Dan Martins, whose blog Confessions of a Carioca I check in on often, is angry, angry in the best sense of the word. On Sunday he posted "Getting in Touch with My Feelings" and we - particularly those of us who think ourselves progressive - ought to read it. As always Dan writes with considerable force and deeply expressed faithfulness. That is the reason to read what he writes.
I think Dan is sometimes wrong, but he is wrong in the right way...if that makes sense. He has a fined tuned sense of justice left undone and sinfulness and stupidity done. That sensibility, rather than his conclusions, is what makes his posting on getting in touch with his feelings a powerful thing.
I think his read on such matters as the events in San Joaquin is mixed, but he leaves no one untouched by his passion to see a better way forward: He slams Bishop Schofield, the Presiding Bishop, the House of Bishops and everyone else in sight.
Since I am meeting in Quito, Ecuador, as part of the Executive Council, I was particularly struck by his slam on Executive Council:
"I am angry with the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, the members of which are already en route to to Quito, Ecuador--first, for wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars in diocesan contribution to 815's program budget by meeting in South America for the sake of political correctness, , but mostly for what I suspect they will do: Affirm the Presiding Bishop's declaration of non-recognition of the duly-elected Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. The sad fact is, politics and due process do not mix. Executive Council is about as political a body as one can imagine. Their members are elected, but the committee itself controls the nominating process, so they are effectively self-perpetuating. Between meetings of the General Convention, the Executive Council speaks with the voice of the convention. Their interpretation of the Constitution and Canons does not have to be rational and coherent in order to carry the weight of ecclesiastical authority. It need only be their interpretation, and it becomes binding on the conscience of the faithful. We may say we're a church under the rule of law, but we deceive ourselves. We are a church governed by a majoritarian tyranny that has the power to declare the color of the sky on a clear day to be green if the advocates for that position can get enough votes."
Dan is right: Executive Council is a political body. So might I add is every vestry, Diocesan Convention and Standing Committee, not to mention the gate keepers in the ordination process, the trustees of the several dioceses and on and on. The body politic that the Executive Council is part of is the Episcopal Church, by way of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and the General Convention. Whether or not it does a good job in reflecting the concerns of the Episcopal Church is always an important question.
But Dan is also wrong: The nominations and election of members of Council do not result in a self-perpetuating group. As many readers will remember some members elected by General Convention who are nominated for that position. Sometimes persons not nominated by the nominating committee are elected. And, lest we forget 18 members are elected by their Provinces and the nominating committees of those provinces and not the nominating committee of a majoritarian tyranny. I was elected in Province III by a narrow margin. The nearest contending candidate was a priest from the diocese of Pittsburgh, The Rev. Dr. James Simons, St Michael’s, Ligonier, who I greatly respect. Had he been elected we would have been well served. The idea that Executive Council is a body put together in a smoke filled room of old hack politicos is just plain wrong.
As to meeting in Quito, Ecuador: It has been a long standing custom and hope that the Executive Council that meets nine times over the course of the three years between General Conventions meets once in every Province including Province IX. Additionally there are good reasons for having the meeting in the Diocese of Ecuador Central. This Diocese has just been through a difficult period following the deposition of its former bishop. It is undergoing a quite remarkable transformation and the presence of the governing board of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is meant to offer encouragement and provide the Executive Council with renewed energy for the missionary tasks to which the Episcopal Church is called. It is quite out of line to consider this meeting a matter of "political correctness."
Dan began his blog post with an affirmation that, actually, he is blessed, and indeed he is. His rather elegant anger rants come with more sound and fury, and sometimes less information, than we or he deserves. I presume the same can be said of my writing as well (although elegant may be a bit of a reach.)