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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.

3 Responses

  1. Thanks my brother. I trust the wrist stuff will get sorted out soon. I had some small hand surgery just before departing Vermont after Labor Day – it still pains me, but is better.

    To your essay.

    I agree whole heartedly. Underneath is the issue of trust. I read your cynicism – it drips full of it. I believe that the PB is utterly untrustworthy as are her minions. This legislation and the de facto operating processes of TEC make me convinced that we are entering a time of utter totalitarianism the like of which we have not seen since Europe in the thirties and Russia since Stalin took over. IMHO this is just not Christian. We have a functional dictatorship, ruled by a vindictive Humpty Dumpty. No one with clout is standing up to the PB and while I appreciate +South Carolina hugely he will get struck down, than Albany and maybe your own bishop.

    I thanks you for your rearguard action. I fear it will not stop this train. I fear that Dan+ will not get his consents.

    Blessings from the Southern Cone – Ian+

  2. Tony,

    While you and I often disagree and are mostly at opposite ends of the spectrum within the Episcopal Church you have always been fair. But . . .

    I think it is unfair to suggest that the Title IV revisions were sprung on General Convention at the last minute. The task force did an incredible amount of work talking to just about anyone who would listen about the revisions before convention and during the revision process. The revisions were published in the materials before convention. The Canons Committee held numerous hearings on the revisions. Very few changes were made to the canons on its way to the floor. As far as I know, none of the complaints now being aired were raised during any of this process. I believe that the complaints about Title IV are a foil to complain about the PB and TEC and paint them as boogie-men to foment resistance to TEC in South Carolina and other places.

    Bill Fleener, Jr.

  3. Good to hear that the wrist is getting better. Regarding Title 4 I am bewildered. Am I the only one who reads this with Section 4 of the Anglican Covenant? Strict discipline downwards and ‘leave us alone, but keep full communion’ upwards! Are we all really members of Christ’s body? Gal 3:28. Is this how we are called to be?? The other day someone told me that she believed in our obligation to drive our legislature to create more social justice. Yes, this meant stronger central government! I confess that I lacked her confidence in strong central government. Power corrupts . . . !

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