5/05/2018

GAFCON alternative universe expands

GAFCON, a conference that spawned an alternative universe in Anglican-land, is tooling up for its next GAFCON in Jerusalem. As part of the run-up to that meeting, the Chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council announced the following:
"We will therefore continue to endorse new missionary initiatives and jurisdictions where necessary to take forward the work of the gospel. 
Accordingly, we shall recognize the Anglican Church in Brazil, currently the Anglican Diocese of Recife, as a Province in the Anglican Communion when it is inaugurated on May 21st and in Jerusalem we shall welcome Archbishop-elect Miguel Uchoa as the first Primate. This new Province will provide for orthodox Anglicans in Brazil just as the Anglican Church in North America provided for orthodox Anglicans in the United States and Canada ten years ago."
The Most Rev’d Nicholas D. Okoh, Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the Gafcon Primates Council, (my, that is a wealth of titles), continues the GAFCON strategy of recognizing alternatives to the Provinces of the Anglican Communion in those places where existing Provinces don't conform to their sensibilities concerning what is Anglican and Christian.  
In the land of smoke and mirrors that GAFCON has produced, "Provinces" are announced by GAFCON as part of the Anglican Communion by fiat. But of course, that is serious BS. The Anglican Communion does have a structure, and Provinces are formed in that structure by a reasonably defined process. And, just as a reminder, it does not provide for alternative provinces. 
Still, In these days, when lies are repeated again and again in the hopes that after a while no one will notice, GAFCON plays the game.. If GAFCON says the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is a Province of the Anglican Communion or the so-called "Anglican Diocese of Recife" is a Province of the Anglican Communion, and keeps saying it, maybe after a while no one will mind. And after a time the phrase "Anglican Communion" will indeed come to mean more what GAFCON envisions, and less what the current Anglican Communion crowd understands it to be. All that is required is for the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Communion Office, and existing Provinces to say and do nothing.
At the moment that seems what is happening.  Where is the pushback? Does anyone give a damn that GAFCON is playing fast and loose with the idea of an Anglican Province? Do any of the existing Provinces of the Anglican Communion demand that GAFCON primates stop messing around in jurisdictions other than their own?  And, here in Episcopal-land, where is the support of the Anglican Episcopal Province of Brazil? When will our own leadership move to demand an accounting from GAFCON primates who in this latest coup attempt have declared the Anglican Episcopal Province of Brazil to be defunct and heretical and have replaced it (in their own minds) with some new thing? 
If there is no objection from the existing Anglican Communion provinces or from some part of the Anglican Communion "instruments of unity", GAFCON primates will pretty much get away with whatever they want.  This whole thing stinks of bad church politics, learned at the hands of dispossessed American Episcopalians, the same crowd that produced the ANCA "province of something."  
ACNA is not a province of the Anglican Communion, nor will the "Anglican Church of Brazil" be a province of the Anglican Communion.  But we won't know that, will we, unless the leadership of the Anglican Communion and/or member provinces (like, say The Episcopal Church) speak up.
The Episcopal Church meets this summer  in General Convention.  Will it speak out? Will it stand with the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil? 
Who knows?



4/22/2018

The Proposal to salary the President of the House of Bishops


This is a small story about creeping realism, or alternately, creeping power play.  



Anyone who has seen recent Presidents of the House of Deputies (PoHD) in action knows full well that they are working pretty much full time for the church. I have known a number of PoHD’s and each has been devoted to the work of making The Episcopal Church a better instrument of the Gospel, as they are given vision to understand how it might do so. The results have been mixed.



The next General Convention will consider a resolution (A028) to pay the PoHD a salary. The proposed 2019-2021 budget, has the following note on line 298, "Staff Costs 1,232,565  Estimated compensation for PHOD still under review.  If voted, funding of up to $900K is available in line 298."  That means that up to $300,000 per year for total compensation for the PHoD is possible. This is of course dependent on the compensation proposal put together if Resolution A028. To give a sense of what other officers are paid, the Presiding Bishop receives about $280,000 a year.His salary will, I assume, rise in the next budget.

To be honest, I have considerable reservations with the proposition.  Not being a deputy to this convention I realize that my reservations may be of minimal consequence, but perhaps they are shared by others. In any event these reservations are in part due to my sense that this proposition is in part a matter of realism about the demands of the office, and in part a matter of power in a system with very little power to go around.



The primary power of the PoHD is that of appointment to various committees, commissions, boards and agencies of the church, and direction given to the House of Deputies while in session. It is a power parallel to that of the Presiding Bishop in the House of Bishops. But unlike the PB, who has other powers that derive from presidency as well as from pastoral roles in the church, the PoHD is limited to vice-presidential roles except in the House of Deputies. Beyond that, the PoHD extends influence as a matter of personal expansion of the role. That is, the PoHD has work to do beyond the limits of the canon as a matter of will, not right or duty. At least that is how I see it.



I am not sure in the final analysis that what is proposed is a matter of realism regarding the work of the office of PoHD or a support for the expansion of the work (read power and role) of the PoHD.



That is, it is unclear to me if the canonical responsibilities of the position warrant compensation (as a matter of justice) or alternately that the office has morphed, because of its political weight in the church system of governance, into something more than was intended by the framers of our governance scheme.


Here is the resolution as proposed by the Task Force, with the clauses I believe need to be revised or omitted highlighted in order to arrive at a reasonable resolution for consideration.



"RESOLUTION A028

SALARY FOR THE PRESIDENT OF THE HOUSE OF DEPUTIES



Resolved,

The House of _________ concurring, that this General Convention recognize that The

Episcopal Church’s governing documents require the President of the House of Deputies to perform numerous duties that are specified and those that are normally appropriate to the office; and be it further,

Resolved,

That this General Convention recognize the continuing evolution of The Episcopal Church and the increased demands on the time and energy of the President of the House of Deputies; and be it further,

Resolved,

That this General Convention recognize that there exists a great barrier in identifying and

recruiting qualified candidates for President of the House of Deputies because of the lack of compensation for this position, which forecloses other full-time employment; and be it further,

Resolved,

That this General Convention recognize that in Resolution D013 the 78th General Convention

of The Episcopal Church (2015) affirmed that “the House of Deputies considers it important that [it] be able to choose a President without regard to the financial circumstances of the candidates, [and that] the desirability of compensation for the President of the House of Deputies is a fairness issue,” and that “the House of Bishops understands and appreciates the cogency of, and fairness issues inherent in, the position of the House of Deputies”; and be it further,

Resolved,

That this General Convention recognize that to have a compensated President of the House of Deputies  shows The Episcopal Church’s recognition of the importance of the laity and the clergy in the governance of The Episcopal Church; and be it further,

Resolved,

That this General Convention recognize that the Canons of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church require that the President of the House of Deputies serves as the Vice-Chair of the Executive Council of the General Convention and as the Vice-President of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society[DFMS]; and be it further,
Resolved,

that whereas Canon I.4.5(c) provides:“Members of Executive Council shall be entitled to reimbursement for their reasonable expenses of attending meetings, in accordance with procedures established and approved by Executive Council. Except as determined by

Convention, the salaries of all officers of the Council and of all agents and employees of the Council and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society shall be fixed by the Council.”,

that this General Convention authorize and direct its Executive Council to fix a salary for the President of the House of Deputies as an officer and agent of the Council and as an agent of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society [DFMS]"


I suggest that the underlined sections be cut. Here are the reasons:



The phrase, “which forecloses other full-time employment,” presents a problem, since it is raised in the context of General Convention “identifying and recruiting qualified candidates.” If this resolve were included it could be used to disqualify candidates by saying they could not run or be considered because they were full time employed.  Further, General Convention (the living entity, not the leadership) does not identify and recruit. It invites and engages candidates, whose qualifications (beyond those required by canon) are subject to debate and exploration. To assume that full time employment makes a person unacceptable as a candidate is a bad stretch and unwarranted.



The phrase, “the House of Bishops understands and appreciates the cogency of, and fairness issues inherent in, the position of the House of Deputies” is lifted from the the 2015 Resolution D013. It is a strange sentence referring to something called “the position of the House of Deputies.” It is unclear whether this is “the position of the House of Deputies…” concerning the matter of salary, or “the position of the House of Deputies…” as a co-equal legislative branch to the House of Bishops, whose presiding officer is indeed paid.  It is unclear just what is being argued here. So drop it.



The next resolve, “That this General Convention recognize that to have a compensated President of the House of Deputies shows The Episcopal Church’s recognition of the importance of the laity and the clergy in the governance of The Episcopal Church” is just crazy. If paying laity and clergy in governance was proof of the recognition of their importance in the governance of The Episcopal Church we would be in a sorry state indeed. For if we have to “prove” value by paying people, then throughout the church the argument could be made that value was payment dependent. In which case service in the church is a monetized commodity. And it is not.  Service in the church is a matter of volition and call. One is willing to serve, and hopefully one feels called to serve. Payment for those services is an important issue, but not finally a proof of importance.



This resolve opens the door to making similar pleas for compensation to board members (members of Executive Council) for their service, and on other levels of governance in The Episcopal Church, say service on a Diocesan Standing Committee or Diocesan Council.  It opens the door to arguments that unless lay and clergy persons are paid, there is no “proof” of the recognition of their importance to governance. And payment is no proof at all.Drop it.


The reason to support this measure is really summed up in the final resolve, 


“Resolved,

that whereas Canon I.4.5(c) provides:

“Members of Executive Council shall be entitled to reimbursement for their reasonable expenses of attending meetings, in accordance with procedures established and approved by Executive Council. Except as determined by

Convention, the salaries of all officers of the Council and of all agents and employees of the Council and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society shall be fixed by the Council.”,

that this General Convention authorize and direct its Executive Council to fix a salary for the President of the House of Deputies as an officer and agent of the Council and as an agent of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society [DFMS]”


Here the matter is clear: The PoHD is an officer and agent of Council and the DFMS.  In THAT regard considering a salary is appropriate.



It should be noted that there are an increasing number of people who are paid officers of the Executive Council/ DFMS.  There are of course many other “staff” officers whose positions are derivative of the work of various paid officers.  The organizational structure of paid positions related to the work of The Episcopal Church is quite complex. 

It is here that the proposal to pay the PoHD is both worth consideration and runs into problems.  I note two:



(i)  There was a supposedly extensive effort to ‘re-image’ the structures of The Episcopal Church, with at least part of the hope being to reduce committee and staff costs. I am hard pressed to notice significant differences in the organizational structure or workings of The Episcopal Church as a result. Still, assuming such changes do exist, how does this fit into the mix?  

At the upper end of the corporate structure we have at least the following paid officers: The Presiding Bishop, The Secretary of General Convention, The Chief Financial Officer, and The Chief Operating Officer. With the exception of the Presiding Bishop, whose role is not only that essentially of CEO but which also includes speaking in a pastoral capacity to and for the whole church, all these other offices exist to do the work of General Convention, and both it’s houses, as well as the work of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and Executive Council. That is why they are there. There is a much larger staff, of course, to do specific tasks related to these offices. 

The duties that derive from all that effort related to the legislative roles of the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies are precisely meant to lift the load of work related to the chairs of both houses of General Convention.

       

The question is, does making the PoHD a paid position square with the desire to trim the costs and size of the structures of General Convention, The DFMS and Executive Council?


(ii) It is not clear that the expansion of the work of the PoHD is a product of increased organizational necessity as much as it is a product of assertion or acquisition of power on the part of the persons holding the office.  If it is a matter of necessity, then we need to face into that by either paying up or cutting back. If it is a matter of assertion or acquisition of power we have other problems to deal with.



Here the issues are more difficult. The Episcopal Church is a church of bishops and their dioceses united in a General Convention. The missionary “machine” of this union of diocese was the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and it became an agent of the General Convention. But because the DFMS determines the funding for all but the actual workings of General Convention, it, through the board of directors, namely Executive Council, has become the machine that seems to have taken over. There is the suspicion that the union is superseded in fact by the machine it invented.



The Episcopal Church is indeed hierarchical, in that the bishops, and their “house” are a different sort of thing than the deputies to General Convention, and their “house.” The question is, is the move to pay the PoHD an effort to change that? If so, that needs to be directly the question, and not the issue of pay as such.



I think this proposition opens up some questions that are not at all addressed in the resolution itself.


This needs more work.   


At the very least the resolution needs to be restructured to cut out the variety of opinions it now contains and go to the main point (the last resolve). There, at least, the possibility of a salaried position becomes an organizational decision.

At the most, if more is here than meets the eye, deputies ought to consider rejecting the resolution as a power play.





3/14/2018

A Proposed Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.


A proposed amendment to the Constitution, posted on February 14th,  in solidarity with the students speaking out against gun violence and the need to ban assault weapons. It is a way to stand with them. On Saturday the 24th I plan to march locally in solidarity with marchers all across the country.

I posted a longer article on thoughts on proposals for laws on gun control and if necessary a possible amendment to the Constitution at http://anglicanfuture.blogspot.com/2018/02/a-call-to-arms-this-time-weapon-of-vote.html    

At the time I thought several laws limiting the use of assault and automatic weapons might do it, but I’m coming to think that what is needed is a corrective that would bind the Supreme Court to an interpretation of the Second Amendment that would make it clear that the right to bear arms is connected to the desire to have a well regulated militia.  So, here is first a propose amendment, and then two possible laws regarding the use of assault and automatic weapons.

Of course there are issues of precision in language that need to be addressed, but the concern here is to broadly state the sort of things such an amendment might need to address or such laws need to include. Thoughts?

A proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America:

The right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed, provided that bearing such arms is in defense of the security of a free state. The United States of America or the several states may license individuals, duly trained, to carry and use firearms for personal defense or for hunting,  sport or recreation.  The use of assault and automatic weapons is by this amendment reserved for use by members of Federal or State recognized militias in training for, or engaged in, combat or police action, and such weapons may not be bought or sold to individuals.

OR

Two proposals for federal law:

Regarding the use of assault weapons and weapons that fire automatically:

Persons who are members of a well regulated militia recognized by state or federal law may be trained to use the classes of weapons designated as assault weapons or weapons that fire automatically, and may use them in the line of duty related to their service in such militias. Such weapons must be registered by the militia to which the person belongs and may be assigned to specific persons for their use as members of the militia. No other sale, purchase or use of such weapons shall be permitted.

Regarding all other firearms:

Individual citizens, provided such individuals are registered as members of an organized and well regulated militia recognized by state or federal law, or who have been trained by such militias and duly licensed, may own and retain firearms for individual and household protection, excluding those designated as assault weapons or those that fire automatically. The right to such permitted firearms is understood as an extension of powers granted to militia in defense of the security of a free state, and may be limited by law.

Individual citizens, including those not registered as members of an organized and well regulated militia, may be licensed to use such permitted weapons for sport or hunting, provided they receive training on the safe and proper use of such weapons.  





3/03/2018

The House of Deputies Special Committee on Sexual Harassment and Exploitation: A question.

The President of the House of Deputies has appointed a Special Committee on Sexual Harassment and Exploitation. This was announced this past week (February 28th). The Committee will work in several sub-committees to draft legislation on sexual harassment and exploitation for consideration by the General Convention meeting this summer. 

The committee is quite large - 47 members. It is quite a remarkable list and will serve the church well. It will, I hope, provide important proposals to General Convention.

The committee will work in several sub-committees: on Theology and Language, Structural Equity, Title IV and Training, Truth and Reconciliation, and Social Justice for Women.  

There is no question in my mind that each of these areas of concern needs immediate and deep attention, and each will invite us all into a greater common effort  "so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:11-13)

As far as I can tell from an initial read, all 47 of the members of this special committee are women. There is a good mix of ordained and lay, and I presume a wide range of inclusion(s) - persons of color, indigenous peoples, sexual orientation, etc. But there seem to be no men.


Fair enough. The committee needs to be clear that its members are driven by "their determination to change our church for the better." That drive is without question a product of personal experience, and because the matter at hand has to do with sexual harassment and exploitation, women need to be at the center of this work. But is that sufficient reason to not include men in any of the committees? Perhaps it is, but if so it is a sad testament to the level of disunity, fracture and lack of maturity, that keeps us from the "full measure of the fullness of Christ."

The rules of order for the House of Deputies says very little about who may serve on Special Committees. There has been a laudable effort to include on all regular committees and commissions of the General Convention a broadly inclusive membership. This Special Committee has been appointed with the apparent, and if so, notable exclusion of men. 

Perhaps a rationale can be provided. 


2/23/2018

A CALL TO ARMS: THIS TIME THE WEAPON OF THE VOTE AND THE PEN

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The counter to the murderous outrages, the shootings, that have overwhelmed us all is not more firearms. What is needed is stronger weapons of the vote and the pen.  Emma Gonzalez and the others who spoke out at the demonstration rally in Fort Lauderdale after the killing rampage there have it right.   

What is needed is new laws, and those enforced. And should the current batch of lawmakers not provide them, or the current policing forces not protect us, then we need to exercise the vote and throw the current batch out and get people in who can make and enforce laws limiting gun availability and use.



I’ve been thinking about what sorts of laws might be useful, laws that both limit arms sales and use and still uphold the core values represented in the second amendment. I am hopeful that such laws can be written, adopted and enforced.

If it is determined that there is no way to limit sales and or use of arms within the purview of the current read of the second amendment, then I believe we need to augment the meaning of the amendment by further amendment. That approach of course is more difficult, since it involves an amendment to the constitution. We will look at that possibility later in this essay.



So lets begin with some laws that do make sense under at least some reading of the Second Amendment.



The Second Amendment to the Constitution reads: 

“A well regulated Militia(,) being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms (,) shall not be infringed.” (The two comas are not part of the article as ratified by the States.)



The notion of a “well regulated Militia” and its value to the security of a free State, together constitute a prefatory clause to the statement, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed. The right of the people to keep and bear Arms is related to the matter of having a well regulated Militia and a secure state. Whether it is exclusively so has been a matter of debate, but the wording of the amendment certainly suggests that a primary reason for this right is the matter of security and a regularized militia.



Nothing in this wording suggests that the right to bear arms supports insurrection, rebellion or revolution. Indeed it would be very odd if the constitution included in it the right to bear arms specifically as a protection against unwelcomed governance under the constitution. State and local militias in the South did indeed bear arms against the Federal government, and doing so constituted rebellion, not exercise of guaranteed rights.  The right to revolution and rebellion lies not in the constitution but in the success of the revolution itself. If the revolution prevails, the right prevails.Otherwise the so-called patriots are simply traitors.



So the romantic notion that “the State” in this instance does not mean the government under the Federal constitution, and that the right to bear arms is a guarantee of independence from federal government, is just that – romantic.



The amendment is then about a well regulated militia in support of the security of the State. “The people” whose right it is to bear arms, can most easily be understood as meaning “citizens” organized in some fashion as militias.  In our long history of such organization, a sheriff’s posse, local police forces,  a state militia or national guard all have been examples of a “well regulated militia.”  When local policing powers were not sufficient for protection, local militia groups had the right to exist and take on such authority as necessary. And, by extension, individuals could provide for their own protection in situations where they felt adequate protection from larger organized militia was lacking or not immediately present.



A beginning point for limiting arms use might be, then, to specify that certain arms are limited in production, license and use, to “well regulated militia,” and that individuals, unless they could show cause why their recourse to such militia for protection was inhibited or inadequate,  could not posses or use such weapons. 



Several sample laws:



Regarding use of assault weapons or automatic weapons.



(A)   No person, except those members of a well regulated militia recognized by state or federal law, may purchase, own or use classes of weapons determined to be designed for assault, or that fire multiple projectiles automatically.. Or



(B)   Persons who are members of a well regulated militia recognized by state or federal law may be trained to use the classes of weapons designated as assault weapons or weapons that fire multiple projectiles automatically, and may use them in the line of duty related to their service in such militias. Such weapons must be registered by the militia to which the person belongs and may be assigned to specific persons for their use. No other sale, purchase or use of such weapons shall be permitted.



Regarding all other firearms:



(A)   Individual citizens, provided such individuals are registered as members of an organized and well regulated militias recognized by state or federal law, and have been trained in the use of such weapons, may own and retain firearms not part of a militia armory and not excluded as assault or automatic weapons. The use of such weapons for individual and household protection is to be understood as an extension of powers granted to militia in defense of the “security of a free state.” 



Individual citizens not registered as members of an organized and well regulated militia may be licensed to use such weapons for sport or hunting, provided they receive training from a recognized militia on the safe and proper use of such weapons. Such license does not include the use of these weapons “in defense of the security of a free state,” except under extraordinary circumstances.



In every case these proposals emphasize the point that use of or ownership of firearms is an extension of the need to provide for a militia to defend the security of a free state.  A “militia” would include everything from the Federal Armed Forces, the National Guards of the several states, police and other law enforcement groups, recognized local security organizations (including security services and neighborhood watch groups) and any other organization the state deems able to provide both training and supervision of the use of assault and automatic weapons.



Under such laws no individual could legally own assault or automatic weapons and no individual not a part of an organized militia could be licensed to use such weapons. All other firearms could be owned and used by individuals provided they received training in their use from a “well regulated militia” and were licensed. It would be up to the states to set other limits on who may own or use allowed firearms.



What happens if some such laws are not enacted?  Could the Constitution be amended to make unambiguous the understanding of the limits of arms bearing considered to be the people’s right?  I think it could, but that would be even more difficult than enacting specific laws to cover allowed weapons use.



Here is an example of such an amendment:



On the right to bear arms:



The right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed, provided that bearing such arms is in defense of the security of a free state. The State, and the several states, in order to provide for the security of its people,  may limit ownership, bearing and use of such arms to members of recognized militia or, in the case of arms for personal defense or use of firearms for sport or recreation, the state may license individuals duly trained for those purposes. The use of assault and automatic weapons is by this amendment reserved for active duty militia members in training for, or in, combat or police action.


Rapid fire weapons in the hands of individuals with personal agendas for action are a real and present danger to the security of a free State and to individuals deserving of the protection of that State. Not to limit the sale and use of such weapons is counter to the vision of a society that promotes life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.