese are not real. That the Episcopal diocese refuses to negotiate with the Anglican diocese is not the same as saying that the Anglican diocese isn’t real.

The understanding of The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is straightforward but easily misunderstood or misrepresented. The canon law of The Episcopal Church (including that of the Pittsburgh diocese) allows neither a parish nor a diocese to withdraw from the church. The withdrawals of October 2008 were improper and, therefore, null and void. A new entity was created in 2008 by former Episcopalians, and that entity came eventually to be called the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. It was created largely with assets appropriated (or misappropriated) from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. Parishes that claim to have left The Episcopal Church for what became the Anglican diocese are still parishes of the Episcopal diocese, even if their parishioners and priests are not.

In other words, the parishes the Episcopal diocese says are not “participating” in the diocese and which claim to be in the Anglican diocese are still in the Episcopal diocese and subject to its bishop. There is no reason to negotiate with the Anglican diocese itself, since that entity is irrelevant to the dispute the Episcopal diocese has with its parishes. Additionally, the 2005 stipulation agreed to by Calvary Church and then Bishop Duncan does not even mention the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, which did not exist at the time.

There are, of course, two classes of parishes with which agreements need eventually to be made—those whose property titles are held by the Episcopal diocese’s Board of Trustees and those who hold title to the parish property. Parishes in the first class can expect that, eventually, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will gain complete control over their personal and real property. The only question is when. By virtue of the Dennis Canon, of course, the diocese claims a trust interest in the property of the parishes in the second category as well. As much as Mr. Ball would have it otherwise, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has already upheld the validity of the Dennis Canon in a case involving the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. This should be disconcerting to those parishes in the second category.

I believe that our diocese is indeed proceeding fairly, though it is indeed in its interest not to move too fast. As Ball notes, if all the parish property in dispute were suddenly given over to the Episcopal diocese without congregations, that property would, at least in the short term, become a financial burden. But, churches can be sold, repopulated, rented, or razed, allowing the real estate to be used for other purposes. The diocese need not negotiate the return of property with a negative asset value.

In principle, Bishop Price could do what has been done in the Canadian diocese of New Westminster—replace the existing priests in dissident parishes and announce that the congregation can stay. In Pittsburgh, many parishioners would leave, but some might stay. I suspect that Bishop Price would find such an approach heavy-handed and would want to leave any such drastic action to be considered by the next Bishop of Pittsburgh.

Postscript: I had to smile at the use of “mistruths” in the letter. I have never seen this word used before. (Merriam-Webster lists the word along with others with a “mis” prefix.) Clearly it is meant as a polite synonym for “lies.”

October 20, 2011

Winemaking at Adams County Winery

My son, Geoffrey August Deimel, is now the winemaker at Adams County Winery, just outside Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This sounds like a rather romantic job, but a good deal of organic chemistry and biology are required. Moreover, making wine in quantity is an industrial enterprise, and doing so at a modest sized winery requires a certain amount of mechanical engineering and the ability to improvise from time to time.

Adams County Winery has made a number of videos about making wine, and August, who became winemaker only last January, after getting his graduate degree from Cornell, is beginning to appear in the winery’s video productions.

The first video in which August appeared is below:

May favorite video so far is the next one. August has some theater experience—he considered an acting career at one point—and I think it shows in this short.

I understand that another Adams County Winery production is now being edited. I can’t wait to see it.

October 18, 2011

Duncan Responds to Supreme Court Order

Archbishop Robert Duncan has posted a letter on the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh Web site addressed “to all clergy and lay leaders of the Anglican diocese.” (I guess laypeople who are not diocesan “leaders” needn’t bother their little heads with litigation that their bishop brought upon his see.)

Here is the text of the letter:

18th October, A.D. 2011
Feast of St. Luke


Dearest Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

I write to you today to inform you that our appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has been rejected. We accept that the courts have not found in our favor and will, of course, comply with all court orders.

We remain committed to reaching a negotiated settlement with the Episcopal Church diocese. In light of this judgment by the courts, we will redouble that commitment to reaching a final resolution of all issues between the Episcopal Church diocese and the Anglican diocese through negotiation.

We intend to persevere in our mission, which is to be Anglican Christians transforming our world with Jesus Christ. We do this chiefly by planting congregations. As at every annual Convention since realignment, congregations are being added to our diocese both locally and across the country, for which we give thanks to God. We pray God’s continued favor on our mission, his grace towards those who remain within the Episcopal Church, and his help for our beloved Communion as we move into the challenges and opportunities of this new millennium.  May the Gospel of our Lord Christ find a fresh hearing all across his Church and his world!

Faithfully your Bishop and Archbishop,
The Most Rev. Robert Duncan
Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh
Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America

Duncan, of course, is reacting to the decision I wrote about in “Pa. High Court Rejects Duncan Appeal.”

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision was no surprise to Episcopalians who have been following the trajectory of the Calvary lawsuit. Whether Duncan’s supporters were prepared for the defeat, I do not know. They should have known that the Duncan appeal’s having twice been rejected by the appeals court made a request to the highest state court in the Commonwealth unpromising.

Having lost definitively in the courts, Duncan now focuses on “reaching a negotiated settlement” respecting “all issues between the Episcopal Church diocese and the Anglican diocese.” All the issues that remain are parish property issues, and the stipulation signed in 2005 gives “the Anglican diocese” no standing in reaching negotiated settlements involving parish property. (An overarching settlement with the departed congregations seems unlikely.)

At some point, if the Anglican Church in North America survives, I believe that the Episcopal and Anglican dioceses in Pittsburgh will be able to peacefully co-exist, blessing one another’s work, even. That cannot happen while parish property issues remain unresolved.

I find it curious that Duncan, insisting that the diocese will pursue its mission, asserts that that mission is primarily about “planting congregations.” The strategy, I would suggest, is more about poaching congregations than about winning souls for Christ. Despite the setbacks in Pennsylvania courts, the strategy is working well. Although Duncan had to surrender the conspicuous financial assets of the diocese to the Episcopalians, he kept office equipment, telephones, computers, and the like, as well as cash on hand, which allowed him, with buildings and people liberated from The Episcopal Church, to build his Anglican diocese.

The small parishes in the diocese were courted and manipulated by Duncan to gain their considerable votes in the diocesan convention leading up to the 2008 realignment vote. (Diocesan canons favored small congregations.) These parishes are now more liabilities than assets to Duncan. I suspect they will now be sacrificed, and Archbishop Duncan will use their adversity to heap more abuse on The Episcopal Church. Meanwhile, the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh continues to plant congregations, mostly outside Southwestern Pennsylvania, congregations whose convention deputies will outvote the Pennsylvania natives.

Such is politics in Christ’s Church.

Pa. High Court Rejects Duncan Appeal

Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied deposed bishop Robert Duncan (now Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America) the right to appeal to that court in the Calvary litigation. The court issued this order:

     And now, this 17th day of October, 2011 the Petition for Allowance of Appeal is hereby DENIED.
The order means that the stipulation of 2005 agreed to by then Bishop Duncan (and other defendants) and Calvary Episcopal Church stands, and diocesan property belongs to the diocese in The Episcopal Church. Parishes wanting to leave—many now claim to be in Duncan’s Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh—are to negotiate with the Episcopal diocese for their property.

The order should end litigation over diocesan property and shift focus to parish property.

Interested readers can read the first newspaper story about the 2003 lawsuit by Calvary Church on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Web site.

October 10, 2011

Oklahoma Proposes a No Response to the Covenant

Diocese of Oklahoma seal
The Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma seems to have been particularly conscientious in developing a diocesan response to the Anglican Covenant. The procedure used by the diocese is described on its Web site as follows:
During the 2010 Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, The Rt. Rev. Dr. Edward Konieczny asked every church to take time to study the Anglican Communion Covenant and provide responses.  In the spring of 2011 the bishop formed an “Anglican Covenant Response Group” that would develop a “listening process” and form a proposed diocesan response.  The Rev. Dr. Mark Story, The Rev. Mary Ann Hill, Dr. Donna Farrior and The Rev. Dr. T. Lee Stephens were asked to serve in this capacity.  Their work was to be independent of the Bishop’s Office, but would provide a report to the bishop and the diocese

The Anglican Covenant Response Group arranged for a regional meeting in each quadrant of the state and two meetings in bothTulsaandOklahoma Cityfor a total of eight gatherings.  Each two-hour session had designated facilitators and listeners.  A study guide was provided along with background information on the Anglican Communion and the Anglican Covenant.  The listeners were charged with taking notes of the discussions which were used in forming the response.

The regional meetings were well attended by clergy and laypersons in each area.  The discussions were open, thoughtful and considerate.  In addition, various churches and groups submitted written comments and formal statements for consideration by the Response Group.  In the gathering and comparing responses from each of the meetings a consensus became apparent to the Anglican Covenant Response Group.  The following is a proposed response to the Anglican Communion Covenant from the diocese. The proposed response will be discussed at the Diocesan Convention in November.
The proposed response can be found here.

The proposed response is very respectful, but, in the end, firm in its opposition to the proposed Covenant. The introductory section of the document ends with this paragraph:
We must report, however, that the consensus opinion of those who participated in the conversations focused on discerning the Spirit's guidance for our Diocese and its relationship within the Anglican Communion believe that the proposed Covenant does in fact change the nature and the character of the Anglican Communion as we have known it. Therefore, speaking the truth in love, we must express our desire to withhold our consent in this final consideration of the proposed Covenant. We encourage a renewed focus on our common worship and mission in the Anglican Communion as an expression of the Body of Christ in the world today.
After brief commentary on the sections of the Covenant, the proposed response ends with this:
While we appreciate the best intentions and efforts of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Covenant Design Group as well as the conversations that have taken place around the world, we have found minimal support within our Diocese for the changes proposed in the Anglican Covenant. We are willing to wait and pray and trust in God that reconciliation will be achieved in due time.
Let us hope that the Oklahoma convention adopts this response next month.

October 8, 2011

I Told You So

My friend in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh David Wilson remarked on my lack of comment on the news that Bishop of South Carolina Mark Lawrence has had allegations of abandoning The Episcopal Church brought against him. (Details and relevant links can be found in the ENS story “South Carolina bishop investigated on charges he has abandoned the Episcopal Church” published three days ago.) I don’t like to disappoint David, so I will offer my initial take on the situation below.

First, I should say that no one should be surprised at the charges. Once the Diocese of South Carolina began qualifying its accession to the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church—with the encouragement of Bishop Lawrence, I might add—an attempt to depose the bishop became inevitable; it was only a matter of when charges would be brought forward.

Will the charges lead eventually to deposition? Who knows? To begin with, since Title IV, the disciplinary canons, has been completely revised, it is hard to predict how events will play out. The Lawrence case will necessarily be setting precedents.

The charges, of course, are much like those leveled against then Bishop of Pittsburgh Robert Duncan. Duncan had long been bad-mouthing the church and had been gradually making constitutional and canonical changes to isolate the diocese from the general church. Lawrence has done the same. What he has not done that Duncan did is actually to set in motion a process intended to remove the diocese from The Episcopal Church. Duncan was deposed only weeks before the final October 2008 vote to “realign.”

I believed that the case against Duncan was unassailable and his removal from office long overdue, but there were many—mostly those sympathetic to the realignment movement, I suspect—who asserted that a presentment was inappropriate until the realignment vote actually took place. Of course, had the church waited, Duncan would have claimed to be out of the church and beyond its disciplinary reach. Alas, his removal did not come early enough to prevent the tragedy that he brought upon the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

This, of course, raises the question of at what point one can, with confidence, be said to have “abandonment of the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of The Episcopal Church.” Have you abandoned the church when you have subverted its polity, secured future employment outside the church, and packed your bags; or do you have to walk out the door and brush the Episcopal Church dust off your shoes first?

I think a civil law analogy is instructive here. If law enforcement discovers that someone is planning to blow up the Capitol, and that person has begun accumulating materials for a bomb, do we have to wait until the plot is carried out to make an arrest? Clearly not. Likewise, if a bishop is clearly not committed to submitting to the “Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship” of the church, even if that person has not yet done anything to cause irreparable harm to the church, that potential for harm exists and needs to be guarded against.

Another comparison between Bob Duncan and Mark Lawrence is less favorable to the Bishop of South Carolina. When Duncan was elected Bishop of Pittsburgh, there was no special reason to think him a threat to the diocese as a unit of The Episcopal Church. Did he harbor schismatic thoughts? I have no idea. If he did, he kept them to himself (or within a circle of co-conspirators into which I had no visibility).

Mark Lawrence’s bid to become a bishop, on the other hand, was problematic at the outset. It was not a quirk that he failed to receive sufficient consents following his September 16, 2006, election. Only after he was nominated a second time—he was the only candidate considered by the South Carolina convention—was he finally allowed to become a bishop. Episcopal Church leaders just didn’t have the stomach to reject an episcopal candidate twice.

I will return to the topic of Lawrence’s rocky road to the episcopate in a moment. First, I want to comment on the paranoia about South Carolina that is rampant among conservatives. The standard narrative is that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is somehow out to get Mark Lawrence. This notion persists despite Bishop Dorsey Henderson’s memo—Henderson is the president of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops—that asserts that
  • Information [i.e., charges] was presented from communicants within the Diocese of South Carolina.  
  • The information was not brought forward by the Presiding Bishop’s office, or by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church. Therefore, the matter is not being handled by the Presiding Bishop’s office or anyone in the employ of the Episcopal Church Center.
In spite of this, the ever outrageous Bishop—not of the Episcopal Church—David Anderson had this to say in his weekly message from the American Anglican Council:
In May and June, the American Anglican Council warned that with the implementation of the new American Episcopal Church (TEC) Title IV Canons, the Presiding Bishop would receive unprecedented power to directly intervene in a diocese or discipline a bishop. Our anticipation was that Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori would move quickly to punish South Carolina TEC Bishop Lawrence by inhibiting/suspending him and the Standing Committee of South Carolina and replace everyone at the top with her hand-picked “loyalists.” Although such a “Blitzkrieg” approach would have drawn international alarm and censure from many quarters, it was the approach that we considered most likely, based on previous actions

Apparently, the Presiding Bishop has decided to be more careful about how she drives Bishop Lawrence to the guillotine, and so an elaborate story has been concocted about how loyalists in South Carolina compiled the list of particulars on a grievance letter and sent the complaint to the the President of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops. Former Bishop of Upper South Carolina Dorsey Henderson is the President of this board, and so he was the one to communicate with Bishop Lawrence on the “serious charges,” including “Abandonment of the communion of this Church.”
In other words, Bishop Anderson is accusing Bishop Henderson of lying, probably at the behest of the presiding bishop.

Even if one chooses to ignore Anderson’s penchant for wild exaggeration, there is no reason to believe that there was any need for anyone to concoct a story about South Carolina loyalists drawing up a list of grievances against their bishop.

As I noted more than a year ago (see “S.C. Via Media Group Calls for Investigation”), The Episcopal Forum of South Carolina (EFSC), which is composed of “loyalists in South Carolina” and which has been growing by leaps and bounds of late, appealed to Executive Council to investigate the goings on in the diocese. Executive Council is not really in the investigating business, but the appeal likely got the attention of church leaders. Anyway, it is a reasonable inference that EFSC members were at least involved in delivering the charges to the committee. EFSC was around long before Mark Lawrence, and it may have needed some advice from New York, but it didn’t need any encouragement.

I return now to the matter of collecting consents for Mark Lawrence to be consecrated a bishop following his first election. When I heard of his election, I was upset because I remembered an essay Lawrence had published in The Living Church only a few months earlier.

In “A Prognosis for this Body Episcopal,” Lawrence described The Episcopal Church as “a comatose patient on life support” in need of “a surgery that frees us from the ‘heresy’ of a national church or, more accurately stated, from an ecclesiastical nationalism and the provincialism that has led to the deepening fracture within our Church.” The medicine he recommended was turning over the governance of The Episcopal Church to the Anglican primates. “Our very survival, let alone our growth,” he boldly asserted, “necessitates the surrender of our autonomy to the governance of the larger church—that is, the Anglican Communion.”

I was alarmed that the author of “A Prognosis for this Body Episcopal” might become a member of the House of Bishops. I became even more alarmed after looking into Lawrence’s representations to the Diocese of South Carolina. On a questionnaire, for example, he answered strongly disagree to the statement “The church should not divide over this issue [homosexuality].” In Lawrence’s answers to walkabout questions from the diocese, the bishop-elect took the opportunity to criticize further The Episcopal Church and to defend alternative primatial oversight.

This led me to write “No Consents: A Crucial Test for The Episcopal Church,” in which I urged bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees to withhold consent to Mark Lawrence’s consecration. Via Media USA sent copies of my essay with a cover letter to the bishops and standing committees that were being asked for consents. A couple of months later, assailed with questions about his loyalty, Lawrence released a set of questions—his own, apparently—and answers. I found these unconvincing and analyzed them on my Web site. (See “The Annotated Mark Lawrence.”)

Mark Lawrence did not receive the required number of consents from standing committees, and his election was declared null and void by the presiding bishop. There was a good deal of confusion about what really happened, but the reality is that Katharine Jefferts Schori bent over backwards—violating the canons, I believe—to give Lawrence his best chance to be approved for consecration. Had standing committees felt comfortable approving him, he would have received the necessary consents long before the allotted 120 days for response had expired. (I have written a number of blog posts about Lawrence. The two most important on his failure to receive the necessary consents are “Lawrence Bid Fails” and “Reflections on the Mark Lawrence Affair.”)

Mark Lawrence should never have been made a bishop. Given his public statements, I have every reason to believe that he was insincere when he took the oath to “engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church” (BCP, p. 513).

The recent charges against Bishop Mark Lawrence have only confirmed what I believed five years ago.  All I can say to my church is “I told you so.”

October 2, 2011

Object Lesson

I watched the first installment of the new Ken Burns movie, Prohibition, on PBS tonight. I have always thought that prohibition was one of the most disastrous mistakes America ever made (prior to the “election” of George W. Bush, at any rate). I could never quite understand how the Eighteenth Amendment came to be. The first installment of Prohibition clarified the matter.

Source: Anti-Saloon League Museum
Assuming that the latest Ken Burns documentary is fairly representing history, prohibition was all about the naïve hope that an extreme measure would solve some very real and serious problems of society. At the same time the dry lobby was viewing prohibition as a panacea, the rest of the citizenry was assuming that prohibition would not be all that bad. Both sides, of course, were tragically wrong.

Isn’t this the same dynamic we see vis-à-vis the Anglican Covenant? The divisions we see in the Anglican Communion are indeed both real and serious, and many believe, naïvely, I think, that the Covenant will magically resolve those divisions. Others, who are not true believers in the power of the Covenant, are willing to give it a try. How bad could it be, after all?

Too few people thought through, in a level-headed fashion, what the effect of the extreme measure that was prohibition was likely to be. Likewise, proponents of the Anglican Covenant have not made a realistic evaluation of the probable fruits of its widespread adoption.

The effects of prohibition were largely predictable, but it was adopted because hardly anyone made either the civil-liberties argument for the right to drink or the argument that banning alcohol was unlikely to extinguish the demand for it. Likewise, the argument that Anglican churches should be self-governing seems to have become politically incorrect, and a surprising number of people seem to hold to the magical thinking that the adoption of the Covenant will somehow—we never get a clear explanation of how—resolve the differences among Communion churches.

Hardly anyone today argues that prohibition was anything other than a colossal mistake. There is an object lesson for the Anglican Communion here.

Postscript: According to Prohibition nearly all Protestant churches supported prohibition, particularly the Methodists and the Baptists. Notable exceptions were the Episcopalians and the Lutherans.