6/18/2007

What part of Article V, Section 1 of the Constitution don't they understand?

So the Chancellors of the four dioceses - Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, Quincy and San Joaquin have decided that the Executive Council's resolution on Accession of Dioceses to the Constitution of The Episcopal Church is a "failed attempt to interfere in the internal constitutional processes of their dioceses." Anyway that's what was reported on the Diocese of Pittsburgh site.

Among other things the chancellors objected to the Executive Council making such a resolution since, according to their read, "The Executive Council does not have the authority to make decisions or pass resolutions of this type on behalf of TEC. Furthermore, the Executive Council does not have the right to interfere in internal diocesan constitutional processes. The Executive Council's declaration is contrary to the law and to the historic Anglican faith.”

Actually, the first section of this resolution "reminds the dioceses" of the content of the Constitution, which require "an unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of this Church." (Article V, Section 1, the Constitution of the Episcopal Church.) That reminder in hand, the next two sections of the resolution are not making opinion, but stating fact.

It might be argued that the Executive Council has no business stating the obvious. On the other hand, it would appear that the Dioceses in question seem unable to understand declarative statements part of the Constitution of the Episcopal Church.

Were they able to read with understanding perhaps they might have noticed that "unqualified" seems to rule out the following language from the Diocese of Pittsburgh:
"In cases where the provisions of the Constitution and Canons of the Church in the Diocese of Pittsburgh speak to the contrary, or where resolutions of the Convention of said Diocese have determined the Constitution and Canons of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, or resolutions of its General Convention, to be contrary to the historic Faith and Order of the one holy catholic and apostolic church, the local determination shall prevail."

The chancellors, God bless them, make quite a rant of it: "the Executive Council does not have the right to interfere in internal diocesan constitutional processes. The Executive Council's declaration is contrary to the law and to the historic Anglican faith." This is all language just itching for a fight. Of course the fight is already in progress and these accusations are grist for the mill.

As far as I can make out, Executive Council's declaration is not "contrary to the historic Anglican faith." That is a smokescreen. On the matter of "the right to interfere in internal diocesan constitutional processes," making an observation of fact, reminding dioceses of what is written in the Constitution, is no interference, unless one supposes that helping people read is somehow wrong. As to the right to draw the conclusion from the Constitution that limits to the unqualified accession to the Constitution are not allowed, not only can the Executive Council draw such conclusions, so can anyone else. That's the way logic and language work.

It may be that dioceses and their leadership may believe The Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church are from time to time "contrary to the historic Faith and Order of the one holy catholic and apostolic church." They are welcome to try to change the Constitution or Canons so that they are more to their liking.

What the chancellors are arguing, however, is that one of the things that is contrary is the notion of unqualified accession itself.

Good luck with that one.

14 comments:

  1. This reminds me so much of a vestry meeting at my first go as a parish priest. Thinking it was their duty to understand all the laws governing our parish,... in addition to the Canons, I introduced them to the Religious Corporations Law of The State of New York. The indignant response from the Junior Warden was, "B... b... but I don't like those laws." I guess he honestly thought his dislike would nullify them.

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  2. What is interesting to me about the statement from Pittsburgh is that conservatives have labeled Executive Council's deference to General Convention, not entirely wrongly in my opinion, as "passing the buck" to a body that only meets every three years, presumably stretching out the time for a response to 2009. However, the fact that Pittsburgh is essentially saying that EC has no authority to do what they have done makes that deference to General Convention more, rather than less, plausible as genuine.

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  3. I have always understood the function of any executive committee of an organisation is to meet or confer, between meetings of the board, to either make observations on proposals, pass emergency legislation, etc. that can't wait until the scheduled meeting.
    How is TEC's setup different, Mark?

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  4. Of course the statements such as that from Pittsburgh, dodging around the true issue and what Exec. Coun. really did, aren't actually made for TEC to hear. They are directed outside of TEC to their supporters, in order to sustain a position of oppression and victimization.
    Lois Keen

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  5. Richard Warren19/6/07 9:24 AM

    This is all getting to be so tiresome, I wish 815 would do us all a favor and declare the Sees vacant, find individuals who want to be exemplary pastors interested in doing the work of the church, instead of showing us their backsides and fomenting dissent, as the leaders of these diocese have been doing for too long.

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  6. For me this is still simply scribe vs. scribe. The Ex. Comm. passed the resolution to establish a legal paper trail that it did not give tacit assent to the decisions of the dioceses involved. If the cases do end up in court, this paper trail will be helpful. By contrast, the dioceses are doing the same thing. They are saying to TEC, we disagree.

    What TEC didn't do was claim that the controversy was over biblical interpretation which is what these dioceses did claim. I can thinhk of two possible reasons: 1.Is there an agenda here that the dioceses will thus claim in court that the dispute is about theology and therefore the civil courts are without jurisdiction? Was it Watson v. Jones? Can a legal beagle jump in here and parse the language? Or 2: To spin this response for pr to the GS and the "faithful" in the dissatisfied dioceses? ie. we are doing this as the persecuted biblically faithful?

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  7. So the responsibility of EC is to do whatever suits the "reaffirmers"?

    "The Executive Council does not have the authority to make decisions or pass resolutions of this type on behalf of TEC".

    Simultaneously the Executive Council is being damned up hill and down dale for having reneged on its obligation to ratify the Dar es Salaam diktat, notwithstanding that it lacks the constitutional authority to do this, even should it wish.

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  8. I find it interesting that anyone can be so delusional as to think TEC would simply wave goodbye while the schismatics stole the property. I guess the answer to your question Fr. Mark is that they actually think their self-approved moral superiority makes them immune.

    FWIW
    jimB

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  9. None of it really matters very much in the long run. TEC currently has a policy of selective enforcement of the Canons anyway. It picks and chooses what to enforce or what not to enforce. Bishops preach heresy, communion is administered to anyone who wants it, and the big attorneys are not concerned about any of that. Just keep driving the wedge deeper and deeper and the Ultimate King of Kings will take a position. The old saying has always been, if you have to quote the Canons, you have lost the war. I think that is pretty much where TEC is for now.

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  10. First, a comment to dr. j+: One can certainly argue that the church should have acted against dioceses like Fort Worth for modifying its accession clause years ago, but I don’t see a “selective enforcement” issue here. Certainly, all dioceses that have changed their accession clauses are being treated the same—from my point of view, with unconscionable indulgence. Does everyone who deserves discipline under the constitution and canons receive it? No, but this is not unusual. District attorneys regular ignore clear violations of the law because to do otherwise is not—to use a religious term—good stewardship.

    Pittsburgh, et al., may be playing to a particular audience, but they are also staking out a position. They have two arguments available to them (other than the Humpty Dumpty argument that they can make words mean whatever they like). 1: Diocesan constitutions are required to have an unqualified accession clause to become a diocese, but nothing says that the clause must remain in the constitution. I don't think this argument is logically sustainable, but it sounds good on the surface. (See “Unqualified Succession” for a more complete argument.) 2: The second (and goofier) argument really sidesteps the constitutional wording. It is that TEC is a confederation of independent diocese that may secede at will, rather than a unitary polity in which the General Convention establishes dioceses. This has been seriously argued in Pittsburgh, but it has been definitively dealt with in “History Revisited.”

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  11. It is interesting that the renegade dioceses are using, in essence, the same response that TEC is making to Dar es Salaam -- that they are fully autonomous and not subject to any higher earthly authority.

    Of course, the big difference is that Pittsburgh et al. have the messy business of TEC's constitution and canons. The Primate's Meeting (or Lambeth) has no constitution to which TEC has acceded.

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  12. It seems that your hermeneutic for reading and interpreting the canons is one of a 'strict constructionist' conservative. No?

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  13. "It may be that dioceses and their leadership may believe The Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church are from time to time "contrary to the historic Faith and Order of the one holy catholic and apostolic church." They are welcome to try to change the Constitution or Canons so that they are more to their liking."

    And Mr. Harris just what has ECUSA done in ignoring it by consecrating an oenly gay man to the Episcopate? And the EC in ignoring DES? Please!!!!!

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  14. Mark, nothing in your article shows that the Executive Council had the right to declare a decision of a dioesan convention to be null and void. You've not showed us where the canons allow you to do this. It's one thing to express an opinion about the validity of their actions as to the Canons and Constitution of the Episcopal Church. But that's not what the Executive Council did. Where in the canons does it say you have the right to do that?

    If the Executive Council wants people to abide by the Canons and Constitution, perhaps the Executive Council should take care to do so themselves.

    Nothing disgusts me more about my church than its current eagerness to take its fellow members to court. It's a clear violation of scripture (another clear violation). It's also a violation of who we declare ourselves to be (we're supposedly about reconciliation, not litigation).

    It's also a no-win scenario. Even if you gain the property, you lose the people. They will still go to these foreign primates, with all the more credency to their cry for protection as people of traditionalist faith. Church buildings without congregations are very difficult to maintain, and you will end up selling many of them at fractions of their worth (check your history -- it's happened before). You will succeed in increasing alienation with the rest of the Anglican Communion, and within our own church. And it will cost you tens of millions of dollars and years of litigation to do it. And more and more people will be quietly exiting through the back door in the meantime. No doubt at some point I and my family will be among them.

    If the Episcopal Church won't try reconciliation and/or negotiation because it is the right thing to do, one would hope they would consider it because it is the smart thing to do.

    By the way, only Christ deserves "unqualified accession." You'd think good Christian folk would know that.

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