3/21/2005

Munching Canons and Rules in the late hours

Granted there is not much in Canons and Rules of the House to feed on, but in the middle of the night the odd thought arises. This particular though relates to Bishops who absent themselves from meetings of the House of Bishops, a matter of increasing interest as a sign of broken communion. I admire grit, but hell, we ordain and pay these people to stay in connection, and thus in communion. So I wrote this to the House of Bishops / House of Deputires list:

I note the rules of order for the HoD, XV, 58, "unless a member have leave from the President or be unable to attend, no member shall be absent himself from the service of the House." As far as my eyes can take me at this hour I see no similar rule of Order in the House of Bishops.

Given the lamentable behavior of Bishops who have excused themselves from all or parts of meetings of the House of Bishops between Conventions on grounds having neither to do with disability or leave, I wonder if the House of Bishops should make a similar rule, particularly concerning General Convention, in which it is stated that "unless a member have leave from the President or be unable to attend, no member shall be absent himself from the service of the House."

The index of the Canons do not list as a "duty" of a bishop attendance at or engagement with the House of Bishops. This in itself is peculiar. Perhaps a change in the canons is needed? The silence in the rules of the junior house, if indeed there is no such rule, could be a source of confusion if particular Bishops absent themselves from the General Convention sessions of the House of Bishops in whole or in part for reasons other than that loving kindness and good sense allow. The roll is called each day, but that does not prevent bishops from leaving for a time and returning at will. While there is good reason for this (no substitute being available even on half days as is the case for Deputies) non mandatory attendance except for leave, makes it possible for members to absent themselves for reasons which they claim carry political / theological weight. (Let the Reader understand.)

My sense is that it would be helpful if, as happens with members of the House of Deputies, all Bishops in attendance at the General Convention and who register be expected to attend all sessions, unless otherwise excused.. Failure to do so, particularly at General Convention, might then be viewed as dereliction of duty. With more clarity in such a rule perhaps future walk-outs of bishops for what ever worthy cause, would be viewed as evidence (howbeit partial) of intent or actual abandonment of this fellowship, and abandonment of this communion.

3 comments:

  1. More mandates from canon law to seek to compel attendance at the HoB meeting! That reminds me of the bishop who insists that we as a parish obey him because of his authority as a bishop. The minute those words are out of his mouth, he has already lost his moral authority as a bishop.

    This suggestion to mandate attendance is silly at best, and at worst as an admission that the reasons for attending the HoB meetings are now so thin that attendance must be forced. I would assume that any non-attending bishop would then be brought up for presentment if he decided not to show at a HoB meeting. Was it not Bishop Gray of Virginia who said recently that he does not go to these meetings because they have become completely dysfunctional? And he is not an AAC or Network bishop.

    If the forces that be want to mandate attendance by canon, so be it. After all the chairs on the deck of this Titanic are all out of order and need to be set straight. Sure, let us pass a new coercive canon to solve the problem rather than deal why good solid men of God might want to have a root canal rather than attend one of these dreadful sessions.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Interesting response...the issue of my posting was not to compel attendance (for example of retired bishops) but rather to compel accountability and actual attendance if registered for the meeting. What I find difficult is bishops who selectively take part in debate or who stay away as a political statement.

    By the way I think Bishop Gray acted with moral courage, but I still think he was wrong except in so far as he exempted himself for his own mental or physical health. I can imagine there being good reasons to absent oneself on grounds of such health issues. But he clearly wrote and explained his absence and made a real effort not to have it be a political statement, or even a statement about the moral character of the house.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mark, I have similar concerns to Peñafort. The last few reports from the House of Bishops' meetings indicate a real tension between them. Passing a canon enforcing attendance would only increase the tension between the majority and the conservative minority, especially the kind you suggest which would lead to the charge of abandoning communion -- a clear threat. I think the HOB would be wiser in establishing processes that increase mutual trust and respect, and increase more free and open communication (as I think may have happened at the last HOB meeting). After all, the question should be raised: why don't they come? I have heard some conservative bishops claim that they were wasting their time, because they had been preventing from giving voice to their concerns due to the way the meeting was structured.

    Frankly, I hear in your suggestion a plan to either force the conservative bishops into compliance or simply remove them from office. I hope I'm wrong. I believe the Episcopal Church needs both her conservative and liberal leaders. Paraphrasing something Clinton said, the conservatives point out the boundaries that should not be broken, while the liberals point out the boundaries that must be broken. I'm quite convinced that the ECUSA would be quite poorer and much less interesting with only liberals, or only conservatives. I think the church must be prepared to do the hard work of reconciliation within itself, especially since it defines its own mission in terms of reconciliation. More canons enforcing compliance won't do the trick, and makes me think of a wife screaming at her husband, "C'mon, love me, dammit!"

    RB

    ReplyDelete

OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.
Rule: PLEASE DO NOT SIGN OFF AS ANONYMOUS: BEGIN OR END THE MESSAGE WITH A NAME - ANY NAME. ANONYMOUS commentary will be cut.