It is not a time for the squeamish, and as the good Dr. Hunter S. Thompson observed, “There is a lot of wreckage in the fast lane these days.”
Word is out tht the Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop has served notice to at least two dioceses that changing their canons in order to remove the “‘unqualified accession’ to the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church” will not go unnoticed. The Living Church online posted the story today and by this evening Fr.Jake has produced a masterful commentary HERE, and Daily Episcopalian has the following comment HERE .
Many of us have been wondering just how long it would be before runaway dioceses would be challenged to slow down. Now we know. The time is now. “Unqualified” means just that, and if you don’t slow down and read the fine print the time is up.
I wrote about this in an earlier blog. Perhaps a revisiting of part of that essay is in order:
“There is, however, the matter of unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. The admission of new dioceses into union with the General Convention includes submission of the Constitution of the Diocese which includes a statement of “unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of this Church.” (Constitution V.1) But what about those dioceses whose admission formed the Convention out of which the Constitution was written or those who were admitted prior to the requirements of “unqualified accession (if such a time ever existed)?”
It can be argued that those dioceses have in fact conformed by practice. But whatever those arguments, bishops, by their unqualified pledge at ordination, are required to conform to the Constitution. Here is what the oath looks like: “In the Name of God, Amen. I, N., chosen Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in N., do promise conformity and obedience to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. So help me God, through Jesus Christ. (from the 1789 BCP). Now the form reads (from the Constitution – VIII) “I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and new Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engaged to conform to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal Church.”When a Diocese changes its own Constitution or Canons to strike unqualified accession or conformity, and /or the Bishop of that Diocese has declared him or her self to be subject to the Constitution of the Diocese and not the Episcopal Church there has been a breach of unqualified accession. At that point, it seems to me, the Diocese and / or the Bishop has defaulted on the oath of conformity. At some point the General Convention can declare the dissolution of the union between the Diocese as currently constituted and the Episcopal Church and reconstitute the diocese with a Constitution that gives unqualified accession and with a bishop who continues a pledge of conformity. It seems to me then that there is a basis on which the General Convention could declare a Diocese vacated by its Bishop and Diocesan Convention, and by extension by its Deputies – the proof of which would be that the Diocese fails to send representatives, fails to financially support or fails to exercise authority in conformity with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. What the General Convention then does with the ministry in the territory now vacated can be dealt with by reorganizing the diocese...
The conclusion is then that no Diocese may secede from the Union that constitutes the General Convention. People may go, but the missionary obligation of the Episcopal Church for the work in the territory vacated remains and the determination of the ecclesial structure of the work done in that territory is made by the General Convention…The days may be upon us when the General Convention may be called upon to deny seating, voice or vote to deputations, or to declare a diocese vacant, and determine new structures for the work in those jurisdictions. Certainly it seems more and more important to find ways to hold bishops accountable to their oaths and dioceses to the requirement of “unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of this Church.”
I invite you to read the rest.
Union is no easy matter; not easy to achieve, and not easily denied. The Chancellor is doing his job.
Call the question.