3/31/2008

Monday, Monday....

The Special Convention in the Diocese of San Joaquin went off well. Episcopal Life Online carried a number of stories about it all and Fr. Jake ran comments from the meeting as well as some fine photos, one of which I post here.(Thanks to Fred, whoever he is.)

I have to confess I was somewhat nervous about how things would go. It was important, I think, that the event began with healing as part of the "work" to be done. Bishop Lamb will a kind, gentle and forceful witness for building again an Episcopal Church community.

Now it turns out that Bishops Lawrence, Howe and Duncan (or at least his Lawyer) have all objected to the voting at the last House of Bishops meeting. Bishop Duncan was absent. I don't know about Bishops Howe and Lawrence. Did either of them object at the time? And what does that objection mean now?

It is a matter about a procedure in the House of Bishops. Perhaps these bishops will want to attend the next meeting for sure and there raise their objections again, perhaps with a suggestion for a way forward that fits their understanding of canonical procedure, precedence, and rationale.

So its Monday and the Church (as mostly seems the case) is still made up of people who mostly find themselves able to go to Church on Sundays leave and get through to Monday and the weekly round holding something of the holiness of Sacred moments and carrying them into all other moments and making them sacred too. For most of them this business in San Joaquin is no big deal.

On the other hand the various parties in San Joaquin are having to work through a lot of things, putting some down and taking others up. The yoke may have been hard and now is easy, it may have been easy and now is hard. It's Monday, Monday...

I come to this Monday with an odd sense that there is something in all this that needs further work.

Let me begin by saying that I believe right decisions were made to depose Bishop Schofield, to hold the Special Convention, to question the viability of the old Standing Committee, to elect new officers and to to affirm Bishop Lamb as provisional Bishop. Matters could have been dealt with differently concerning the Standing Committee, but I am not convinced that a Standing Committee elected in the same Convention that voted to withdraw from the Episcopal Church and align itself with another Province can be said to be neutral on the matter.

What bothers me is this: The Canons are tools for us to use in our common life in the Episcopal Church, tools that both form and are formed by the community. While they are always in need of further work (of perfecting) they still constitute a body of discipline that we consider of such importance that obedience to them signals a basis for being considered included in or abandoning the communion of this Church.

It seems a good moment to take a forward step, perhaps gathering voices of the church that come from various places that seem so disparate that they are "across the divide" and together call for a clarification in the Canons on each of the matters that have plagued this discussion so far. In the proposed revision of Title IV being submitted to General Convention 2009 we would do well to consider carefully just what we mean regarding the words on the page and how it relates to previous practice and general justification for the various elements of the Canon.

Why should we do so? Well, in part because the Rev. Dan Martins will not get off the case until we do so. I disagree with his read on most of the items in the list of concerns, but I absolutely agree with him that we need to come to some clarity about what we mean in the canons, what its implications are and how we deal with disputes of interpretation.

The reason for this, at least as far as I am concerned, is larger than Dan's objecting, of course. The reason is that one day "they," who ever they are, will decide that my hesitancy about moving beyond the belief that Jesus was born of a Virgin to the assertion that the belief is now a stone cold fact that it is flat out SO, is grounds for the charge that I have abandoned the communion of this Church. When that happens no one will give a damn because I am a miserable lowly retired priest and who cares anyway. On the other hand when they come for my bishop (The Rt. Rev. Wayne Wright at the moment) and decide that he really doesn't believe with sufficient fervor that the words in Scripture constitute in final terms the "Word of God" they will haul him away, and with him will haul away the episcopal authority under which I have freedom to be the peculiar ol' fart that I am.

It turns out that visionary conservatives and visionary liberals alike want the canons to mean something: that they be clear and precise as possible; that they implicate us in community; that we will have to take responsibility for living under them and responsibility for ignoring them.

I believe Dan to be wrong in his assessment of what has happened in San Joaquin. I say that knowing that he knows the players and I don't; that he was part of that diocese and I wasn't. But I believe him to be right to press forward with the vision that the canons might actually mean what they say and say what they mean, and that somehow we will find a way to interpret the canons that itself will carry communal weight sufficient to satisfy us all.

Meanwhile, we baptize and we share communion and for those of us under the radar no one will ask how we felt about this canon or that, or how we might have voted, or what our real opinion is of Jesus' mother. We will be part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church by virtue of being small and of no account.

13 comments:

  1. And so, I do live in this diocese of San Joaquin, and have lived here as a member of the Episcopal Church longer than Dan Martins was here, although I acknowledge he was a priest, and I am a member of the laity, one of the baptised, whose job also is to reach out to others in this diocese of San Joaquin. And I still live here, and he does not.

    Dan Martins may be upset as to whether TEC precisely followed the canons of the Episcopal Church, but he was here, and a member of the Standing Committee in those years leading up to the schism that was perpetrated by John David Schofield. People is this diocese have been hurt by these actions. Why is no one able to recognize that fact? If I seem suspicious of the motives of Dan Martins, it is because I am. I am so tired of telling the story of churches closed by the John David Schofield, and people who were hurt by those closures, with no pastoral support offered to them by anyone in the power structure in this diocese. I have told too often the story of us in St. Francis Turlock, who were driven out of our church because John David Schofield licensed a deposed priest to serve as supply in our diocese, and members of the Vestry chose to call this man to serve in our parish. 5 of us who were on the Vestry did not constitute a majority that was needed to override their choice, and we resigned and left a church where we had given and served for decades. Who was breaking the laws of the church? Where was the Standing Committee? Do you just pick the laws to be followed if they suit your purposes, Dan Martins?

    Given the disregard for the canons of the Episcopal Church that has been exhibited for years in this diocese, how can anyone in the former power structure of this diocese call to question anything being done by the national church to support Episcopalians who have been left adrift in this diocese??? It is time to let the rest of us bind up our wounds and begin again. Let us have an opportunity to rebuild the Episcopal Church in this diocese. We intend no ill feelings toward anyone. We are Christians, who believe in the Lord as you do. Rob Eaton and his group may have meant well, but they showed up at least an hour after the convention convenened, and after PB Schori gave an explanation for the right to call the convention. Still, Father Eaton and his group were allowed to give their presentations and people listened. No effort was made on their part to nominate Father Eaton for Standing Committee and that could have happened. If,in good faith, he wanted to be heard in the last few weeks, there are definitely ways in which that could have happened. But now, it is time to let us move on. The Episcopal Church has been restored in this diocese. Thanks be to God.

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  2. Thank you, Beryl. It must get tiresome having to repeat the story over and over. Your first paragraph says it all.

    I am also struck, stricken even, by a statement made in the press conference after the Convention, by a woman who thanked Our Katharine for making it possible for the people of San Joaquin to have a newspaper, and that wrapped around Episcopal Life, which many of them had not ever seen. And another comment, on a blog other than this one, of a priest snatching up brochures for programs that have never seen the light of day in San Joaquin as previously administered, such seditious programs as Education for Ministry (EFM).

    Praying the psalms this morning I was interrupted by the thought, why can not those in sympathy with the former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, now the bishop of the Southern Cone Diocese in San Joaquin, just rejoice in where they are now, and let the rest of us rejoice in where you and your fellows are now. I guess I just don't get it.

    But I do get where you are. Thanks be to God, Beryl, for the courage and the faithfulness of those of you who have stuck it out all these years and now see the blessed fruit of your labors.
    Lois Keen

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  3. Mary Clara1/4/08 9:04 AM

    Mark, I appreciate your thoughts here, but with a caveat. Yes, the canons and procedures need to be examined and reworked as necessary. The difficulty is that they can never be perfected and made so comprehensive as to be proof against any and all attempts to subvert, dismantle or hijack the Episcopal Church. Part of the strategy of plotters like Schofield and Duncan is to create conditions in which those who are trying to observe the rules and apply them to preserve the institution have no fully workable options. The plotters believe they are acting in response to a higher law, so they defy, twist, or ignore the canons at will, promulgate new game rules that fit the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion they think SHOULD exist (but which has never existed), and create new realities on the ground which are so anomalous they could never have been anticipated by GC and the drafters of the constitution and canons. In short, a part of their method is to use the inevitable (and I stress that: truly inevitable) incompleteness and imperfection of the canons and administrative structures of the church to break up or take over the church (schism or coup d'eglise). Their aim is to create situations in which the chief officer and the governing bodies of the Church cannot take effective action without risk of violating some canonical provisions or restrictions. Then, when those leaders attempt to carry out their responsibilities with the means open to them, they are assailed as lawbreakers and thugs. Any procedural irregularity, however small, or any action taken in areas not specifically outlined in the canons is endlessly harped upon as evidence of the bad faith (indeed the viciousness) of the leadership. The idea is to keep the focus on attacking the actions of the PB, HOB and GC and away from the blatant and deliberate violations being committed by the separatists themselves. This is a power tactic and has nothing to do with justice.

    My point is that the canons always need work (occasional major revision, routine updating and maintenance), but the uproar at the moment from people like Dan Martins does not impress me. It seems more a reflection of rage at the failure of the schismatics' strategy than of concern for the future and for good order in the Church. Those who are keeping up the kicking and screaming about the canons, in an aggrieved and victimized tone*, are not contributing to the future soundness of TEC but attempting to justify their own collusion in past or present misbehavior and to avoid facing the fact that they have been sold a bill of goods by their schismatic leaders.

    (*You may have noticed the other day, on the HOB/D e-mail list, one person referring to the PB's nonrecognition of the departing Diocese of San Joaquin Steering Committee as a 'pogrom'. Dan Martins has also used some pretty strong language.)

    The law doesn't prevent crime or undo much of the damage it causes; the Church's canons alone won't save us from determined cultists and from people with personality disorders who manage to get into leadership positions. One of the things we have going for us is a PB who appears to have really good mental health and is not easily bullied or manipulated by such people. We need to keep our priorities straight and not let undue energy go into anxiously and endlessly tinkering with the canons or responding to the inflated sense of grievance from certain parties.

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  4. Mark, I will not hijack your blog to respond to the many misleading and erroneous statements made (innocently, I am quite sure) by Dr Simkins. I will only observe, in friendship, that Blogspot does have a resident spell-checker. :--)

    As you might expect, when I've had time to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest, some of what you've said will probably end up being "confessed" by the Carioca later today.

    Easter blessings.

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  5. To Mary Clara:
    It appears to me that you paint with a very broad brush. I'm not going to get into a point-counterpoint with you in Mark's own corner of cyberspace. Not only would it be discourteous, but largely ineffective. It would be my word against your assumptions, a classic "he said/she said" unprovable confrontation. It all does make me sad, however.

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  6. Dan...spell checker was turned off for some reason and it was late at night...so it got messed up, more towards the end than at the beginning...a sign of being tired, I suspect.

    Corrected this AM after your kindness in prodding me to greater efforts!

    I have noted that you are blessed beyond all reason to have such a beautiful church - the lovely Good Friday pictures were a treat.

    be well.

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  7. Thank you beryl, lois and mary clara for your comments. Dan has checked in and I look for his reply over on his blog.

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  8. I am not convinced that a Standing Committee elected in the same Convention that voted to withdraw from the Episcopal Church and align itself with another Province can be said to be neutral on the matter.

    It’s getting a little tiring to read things like this, or that the SC needs to go because “they wrote [Schori] an insulting and scathing rebuke,” as it’s been put in various ways on various revisionist blogs. I know the canons are just guidelines in today’s ECUSA, but, really, it’s stretching things to say a SC can be deposed by a PB that doesn’t have that power in the first place, just because it’s not neutral on the Gospel fidelity of ECUSA, or because it writes a rude letter to poor Mrs. Schori.

    Like it or not, no SC is obligated to grovel before the PB, or defend what ECUSA’s become. A SC could put out weekly letters damning the PB to hell, and there is nothing anybody can do about it if the canons are being followed.

    As to the canons being “of such importance that obedience to them signals a basis for being considered included in or abandoning the communion of this Church,” if that’s true, when do the proceedings start to remove the Presiding Bishop?

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  9. Mark Harris wrote: "Bishop Lamb will [be] a kind, gentle and forceful witness for building again an Episcopal Church community."

    It may be like this for people that he agrees with, but I am pretty sure it will not be like this for people he doesn't agree with.

    He will probably drive people he disagrees with away.

    The decision to install him as interim Bishop in San Joaquin surprised me greatly, and I think it virtually guarantees that the reorganized diocese will be unsuccessful. I think it would have been far wiser to pick a neutral bishop.

    Randy Muller
    Diocese of Northern California

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  10. Fresno Mark1/4/08 3:17 PM

    Lois Keen,

    Just to correct a couple of things, I snatched up the EFM brochures (and commented on the blog about it), but I'm just a humble lay person in the pews and not a priest. Also, EFM has been active in this diocese, but it has been flying low under the radar, and has not been available in all parishes. We can now promote it at a much higher profile.

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  11. Bill Albinger+1/4/08 3:50 PM

    I couldn't agree more with Mary Clara's comments. As a former lawyer, I have watched with horrified fascination as the schismatic leaders plot and scheme to not only distort our language but also to attempt to use any unclarity in the canons to paralyze the duly elected authorities in TEC.

    Dan Martin and others harp on techinal matters and possible different interpretations and in the process raise some interesting and valid points. However, that does not negate the fact that these matters only come to our attention because the schemers and plotters and their lawyers have been working for years to find a way to use any unclarity to further their scheme to divide the church and supplant TEC.

    Far from being the victims of misapplication of the canons, the schismatics,their lawyers and their right wing financial backers plot to create the very confusion they complain of.

    Bill Albinger+
    Lahaina

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  12. And after all the flack Herself caught last month on account of her Jolly Green Giant Palm Sunday outfit, good to see her in this fine-looking, well-designed cope and mitre.

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  13. Thanks for the correction, Fresno Mark. Sorry I got that wrong, and there's nothing "humble" about a lay person, nor should there be. Still, having to have EFM fly under the radar stinks and I'm glad those days are over for you all. Peace and Grace to you, FM.
    Lois

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