1/12/2012

Common Prayer is Basic Episcopalian stuff.

Episcopal Cafe has a wonderful essay by Derek Olsen titled, Non-negotiable.  The "non-negotiable" is the Book of Common Prayer.  There may be all sorts of reasons for doing something else, but Olsen is persuasive in saying that we ought not muck around with the core stuff that makes us who we are.  Do yourself a really good favor and read it. It is spot on.

Episcopal Cafe has become such a gift. It is an example of just how valuable church wide ministries can be an offering from part of the church (in this case the Diocese of Washington) to the whole.

 

12 comments:

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks for this "lead" (har har). I'll be sure to check it out.

One final note: I may not get to other blogs in the course of my day, but I always check out what's going on at Episcopal Cafe.

Msgr said...

Whew. The comments re BCP are frankly breathtaking.

To change the BCP (a constitutional document) takes two General Conventions. This is because our identity as anglicans is tied to a BCP (no confessional documents; no Book of Order; no formal hierarchy beyond diocese). It is our charter document. If one believes otherwise there are 1000 denominations to choose from.

One question that TEC will have to face is dilution of the BCP (and so arguably of specific anglican identity) in the form of download-worship sheets, recourse to Book of Occasional Services to accommodate SSBs (and yet with no constitutional character in consequence) and ignoring of rubrics (so-called 'open communion'). Other denominations can tred this path because they do not have the DNA of BCP identity. But for TEC to go this way may mean selling an inheritance and ending up with pottage.

I suspect now that much about TEC's future is in the hands of a silent moderate middle in the Bishop ranks, who are facing tough financial realities and concerns about survival. The buck will stop with them, as Harry Truman once truthfully said it. Sauls is not alone.

Msgr

David and John said...

Change the BCP? Are we crazy? We are still feeling the effects from the last BCP revision, a revision (I might add) that was badly needed and a great improvement over the '29.

If GC eventually approves SSB's, I can not think of any reason that it could not be added to the BOS until such time a revision of the BCP would occur.


With all that is happening in TEC these days, any changes to the BCP would be like dumping gasoline on a fire. Even from my left-of-center view, to think of revising the BCP at this time is a foolish idea.

Scoop said...

We came along way with the 79 BCP, but we still have a long way we could go. But the BCP is a unique treasure to Christendom.

Ann said...

The Diocese of Washington (DC) hosts us on their site but otherwise has no oversight or support for Episcopal Café.

Mark Harris said...

Ann: thanks for the correction. But I was speaking of its origins in the work of the communications work of the diocese. That it is now independent of the Diocese and a much wider ministry is all to the good. My point was that it does a church wide work from a point other than the church center.

You all are doing a great and good work!

Brother David said...

no formal hierarchy beyond diocese

One has to wonder why you lot, including Padre Mark, let Msgr get away with such falsehoods? I think that every time he makes such statements and you publish it without a challenge, you water down the truth of the matter as if it is unimportant.

Ann said...

Thanks Mark - as are you.

Mark Harris said...

Brother David... Often I do not do the challenge hoping that someone will pick up on it and go with it. (Bloggers like, as you know, for people to argue with each other on their blog...it increases the visitors.)
I will have something to say about all this later today.

Msgr said...

David -- we know what a 'formal hierarchy' consists of because we have examples of it. Required money payments; vows of obedience; metropolitical authority; language of 'supremacy'; and so forth. Indeed many are questioning not just the costs but the pretensions of such a claim. If you want a formal hierachy, you might have a look at AMiA. Or the United Methodist Church. TEC is a diocesan church, with a Constitution, and a triennial GC. The PB is an elected officer with limited duties and a fixed term.

It was awkward to watch the present PB trying to answer the question under oath about who had authorized her office to enter into litigation in VA, and where had the GC given the funds that had been spent -- matters that of course were not in the end germain to the verdict. +Griswold properly understood that his office had no role in VA or any other diocese.

Msgr

Mark Harris said...

Msgr...you certainly give examples of formal hierarchy that is about specific people who are "higher" on the scale than others, but what about the hierarchy of the constitution itself, or the vows to uphold the constitution and canons.

My daughter just recently became a US Citizen and the hierarchy of powers here is clear. She swore to uphold the Constitution of the US and to defend it against all enemies foreign and domestic, and there were practical consequences of that sware.

So what about a hierarchy in which obedience is to vows to (i) exercise your episcopal ministry within your own diocese, (ii) acknowledge that you exercise your ministry in the context of the Constitution and Canons of the church, (iii) vow to uphold the same?

The PB exercised the power as chief executive of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and the Primate and Chief Pastor of the Episcopal Church in moving to encourage and then provide support for the Diocese of Virginia in maintaining the position that the properties are held for use by the Episcopal Church. The canons state that that is the case and she is expected to uphold and support the canons.

It may be that the hierarchy of the Episcopal Church is about the union of Dioceses in the General Convention rather than obedience to a specific person, but the expectations are there: the BCP takes precedence as the standard for worship in this church, the bible is expected to be read from specific and approved translations, the deposition of clergy in one diocese is expected to be honored in all, the canons and constitution of the Episcopal Church is determinate in areas it addresses, etc. "TEC is a diocesan church" is incorrect. A diocese can not, for example, elect and then consecrate a bishop without the approval of a majority of the whole of diocesan bishops and standing committees or General Convention. It can not remove itself from union without approval of the General Convention.

The basic unit of all episcopal churches is the diocese. But no episcopal led church is diocesan alone, dioceses are named and bishops are elected and appointed in the context of a church-wide synod.

Apparently a number of the rulings in courts are taking the position that TEC is indeed a hierarchical church.

Msgr said...

Dear Mark Harris

As your final sentence indicates, the polity of TEC requires external evaluation because at a number of points it is not clear or did not anticipate the fracturing we are presently experiencing.

1. The constitution is the highest authority and that is why dioceses which judge canons to be passed that are unconstitutional have not received them.
2. This also indicates the sovereignty of dioceses, which have their own constitutions and canons and which have a duty to assure that the Constitution of TEC is upheld.
3. The PB is elected for a fixed term to preside at GC and in the HOB. He or she has no metropolitical authority, such as we see it in other provinces of the Anglican Communion.
4. The 'national church' has no power to require tithes, nor can GC. Genuine hierarchy can do this and typically uses the language of 'supremacy' so to provide the legal warrant for it.
5. the BCP is indeed a constitutional document. It is for this reason that Dioceses which cannot receive SSB rites argue that to do so would be unconstitutional (it would take a good period of time to revise the BCP constitutionally). Others have suggested putting such rites in a Book of Occasional services. The BOS is not mandate-able, because it has no constitutional status, and no hierarch could so declare.
6. The former PB understood the limits of his office and did not interfere in diocesan negotations regarding property. When the present PB altered that, tough questions faced her under oath. She could not declare either a constitutional warrant nor a GC warrant. She could not answer that the funds for pursuing suits were in toto granted to her office by GC. She could only make an assertion of general fiduciary duty -- something the VA case did not conclude was so.

Thank you for your courteous engagement. I suspect we shall need to see what the courts decide in TX and Illinois and elsewhere. Certainly the Judge in Quincy rejected the hierarchical claim as self-evident in the case of the PB's office. He had done his homework. The rough-and-ready distinction between congregational and hierarchical, he could see, was inadequate to comprehend the unique TEC polity.

Does the PB have legal standing to bring suit? That is what courts are confused about and even VA did not so rule. We shall next hear from TX and Ill.

I think the easiest thing for courts to have concluded is that a Diocese is hierarchical.

Perhaps the next PB will have a chancellor who judges the matter differently than what has been sought over the past 8 years in terms of lawsuits in dioceses.

Msgr