Meeting Behind Closed Doors: Bummer.

The Living Church published a disturbing piece on the frequent use of closed door sessions at the recent Executive Council meeting. Read it HERE.

I was particularly struck by the following: 

"When committees met in the afternoon, six more topics were deemed inappropriate for discussion in open session. Four of them arose in the World Missions Committee, although only three were identified prior to closing the doors.

“I do think that Cuba, the Mexico Covenant discussion, and the Province IX sustainability plan, including the recent Province IX council meeting and the appointment of the task force — I do think those are more sensitive,” said World Missions Committee Chair Karen Longenecker of the Diocese of Rio Grande. “I do think it’s a good idea to go into executive session.”

The session remained closed for three hours as the committee addressed those topics as well as one that wasn’t announced. Executive Council’s bylaws require topics of discussion to be disclosed prior to entering executive session."

The reporter for TLC listed what the Chair gave as the topics to be covered. It is hard to tell if there were three, one with inclusions, or four. But in either event the reporter believes there was another topic raised. One wonders just what that was.

The fact that matters are "sensitive" is not sufficient reason for the discussion in committees to be in executive session.  Some subjects may very well be controversial, alarming, confusing or otherwise difficult, but that is no reason for them to be discussed behind closed doors. In fact just the opposite. 

Very few of us not on Council have any sense of what happens there except insofar as reports come from members of Council itself or from observers. It is important to some of us that we have a sense of what it is that Executive Council is discussing. Effectively no one outside Executive Council has any idea what the World Mission Committee is discussing re Cuba, Mexico or Province IX. More, it seems that a different topic, the subject itself not announced, was taken up. Where did that information come from, and why wasn't the source able to say what the topic was?

So what the hell is going on here? Closed sessions breed suspicion, not clarity. 

Apparently Executive Council has come to the conclusion that its business is its business only, and not the business of the whole church. Apparently EC believes we outsiders don't need to know what they are thinking, talking about, or doing. 

They are wrong. 

Bishops in the Episcopal Church of Haiti

Bishop Oge Beauvoir, Suffragan Bishop in Haiti, has been on leave from the Diocese of Haiti and is the Executive Director of Food for the Poor in Haiti. He took his new post in May of 2015. His position as Suffragan Bishop was effectively vacated. Bishop Beauvoir is not on the staff of the Diocese nor engaged in ministry within the diocese. Leave was granted by the Bishop and Standing Committee of the Diocese.

It is now a year since his becoming Executive Director of FFP in Haiti. The Diocese has renewed the leave of absence. The question then is, what is his standing in the House of Bishops? In the Diocese of Haiti?  At what point does the position of suffragan no longer exist?

The Episcopal Church of Haiti (not the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti) is the current form of the church envisioned by Bishop Holly and confirmed in the concordat between the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America and the convocation of the Apostolic Orthodox Church of Haiti in 1874. That  Church, the Apostolic Orthodox Church of Haiti became, on admission as a missionary district in 1914 a diocese in the Episcopal Church. It’s name is “The Episcopal Church of Haiti.”  It continues to hold the vision of a national Episcopal and Anglican church of Haiti. 

In spite of the catastrophic effects of the earthquake and  continuing civil discord,  the Episcopal Church of Haiti continues to grow and expand its ministry and holds the vision of Bishop Holly – the vision of an autonomous national Haitian Apostolic and Orthodox Church, part of the Anglican Communion.

The original concordat with PECUSA stipulated that Haiti would be given episcopal supervision by a board of four bishops from PECUSA until such time as it had three active bishops in Haiti, at which time the Episcopal Church of Haiti (by whatever name) could constitute its own body of bishops and continue apostolic orders as an autonomous church.  That hope remains, and the ECH, now some 90,000 strong, stands poised to take new steps towards autonomy.

The Episcopal Church of Haiti came very close to presenting a resolution to the 2015 General Convention to divide into several dioceses so that it might better serve the people of Haiti. It will surely do so in the future. 

In looking to the immediate and future development of the episcopate in the ECH it is important that the status of bishops in Haiti be clear.  At this time there is, it would appear, only one active bishop in Haiti, that is the diocesan, The Rt. Rev. Jean-Zaché Duracin. Now 69, he will reach mandatory retirement age in three years.


Red Cross bungles Haiti Relief: And who else? What about Episcopal aid?

NPR has just published its investigation of the Red Cross in Haiti. Titled, "Report: Red Cross Spent 25 Percent Of Haiti Donations On Internal Expenses,"it says this: "The American Red Cross spent a quarter of the money people donated after the 2010 Haiti earthquake — or almost $125 million — on its own internal expenses, far more than the charity previously had disclosed, according to a report released Thursday by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley." $125 million. That's a lot of money. This does not include the fact that the Red Cross farmed out much of its work to other agencies who in turn took more than 10 percent of what was received for overhead.

This scandal has been brewing for some time. Last year there was a preliminary report on this, and in Haiti there has been a good deal of criticism of the Red Cross and other relief agencies and the misdirection of funds.

Here in Anglican and Episcopal land it is time to raise a parallel concern.  Monies were raise for the effort to "rebuild our church in Haiti," primarily to build a new Cathedral in Port-au-Prince. Monies were also raised to support Episcopal Relief and Development and its work in Haiti. 

How much has been raised in these efforts and how has the money been spent?   What percentage of the funds raised have gone for overhead and supervision? 

Looking on the web I find that Episcopal Relief and Development has pages that are generally informative and  up to date. But it's hard to find the numbers about money raised for, earmarked, and spent in Haiti. Perhaps Episcopal Relief and Development will be able to give a better sense of that.

It is less clear just how much money has been raised for the rebuilding of the Cathedral. The website, "Haiti: More than a Cathedral" has its last post / report about a year ago, indicating that the Cathedral site was being cleared. I can't find any record or indication of the monies raised for this effort, but there is a list of dioceses and parishes that have contributed (refreshed when?)

In the past I have been told that exact numbers are not made public because to do so might present a danger to diocesan official "on the ground" in Haiti.

The problem is that not knowing how much was specifically raised and specifically spent for Haitian efforts by either Episcopal Relief and Development or the "Haiti: More than a Cathedral" effort raises questions of accountability.

At the very least there needs to be some sort of commissioned audit of both Church Center and Episcopal Relief and Development fundraising to indicate what percent of what was raise was spent in overhead, staff and related expenses and how much was made available for direct services, projects and efforts in Haiti.  Without revealing information that would be dangerous, that report could reassure those of us who have given to Haiti relief and the rebuilding of the Cathedral and other projects that our monies have been handled carefully and well. That report might also explore just how much can reported about specific amounts actually expended in grants and overhead.  As it is, donors (of which I am one) have received no information about how our monies are used.

Good but vague reports from ERD and a year old note on the Episcopal Church website about clearing the site are not enough.  

As with many things done by The Episcopal Church in regard to the Episcopal Church of Haiti there are is the odor of paternalism and the old "missionary diocese" model. It is unclear to me that the leadership of The Episcopal Church of Haiti was really consulted  (as opposed to talked to) on the matter of what sort of help they would be offered following the earthquake. 

They were offered a suffragan bishop, they were offered something that would "sell well," namely a new cathedral, they were offered funding provided it was supervised by outside agencies as the primary authority on just what was going to be done. And, as often happens with groups in great need, the offers that are made are the only ones on the table, and that being the case, it seems better to accept than reject them.

But the thing is, the Episcopal Church of Haiti has a life of its own, and the call for accountability is different from the call for outside control and decision making. Perhaps the real problem is that the Episcopal Church of Haiti, in its suffering, confused expectations to take over for offers of help.

When The Orthodox Anglican Church of Haiti asked to become a missionary jurisdiction of The Episcopal Church, after the death of its bishop, Bishop Holly, it gave up its right to determine its own future. For almost sixty years following union with TEC, The Episcopal Church of Haiti had white American missionary bishops. And now there have been two diocesans who are Haitian, and both of these have had to sing for their supper. 

Perhaps it would have been better not to have joined with TEC at all.  Maybe there could have been aid without the strings attached. Maybe, had the conversation gone differently, there might have been a new concordat replacing the old, by which there was a relation with TEC, but not one of organic union in which Haiti was seen as a missionary district or diocese, but rather as a sister church in need of long term relationship. 

Had there been any idea of Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence, we might have seen a church in Haiti that would over time, and in accord with an established set of goals, moved to become autonomous.

As it is The Episcopal Church of Haiti remains a colonial, paternal, mission society child, while at the same time being one of the largest Diocese of Episcopalians in the Church.

It is time for TEC to revisit the concordat that first existed with the Church of Haiti, and to revisit the vision of an Orthodox Apostolic Church of Haiti, part of the Anglican Communion, with its own governance and historic episcopate. And it is time to get clear about how Episcopal aid for Haiti works out on the ground. 



The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted: On not mucking about in your neighbor's garden.

The 4th section of the Lambeth Quadrilateral states that "The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples" is a core value in the ordering of the life of the church.  After all these years of poking about as to what exactly that means, we at least know this: "The churches of the Anglican Communion are autonomous and free to make decisions about policy."  We have this on good authority, namely that of the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, quoted by the BBC.

The bible purity crowd seems to think otherwise, but of course they can do so precisely because "the churches of the Anglican Communion are autonomous and free to make decisions about policy," including the decision that what they are deciding about is policy and not core doctrine. It is precisely this problem that lies at the center of the current madness in Anglican Communion life. 

"Provinces" is the name given to the "Anglican Churches" which are national or regional synods (assemblies) having a common canon law, prayer book, body of bishops and other church leaders, etc.  Calling them Provinces makes them appear to be extensions of a central ecclesastical state, in this case a world wide Anglican Church. But they are not. Calling them Provinces is a really bad idea. They are "autonomous and free" synodical bodies, united with one another by common history and extended "familial" connection. But that's it. 

Which means that unity comes not by being part of the same organization - Provinces of a larger entity - but by being part of the same hope.  If there is an Anglican Communion that lasts it is a gathering of Churches of hope - the hope that in Christ all will be well at the last. Prior to the last there will be great bouts of tribulation as this or that Church exercises the decision to make policy in carrying out the Gospel as they have received it, but in ways not agreed to by other churches

When the Church of England and the Scotish Episcopal Church determined that bishops could be ordained for work  outside their own church structures, they could exact some initial requirements about church life, but in the long run they had to let go of control. The bishops gathered in the Episcopal Church (USA), in Canada, in Scotland, and later in many new churches in many nations, all who "owed" their orders to the Church of England's synod of bishops, seldom had in their own canons any subservience to the Church of England or any other extra-synodical body. They are indeed, "autonomous and free."

So now we have some Churches that have joined together to form a more perfect union... one based on a form of biblical and historical certainty that belies the very foundation of the notion of Anglicanism, namely that polity, structure and common life are products of national or regional understandings as well as ancient professions of faith and order.  

The GAFCON crowd, churches that came together and affirmed the Jerusalem Declaration, have in recent days determined that the Church of England, as well as the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, are apostate. In the most recent letter from the GAFCON leadership they had this to say about the Church of England.

"FCA UK & Ireland, formed at our initiative, continues to welcome and provide support for faithful Anglicans in the British Isles. We are particularly concerned about the Church of England and the drift of many from the Biblical faith. We do not regard the recent use of a Church of England building for a Muslim service as a minor aberration. These actions betray the gospel and discourage Christians who live among Muslims, especially those experiencing persecution.

We support Bishop John Ellison in resisting the unjust and uncharitable charges brought against him by the Bishop of Salisbury, and in view of the Great Commission, we note the sad irony that this former missionary bishop to South America now finds it necessary to defend himself for supporting missionary activity in his own country. 

We continue to encourage and support the efforts of those working to restore the Church of England’s commitment to Biblical truth. Equally, we authenticate and support the work of those Anglicans who are boldly spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ and whose circumstances require operating outside the old, institutional structures.

We remain confident in the great good of gospel ministry, and we see what happens when actions impacting the Communion are taken without the priorities of the faith once delivered.

Wherever they are and whatever their circumstances, GAFCON continues to unite faithful Anglicans under a common confession of Christ’s Lordship and a desire to make disciples."

GAFCON provides the institutional cover for congregations and parishes who are wanting to leave the Anglican church of record (The Church of England, the Episcopal Church, etc) and establish a second Anglican entity (a regional church) claiming to be "true" Anglican body. 

So the Church of England will now get to taste the bitter fruit of schism that has already occurred in the US

And in an unfolding side-bar story, the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC), in the midst of following its own internal council as a synod, is considering allowing clergy to bless same sex unions.  The Archbishop of Canterbury has suggested that if they do so, they will be subject to the same sanctions that have taken place regarding inclusion of The Episcopal Church (TEC) church members in ecumenical conversations. At the same time GAFCON, seeing a new place to make incursions, all for the sake of biblical purity, is offering to take offended local parishes into their care.

The end of the matter is just this: To the extent that there are indeed canons, organizational structures, episcopal synods, and the like, they are formed and determined,by general Anglican Communion agreement, by the synodical structures of the several churches. 

That parishes and dioceses might want to re-align is a reality. They are doing it. But in doing so they are not becoming new Anglican bodies, they are forming new churches, new synods. GAFCON is not the new Anglicanism. GAFCON is constituting a new super-provisional world wide body that will not put up with this "locally adapted" business.

So be it. 

But the Church of England, and its Archbishop, are now party to the same game being played out in the US, in Canada, Scotland and other churches of the Anglican Communion. It is being taken for a ride. 

And to the extent that England has become a multinational nation, its church, still English, will have finally to deal with the reality that there is no national church in England, but rather the Church of England in a nation that includes many church communities, some of which will try to pull from the CofE such members and dioceses as it can from the CofE itself.

That is why the Archbishop of Canterbury has to make up his mind. Does the CofE condone GAFCON's "new mission" as an Anglican device, or does it say, as TEC has said, that GAFCON is using the cover of a "pure" Anglicanism for purposes of usurpation and expansion? At the core is the issue of synodical governance, on a national or regional level.

The ABC was wrong to invite the GAFCON puppet, the Anglican Church of North America, into the gathering of Primates. He was wrong to push the Primate's sanctions as a possible outcome for Scotland. He needs to put a stop to this GAFCON purity initiative in England or see his own province reduced to being just another church in England, along with whatever GAFCON will call its church in England (perhaps the Anglican Church in England.) 

The ABC cannot stop GAFCON from forming new churches in England, but he can make it clear that GAFCON's new church development is not Anglican, not the "pure and restored" Anglican community in England

When the Anglican Communion bodies did not make it clear that incursions into Churches part of the Communion by other churches in the communion would not be condoned or in any way sanctioned, they made a dreadful mistake. The notion of "the historic Episcopate locally adapted" is based on national and regional synods, and the ancient understanding is this: you don't muck about in your neighbor's garden. 

It is all coming home to roost. The mucking about is getting messier, and the Archbishop of Canterbury is not helping.