March 31, 2012

Missing the Point

Bob Duncan’s Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh recently announced that Frank Lyons, who is currently Bishop of Bolivia, has been called to the Pittsburgh diocese to become Assistant Bishop of Pittsburgh. This will free Duncan from pastoral responsibilities and allow him to concentrate on his more political duties as Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North American. The move mirrors what Duncan did when he was Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh, hiring Henry Scriven to do episcopal scut work while he was off to the four corners of the world undermining The Episcopal Church and promoting his own idiosyncratic vision of Anglicanism.

The announcement on the Anglican diocese’s Web site describes Lyon’s recent professional history this way:
During his eleven year tenure as bishop of Bolivia, Lyons has seen that very small diocese triple in their number of churches and ordained clergy. Bolivia is the poorest country in South America. During the crisis in the Episcopal Church, Lyons also assumed responsibility for 40 congregations across the U.S. and their clergy. “Bishop Frank’s spiritual sensitivity, cross-cultural experience, and passion for the Gospel will be a wonderful asset to our Leadership Team,” said Canon Mary Hays.
Indeed, Lyons has often been in the news for his un-traditional interventions in Episcopal Church dioceses. A Chicago Tribune story from 2006, for example, begins this way:
Wearing a scarlet miter and colorful vestments, Anglican Bishop Frank Lyons of Bolivia stood before an Evanston church Sunday and called the faithful to kneel at the altar.

“If there is anyone in the congregation of The Church of Christ the King ... who would like to come forward and reaffirm their faith, we invite you now,” he said. Lyons, 51, is not simply a visiting missionary however. He is overseeing this and 28 other congregations from Virginia to San Diego that have broken with the Episcopal Church over their interpretations of the Bible, a dispute that was spurred by the election of an openly gay bishop in 2003.
I had not really intended to comment on the Lyons story—how big a story is the joining of forces of two minor Anglican outlaws anyway?—but I changed my mind when I saw Ann Rodgers’ story on Lyons’ new position in today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The newspaper devoted nearly 13 column-inches to a story that fails even to hint at Lyons’ raids on The Episcopal Church. Rodgers blandly reviews Lyons’ career as follows:
He grew up in a charismatic Episcopal parish, attended evangelical Wheaton College in Illinois and Nashotah Theological Seminary, an Anglo-Catholic school in Wisconsin. That background brings together the three major theological streams in the Anglican Church in North America, a conservative body composed largely of parishes and dioceses that broke from the Episcopal Church over issues of biblical interpretation on matters ranging from salvation to sexuality.
Rodgers missed the point in her story. Lyons is not just any bishop.

 Note for women priests and deacons in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh: Lyons isn’t too keen on women clergy. The Chicago Tribune story includes this:
But Lyons doesn’t ordain women priests.

“I would have a problem with having a woman spiritually in charge of the church, based on the view that normally a man is the spiritual head of the house,” he said.
Good luck, girls.

March 28, 2012

Musings on the Candidacy of the Rev. Canon Scott Quinn

Over the next few weeks, I plan to offer specific observations about the nominees to be the next Bishop of Pittsburgh. Do not expect my posts on this subject to be systematic, comprehensive, or definitive. I will try to be helpful, however, and I invite comments from other Pittsburgh Episcopalians.
The Rev. Canon Scott T. Quinn
The Rev. Canon
Scott T. Quinn
The Rev. Canon Scott T. Quinn has been a fine rector of Nativity, Crafton, for nearly 30 years. The parish was on life support when he arrived. Under his leadership, the congregation has grown, the building has been put in good repair, and an endowment of nearly a million dollars has been accumulated. He is well-liked throughout the diocese and has performed admirably as Canon to the Ordinary since the schism of October 2008.

Nevertheless, after the Nominating Committee announced its nominees to become the next Bishop of Pittsburgh, I was dismayed to learn that Quinn was being nominated by petition. There were several reasons for this:
  1. Although the nomination-by-petition process was different from and less prone to unfair manipulation than the surprise nomination from the floor that ultimately allowed Bob Duncan to become bishop, the nomination of Quinn felt distressingly familiar.
  2. Nomination by petition was designed to provide a safety net should the Nominating Committee do a poor job of identifying nominees. That had not happened.
  3. In particular, the Nominating Committee had identified four exceptionally well-qualified candidates. If people were willing to nominate Quinn by petition, his name had surely been submitted earlier; the Nominating Committee apparently found other candidates to be more qualified. There was reason to respect this judgment.
  4. It was widely believed that a bishop were best chosen from outside the diocese. No one I spoke to—admittedly a small, unscientific sample—named Quinn among priests of the diocese who might reasonably be considered were one to put aside the prejudice against internal candidates.
I have already made a general case against electing our next bishop from within the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in 2012—see “Pittsburghers Nominate Episcopal Candidate by Petition”—so I will not repeat what I have said already. In light of the many reasons to select a bishop from outside the diocese, one has to ask what it is that Quinn brings to the table that is so compelling.
The answer is not obvious. Quinn’s higher education, for example, is unremarkable (Pitt and Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry) and was obtained only within the Pittsburgh area. The group of candidates identified by the Nominating Committee, on the other hand, includes a lawyer, a Fulbright Scholar, a priest with a master’s degree in social work from Columbia, and a priest with a newly minted doctoral degree. Quinn has no professional experience beyond a single diocese, a limitation shared by only one other candidate. In contrast to the variety of positions held by other nominees, Quinn has held a single job his entire professional life.

Last week’s walkabouts suggested the main reason Quinn (and perhaps his backers) believes that he should be our next bishop. More than once, he went out of his way to explain that he believes he is the person who can best stand up to Bob Duncan. This is not to say that this is Quinn’s only argument for his candidacy, but it seems to be the one that distinguishes this candidate from the others. (Quinn’s experience with small parishes is seen as a strong selling point, but is not unique among the five people standing for election next month.)

I was taken aback by the thought that “standing up to Bob Duncan” was such a concern to a potential bishop, and my astonishment is shared by many others. Primarily, I was dumbfounded that anyone thought that the principal task of the next bishop would be dealing with the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of North American and Anglican Bishop of Pittsburgh. To think that is to be obsessed with the battles of the past, rather than looking to the future. I found this concern rather depressing, whereas I viewed the suggestion by Ruth Woodliff-Stanley that Pittsburgh was poised to be on the cutting edge of The Episcopal Church exciting.

Largely, we are done with our deposed Bishop Duncan. The next bishop will not have to fight Duncan over Trinity Cathedral, and the difficult property disputes largely will be in the hands of attorneys. The next Bishop of Pittsburgh might choose to fight for a seat on the board of Trinity School for Ministry, but Quinn, a graduate of the seminary, has indicated that he is now persona non grata there, hardly a good place from which to advocate for a place at the table. Our next bishop may run into Duncan at ecumenical gatherings, but I think that someone without a history of animosity toward Duncan might have an easier time maintaining equanimity in situations where conflict is best avoided.

Even if one sees significant and ongoing conflict between the Episcopal and Anglican bishops of Pittsburgh, it is unclear why Quinn is particularly well-equipped for the role. The Nominating Committee rightly put a high value on experience with conflict resolution; suspicions and animosities remain in our diocese, and there may be future disputes between Episcopal and Anglican churches. One looks in vain, however, for such experience in Quinn’s résumé.

Quinn seems to have had personal issues with then Bishop Duncan and, in any case, was certainly not among Duncan’s inner circle of co-conspirators. I know of no instance, however, when he personally took a significant public position against Duncan and his schismatic machinations. Late in Duncan’s episcopate, Quinn was meeting with conservative priests who finally declared that they would stay in The Episcopal Church. In fact, he was one of three priests who presented the letter to that effect to Duncan. No doubt, this took a certain amount of courage, but he was, in fact, only doing what was required by his ordination vows in declaring that he would remain in The Episcopal Church. I am unaware of Quinn’s ever having taken a riskier  and more public stand as did, for example, Cynthia Bronson-Sweigert in response to the passage of Resolution One in 2002. (See ENS story here.)

Although Quinn did not embarrass himself in the walkabouts, his answers to questions seemed briefer, more superficial, and less responsive to the nuances of questions than those of the other candidates. Moreover, there was evidence of the baggage carried by any candidate from the diocese. Quinn was challenged by at least one priest and some laypeople. Because he is well-known in the diocese and because people are aware of what he did and did not do over the years, Quinn will have supporters and detractors holding strong opinions should he become bishop. People are worried that this will make it harder to bring the people of the diocese together into the respectful unity that has long been absent in Pittsburgh.

I am concerned that Quinn, and even more his supporters, are fearful of the future, fearful of being more directly exposed to trends in The Episcopal Church, fearful of ideas that have not come from and do not honor the traditions of Southwestern Pennsylvania. I would hope that people vote their hopes and dreams when selecting our next bishop, not their fears and their prejudices.

Finally, there is the matter of Quinn’s admitted learning disability. This is an especially sensitive issue in Pittsburgh. Alden Hathaway was elected with the knowledge that he had certain learning disabilities and would not be able to be as effective an administrator as other bishops because of them. His deficiencies did indeed prove troublesome and ultimately required the diocese to hire Bob Duncan as Canon to the Ordinary in an attempt to compensate for them. The point, of course, is not that the election of Hathaway led to the election of Duncan, but that Hathaway’s known limitations caused the diocese problems and cost it money. We should not make such a mistake again, particularly with such talented alternative candidates to pick from.

March 27, 2012

Episcopal Election Procedures for Pittsburgh

A few days ago, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh posted “Electing the 8th Bishop of Pittsburgh: Some Frequently Asked Questions” on its Web site. The FAQ was written by Jon Delano, who is Judge of Elections for the convention that will elect our next bishop. Everyone in the diocese who is interested in this election—that seems to be a lot of people, given the attendance at the recent walkabouts—should read what Jon has written. Additionally, you might want to read the rules of order for the election, which I have extracted from the document that includes the diocesan constitution, canons, and other material. You can find the rules of order here.

As a member of the Committee on Constitution and Canons, I was in on discussions about the rules of order for the electing convention, though I didn’t get to vote on the final set of rules. Jon did a fine job with his FAQ, but two matters deserve comment.

First, in response to the question “Do Clergy and Lay Deputies have a chance to discuss the merits of nominees with each other?” we find this sentence: “There will be NO such open discussion period at the special convention on Saturday.” I argued unsuccessfully against this policy, which encourages cliques to act in concert while preventing the body as a whole from doing so. The convention is a deliberative body, and preventing it from deliberating or allowing deliberation to be conducted only secretly in small groups hardly seems conducive to helping the Holy Spirit in our discernment. Among other things, such a policy gives more power to the clergy, who know one another well, making it easy for them to strategize, whereas lay deputies, who seldom meet, mostly do not know one another and would therefore have a more difficult time doing so. Nevertheless, Bishop Price has stated that the prohibition of general open discussion is not absolute and that, in particular circumstances, it might be allowed. In any case, the rules of order can be changed or suspended by the convention if that is the will of the convention.

Second, I found this statement disturbing: “Bishop Price and the Standing Committee (which has final oversight over the election process) requests that discussion be positive with respect to nominees and never negative towards any of the five who have put themselves forward for consideration.” In private, I’m sure people won’t feel bound by this admonition, but it could become an issue in the public discussion on the day before the election.

Surely, ad hominem attacks on any candidate would be inappropriate. What is a negative remark, however? Would a comparison of, say, educational accomplishments of two candidates, be considered a negative remark respecting the candidate with fewer degrees? What if there surfaced damaging information about a candidate at the last minute? Could it be revealed? (At the 2003 General Convention that gave consent for the consecration of Gene Robinson, a charge that Canon Robinson was associated with a pornographic Web site held up the convention while the allegation was investigated.) An absolute prohibition on “negative” remarks, if interpreted too broadly, could cause the convention to make a serious error. What might have happened had someone indicated at the 1997 convention that elected Bob Duncan bishop after his being nominated from the floor that there was objective evidence that Duncan was immoderately ambitious?

March 26, 2012

Peters Township Property to be Returned to Episcopal Diocese

The assets of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Peters Township are going to be returned to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. The congregation left the Episcopal diocese in the split that occurred in October 2008 and has styled itself St. David’s Anglican Church. The Board of Trustees of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh holds title to the property, however, and the courts have determined that it is the proper owner. The church is situated in the suburbs about ten miles south of downtown Pittsburgh.

This news comes in the form of a press release distributed by the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. The press release explains that
The congregation at St. David’s has adopted the new name of The Anglican Parish of Christ the Redeemer. They have leased the former St. Genevieve Roman Catholic Church building at 120 East College Avenue in Canonsburg, PA from the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh as a temporary church home and also to plant a new Anglican parish permanently in Canonsburg. Redeemer Parish will hold their first service on May 27 at 10 a.m. Services thereafter will be at 8:30 a.m. (traditional) and 11 a.m. (contemporary) every Sunday.
According to the press release, the congregation plans to return to Peters Township when a suitable location is found. It further states that the rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Canonsburg (Chuck Weiss) “has blessed our efforts.”

David Wilson, the rector of Christ the Redeemer, née St. David’s, was an active participant in the struggles within the diocese between the allies of Bob Duncan and supporters of The Episcopal Church.

March 24, 2012

Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive; Ig-Nore the In-Con-Ve-Ni-Ent

As I noted earlier today—see “VE Day”—adoption of the Anglican Covenant by the Church of England was stopped in its tracks by votes in three dioceses that have made it impossible for the matter to receive enough votes to return to General Synod before 2015, if ever. Members of the No Anglican Covenant and its supporters—and, no doubt, many members of the Church of England at large—are jubilant over this development. (Our exuberance may have been excessive, given that we are still in the season of Lent.) It is widely believed that rejection of the Covenant by the Church of England will ultimately spell doom for the project that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has so ardently championed.

Faced with this momentous development within the Anglican Communion, the Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS), which one naïvely might think is charged with disseminating such news throughout the world, today issued this strange story, titled “The Secretary General on the Anglican Communion Covenant”:
In the light of today’s news about the decisions of the dioceses of the Church of England about the Covenant I wanted to clarify the current situation across the Anglican Communion

In December 2009, as requested by the Standing Committee, I sent the text of The Anglican Communion Covenant to all the Member Churches of the Anglican Communion asking that they consider it for adoption according to their own internal procedures.

I have received notifications from eight Provinces that they have approved, or subscribed, the Covenant or, in the case of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, have approved pending ratification at the next synod which is usual procedure in that Province

These Provinces are:
The Church of Ireland
The Anglican Church of Mexico
The Church of the Province of Myanmar
The Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea
The Church of the Province of South East Asia
The Anglican Church of Southern Africa
The Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of America
The Church in the Province of the West Indies

What next steps are taken by the Church of England is up to that Province. Consideration of the Covenant continues across the Anglican Communion and this was always expected to be a lengthy process. I look forward to all the reports of progress to date at the ACC-15 in New Zealand in November.

Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Canon Kenneth Kearon
Remarkably, neither ACNS nor Canon Kearon deigns to tell us what “today’s news about the decisions of the dioceses of the Church of England about the Covenant” actually is. The story, presumably out of deference to or direct instructions from Rowan Williams, ignores the inconvenient news that the archbishop and his covenant project have suffered a major, perhaps fatal, blow. Also, there is no mention—there has never been mention from the archbishop or from ACNS—of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, which has spearheaded opposition to the Covenant. Members of the Coalition have always been vaguely alluded to as those who have misunderstood the Covenant or—more insulting still—have failed to read it.

Ignoring the elephant in the room, Kearon puts on a happy face and lists all the Anglican churches that can possibly be construed as having adopted the Covenant, though, of course, some of these adoptions are problematic. (South East Asia’s action is particularly dubious.) This story is not, I’m afraid, intended to disseminate news.

In the words of the Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercy song, Kearon (and ACNS) has chosen to “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive.” He has also chosen to “Ig-Nore the In-Con-Ve-Ni-Ent.” Let’s face it, ACNS should be the ACPS, the Anglican Communion Propaganda Service.

Anglicans deserve better. We have ceased to expect it.

VE Day

No, not victory in Europe in 1945, but Victory in England—the Church of England, actually—on this day in 2012.

Today, three additional Church of England dioceses, Oxford, Guildford, and Lincoln, voted against sending the proposed Anglican Covenant back to General Synod for final approval. Three dioceses voted for return—Blackburn, Exeter, and Peterborough—but today’s voting means that 23 of 44 dioceses have voted to terminate consideration of the Covenant, whereas only 15 have voted to consider adoption. This, adoption by the Church of England has been blocked, at least until 2015. The Anglican Covenant Coalition sincerely hopes that the matter will never be taken up again, and the current vote will be accepted as a rejection of the document.

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition, the anti-Covenant group that began with an e-mail message from me in 2010—see “The Announcement”—has issued a news release that you can read here.

This is a great day for the Anglican Communion, though perhaps not for its nominal leader, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who has championed the Covenant with unseemly enthusiasm.

I hope that this rejection of the Covenant by the Church of England will deal a definitive blow to this ill-considered and radical redefinition of worldwide Anglicanism. In particular, I hope that it will make it easy for The Episcopal Church’s General Convention to reject Covenant adoption quickly and definitively when it meets this summer.

Yes to Communion; No to Covenant

March 21, 2012

Walkabout Reflections

I attended the first walkabout with the Pittsburgh nominees to be the diocese’s next bishop last night. This took place at St. Brendan’s and attracted an impressive crowd. Attendees had about half an hour to mingle with and speak to the candidates and their spouses. This wasn’t quite the reception I had expected. Refreshments were few, the room was crowded, and the situation did not encourage serious conversation. More on this later.

The program began in the church, where the candidates were seated in chairs facing the audience. One-by-one, they stood to introduce themselves and their spouses. I was told that the candidates were more nervous about this performance than about the rest of the evening. Indeed, Scott Quinn, who spoke first, was rather wooden in his delivery of what seemed like a memorized speech, and he forgot to introduce his wife, Vera. The other candidates were more poised and informal, and Quinn’s apparent nervousness disappeared after that first minute of terror.

Video was made of this plenary session, by the way, and my understanding is that it will be posted on the diocesan Web site eventually.

The one-minute introductions mostly dealt in pleasantries. Quinn did establish his own theme of believing in miracles, however, chief of which seems to be his own rebuilding of his parish of nearly 30 years. Dorsey McConnell also quickly established himself as the biggest user of God-talk. Phrases like “foot of the cross” occurred frequently in his answers over the course of the evening.

Following the brief introductions, each of the candidates was given two minutes to answer each of the questions announced yesterday. (See  “Questions for Episcopal Candidates Announced.” The answers were brief but sometimes ran over the time limit.

Episcopal candidates at St. Brendan’s
Episcopal Candidates at St. Brendan’s: (L to R) The Rev. Canon Scott Quinn, The Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, the Rev. R. Stanley Runnels, the Rev. Dorsey W. M. McConnell, the Rev. Canon Michael N. Ambler, Jr. (Click on picture for larger view)

Question 1

The first question concerned small churches:
There are numerous parishes in the diocese which would be described as Family Size, that is, places where the number of people attending a Sunday service is 25 or fewer. Several of these parishes are in older communities or communities in transition; many struggle with limited resources and part time clergy. What skill set do you bring that could assist small churches to grow and/or move to a renewed sense of mission?
Quinn declared, “I have one of those churches.” He described Nativity, Crafton, as dispirited and bankrupt when he arrived. Twenty-nine years later, the building is sound, the congregation is healthy, and the church has a $1 million endowment. Each church can do this, he said.

Ruth Woodliff-Stanley said that people need to know and trust one another and that a bishop needs to be out in the diocese, rather than sitting in an office. She spoke of strengthening her current parish, her work with parishes in Northwestern Pennsylvania on behalf of the Episcopal Church Building Fund, and her work with Lutherans.

Stanley Runnels, too, emphasized that, as bishop, he would be “in the field,” not simply “calling and checking in” on parishes. He has served congregations of various sizes, he said, and all parishes must ask what is their vision and mission. He declared a personal focus on the Baptismal Covenant. He would help congregations explore their mission and search for resources, but warned that change does not happen instantly.

Dorsey McConnell lamented a perceived split between personal faith and social action. He emphasized lay leadership and spoke of going into a neighborhood, praying for it, talking to people, and developing a mission strategy. He explained that he has worked in many places and with many denominations.

Like Quinn, Michael Amber spoke primarily of his own parish experience. A nearby congregation had about 25 members, was served by a retired priest, and saw options as limited. Ambler is now in charge of both, and a full-time assistant has been hired. He described both churches as “teaching parishes”—apparently referring to the full-time internship mentioned in his profile on our diocese’s Web site—and said that lay leadership is also flourishing. Old models don’t work, he said, and Christians should share.


Question 2

The second question touched on hot-button issues:
The issues of partnered gay clergy and same sex blessings have been controversial in this diocese and the broader Episcopal Church. Where do you find yourself now on these issues and how have you worked pastorally with people of differing views?
Quinn answered that difficult questions have defined the Diocese of Pittsburgh in the past, and this is not a good thing. Currently, the Commission on Ministry seeks candidates who believe in Jesus and are called to ministry. Under a Bishop Quinn, it will continue to be the policy to ordain such people (presumably without regard to sexual orientation or other considerations). The policy on same-sex blessings should be decided by individual congregations.

Woodliff-Stanley admitted that it is well-known that she is “for it all” (partnered gay clergy and same-sex blessings). She spoke of working with people having different views, however, and declared that we are linked with those with whom we disagree. We should not define ourselves by single issues.

Mississippian Runnels observed that, in the past, The Episcopal Church has not always been as welcoming as it should be. People who love one another should be held up in that love, he declared. With his bishop’s permission, his own parish decided to perform same-sex blessings, and he described blessing the long-term relationship of a Korean veteran. We must listen to one another’s stories, he noted.

McConnell said that the church needs a genuine conversation about how to maintain unity and freedom on conscience. He does not want to foreclose dialogue now, particularly because there are deeper questions about the authority and interpretation of scripture than must be dealt with. The mind of Christ is not divided, he declared.

Ambler, too, cited the need for honest conversation, but he said that, on judgment day, he would rather have made the mistake of letting someone in rather than of keeping someone out. In any case, he warned that the diocese should not define itself by this issue. In fact, the diocese should, for a time at least, follow, rather than trying to lead the church. If authorized by the General Convention, he would allow the blessing of same-sex unions but not not require any parish to perform them.


Question 3

In my previous post, I described the wording of the third question as “seriously strange.” It inquires into the candidates’ personal spiritual experience:
How have you experienced the Triune God in your life? How has that experience formed your understanding of mission and ministry?
Quinn focused on his choice made in high school, at which time he might have been drawn into the drug culture. Instead, he met someone in the Jesus Movement who told him to read the Bible. Over a year, he read the whole bible, but said that he did not read it well. He was told to read it again. This took three years, but—Quinn claimed this as another miracle—he really could read it one day. He was healed, he said, by the Holy Spirit.

Woodliff-Stanley said she cherishes the Trinity: the essence of God is relationship. Family provides a glimpse of God. She spoke of a closeness to God kneeling to pray as a girl. The “majesty and steadfastness” of Holy Week brings her closer to the Son. She sees the Holy Spirit in life in community—in forgiving and being forgiven, in the mission of sharing the gospel.

Runnels spoke of feeling God fully present at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer. He also described how God had worked through a homeless alcoholic who showed up at his church and became something of a fixture despite remaining a homeless alcoholic. The man, over two and a half years, was embraced by the congregation. Eventually, he was killed by a hit-and-run driver and drew huge attendance at his funeral. People, he said, had begun to experience God through this homeless man.

McConnell told an amusing story of being baptized at six. He had confused “christening” with “crucifixion” and anticipated the event with great anxiety. He was relieved when it was over and he was still alive. He was filled, he said, with “amazing love” and burst into tears, experiencing the blessing of the Father. Before he was married, he realized that he “was not a nice guy” and needed a Savior. He received mercy when he accepted the mercy of the Son. He said he understood the power of the Holy Spirit when, after failing to have children, he and his wife adopted a son.

Ambler answered by telling a story. He was leading a parish pilgrimage to the Holy Land and found himself where Jesus may have fed the 5000. (He noted that he believes the stories in the Bible to be true.) There was a mosaic at this place showing loaves and fishes. He knelt to pray, not quite knowing what he would say. He prayed to be made “enough,” as Jesus had made the loaves and fishes enough. God can take us and make us enough, he observed, saying that this is the work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


The Small Sessions

At this point, attendees retired to preassigned rooms and the candidates visited them one at a time. The questions that were asked had been submitted by the people in the room.

In my room, there were only four questions, although we had more than 20 people there. The questions were (I have to paraphrase here)
  • What is the mission of the church in the post-modern world?
  • What is your view on open communion?
  • What is your view on the Anglican Covenant and the Anglican Communion?
  • What have you learned about Pittsburgh that surprised you?
Because our room generated so few questions, we sometimes had time left over to ask other questions or to be queried by a candidate. I will discuss what the candidates said in the order that they visited our “Red” room. Since the questions were not always asked in the same order, the order of the answers below will be varied.

Scott Quinn

Quinn gave a quick answer to the first question: The mission of the church is to have people come to know who Jesus is, the same as always.

He said that open communion (i.e., allowing communion of the non-baptized) is more difficult. This could be allowed as a local option, he said, but it has not been thought about very much.

Quinn said nothing about the Anglican Communion, but suggested that the discussion about the Covenant has been a political debate. He said he thought our church would pass on the Covenant and the matter of the Covenant would ultimately be moot.

 Quinn suggested that there were two Pittsburghs—the prosperous, mostly East End churches, and other, less prosperous churches. The candidates, he said, had mostly seen the former, but both Pittsburghs need attention. Bishop Duncan, he observed, exploited the differences between the haves and have-nots, and he implied that the former bishop had changed his stated positions in order to do so.

Having quickly answered the questions posed by the people in the room, the floor was opened to other questions. Quinn was asked about administration and about making tough decisions. He said that the diocesan leadership is confident, but that there are divisions in the diocese as, for example, there were divisions over Morning Prayer versus Eucharist in times past. He noted that, at General Convention, he is a “young person,” and said that there is really no youth culture today, making youth ministry difficult. He will encourage churches to figure out their roles, which will be good for some churches, but not for others. Regarding decision-making, he spoke of questioning the actions of a priest who was doing “inappropriate things.”

Stanley Runnels

Runnels expressed appreciation for the Anglican Communion but expressed concern for the “transformation taking place.” (He expressed cautious optimism that everything would work out, however.) He said he has read the Anglican Covenant over and over and, although he has no objection to a covenant abstractly, he believes this particular document on offer flies in the face of hundreds of years of Anglican polity. He accused the Covenant of being reactive. In saying he does not support the Covenant and noted that dioceses in the Church of England seem to be rejecting it in large numbers.

Runnels has just defended his doctoral thesis on dialogue with non-Christian religions. He referred to the report “Generous Love” prepared for the 1998 Lambeth Conference, which says that we should be open to the spirit respecting other religions. He said that reading and praying about his made him consider open communion. In his parish, he invites all to partake of the Eucharist, saying that he did not want to obstruct another from meeting God. He admitted that this is a violation of church canons and would not contest charges if brought against him. (Runnels and I had a discussion about this before he left, and we agreed that disobeying canons for any reason is problematic.) He said he would not demand open communion as a bishop.

The mission of the church, Runnels said, is to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). He also spoke of ministering to “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40).

After a few words about the city, Runnels said that he found the people of the diocese forward-looking and hopeful, that they have come out of a crisis ready to move forward. He does not want to be a bishop of a diocese that does not offer a challenge, as does Pittsburgh.

Ruth Woodliff-Stanley

Woodliff-Stanley said that the Anglican Covenant does not have her support, although she found the process of engagement with it helpful. She studied it with Colorado’s General Convention deputation, which she described as a diverse group. She said she loved the first section of the document but found later sections getting away from a “balanced Anglican approach” and taking more of a “Roman approach.” This, she said, is not the best way. She was more positive about the Anglican Communion, which is about a relationship with Christ. She noted that some churches of the Communion involve challenges, unlike our own, that involve bloodshed. She offered that there is some value in reports that have come out of the Anglican crisis.

On open communion, Woodliff-Stanley said that she believes in “open baptism.” When people are leaning toward Christ, we should embrace them. She said that congregations should do as they think best, but that more theological conversation is needed on the subject.

As for mission, Woodliff-Stanley said that the gospel remains constant, though how we live together has changed. We must live the gospel, but how we do so must change. For some, getting people to church is “too great a [psychological] commute.” Citing Phyllis Tickle, she said that youth today want spirituality, but without corporate trappings. We may have to make shifts in how we spend our money and how we do liturgy.

Woodliff-Stanley, too, spoke of personal experiences with Pittsburgh. (She had made a college visit here with her son.) She said that she had learned about the faithfulness of the diocese. Everything seems open and can be remade, she suggested. We have an extraordinary opportunity to build a new diocese that is poised to be on the cutting edge of the church.

Michael Ambler

Ambler declared that he does not favor the Anglican Covenant. In trying to create a confessional church, it is inconsistent with what it means to be Anglican. He expressed ambivalence about the first sections of the document while rejecting Section 4. He described that part as being about kicking people out, rather than bringing them together. He likened the Covenant to putting a lid on a pressure cooker. Instead, we need to talk to one another. The Communion, on the other hand, is a good thing, he said.

The church has always said that baptism comes before communion, Ambler explained, though he said he would not discipline a priest for offering open communion. He, personally, will not prevent a non-baptized person from taking communion, but he will talk to that person about baptism when he can.

He described the post-modern mission of the church as the same as the pre-modern mission, namely to be the body of Christ and serve your neighbors. The question, he asserted, is one of strategy, not mission. Anglicans, he said, are in the habit of changing when they need to, a point he illustrated with the sixteenth-century introduction of liturgy in the vernacular. He suggested that the language of Rite I is like church Latin to many people. In our present day, people are used to getting what they want on demand, although he admitted that Facebook liturgies or iPhone apps are not the answer. We need to love the Lord and love our neighbors as ourselves.

Ambler said the obligatory nice things about Pittsburgh and admitted that the diocesan split had been more complicated than he realized. Most Episcopalians outside the diocese, for example, believe the liberals stayed and the conservatives left, which is not strictly true. There is diversity here, he said, and we are not called to be of one mind about everything. He suggested that there are differences between the clergy and laity. In particular, he suggested that many departures of laypeople “were not as voluntary as they seem to be.” He said he would want to reach out to these people, but he doesn’t yet know just how to do that.

Dorsey McConnell

McConnell expressed support for the Anglican Communion and described his work in northeast Uganda. He described the covenant process as being interesting in its probing who we are and how we are accountable to one another. Ultimately, however, he found the Covenant un-Anglican. “We don’t like documents like that,” he said. The Covenant has kept the conversation going, but there are big questions around it.

Open communion is not allowed by the canons, McConnell noted. The initiation rite of baptism is important. At the same time, he described being drawn to the altar rail even when he had problems with much that was part of the liturgy. He spoke about not seeking windows into men’s souls and said that people may come to the rail to be fed.

McConnell described working with youth in confirmation class. He observed that children tend to think very concretely, which (presumably) is a problem when discussing theology. In any case, he said we have all experienced loss and have the same questions. The appeal of the gospel is that God cares for us and wants to draw us to himself. Post-moderns feel they can create their own destiny, yet they want relationship and don’t know how to find it. People need to come into community that gives life.

As did others, McConnell spoke of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods and ethnicities. He also mentioned the presentation given earlier in the day concerning the recent history of the diocese given by what he called first-hand players. He described the history as unbearable but an amazing blessing, and said he saw hope that something new is beginning.

Some Thoughts on the Event

Overall, I though the event was well planned and run. The crowd was large, and it felt like the building could have been larger, but there wasn’t much one could do about that.

I did think that the reception would better have been held after the Q&A. People would have had more opportunity to ask meaningful questions based on what they had heard earlier, and members of the diocese would have had a good opportunity to compare notes. After all, everyone heard only 1/5 of the answers given in the small-group settings. (I was curious about a question about Trinity School for Ministry asked in another session, for example.) Also, the reception, particularly if held later, would have benefited from more food and drink. (I’m sure everyone could have used a little wine after the intense Q&A!)

As for the nominees, I think they all did well, and no one said anything truly embarrassing. I was pleased that there was no enthusiasm for the Anglican Covenant. (The question about the Covenant and the Communion was mine, of course.) Each candidate seemed ready to lead a diverse diocese without trying to extinguish that diversity. I will make a few observations about individuals, but these will be personal and tentative.

Scott Quinn’s answers sometimes seem brief and not as deep as those of other candidates, but he showed off his greatest strength, which is knowledge of the Pittsburgh diocese.

Ruth Woodliff-Stanley’s answers sometimes left me wanting to hear more, but I thought they were generally on target. I thought she did a nice job of the “Triune God” question.

Stanley Runnels seemed to give particularly insightful answers. I had found him less than effusive when I spoke to him at the reception, but he seemed much warmer in the small group.

Dorsey McConnell gave generally good answers, but his metaphors made me somewhat less comfortable than the speech of others.

For reasons I cannot quite put my finger on, I found myself less pleased with Michael Ambler than I expected to be. That said, his answers were very good, and I think he had a good sense of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. I liked his answer about the mission of the church.

I am not carrying water for anyone in particular, and any ranking of the candidates I might do now would be suspect. As it happens, I will not be able to attend any more of the Walkabouts. Anyone who does, however, is cordially invited to comment (even at length) here.

March 19, 2012

Questions for Episcopal Candidates Announced

Beginning tomorrow and ending Friday, the candidates to become the next Bishop of Pittsburgh will be meeting the people of the diocese and answering questions. In each of four venues, the candidates will make a one-minute statement, after which they will answer three questions selected by the Transition Committee with input from members of the diocese and the recent Leadership Day. (See “Diocesan Leadership Day.”) The audience will then retire to five different rooms, where questions submitted by the people in that room will be asked of the candidates, one-by-one.

The procedures for these walkabouts are hardly ideal, but time is limited, and I’m not sure there is an ideal way of letting people get to know the candidates and ask them questions. There is some free time for socializing before the grilling of the candidates starts in earnest.

Here are the three questions that all the candidates will answer at each of the four walkabouts:
  1. There are numerous parishes in the diocese which would be described as Family Size, that is, places where the number of people attending a Sunday service is 25 or fewer. Several of these parishes are in older communities or communities in transition; many struggle with limited resources and part time clergy. What skill set do you bring that could assist small churches to grow and/or move to a renewed sense of mission?
  2. The issues of partnered gay clergy and same sex blessings have been controversial in this diocese and the broader Episcopal Church. Where do you find yourself now on these issues and how have you worked pastorally with people of differing views?
  3. How have you experienced the Triune God in your life? How has that experience formed your understanding of mission and ministry?
(The questions can be found here on the diocesan Web site. The page also includes the schedule for the walkabouts.) I’d like to say a few words about the questions.

The first question, about small parishes, is certainly a relevant one. Even before the split in the diocese in 2008, the diocese had a number of very small parishes, and the process of reconstituting some of the parishes that initially lost most or all of their congregation to Bob Duncan’s church has added to their number. The question, as stated, does not countenance the possibility of closing some of these churches, which is surely something that the next bishop is likely to have to face.

I had rather hoped that we might avoid the likes of question 2. In Pittsburgh, the “where do you find yourself” part of the questions presents a no-win situation to the hapless candidates. No answer will satisfy everyone, and virtually every answer will satisfy some and alienate others. I wish the candidates good luck on this one. The second part of the question, on dealing pastorally with people with different views, is where the smart candidates will spend most of their time. I expect them to have good answers to this part.

The phrasing of question 3 is seriously strange, a fact that may or may not be noticed by the candidates. Some conservatives in the diocese have concerns that the candidates (or some candidates, anyway) are wildly unorthodox. These are the folks who wanted to ask questions such as whether the candidates believe in the Trinity and what parts of the Nicene Creed they do not believe. It would be easy to overlook the hostile intent lurking behind question 3, but candidates would do well to go out of their way to invoke the Trinity in their answers.

I plan to attend the first walkabout at St. Brendan’s tomorrow night. I hope to post my impressions here tomorrow or Wednesday.

March 16, 2012

Goodbye, Rowan

Archbishop Rowan Williams has today announced his acceptance of the position of Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge with effect from January 2013. He will therefore be stepping down from the office of Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of December 2012.
Thus begins a brief notice that appeared today on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Web site. A companion story from Anglican Communion News Service reminds us that
The Archbishop is the Focus of Unity for the Anglican Communion. He is convener and host of the Lambeth Conference, President of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), and Chair of the Primates’ meeting. In these roles he travels extensively throughout the Anglican Communion, visiting provinces and dioceses, and supporting and encouraging the witness of the Church in very diverse contexts. As primus inter pares among the bishops, he has a special concern for those in episcopal ministry.
Rowan Williams
Photo by Brian
Rumors of Rowan’s retirement have been circulating for some time, so the announcement did not come as a surprise. Many were hoping, however, that he would leave his post earlier.

By retiring at the end of 2012, the archbishop will likely see through the final approval of women bishops in the Church of England, although he is still at odds with the General Synod as to how the introduction of women bishops should be implemented. He will chair a final meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in New Zealand later this year.

It is less clear what Rowan’s legacy will be respecting the proposed Anglican Covenant. It is highly likely that Church of England dioceses will vote not to send Covenant adoption back to this summer’s General Synod, thereby precluding the pact’s adoption on Rowan’s watch. Many have suggested that such a development will scuttle the Covenant project.

The archbishop’s announcement comes the day before five additional diocesan synods will be voting on the Covenant. Were all the dioceses to vote no on the Covenant, the matter could not return to this General Synod, which ends in 2015. That is unlikely, but it is probable that additional votes against the Covenant tomorrow will bring it closer to defeat in England. The timing of today’s announcement may have been chosen to avoid the embarrassment of resigning after a major defeat or in the hope that the announcement might have a salutary effect on the diocesan voting.

I will have more to say about Rowan Williams and the office of Archbishop of Canterbury at a later time. For now, I will simply say that, as “Focus of Unity,” Rowan has been an abject failure. His personal obsession with church unity led him to compromise his own principles and to appease radical elements within the Anglican Communion, leaving the Communion on the brink of disintegration.

Rowan  Williams’ tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury has been a disaster. He cannot leave office soon enough.

March 13, 2012

Late Winter Evening on the Deck

Though not yet spring, it seemed a spring evening in Pittsburgh today. As the sun set, I went out on my deck in 60-degree weather beneath a sky clear, save for scattered contrails. I spent time reading Tupelo Hassman’s Girlchild in the fading light, experiencing the luxury of an e-book reader in circumstances not conducive to reading a conventional volume.

I did look up from time to time to experience the stark beauty of trees not yet aware of spring as the sun was disappearing below the horizon. Looking up higher, I could recognize, despite my general astronomical ignorance, the convergence of Venus and Jupiter that I had learned about on the radio. The stars would appear even closer together in two days, but the fickle Pittsburgh sky could hardly be counted on to be as clear on Thursday as on Tuesday, so I ran inside for my camera and tripod.

I took a number of pictures, some using exposures as long as 8 seconds. My best efforts are below. Click on the images for a larger view.

Trees from my deck
Horizon from my second-story Mt. Lebanon deck
Convergence of Venus and Jupiter
Venus (upper right) and Jupiter (lower left)

Candidate Résumés Posted

Résumés of the candidates to become the next Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh have now been posted on the diocesan Web site. I had requested that these be made public at the recent Diocesan Leadership Day. (See “Diocesan Leadership Day.”) They seem to have been added to the Web without fanfare yesterday. In fact, the links to the résumés could easily be missed, particularly if you have looked at the pages for the candidates before. For each candidate, a link to the corresponding résumé appears just below the candidate’s name.

Official information about the candidates can be found here. Here are links to the résumés:

March 10, 2012

What If England Votes Against the Covenant?

Today, four more Church of England dioceses voted against returning adoption of the proposed Anglican Covenant to the General Synod for final action. Two dioceses voted in favor. (See details on Thinking Anglicans.) To date, 17 dioceses have voted against the Covenant; 10 have voted for it. If 5 more dioceses vote in the negative, no further consideration will be given the Covenant during the current General Synod. Of the 44 English dioceses, 17 have not yet voted.

What will happen if a majority of dioceses do not vote to return the Covenant to the General Synod? Will the Church of England have rejected the Covenant or not?

A defeat of the Covenant in diocesan synods would appear to prevent the General Synod from considering the Covenant before it ends its current incarnation in July 2015. If this happens, however, it would appear that the Church of England will have failed to adopt the Covenant. But this is not the same as refusing to adopt it.

Were the Covenant a carefully drawn legal document (instead of a legal-sounding document drawn up largely by politically oriented clergy, some of whom were very angry), the text would specify the exact form by which adoption must be declared to the Communion, and there would be a deadline for adoption. Failure to declare adoption before the deadline would be construed as rejection.

Not only has the Covenant not been subject to reasonable, unambiguous adoption procedures, but also it authorizes churches to act in certain circumstances as if it had adopted the pact.

One might imagine the Church of England attempting and failing to adopt the Covenant every five years. There could be no end to it. On the other hand, Southeast Asia “acceded” to the Covenant but added a “Preamble to the Letter of Accession” that, like Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty, asserts that the words of the Covenant mean only what that province says they mean. Somewhat less arrogantly, Ireland “subscribed” to the Covenant, seemingly circumscribing its effect on the Irish church. How the actions of Southeast Asia or Ireland differ from that of, say, Mexico, which simply let its “yes” be “yes,” is anyone’s guess.

But let me return to the Church of England for a moment. According to §4.2.8 of the Covenant text,
Participation in the decision making of the Standing Committee or of the Instruments of Communion in respect to section 4.2 [The Maintenance of the Covenant and Dispute Resolution] shall be limited to those members of the Instruments of Communion who are representatives of those churches who have adopted the Covenant, or who are still in the process of adoption.
“Questions” about the actions of a church can only be raised with respect to a church that has adopted the Covenant (§4.2.3). If the Church of England has not definitively rejected the Covenant, even though its dioceses have essentially voted down adoption of it, would not the church get the best of both worlds? It would have no obligations to satisfy any other churches with its behavior, yet it could argue that it is “still in the process of adoption,” since adoption had not actually been precluded. Therefore, representatives of the Church of England, including, of course, the Archbishop of Canterbury, could serve as they always have. This peculiar state of affairs could go on indefinitely.

Churches could object that failure to approve is, in fact, rejection, and assert that the Church of England was no longer “still in the process of adoption.” Who would adjudicate such a claim? According to §4.2.2, the Standing Committee “shall monitor the functioning of the Covenant in the life of the Anglican Communion on behalf of the Instruments.” Would the Standing Committee, chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose authority hung in the balance, decide the matter? Would the Archbishop of Canterbury recuse himself? Would the Church of England find itself in the second tier of the Anglican Communion. God only knows!

All this just goes to show what an incompetently drawn document the Covenant is. Some have feared that the Covenant could have the Communion arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Verily, I say unto you, it could have us arguing about who is allowed to count the dancing angels and what methods of enumeration may be used.

What does all this mean for The Episcopal Church. It means, I think, that we should try to drive a stake through the heart of this misbegotten Covenant. We should pass a resolution at the 2012 General Convention stating that (1) we are, and expect to continue to be, a member of the Anglican Communion, but that (2) we decline to adopt the Anglican Covenant. We should not simply vote down a resolution to adopt the Covenant.

March 3, 2012

Diocesan Leadership Day

The quarterly Leadership Day for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh was held today at Calvary Church. The group gathered was larger than usual because all convention deputies were invited. This was because determining questions to be put to episcopal candidates was on the agenda. (See “Diocese Announces Candidates.)

We began with Morning Prayer in the church. It was the Feast of John and Charles Wesley today, so we read the collect for the Wesleys and sang Charles’s “Love divine, all loves excelling” (#657). We also sang “Rise up, ye saints of God!” (#551) and “The Church’s one foundation” (#525). Lest anyone miss the point, the third verse of the latter, which includes the phrase “by schisms rent asunder,” was called to the group’s attention after the service.

The service incorporated four up-to-the-minute prayers:
A Prayer for the Discernment and Election of a Bishop
Almighty God, we, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, affirm now, as always before, that You are our Almighty Lord and Savior. We humbly confess that we all have engaged, in some manner, in practices that divided rather than preserved the unity of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. We are grateful that in Your mercy, You continue to sustain us and to keep us whole as we grapple with the consequences of our fractured state. We are grateful that in our vulnerable state, You called Bishop David Jones, Bishop Robert Johnson, and Bishop Ken Price to shepherd us. And we are deeply grateful that You have filled us with your Spirit of hope that the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will indeed emerge vibrant and united in Christ. We ask that You prepare our hearts, minds, and souls as we collectively entrust one another with the task of discerning Your call for the Eighth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

A Prayer for the Nomination Committee
Almighty and ever-living God, source of all wisdom and understanding, we thank you for all your blessings and particularly for the work of our Nomination Committee. Particularly we acknowledge with gratefulness the way they went about the task of choosing fit persons for us to consider for the next Bishop for this Diocese. We believe that in all things they sought first your honor and glory and then with wisdom, courage and grace prepared the slate now presented to us. Let us now prayerfully receive these names and seek God’s will for us as we embark upon the upcoming election. Amen.

A Prayer for the Transition Committee
Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts: Give your grace to the members of the Transition Committee that, in their ministry of care to the Bishop, the Bishop Elect, and the people of this Diocese, they may faithfully serve before you to the glory of your Name and for the benefit of your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer for the Election of a Bishop
Almighty God, giver of every good gift: Look graciously on your Church, and so guide the minds of those who shall choose a bishop for this Diocese that we may receive a faithful pastor, who will care for your people and equip us for our ministries; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
After Morning prayer, everyone returned to the parish hall for presentations by the chair of the Nominating Committee—sometimes referred to as the Nomination Committee (see above)—the Judge of Elections, the president of the Standing Committee, and the chair of the Transition Committee.

Lunchtime discussions at Leadership Day
Lunchtime discussions at Leadership Day

A few interesting facts emerged from these presentations (hardly any correspondence in the search process used paper; more people than is usual were considered as candidates; the committee did not know who nominated whom; there was no decision not to consider internal candidates). Both judge of elections Jon Delano and Standing Committee president George Werner announced that they would not publicly support a particular candidate.

The most notable presentation was by the chair of the Transition Committee, Nano Chalfant-Walker. Her committee is responsible for the upcoming walkabouts, and a major objective of the day was to collect possible questions to be asked of the episcopal candidates. At each of the four walkabout sessions, the five candidates will, in a plenary session, answer each of the same three—I think that is the right number—questions. I had assumed that there would be a general discussion of what the questions should be. Instead, people were given Post-It Notes on which they could write questions and post them on poster board with the labels “Administration,” “Call,” “Theology,” Pastoral Care,” “Diocesan Health,” “Formation,” “Mission,” and “Other.” (I don’t think I missed any topics, but I don’t guarantee it.) More about this later.

Chalfant-Walker explained that, as participants arrive for each walkabout, they will be assigned a breakout room and can submit one written question. They have some opportunity to talk to the candidates during a half-hour reception. After the plenary session, participants will retire to their assigned breakout rooms and, one-by-one, they will be visited by the candidates, who will answer as many questions as possible from queries submitted by those assigned to that particular room.

There was a sense among many participants that the format of the walkabouts was being too severely controlled. It does not provide opportunity to ask follow-up questions or questions specific to one candidate, prevents people from learning as much about the candidates as they would if all questions were answered in plenary session, has the potential to require the candidates to answer similar questions before different groups, and does not give the candidates the opportunity to react to one another. The committee seems to have an obsession with “fairness,” which is resulting in a process that is stultifying and dysfunctional.

On the positive side, a video recording is to be made of the first plenary session and posted on the Web.  Since there is no interaction with the audience in this session, however, and the same scene is to be repeated at each walkabout session, could not the time be put to better use at the following walkabouts?

In any case, the Transition Committee now has the unenviable task of reducing the 90 or so questions that were posted to three. This is a transparently impossible task, since even taking one question from each of the committee’s own categories would yield too many questions.

It was telling, I thought, that the “Theology” board attracted the most questions. Both the candidates and the Nominating Committee seemed to have shied away from making or encouraging theological statements, and, for better or worse, people are anxious about figuring out in what theological box each candidate belongs. Certain questions were predictable—asking about same-sex blessings, for example. Some questions from the right were worrisome in their implicit hostility. One question asked if the candidate believed in the Trinity, and another asked which parts of the Nicene Creed the candidate did not believe [my emphasis]. Clearly, the next bishop is going to have to work at getting us to accept and trust one another.

Questions for candidates
Questions for candidates (one of many topics)

The event continued with reports from the Chancellor—property negotiations are ongoing—and the chair of a strategic planning task force—activities are also ongoing. This was followed by announcements and dismissal.

The day was surely worthwhile, but I fear the walkabout sessions may prove unsatisfying and inadequate to give deputies a good feel for the candidates. I hope I’m wrong.

March 1, 2012

Time Off for Good Behavior

The rules by which the reign of terror of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is conducted became clearer today with the release of a story from Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS). The two members of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) who arbitrarily had been reduced to consultant status have now been reinstated as regular members, making whole a major cog in Canterbury’s propaganda machine.

The rules, as is now crystal clear, are that: (1) crossing the Archbishop will be punished, the lack of authority to do so notwithstanding; (2) individuals will be punished for the perceived infractions of their churches; and (3) rehabilitation can be achieved through extraordinary acts of penance that advance the Archbishop’s despotic agenda.



In his 2010 Pentecost letter, Rowan Williams wrote
And when a province through its formal decision-making bodies or its House of Bishops as a body declines to accept requests or advice from the consultative organs of the Communion, it is very hard (as noted in my letter to the Communion last year after the General Convention of TEC) to see how members of that province can be placed in positions where they are required to represent the Communion as a whole. ;This affects both our ecumenical dialogues, where our partners (as they often say to us) need to know who it is they are talking to, and our internal faith-and-order related groups.

I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces – provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) – should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged. I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members. This is simply to confirm what the Communion as a whole has come to regard as the acceptable limits of diversity in its practice. It does not alter what has been said earlier by the Primates’ Meeting about the nature of the moratoria: the request for restraint does not necessarily imply that the issues involved are of equal weight but recognises that they are ‘central factors placing strains on our common life’, in the words of the Primates in 2007. Particular provinces will be contacted about the outworking of this in the near future.
The Pentecost threats were soon carried out. Episcopal News Service reported June 7, 2010, that the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, had written to a number of Episcopalians serving on Anglican bodies informing them that their membership had been discontinued.
According to ENS,
Butter [Jan Butter, communications director for the Anglican Communion] told ENS that the Anglican Communion’s secretary general, in consultation with the archbishop of Canterbury, appoints members to the ecumenical commissions and to IASCUFO. “He therefore can ask people to stand down,” he said.
ENS noted further that
The Rev. Katherine Grieb, an Episcopal priest and professor of New Testament at Virginia Theological Seminary, was the IASCUFO member who has been invited to serve as a consultant.
The snub of Professor Grieb was especially notable, as she had been a member of the Covenant Design Group, which was charged with drafting an Anglican covenant.

On October 1, 2010, Kearon reduced another prominent IASCUFO member to consultant status. Anglican Communion News Service noted that Bishop of Chile Tito Zavala, of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, also had been demoted. Kearon explained that
“At that time [when the Archbishop of Canterbury sent his Pentecost letter] I wrote to the Primate of the Southern Cone, whose interventions in other provinces are referred to in the Windsor Continuation Group Report asking him for clarification as to the current state of his interventions into other provinces. I have not received a response.

“Consequently, I have written to the person from the Province of the Southern Cone who is a member of the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order (IASCUFO), Bishop Tito Zavala, withdrawing his membership and inviting him to serve as a Consultant to that body.”
Zavala has subsequently become the Southern Cone primate. Today’s announcement that both he and Professor Grieb are once again members in good standing of the IASCUFO comes after some interesting developments.


In November, according to George Conger, the Southern Cone endorsed the Anglican Covenant. Conger’s story for Anglican Ink, also includes this:
Today’s Southern Cone statement noted that it had been “in response to these novel practices” of doctrine and discipline that the “Southern Cone had held churches in North America under its wing for some time while the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) was formed.”

However, the “province has not maintained jurisdiction over any local churches there for over a year.  As a result, all so called ‘border crossings’ by any provincial members ceased (as of October, 2010) even though the Southern Cone still remains in impaired communion with US and Canadian Provinces,” the communiqué [of December 20, 2011] said.
There is, of course, some irony (or dissembling) here. The Southern Cone’s first overseas adventure involved taking under its wing, the schismatic Bishop of Recife (Brazil), Edward Robinson Cavalcanti, and as much of his diocese as he could manage to bring with him into the Southern Cone. Although deposed by the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil, Cavalcanti and his diocese—now a rival of the corresponding diocese of the Brazilian church—have remained a part of the Southern Cone. (Adding to the weirdness of this story, Cavalcanti was murdered, apparently by his adopted son, on Sunday.)

Anyway, the Southern Cone has accepted the Anglican Covenant and finessed the matter of its border crossings, apparently good enough behavior to rehabilitate Bishop Zavala.

Professor Grieb cannot thank her church for playing nice with the Anglican powers that be, but she has lent her credibility to one of the three pro-Covenant videos released February 22, 2012, by the IASCUFO. In particular, her’s is the final segment in a video supposedly describing “the sections of the Covenant.” In fact, she seems to be selling the Covenant to Episcopalians, noting—rather improbably, I thought—that “there are many progressives [in The Episcopal Church] who are also interested in endorsing the Anglican Communion Covenant.” Grieb then proceeds to suggest that her church can continue ordaining women, moving forward with the blessing of same-sex unions, and consecrating gay and lesbian bishops without fear if the church adopts the Covenant. We have been asked to sign the Covenant as we are, she asserts, “and everybody knows where we’ve been and what we stand for.” (The video is on YouTube. Grieb’s segment begins 6 minutes and 44 seconds into it.)

Grieb’s remarks have nothing to do with “the sections of the Covenant,” of course, and yes, everybody does know where The Episcopal Church is headed, and many are eager to have the Covenant in place so that The Episcopal Church can be punished for it. Grieb has done her part to promote the Covenant and deserves to be returned to her position with the Anglican Communion propaganda apparatus.

Can anyone really believe that, given the disinformation and manipulation orchestrated by Rowan Williams and his minions in order to put the Anglican Covenant into effect, the Anglican Communion will not become even more totalitarian if its member churches are naïve enough to buy into the Archbishop’s Covenant project?

Diocese Announces Candidates

As promised, the report of the Nominating Committee for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh was released this morning. The actual report can be found here, and the story about it can be read on the diocesan Web site. As expected, there are five candidates, four nominated by the Committee, and one, Canon to the Ordinary Scott Quinn, nominated by petition.

I will have more to say about the candidates in due course.