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IMPORTANT TEST

My broken wrist is healing but now I have tendonitis, the tendons scraping against the plate inserted to restore my bones. But I must say something about two matters, the Springfield election and the Title 4 revisions.  In their different ways both matters give us clues about whether those who run the Episcopal Church have decided to return to a policy of positive inclusion. I say “return” deliberately.  Patient inclusion took a back seat as the majority legislated its “platform” and as a result those who could not sit at the table with those with whom they opposed have left for other denominations, ACNA or the golf club. “Progressives” cannot claim with any credibility that they are endangered by traditionalists.  Are “traditionalists” now to be permitted to remain in TEC without violating our consciences?  Are we to be permitted to elect our bishops and select our candidates for ordination, preach and teach freely, in security and safety?

 

One of the first tests will be whether a majority of bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees ratify Dan Martin’s election as Bishop of Springfield.  He is a kind and holy man, firm in his commitment to TEC and to the faith TEC espouses in its formularies. He is certainly not a radical in the modern definition of that poor word. If he fails to gain the requisite consents a clear message will be handed to traditionalists: “There is no place for you in this church”.

 

The Title 4 matter is more complex. After its original draft was rejected by General Convention in 2006, it returned late in the agenda of the 2009 GC. at a time when Convention was exhausted. The legislation was long and complex. Convention adopted the lengthy document without amendment and it will become law next January. Much in the new canons seem good. It takes a less legalistic approach to discipline and allows for more pastoral responses to clerical misconduct. It also may encourage witch hunts in a day when all seems fair in ecclesiastical warfare. The list of possible offences is long and the headings vague. Minorities in dioceses may well feel less than secure when a charge may be bringing TEC into disrepute, although our church seems able to do that adequately by itself. Bishops may be charged with not protecting church property if they refuse to sue congregations which determine to leave. Refusal to obey an interpretation of a canon or a policy may now incur a punishment once reserved for grave moral failure.

 

Power is now given to the PB to inhibit a bishop without obtaining advice and consent from senior bishops or anyone else. similarly diocesan bishops are permitted to inhibit clergy without obtaining the advice and consent of standing committees. In both areas the basic checks and balances adopted by TEC at its foundation are being abandoned. This continues a policy which began with limitations placed on vestries to call clergy of their choice, the adoption of the Dennis Canon, and depriving bishops of their right to delegate visitations to parishes to other bishops.  This long process of radical alteration of Episcopal polity resembles the Patriot Act passed by Congress after 9/11.  TEC may well have protected itself from wretched reactionaries, but in the process it has abandoned elements in its ethos which made PECUSA a model of comprehensive Anglicanism.  Law is no substitute for trust and grace.  If TEC is to return to inclusion, it must revisit Title 4 with deliberation and patience and amend Title 4 at the next General Convention.