April 29, 2015

Transformed Icon

I was in a drug store yesterday when my phone rang. I took out my LG Android cell phone and immediately realized that I had a problem. I couldn’t find the phone icon with which I usually answer a call. The caller hung up before I figured out what to do. I called back, no yet knowing what had happened.

Only after I got home did I discover the problem. Somehow, the phone icon had been replaced with the camera icon. (See the picture below. Click on it for a larger view.)

Phone with confusing icons circled
My LG Android phone with confusing
icons circled
Somehow, the phone icon was changed without (as far as I know) my doing anything to make it happen. Moreover, I cannot figure out how to change it back without downloading an app for the purpose. Actually, I can’t even be sure that would work. And it really shouldn’t be necessary, right?

Does anyone have a clue about how I could get my phone icon back?

April 28, 2015

In or Out?

The Episcopal Church is slow to rid itself of schismatic bishops. For example, Robert Duncan was deposed less than a month before the split of the Pittsburgh diocese he had engineered was effected; John-David Schofield was deposed only after he nearly destroyed the Diocese of San Joaquin by attempting to take most of it out of The Episcopal Church. Some bishops who are clearly functioning in rival churches still appear to be considered Episcopal Church bishops in good standing. Either publicly available information is out-of-date, or The Episcopal Church is asleep at the switch. Consider three examples.

David C. Bane

David C. Bane. joined the Anglican Church in North America after retiring as the Bishop of Southern Virginia. After informing Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of his having jumped ship, his renunciation was accepted. Episcopal News Service reported this June 15, 2009. ECDPlus, admittedly not the definitive source for information about Episcopal clergy, shows Bane as a bishop canonically resident in the Diocese of Southern Virginia. (ECDPlus pages here and below are shown as PDF pages, since the pages may change in the future.) This seems to be an out-of-date problem. Bane is no longer a bishop of The Episcopal Church, and both official and unofficial church records should reflect the fact.

Alden M. Hathaway

I have a special interest in Alden Hathaway, as he was bishop when I first came to live in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. It was Alden Hathaway who brought Robert Duncan into the diocese as canon to the ordinary. ECDPlus shows Hathaway as a bishop canonically resident in South Carolina. He is further identified as holding a position in the Parish Church of St. Helena in Beaufort, South Carolina. The problem here is that Hathaway is in the breakaway “diocese” headed by former Episcopal bishop Mark Lawrence, not the true Episcopal diocese, currently known as the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. (See list of churches here.) Hathaway is clearly violating his ordination vows and should be deposed. Is ECDPlus wrong—I suspect not—or has Hathaway somehow slipped through the cracks? I could find no mention of Hathaway’s being removed from The Episcopal Church in the Episcopal News Service archive. If he is still considered an Episcopal Church bishop, that needs to be changed. Is there a volunteer who would like to bring charges against the former Bishop of Pittsburgh?

Peter H. Beckwith

Peter Beckwith was Bishop of Springfield from 1992 to 2010. Beckwith has been an officer of the American Anglican Council and had charges brought against him for intervening in the Quincy property case in favor of the schismatics and against The Episcopal Church. Beckwith had long been working with people who set up the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). According to ACNA, he was officially welcomed into its College of Bishops on October 10, 2014. A month later, The Rev. Mark Harris reviewed Beckwith’s activities subverting The Episcopal Church over the years. Noting the official move to ACNA, Harris declared that Beckwith finally “has left the house.” He also observed that there seems to have been no move to remove him officially from the church he has left. Is there a volunteer who would like to bring charges against the former Bishop of Springfield?


Are there other bishops who should not be allowed to represent themselves as Episcopal Church bishops? (I do not pretend to have done an exhaustive search.) Possibly so. It is important to know who is in and who is out of our church. Those who have used their positions to undermine the church should not be allowed to remain in it. If they want to destroy The Episcopal Church, let them pursue their program from the outside. It is time for all Episcopalians to ask that schismatic bishops be removed from the church.

April 27, 2015

St. Paul’s to Allow Same-Sex Blessings

Today, I received a form letter from the Rev. Lou Hays, rector of my church, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania. The letter, dated April 24, 2015, explains that Lou will allow “the blessing of a lifelong covenant between people of the same sex” at St. Paul’s. In particular, he explains that
I have determined that we are willing to use this liturgy [authorized by the 2012 General Convention and allowed at the rector’s discretion by Bishop Dorsey McConnell] at St. Paul’s when appropriate circumstances warrant as outlined in the Bishop’s letter, with the additional requirement that at least one of the two be a parishioner of St. Paul’s. As instruments of Gods love, I believe this is the right thing for us to do. This decision follows a period of discernment, including work that [the Rev.] Michelle [Boomgaard] and the Vestry did on this subject last summer during my sabbatical.
I was delighted to receive this news of which I had no advance warning. I was not totally surprised, however. Shortly after coming to St. Paul’s presented a series of presentations on homosexuality that changed minds in the parish. (You can read Lou’s letter here.)

It would be interesting to know how many parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh have approved same-sex blessings in principle and how many have actually performed them. (Since same-sex marriage is legal in Pennsylvania, churches can, as I understand it, do more than simply bless a same-sex couple.) I do know that Calvary has actually performed ceremonies. Do readers know what other churches have done?

April 24, 2015

End of the Line for the Covenant at the General Convention

As a representative of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, along with the Rev. Malcolm French, I worked hard at the 2012 General Convention to get the convention to reject the Anglican Covenant outright. We were unsuccessful, and the General Convention served up a big warm pot of Anglican fudge:

Resolution Number: 2012-B005
Title: Continue Commitment to the Anglican Covenant Process
Legislative Action Taken: Concurred as Substituted

Final Text:
Resolved, That the 77th General Convention express its gratitude to those who so faithfully worked at producing and responding to the proposed Anglican Covenant (www.anglicancommunion.org/commission/covenant/final/text.cfm); and be it further
Resolved, That the 77th General Convention acknowledge that following extensive study and prayerful consideration of the Anglican Covenant there remain a wide variety of opinions and ecclesiological positions in The Episcopal Church; and be it further

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; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention ask the Presiding Officers to appoint a task force of Executive Council (Blue Book, 637) to continue to monitor the ongoing developments with respect to the Anglican Covenant and how this church might continue its participation; and be it further

Resolved, That the Executive Council task force on the Anglican Covenant report its findings and recommendations to the 78th General Convention.
General Convention, Journal of the General Convention of...The Episcopal Church, Indianapolis, 2012 (New York: General Convention, 2012), pp. 241-242.
The report from the Executive Council Task Force on the Anglican Covenant is now available here. That report doesn’t really report any “findings,” but it does contain a “recommendation,” namely, a proposed resolution. That resolution is the following:
A040: Affirm Response to the Anglican Covenant Process

Resolved, the House of _____ concurring, That the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church affirm our common identity and membership in the Anglican Communion as expressed in the preamble and first three sections of the Anglican Communion Covenant; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention direct The Episcopal Church's members of the Anglican Consultative Council to express our appreciation to the 16th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC16, Lusaka 2016) for the gift of inter-Anglican conversation and mutuality in God's mission engendered by the Anglican Communion Covenant process.
Pursuant to the charge given the B005 Task Force, we monitored Anglican and ACC activities regarding the Anglican Covenant process and believe this resolution to respond appropriately to the current status of this process in Anglicanism generally and the ACC specifically. This resolution has no budgetary implications.
No Anglican Covenant Coalition logo
At the outset, I should say that I would have The Episcopal Church reject the Covenant categorically. In my heart of hearts, I would like to see something like the resolution I proposed in a post on September 21, 2011. Admittedly this is a rather angry resolution that attempts to name every indignity visited upon The Episcopal Church by its sister churches of the Communion. The No Anglican Covenant Coalition proposed a more temperate resolution on April 27, 2012.

Although I would prefer to see the resolution from the Executive Council strengthened, I would not be especially upset were it to be passed as proposed. No doubt, however, there will be those at the convention who will seek to have the church offer a more conciliatory response to the Communion.

Here are some reasons for opponents of the Covenant to be satisfied with A040:
  1. Neither the Introduction nor Section Four is mentioned in the resolution.
  2. The resolution does not accept, adopt, affirm, or subscribe to the Covenant Preamble or Sections One, Two, and Three. Instead, it “affirm[s] our common identity and membership in the Anglican Communion” as set forth in those sections. It is not completely clear what this means, and it is likely to be seen as partial adoption by the Anglican Communion Office. It isn’t, however.
  3. The resolution does not even thank the Communion for its work on the Covenant. Instead it says that we are appreciative of  “the gift of inter-Anglican conversation and mutuality in God’s mission engendered by the Anglican Communion Covenant process.” The process has been useful, but, implicitly, the product is not so good.
  4. The resolution in no way suggests that The Episcopal Church will have anything more to do with the Covenant. The implication is that we are done with this project and will have no part in the implementation of the Covenant.
I am not completely satisfied that the resolution suggests some significant value in any of the Covenant, but the resolution appears not to commit The Episcopal Church to anything significant. I expect to say more about the sections of the Covenant referred to in the resolution later

Update, 5/15/2015: In my May 14, 2015, post “Further Thoughts on the Anglican Covenant and the General Convention,” I offer and justify amendments to Resolution A040 that I believe would make it more honest and acceptable.

Update, 5/21/2015: In my May 21, 2015, post “More on the Anglican Covenant Resolution” I suggest another reason that any resolution about the Covenant should not be construed as endorsing any part of the pact.

Don’t Take General Convention Reports at Face Value

I am not the only Episcopalian gobsmacked by the report to the General Convention by the Board of Trustees of the General Theological Seminary.

GTS Shield
The two-page report paints an encouraging picture of a seminary emerging from financial difficulties and implementing an innovative program that will better prepare men and women for ordained roles in The Episcopal Church, while at the same time easing the financial burden of a first-class seminary education. General Convention deputies should be pleased and move along to more pressing matters of business, right?

The reality, of course, is that the General Theological Seminary of The Episcopal Church has been in chaos since the beginning of the academic year and, in the opinion of many, its continued existence after nearly two centuries is in doubt. (For readers for whom this is news, this story will give you some idea of what has been going on at the church’s oldest seminary. See Google for other stories and perspectives.)

The main body of the GTS Board of Trustees’ report is under one thousand words long, about a page and a half. About 13% of the report recounts the history of the seminary. A bit more than 19% concerns “A Plan to Choose Life,” which is mostly about the improved financial health of the seminary. Somewhat short of half the report (about 44%) concerns a new program, The Way of Wisdom and The Wisdom Year. This is described as a growing success. One paragraph concerns the hiring of  the Very Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle as Dean and President, which contributes about 10% of the report. A final paragraph addresses the upcoming 200th anniversary of the seminary and its readiness for the next 200 years (another 6%). The final 6% of the report, arguably, alludes to the troubles besetting GTS in the current academic year:
Under Dean Dunkle’s leadership, General Seminary is addressing, head-on, the changing world and the changing Church. This rapid reshaping has not been without some disruption—change is always painful, but it is essential to ensure the viability of General. We know that others in the seminary system are struggling with many of the same issues.
Additionally, in the final paragraph, there is also a reference to “working through disruptions that result from rapid change.”.

In fact, most of the faculty went on strike, intending to form a union, because the new Dean and President was viewed as an insensitive autocrat who acts more like a shift manager at McDonald’s than an academic administrator. No mention is made of faculty members being fired for their efforts and rehired, less tenure, for the remainder of the academic year. Nothing is said about the faculty members who are leaving or might leave. The report is silent about the fact that, despite pleas from students, alumni, and interested Episcopalians, the Board of Trustees continues to assert its complete confidence in Dean Dunkle.

The Board of Trustees, which has, I think, acted with even less integrity and common sense than has Dean Dunkle in the faculty fracas, produced a report that does not simply put a happy face on a bad situation. Instead, the report intentionally misrepresents reality and misleads General Convention deputies. It is as if there was a nuclear war and a report on the past year failed to mention it. This is hardly the sort of behavior one expects from a church board.

The General Convention elects certain members of the General Theological Seminary board. It should take a vote of no confidence in the current members of the board and request their resignation. It should elect members to the board with academic experience, preferably, but not exclusively, in seminaries.

It is clear from the GTS report that deputies should not take reports it receives at face value. I, for one, will lose a good deal of faith in the governance of this church if deputies do not challenge the GTS Board of Trustees and take some action directed at assuring that the General Seminary of The Episcopal Church does, in fact, last to its 200th year and beyond.

April 23, 2015

Analyzing the TREC Report, Part 3

This is the third installment in a series of essays on the final report of the Task Force for Reimagining The Episcopal Church. An index to all my posts analyzing the TREC report can be found here.
Captain Obvious
Captain Obvious
The more I read the final report from the Task Force for Reimagining The Episcopal Church, the more dissatisfied I become with TREC’s performance.The keyword in the task force’s name is Reimagining. In fact, TREC seems to have done little reimagining, little thinking about the appropriate nature of the church based on first principles. The report cites the Five Marks of Mission, of course, and a passage of questionable relevance from Luke, but, even if all the recommendations in the report were adopted, The Episcopal Church would not look much different from how it looks today.

In many ways, the report looks as though it was written by Captain Obvious—seminaries should do their jobs, the Church Pension Fund should do its job, we should eliminate inessential standing bodies, etc. Perhaps the only non-obvious recommendation is for a unicameral legislature. Even this is not a new or radical idea.

In its nine General Convention resolutions, the TREC report gets deeply into details of tweaking the church as it is now. If one actually compares resolutions to existing constitutional and canonical provisions, a comparison inexplicably missing from its report, it becomes obvious that the task force worked hard to change as little as possible. Even formulations likely to raise objections are often lifted unchanged from our existing governing documents.

Where is the new vision for a 21st-centuy Episcopal Church? The task force might better have spent its time dreaming of a new church built from the ground up and letting others worry about the details of implementation. To be sure, General Convention would not dissolve the church and start over from scratch, but a more visionary report might have provided a better long-term goal toward which to work.

Consider the task force’s recommendations for the General Convention. Even taking into account the change from two to one legislative body, not much is really changed. No recommendations are made concerning its frequency of meeting, and no suggestions are made to allow more younger people and ordinary working people to play an effective part in church governance. Could we have more frequent, shorter meetings? more electronic meeting? Were such ideas even considered by the task force?

Who would be part of the General Convention under the TREC plan? Happily, Resolution A002 excludes retired bishops from seats at the General Convention. This idea has often been proposed and has always been voted down. Perhaps things will be different this year. What I have not seen remarked upon is the exclusion of  assistant bishops. Why are suffragans included but assistant bishops and retired bishops are not? Arguments could be made here, but they have not been. Further, there are some problems with the Article I revision. An assistant or retired bishop is not automatically included qua bishop, but can they attend at all, that is, could they be elected as clergy deputies? It seems not, but the matter is unclear. Moreover, electing an otherwise disqualified bishop takes a slot away from ordinary clergy.

Our current Article I allows diocese to send as many as four clergy and four lay deputies to the General Convention. TREC has this to say about deputies:
[Dioceses] shall be entitled to representation in the General Convention by three ordained persons, priests, or deacons (“Clergy”) canonically resident in the diocese, and not more than three lay persons
Under this provision, one suspects that diocese would send three clergy and three laypeople as deputies. Why does TREC say “three ordained persons” and “not more than three lay persons”? In the current Article I, the provisions for clergy and lay deputies are phrased identically. What is going on here? Is TREC encouraging a diminished number of lay deputies? Who knows. The provision is strange.

Some people have been perplexed by this TREC provision:
General Convention by Canon may reduce the representation to not fewer than two deputies in each order.
This seems like a radical idea, but, in fact, the provision is in our current Constitution! Personally, I think we should be rid of this.

One can argue, of course, that a smaller General Convention will be more “efficient.” This is perhaps true with respect to legislative sessions, but it may be a burden on legislative committees. In any case, reducing the number of clergy and lay deputies will necessarily reduce what diversity there is at General Convention. Minorities of whatever sort—theological, racial, etc.—will have less opportunity to be elected deputies if there are fewer deputies sent from each diocese. This is especially true since one sees many of the same people at each General Convention. Certain clergy and laypeople are sent to the convention again and again. Reducing the number of deputies will make it even harder for new blood to find its way to the convention. (Of course, the good news is that perennial deputies do die.) Perhaps deputies should be term-limited. The experience of the old hands is useful, but not to the exclusion of new deputies.

If TREC was simply interested in decreasing the size of the General Convention, it could have left the number of lay deputies per diocese at four and decreased the number of clergy. General Convention is dominated by ordained persons, yet most Episcopalians are not ordained.

I find it somewhat depressing that I am writing about such small changes in our church polity. I am not alone in being unexcited by the TREC report. I had hoped for an exciting vision of a newly empowered church. I don’t think the TREC report will inspire much joy in Salt Lake City.

April 22, 2015

Analyzing the TREC Report, Part 2

This is the second installment in a series of essays on the final report of the Task Force for Reimagining The Episcopal Church. An index to all my posts analyzing the TREC report can be found here.
This second essay on the TREC report was intended to focus on aspects of the General Convention. It will, instead, focus on the mechanics of the actual report. I should explain.

As I was rereading the report, which I had on my computer and tablet, as well as on paper, I found it was difficult to navigate from one location in the report to another. Perhaps, I thought, it would be useful to add bookmarks to the PDF file, which would provide an effective table of contents.When I went to do that, both for myself and for others who might find that useful, I discovered that bookmarks were already in the file, but file properties were set to show only pages, rather than pages and bookmarks, when the file is opened: one mark for the task force and one mark against the task force.

For some reason, I opened the report on the Blue Book home page. To my surprise, I discovered a report that was 62-, not 73-pages long. The report I had been working from (and from which I derived page numbers for my previous post) was the report originally released on December 15, 2014, and the report to which the ENS story of the release was linked. (Resolution C095 called for a final report to the General Convention to be produced by November 2014. The actual release date and a certain lack of polish in the report suggest that the task force was struggling to make its deadline.)

The image below shows the Description tabs of the Document Properties pages of the originally released PDF and of the file now on the Blue Book page. Note that the Modified dates are, respectively, December 15, 2014, and January 6, 2015, and the number of pages are 73 and 62. (Click on the image for a larger view.) To confuse matters further, a page on the TREC Web site has a link to the original release and to another file from two days later that is also 73 pages long. (I have no idea how these two December versions differ, but I suspect that they do so very little.

There is good news and bad news regarding the report that is now officially part of the Blue Book. The text is unchanged (but see below), though everything has been reformatted. The font and the margins are smaller, certain lists are formatted differently, and type styles (roman, boldface, italic) differ in places. All of this makes the “new” version less readable, but only marginally so. Given that the Blue Book is electronic this year, it was hardly necessary to reduce the page count by making the print smaller.

Everything appears in the same order in both versions, but the “new” file includes an introductory page containing the task force membership and a summary of work. The TREC membership is still listed in Appendix 1, though the dioceses of the members have been deleted. A new page containing (minimal) budget information has been added before the list of appendices. Finally, the Blue Book version of the final report has lost its title (“Engaging God’s Mission in the 21st Century: Final Report of the Task Force for Reimagining The Episcopal Church”) The page header now reads “Report to the 78th General Convention” and the page footer reads “Task Force for Reimagining The Episcopal Church.”

Why any of these changes were seen as necessary, I do not know.

The most unfortunate deficiency of the Blue Book PDF is the lack of bookmarks. For the benefit of deputies who may want to jump around in the report in a hurry, I have produced a new version of the report with bookmarks. The text is unchanged. You can find it here. I have resisted adding bookmarks within sections to avoid bookmark clutter. I have the new version will be viewed as helpful.

April 20, 2015

Analyzing the TREC Report, Part 1

This is the first installment in a series of essays on the final report of the Task Force for Reimagining The Episcopal Church. An index to all my posts analyzing the TREC report can be found here.
I have written a good deal about the work of the Task Force for Reimagining The Episcopal Church (TREC). (See blog posts here, here, here, here, and here.) I have not yet had anything to say about the final report produced by TREC, which includes specific proposals the task force wants the 2015 General Convention to adopt.

TREC logoI have repeatedly begun reading the TREC report and have found it rough going. The General Convention is fast approaching, however, so I think it’s time for me to get serious about the report if I’m going to have anything to say at all.

My original plan was to write a single essay about the report, perhaps to be accompanied by an annotated version of it to highlight particular issues. As I worked my way through the document, however, the significance of its 73-page length became apparent. There is a lot of material there, and the individual pieces are tightly coupled.

This led me to develop Plan B. I will begin a series of essays about “Engaging God’s Mission in the 21st Century: Final Report of the Task Force for Reimagining The Episcopal Church.” These reflections will appear here in no particular order. (Part 2 is here.)

This first essay addresses some global issues and looks in depth at what appears to be a minor recommendation of the task force. My primary concern is the task force’s Resolution A009. My comments on the overall report are mainly to provide context for an analysis of that resolution.

General Remarks on the Report


One might reasonably have expected that the task force would have followed a plan something like the following in presenting its recommendations:
  1. Articulate the problem or problems to be solved, illustrating the discussion with helpful examples.
  2. Analyze the factors contributing to the problems.
  3. Enumerate solutions considered.
  4. Indicate and justify the approaches considered best.
  5. Explain how the chosen approaches are likely to ameliorate the problems identified.
  6. Describe how the proposed solutions might be implemented. (Implementation could become yet another problem to be solved.)
In fact, this is nothing like what we see in the report. The problems besetting The Episcopal Church are not described in detail, and proposed solutions are not effectively tied to those problems.

There is a consensus, at least among General Convention deputies, that all is not well with The Episcopal Church, but not everyone agrees on just what is amiss. Curiously, a major reason the 2012 General Convention passed Resolution C095 creating TREC was an intense dissatisfaction with the way budget proposals were handled in 2009 and 2012. The task force has not even identified the budgeting process as a problem, however.

I will have more to say about the approach taken by the task force and the structure of its report in a later essay.

The three major proposals of the task force are presented early in the body of the report, but detailed explanations, such as they are, are only provided in Appendix 3. Even there, one finds more naïve optimism and hand waving than analysis and realism. The six resolutions intended to implement fully the changes in the main proposals are relegated to Appendix 5, where the explanations are, to be generous, modest. As always, the devil is in the details, and the General Convention will be making a serious mistake if it fails to pay as much attention to Appendix 5 as it does to the main body of the report.

In any case, it seems fair to say that the primary recommendation of the task force is the restructuring of the General Convention, along with the redefinition of certain church positions. These changes drive much of the implementing resolutions relegated to Appendix 5.

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society

One of the canons that has to be revised if TREC’s proposals are adopted is Canon I.3, Of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. The explanation offered for replacing the current canon with the text in the Final Report is the following:
This Resolution conforms the Constitution of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society to the changes proposed in other Resolutions to the makeup of the DFMS officers.
That seems straightforward enough and encourages the reader to skim the proposed text and conclude that it looks perfectly reasonable. This is especially true, as the proposed Canon I.3 appears on pages 72 and 73 of the 73-page Final Report. All is not as it seems, however.

The task force has proposed a number of substantial changes to the constitution and canons of the church. In doing so, it has offered replacement text without reference to the current article or canon. This makes it difficult to see exactly what is being proposed and puts an undue burden on deputies who want to understand what they may be asked to vote on. It is not clear if this approach was dictated by time constraints or by a desire to obfuscate. Had the task force clearly indicated what is wanted to change and why, its approach might have been forgivable. As it did not, it isn’t. In fact, one has to ask if even the members of TREC really know what they were doing, as we shall see.

The final resolution proposed by the task force, Resolution A009, offers replacement text for Canon I.3, Of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. Resolution A009 mistakenly says that it is offering a replacement for Canon 1.4, an identification that contains two distinct errors. Presumably, this is the sort of typographical error that will be caught and corrected by a legislative committee, though it calls into question the care with which the report was written.

To facilitate the discussion of Resolution A009, the reader may want to read the current canon, the proposed replacement, and the comparison of the two generated by Microsoft Word.

I now want to consider the changes being made by TREC. I should first note that there is a minor inconsistency in the current canon, namely the use of the in the canon’s title, whereas the first word in the name of the DFMS is always rendered The in the canon’s body.

Now consider the minor changes made by the task force:
  1. In line 2, and is substituted for as for no obvious reason. The meaning is unchanged.
  2. Article II changes the name of the society by eliminating the prefixed The and the terminating of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. (I will have more to say about Article II below.)
  3. In line 2 of Article II, in line 3 of Article III, and in the final line of Article III, By-laws has been changed to bylaws, which, of course, reflects more modern spelling and capitalization. On the other hand, in its rewrite of Canon I.1.2, the task force substituted by-laws for By-laws, which introduces an inconsistency in TREC’s own recommendations, albeit not one of substance. In the current canons, By-laws appears elsewhere as well. TREC should have conformed to current conventions, even if they are archaic.
  4. Throughout the proposed revised Canon 3, the Society is replaced by the DFMS, an acronym introduced in Article I. Again, this is not a substantive change, but it is an unnecessary stylistic one.
  5. At the end of Article III, TREC has substituted with the Canons for therewith, presumably on the theory that nobody says therewith anymore. The change is gratuitous but harmless.
The substitution of Presiding Deputy for President of the House of Deputies and the substitution of Church General Manager for Chief Operating Officer are clearly necessitated by “the changes proposed in other Resolutions.”

There are more substantive changes here, however. Consider the matter of the Treasurer of the DFMS. According to the present Canon I.3, the Treasurer of the DFMS is “the person who is the Chief Financial Officer of the Executive Council.” Executive Council appoints a Chief Financial Officer, who is nominated by the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies, the Council’s Chair and Vice Chair, respectively (Canon I.4.3(e)). According to Canon I.1.7(a), the person who is the Treasurer of the General Convention is a member of the Executive Council and “may also be Treasurer of the Domestic & Foreign Missionary Society and the Executive Council.” (I assume that what is meant is “may be the Treasurer of the Domestic & Foreign Missionary Society and the Chief Financial Officer of the Executive Council,” since nowhere is there mention of a Treasurer of the Executive Council who is not the Chief Financial Officer. This is another instance of an inconsistency in the current canons.) In practice, it appears that the Treasurer of the General Convention, the Treasurer of the DFMS, and the Chief Financial Officer of the Executive Council are virtually always the same person.

So much for the way things are. What about how things would be were all of the task force’s recommendations adopted. When I tried to figure this out, I was immediately perplexed by this sentence in the proposed Resolution A009:
The Treasurer shall also serve as the Chief Financial Officer of the DFMS.
This seemingly corresponds to the current wording, which is
the Treasurer shall be the person who is the Chief Financial Officer of the Executive Council;
The careless reader might mistake these excerpts as saying essentially the same thing in a slightly different way. Of the 13 words in the proposed canon and 16 words in the current canon, 9 occur in both in the same order. They do not, however, say the same thing. In the second instance, “Treasurer” clearly refers to the Treasurer of the DFMS. Article III lists the DFMS officers and the proceeds to identify who those people are. In the present canons, the DFMS Treasurer is the person who is the Chief Financial Officer of the Executive Council.

Resolution A009 says that the Treasurer—presumably, the Treasurer of the DFMS—is also the Chief Financial Officer of the DFMS. (I don’t pretend to understand the difference between a Treasurer and a Chief Financial Officer, by the way, but I am led to believe that, in the arena of corporate organization, the two positions have different duties.) This provision is actually redundant, as the proposed Canon I.4.1(o) says that the DFMS Treasurer is also the DFMS Chief Financial Officer. It also says that the DFMS Treasurer is nominated by the Council’s Chair and Vice Chair. Notice, however, than in the current arrangement, it is the Chief Financial Officer of the Executive Council who is so nominated. In the new Canon I.3, Executive Council is without its own Treasurer or Chief Financial Officer. The significance of this is unclear, but it cries out for an explanation. The conventional understanding has been that the Board of Directors of the DFMS is Executive Council. That arrangement seems confused in the TREC report.

The matter of financial officers is further confused by the introduction of the Church Treasurer, who, according to proposed Canon I.4.1(g) is on Executive Council, though without vote. Who is the Church Treasurer? This person is given duties in the TREC report and provision is made for removing the incumbent, but nowhere does the report say how one becomes Church Treasurer. Is this someone different from the Treasurer of General Convention and that of the DFMS. Who knows? General Convention deputies had better find out.

What about the Secretary of the DFMS? In both current and proposed polity, the Secretary of the General Convention is designated the Secretary of Executive Council. In the proposed Canon I.3, however, the identify of the DFMS Secretary is never specified. Moreover, several lines concerning the DFMS Secretary have been stricken. What is going on here? Again, General Convention deputies had better find out what is going on here.

What is most perplexing about the proposed Canon I.3 is the changed nature of the DFMS. Two major changes have been made to Article I of the DFMS constitution. First, of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America has been stricken from the name of the DFMS. Second, the DFMS now includes “all persons who are members of the Church.” The task force is changing the name of the DFMS and throwing everyday Episcopalians out of it!

A quick history lesson is appropriate here. The DFMS was created in the early days of the church to extend the church into newly settled areas of the country and to spread the Gospel abroad. As a corporation, it could collect money, whereas the unincorporated Episcopal Church could not. At first, it was financed by subscriptions, but it was eventually decided that mission was the work of everyone, so everyone was included in the DFMS, which was incorporated in the state of New York. In the modern church, the DFMS and The Episcopal Church have essentially been coterminous. Only the lawyers and accountants could tell them apart, and the distinction was of no interest to the average Episcopalian. Lately, however, Bishop Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer of The Episcopal Church has been identifying the general church’s staff as The Missionary Society, in an apparent attempt to distinguish it (or the DFMS) from The Episcopal Church proper. (I do wish the General Convention would put a stop to this nonsense, but I don’t want to get into that here.) I think the purpose of this unilateral renaming is to polish the image of the New York office, which has not always been viewed favorably in the hinterlands.

Article I of the DFMS constitution that TREC would have the General Convention adopt seems to have the effect of disconnecting the DFMS from The Episcopal Church and its members. This appears to be a public relations ploy or power play or both. General Convention deputies had better figure this one out as well.

Some Final Thoughts


Irrespective of how one feels about the wisdom embedded in “Engaging God’s Mission in the 21st Century: Final Report of the Task Force for Reimagining The Episcopal Church,” the report is frankly an impenetrable mess. Even discounting the fact that recommendations are presented with very little analysis and justification, what is actually being recommended is very difficult to wrap one’s mind around. Additional text and a few key diagrams could have gone a long way toward helping deputies understand what they might be expected to vote on in Salt Lake City.

Evidence suggests that the members of TREC had lots of discussions, including discussions about the shape of the final report. That report was probably assembled hurriedly and without much checking for consistency and unintended consequences.

One thing is certain. If deputies simply read the TREC report without studying it for hours on end, they will have little idea of what the proposed changes actually mean for the church. Pray for the General Convention.

April 18, 2015

A Packaging Suggestion

Honey Nut Cheerios
I bought a box of Honey Nut Cheerios the other day and opened the box at breakfast yesterday morning. Like every other dry cereal I know about, the product is packed in a bag that is hard to open and impossible to reseal. (I use clips to secure the bag after I’ve rolled down the top, but this is hardly a perfect solution to keeping the cereal fresh.)

Why is it that cereal makers have not developed packaging that is easy to open and easy to close? Shredded cheese, for example, often comes in a plastic bag with a tear-off top and a built-in two-part seal. The design isn’t ideal, but it’s more user-friendly than anything one finds in a cereal box.

I don’t think cereal packaging has changed since I was a boy. Isn’t it time that it did?

CEREAL EATERS OF THE WORLD UNITE! Tell General Mills, Kellogg’s, Post, etc., that new packaging is needed.

April 14, 2015

Blog Post One Thousand

I’ve been writing this blog since 2002, that is, for more than 13 years. According to my very first post, I was inspired by an article in Time to begin this project. That first post was a promise of things to come, and, in retrospect, was a fair introduction. I changed the formatting of the blog at some point, however, so that the links referred to in the post as being on the left are now on the right. It isn’t practical to keep such references up-to-date, though I do occasionally change a link that’s no longer correct.

This blog post is my one-thousandth effort, which means that I have written an essay here about once every five days for 13 years.

In that first post, I implied that my blog, like my Web site, would be eclectic. I suggested that many posts would deal with political subjects. Little did I realize that well over half my posts would be religion-related. You can check this out on my blog’s Table of Contents, an unusual feature of my blog that I created to make it easier to find old posts. (The Table of Contents classified posts as religious, language-related, blog-related, and everything else, including political topics.)

I know more about what I write, of course, than who reads what I write. Posts about The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion tend to attract more readers that other essays, and, since I do write about religion a lot, I feel justified in having a Blogging Episcopalian badge on my blog pages. Many readers are clearly Episcopalians. Some readers, mostly Episcopalians, I presume, have signed up to receive notice of my church-related posts.

I wish I had more readers of my political and linguistic posts. I probably don’t write enough about such topics to attract a regular readership, however. My occasional poems that I post seem to be read least of all (sigh!). If any of you reading this are poetry fans, check out the Poetry section of my Web site.

When I began writing my blog, I did not provide for comments. I was concerned that reading and responding to comments could become a serious time sink. (Posts on Father Jake Stops the World, a blog I read regularly, often attracted more than 100 comments.) As it happens, I needn’t have worried and would usually like to see more comments and genuine discussion on the site. I am told that many blogs are attracting fewer comments these days—some of the conversation has moved to Facebook, for example—though lively conversations are common on Thinking Anglicans and blogs hosted by periodicals. Are my posts insufficiently stimulating, or are they so comprehensive that there is little left to say? I have no idea. Would anyone like to explain why they never leave comments?

Anyway, thanks for reading. I hope you will find the next thousand posts worth reading.

April 13, 2015

Irritating Closed Compounds

The beginning of the baseball season has reminded me of one of my pet peeves—the closing up of compounds that produce spellings that invite misreading or mispronunciation. For example, when one writes ground out as groundout, the resulting word looks as though it should be voiced as groun-dout, which obscures the meaning. The word I find most annoying, however, is fundraising (along with fundraiser, etc.). The word appears to be fun-draising. (A related peeve is the use of fundraise as a verb. Why say He will fundraise for the charity instead of He will raise funds for the charity?)

Many compounds that began as open compounds or hyphenated ones get closed, and the language is no worse for the development. Railroad comes to mind. In past times, it was written as rail road or rail-road. The modern spelling cannot be wrongly divided into syllables, since the digraph lr is unknown in English. Other innocuous compounds include driveway, carriageway, dishwasher, cowboy, sideline, etc.

April 11, 2015

An Easter Vigil Not to Boycott

I was surprised to read Crusty Old Dean’s blog post “Why I Boycott the Easter Vigil: This Service Will Not Stand, Man!” The Easter Vigil is the highlight of the church year and my favorite church service, and I was upset that COD, with whom I agree more often than not, seemed to have a very different view.

As it happens, COD is not opposed to the Easter Vigil in principle. Instead, he believes that we have tamed the service in a way that saps its power. He explains
This is why, by and large, I boycott the Easter Vigil.  The Easter Vigil proclaims the craziest thing about Christianity:  that shameful, humiliating failure that is Good Friday is not the end, that God raised Jesus from the dead in a way we can never understand or comprehend, and that, in doing so, God rejiggered how we relate to one another and to God for all eternity.  That is f*****g [sic] nuts, people. Or, to paraphrase the ancient church theologian Tertullian, “I believe it because it is absurd.” 
He further says that
The reason Crusty boycotts most Easter vigils is because they rarely communicate this. Instead, they mostly have seemed to be just kind of longer versions of every other Sunday service.
COD then describes an Orthodox Easter Vigil, which begins late at night and is quite explicit about Jesus being dead following the events of Good Friday.There is actually a tomb (more like a coffin, apparently) in the darkened church. COD notes that the priest enters the church around midnight. He then describes what happens next:
The cloth is lifted from the tomb, carried over the head of the priest, and the congregations processes outside and around the church three times, before stopping at the front door as I first experienced. The pounding on the door by the priest is a ritual re-enactment of the rock to the tomb cracking open, as he shouts, “Christ is Risen!” the doors open. You know when the resurrection happens in an Orthodox Easter Vigil. Once you process back inside, the church has been completely redecorated and is dazzling white, and the service itself includes a whole host of prayers and hymns you never hear any other time, as well as the same sermon preached every year, as the Easter Homily of St John Chrysostom is read. You could never, ever, ever mistake the Easter Vigil, as my dad did, as just a longer version of the regular Sunday service.
It was this paragraph that convinced me to write this particular essay, as I believe that I have both taken part in and had a hand in planning Easter Vigils in an Episcopal parish that fully communicated Jesus’ journey from death to life. As for the sermon, I only just wrote a blog post (“The Best Easter Sermon Ever”) promoting the John Chrysostom sermon.

Fourteen years ago, I wrote “An Easter Vigil Memoir” describing my impression of my first Easter Vigil. I eventually became involved in planning the Vigil for St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon. Over the years, we fine-tuned the service. Perhaps it was never as dramatic as the Orthodox service that COD loves, but I suspect that he would nevertheless approve. (We never walked around the church, which is on a hill and difficult to walk around.)

Alas, my current rector is not big on drama, so I’m sure COD would not like the current Easter Vigil at St. Paul’s. I haven’t attended in years myself, though I have not found a Vigil that really excites me. Perhaps I should attend an Orthodox church next year. (I had never thought of that before.)

Anyway, let me describe the features of St. Paul’s’ Vigil of former years and explain why I think the service would meet with COD’s approval. The service begins in darkness, of course. The new fire is started outside and is brought into the church more or less in the normal way. In some years, the congregation began in the church, in other years people entered with their candles from outside, following the Paschal candle. The altar party enters wearing black cassocks. All this is pretty straightforward.

The Old Testament lessons are read in a dark church, interspersed with music and collects. (I always argued for nine readings—this became something of a standing joke in Worship Commission meetings—but we never read more than four.) After the last reading, the altar party left the chancel—their leaving was hardly noticed, as the church was still very dark—and returned unseen to the narthex via the undercroft. Meanwhile, members of the Altar Guild removed black veils from flowers around both the high altar and the altar at the crossing. They also brought in additional flowers.

While the Alter Guild was busy, the altar party had changed into vestments that would be normal for a Sunday morning Eucharist. Then comes what I consider the exciting part. With the church still in darkness, there comes a knock at the door at the rear of the nave. Someone inside says, “Whom do you seek?” A voice from the narthex replies, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Inside, the voice—it is the rector’s—says, “Alleluia. Christ is risen.” As the congregation responds, “The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.,” all the lights come up, a fanfare is played by organ and brass, and a second procession takes place, with the altar party arrayed for the Eucharist. After the fanfare, the Gloria is sung as the candles in the chancel are lit. Then follows the sermon and Baptism.

By placing the Easter acclamation before the sermon and Baptism, those parts of the service can be both more joyous and better illuminated.

Not only is the dialogue at the back of the church dramatic, I find that I cannot even describe it without tearing up. It is a moving moment that I think even COD would appreciate, as it well symbolizes the journey of Jesus from death to life. The dialogue is not in the prayer book, of course, but there is evidence that its origins are ancient. It recalls the women’s experience at the tomb on the first Easter morning.

Note: I wrote about staging the Easter Vigil last year, but it seemed appropriate to revisit the topic in light of the COD post. Interested readers may want to look over my notes on the Vigil from the last year in which I was involved.

April 7, 2015

A Proposal to Improve Oil Train Safety

In the May 2015 issue, Trains columnists Don Phillips and Fred W. Frailey each address the dangers of carrying oil by rail. This is a topic of great concern to the public at large, given the recent spate of derailments resulting in exploding tank cars. The columns are not reassuring.

Don Phillips emphasizes the necessity of shipping oil by rail and points out that many other equally dangerous commodities—he mentions chlorine and anhydrous ammonia—can also be found on our trains. I think I was supposed to find this reassuring:
There has not been a single death in an oil-train wreck in the United States in six years, and little off-rail damage. Even if the fiery wrecks had been in cities, oil tank cars generally don’t explode immediately. There is usually time to evacuate.
Phillips seems to think that reporters are paying too much attention to derailments involving oil tank cars in the aftermath of the Lac-Mégantic disaster in Quebec.

Fred Frailey avoids blaming the messengers and attempts to provide some useful context in which to view oil train accidents. He is decidedly not reassuring, noting, for example, that, in a number of recent accidents, the tank cars involved have been the reputedly safer CPC-1232 variety, not the much maligned DOT-111 design. Accidents happen, and, even though something like 99.995% of railcars carrying crude oil reach their destination without incident, that percentage is still not 100. Given the incidence of derailments in the U.S., Frailey estimates that we can expect “nine or 10 accidents annually involving loaded crude-oil trains.” He urges railroads to improve safety through increased maintenance and inspection. Accidents have decreased by half in the last decade, but more progress is needed.

If crude oil is to be moved by rail, can its transportation be made safer by means other than maintenance and inspection? In theory, of course, the answer is yes, but costs can be prohibitive. Phillips suggests that shipping blocks of tank cars in regular manifest trains rather than in unit oil trains “would be too complicated and too costly.” Frailey, acknowledging that moving oil trains at lower speeds would decrease the frequency of serious accidents, argues that the effect on rail traffic generally would be crippling, as it would decrease the carrying capacity of the existing rail infrastructure.

Any safety improvements in rail shipment of crude oil will come at a price, and no change, no matter how costly, will reduce risk to zero.

A Proposal

A suggestion I have not heard is the use of idler cars in oil trains, that is, empty flatcars or boxcars placed between tank cars or cuts of tank cars. What has been particularly scary about oil train accidents has been the successive explosion of adjacent cars. Idler cars would tend to limit the number of oil-laden cars leaving the track in a derailment, as well as offer something of a firewall between tank cars. (Boxcars, which are plentiful, would probably work better than flatcars in this application.) No doubt, Don Phillips would complain about the cost and complexity of this safety move, but I would argue that it isn’t that complex. A cost-benefit analysis would be needed to choose the optimum number of loaded tank cars between the idler cars. In light of recent accidents, I suspect that number is less than 20, perhaps a good deal less.

My proposal would cost money, but it undoubtedly would decrease the severity of oil train derailments, even if no other steps were taken to improve safety.

April 4, 2015

The Best Easter Sermon Ever

One Easter, the Rev. Michael Randolph, who was then interim rector of St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon, used the famous Easter sermon by Saint John Chrysostom as his own Easter sermon. I don’t remember if the sermon was preached at the Great Vigil of Easter, Easter Sunday, or both. Michael was very theatrical, however, and he did a remarkable job of preaching this wonderful sermon. I love this sermon because it is joyful and brief. Could an Easter sermon possibly be any better than this one? For many years, I encouraged priests at St. Paul’s to use this sermon as their Easter message, but I never convinced any of them. Too bad. The text below is from Anglicans Online.

The Easter sermon of John Chrysostom (circa 400 AD)

Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!

Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!

If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.

To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!

First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!

Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.

Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.

Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.

Isaiah foretold this when he said,
“You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below.”
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.

Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!

Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

April 2, 2015

Pittsburgh Episcopal Church to Harbor Breakaway Presbyterian Congregation

St. David’s Episcopal Church, in Peters Township, has agreed to allow a Presbyterian group that broke away from the Presbyterian Church (USA) (PCUSA) to use its facilities, beginning May 3. St. David’s, a church of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, is located in suburban Pittsburgh, less than a mile away from the former Peters Creek United Presbyterian Church. In 2007, members of Peters Creek voted to leave their denomination for the more conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church. After a long legal battle, what is now called Peters Creek Evangelical Church lost its bid to retain the property the church has occupied at 250 Brookwood Road in Venetia, Pennsylvania.

St. David’s Episcopal Church
St. David’s Episcopal Church
The arrangement between Peters Creek and St. David’s is described in a March 26 story in The Almanac, a weekly community newspaper. According to The Almanac, litigation resulted in a determination that the Washington Presbytery, not the Peters Creek Church, should control the property on Brookwood Road.

The Peters Creek congregation was in court to gain clear title to the church’s property even before the November 4, 2007, vote to disaffiliate from PCUSA. The breakaway group achieved early legal victories, but Commonwealth Court nullified these on April 30, 2014, and determined that church property had to remain with PCUSA. An appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was denied on October 29, 2014, and final judgment was rendered by the Washington County Court of Common Pleas on December 2, 2014. (See the Washington Observer-Reporter story of December 9, 2014.) That decision left the breakaway group in the Brookwood Road building. Peters Creek Evangelical Presbyterian Church was required to pay $3,000 monthly rent to the presbytery, retroactive to October 29, and negotiate a final settlement. (The Commonwealth Court decision of April 30, 2014, nicely summarizes the complex litigation involving Peters Creek.)

The Web site of Peters Creek Evangelical Church currently carries this notice on its home page:
 The congregation of Peters Creek Evangelical Presbyterian Church (PCEPC) in Peters Township, overwhelmingly voted on Sunday, March 22 to vacate the property at 250 Brookwood Road, Venetia, which they are currently leasing from the PC(USA)’s Washington Presbytery. The congregation has given the Washington Presbytery the 30 days advance notice required to leave the property. The last Sunday service of PCEPC at this location will be held on April 26 with a celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  This service will mark the end of 220 years of continuous worship at this location. PCEPC invites the community to join them for Easter Sunday services at their current location, 250 Brookwood Road, Venetia, on April 5 at 8:30 and 11:00 a.m. An Easter Family Celebration with Children’s egg hunt will take place at 9:45 a.m. Beginning Sunday, May 3, the congregation of the PCEPC will meet in the Parish Hall of St. David’s Episcopal Church, 905 East McMurray Road in Venetia. Sunday School for all ages will be held at 9:45 a.m., followed by worship at 11:00 a.m.

The community is invited to join us in glorifying God by joyfully following Christ according to Scripture!
Although the story in The Almanac was likely a surprise to most Pittsburgh Episcopalians, Priest-in-Charge Kris McInnes wrote to the St. David’s congregation in the church’s Winter 2015 newsletter. A front page story titled “An Unlikely Partnership” dealt with the plan to host the Peters Creek congregation and noted that the arrangement would be discussed at the annual meeting on February 8. McInnes noted that any sharing of facilities can involve conflicts. He then addressed the elephant in the room:
In addition to the practical and logistical concerns are the political ones. This is a congregation that decided because of the trajectory of their denomination and its practices, they could no longer be a part of the PCUSA. They left to join a more traditional and evangelical denomination. This is exactly what happened here at St. David’s seven years ago which led to 90% of our congregation leaving to start a new church in a new denomination.
(The entire four-page newsletter can be read here on the St. David’s Web site. The two pages containing the article extracted from the newsletter is here.)

The irony of the St. David’s–Peters Creek arrangement is obviously not lost on Priest-in-Charge Kris McInnes. The departure of the Peters Creek congregation from PCUSA is remarkably similar to the departure of the majority of parishes from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in October 2008. “Liberal” trends in the parent church were cited as justification for disaffiliation, and resolution of property ownership was sought through civil courts. In the local Episcopal case, the battle has so far been fought at the judicatory level, rather than at the level of individual churches, but the relationship of churches to the parent denomination are similar in the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches.

Prior to the diocesan schism, St. David’s was led by the Rev. David Wilson, one of then Bishop Duncan’s most ardent partisans. When the courts awarded diocesan-held property to the faithful Episcopalians, the diocese’s Board of Trustees held the deed to the St. David’s property. The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh congregation eventually left the property, no doubt encouraged by a crippling mortgage payment. Since Pentecost 2012, St. David’s has slowly been rebuilding an Episcopal Church congregation.

The question one has to ask, I think, is why should an Episcopal parish, particularly one so harmed by militant conservatives, aid schism in another denomination. McInnes says that St. David’s should “warmly welcome all,” but, in so doing, is the church encouraging disunity in PCUSA? How much was the decision to welcome the Peters Creek congregation influenced by the rent to be paid to St. David’s. (Final financial arrangements are still being negotiated.)

McInnes wisely consulted Bishop Dorsey McConnell before pursuing an arrangement with the breakaway Presbyterians. The bishop apparently left the decision to St. David’s. I have not been able to determine whether the diocesan chancellor was consulted on the matter, but it appears that the Standing Committee was not. The Pittsburgh diocese has not yet resolved property issues with a number of its own breakaway congregations, and it is unclear whether the action by St. David’s in any way affects negotiations with what are now Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh congregations.

In the courts, many denominations have supported The Episcopal Church in property disputes. Should we not offer mutual support on the ground? I believe that the action of St. David’s is aiding and abetting schism in PCUSA. For the benefit of The Episcopal Church and for what little church unity can be found in the world, I believe we should not be doing that.

April 1, 2015

Republican Quotes from the Democrats

Envelope from Democratic mailing
I’m looking at an envelope from a Democratic fund-raising mailing. The front of that envelope can be seen at the left. (Click on the image for a larger and rotated view.)

The envelope contains quotes from potential Republican presidential candidates. There is no reason to suspect that any of the quotations is phony, though no context is provided.

None of the quotations is an actual assertion of a fact, so “EXPOSE THEIR LIES!” is rather off-base. You can lie when expressing an opinion only if you don’t hold the opinion you are expressing. In that sense, I take all these statements to be truthful. They are more or less upsetting to most Democrats, however, and might even give some Republicans pause.

Here is a list of the quotations, reordered—in my opinion, of course—to place the most ridiculous quotes at the end.

Sit down and shut up!
— Chris Christie

Medicare is socialized medicine.
— Rand Paul

I do not believe there is a U.S. Constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
— Marco Rubio

I don’t think [the minimum wage] serves a purpose.
— Scott Walker

I think stopping Obamacare is the essence of pragmatism.
— Ted Cruz

[Women on welfare] should be able to get their life together and find a husband.
— Jeb Bush

One might ask that Democratic publicists work at being more coherent. The quotation from Jeb Bush, however, is definitely worth the price of admission.