July 24, 2012

The Quecreek Mine Disaster

Ten years ago today, 18 coal miners were working the Quecreek mine in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, when one of the crews of 9 breached a wall separating Quecreek from the adjacent flooded and abandoned Saxman mine. The other crew escaped from the quickly flooding mine, but their hapless colleagues had to retreat to high ground in the mine to avoid drowning.

Thus began a drama that would see the 9 miners safely rescued three days later. The rescue effort gripped the nation that July weekend in 2002. The terror attacks of the year before were still fresh in the minds of Americans, who sorely needed an inspiring story that ended happily.

Shortly after the rescue was effected, I began writing the poem below, in which I attempted to tell the complete story of the Quecreek mine accident and rescue. The poem went through a number of revisions to improve the poetry and verity of the poem.

On this tenth anniversary, it seems appropriate to reprint “The Quecreek Mine Disaster” here. You can also find the poem, along with a longer explanation of it on my Web site. That page includes a link to an earlier version of the poem.

This week, a number of events will celebrate the anniversary. More information can be found here.

The Quecreek Mine Disaster
by Lionel Deimel

The C Prime Seam ran out to Somerset,
And mining coal was long a practice there;
The Quecreek mine was but the latest hole
Where Pennsylvanians laid the black rock bare.

MinerThe team of nine was working Wednesday night—
A practiced group with decades underground;
Unwittingly, they cut into a wall,
Where water-filled, abandoned halls they found.
On maps, the Saxman mine was not too close—
Those maps, through guile or carelessness, had lied;
One miner ran to find the telephone;
To miners far away, “Get out!”  he cried.
The passage out led down, then up again,
So men and water shared a swift descent;
But water won the frenzied downward race,
And men knew what the flooded chamber meant—
No longer was escape a goal to seek,
For life itself became their only thought;
To higher ground they crawled back up in pain;
Against cascading flood, they bravely fought.

They tied themselves together with a rope,
And so would live or perish as a team;
If dying was to be their lot that day,
They’d find their rest together in that seam.
At last, they reached a summit in the mine,
Whose ceiling, from the waters, was unwet;
Their pangs of terror turned to thoughts of death,
Unmindful of events in Somerset.
The miners’ plight, of course, was known above
By townsfolk yielding not to dark despair;
They guessed where savvy miners had to go
And drilled to send compressed and heated air.
The rescue plan was not a simple one—
They couldn’t let the mine with water fill,
So pumps would have a crucial role to play,
And, too, a summoned West Virginia drill.
On Thursday morn, the six-inch bit broke through,
Below the ground two hundred forty feet,
And banging on the pipe soon made it clear:
There was a deep-mine rescue to complete!
On Thursday afternoon, the big rig came
To drill a shaft a rescue cage could thread;
That job would take a half a day or more
To reach the barely living or the dead.
The miners’ many loved ones all about
Were gathered up in Sipesville’s fire hall
To comfort one another, weep, and hope,
And steel themselves, whatever might befall.
The world’s attention now was on that mine—
Reporters pressed for facts that they could share;
The governor was ready to oblige
With information, confidence, and prayer.
The rescue hole was started Thursday night,
But trouble struck it well before the dawn—
The bit had gone one hundred feet, then broke;
Yet, through it all, the water pumps pumped on.
The men had heard the drilling sounds above
And dared to think salvation close at hand;
When hopeful, distant rumblings fell away,
Once more, they feared they’d made their final stand.
They huddled close together for their heat,
Encouraging, in turn, the faint of heart;
On scraps, they penned brief notes to leave behind,
Their feelings for their loved ones to impart.
Alas, the bit had stuck inside the shaft,
And hours passed by with progress at a halt;
Another drill began another hole
Until the first could finish its assault.
On Saturday, the drill bored ever down,
As pumping made the water level fall;
With drilling done, a phone was sent below,
Where miners shouted, “OK! One and all!”
So resurrections followed Sunday morn,
As, one-by-one, the men were raised above,
Released from three-days’ prison’s bonds of gloom
And saved by acts of sacrifice and love.

July 21, 2012

Showing the Flag at General Convention

Much of the time that Malcolm French and I spent at General Convention was in the exhibit area, where the No Anglican Covenant Coalition had been afforded a small corner of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus booth. As the exhibits were closing, we had a brief opportunity to take a few photographs.

Our display was modest: we had a sign, a stand containing brochures, and a container of buttons. This material was placed on an improvised table we created from boxes kindly provided by the Integrity folks. Below are pictures of our little lobbying effort.

Malcolm French at the NACC display
Malcolm at the No Anglican Covenant Coalition Table

Lionel Deimel at the NACC display
Me at the No Anglican Covenant Coalition Table

July 20, 2012

Legislative Action on the Anglican Covenant: Narrative and Analysis

After the passage of the substitutes for resolutions B005 and D008 July 11, 2012, I was too tired to write about what happened. I began a post about the events in the House of Deputies the next day, but I left for home before I could finish. I returned to Pittsburgh by car, which was both prolonged and tiring. Once I did get home, it quickly became clear that I was getting sick. I’ve spent a number of days in bed and, more than a week later, I am not yet well. Medicine ordered by my doctor has been only so helpful, and I’ve yet to get a good night’s sleep since I took ill. Nevertheless, I am once again ambulatory. I think this post is still useful. I hope it will have been worth waiting for.

The Resolutions

As I noted July 9, 2012, the World Mission Legislative Committee sent substitute resolutions D008 and B005 to the House of Deputies. The intention of the committee was to present D008 for action first, thereby assuring that the church would express a clear intent to remain active in the Anglican Communion no matter what resolution was finally passed regarding the Anglican Covenant. For this purpose, the committee worked from the resolution from Tobias Haller, D008, which did not even mention the Anglican Covenant.

The original Haller text was essentially replaced by the committee. The final resolution is related to the proposed one only in its support for the Communion and its explicit mention of the Continuing Indaba process in which Haller has been an enthusiastic participant.

As presented to the House of Deputies, D008 begins by expressing “profound gratitude to those who so faithfully work [note the use of the present tense] at encouraging dialogue within the diversity of the Anglican Communion.” Notably, the resolution thanks neither the Archbishop of Canterbury—the original D008 was obsequious in its appreciation of Rowan Williams—nor the drafters of the Anglican Covenant. It goes on to “celebrate the great blessing of the Anglican Communion in its diversity within community as autonomous churches in relationship bound together in our differences in service to God’s mission.” In the next resolve, the church reaffirms its commitment to the Communion as expressed in the Preamble of the Constitution of the General Convention. I would have avoided this particular reference—see “A Preamble Proposal”—but the second and third resolves constitute a strong commitment to the Communion as we have understood it in the past, not as some would modify it through adoption of the Covenant.

The next two resolves describe how The Episcopal Church will participate in the Anglican Communion: by maintaining and reinforcing “strong links” within the Communion—this seems a rather amorphous commitment—by participating in the “wider councils of the Anglican Communion”—bodies such as the Anglican Consultative Council, presumably—and by deepening “its involvement with Communion ministries and networks,” employing the Continuing Indaba process, where applicable. This latter resolve seems to give Continuing Indaba more prominence than is strictly justified, but few will quibble with the commitments here—The Episcopal Church means to remain an active participant in the operations of the Anglican Communion.

The final resolve focuses not on our relation to the Communion but on a commitment to encourage support for the Communion within our own church:
Resolved, That The 77th General Convention encourage dioceses, congregations and individual members of The Episcopal Church to educate themselves about the Communion as well as promote and support the Anglican Communion and its work.
Again, no one is going to read this too closely, but I think the emphasis is slightly off kilter here. Certainly, we should encourage Episcopalians to educate themselves about the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church does not exist, however, to support the Anglican Communion. The Communion exists to support its member churches, a task at which it is notably failing at the moment. We should support the Communion only insofar as doing so advances the mission of The Episcopal Church.

All that said, the rewitten B008 is basically motherhood and apple pie and, unsurprisingly, proved popular.

Like D008, B005, proposed by committee chair Ian Douglas, was essentially rewritten for legislative consideration. The substitute resolution begins by expressing gratitude—profound gratitude was rejected as too effusive—“to those who so faithfully worked at producing and responding to [emphasis added] the proposed Anglican Covenant.” Again, the Archbishop of Canterbury is not mentioned. The resolution then goes on to say that, after extensive study and prayer, a “variety of opinions and ecclesiological positions” on the Covenant persist in The Episcopal Church. So far, so good. Then comes the money resolve:
Resolved, That as a pastoral response to The Episcopal Church, the General Convention decline to take a position on the Anglican Covenant at this convention.
As I pointed out on July 8, the subcommittee dealing with Covenant resolutions determined that it wanted an excuse not to make a decision about the Anglican Covenant in 2012. To show our sincerity regarding the Covenant—remember the advice to always be sincere, even when you don’t mean it—the final two resolves call for the establishment of an Executive Council task force “to continue to monitor the ongoing developments with respect to the Anglican Covenant and how this church might continue its participation,” which task force is to report its findings to the 78th General Convention. Resolution B006 called for a task force, for which it required $20,000. By making the task force an Executive Council responsibility, it becomes “free,” even if it assigns Executive Council extra work.

I cannot help but wonder just what the penultimate resolution is saying. The task force is to monitor “the ongoing developments with respect to the Anglican Covenant and how this church might continue its participation.” Since the resolution calls for The Episcopal Church to sit back and watch what happens to the Covenant, to what does “continue its participation” refer? Continue our participation in monitoring, that is, in sitting on the sidelines? Who knows? The convention adopted this wording, however.


Failing to get a Covenant rejection resolution from the legislative committee, it fell to anti-Covenant deputies to devise a floor strategy likely to achieve a more favorable result than that offered by the substituted B005. After discussing the matter with No Anglican Covenant Coalition moderator Malcolm French, I prepared a briefing paper suggesting several possible scenarios. Passing B005 was clearly not the worst possible outcome from General Convention, nor did it seem the least clear. That seemed to fall to defeating B005. What would it say to the world if the convention rejected not making a decision but was then in a position of not being able to make a decision?

I offered two possibilities: (1) amend B005 to decline to adopt the Covenant, or (2) amend B005 to adopt the Covenant. Our conversations with bishops suggested that plan (1) might pass in the House of Bishops. If it did not, the result would be ambiguous, but it could be spun as a victory against the Covenant. Option (2) had an outside chance of producing exactly the wrong outcome, but no one really seemed to think that General Convention had any stomach for adopting the Covenant. The argument for amendment would be that B005 assumed a failure to agree; why not test the theory? (I strongly support option (2), which I have to credit to Malcolm.) In any case, not being a deputy, I had to leave the implementation of any strategy to others.


Adoption of Resolution B005 was moved in the House of Deputies, and Mark Harris, who had chaired the subcommittee that developed the substitute resolution, introduced it. He spoke of not having to make a decision on the Covenant now and of not creating winners and losers. He emphasized that the church was busy with too many other matters. Essentially, Harris made the argument he had put into a blog post earlier in the day.

It fell to Jim Newman, of Los Angeles, to put a strategy into play. He moved, and someone seconded, the deletion of everything in the resolution after the word “Church” on line 39 and substituting a period. I did not quite see the point of this amendment, and I’m not sure others did either. The effect was to acknowledge that Episcopalians were not of one mind regarding the Covenant and leave it at that—no explicit acknowledgement of the church’s not making a decision and no call for a task force. This seemed to promise a result that was simply more enigmatic. Newman did not explain the logic behind the amendment.

Lelanda Lee, of Colorado and an endorser of the Coalition-supported D007, then spoke in favor of the amendment, providing something of a rationale for it: (1) a task force is unnecessary, (2) it is not a pastoral response to not provide a response when one is requested, (3) everyone has “Covenant fatigue,” (4) “the Covenant is dead and needs to be buried, (5) more study is not needed, and (6) we should stand for what we believe.

Sharon Lewis, of Southwest Florida, speaking against the amendment, argued that we claim inclusiveness by embracing those on either side. (I may not have quite followed this argument.) Anyway, she advocated the we “tread water and stay in this together.”

Next to speak was Josephine Hicks, of North Carolina and a member of the subcommittee responsible for B005. Developments regarding the Covenant are not complete, she argued, and we will need to continue to monitor them.

David Collum, of Albany, then urged defeat of the amendment.

Charles Osberger, of Easton and another member of the subcommittee that crafted B005, also rose to oppose the amendment. He suggested that the amendment contradicted the D008, which was just passed. We are autonomous churches bound together. (I believe he saw the amendment as disengagement from the Communion.)

My notes are a bit confused at this point. Someone spoke in favor of the amendment, saying that he saw no reason for a task force, that it was not pastoral to continue to be engaged with the covenant project. The church, he said, should get about the rest of its business.

Matt Gunter, of Chicago, said that we want to stay engaged, but the amendment has the church “opting out.”

Someone from Lexington called the question, which easily passed. The amendment was then defeated by voice vote.

At this point, the discussion returned to the main motion, adoption of B005. David Cox, of Southwestern Virginia and the subcommittee that had shaped B005, rose in favor of the resolution. He made a point he had made in committee. Sometimes it is important not to do something but to just stand there. Let events unfold while The Episcopal Church stands and waits.

Steven Horst, of Connecticut, apparently with some reluctance, spoke in favor of the resolution. He would not have the church adopt the Covenant, and, even if we did, it would not help, given its rejection by others. “Many want to say ‘no’ with a vivid hand gesture.” (The crowd stirred a bit here.) Although the Covenant won’t accomplish what was intended, it is important to keep the door open. An outright “no” will be seen as a rejection of the good things in Sections 1–3. Horst said that he would prefer a statement that our church “still walks the path of Nicene Christianity.”

Jack Tull, of Florida and yet another member of the Covenant subcommittee, urged passage. He noted that he was the author of Resolution D006, which asserted that the church should spend no more time on the Covenant. The testimony from the hearing Friday night offered insights, however, and he declared himself satisfied that B005 offered the right approach. (My reading of the testimony was quite different. See “Hearing Report.”)

At this point, debate was interrupted for some item of business that had been scheduled at a fixed time. President Bonnie Anderson announced that the people already waiting at microphones would be allowed to speak in the order in which they arrived at their microphones when debate resumed.

I left the room for a time at this point, but it was not long before debate on B005 resumed. Anderson proceeded as she said she would. She asked the people who had been at microphones when debate was interrupted to return to their microphones.

First to speak after the break was Patrick Gray, of Massachusetts. He declared himself in favor of “kicking the can down the road.” He spoke of churches that have adopted the Covenant or not or (like the GAFCON churches) apparently would not. We owe more to liberal provinces, he said. (I failed to follow this logic, but I may have been too busy taking notes to listen as carefully as I should have.)

The final speaker, as it turned out, was Carola von Wrangel, of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. Von Wrangel described the convocation as a microcosm of the Anglican Communion. It may not look tidy, but we need to learn to stay at the table. There needs to be a place for conservatives as well.

The next speaker, whose name I did not catch, moved to main question. Debate was halted on a voice vote, and another voice vote passed B005.

Michael Millard, of Western Louisiana, rose to observe that the House of Deputies had heard from no opponents of the main motion. At that point, however, D008 and B005 were on their way to the House of Bishops where, as far as I can determine, they were accepted without much discussion.


Michael Millard’s point is well-taken. Of the five speakers who addressed the main motion (to adopt B005), all five favored the resolution. Moreover, two of the speakers were members of the subcommittee that had rewritten B005. Additionally, two other members of the subcommittee spoke against the amendment, and their comments essentially supported the unamended resolution as well. Moreover, the debate began with Mark Harris’s pitch for B005. Three speakers spoke in favor of the amendment, which, I would argue, would have had little effect on the message sent by the resolution anyway. Five spoke against it.

All of which is not to say that sentiment in favor of B005 was overwhelming. (The final voice vote was convincingly in favor of the resolution, but the nays were substantial in number.) Apparently, the rules of the House of Deputies do not require alternation of pro and con speakers, but there is a mechanism for determining the purpose for which a deputy rises, and, particularly for more controversial matters, alternation of pro and con speakers is often used to assure that debate is fair, particularly in light of the limited time allowed for debate. I don’t know what President Anderson’s intention was upon resuming debate after it was interrupted, but I’m sure she was not at her best that day. (She initially interpreted the vote to end debate on the amendment to have rejected the amendment itself. She had to be corrected.) When debate was interrupted, Anderson determined the order in which the remaining speakers would be given the floor, irrespective of their position on the motion. Did she do this because she was rushed, or did it not seem important to assure fair debate? In any case, I believe the debate was not fair.

My understanding is that some of those waiting to speak when debate on B005 was halted wanted to offer other amendments to end having to deal with the Anglican Covenant. It is impossible to know for sure just what the mind of the House of Deputies was. My suspicion is that it was leaning toward rejecting the Covenant, but the lack of expressed support for that outcome caused people to “go with the flow” and accept the indecisiveness of B005. There certainly was a widespread feeling that the Covenant was, in some sense, dead, and there was little point in dancing on its grave. One deputy suggested to me that most deputies had made up their minds about the Covenant—they hated it—but they were reluctant to say what they actually thought.

The idea that the Covenant was essentially dead seemed to me very myopic. It never seemed likely that The Episcopal Church would actually adopt the Covenant, but a clear rejection by our own church might have encouraged other churches sitting on the fence also to conclude that the Covenant was the wrong horse to back. Given that the Covenant is already in effect for some church, it is going to haunt the Communion for a very long time. It is difficult to know just how to put it in the grave and keep it there.

I am continually amazed by the prevalence of anxiety in The Episcopal Church over the possible ostracism people fear from the wider Communion. The church is acting like the shy new schoolgirl in town who is fearful of rejection by the cheerleaders and other popular girls in school. The reality, of course, is that the Communion needs The Episcopal Church more than the reverse. This is not to say that our church should be saying to other Communion churches, “We have no need of you.” The existence or stability of The Episcopal Church would not be threatened by isolation from the Anglican Communion, however. Both individual churches of the Communion and the Communion itself would be under threat if The Episcopal Church actually did isolate itself from the Communion. On the other hand, no one has seriously suggested that we should do that!

The subcommittee that modified B005 and D008 specifically intended D008 to reassure everyone about our commitment to the Anglican Communion, so that a decision on the Covenant could be made independently of anxiety over our Communion membership and participation. And yet, even in the debate, and even by members of that subcommittee—the argument of Charles Osberger seems the most egregious in this regard—members of the House of Deputies could not put their Communion anxieties aside and view the Covenant with objectivity. The reality is that there is no basis in the text of the Covenant for isolating non-covenanting churches except in the case of amending the Covenant or running the kangaroo court the Covenant sets up for offenses committed by covenanting churches. Even in the latter case, since proceedings are conducted in bodies that have existence independent of the Covenant, it is unclear that churches not in the process of adoption can be excluded. Their exclusion, after all, is justified by a provision of the Covenant, but, by definition, a church that has rejected the Covenant is not bound by its provisions.

I was told privately by one member of the subcommittee that members of the group were unreasonably deferential toward those who were more positively disposed to the Covenant, particularly Bishop Ed Little and Bishop Ian Douglas, the only bishops in the group. (Little was unabashedly in favor of adopting the Covenant and was delighted that the convention took no position. Douglas’s views were more nuanced, but he, too, wanted to avoid outright rejection.) The operation of the subcommittee was, I think, something of a sham. The committee decided on a course of action before the legislative hearing and, the protestations of Jack Tull notwithstanding, showed little evidence in its deliberations of listening to any of those who testified at the hearing, except possibly Tobias Haller, whose primary concern was unrelated to the Covenant. The majority of feedback on the Covenant, at the hearing and elsewhere, was anti-Covenant, and the subcommittee ignored that and substituted its own judgment about what the church should do.

The notion that The Episcopal Church needs to sit back and wait to see what everyone else is going to do vis-à-vis the Covenant is simply embarrassing. Is our idea of responsibility and leadership that we need to wait to see how everyone votes, so we can vote last and be sure to be among the “winners.” Is this what standing up for the Gospel is all about? It seems a little like going to the wagering window only after the horse race is over.

General Convention resolutions create winners and losers all the time. The General Convention exists to make decisions. I dispute the contention by Mark Harris that his resolutions created no winners and losers. Conservative Episcopalians who look to the Communion to halt the church’s attempts to serve 21st-century America were winners in this drama. Supporters of the dignity of women and LGBT persons who look to The Episcopal Church for justice and hope were losers.

Equally risible is the notion that our church is so divided that, for pastoral reasons, we cannot decide what to do with the Covenant. I don’t think the Covenant is more divisive than was approving a provisional liturgy for same-sex blessings, for example. Does anyone really think that any deputation would have walked out of the convention over our rejection of the Covenant? True, the Communion Partner Bishops would have been upset, but that seems to be their normal state. Rejection of the Covenant would not have sent them over the edge.


That the 2012 General Convention could not reject the Anglican Covenant was a disappointment. On the other hand, what it did do can hardly provide much comfort to Covenant supporters within the Communion. That the convention could adopt same-sex blessings and pass non-discriminatory measures supporting the transgender community suggests that the failings were local. As far as the Covenant was concerned, the World Mission Legislative Committee and the President of the House of Bishops failed to serve the church well. Neither in the committee nor in the House of Deputies were the merits of the Anglican Covenant discussed.

The Episcopal Church has sidelined itself for three years regarding the Anglican Covenant. It now falls to other churches to try to save the Anglican Communion from itself.

Yes to Communion; No to Covenant

July 18, 2012

Are We Preserving or Obscuring General Convention Legislative History?

As readers know, I have been writing extensively about the General Convention resolutions concerning the Anglican Covenant. I have been frustrated by the way information about the General Convention has been handled on the official Web site, however. I mention this now because, although problems have been apparent for a long time, they are particularly irksome now, when I am writing what is likely my final essay on the matter. (This isn’t it.)

To begin with, the URL for the 2012 General Convention home page is http://www.generalconvention.org/, which is, to someone who values stability, continuity, and consistency on the World Wide Web, an obvious but thoughtless choice. The URL is easy to remember, but what will be used in 2015 or 2018? Will the same URL be reused and the 2012 material simply be consigned to oblivion? Or will a new site be created, giving the impression that the 2012 General Convention is somehow the archetypal General Convention Web site?

The URL for the 2009 General Convention was http://gc2009.org/, so one could argue that the URL for this year’s gathering should have been http://gc2012.org/. This URL format has its problems, though, which apparently explains something about what happened this year.

Note that gc2009.org and gc2012.org are distinct domains that must be registered separately. The latter was registered by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society on June 30, 2003, well in advance of when it was needed. The domain gc2012.org, on the other hand, was registered on August 13, 2006. The registrant, curiously, is the Center Avenue Methodist Church of Pitcairn, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, but the associated telephone number is one in the Nashville area and belongs to someone associated with the General Conference of the United Methodist Church. The 2012 General Conference was held April 24–May 4, 2012. Apparently, gc2012.org was registered in anticipation of its use for the General Conference, but General Conference material was incorporated into the United Methodist Church Web site instead. In any case, Episcopal Church and United Methodist Church IT people apparently don’t talk to one another!

The domain generalconvention.org was registered by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society on October 5, 2009. There is no reason this single domain could not have been used in a systematic way to handle multiple conventions. For example, the 2012 convention could have had either an http://2012.generalconvention.org/ or an http://generalconvention.org/2012/ URL, the latter being preferable, since a “www.” subdomain could be prefaced or not. For subsequent conventions, “2012” could be replaced by “2015,” “2018,” and so forth.

Eventually, much of the information about General Conventions that is now on the Web will find its way to the site of The Archives of the Episcopal Church, though it is not clear that all of it will. Preserving the site created for each specific convention at its original location not only preserves information that may not go into the Archives but also preserves the validity of links created elsewhere on the Web—on this blog, for example—so that neither the creator of content with such links nor the reader of that content need worry about tracking down information on pages that have disappeared.

All this is preface to my more serious complaint, which I will describe as it has affected my own writing. Others faced the same problem. Whereas in 2009, both the original version and current version of a resolution was available on-line (see here), in 2012, only one version was maintained. This meant that, if I linked to the resolution on the General Convention Web site before this year’s convention began, the reader would see the resolution as submitted. During the convention, however, he might see a marked-up version with insertions and strikethroughs. Some time later, the same link would point to the final version of the resolution without regard to its original text. This is maddening and unhelpful in so many ways.

Because of the way resolutions were presented on the Web site, I made sure that I copied original resolutions just in case they were handled in the Alice-in-Wonderland manner I feared they would be. This allowed me to link to my own private copies if that became necessary. During the convention, I was often pressed for time, and skipped making my own snapshots of works-in-progress and linking to them. I have just finished going through all my posts that involve Anglican Covenant resolutions and re-linking to my copies of the resolutions at their proper point of development. Please let me know if I got anything wrong. (Almost by accident, I had accumulated all the relevant files.)

In 2009, resolutions were provided in HTML format, which was less attractive and less convenient for printing than the PDF format used this year. We can hope that the best practices of 2009 and 2012 will be implemented in 2015 and all original resolutions will remain available.

There is no way that the General Convention Web site can reflect the up-to-the-minute status of every resolution. Those who need to know as much as ever gets recorded about a resolution, however, should be aware of what is in the Archive. For example, click here to see the complete legislative history of Resolution C056 of 2009,“Develop Liturgies for Blessings Unions and Provide Generous Pastoral Response.” It’s almost like being there.

July 9, 2012

Revised B005 and D008 Resolutions Available

Revised versions of Resolutions B005 and D008 are now available on the Web. Unfortunately, the new resolutions have replaced the original resolutions on the Web, but the original text can be read through the strikeouts. From my perspective, and probably from that of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, B005 is acceptable but D008 is not. (Note that I have not taken a poll of the Coalition.) The resolutions will likely go to the House of Deputies tomorrow.

Update, 7/18/2012. The original B005 can be found here, and the concurred version is here. The original D008 is here, and the concurred version is here. The resolutions that came out of the World Mission Legislative Committee were unchanged by the legislative houses.

Legislative Committee Finishes Work on Anglican Covenant

At around 11 o'clock EDT, the World Mission Legislative Committee finished its work on Anglican Covenant resolutions. Two resolutions are being sent forward, one asserting our commitment to remaining engaged with the Anglican Communion and one saying that, since we are divided on the subject of the Anglican Covenant, we decline to make a decision on it at this time for pastoral reasons.

Let me begin at the beginning of today's work. The full committee began this morning by taking public testimony on three resolutions, two of which, C115 and D046, dealt with the Anglican Communion. Resolution C115 is a pure delay resolution. Malcolm French and I used this as an excuse to argue that a rejection resolution actually could pass both houses and that the Covenant is a bad thing, we know that now, and there is no reason not to proceed with outright rejection.

The conventional wisdom all along has been that the House of Deputies would have no trouble voting against Covenant adoption, but that the House of Bishops might not go along. Mark Harris, chairman of the subcommittee assigned to work on the Covenant resolutions, has said all along that he believed that neither a positive nor a negative resolution on the Covenant would pass both houses and that the House of Bishops definitely could not pass a “no” resolution on the Covenant.

Malcolm tried to make two points. First, New Zealand has just essentially said “no” to the Covenant, and the way they did so could be a model for The Episcopal Church. He also wanted to say that the subcommittee’s perception that the House of Bishops could not go along with a rejection of the Covenant is not necessarily correct. Our discussions with bishops suggests that there is at least a 50-50 chance of passing such a resolution in the House of Bishops.

Remarkably, Mark Harris strenuously objected that Malcolm was not addressing the resolution but responding to what had been said in the subcommittee. He asserted that the latter was out of order because the subcommittee’s work had not been reported to the full committee, which is where Malcolm was testifying. This was a strange argument, since Malcolm was explaining why it was unnecessary to delay action and was addressing what was the conventional wisdom. It was also strange because, since the subcommittee meetings are open meetings, all the world, except, in Chairman Harris’s view, the members of the committee not on the subcommittee, could know what had been said in the subcommittee. (Harris later apologized to Malcolm in private.)

My testimony was simply that the Covenant is bad, we know that, and we can dispense with it forthwith. Specifically, I asserted that its purpose is to inhibit or punish liberal action by The Episcopal Church (or any other church), that it is badly written (vague, etc.), and that it has been misrepresented both by its text and its supporters. (For example, it says that autonomy is unaffected, whereas it clearly is.) I said that the first three sections of the Covenant define, however vaguely, what the Communion will fight about in the future and that Section 4 tells, however vaguely, how we will carry out that fight. This is our Anglican future under the Covenant, I said. It is obvious, and we do not need more time to decide that it is a future we do not want.

Suffice it to say that nothing we said had any effect on the whole committee or on Chairman Harris’s subcommittee. The committee is sending substitutes for D008 and B005 to the legislative floor. Each of the original resolutions has been substantially rewritten. The final text is not available to the outside world as I write this. In fact, I have not seen the final text.



Watching the work of the subcommittee has been profoundly discouraging. Early on, the chairman declared, without evidence as far as I can see, that a Covenant rejection resolution could not pass in the House of Bishops. Even before public testimony was taken, a tentative decision was made to submit two resolutions, one supporting the Anglican Communion and one ducking the Covenant decision using some (initially undetermined) reationale. It is significant that, in all the subcommittee deliberations I witnessed, the public testimony from Friday night was not mentioned even once! And yet, that testimony was largely in favor of rejecting the Anglican Covenant. (See my earlier post here.) Chairman Harris told us that the subcommittee was divided in its opinions, and he simply went along with the wishes of the group. That is not consistent with what I observed.

In the end, I do not know why the subcommittee went in the direction that it did. Perhaps it was a victim of the Abilene Paradox, or perhaps something else was going on. The original resolution on the Covenant from Executive Council, of which Mark Harris is a member, said  a definite “no” to the Covenant, though perhaps not a definite “never.” The open testimony was mostly against adoption. The information solicited from dioceses was also largely negative.

The purpose of General Convention is to make decisions on behalf of The Episcopal Church. There is every indication that the church is tired of talking about the Covenant, thinks it is and was always a stupid and destructive idea, and wants to be done with it. Yet, it seems that the subcommittee of a legislative committee has decided not to serve the General Convention and the people of The Episcopal Church but to substitute its judgement for theirs. Has this church been so traumatized by the criticisms of those who have left the church or who we think might leave, as well as criticism of like-minded Anglicans in Africa, Asia, South America, and the Caribbean, that we are now incapable of making decisions on our own behalf? How neurotic and risk-averse has our church become? Can we possibly be proud of ducking a decision that England, Scotland, and New Zealand have so boldly made?

It is to be hoped that the House of Deputies will either vote down the substituted Resolution B005 or amend it so as to take the action that most Episcopalians feel is correct, namely turning down the offer to adopt the Anglican Covenant.

Next, the substituted resolutions go to the House of Deputies. It has yet to be determined just when that will happen, but it will happen soon.

July 8, 2012

Observations and Thoughts about the Legislative Progress of the Anglican Covenant Resolutions

The legislative subcommittee working on Anglican Covenant resolutions met this afternoon to continue making progress on perfecting one or more resolutions to send to the legislative floor.

It appears that the plan of presenting two resolutions will be the one ultimately adopted. One resolution will affirm our commitment to the Anglican Communion–the Anglican equivalent of motherhood and apple pie–and the other will, for one reason or another, defer a decision on the Covenant.

The subcommittee continues to believe, in the absence of convincing evidence I think, that an unambiguous rejection of the Covenant cannot pass in the House of Bishops. (No one seems to think that a “no” vote would not sail through the House of Deputies, which seems consistent with Malcolm French’s and my experience talking to folks in the exhibit area.)

Various rationales have been advanced in the subcommittee meetings for not making a decision on the Covenant now:
  1. We cannot adopt the Covenant until we determine the constitutional and canonical changes required to do so and have actually made those changes.
  2. Given the tepid responses to the request to adopt the Covenant, we cannot act until the status of Covenant adoption is clarified.
  3. We cannot adopt the Covenant until certain questions about it are answered, including, but not limited to, the number of adopters needed to make the Covenant effective.
  4. We don’t have to respond to the request to adopt the Covenant now, as there is no time limit for doing so, so we won’t.
  5. We don’t want to make a decision about the Covenant, since we do not all agree, and we don’t want to create winners and losers.
  6. In deference to the participants in the General Convention, we cannot make a decision because they are already being asked to make too many momentous decisions in 2012.
  7. We cannot make a decision for pastoral reasons, as a decision now would further divide the church.
The subcommittee is quite forthright in admitting that it is looking for the most believable excuse it can find to postpone a decision on the Covenant.

All this temporizing seems nothing more than a passive-aggressive response to a straightforward request put to The Episcopal Church. The overwhelming number of deputies who are knowledgeable and concerned about the Covenant have less than no interest in adopting it and would not be traumatized either by being asked to do so or by actually doing so. The remaining deputies either don’t care or are grownups who can see the handwriting on the wall.

I believe that only a handful or two of bishops–the usual suspects no doubt–actually favor the Covenant or would be distressed by its passage. The World Mission Committee should report out a firm “no” resolution, let it pass in the House of Deputies, and send it to the House of Bishops to see what actually happens there.

I have been inspired at this General Convention by calls to us to be “crazy” Christians in imitation of Christ or to be courageous in our decision-making for the church. Indeed, Church of England dioceses voting on the Covenant have been courageous in the face of intimidation by the church hierarchy, and the Scottish Episcopal Church was surely courageous in its lopsided rejection of the Covenant. Alas, it appears that my own church can only find the courage to duck an issue whose proper response is, in the words of the prophet Bob Dylan, blowin’ in the wind.

Subcommittee Meeting This Afternoon

The legislative subcommittee working on the Anglican Covenant resolutions meets again this afternoon in an unscheduled meeting in about 90 minutes. It will be interesting to see whether Friday night’s testimony had much of an effect. (For those in Indianapolis, the meeting will be in room 325 in the Westin.)

The subcommittee really wants to report out a resolution that has a good chance of passage, which, their thinking seems to go, means kicking the can down the street yet again. The fear of offending others seems to be more important than showing some courage and leadership.

In light of testimony at the open hearing, Resolution D007, which was developed by the No Anglican Coalition, seems a promising consensus approach. There was also significant interest in supporting the Continuing Indaba and Mutual Listening Process. If I were running the zoo, which I clearly am not, I would report out D007, replacing the final resolve with the following:
Resolved, That the General Convention call upon the leaders of The Episcopal Church at every level to seek opportunities to reach out to strengthen and restore relationships between this church and sister churches of the Communion; to deepen The Episcopal Church’s involvement with the existing Communion ministries and networks (especially the Continuing Indaba and Mutual Listening Process); to publicize and promote this work within the dioceses of the church in order to broaden understanding of, and enthusiasm for, the Anglican Communion; and to encourage a wider understanding of, and support for, the next meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council and Lambeth Conference.
This final resolve splices the last resolve of Resolution D008 to the end of the last resolve of Resolution D007. This, I suggest, will make as many people happy as anything.

The committee may follow through on its idea of splitting apart support for the Communion and non-support (or whatever) of the Covenant. Clearly, D007 could be split along those lines. The advantage of two resolutions, of course, is that a resolution supporting the Communion will pass easily in both houses, even if nothing on the Covenant passes, which would send at least one message that needs to be sent.

July 7, 2012

Yet Another Covenant Resolution at General Convention

Another resolution on the Anglican Covenant was submitted to General Convention today. Resolution C115 has been proposed by the Diocese of Easton. The resolution is titled “Anglican Covenant: Further Study.” This three-line resolution is the ultimate kick-the-can-down-the-road resolution.

Hearing Report

 Last night, the World Mission Committee held a legislative hearing on the resolutions involving the Anglican Covenant. Because the resolutions are all over the map regarding how to respond to the Covenant, the committee sensibly did not try to deal with them separately or try to alternate between pro and con comments. Speakers were given two minutes to speak and were allowed to do so in the order in which they signed up. (In case you have never had to say something meaningful in two minutes, you should know that that it is not a lot of time.)

My guess is that about 150 attended the hearing, exclusive of the committee, but this is indeed a guess. The room was large, but it was hardly filled.

By my count, there were 16 speakers. (I really believe there were 16 speakers, but I ran into at least one person who had a different number.) I did not expect a lot of Covenant supporters to speak, and I was not disappointed. I did expect that a number of bishops might speak in favor of the pact, but that was not the case. Only Tennessee bishop John Bauerschmidt represented the purple shirt crowd. He is the author of Resolution B006, of course. Someone from his diocese also spoke in favor of his resolution, which would commit The Episcopal Church to adopting the Covenant after figuring out how to change our polity to accommodate doing so.

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition had arranged for four speakers, beginning with Susan Russell, the submitter of the Coalition-developed D007. She quoted from the explanation of the resolution and, in keeping with our theme at this convention, urged the committee to choose communion over covenant.

Next, Bauerschmidt spoke of the need to be  “of one heart” and referred to the damage done by the “absence of procedures.” If not the Covenant, he said, what?

Tobias Haller was the next speaker, supporting his resolution D008, which does not actually mention the Covenant in the body of the resolution. He talked of the virtues of the Continuing Indaba and Mutual Listening Process, which prompted a rare question about that from the committee.

Lelanda Lee of Colorado, an endorser of D007, next spoke in favor of  “plain speaking.” She asserted that the Covenant does not do what it set out to do and called Section 4 punitive.

Samantha Butler–I think I have that name right–next spoke in favor of D046, which declares that adoption of the Covenant is moot in light of recent rejections by England and Scotland.

The next speaker was Malcolm French, moderator of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition. He spoke in favor of B007 and, of course, against Covenant adoption or an Anglican fudge. (His remarks are available on the Comprehensive Unity blog.)

Mary Roehrich, from my own Pittsburgh diocese spoke next, remarking on the recent unpleasantness in our diocese and the desire to keep the church free from outside interference.

Mary was followed by Arlene O’Brien. (Again, I may not have that name right.) She spoke in favor of B005. She noted that she was committed to same-sex couples and thought it was wise to wait to see the effect of adoption in other churches. If we say “no,” she warned, it is important how we say “no.”

I spoke next (I think). My remarks are also on the Comprehensive Unity blog. I emphasized that, if we believe the church can change–indeed, needs to change–the Covenant is a problem. “The underlying purpose of the Covenant is not to explicate Anglican theology nor to manage change, but to suppress change and preserve a mythical ‘biblical Anglicanism’ that never was,” I said.

Jim Newman, of Los Angeles, noted that his deputation was unanimously against the Covenant. We expected a missional Covenant, he said, but we got a juridical covenant. Communion churches have been out of communion over a number of issues, but we have remained in conversation. Getting rid of Section 4 is not enough. He said he cannot live with the 1662 BCP. We should continue relationship, he said, but the Covenant is dead.

I completely missed the name of the next speaker, a woman from Southwest Florida favoring D007. She pointed out the disconnect between the amendment procedure for the Covenant, which requires a 3/4 majority, and the procedure to adopt the Covenant, which requires a single church.

The next speaker was from Bishop Bauerschmidt’s diocese and spoke in favor of B006. Christianity only flourishes in community, he said,  not in singularities. Relationships cannot exist without an element of forbearance, which is the heart of community. The Covenant is not about polity. (I cannot help but interject a remark here. If the Communion had been practicing forbearance, we would not have had an emergency meeting of the primates in October 2006, the Windsor Report, or the proposed Covenant. It is not The Episcopal Church that is lacking in forbearance.)

A woman from Europe who, for my bad note taking must remain anonymous, also supported B006, arguing, though I could not figure out on what basis, that the Covenant would strengthen both The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

Jane Doubler (?), another European, spoke of the need to stay in conversation and to take no decision to jeopardize that. It was not clear if she meant to support any particular resolution.

Ben King supported B005, suggesting that we “kick the can down the street,” as indeed B005 would do.  If I understood his argument, he was saying that African liberals want to be in conversation with other liberals. He also said that our own church is too inward-looking.

Paula Nesbitt, a visitor from California, argued for D008. She has, apparently, done some scholarly research on Indaba and contended that, using the process, people do listen to one another and, in some cases, change their views.

And that was the end of the statements. Others were invited to speak, but no one did.


Seven speakers spoke in favor of D007, the resolution developed by the Coalition. Two each spoke for B005 and D008. Three spoke for B006, though the arguments were not always clear. One spoke for D046, and one simply for staying in conversation.

Resolution D046, I think is a non-starter because the matter of the Covenant is simply not moot. D008 is, in a sense, not about the Covenant at all but about the Continuing Indaba and Mutual Listening Process. Its provisions could be combined with anything. B005, Ian Douglas’s resolution to kick the can down the street, received positive comments from two speakers. (Since the proposer is on the World Mission Committee, he did not speak in favor of his own resolution. Jack Tull, proposer of D006, a perhaps stronger “no” resolution than D007, is also on the committee.)

Clearly, the discussion favored rejection of the Covenant in fairly strong terms. I hope the committee will take this as a sign. D007 could easily be combined with D008 (and perhaps D006), thereby making everyone happy except for those supporting resolutions offered by bishops. Indeed, the committee is concerned that a serious resolution rejecting the Covenant, irrespective of how strongly it supports the Communion, cannot pass in the House of Bishops. I am skeptical of that, as I think the bishops generally do not want the Covenant, but neither do they want to reject the Communion. Actually, no one wants that, and concern about it is simply unjustified paranoia.

The committee cannot send resolutions to the legislative floor before Monday or Tuesday, and, by that time, New Zealand will likely have voted against Covenant adoption. If the committee does not offer a rejection resolution, perhaps the House of Deputies will turn whatever they do offer into such a resolution. We can only hope.

Note: Another report on the hearing can be found here.

July 6, 2012

Friday AM Report on Covenant Discussion

Mark Harris’s subcommittee met for about 45 minutes this morning. The chair wanted to make it quite clear that the group would not set a definite direction on the Covenant resolutions until after tonight’s hearing, but was “experimenting with possibilities.”

Two subgroups brought proposed resolutions to the meeting as they were requested to do yesterday. (See “Covenant Resolutions Under Consideration.”) The first was in the form of a new resolution titled “Reaffirming Life in Communion: Separate, Yet One.” Personally, I thought this resolution a fine basis for a resolution affirming our commitment to the Communion while maintaining real, not simply, pro forma, autonomy. It used the nice phrase “diversity and oneness” in its explanation. The resolution was well-received, but would have had to be put forward as a completely new resolution, for which there was little enthusiasm. The subcommittee decided that D008 could be used, preserving its title and incorporating some of the ideas in  “Reaffirming Life in Communion: Separate, Yet One.”

The subcommittee then moved on to the resolution on the Covenant itself, which Chariman Harris suggested should be based on B005. In fact, what came out from the small group working on this project was something more like B006 and would have commited the church to the adoption of  “an” Anglican covenant. (It was never clear whether “covenant” was capitalized.) Ian Douglas complained that the resolution did not look much like his own B005, though members of the group that had worked on the resolution said they did, in fact, consider the provisions of that resolution.

Concern was expressed that a resolution like the one just offered could not pass. (Chairman Harris spoke of “putting the skunk on the table.”) A quick straw vote indicated that the proffered approach would not fly among the group, much less before General Convention itself. This does not bode well for B006.

More discussion followed on various ideas, including that mentioning particular parts of the Covenant might encourage legislators to pick it apart. Arguments were also made for brevity, which might facilitate passage.

Mark Harris offered his own take on dealing with the Covenant, which would embrace the Preamble and Sections 1, 2, and 3, while appointing a task force for Section 4.

Near the end, Ed Little asked what I thought was really the key question, namely, what did the group want the General Convention to do. He would like to see the Covenant adopted, but would settle for having it not killed, certainly a rational strategy.

Clearly, the open hearing tonight will be very important, and serious work on Covenant resolutions can only move forward after that. That hearing happens at 7:30.

Covenant Resolutions Under Consideration

No Anglican Covenant moderator Malcolm French and I attended a legislative subcommittee meeting at General Convention on Anglican Covenant resolutions this afternoon. (See my post “A Comparison of General Convention Resolutions on the Anglican Covenant.”) The subcommittee is chaired by the Rev. Mark Harris. This post is a brief report on that meeting.

First, it is fair to say that the subcommitttee is somewhat flummoxed by the fact that it is faced with so many and such diverse resolutions on the subject of the Anglican Covenant. There is no obvious way to combine the resolutions into anything like a coherent amalgam. Moreover, at least some members believe that any resolution likely to pass in one house is unlikely to pass in the other. In particular, it is thought by some that if a clear “no” resolution is passed in the House of Deputies, the resolution will not be accepted by the House of Bishops. (Such an opinion is, of course, speculation, and it is disputed by some folks outside of the World Mission Committee.)

In short, it seems to be the consensus in the subcommittee that neither a clear “yes” resolution on the Covenant nor a clear “no” resolution is viable. (It is clear, however, that the subcommittee contains members who are opposed to adoption as well as those favoring it.) Also, concern was expressed that a resolution with many separate provisions could become a target for contentious debate and amendment on each stipulation.

What is pretty much common among the resolutions, however, is an ongoing commitment to the Anglican Communion, although that commitment is expressed in different ways. Chairman Harris therefore suggested separating this notion from action on the Covenant itself. Thus, the group would provide General Convention with two motions, one expressing our appreciation for and intended support of the Communion, and another neither adopting nor rejecting the Covenant. It was not clear just what the second resolution would look like, but, one way or another, it would have the church kicking the Covenant can down the road for another three or six or God knows how many years.

Small groups were tasked with drafting each of the resolutions proposed by the chairman by tomorrow morning, when the group meets again. A public hearing on the Covenant resolutions takes place tomorrow night.

July 5, 2012

New Anglican Covenant Resolution Offered

Tobias Haller and Albert Mollegen have introduced a new resolution at General Convention on the Anglican Covenant. D046 declares the Covenant question moot. The subcommittee considering the Covenant will not buy this argument, but the resolution may have some influence.

July 3, 2012

Off to General Convention

I will be leaving for General Convention tomorrow. My main reason for attending is to promote the unambiguous rejection of the Anglican Covenant. I expect that I will be reflecting on my experiences in Indianapolis here and, possibly, on Comprehensive Unity: The No Anglican Covenant Blog. Funds are still needed to support Malcolm French, the moderator of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, and myself at General Convention. (Malcolm is there already.) It is not too late to contribute to the effort. To do so, click on the Donate button below.

Finally, since tomorrow is July 4, I commend to you my candidate for a National Anthem, which I wrote two years ago. It is called “Out of Many, One.”

Donate to NAAC

July 1, 2012

Oxalis Healed

Healthy OxalisA few weeks ago, I asked “What’s Wrong with My Oxalis.” I had two pots of Oxalis. Each plant look sickly, with spots on the usually bright green leaves.

Two readers offered suggestions. Gale referred me to the local Master Gardeners program, an agricultural extension program I had never heard of. Ann sent me e-mail with a link to an eHow.com page that suggested that the problem was likely fungal and is encouraged when plants are grown in a cool, damp environment.

The plant I had pictured in my post had been indoors for the winter where it was often cool and damp, so I decided to put the plant on my deck, where, in the summer sun, the environment would be very different.

After a few weeks of sunshine and aggressive pruning of affected leaves, my plant looks great. (See picture. Be sure to click for a larger version.) A very interesting fact about Oxalis: When grown indoors with limited sunlight, leaves grow at the end of long stalks. Grown outside in full sun, the plant becomes very compact, with leaves on short stalks and crowded closely together.

Thanks to Ann an Gale for your help!