The Shell Game on a Different Corner: The Ordinations at the Conference.

It is sometimes helpful to remember actions and events of the past: In September 2002, while all the lead up to the 2003 General Convention was brewing, the Bishop of Pittsburgh received the Rev. David Moyer in what was an odd shell game. Fr. Moyer was bounced around by letter and fax from one jurisdiction to another and by slight of hand ended up in Pittsburgh.

Resident in the Diocese of Pennsylvania, Fr. Moyer was deposed by the Bishop of Pennsylvania. The House of Bishops of the Province of Central Africa approved Moyer as a priest in good standing in a diocese there and they in turn transferred him to the Diocese of Pittsburg. This strange bit of foolishness was concocted in order to avoid dealing with the canonical reality, namely that a deposed priest in ECUSA cannot be reinstated except as the bishop or diocese where the priest was deposed allows. (At least that’s how I read the matter.) This rather clever maneuver was for a moment a BIG DEAL. It has passed and the only big deal is that the Bishop of Pittsburgh got off without most folk remembering the mess he made. The letter from the Bishop of Pittsburgh on this matter can be found HERE.

Now, in the context of the “Hope and a Future” conference, a priest and three deacons have been ordained by the Bishop of Bolivia, Frank Lyons, in the closing Eucharist of this conference. You can read a report of this HERE. It is unclear just how the shuffling of papers worked this time, but Bishop Lyons must have had to work at it to get the requirements met for candidacy and ordination in Bolivia in order so that in turn he could ordain them in Pittsburgh. For I would suppose there are such requirements that need to be met in Bolivia regarding ordinations. And no doubt the Bishop of Pittsburgh must have been very careful not to have given permission for this event to happen in his jurisdiction as Bishop of Pittsburgh, even though it happened in Pittsburgh. For, where he to have invited, condoned, or sanctioned this action as a bishop in the Episcopal Church he would be inviting censure.

These ordinations took place in an extra-jurisdictional space, namely a Network event. So we can only imagine that the Bishop of Bolivia and the Bishop of Pittsburgh worked hard to cover their bases.

But no one seems to care very much that these ordinations are a stretch of canons, the intentions of the Windsor Report and the notion of ordination within a genuinely operating Episcopal jurisdiction.

This is because the shell game that makes it so difficult to know where the pea is, as the shells are moved about, works quite well in cases like that of Fr. Moyer and these four.

For the ordinations to be valid in Bolivia considerable premeditation would have to take place. And in one case, that of Mr. Winks, ordained priest, the Bishop of Bolivia was ordaining for the Bishop of Chile. The reports do not indicate where Mr. Winks had been deacon. Part of the secret activity of course is that there is little information as to whether or not any of these four were in any sort of canonical jurisdiction of any ECUSA bishop. And, if they were not postulants or candidates for ordination here, were they there?

Of course it is all a muddle: Was the ordination in the Diocese of Pittsburgh? In the land of the Network? In no jurisdiction at all? It is all too complex to be really engaged. So, of course it is easier to just let it go.

Still, even with the shell game several things are clear:

(i) The Bishop of Bolivia is again active in ordaining clergy to cross boundaries with jurisdictions of the Episcopal Church, against the recommendations of the Windsor Report. He deserves censure from some source.

(ii) The Bishop of Bolivia has many more clergy operating outside his own diocese than within it. The South American Missionary Society, USA, claims him as a missionary and says he has only three clergy, one a Bolivian. It is hard to consider this a matter of missionary outreach.

(iii) The Bishop of Pittsburgh, also the Moderator of the Network, is in collusion with those planning these ordinations.

This of course is no surprise. Neither the Bishop of Bolivia nor the Bishop of Pittsburgh are concerned for the jurisdictional boundaries or authorities of any diocese in the Episcopal Church. But they do seem concerned enough to skate the thin edge between outright guerrilla action and simply disallowing the effects of canon and several of the recommendations of the Windsor Report.

The shell game is part of the guerrilla action promised by the Bishop of Pittsburgh, part of the effort to so confuse and confound the issues that no one wants to take the time to do anything about it.

The latest working of slight of hand is the Bishop of Pittsburgh’s comment that there will be an effort to depose him. By deflecting the eye, so we don’t see the shells moved about, the shuffle is easier. There may well be an effort to depose the Bishop of Pittsburgh, but I hope not. We don’t need him as a martyr. But more, we don’t need to be distracted by that.

Such an effort is unnecessary anyway, given other developments concerning the Network and various Primates of the Global South. He and the Network are clearer and clearer that they will not stay with more liberal folk in the Episcopal Church. The Global South Primates at the Hope and the Future Conference are pushing for decision. Things are cranking up for a call to arms. The guerrilla actions sniping at the edges are about to move into open conflict.

When we keep our eye on the shells as they are moved about, and while remembering to keep our hands on our wallets, remember – the shell game is always finally a con game. The operator always wins, for we can’t watch the shells move, the hands of the operator palming the pea, the line of chatter, and the distractions of others all at once.

The ordinations are a distraction. The bit player, the Bishop of Bolivia, is of no consequence. Even the context of the ordination is a distraction. Our focus ought to be on the fact that in setting up this shell game, as in the previous one, the real issue is the power to proclaim this corner the shell game operator’s corner.

This is about power and turf. The Network is more and more operating with the understanding that North America is, from the Anglican perspective, unclaimed territory (with the exception of course of Network dioceses.) There is less and less concern for jurisdictional boundaries, for existing jurisdictions are not recognized. There is little concern for setting altar against altar, for only theirs are viewed as legitimate. There is little honoring of the work of other bishops, for there is no collegiality left.

That is, the Network is claiming first this corner and then the next and the next as their own. There is no reason to trust that they will do otherwise. Their supporters from the Global South would be well advised to watch out, for nothing prevents the spread of this method of developing power and influence.

We need to focus on the take over of the streets by ecclesial shell game artists.

About the only thing that will work is to demand to know what they are doing here? Do they have license for any sort of legitimate Anglican engagement here? These ordinations, like the transfer of Moyers, are an ecclesiastical mess.

At the very least we in the Episcopal Church have a right to know why one of our own bishops, in collusion with a bishop of another Province, condoned these ordinations, no matter what the context, in a place where he (Pittsburgh) exercised authority.


  1. The whole thing smells bad.

    It seems as if those moderate-to-liberal churches whose leaders have fulfilled (according to Archbishop Eames) the basic things Windsor has required of them, are being bullied by those who made the demands in the first place. Now, it's like a nasty sorority pledge week, where the requirements are being increased at every turn.

    On the other hand, Windsor was a bit on the namby-pamby side when it came to admonishing those who interfere in other dioceses--and instead of obedience to, and fulfillment of the report's recommendations, they escalate the very behavior that has been (too gently) chided.

    Again, if indeed ++Rowan claimed that the Network members (and especially their bishops) are in communion, it is important to remember what was not said: and it was not said that they have special exemptions to behave and interfere however they wish, and to do what is going to end up as nothing more dignified than a massive land-and-property grab.

  2. According to the Post-Gazette article you linked to on the ordinations, Winks is identified as a deacon in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. According to the Washington Times, one of the deacons was a youth minister in Falls Church, Virginia and will be working in Washington D.C. The other two deacons were not identified but will be posted to North Carolina and Connecticut. A fifth candidate from Centreville, Virginia, withdrew from the ordination ceremony at the last moment.


  3. Network use of Windsor is completely disingenuous and fails to understand the document in its own terms. I don't like the document, but at least it is opposed to this.

  4. Yes, Bill, Windsor is deeply flawed, both for the obvious reasons, and for some other reasons nobody has said out loud in public (although that will change at least a little this Saturday morning in Philadelphia).

    But it is what we have, and it is what the involved parties have agreed to. And like any arrangement where disputants have agreed to something (and Windsor is not good compromise), one or both parties will have done so with their fingers crossed behind their backs--especially if they haven't gotten their way, and gotten it quickly enough.

    That's what's going on, at least to some extent. More on Saturday. Come have a donut on us.

  5. Mark:

    One thing you don't mention is that South Carolina, a network Diocese, is the home of the AMIA headquarters and a lawsuit between the Diocese and the AMIA. I understand efforts are being made to settle the litigation.


  6. obadiahslope14/11/05 10:09 PM

    the recent conference of conservative episcopalian/anglicans in your country featured overseas bishops telling them to be prepared to leave the property behind. ("The church is the people not the steeple").

    I don't know what will happen across our anglican communion, but the prospects of the North American conservatives being able to "grab" property would be one of the least likely outcomes as far as I can tell.

  7. obadiahslope, yes, the foreign bishops may have admonished American conservatives to be prepared to leave their property behind.

    Will that happen? I am cynical about that--at least about it happening in a way that shows any principle.

    I have some first-hand experience of the Network Moderator as a man who definitely likes the trappings of office, elaborate ceremonial, and a lot of the things that a whacking good amount of capital can supply. My bets are that he's not going to leave all of that behind without a fight, and he's not going to encourage conservative American Episcopalians to do so, either.

    Just personal observation and extrapolation, however.

  8. obadiahslope14/11/05 11:13 PM

    You may be right, he may be angry, he may fight. There will be people on both sides who lash out. But the Africans have made their stance clear to their american allies from the start: we will offer you comfort and support but we won't fight for your property.
    It will come down to the lawyers I guess. I don't see too many people saying that the conservatives will win that fight.
    OTOH I suspect that ECUSA will have to settle for diminished status within the communion or some form of parallel jurisdictions.
    Personally I wish that we could make room for each other. I still think that ECUSA would be smart to give DEPO real teeth. But Australians don't get a vote in ECUSA!

  9. obadiahslope, you said:

    "I still think that ECUSA would be smart to give DEPO real teeth. But Australians don't get a vote in ECUSA!"

    It seems to me there is a real attempt to do this, at least on the side of the liberal Episcopalians. But it takes time and patience, and that is something the conservatives only counsel for the liberals--they haven't notably exercised it themselves.

    But it is precisely these ham-handed interferences that deserve censure from the wider Anglican communion. Every Network parish and diocese in ECUSA is part of the Anglican Communion, not by virtue of the Network, but by virtue of being part of ECUSA. If they pull out, then go in peace--but don't call yourselves "Anglican" any more because you've willingly ruptured your relationships with the churches that make you so.

    It is no longer a matter of who supports gay bishops or same-sex relationships (if it ever was about that, actually). And if it's about biblical faithfulness, it's about a far too narrow range of what's contained in the Bible.

    This is about naked power grabs--and in the case of those churches located within the geographic territory of ECUSA, it will be to some extent about land and property.

    And unfortunately, along with "church" and "mission", the third big weasel-word in the Windsor Report that hasn't been adequately analyzed is "power." The report speaks of the "powerful" and "powerless", and about biblical scholarship being a "power grab." But there is no adequate analysis of what all of that means.

    But we are stuck with this piece of junk, until someone comes along and points out that it is like the emperor's new clothes--a lie at best. I have to hand it to the Network: they are very good at making up rules as they go along, bulldozing anything in their way that they find objectionable, and then crying "victim."

  10. Wendy,

    I intend to be there. I'm looking forward to it.

    I'm teaching Windsor and Rowan Williams papers at Lambeth 98 to senior ecclesiology students this week.

    The important issue raised by the report is the relationship between autonomy and communion/interdependence. What we need to offer is a good faith effort to show the South that we value our communion relationships and desire to maintain/strengthen them. We cannot offer a moratorium of any kind. What the South needs to understand is that some forms of dependence and unity are sinful. As nations that were once colonized, they ought to be able to understand that. Windsor does not envision a sufficiently pluralistic, polycentric Anglicanism, which is the only legitimately postcolonial form that Anglicanism might take. Rather than trying to grab the center, the South ought to use its newfound poltical strength (a welcome development in my view) to challenge the distinction between center and margins. Our intercommunion in the Body of Christ ought to be directed at the real enemy, neo-liberal capitalist globalization that shuns human rights and threatens to extinguish all life through ecological devastation. We ought to be fighting Empire together, rather than fighting among ourselves. I wish the Lambeth Conference would focus on a strong declaration against torture and wars of aggression and for the rights of workers, women, and ethnic minorities. Instead of embracing these aspects of God's mission, we will focus on ill-conceived efforts to maintain someone's fantasy about a status quo that never existed.

    I'm all for interdependence and solidarity with the Global South but not at the price of selling out a vulnerable community within our church, under assault by the religious right and under constant threat of violence.

    I suspect the right way to promote positive social change within the African portions of our communion is to help the voices of African women to be heard. They are the oppressed of the oppressed. A strong reaffirmation by Lambeth that women's rights are human rights and action by the provinces to help women achieve greater equality in the Church should be a major agenda item for the Communion.

  11. Bill, the Society for the Study of Anglicanism meeting will be interesting--other than David Ford, we don't have any titles of each others' papers, and so I can't even begin to guess the content of anyone's other than the one I'm a part of.

    I think it's a bit naive to think that anything resembling the Anglican Communion of the recent past is going to exist within, say, the next 5-10 years. And I think it's just wishful thinking to believe that any overtures made by the North American churches are going to be welcomed by the Global South or the Network. They have begun realignment, they have raised a one-issue hate campaign to credal status, supplanting all other scripture and doctrine.

    The question is, when (not if) a new set of relationships emerges, what do we want them to look like?

    Sometimes old things gotta be busted up before new and better things can be slapped together. Maybe it's time for that.

    See y'all Saturday.

  12. Good to witness that advocacy for the law and polite Anglican order is has emerged with Hasidic zeal in this string. We can presume that most of you were outspoken regarding the 1974 ordinations of the Philadelphia 11 and are currently very anxious to honor Lambeth 1.10 (1998), which bears far more weight than Windsor.

    Liberalism is good. Illiberalism solipsistically fails to recognize its own tyrannies. I cannot self identify here because my 'moderate' diocesan is making it very difficult on those of us who don't support the party line. And vicars can be unplugged without even a moment's notice.

  13. Anonymous--

    Not quite sure what you mean, or if you're being a bit cheeky. I'm rather disgusted with the advocacy of impolite law-breaking that groups like the Network have embarked on (to the extent that there is a global Anglican "law"). Right now, with the interferences, there is no good church order.

    I'm all for DEPO if that is what could hold us together--but it does not seem as if that is what is being sought. What is being sought is for parishes that don't agree with their diocesan party line (and it is usually the conservative ones) are seeking to take themselves out of ECUSA altogether, which sets it up as an irreconcilable difference. And then play "victim." That hardly seems polite or to be playing by the rules (whatever those rules are).

    I also note that nobody goes beyond Lambeth 1.10, and remembers that previous Lambeth conferences have called for an ongoing process of dialogue and listening, which seems not to be happening. It seems as though some parties are acting as though everything is settled, there is nothing left to talk about, and anyone who doesn't like it can get dumped out of the "real" Anglican churches in North America. That hardly seems polite or to honor diversity.

  14. Perhaps the question we should be asking to the Network is "What would it take for you to stay?" If the answer is unacceptable, the response could be "What will it take to allow you to leave with dignity and with a minimum of acrimony?" Ecumenical relationships should begin at the first moment of schism, if that's where we are indeed headed. I'm all for getting a set of disciplinary standards that we might actually adhere to. Most of the proposals I have seen pay no respect to questions of conscience and dissent. There have to be relationships of respect and trust, or there is no communion, no matter what institutions you put in place to safeguard those relationships.

    I absolutely agree with Wendy that the Anglican Communion of the future will not look like the past, not the Network's version of the past, not pro-Windsor moderates version of the past, not anti-Windsor, pro-provincial autonomy people's version of the past. What matters here is God's future. Windsor was never a viable proposal to begin with. We should stop pretending that it is.

    What we can do is demonstrate our desire to remain in relationship and make good faith efforts to recreate genuine conversation. I fear that those who think they have something to gain by realignment don't really want that conversation, but I'm willing to be convinced otherwise. Certainly, responsible conservatives want the conversation, as do all responsible liberals (for lack of better words).

  15. obadiahslope15/11/05 4:07 PM

    Great questions. I hope they are asked. Whatever the answers lets treat each other with dignity.
    Recreating conversation if there is a split will take time, in part because one side will need to set up new structures and work on their internal unity. but patience is a virtue.

    One of the answers to Bills question to the network may well be a very beefed up version of DEPO.
    For parishes "that don't agree with the diocesan party line" there needs to be a better answer than what we currently offer. Otherwise they will leave.

    This will increase the chances of something I suspect you don't want, namely some form of parallel jurisdiction.

    If there is a way to keep dissident parishes and dioceses in ECUSA it is worth exploring it, even at some cost to your current structure.

    I see a pattern across the "western" provinces of "anglican" or "anglican affiliated" churches emerging in Liberal dioceses. This is true of Australia, the UK, as well as your province. These facts on the ground will form part of whatever the future is. Inside or outside of anglicanism I do not know.

  16. Why not just write DEPO into canon law with specific procedure for requesting it and a mandate to grant it if specified alternative avenues of reconciliation were adopted. The HoB as a whole might have a role in overseeing the alternative overseer. It might come in handy some day in a completely unrelated fight.

  17. I just can't let this pass:

    We can presume that most of you were outspoken regarding the 1974 ordinations of the Philadelphia 11 and are currently very anxious to honor Lambeth 1.10 (1998), which bears far more weight than Windsor.

    C'mon, Anon: the only reason there IS a Windsor, is because of consensus that Lambeth '98 was, like all those Lambeths prior to it, purely advisory. No more "weight" than that.

    [Re the Philadelphia 11? I recall being a very happy 12 year-old Episcopalian (and was outspoken about it)! ;-p]

    Bill C: "Ecumenical relationships should begin at the first moment of schism, if that's where we are indeed headed."

    That's so much easier SAID, than DONE. [i.e., I don't see enough active nurturing of our ecumenical relationships, with those churches/traditions w/ whom we ARE getting along, nevermind those w/ which we aren't :-/]

  18. JCF--

    Agreed that it is difficult. So far as it depends on me, there won't be a schism and there won't be any trouble establishing dialogue if there is one. But it doesn't just depend on me.

    I don't buy the argument, and never have, that by failing to give into an ultimatum that we have caused schism. The Episcopal Church, in order to preserve its theological and spiritual integrity, needs to uphold the results of our collective discernment at General Convention 2003. It is our gift to the Anglican Communion, along with New Westminster, of public honesty about the lives and ministries of lgbtq Chrsitians in the Church.

    We had every right to make the decision and even if the Anglican Covenant was already in place and we were bound not to act, we would have had a duty to act anyway. Just like Philadelphia. There are times when one must obey God rather than human authority.

    This does not mean that we do not desire relationships of communion and interdependence with our sisters and brothers in the South. It just means that the model of our family relationships is that of mutual relationships among adult siblings and not a patriarchal family where father knows best.

  19. Check your history, Anonymous. You said: "We can presume that most of you were outspoken regarding the 1974 ordinations of the Philadelphia 11 ... IIRC, the participating bishops were indeed censured or disciplined in some way, and The 11 had their ordinations "regularized" after the next GC affirmed what had happened. So, if you are implying that their act of conscience had no repercussions, I believe you are incorrect.

    By the way, there was a near-consensus in TEC in support of the ordination of women before that glorious July day. There is a strong consensus in TEC today in support of the ordination, consecration, and blessing of faithful gay/lesbian Christians. There is no consensus that supports this NACDP/AAC/IRD/GSP shell game.

  20. Lisa,
    The strong concensus about which you spoke was, I believe, some 60% of the bishops. Is that "strong?" I don't know, but I do know this -- a vote at GC is not necessarily representative of what the people in the pews believe or want. Last I heard, a poll of those in the pews had somehting like 80% against same sex unions and the like. I suspect that those numbers are ever-changing but there is a big mistake in equating the decisions of GC with strong supoport within TEC. If they coincide, it is purely coincidental.

  21. Anonymous, how about backing up your assertions with some links, or quotes, or references, or - I don't know - facts?

    After all, we all know that 75% of statistics people throw around on threads like this are simply made up.

  22. bls,

    There are three kinds of people, those who believe statistics and those who don't. ;-)

    It would be my guess, no real data, that about 3/4 of the parishes in my diocese either support, accept or tolerate the GC'03 items. That rather SWAG number is based on my observation of the voting patterns at our recent convention. I doubt any precise split between support, acceptance and tolerance is possible from known data.

    The interesting, to me, question is wither the others? I will predict that the conservative side will be somewhere on the spectrum between outraged and saddened when GC06 ends. But then what?

    We hear about various forms of schism. Those who have not read their cannons think they would be better off in Nigeria or Uganda or some other spot. But, when the time to actually do something arises, well, most of those who said they would leave if women were ordained are still here.

    Leaving, actually breaking the fellowship with one's diocese, parish perhaps, and the larger church is a big deal. It is not at all settled in my view that the Network's claimed 200,000 are either real or ready to march.


  23. Lisa,

    I am by trade, a statsitical analyst / programmer. Whenever a really contentious item like "gay unions" comes along, opinion surveys proliferate. It is relevant to remember that how a question is written has at least as much to do with the numbers as who responds.

    So, within broad parameters, I can get almost any result I want. Were I to, for instance, ask about gay / lesbian unions using a question about kids, at a diocese of Pittsburg event, the expected result would be a bit different than if the question mentioned only the parties and was asked in the diocese of Newark.

    Research statisticians spend a lot of effort determining the cross sectional profile values for study data. I spent a month writing one balencing program a few years back. I got a bonus for doing it so fast. We tend to wink at each other when we see, "overnight polling data."


  24. Jim B,

    I thought the Network only claimed 144,000. Or is that someone else?

  25. obadiahslope17/11/05 5:29 PM

    Jim said " most of those who said they would leave if women were ordained are still here."

    The Philadelphia ordinations were some 30 years ago. Given that opponents were probably on average older than those in favour I would have thought that many who said they would leave have departed (but for a different reason).

  26. This thing smells like yesterday's diapers. But, if you remember that the basic outline of the AAC Chapman memo called for guerilla warfare, the increaed "noise" by Duncan, Akinola and the Neo-Puritans makes sense. Duncan and his crowd know they're going to get clobbered at GC 2006. So, they need to create as much turmoil as possible to make it easier to ransack (read, "steal") the store on their way out.

    It would be tempting for the mainstream Episcopalians in ECUSA to stomp on Duncan now by deposing him; but, better to wait until after GC 2006. Let Duncan and his fanatics rant and rave and throw their holy fits. They have no intention of adhering to Windsor, that's obvious. ECUSA should just sit back, keep applying subtle but constant pressure against the Rebellion, and then after GC 2006 finish this thing by deposing Duncan, Iker, and any other clergy involved in this nonsense.

  27. Bill,

    I think some reporting around the Global South meeting and the Pittsbuge event used 200,000. I have no idea what the source is.


  28. Sorry I haven’t logged-in for a couple of days. Didn’t mean to ignore your questions.

    Anonymous said...
    The strong concensus about which you spoke was, I believe, some 60% of the bishops. Is that "strong?" I don't know, but I do know this -- a vote at GC is not necessarily representative of what the people in the pews believe or want. Last I heard, a poll of those in the pews had somehting like 80% against same sex unions and the like. I suspect that those numbers are ever-changing but there is a big mistake in equating the decisions of GC with strong supoport within TEC. If they coincide, it is purely coincidental.

    I’m not very savvy about web-searches, so I cannot point you to the study(ies). But I do recall very clearly that some studies have been done – perhaps by statisticians within TEC. [Bill, where are you? I bet you can quote the source of that study.] And the result was loud and clear and has remained pretty consistent: of the folks in the pews, 20% are elated by GC03’s actions, 20% are violently opposed, and that wonderful broad middle (60%) just doesn’t much care one way or the other.

    And yet the neo-Puritan crowd [i.e., that gang that convened in Pittsburgh last weekend] continues to use that very study to repeat the lie that “80% are against” +VGR and same-sex blessings. It's a lie. But like so much they say, they apparently believe constant repetition will make folks believe it.

    jimB, I’m well aware of those problems/pitfalls re: polling & stats. It’s not for nothing that I’ve lived with a statistician for 6+ years! See ... I know that 87.2% of stats are lies. :-)

  29. jimB said... [in relation to Bill's comment about the actual number being 144,000]
    Bill, I think some reporting around the Global South meeting and the Pittsbuge event used 200,000. I have no idea what the source is.

    jimB, I think you'll find the source of Bill's 144,000 in the last book of our New Testament. ;-)

    Peace --


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.