January 29, 2014

PEP Writes to the Archbishop

As reported this morning by Mark Harris on his blog, Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) wrote to Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby last week. PEP’s primary concern was the appointment of ACNA priest Tory Baucum as one of the Six Preachers of Canterbury Cathedral.

The tradition of Six Preachers was established by Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer in the sixteenth century. I could find little information about the collection of posts on the Web, but Wikipedia does offer a brief article. It is unclear whether any of the Six Preachers over the years have been other than English clerics.

In the letter, PEP complains that the appointment of Baucum enhances the dubious claim of ACNA to be Anglican and is accepting of the interference of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) in the affairs of The Episcopal Church:
Our primary concern is not Dr. Baucum’s personal talents or accomplishments but his associations. He is in the rather odd position of claiming to be a priest of two churches, the schismatic Anglican Church of North America and the transgressive Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). The former has established itself largely by poaching souls and real estate from The Episcopal Church and continues to be involved in property litigation with The Episcopal Church, a matter of apparent indifference to Canterbury. The Church of Nigeria, on the other hand, has proven equally predatory regarding our own church and has flouted longstanding Anglican tradition regarding boundary crossings. Moreover, this honor bestowed on a putative Nigerian priest comes at a time when Anglican leaders in Nigeria are applauding the advent of a new law persecuting homosexuals and advocates for human rights.
PEP’s letter asks Welby to withdraw the appointment or, at the very least, to make it clear that it is a strictly personal one. PEP also asked the archbishop to speak out against the recently enacted anti-homosexual law in Nigeria.

The full text of the letter is included in Mark Harris’s post. A PDF copy of the letter can be found here.

January 9, 2014

Making Friends with the New Kitties

Eve (Evening Light)
Eve (Evening Light), three years ago
Facebook friends know that my Bombay cat, Eve, died in the early morning hours of December 16, 2013. The day before, I received e-mail from the Cat Clinic and Hospital, where I have always taken my cats for veterinary services. The message indicated that two male kittens were in need of adoption. (See picture below.) It was apparent that death was imminent for Eve. I spent a couple of hours holding her, but it was obvious that there was little I could do for her.

Under normal circumstances, I would not have begun the usually lengthy process of finding a new cat after one of my cats died. Eve was my only cat, however, and the message from the Cat Clinic held out the possibility of finding new feline companionship without experiencing too much emotional trauma. In fact, the e-mail seemed like a timely gift from heaven. Besides, the kittens looked very cute. Then again, what kittens don’t look cute?

Charlie and Linus
Picture from the Cat Clinic e-mail message
At first, I thought of asking to adopt just one of the kittens, but a friend asked why I didn’t declare my interest in both of them. So I did that. A few days later, I got to spend a little time with Charlie and Linus, and it was agreed that I would indeed adopt them. Since I was going to be away for a day or two around Christmas, I arranged to pick up the kittens on December 27. It seems hard to believe that I have lived with Charlie and Linus for less than two weeks!

When I first visited the kittens, it was obvious that Charlie was the more outgoing. I got to hold them both, but Linus was clearly not enthusiastic about the experience. So, when I got the kittens home, I was eager to bond with my new pets. I was pleased when Charlie was first willing to sit on my lap, something Linus has yet to do. In fact, for quite a few days, I could not even touch Linus.  He came nearer and nearer, but every time I moved my hand toward him, he ran off. Two days ago, for the first time, he allowed me to pet him, and we have made more progress on that front yesterday.

Charlie watching “Video Catnip”
Charlie discovers Video Catnip
Charlie, on the other hand, is now not only willing to sit on my lap; he is often difficult to coax off my lap. He has also taken to trying to eat my food when I’m having meals. This has caused me to get out the water-filled spray bottle. He has also become fascinated with my computer screen, and he has been sitting in front of the monitor and following the mouse pointer. I am reluctant to spray him when he is doing this for obvious reasons. I assume we’ll work out these conflicts eventually.

Two days ago, to divert Charlie, I got out my Video Catnip DVD, which contains scenes of birds, squirrels, and chipmunks. Charlie was quickly hooked. He watched the television from the floor and soon was climbing the desk below the screen in order to get closer to the action. (See photo above.)

Both to give Charlie a better vantage point and to protect the furniture and equipment, I positioned my Kik Step in front of the screen and put Charlie on it. The result can be seen in the video below.

Yesterday, Linus also watched Video Catnip for a few minutes. Charlie, meanwhile, has shown increased interest in what’s on the TV screen, even if it isn’t Video Catnip.

Linus continues to be a bit wary of me, but he is allowing me to pet him from time to time. We’re not quite fast friends yet, but we’re moving in that direction.

Linus and Charlie on cat tree
Linus (above) and Charlie on cat tree
The other day, I was giving myself a much needed manicure, and I dropped my cuticle knife on the floor. I was finished with the knife but not the manicure, so I didn’t pick it up right away. When I finally did look for it, it was nowhere to be found. It might have gotten lost in the chair or fallen on the black rug, where a small implement with a black handle might be hard to find. Look as I might, however, I could find it nowhere. It was impossible for it to have gone far, yet it simply wasn’t there. A few days later, however, I spotted Linus on the pedestal of the chair I had been sitting on. He was playing with a small, black object with a metal end. Guess what it was! How he sneaked off with the cuticle knife without my noticing, I have no idea.

I’m getting used to the new kitties’ schedule. Periods of sleep under my bed alternate with frantic, but often amusing, activity. Last night, for example, Charlie discovered a large red grape on the floor. (I wasn’t aware that I had dropped a grape, but Charlie found it somewhere.) He began batting it around the floor. Then Linus joined the fun, and I had the privilege of being a spectator at a feline soccer match.

The cat tree has become a favorite place to play, though not to rest. The two kittens often play king of the mountain, with each one trying to knock the other off the top level. More often, they slap at each other from different levels. Both cats have enjoyed the toy I attached to the tree with an elastic cord.The photo above shows the kitties in a rare moment of wakeful repose.

The adventure continues.

January 8, 2014

Grumpy Tuesday

I’m was not really in a bad mood yesterday, but it did seem to be the day to write about little irritations not requiring extended philippics. On the blog on which I write about my church, I complained about the new automatic door opener that seldom works and the unfortunate lighting used for the two evening Christmas Eve services. I then turned to an issue of wider interest, which I am only getting around to explaining fully today.

Ever since the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh unveiled its new Web site after the departure of the followers of Bob Duncan, that Web site has carried this banner:

The second line of text (“of The Episcopal Church in the United States”) was important, since both the continuing diocese and the organization formed by those who left the diocese claimed to be the “Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.” Nonetheless, the exact wording has always seemed strange, as the official name of the church is the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America or, alternatively, The Episcopal Church.

A slight digression is necessary here. When the church’s constitution was approved in 1789, the name of the church was not established in the constitution proper, but only in the heading, which read “The Constitution of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.” The Preamble of the church’s constitution, which was first proposed in 1967, establishes “The Episcopal Church” as an alternative name for the church. The article “the” seems never to have been considered an integral part of the long name of the church, but, both officially and unofficially, the article has been rendered both as part of and not part of the short name. On the title page of the 1979 prayer book, for example, the name of the church is clearly construed to be “The Episcopal Church.” More often than not, Episcopal News Service has written about “the Episcopal Church,” though it went through a brief period of insisting on “The Episcopal Church.

All of this is to say, that “The” on the second line of the Web site banner is probably what it needs to be. What, then, is “in the United States”? “The Episcopal Church in the United States” is not an official name of the church. If “in the United States” is simply a description, it would seem to be both redundant and inappropriate—redundant because, although there are other Anglican churches with “Episcopal Church” in their names, “The Episcopal Church” is unique; inappropriate because The Episcopal Church has outposts in other countries (e.g., Haiti).  One might quibble about “Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America,” but, like it or not, it is the legal name of the church.

I suspect that “of The Episcopal Church in the United States,” which was formulated immediately after the October 2008 split in the diocese, was meant to mirror the language of the stipulation that resulted from the lawsuit that Calvary Church initiated against diocesan leaders, including Bishop Robert Duncan. The stipulation refers to “the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America,” which is close to, but not quite, what ended up on the Web site. The stipulation wording raises the same sort of questions mentioned above. Although Episcopalians generally viewed the stipulation as unambiguous, Duncan and his attorneys argued otherwise. I never have understood why Walter DeForest, who handled the litigation for Calvary, did not use an official name of the church (preferably “Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America”).

It is time, I think, to change the banner on the Web Site. I would like to see “of The Episcopal Church,” “a diocese of The Episcopal Church,” or some such replacing the second line of the existing banner.

Below the banner I have been discussing, the diocesan Web site now displays this graphic:

The words “Public Gospel/Missional Communities/Leadership Formation” have recently replaced “Vibrant Episcopal Communities United in Christ.” I don’t know where the former wording came from, but it graced the Web site no later than December 2008. As a slogan for an Episcopal diocese, it is rather generic. (“Wounded Episcopal Communities United in Opposition to Bob Duncan” might have been more specific and honest, but that would have had limited public relations value or usefulness as an aspirational statement.)

Whatever one might say about “Vibrant Episcopal Communities United in Christ,” it reads like a slogan (or motto, if that sounds better to you), and it was positioned where such an element was appropriate.

What then of “Public Gospel/Missional Communities/Leadership Formation”? These are the three priorities articulated by Bishop McConnell in his address to the diocesan convention on November 2, 2013. Whatever the merits of these priorities, they are priorities, not a slogan. To the casual visitor to the Web site, they appear to be a laundry list, though it is not clear of what. In particular, although “Missional Communities” might, in some sense, describe the diocese—we used to use “Vibrant Episcopal Communities” after all—neither “Public Gospel” nor “Leadership Formation” does. The former is obscure, and the latter seems to refer to internal concerns not necessarily of interest to the casual Web visitor. An additional problem is that the only mention on the site of the bishop’s priorities is in his convention address. There is no independent explication of those priorities, as one might expect from the prominence of them on the Web site. Most visitors, however curious, will not know to look at the bishop’s address for more information.

If a slogan is to be on the diocesan Web site, I really don’t know what it should be. “Struggling Churches Seeking to Recover from Schism and Theft of Property” might be an honest description of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, but it suffers from what I take to be obvious deficiencies. For the time being, perhaps we should revert to “Vibrant Episcopal Communities United in Christ.”

Well, perhaps not all my musings about “little irritations” have turned out to be as brief as intended. Sorry about that.