12/30/2008

Title IV Revision on Abandonment: Let sleeping dogs sleep.

The Title IV Revision, which was circulated just before Christmas, changed two items in the canon on abandonment by a Bishop (formerly canon 9, now canon 16):

The word inhibition is changed to restriction, and it does not require additional advice beyond the Title IV Review Committee, now called the Disciplinary Board for Bishops. The matter of the three senior bishops concurring is no longer necessary.
The references to "this Church" were changed to "the Church."  Since the committee suggested that "The Abandonment provisions, Appeals, Modifications are essentially untouched, as is most of the other
content of the Canon," the clear intention is that "this " and "the"represent a non-substantial change. I would hope the language of "this" would be reintroduced.

The matter of voting for abandonment is left as it currently is:

"If the House, by a majority of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote, shall
give its consent, the Presiding Bishop shall depose the Bishop from the ministry, and
pronounce and record in the presence of two or more Bishops that the Bishop has been so
deposed."

The political world in Anglican Land being what it is, and the Episcopal Church filled with real and imagined canon lawyers it seems the thought is to leave this alone. 
This canon has been in practice interpreted to mean "a majority of the whole number of Bishops (present) entitled to vote.." and practice over time becomes the norm.  The challenge to such an interpretation seems vested in the House of Bishops and that House has not been willing to overturn the decision of the chair in past cases. So the wording stands.  

In a better land we might easily change the language to meet the test of actual practice, but at the moment we seem not to be in that better land. In the land of the current and real Episcopal Church / Anglican Communion  every change is marked as somehow a validation of suspicions and perfecting the language is viewed as covering tracks. In an age of carping, we rise to the bait, which is of course nothing like seizing the moment.


5 comments:

  1. You're right on this point, Mark, of course, but we do need to continue to work on revising Title IV to meet the reality of our current situation - something that hasn't happened on this scale since Title IV was written.

    We're not there yet and, being human, we'll make some mistakes along the way, but the process, however flawed, needs to continue.

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  2. On the other hand, as you and I both know, this is hardly likely to be the way the revision comes to the floor of General Convention, much less the way it leaves the floor. I expect some will feel the need to clarify that the Committee does not.

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  3. I'd agree that, notionally, the change from "this church" to "the church" is non-substantive. But if it were to be changed, better to change it to "the Episcopal Church" since one of the schismatic talking ponts has been a misrepresentation of that partcular piece.

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  4. If we are going to mess with Title IV at all, our objective should be to get it right this time. In particular, all ambiguity that is capable of removal should be removed. This means, for example, that the business of a quorum should be made crystal clear. Also, Malcolm is right about "this church" versus "the church" (I’m ignoring capitalization here). The change seems to introduce ambiguity that is not presently there. Why on earth would we do that?

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  5. I've rung in on the "the/this" issue (which plagues the whole title) and I think it is a very confusing change. Hope they stick with fixing what's broke!

    The HoB quorum will become moot (or return to what it meant years ago when there were practically no retired bishops) if we adopt on its second reading the Constitutional restriction of voting essentially to active bishops. Most active bishops do come to the interim meetings of the HoB, so we will have returned to the time when the number attending are "the majority of bishops entitled to vote" absolutely.

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