10/13/2011

On this business of accession to the General Convention.

A learned friend on the House of Bishop/ House of Deputies list points to the language of Article 2 of the 1789 Constitution, having to do with being "bound by the acts of ...Convention." This quote can be found on page 31 of Volume I of the Annotated Constitution and Canons. It reads in part, 

"If the Convention of any State should neglect or decline to appoint Clerical Deputies, or if they should neglect or decline to appoint Lay Deputies, or if any of those of either Order appointed should neglect to attend, or be prevented by sickness or any other accident, such State shall nevertheless be considered as duly represented by such Deputy or Deputies as may attend, whether Lay or Clerical.

And if, through the neglect of the Convention of any of the Churches which shall have adopted, or may hereafter adopt, this Constitution, no Deputies, either lay or Clerical, should attend at any General Convention, the Church in such State shall nevertheless be bound by the acts of such Convention." 

Of interest here are two phrases: " any of the Churches which shall have adopted, or may hereafter adopt this Constitution," and "shall nevertheless be bound by the acts of such Convention." 

These may rightly be understood as a the basis for saying that The Episcopal Church has from the beginning understood that dioceses are bound by the acts of General Convention (and changes in the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church are prime examples of such acts). 

The binding covers "any of the Churches which shall have adopted, or may hereafter adopt this Constitution." Note that what we now call "Dioceses" are referenced here as the Convention of a State or as "the Church (in that State). 

So what this means is that the Constitution and Canons put into effect by the founding dioceses understood that:
If a deputation walks out, they are nonetheless bound. 
If they don't show up for whatever reason, they are nonetheless bound. 
This is true for those who first signed, those at the 1789 Convention, and all thereafter. 

Now being bound by the acts of Convention is precisely what "accession" is about - being bound by the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. This "being bound" was not qualified then, it is unqualified now.

So much for all that strange argument that the Diocese of South Carolina is exempt from the accession clause, because it never agreed to being bound by the acts of Convention. 

There it is. 

60 comments:

  1. Let me see if I understand this.

    Let's leave aside who is correct about the character and demands of 'accession.'

    Am I correct in understanding that the burden of Fr Harris's argument and of others is something like this:

    "We at TEC wish to change certain basic teachings. We want the BCP, not yet there, to catch up and conform to these teachings.

    In the meantime, Dioceses which have their own canons, history, Bishops and identity; and which do not want to go along with these innovations, we will not allow to keep this diocesan identity. They must conform.

    The Episcopal Diocese of SC is full of parishes and clergy and laity which do not accept the innovations being proposed. Their Bishop does not, however, want them to leave.

    So it is being proposed that 'accession' to a voluntary association now obliges each diocese to conform to whatever new innovations are au fait.

    No wonder we are having such a problem. Dioceses cannot leave. Dioceses cannot stay with assurance of conformity to prior BCP order.

    So they are stuck, and accession is a polite way to say, 'do as we say.'

    What am I missing out?

    Farmer

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  2. You are quite right - there it is. It has been my understanding of our polity that dioceses only become Episcopal dioceses by the joint action of their organizing conventions and the General Comvention (except in the cases of dioceses created by the division of an existing diocese, the convention of which acts in concert with the GC). It is, however, not a strictly equal partnership, because it is the GC that sets the rules for the creation of new dioceses and the GC's actions that are binding on all dioceses. My friend John Paul Boyer likes to say that the convention is sovereign and, although he is usually referring to the diocesan convention, the same can be said even more strongly for the GC. It is foolishness to maintain that an Episcopal diocese is not always and forever bound by the actions of GC.

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  3. A response to Farmer, whoever he or she may be: the actions of GC do not force uniformity. Even when the GC makes major changes, like revision of the BCP, it does not do it quickly, and it is done with participation by an impressive variety of people. The GC is, I believe, the largest legislative body in the world. We have more, not less, freedom in worship and in other areas than we did a half-century ago. The assertion that GC is attempting to force Episcopalians into a mold is pure nonsense.

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  4. How grand to receive your noblesse oblige, Fr Daniel!

    So, the Diocese of SC, autonomous entity that it is, according to our historical polity:

    1. can refuse to accept any new BCP that alters the marriage rite;
    2. can continue, as other dioceses, to refuse to send monies to a 'national church' body
    3. can reserve its right to determine when other dioceses in association depart from apostolic pratice and teaching.

    If all these are true, then I suspect accession comes into its techical meaning and logic.

    And so, also, other dioceses in a GC mode will need to demur to this reality.

    Where has this gone astray? You seem so confident in your assertions it will be good to have your important judgment.

    Farmer

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  5. This argument, which crops up from time to time among those not familiar with the legal terminology of the eighteenth century, is discussed at length in my recent article in the Journal of Episcopal Church Canon Law (Vol 2:1). pp. 228-235. Please read my discussion there before drawing too many conclusions.

    http://www.vts.edu/ftpimages/95/download/vol%202%20number%201%20formatted.pdf

    Mark McCall

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  6. Priscilla Cardinale13/10/11 10:35 PM

    Well, to use Farmer's logic: if SC is free and independent and sovereign then why all the caterwauling about the rest of TEC dioceses exercising their own independent soveriegnty? Or is it, as is so often the case nowadays, a simple "it only counts if your are the " right" kind of orthodox" situation?

    By this logic SC and its bishop are way out of line for mucking about in another diocese's decision to bless SSM's, ordain women, and to denouce Canterbury as a dead prince who will be replaced with GAFCON. The good bishop has harped on and on about lack of conformity to Lambetth 1.10, the Windsor Report, and so on, none of which have any authority on sovereign, independent dioceses. None are contained in the constitution or canons, are they?

    Swords with two edges cut sharply. Allowing women-free dioceses for the orthodox came back to bite and now the same dog is about to bite SC I believe. You can't have it both ways.

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  7. Look, Mark, there's a herd of swine right over there. Can you send this Legion of Trolls - Samuel, Allen, Farmer or Samuel Allen Farmer or whoever - over to them?

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  8. Mark McCall. Thanks for the reference. I had read this before.

    I am suggesting that the determination that dioceses/ states/ churches were bound by the actions of Convention whether or not they attended, liked it, walked out, etc, and that that was binding to those already part of Convention as well as those who joined later, brings the central point of "accession" in focus.

    The argument that dioceses exist before being in "union" with GC is an interesting one, but that is of no import to the matter of "binding."

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  9. Farmer, is this the next Troll of Anglican Christmas to visit us? This is how many now to show up in succession to play Devil's advocate? Three or four, I lost count?

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  10. Rick O'Shea14/10/11 1:59 AM

    New thread, new name? What to advise?

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  11. Let's help SC get it straight. You can't secede from the Union and you can't secede from the Church once you have acceded. You can fight from within to change things, you can muster votes to build majorities, but you can neither bully your position through nor withdraw when that fails.

    Mark McCall' s writings are an eccentric take on history, favored by those who can neuter readnthe history not scripture plainly.

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  12. Farmer’s underlying assumption that the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina is an “autonomous entity”—and therefore everything he or she concludes from it—is simply false. South Carolina ceased to be an autonomous entity when it joined The Episcopal Church.

    We do not speak of the Episcopal Churches, but of The Episcopal Church. Like the United States of America, powers and responsibilities are distributed among many bodies ion our church, but, as states are bound by federal law, dioceses are bound by the acts of the General Convention.

    Like it or not, the General Convention, a very democratic body, I might add, is the ultimate sovereign in The Episcopal Church and—let me head off another goofy argument here—the final arbiter of what is or is not consistent with its constitution. (The constitution is technically the constitution of the General Convention, by the way.)

    As for objections that the General Convention cannot properly alter orthodox Christian teaching, all I can say is that, in six years, the General Convention can change The Episcopal Church into a supermarket chain. I don’t expect that to happen, but, if it did, the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina couldn’t do much about it.

    It is interesting that apologists for the likes of South Carolina, see The Episcopal Church as a voluntary fellowship, but they see the Anglican Communion, which is a voluntary fellowship, as an entity that can dictate what is proper to The Episcopal Church. This is the sort of logic that seems valid when you step through the looking glass.

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  13. Christopher (P.)14/10/11 8:18 AM

    Farmer--

    Your three examples sound more like the actions of a Church sui generis, than the Diocese of a Church. I think the right answers to all three are "only if GC agrees that you may." Otherwise lies anarchy.

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  14. Fr. Mark Harris, thank you for the comment. While I discuss the significance of pre-existing dioceses elsewhere in the article (and other articles), the pages cited offer a careful analysis of the term "bound" as used in the 1789 constitution and other legal documents at the time (US constitution and acts of Congress). I rely in large part on contemporary research in secular law review articles. My conclusion: the use of "binding" does not support the conclusions you draw.

    Mike R, as for the eccentricity of my reading of TEC history, please review the discussion of nineteenth century historians and canon lawyers beginning at p. 235 of the article.

    Mark McCall

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  15. Let me ask these questions again. Leave aside accession (for no one is actually dealing with McCall's essay).

    The Diocese of SC, as a member of TEC

    1. can refuse to accept any new BCP that alters the marriage rite;
    2. can continue, as other dioceses, to refuse to send monies to a 'national church' body
    3. can reserve its right to determine when other dioceses in association depart from apostolic pratice and teaching

    Or, is SC not free to be a Diocese of TEC on these terms?

    Similar questions will obtain for the dioceses of Albany, N-Ind, Springfield, TN, CFL, Dallas, ND, W-TX, WLA and others.

    Fr Weir. You saw uniformity is not forced. Then you say, in effect, 'it takes time.' And 'we are big and messy.'

    But these sentences are saying different things. Which is it? Can dioceses exist in TEC with the views as above, or must they be put in a positon to comply or get out or exist autonomously?

    The question is both real and timely in the case of SC. Should +ML be excised from his office, he would likely continue anyway, and the property of his diocese remain. A version of this same scenario is playing out in TX courts.

    So what is your position in the light of these facts?

    Farmer

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  16. If I interpret his post correctly, Farmer was asking questions. Let me offer answers.

    1.  S.C. cannot reject BCP changes.
    2.  I believe it is appalling that some dioceses send no money to the general church. (This used to be the policy of my own diocese.) General Convention has not demanded that dioceses do so, however. It should.
    3.  S.C. can “determine” anything it wants. I cannot, however, act contrary to the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church.

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  17. Mark Brunson ever gets a pass, doesn't he? This blog is definitely a hall of mirrors and an echo chamber, sometimes full of people who don't want to hear convincing arguments lest it makes them upset. Then, once upset, they get to insult others just because they are a revisionist.

    It's really obvious.

    ...did somebody elsewhere invite the Diocese of South Carolina to go to General Convention to try to change Title IV canons in THIS kind of mindset? Why bother....

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  18. Mark, David, et al

    What is amazing is not that you treat this blog like to do TEC itself -- a closed shop of likeminded people -- but that you don't even register that you are doing so.


    Sam

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  19. Thanks, Lionel.

    Dioceses mentioned above will then be compelled, along with others, to hold to beliefs that offend their conscience and the faith of the church. They will be told their faith is wrong and their conscience is evil.

    And you wonder why the Diocese of SC is now stuck. If the Bishop pursued such a line, his diocese would simply leave.

    Last time I checked, TEC is not exacting brimming over with funds to -- in this case -- go on a legal fool's errand in SC.

    The very fact that dioceses need not send a dime is part and parcel of why your view of TEC is factually in error. It bugs you of course. But Lionel Diemel is not a lay Pope. His church is not as he wishes it to be.

    Sam

    Sam

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  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  21. Having made the mistake in another thread of responding to people who misrepresent my position and that of others, I will not make that mistake in this thread.

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  22. Fr Weir--
    So, you stand by the logic of Mr Deimel?

    If a BCP (a constitutional document) were to include SS marriage rites, a Diocese could not stand aloof but would be forced to adopt it.

    Hence the mess SC is presently in.

    Samuel

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  23. Christopher (P.)14/10/11 12:23 PM

    Sam--

    Don't quite understand your last comment. No Diocese adopts any version of the Book of Common Prayer. The General Convention does, and the decision is binding on the Dioceses, as laid out in the Constitution. That is, no diocesan motion of adoption is needed, as I read it.

    I agree that some new litugies may prove difficult for some members of the Diocese of South Carolina, and I pray for them. But the Church is competent to decide its doctrine. Appeals to the Vincentian canon are in my opinion appeals to a mythical golden age of consensus that never really existed, or only did so for short periods in the immediate wake of major schisms! Indeed, TEC and major portions of the AC are not in uniform agreement with the Roman Church, or the Greek Church, on such matters as marriage after divorce, or birth control, or a number of other difficult moral issues. Why a pass on those? That is, I think one can only appeal to the "faith of the ages" when there is an absolute uniformity in the whole church on the gamut of similar moral questions (here, doctrine on the regulation of marriage and reproduction), not just one agreement amidst many disagreements.

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  24. South Carloina would simply conclude that no convention can approve a rite that allows the Blessing of a Same Sex marriage. It would be acting ultra vires in respect of the authority it alone has in Christ via Sacred Scripture.

    It simply could not receive such a teaching. It would be beyond its capacity as a Christian diocese.

    In this sense it would have no choice but to be punished for its unwillingness to move into this new realm of sacramental experiment.

    Do you not see that?

    (which is different to asking if you agree?)

    Sam

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  25. Christopher (P.)14/10/11 2:22 PM

    Sam, I see what you're saying, I commiserate with the situation, but I just have to repeat: churches determine doctrine, not dioceses. Dioceses have autonomy of action, certainly in mission, in the particular expression of liturgy, and in the discipline of clergy. But autonomy is not independence.

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  26. Thank you, Christopher.

    You will I hope begin to see why the techincal language of 'accession' become crucial.

    TEC is an association of Dioceses. An 'unqualified accession' refers not to its incorrigibility, but to its being rendered freely and in an unencumbered way.

    What is being fought in civil courts is a proper understanding of the polity of churches. Some are hierarchical in clear ways. Others are congregational. Even this is now shown to be too rough-and-ready.

    One obvious conclusion reached in several cases is that (for TEC anyway) a DIOCESE is a hierachy, and that makes sense (it has canons, a clearly defined authority, etc).

    What is not at all clear is whether TEC itself is a hierarchy, as it lacks all the language necessary for such things ('supreme' head, etc; required giving; etc). Hence the present suit in FW in the Texas courts.

    If TEC seeks to compel belief in/conducting of the Sacrament of Marriage of same-sex couples and were to produce a constitutional document like a BCP, one argument will be that Dioceses cannot be coerced; if they are, they will claim to be the custodians of the faith and order of the erstwhile TEC, and assert their autonomy as hierarchical structures. This will leave the matter with civil courts to decide.

    But what your response helpfully shows is that TEC's idea of 'diversity' and 'living into tensions' always had a sell-by date: in time, diversity would of necessity give way to compulsion.

    It is an ugly thing to have to consider the reality of coercing conformity on a matter Christian Churches worldwide in vast numbers reject (or, for most 'liberals' the idea is difficult; for some, it is 'bring it on').

    But you are correct. It appears that it is simply a matter of time before TEC will demand that everyone get in line on same sex marriage. If you don't Title IV will be used as a club.

    Sam

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  27. PS

    SC is also a very pertinent example.

    If +ML is removed by vote from ecclesiastical office, one prediction is that he will not leave.

    What then will TEC do? It will have an independent diocese continuing to function as before, with no change -- just with a diocese that rejects the Title IV vote as unconstitutional.

    This is why one assumes it will need to litigate to get property, as in DFW. But differently, the Diocese of SC has already received favorable rulings in civil court re: property.

    This is what happens when compulsion raises its head in a polity that is not strictly hierarchical -- except within dioceses.

    Sam

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  28. "Christ and Him crucified", remember everybody?

    We've lost nearly 20% ASAs in 10 years. Churches and cathedrals are closing. Few are lining up to be priests. People in the pew are fatigued by a Church that seems intent on perpetuating a narrowing vision, whether it be "NO WOMEN AS PRIESTS!" on one side or "LET's BLESS THE CULTURE'S PRIORITIES" on the opposite extreme. Like it or not, arguing about WHO owns this sick show is not a bragging point or place of prestige these days.

    To the one side, mainly 815: Yes, you can own every particle of church geography and every brick, but you are driving people away with your tactics. To the other: Yes, you may be right about some of the absolutely WRONG priorities where the Church has leaned in to listen to the culture and fallen in...but you can't kill the Church off to prove your point.

    It's about "Christ and Him crucified". Jesus suffered and emptied Himself for others. That's the message. That's the faith. Anything less is Rotary Club territory or self-musings. How is this Church addressing THAT? When's the last time that 815 emptied itself for the sake of union and keeping the faith? When's the last time that we saw a suffering servant type emerge in this Church? It's about Christ..

    ...Not: how do we make Coffee Hour, yoga, and giant puppets in processions relevant to a culture that doesn't now itself or what God is calling them to be.

    ..and Not: How do we keep closing churches, cathedrals, dioceses, and run more people off.

    This is sick and has to stop..any self-emptying servant-types out there? If we're not careful somebody will walk away with the grand prize: a tomb that used to be a Church.

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  29. On the use of the BCP... Currently the BCP includes Rite I and Rite II. As a priest, I am not under the gun to use Rite I (or Rite II for that matter) or the traditional Collects if so I desire.

    If SS blessings are included in a new Prayer Book, it does not follow that all clerics must use that rite. The Church is not a dispensing machine whereby anyone comes to the door and dials for a particular liturgy. Is up to the to the individual cleric to decline to preside at any ceremony.

    If a BCP including SS blessings is printed, there are no canons ordering to have BCPs available on all the pews... In fact, many congregations already print their own service sheets, and no one files a complaint because the Quicunque Vult is not there!

    If the Diocese of SC cares so much for her autonomy, then, in the spirit of Christian charity and our own Anglican tradition, allow other dioceses to care for theirs.

    On the other hand, we should do well to remember that "Councils have erred" and affirming that the GC is supreme, doesn't make its decissions infalible. That there is opposition to the changes should not stop us making them if we do so believe, but at least it should infuse us with a sense of humility and provisionality...

    Thomas+

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  30. What seems to be true is not that the GC is likely to force priest to bless same-sex unions. Even those who performed such blessings would defend the right of every priest to refuse to perform any such ceremony. That right is in the Canons and see little chance that it would revoked. What seems to be true is that some find it difficult to be members of a church where same-sex unions are, in some places, being celebrated. I understand that. My wife and I would have had difficulty in staying if women were barred from holy orders and we difficulty staying if our friends in same-sex relationships were not welcome and recognized as couples. I don't expect, much less demand, that everyone agree with me, but I think that there those in TEC who would insist that I agree with them on same-sexuality.

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  31. Christopher (P.)14/10/11 4:35 PM

    I find Thomas's insights to be right on here. No sacraments or sacramental rites are anyone's prerogative--even communion, although a priest might have to justify why he or she is withholding communion. But it can be justified.

    And I don't believe, pace Sam, that "diversity has a sell-by date." There's a long tradition of not everyone believing everything in the prayer book, and certainly not believing it in the same way. On issues like the real presence it's pretty much underground these days--but it's still there! And certainly there's a lot of diversity in the way the liturgy is expressed, and the expression is a much a part of the liturgy as the words.

    So saying, there is a limit to diversity on some yes-or-no issues ("Shall this church have women in its priesthood?" . . . "Shall this church allow blessings of same-sex unions that meet certain conditions?"). There is a virtue to having a firm statement of doctrine/policy, when one can. Were I in the minority, I might likely be upset. I might be looking for a parish that did things the way that I liked, in the expression of its faith. I might be looking for another faith tradition, if I had reached the tipping point. But I wouldn't think that the rules didn't apply, and that I was justified in ignoring them. For that would not be the honorable path.

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  32. Re: BCP changes on SSM, Please see Neuhaus' Law: Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed". It's been true with OOW and will be with SSM.

    trooper

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  33. And when the self-proclaimed orthodox are in absolute control .. my! Look how fast those proscription lists come out and look at how long they are! And the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition is always kept busy with new cases. The late Bishop Righter certainly felt their righteous prosecutorial zeal. Maybe we should ask him about who's really persecuted.

    Blood and DNA tests for liberalism and gayness as the price of admission to the Holy Table. No one is worthy to approach that Table, not even the highest scorer on the catechism test.

    Salvation by doctrinal soundness ... feh!

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  34. OK.

    Here is the way it plays out.

    Diocese X uses a BCP which has SS marriage rites.

    Bishop in Diocese X indicates that under no conditions can said rite be used because Christian marriage is always a sacrament joining a man and a woman, in Christ.

    What happens next?

    Samuel

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  35. PS

    I see TLC is now reporting that Hicks has stepped down. Some irregularity she has not disclosed.

    This is a woman with a long record in Executive Council as well.

    So much for Title IV. What confidence can one now have?

    Sam

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  36. Thomas+,

    Your theory that the Prayer Book is a buffet of pick/choose, ignore/endorse isn't quite so, or have you forgotten Thew Forester's utter rejection as a bishop for (among other things) changing the Prayer Book? Even the more liberal dioceses didn't go so far as to endorse him for deigning to change the Creed, etc. For THAT piece of clarity I am grateful. As Episcopalians, our doctrine and practice is summed in the Prayer Book. Our bishop, in fact, has said, in essence, that it doesn't matter what goes on, that we are required to believe only what is taught in the print of the Prayer Book. So, perhaps you would not choose A,B,or C from the Prayer Book. But if it is there....it is received doctrine...and acceptance is expected on that level. That's why there is a problem. It's not about Elizabethan or Modern English. It's about this Church's leadership being innovators who are teaching doctrine that has never been received by the Church catholic in its 2,000+ year history.

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  37. ...and Thomas+

    Not having Prayer Books in the hands of every worshiper? That is totally contrary to a received faith, and has a thin (almost nil) approval from our Episcopal history. It makes the leaders in charge of tradition and it makes the congregation mere sheep. Kind of like today's "new churches" that flash "all you need" on an overhead projecter screen to repeat. There was a reason that bygone Episcopalians went to such efforts to have the Prayer Book widely distributed: to teach and make a Church that strengthened the laity rather than making them dependent upon a lone leader...and his/her prerogatives....and abuses.
    I would like to suggest that many of our current troubles are precisely because people do not know the Prayer Book and have been led into innovations that have no justification in a Church that claims to be "catholic" in its design and dependency.

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  38. Lionel Deimel said:

    "South Carolina ceased to be an autonomous entity when it joined The Episcopal Church."

    Not so.

    In the 18th century, associations were not legally recognized entities.

    The founders of TEC organized it as an association, not a corporation.

    Thus, SC retained its legal autonomous identity.

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  39. Allen

    You are correct about the place and constitutionality of the BCP.

    Morever, if a Bishop in Diocese X were to be forced to rule that a SS marriage rite (that was in the smorgasbord book) was not to be used in a diocese,

    a) what would his/her fate be?
    b) what kind of new polity would this bespeak (Bishop now tells us how the BCP is binding and how not)

    The point is that an anodyne account of how it will all be up to individual Priests using their discretion is full-on, pie-in-the-sky hallucination.

    It won't play out that way.

    If the SS marriage rite is in a Book of Alternative Services (this will be one kind of compromise, though it is understood to have been resisted strongly at a HOB discussion), and again, Bishop X rules that under no conditions is said rite to be undertaken, what will happen?

    It will not be a matter for priestly discretion. This is a class action development.

    What will happen with Bishop X in Diocese X?

    Sam

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  40. Christopher (P.)15/10/11 10:56 AM

    A few things from the Canons, Prayer Book, and BOS.

    Canon I.17.6. Of regulations respecting the laity:

    A person to whom the Sacraments of the Church shall have been refused, … may appeal to the Bishop . . . . No Member of the Clergy of this Church shall be required to admit to the Sacraments a person so refused . . . without the written direction of the Bishop . . . . [Edited, but I trust without change of meaning.]

    Canon I.18.4. Of the solemnization of Holy Matrimony.

    It shall be within the discretion of any Member of the Clergy of this Church to decline to solemnize any marriage.

    Book of Occasional Services, Preface (1994 edition, the only one I have!)

    All of the material in this book is optional. None of it is required . . . .

    Book of Common Prayer, catechism:

    Other sacramental rites include . . . holy matrimony. . . . Although [such sacramental rites] are means of grace, they are not necessary for all persons in get same way that Baptism and the Eucharist are.


    My point: if such regulations are in place for Sacraments, and even for recognized sacramental rites such as Holy Matrimony, then how much more discretion exists for the Bishop—in the role as overseer of diocesan clergy and worship—in such matters as Blessings.

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  41. Christopher, Thanks.

    So what happens when a Bishop rules that no SS marriage can take place, should said rites be OK'd by Gen Conv?

    Thanks.

    Samuel

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  42. Sam, Allen, Farmer, and their supporters seem not to understand that the mind of the church is changing. Bishop Orthodox'a command that no SS marriages be performed in his (and I use the pronoun deliberately) diocese may succeed for a time. Sooner or later, though, a clergy person under his authority will defy him because the priest has come to believe it's the right thing to do and arises from a right reading of the Bible. Bishop Orthodox is an heir of King Canute commanding the tide not to rise.

    It wasn't so very long ago that Anglican bishops were forbidding the wearing of chasubles and banning candles on retables. See where that got them. Or even more recently, look at the result of Paul VI's renewal of the ban on practicing contraception. Humane vitae didn't affect the practice of Roman Catholic lay people at all. It just served to undermine the authority of the papacy.

    Meantime, as I understand it, the Diocese of South Carolina continues to block efforts by lay people to organize Episcopal congregations that don't conform to the diocesan standards of "orthodoxy." What a shame!

    William R. MacKaye

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  43. I have found Hofstadter's Paranoid Style in American Politics invaluable to understanding the "reasserter" mind-set.

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  44. William R. MacKaye said:

    "Sam, Allen, Farmer, and their supporters seem not to understand that the mind of the church is changing."

    Not according to the latest attendance numbers.

    The faithful are LEAVING the Episcopal Church and it is just further declining into apostasy.

    So what was the fringe is now becoming the norm.

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  45. Thank you for underscoring the point, trueanglican. You have put paid to Fr Weir's idea that all will be well and everyone will say it's up to your conscience.

    No, when Bishop X makes this declaration, according to your logic, he is to be ignored. But this will not happen. Said priest would be disciplined. It would be required according to diocesan canon.

    (Your 2nd paragraph is silly irrelevance).

    And at that point we would have a conflict, not a cordial entente. Some would argue the Bishop does not have that authority, according to wider political winds in TEC; and others would say the opposite.

    And that is why there needs to be the concession that SS marriage will have to be enforced across the board. By compulsion. That is the burden of your comment.

    Samuel

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  46. Joe,

    It is tiresome to hear the repeated mantra that The Episcopal Church is losing members because it has abandoned “orthodoxy.” Largely, such charges illustrate the logical fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc (after the fact, therefore because of it). The charge that the church is losing members because it is liberal has to be supported by actual facts, presumably by polling those who have left (and not just those who have left to go to ACNA).

    The Episcopal Church is not the only church losing members. Surely, the Southern Baptists are not loosing members because they are too liberal. There must be other reasons.

    Demographics and decreasing faith in religion generally can surely explain part of the decline. In any case, since I haven’t done the required research, I cannot explain the membership decline in The Episcopal Church. I would bet that part of the decline is due to the perception that Episcopal churches are war zones. Because of militant conservatives, of course, they are to some degree.

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  47. Mr Deimel

    The Executive Council has spoken of 35 dioceses not being viable. CDSP has just said it cannot replace 2 faculty members; Seabury-Western closed last year; GTS is trying to survive. 815 Second Avenue is being mortgaged. Average age of clergy is 57. The prediction of church closings is sobering, made by 815's own experts.

    The Southern Baptist Church is not on any analogy to this, not remotely.

    But perhaps the question is: how, Mr Deimel, how can a church of 1M survive? What will it do to balance the budget? Get rid of the office of PB (47% of budget goes to her office)? Merge dioceses and close some?

    You fool yourself by speaking of cultural factors to explain this. The Diocese of SC lives in the culture. It isn't facing anything like this decline.

    Samuel

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  48. Samuel,

    I didn’t say that all is well with The Episcopal Church. If we identify the wrong cause of decline, however, we will prescribe the wrong plan to counteract it.

    As for South Carolina, it is an extremely conservative and independent place. Not by accident did the Civil War—perhaps known to you as the War of Northern Aggression—begin in South Carolina. Don’t expect what “works” in South Carolina to work in, say, Newark. South Carolina is not a typical state.

    This is probably my last comment for today. I am attending a celebration of the 175th anniversary of my middle-of-the-road Episcopal church this evening.

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  49. Most people would reflexively say that Pittsburgh PA is more conservative that Charleston SC.

    Shows how myopic you are.

    Yes, please do tell us by what means you will return TEC to its former numbers.

    Sal

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  50. Christopher (P.)15/10/11 5:24 PM

    Folks, if you're not pentecostal, or Mormon, or buoyed by immigrants, legal or otherwise, your numbers are down. This includes LCMS, SBC, UMC, PCUSA, and any number of others, according other NCC Yearbookfor 2011. Returning TEC numbers to their former levels is not the goal--the goal is proclaiming Christ.

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  51. Lionel Deimel said:

    "The charge that the church is losing members because it is liberal has to be supported by actual facts, presumably by polling those who have left (and not just those who have left to go to ACNA)."

    From the Episcopal Church's own report: http://www.dfms.org/documents/FACTs_on_Episcopal_Church_Growth%281%29.pdf

    "The most frequent source of conflict mentioned, however, was “actions of General Convention 2003 regarding the Bishop of New
    Hampshire.” Overall,78% of Episcopal congregations reported experiencing some conflict over this issue, with almost half (47%) of all congregations reporting that they had moderately serious or very serious conflict."

    There you go. Polling and facts.

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  52. Christopher--you are joking, right?

    There is a serious question about what kind of church TEC will need now to become to survive as an 'episcopal' church.

    Yes, PCUSA is struggling. They look like us, theologically.

    LCMS not viable? Their seminaries are packed with young students. UMC? It is saved in part because of its inclusion of GS voting members. It is by no means under threat.

    Not building numbers but proclaiming Christ? What an odd distinction. To the degree that Christ is being proclaimed (read Acts) the Gospel convicts, converts and -- praise God -- reaches out in growth.

    Yours is a self-justifying decline dressed up as something TEC special. TEC will go the way of the UCC, UU, PCUSA, and indeed, why are there different denominations here at all? I mean that seriously.

    Sal

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  53. Surely you jest, Sal.

    The United Methodist Church "saved by it's GS members"? Somebody had better rush to inform the Institute on Religon and Democracy if this is true. They can route some of the funds they are spending in their attempts to destroy the UMC into their efforts to help destroy TEC and the PCUSA.

    If you read IRD magazines and pamphlets geared toward the United Methodists, you would think that their demonination is on the verge of becoming completely apostate.

    Besides, their numbers are not up, either.

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  54. The churches are declining (all of them) because as far as most people are concerned, especially younger people, the Church is just another cop, another collection agency for the banks, another enforcer the established status quo on behalf of the privileged.

    I notice that Jesus reserved his worst scorn for the religious establishment of His day, and for those who observed the religious laws and regulations with the most zeal.

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  55. It is a well-known fact that the thing that makes UMC different tham TEC is that its world-wide members--with big numbers in the GS--have a vote in their major assemblies. It is also a well-known fact that American liberals in the UMC resent this and have sought to bring it to an end. And it is finally a well-known fact that the UMC is not hemorraging members in the manner of TEC.


    One of the problems of being 1/4 the size of a body like UMC (we leave aside the RCC or SBC), is that at some point the shriking is exponential, and the tiny size is hard to maintain without something like a merger.

    Samuel

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  56. "It is a well-known fact" among whom Sam, apart than you and a handful of like-minded buddies? Same old, Same old we got ten days back when you smeared Susan W with the baseless "the responses from Susan are without any foundation". A claim which. apropos of nothing, you failed to defend when you were called upon it. But where's the surprise?

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  57. The parish I served at the time of the consecration in NH lost some members who felt that they could not in conscience belong to TEC. We also gained members who were looking for a church that welcomed LGBT folks, even though they were heterosexual. We also welcomed new members who were in same-sex marriages. One positive thing was that those who left could be part of a new congregation where they weren't always bothered by how liberal the rector was. The rector of the Anglican chapel they organized and I became friends, aware of our disagreements, but sharing a commitment to preaching the Gospel.

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  58. Another thought or two about membership loss:

    membership loss or gain may have nothing to do with faithfulness to Christ;

    changing my convictions on same-sexuality in order to keep or gain members is certainly not faithfulness.

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  59. Rabbit--your misperceptions and occlusions are your own. I'm afraid there is nothing I can do about that. I don't recall hearing anything further from the person you refer to.

    If you are saying you don't know anything about the UMC, that sounds like a solid conclusion to make.

    Fr Weir

    I accept that there was a happy compromise over 'liberalism' and 'conservatism' in NH.

    Sadly, that will not be possible and for the reasons indicated above. It won't play out that way, as trueanglican's response shows. This is about providing rites, and about a Bishop in a diocese which does not receive such teaching (should it appear, in the first instance,as suggested just now by SCLM, in some experimental form en route to Occasional Service en route to BCP).

    What will happen to said Bishop? The answer is, he will not be allowed to hold such a view. Complaints will be made. Title IV will need to discipline him/her.

    What alternative is there? Allow the diocese to reject the conclusion of GenConv and others?

    Samuel

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  60. To continue:

    So, e.g., the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas has a canon forbidding solemnization of Christian marriage except as indicated in the BCP. That is the 'teaching of the Diocese.'

    What happens when couple X in parish X insist on the rite? Yet there the canon is.

    How is this to be resolved?

    BTW, I gather that the SCLM pressed for the language of marriage rather than blessing and even moderate bishops pushed back. Why? Because the BCP regulates the teaching of the church; it is a constitutional document.

    So dioceses which at present allow the use of 'marriage' rites (adapted from the BCP), because the culture has civil marriage; and dioceses which allow priests to practice what is called 'open communion' are technically in breach of the Constitution of the Church, and so, are required to be brought before the Intake Officer a la Title IV process.

    This is a long way away from NH and entente cordiale.

    To speak of kindly forebearance runs up against the new canonical reality and the constitutionality of our BCP. Soon to be adapted...

    Sam

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