June 26, 2015

It’s Not Over

I was delighted to learn of the Supreme Court’s decision this morning declaring that citizens have the right to marry the person of their choice, whether that person is male or female. An early Facebook post I saw declared “It’s over.”

Although I would like to think that the fight for equality and freedom for all is indeed over in this country, I don’t believe that’s the case.

Shortly after I learned of the Supreme Court decision, I received a fund-raising e-mail message from Santorum for President. The letter says, in part,
The Supreme Court just launched an unprecedented attack on the religious liberty and the traditional family.

These unelected judges created - out of thin air - a "right" to same-sex "marriage," and ruled that all states must recognize these unions, regardless of their own laws.

This is a watershed moment in American history. It's the most egregious rejection of traditional values and the Bill of Rights since Roe v. Wade.

We can't let it stand!

Lionel, I'm running for President because I believe our traditional values are worth protecting. I believe that our religious freedom cannot and should not be violated by an overbearing government bending to the whims of a vocal minority.

This court ruling is the Roe v. Wade of the 21st Century. It's an attack on religious freedom, an affront to the religious liberty of millions of Americans, and a threat to the stability of our families.

We can't allow it to stand. And as President, I will do all within my power to overturn it.

If you'll join me in defending our families, our religious liberty, and our traditional values, I need your help right now, Lionel.
You can read the whole letter here.

It will be interesting to see if other Republican presidential candidates have a similar response to today’s ruling. I suspect that many of them will have more sense and will view the ruling as a gift to their campaigns—they can hide behind the court ruling rather than espousing a view held by fewer and fewer Americans.

Alas, Santorum is not the only far-right ideologue likely to continue fighting equal marriage.

Celebrate victory today, but be ready to defend freedom and democracy tomorrow.

Marriage equality achieved

June 25, 2015

Thoughts on Marriage and the General Convention

Ed Palattella has a story at House of Deputies News titled “Same-sex marriage: Episcopalians weigh whether now is the time.” There isn’t much in this piece that is new, but I was struck by several points.

Consider this paragraph:
The task force also proposes that the canons retain language that allows any member of the clergy to decline to solemnize any marriage, and recommends that language be “extended to include the choice to decline offering a blessing on a marriage.” Those provisions have failed to allay the concerns of those who argue that that the group’s theological analysis was insufficient, that it failed to adequately consider the viewpoints of Episcopalians who support only marriage between a man and a woman, and that it did not fully study how the Episcopal Church’s amendments to the marriage canons might affect the wider Anglican Communion.
Was the task force’s theological analysis “insufficient”? I don’t think so. We have heard this argument for years. The fact is that those who “support only marriage between a man and a woman” will never be convinced by any amount of well-reasoned theological argument. The inadequate theology argument is only a tactic to delay change for as long as possible.

Marriage equality symbol
Is it true that the task force “failed to adequately consider the viewpoints of Episcopalians who support only marriage between a man and a woman”? I don’t think so. Those “viewpoints” are traditional and well known. There was nothing to be gained by reiterating them.

A related complaint I have heard often is that the task force did not really contain any members with traditional views on marriage. Perhaps that is true, but what difference would have a more diverse task force have made? Might there have been a minority report saying what we all know it would say? Would the presence of conservatives have weakened the recommendations of the task force? Perhaps. It is clear, however, that Resolution A050 was not about clarifying the church’s understanding of “traditional” marriage; it was about exploring the case for extending that understanding. It is for the General Convention to decide what to do with the case for extension, and, for that purpose, it is important that the task force offer the strongest case possible.

Finally, did the task force ignore possible consequences within the Anglican Communion? Again, I don’t think so. The task force did consult ecumenical and Communion partners, though that activity was limited by its meager $30,000 budget. Like the most conservative of our own leaders and members, some Communion churches, particularly those belonging to the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, will go ballistic over any movement in The Episcopal Church toward the regularization of same-sex partnerships. But it is not as though we will be destroying strong friendships thereby. In fact, our moving forward on the recommendations of the marriage task force can have a beneficial effect on the Communion. Sympathetic Western churches, particularly the Church of England, will be encouraged to make similar decisions, and the persecuted LGBT Anglicans in Global South churches will be given much-needed hope.

Objectively, same-sex marriage has no obvious negative societal consequences, though it may engender irrational distress for some. On the contrary, it has many obvious societal advantages. Moreover, such marriages are increasingly accepted by Americans and are apparently accepted by a majority of Americans. If our church wants to be relevant to American life, it needs to get on board and provide appropriate ceremony and approval of major milestones in the lives of sexual minorities. There is only one compelling argument against doing that—that it is against God’s will. That case for that argument, however, is exceedingly weak and impossible to prove. It is time for the church to catch up with its social context, lest it become even less relevant than it is already.

June 24, 2015

Links to General Convention Information

I have collected a number of links for those who want to follow the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, Utah. Please offer corrections or additions in the comments, and I will modify this page.
Salt Lake City Date and Time

Background information
Current information
  • Episcopal News Service. Some General Convention stories will likely appear here, but many more stories will likely appear on the ENS blog.
  • The 78th General Convention. This is the home page for the General Convention. It contains many useful links, some of which are listed here.
  • General Convention Media Hub. Schedules and streaming video are available here.
  • Directory of the 78th General Convention. Gain access to an application called Guidebook that runs on computers, tablets, and phones. It includes schedules and other information particularly of interest to deputies. It will likely be helpful from those monitoring the convention remotely, however, particularly if you are doing so using your cell phone.
  • General Convention Resolutions. Check on the current status of all General Convention resolutions here.
  • House of Deputies News. This is a new site, edited by Jim Naughton, founder of Episcopal Café. It promises to capture the spirit of the convention.
  • Episcopal Café. This site is one of the best sources of information about The Episcopal Church, and it is a fair guess that a good deal of General Convention news will appear here, even if it does not appear first on Episcopal Café. You may want to go directly to stories tagged The Lead, which is where news stories appear.

General Convention logo

June 19, 2015

Enhanced Responsibility

While doing research for my recent post about The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Covenant (“Time for a Definitive Response to the Anglican Covenant”), I was reminded of the role the Anglican primates have played in the development of the Anglican Covenant.

Prior to 1979, Anglican primates only met regularly at 10-year intervals at the Lambeth Conference, at which they were bishops among other bishops. The 1978 Lambeth Conference had passed Resolution 12:
Anglican Conferences, Councils and Meetings
The Conference asks the Archbishop of Canterbury, as President of the Lambeth Conference and President of the Anglican Consultative Council, with all the Primates of the Anglican Communion, within one year to initiate consideration of the way to relate together the international conferences, councils, and meetings within the Anglican Communion so that the Anglican Communion may best serve God within the context of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
It is not clear just what the bishops at Lambeth had in mind, but the Archbishop of Canterbury Donald Coggan hosted the first meeting of the primates November 26 to December 1, 1979. It was designed to offer an opportunity for “leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation.” Since then, the primates have met about every two years.

The 1988 Lambeth Conference passed Resolution 18, “The Anglican Communion: Identity and Authority” The resolution offered a number of recommendations, two of which involved the primates. Resolution 18.2(b) asked that the primates be consulted in the selection of future Archbishops of Canterbury. Resolution 18.2(a) read
[This Conference] Urges that encouragement be given to a developing collegial role for the Primates Meeting under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury, so that the Primates Meeting is able to exercise an enhanced responsibility in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters.
It is perhaps not surprising that a conference of bishops was interested in giving some of their number more authority. In any case, what was being suggested seems far removed from “leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation.”

The 1998 Lambeth Conference doubled down on this idea. Resolution III.6 reiterated support for Resolution 18.2(2) from 1988 and otherwise recommended a stronger role for primates, including this item b:
[This Conference] asks that the Primates’ Meeting, under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury, include among its responsibilities positive encouragement to mission, intervention in cases of exceptional emergency which are incapable of internal resolution within provinces, and giving of guidelines on the limits of Anglican diversity in submission to the sovereign authority of Holy Scripture and in loyalty to our Anglican tradition and formularies;
It was particularly obvious at Lambeth 1998 that there were two camps vying for supremacy. The liberals were concerned about provincial autonomy and were content to coöperate when possible and to tolerate differences where the gulf was unbridgeable. The conservatives sought a more coherent Communion that put clear limits on diversity and provided some enforcement mechanism. Hence, Resolution III.6. The primates seemed to be the best place for the conservatives to place their hopes, since each province essentially had one vote. In the Lambeth Conference, churches like The Episcopal Church were able to send many more bishops than, say, African church with more actual members, thereby giving such churches more clout. Resolution III.6 made it natural for Bishop Robert Duncan and his allies to appeal to the primates when, in 2003, the General Convention granted its consent to consecrate Gene Robinson.

Even before the 2003 “crisis,” however, the conservatives were drawing up their battle plans. This is most easily seen in the collection of essays called To Mend the Net, edited by Archbishop Drexel W. Gomez of the West Indies and retired Bishop Maurice W. Sinclair of what was then called the Southern Cone. The Preface to these 2001 essays lays out the thrust of the volume:
Central to the purpose of this book is the presentation of a proposal for the exercise of the enhanced responsibility [emphasis in original] that successive Lambeth Conferences have asked the Primates Meeting to fulfill.
The issues supposedly requiring such enhanced responsibility all have to do with sex. In particular, the Preface cites the the move by the General Convention to make the ordination of women uniformly available throughout the church (presumably a reference to the 2000 Resolution A045); the failure, particularly of The Episcopal Church, “to respond positively” to the 1998 Lambeth Resolution I.10; and the “placing of non-marital sexual relationships alongside marriage for support by the [presumably Episcopal] Church.” The editors continue,
Such revision of the Christian ethic is unacceptable to a majority of Anglican Provinces and to an important sector within the member church most affected by it. Should it go unchallenged by the Primates’ Meeting, the immediate prospect is of a division within ECUSA leading in its turn to a split in the Communion with the various Provinces lining up on the different sides.
This statement seems prescient or prophetic or, as I suggested earlier, simply the militant traditionalist battle plan.

The primates did mount a challenge, at least to the consecration of a partnered gay bishop. In the emergency meeting of the primates in 2003, they recommended a study that would result in The Windsor Report in 2004. Windsor contained this in section 104:
Like the other Instruments of Unity, however, the Primates’ Meeting has refused to acknowledge anything more than a consultative and advisory authority. In part, it is the task of the present Commission to consider proposals made at the Lambeth Conferences in 1988 and 1998, and reiterated in To Mend the Net, for the primates to have an “enhanced responsibility [emphasis in original] in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters”.
Under the circumstances, it should not have been surprising when, in 2006, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams appointed Archbishop Gomez to head the Covenant Design Group, which was to draw up an Anglican Covenant as called for in the Windsor Report. This was yet another indication that Rowan Williams, though supposedly a liberal, held Communion unity, at however great a price, as a higher goal than being able to act on his personal beliefs.

Gomez certainly did not achieve everything he might have wanted in the final version of the Anglican Covenant. The Primates’ Meeting was given a good deal of power by the Covenant, but the Standing Committee was tapped to be the ultimate body responsible for recommending “relational consequences” for provincial misbehavior.

The enhanced responsibility given to the primates in the Anglican Covenant, though not as enhanced as the most militant of the traditionalists would like, is set out in Section Four. To date, two resolutions about the Covenant have been proposed to the General Convention that convenes in Salt Lake City next week. (See my post mentioned at the beginning of this essay.) Neither suggests that we want anything to do with Section Four. Because other Communion churches have adopted the Covenant, the Primates’ Meeting will have some enhanced responsibility with respect to them, but, over The Episcopal Church, not so much.

No Anglican Covenant logo

June 18, 2015

D022 Now on General Convention Web Site

When I first wrote about General Convention Resolution D022: Response to Anglican Covenant Process, the resolution, though approved for submission, was not yet on the list of all resolutions on the General Convention Web site. Apparently, it takes some time to process resolutions, getting them into the right format, assigning them to a legislative committee, etc. Today, however, the resolution has finally appeared. You can read the resolution on the General Convention site here.

Resolution D022 has, of course, been assigned to the Governance and Structure Committee, which will deal with the Covenant resolution from the Executive Committee, A040. That committee has a lot on its plate, including most of the resolutions from the Task Force for Reimagining The Episcopal Church (TREC). It will be a busy committee.

If you have not read my essay on dealing with the Anglican Covenant, “Time for a Definitive Response to the Anglican Covenant,” I invite you to do so now.

No Anglican Covenant logo

June 14, 2015

Somebody’s Got the Presiding Bishop’s Job Right

Tweaking (or massively revising) Episcopal Church polity is an item very near the top of the 78th General Convention’s agenda. Both the TREC report and the resolutions from Episcopal Resurrection would rearrange duties at the top of the Episcopal Church hierarchy. I don’t think that either group has it quite right, however. In “Analyzing the TREC Report, Part 6,” I wrote
Personally, I think the Presiding Bishop, both under the current canons and those proposed by TREC, has too much work to do and is required to possess too great a diversity of skills. I would like to see the Presiding Bishop be primarily pastor and spokesperson for the church. The Church General Manager, COO, or whatever, would be the chief administrator. I would like to see that person be a layperson with a strong management background, preferably someone who has run a major corporation or nonprofit. It isn’t clear to me whether this is what TREC has in mind, but I don’t think so.
I have been keeping an eye on the ever-expanding complete list of General Convention resolutions, and one of them particularly caught my attention today. The resolution is from the Rev. John F. Dwyer, Rector of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Roseville, Minnesota. It bears the sexy title of “Amend Canons I.4.3(a), I.4.3(d), and I.4.3(e), regarding a Chief Executive Officer of Executive Council.” The resolution is numbered D020 and can be found here. I won’t bore you with the details of the various parts of Canon I.4.3 that D020 would change; you can read those details for yourself. I do want to reproduce the Explanation for the resolution here:
As part of the TREC report the roles and responsibilities of the Presiding Bishop and the Executive Council were explored with explicit recommendations made to alter those roles and responsibilities. This resolution is put forward as a different option and direction than that suggested by TREC.

The role of the Presiding Bishop is fundamentally one focused on being the chief spiritual leader and international spokesperson for The Episcopal Church, serving as the first among equals in the House of Bishops. To expect the gifts and skills of a chief administrative and executive officer to also reside within the same spiritually skilled individual is unrealistic. Of the 5113 surveys returned to the Joint Committee for the Nomination of the next Presiding Bishop, not one person indicated managerial abilities as a key role or desirable trait for the next Presiding Bishop.

By creating a position of Chief Executive Officer, accountable to the entire Executive Council, the legal and fiduciary responsibilities of The Episcopal Church will be more appropriately attended to by those canonically charged with their oversight. This canonical change also more closely tracks with the polity of The Episcopal Church, where clergy and laity share equally in the fiduciary and legal responsibilities of the church.
You can decide for yourself (1) whether you agree with the rationale for D020 and (2) whether you think the suggested canonical changes accomplish the desired result.

As for me, I think the rationale for Resolution D020 is exactly right, and an admittedly cursory examination of the body of the resolution leads me to believe that the resolution would deliver on its promise.

This resolution needs to get serious attention. I must admit, however, the General Convention is going to have quite a big job changing how our church works by taking the best ideas that have been put forward and combining them in a way that is both coherent and beneficial. In the meantime, deputies should tell their colleagues about Resolution D020 and suggest that they might want to have something to say at the hearing about this and related resolutions.

June 13, 2015

Time for a Definitive Response to the Anglican Covenant (Short Version)

This post is an abridged and edited version of a longer essay that explores the recent history of the Anglican Communion and that of the Anglican Communion Covenant in greater depth. The full version contains more links to source material than in what appears below. Especially motivated readers will want to skip this abridged version and read the full essay here.

Once again, the General Convention of The Episcopal Church is about to meet. Once again, our church is expected to respond to developments within the Anglican Communion that were first set in motion in response to the authorization of same-sex blessings in the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada and the General Convention’s consent to the consecration of Gene Robinson, a partnered gay priest, as Bishop Coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire. What we have to decide is what we are going to say to the invitation to adopt the Anglican Communion Covenant, a pact that all Anglican Communion churches were asked to adopt in December 2009. Once again, by saying neither “yes” nor “no,” we are likely to encourage processes hostile to The Episcopal Church and to the gospel understanding of most Episcopalians. This year we must provide a definitive response to the invitation to adopt the Anglican Covenant, and that response should be “thank you, no.” A new resolution has been offered to do just that.

Covenant History

Events that led to the drafting of the Anglican Covenant began with conservative American bishops asking the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to call an emergency meeting of the primates to deal with the “crisis” in the Communion caused by the prospect of Gene Robinson’s becoming a bishop. The communiqué resulting from the October 2003 meeting decried the Robinson vote and asked for a report on how communion could best be maintained. Our Presiding Bishop at the time, Frank Griswold, went along without comment.

A year later, we were presented with the Windsor Report. It largely adopted the attitude of the Global South primates who deplored the action of The Episcopal Church and assumed the authority of the 1998 Lambeth Resolution I.10, which rejected “homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture.” The primates received the report in February 2005. They demanded that The Episcopal Church skip the upcoming meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council except for providing justification for their previous actions. No dissenting words were heard from Presiding Bishop Griswold, and the church complied with the primates’ demands.

At the 2006 General Convention, a number of conciliatory resolutions were passed which affirmed our commitment to the Communion and apologized for any discomfort we may have caused. The convention committed to the process of developing an Anglican Covenant, a project recommended by the Windsor Report and which the Archbishop Williams had entrusted to the oversight of Archbishop Drexel Gomez, who was know to oppose women’s ordination and greater acceptance of homosexuals.

The primates met in 2007 and 2009, and the resulting communiqués continued to exhibit dissatisfaction with The Episcopal Church despite actions by the church to appease the leaders of Communion churches. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori proved, at least publicly, to be no more a defender of her church than had been her predecessor.

The 2009 General Convention had several drafts of an Anglican Covenant available, though the final text would not be fixed until December. The convention passed a resolution commending the latest and subsequent drafts for study by the church.

The Anglican Covenant was clearly intended to prevent Western churches from departing from what was viewed by Global South churches as “biblical truth.” Although it has been adopted (more or less) by 11 Communion churches, it has been rejected by England, Scotland, New Zealand, and the Philippines. By the time of the 2012 General Convention, adoptions slowed considerably. It appeared that most Global South churches would pass on the Covenant because it was insufficiently draconian. Although there was little doubt that Episcopalians were not interested in an agreement whose purpose was to prevent their church from following through on their understanding of the gospel, the convention passed a resolution restating our commitment to the Communion and another resolution saying that the church was too divided to make a decision on the Covenant in 2012. It also called for a task force to recommend action to the 2015 convention.

The Anglican Communion Covenant and the 78th General Convention

The Executive Council Task Force on the Anglican Covenant, the product of the 2012 Resolution B005, produced a brief report for the upcoming General Convention. That report says nothing of substance about the Covenant but merely offers this resolution:
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.
Resolution A040 does not adopt the  Covenant and says nothing about Section Four, which is its most objectionable part. Nonetheless, the suggestion that our church finds the Preamble and Sections One, Two, and Three acceptable exposes us to criticism when we act contrary to its provisions, which we will surely do and do at this convention. Once again, we seem ready to put the feelings of hostile, foreign primates ahead of our own interests and the interest of the gospel as we understand it.

An alternative resolution has been submitted by Ms. Lisa Fox of the Diocese of Missouri and Ms. Mary Roehrich and the Rev. Canon Scott Quinn, both of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The resolution is not yet on the General Convention Web site, but is available here. The text of the resolution is the following:
D022: 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, neither the present nor any desired future nature of which is properly described by 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.

The Communion-wide discussion of a proposed Anglican Communion Covenant has been helpful in elucidating the diversity within the Anglican Communion. The Covenant, however, does not properly describe our Anglican identity or the relationship we have or might want to have with our sister Anglican churches.

The first three sections of the Covenant contain assertions, particularly about our own church, that are not strictly true, as well as commitments we likely do not want to make. Section Four seeks to establish a centralized mechanism for resolving matters of belief and behavior for the Anglican Communion. Taken as a whole, the Covenant goes a long way toward changing our beloved fellowship of churches into a worldwide confessional church that imposes uniformity of belief throughout its provinces.

For this reason, the General Convention has been unwilling to adopt the Covenant, yet has been consistently coy about our church’s relationship to the Windsor/Covenant process and reluctant to reject the Covenant outright. It is high time for us to let our “yes” be “yes” or our “no” be “no.” Moreover, it is disingenuous to commend parts of a pact that is deeply flawed throughout. We should unambiguously decline either to adopt or to partially accept the Covenant.

Other initiatives, such as Indaba conversations, are more likely to enhance communion among Anglican Churches than adoption of the Anglican Communion Covenant.
This new resolution essentially says that the Covenant is not fit for purpose. It is a subtle rejection, but a rejection that cannot be mistaken for anything else. It will encourage the Anglican Church of Canada also to reject the Covenant when its General Synod meets next year.

Passing Resolution D022 or something very much like it will drive a stake through the heart of the Covenant, since its real purpose is to control innovation in the Western churches. Passage would bring an end to this unfortunate period of Anglican Communion life. Disposing of the Covenant will allow the Anglican Communion to face its most significant challenge, the existence of the GAFCON movement and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. Will the Communion hold together at all or will it split along theological lines? Neither the desirable future of the Communion nor the likely one is very clear. Of course, even if the Covenant is “dead,” in the sense that no more churches will adopt it, the Communion will still be split into two camps, those of the adopters and those of the non-adopters. (Unwisely, the Covenant states that it becomes effective for a church as soon is it is adopted by that church.)

Concluding Thoughts

It is my sincere hope as an Episcopalian and as the Episcopal Church Convenor for the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, which has worked for the defeat of the Covenant since 2010, that the General Convention will definitively reject the Anglican Communion Covenant in 2015. It is time we stopped appeasing the reactionary elements within the Anglican Communion and disingenuously seeming to go along with a process we have no intention of seeing to its eventual and logical end. The Anglican Communion generally and The Episcopal Church in particular have spent far too much time, money, and energy on the ill-conceived Covenant project. The Communion is a fine fellowship of churches. That it is a poor global church is not a problem, because a global Anglican church now (and perhaps forever) cannot be viable.

I have avoided analyzing the Covenant to expose all its flaws. I recently undertook this task on my blog. (See “More on the Anglican Covenant Resolution,” which links also to earlier posts.) More and deeper analysis of the Covenant is available on the Web site of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, particularly on the Resources page.

No Anglican Covenant logo

June 9, 2015

Another Bad Sign

I visited my local supermarket today to pick up milk and ham. While I was waiting to be served at the deli counter, I scanned the offerings in the case. What caught my eye was a sign for “ANTI PASTA.” You will notice that, in the picture below, ANTI PASTA is adjacent to the SPRING SALAD. Surely this is dangerous placement. The salad obviously contains pasta (rotini, apparently). If the pasta and the anti pasta come in contact, they will likely annihilate one another and release enough energy to destroy the supermarket.

ANTI PASTA at the supermarket
ANTI PASTA at the supermarket

An Inspiring Sermon

I attended the 77th General Convention in 2012 as a representative of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition. I didn’t attend all the worship services during the convention, but I did manage to get to the one at which Bishop of North Carolina Michael Curry preached. I arrived after most people had been seated, and I did not get a bulletin. When I heard the sermon, I was thinking, “Who is that preacher?” Only later did I learn who that preacher was. Curry is now a candidate for Presiding Bishop. I don’t know if he is the best candidate, but I do know that he is one impressive preacher. See if you don’t agree.

June 5, 2015

Provinces, Again

I recently wrote a post titled “In Praise of Provinces,” in which I argued against the suggestion made by the Episcopal Resurrection authors that provinces be done away with. (Their resolution is now Resolution D011.) My essay was informed by my own positive experience with Province III.

Today, I became aware of Resolution C034, which, coincidentally, originated in the Province III Synod. Not surprisingly, the Province III Synod does not want to abolish provinces. Instead, Province III would amend Canon I.9 to enumerate what provinces are for. The resolution is reproduced below. It makes its own case for provinces.

C034 Amend Canon I.9
Topic: Province

05 - Governance and Structure

Province III

Current version of the text

Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That Title I, Canon 9 (Of Provinces), be amended by the addition of a new Section 2 to read as follows:

Sec 2. The primary purposes of the Provincial system are to provide a structure which facilitates inter-diocesan collaboration to achieve Diocesan and Episcopal Church goals, and to enable more effective communications and regional advocacy of significant programmatic efforts.

Current sections 2-12 should be renumbered 3-13 [sic]


The fundamental unit of the Episcopal Church is the Diocese. Therefore, the primary purpose of Provinces is to support Dioceses in their work, particularly in those areas that, because of economies of scale, they are not able to do as well or at all by themselves. The Provinces also have a responsibility to respond to, and coordinate, those directives initiated by General Convention.

The Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church state that we will have Provinces, the Dioceses that shall be in each Province, and the power invested in the Provincial Synods. There is, however, no articulation of the purposes of the Provinces. One of the consequences of this omission is confusion about the need for and/or role of Provinces. A canonical definition of the primary purpose of Provinces provides: 1) a common reference point for initiating, developing, and evaluating Provincial ministries; 2) a basis for understanding the place of Provinces in the Church’s current and future conversations around re-structuring for ministry and governance.

Among the various tasks undertaken by the Provinces are the following:
  • Staffing a Court of Review, when required, as specified in the Canons.
  • Supporting the General Convention Office by providing opportunities for pre-General Convention orientation for Bishops, Deputies & Alternate Deputies.
  • Identifying and electing provincial representatives to the Executive Council.
  • Coordinating numerous ministry networks and associated grant programs, especially in areas seen as assets to the work underway in Dioceses. These ministry areas may include anti-racism, human trafficking, youth and young adult work, coordination of mission trips, stewardship, health ministries, Christian Formation, Ministry of Women, Latino and Indigenous groups, Diaconal development, climate issues and many others, all of which vary by Province.
  • Receiving, reviewing, and submitting worthy applications for Constable grants.
  • Coordinating and executing Provincial Synods.
  • Offering a variety of opportunities for development of lay and clergy leaders [sic]

June 3, 2015

Memorials and the Name of the Church

This essay is really about two pretty much unrelated topics. They are related only in that one led me to remark on the other. I learned some things in the process of writing this piece, and I suspect that others my be interested in what I learned.

I stumbled into the list of 2015 General Convention memorials today. You can see that list here. I had heard of memorials before—they are mentioned frequently in White and Dykman—but I was only vaguely aware of what they are. Many Episcopalians have suddenly became aware of memorials, however, because of the prominent memorial drafted by the Episcopal Resurrection authors.

A memorial is a document addressed to the General Convention urging some action. It can come from one or more individuals or from an organization. Memorials are not resolutions; they are sent to appropriate legislative committees and could result in legislation. Memorials most commonly come from diocesan conventions. Conceivably, a non-deputy could suggest a resolution via a memorial. (A memorial is defined here from An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church: A User-Friendly Reference for Episcopalians.)

I was surprised to learn that, as of today, five memorials have been submitted to the 78th General Convention. Three are from dioceses—Iowa, El Camino Real, and New Jersey—one from the Episcopal Resurrection authors (and endorsed by a large number of Episcopalians), and one from the Province III Synod. They deal with a variety of issues.

I was especially interested in the memorial listed as Memorial_2015_IV because it comes from my own provincial synod. This memorial, acknowledging that the TREC report urges the abolition of most standing commissions, recommends
Therefore, in addition to the two Standing Commissions proposed by TREC, we urge the establishment of four others: Domestic Mission, World Mission, Ecumenical Relations and Inter-religious Affairs, and Peace, Justice & Reconciliation.
The memorial goes on to explain that
We take some guidance on this issue from the official name of our church: The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (see Title I, Canon 3). If that name still means anything at all to anybody, would it not make sense to have a Standing Commission on Domestic Mission and another one on World Mission?
I leave it to others to decide if this collection of standing commissions deserves to be created. Taken together, the proposed commissions seem to partition (in the mathematical sense) the entire mission waterfront.

What I really want to talk about, however, is not the substance of the Province III memorial but the mistaken notion that the name of our church is “The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.” Not only is that not the case, but Canon I.3 in no way indicates that it is. The official name of the church is, and always has been, the “Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.” When the constitution was first adopted, it carried no Preamble and was simply titled “The Constitution of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.” The Preamble was added to the Constitution in 1967, and despite its apparent concern with the Anglican Communion, was added to allow the official use of a shorter name for the church, namely, “The Episcopal Church.”

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society was originally created and incorporated to collect funds to extend the church into newly settled areas of the country and overseas. Its members are everyone in the church—TREC would change this, for reasons that are unclear—and the Executive Council is its board of directors. As I have said before, White and Dykman offers this view of the DFMS: “The only present function of the society [i.e., the DFMS] is to act in the nature of a holding corporation.” (vol. I, p. 241) This is still the case. One might say that the DFMS is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, “otherwise known as”—in the words of the Preamble—The Episcopal Church.

For decades, the DFMS has been virtually invisible to Episcopalians. Its existence is an accident of history and legal necessity. It has lately been pulled out of the closet and attached, inappropriately, to the general church staff, which is now being referred to as “The Missionary Society.” Presumably, this has been done to circumvent the often bad feelings associated with the terms “815” and “Episcopal Church Center.” This missue use of “The Missionary Society” may also be intended to enhance the self-esteem of the church staff.

I have one piece of advice for anyone tempted to use the term “The Missionary Society”: CUT IT OUT! The same advice applies to anyone using “DFMS” or “the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society” in public. I never want to hear these terms again. The memorial from the Province III Synod is a clear indication that we are confusing even organization-minded Episcopalians about what the name of our church is. Let the DFMS sink back into obscurity where it belongs, lest we begin seeing signs saying “The DFMS welcomes you!”

Postscript: Since the DFMS was created to collect and distribute funds and to hold property, why have we never incorporated the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America to simplify matters? Is there a lawyer or accountant out there who can explain that to me?

June 2, 2015

Suet Feeder Update

A few weeks ago, I reported that my suet feeder had been robbed of its contents. (See “Squirrels 2, Humans 0.”) My response was to hang the feeder from the underside of the same deck from which my bird feeder is hung. This seemed reasonably protected from squirrels, and I was glad to see that the woodpeckers quickly found it.

This morning, the feeder was open, and the block of suet was nowhere to be found. My guess is that a deer is the culprit and may even have been the culprit last time. Today, I moved the feeder higher and secured its door with a yellow cable clamp. (See picture below.)

Unless there are wild primates around I am unaware of, I believe my suet feeder cannot be knocked down or opened. We shall see. I did shoo away a racoon last night who climbed one of the deck supports to get to the bird feeder. The racoon might be able to reach the suet feeder, though I don’t know what the animal might do with it.

Word Order Matters

I just listened to the hourly newscast from NPR. The last news item, read by Korva Coleman, began
President Obama will posthumously award medals of honor to two World War I Army veterans who may have been denied the highest military honor because of discrimination.
President Obama is dead? Really? And he’s still performing the duties of his office?

English is relatively insensitive to word order, but word order does matter, and sometimes it matters a good deal. Whereas I doubt that anyone misunderstood the above sentence, there really is a difference between “posthumously award ” and “award posthumously.” One can actually posthumously award something, in a will, say. President Obama did not do this. Ms. Colemen’s sentence might better have been something like
President Obama will award medals of honor posthumously to two World War I Army veterans who may have been denied the highest military honor because of discrimination.
Update, 6/2/2015, 1:55 PM: In the latest NPR newscast, Lakshmi Singh reported the story slightly differently, with “posthumously” in a more appropriate place in the sentence.