11/28/2018

Bishop Love condemns the Episcopal Church.


Several weeks ago (November 11, 2018) Bishop William Love of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany wrote a pastoral letter to the people of his diocese, and people “throughout the world” in which he pronounced this inhibition: “Until further notice, the trial rites authorized by Resolution B012 of the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church shall not be used anywhere in the Diocese of Albany by diocesan clergy (canonically resident or licensed), and Diocesan Canon 16 shall be fully complied with by all diocesan clergy and parishes.”

I’ve read his full pastoral letter, and I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, be angry or simply ignore this strange epistle. I cannot simply dismiss Bishop Love’s letter as an absurdity since I believe that all bishops (good, bad, indifferent, orthodox as all get out, squishy as Jell-O or firm as hell) are somehow ordered by God’s good grace for the life of the Church,. But I’d like to.

Bishop Love’s pastoral letter gives expression to his convictions about what the Bible and Christian faith require. His letter can be read in its entirety HERE.

His believes that in the Holy Scriptures God has made it clear that sexual intimacy is only blessed in the context of marriage between a man and a woman, and that Jesus did not in any way issue a corrective to that understanding.  There might be an argument for taking the bishop to task for his read of scripture and his understanding of everything from sin to sexual intimacy, but that give too much emphasis to his very threadbare argument. And, I must confess, I have little interest in going over all this again.  

However, on the way to issuing the prohibition that comes at the end of his letter, he also opined about the state of the Episcopal Church. A number of these are startling in their condemnation. It is these comments that deserve further attention.  

I’ve taken Bishop Love’s most strident comments and added a bit of commentary.

Bishop Love (BL) “(God) has reserved the gift of sexual intimacy for men and women within the confines of marriage between a man and woman as expressed in the above passage from Mark’s Gospel.”

Priest Mark (PM): Sexual intimacy is a reality in the lives of many people, including same-sex couples. Assuming such intimacy is a gift, it seems to me the primary givers are the members of the relationship. Understanding that God is the ultimate source of all good gifts, then, of course, the gift of sexual intimacy is finally a gift of God. Bishop Love seems to believe that the “gift” given same-sex couples is NOT from God.  If so, in what larger context does this gift arise? from some evil source?

BL: “I can’t help but believe that God has removed His blessing from this Church. Unless something changes, The Episcopal Church is going to die.”

PM: If Bishop Love truly believes this, I suggest he leave the Episcopal Church. Who wants to lead or serve an unblessed church? 

The death of the Episcopal Church, on the other hand, has little to do with its position on the issue of marriage between same-sex couples.  At some point, our work as a separate Church will be done, and the wider body of Christ will take our efforts into itself and move on. But that death will have little or nothing to do with God removing his blessing. In fact, it may be a blessing to have completed our task as a separate denomination.

Bishop Love is trying to make The Episcopal Church feel afraid. “God has removed His blessing from this Church.” Be afraid, be very afraid. Good try.

BL: “There are many in the Diocese of Albany who have made it clear that they will not stand for such false teaching or actions and will leave – thus the bloodbath and opening of the floodgates that have ravaged other dioceses will come to Albany if B012 is enacted in this Diocese.”

PM: Now we are getting to the front edge of the spear: “Bloodbath” and “floodgates” sound pretty bad. Is this a predictive observation or a promise?  Who knows? He does seem to think that if B012 is not “enacted” in his diocese his clergy will not leave.   So, the proposition becomes, ‘leave us alone or there will be blood and flood.“ This is not an observation, not a promise. It is a threat.

BL: “I do believe (those who support same-sex marriage) have been deceived into believing a lie that has been planted in the Church by the “great deceiver” – Satan.” 

PM: That certainly ups the ante… now, according to Love, all of us who support same-sex marriage are not simply wrong, heretical, and foolish. We are deceived by Satan.  Invoking Satan is another ploy: hammer The Episcopal Church with fear, threat and finally Satan himself.

BL: “Satan is having a heyday bringing division into the Church over these issues and is trying to use the Church to hurt and destroy the very ones we love and care about by deceiving the leadership of the Church into creating ways for our gay and lesbians brothers and sister to embrace their sexual desires rather than to repent and seek God’s love and healing grace. B012 plays right into this.” (the error “lesbians brothers and sister” is in the original.)

PM: It is hard even to parse this sentence, layered as it is to drive the point home that the Episcopal Church is worse than deceived and that it is being used by Satan.

Bishop Love is sure that the Church is being used by Satan, and if we step into that river with counterclaims, what is to prevent us from suggesting that perhaps Bishop Love is being used by Satan to lead us into arrogance regarding the splinter in the eye we behold as greater than the beam in our own?  Bishop Love is walking down a strange path here. The same Church that ordained him to a vocation is engaged in ordaining others to the vocation of marriage, some of whom are persons of the same sex. If it is being used by Satan in the second instance, what is to prevent the same being true of the former.  Bishop Love needs to back off the accusations that the Church is being used by Satan. The combination of bad theology and bad logic in indigestible. The tendrils of that vine have a mind of their own.

BL: “As a result, I cannot in good conscience as a bishop in God’s holy Church agree to what is being asked for in B012. While I respect the authority of General Convention as an institutional body, my ultimate loyalty as a bishop in God’s holy Church is to God.”

PM: Again, Bishop Love is in a bit of a bind. The bishops of the dioceses in union with the General Convention saw fit to give consent to his ordination. Bishops of that Church ordained him as deacon and priest. Probably a priest of that Church baptized him. If General Convention is an institutional body only then his place in it is institutional only as well. And then, on what does his claim to ordination in “God’s holy Church” depend? 

Bishop Love writes, “my ultimate loyalty as a bishop in God’s holy Church is to God.” I agree with that sentiment, except of course that the issue is not about being a “Bishop in God’s holy Church” but a bishop in the Episcopal Church. As with all of us in orders, bishops are ordered in “the Church” but they are licensed and hold office in this or that particular Church. If one has to choose between the two, of course, choose “God’s holy Church,” of which particular churches are mere shadows. But the Bishop must know that license and church authority reside in particular churches. Stepping away from the authority that rests with the ordering of the Episcopal Church effectively breaks his authority within that organization, including with the Diocese of Albany.

Given his vitriol, I believe that Bishop Love should resign as bishop in The Episcopal Church.  If he believes we are led astray by Satan, who is having a hay day messing with our moral sensibilities, and that God has withdrawn his blessing from The Episcopal Church, he would do well to leave.

He would do well to make it personal, about his leaving a church he abhors.  To attempt to lead his diocese out of the Episcopal Church is ill-advised. When it all shakes out, he and some members of the current Diocese of Albany might leave, but those who remain will continue to be the Diocese of Albany, and those who leave will have to find another home.

Meanwhile, Bishop Love seems to have acquired a threatening and condemning voice. It does not become him or his name.

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11/02/2018

The First “Annual Appeal”, passing the plate for a second offering.

In the mail yesterday I received a “Dear Friends” letter from the Presiding Bishop introducing the first Episcopal Church Annual Appeal. I suspect you did too. With it came a one page double sided summary of the ministries that the Appeal would support. It came on All Saints Day. 

The Presiding Bishop is a wonderful source for enthusiasm in The Episcopal Church and I am usually ready to take his lead in working to motivate the Church to action in the world. But I was strangely unmoved by this letter and the materials that accompanied it. Why?  Well, as I returned again and again to the appeal materials several things stood out.

(1) There was a disconnect between the content of the summary page and the photo of the Presiding Bishop and a group of young people.  It’s a great picture. There is no note as to what the picture is about, except the delight of the PB with young people. That is, of course, worthy of sending around. But there is no link between that image and any of the ministries described.

(2) The undated letter gives several other examples of ministries that would benefit from the Appeal... including the Office of Government Relations, Armed Forces and Federal Ministries programs, and Evangelism Ministries. Of these only the Evangelism ministry is mentioned in the accompanying one-page double-sided info piece.  In the letter, the PB asks, “Why do I make this appeal now?”  The answer is, “The dioceses of our Church are generous in their giving to support churchwide ministry, and income from endowments is steady: however, the work before us requires more.”  

(3) The three ministries mentioned in the letter are churchwide ministries with budget line items as part of the General Convention budget. Now a great deal of energy goes into producing the General Convention Budget and the askings from the dioceses to support that budget. As dioceses we have already given for the budget of churchwide offices, and through General Convention, we prioritized the work and the funding. We have already given at the office. By extension I have already given to this budget through the offerings I make in my parish.  So this is an “above and beyond” sort of asking. The letter does not suggest new programs or activities above and beyond those envisioned in the general budget. Rather the suggestion is that what we already have agreed to do “requires more.”

This seems to mean that the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies, Executive Council and staff have determined that the limits of funding imposed by the Church’s budgeting process need to be overturned.  This seems to me to require more explanation than the statement that “the work before us requires more.” Is this additional funding going to result in a larger staff? Or the greater use of contract-workers? How will these new funds be folded into the existing budget and the priorities of the General Convention?  If there is new money for Creation-care work, how is that reflected in the existing Episcopal Church efforts? 

(3) The list of ministries/programs in the double-sided one-page piece that accompanies the letter are all efforts in which “more” might be very useful. The brochure or booklet that gives more stories and information about these ministries can be found online, but the letter refers to it as if it were available with the mailing. “Please prayerfully read the stories in this booklet about these ministries...” The booklet is not part of the mailing.

(4) The letter also says, “you can make your gift here online.”  Well, “here” is the letter, which may be on the internet, but was sent to me (and you) by land mail, and the editors forgot to include the online address.  It is found, rather, on the accompanying two-sided sheet. It is www.episcopalchurch/give/annual-appeal.  You can go there and give your money, but if you want the brochure/booklet you have to go elsewhere, namely to https://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/documents/annual_appeal_booklett_web.pdf 
The site refers to it as a brochure. The title of the document calls it a booklet. Oh well.

All in all the appeal is troubling. It is confusingly presented, with little more than a restatement of programs already part of the budgeted life of the Episcopal Church as its justification. There is no real effort to present compelling reasons for passing the plate a second time. These are not special programs or unique and unpredicted opportunities. 

We should hope for better than this.

9/21/2018

Standing Committee of Diocese of Haiti asks for Consents to the Election of Dean Delicat.

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Haiti sent a  notice out to the Standing Committees and Bishops of the Church on September 5th. I have not seen reference to it in any of the national Episcopal Church press. It is a PDF file and can be found HERE.

The statement fully supports the election of Dean Delicat as bishop and presents detailed reasoning for rejecting the Court of Review’s findings. It asks the Standing Committees and Bishops Diocesan to confirm the election of Dean Delicat.

It also reveals more details concerning what it feels were inappropriate processes in the work of the Court of Review.

Among those was the appointment of a translator. The Standing Committee reports, “Although the Diocese of Haiti requested that the "court" retain an independent  translator, they permitted a priest who is an outspoken critic of the Diocese of Haiti and its Bishop, with no direct knowiedge of anything that happened during the election, to acldress the court, and to ostensibly act as translator. That priest is a member of the Diocese of Nerv York.”

At the very least it seems to me that those Episcopal Church media that were quick to post the Court of Review’s findings should also post the response that the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Haiti has sent to the Dioceses. 

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Haiti has made itself clear concerning the election. It believes that Dean Delicat was rightly elected.


9/11/2018

GAFCON. Chairman writes September 11 letter, re-writes history with abandon.



The Chairman of the GAFCON thingy has taken to the internet again. He has written a September 11th letter to the GAFCON community and the world. In it he makes the following claims:

(I) He rehearses the GAFCON dance, in which the miseries of brokenness in the Communion are all the fault of the bad old Episcopal Church, and that the Anglican Church in North America is the pure and undefined remnant. It is all because The Episcopal Church did not find the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution 1.10 binding on its life or on the Communion. He compounds the condemnation of TEC by pulling out the cost of litigation. Why? So that his second claim can sound like good news.

(2) He turns to the  possibility of a major break in New Zealand between those who hold to Lambeth 1998, 1.10 and those who want to newer understandings, and writes the following:

"The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, who is also Gafcon’s Deputy General Secretary for Asia and Oceania, met recently with leading bishops of ACANZP and put forward the idea of ‘Distinctive Co-existence’ based on the overlapping jurisdictions of TEC and the Church of England which already exist in continental Europe with their own quite separate canons and constitutions.

This is a proposal for structural separation which acknowledges the reality of irreconcilable differences about the nature of the bible and the gospel, but calls for it to be done peacefully. This is biblical and in line with what the Apostle Paul teaches about the true nature of our warfare, that ‘though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war accord to the flesh’ (2 Corinthians 10:3). Those whose first resort is to litigation betray a love of power and money.”

The Chairman does two things here: links litigation to a love of power and money, and suggests an alternative, a “peaceful” notion of “Distinctive Co-existence, based on the overlapping jurisdictions of TEC and the CofE.” See, he suggests, we can have structural separation and irreconcilable differences without litigation, after all that is what has been done in Europe.

This is, of course, entirely a con job. The CofE is in Europe, as is the Covocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, as are the Church in Spain and in Portugal. They are indeed separate churches, all Anglican, but what divides them are not irreconcilable differencs, but difficult and often complex structural issues of accountability, history and culture. But they are not irreconcilable faith communities at all. Unlike GAFCON churches, who claim communion is broken with TEC, the Anglican Church of Canada, and so forth, the Anglican bodies in Europe are in full communion with one another.

The Chairman is working hard to have in hand a working example of two jurisdictions both being part of the Anglican Communion, but not in communion with each other. This will quickly be followed by gathering the votes in the ACC to kick out the faithless gang, which by that time will no doubt include the Church of England, thereby making GAFCON THE Anglican Communion.

The Chairman is playing fast with history so that he can play faster with the Anglican Communion. Anyone who falls for this trick business of “Distinctive Co-Existence” is in for a rude awakening.

8/24/2018

The Diocese of Haiti contested election, Canon III.11.8, and unintended consequences.


Since 1994 there has been this canon in the Episcopal Church’s law regarding contested episcopal election:
"Title III, 11, Sec. 8 (a) Within ten days after the election of a Bishop Diocesan, a Bishop Coadjutor, or a Bishop Suffragan by a Diocesan Convention, delegates constituting no less than ten percent of the number of delegates casting votes on the final ballot may file with the Secretary of the Convention written objections to the election process, setting forth in detail all alleged irregularities. Within ten days after receipt thereof, the Secretary of the Convention shall forward copies of the same to the Bishop Diocesan, the Chancellor and Standing Committee of the Diocese, and to the Presiding Bishop, who shall request the Court of Review of the Province in which the Diocese is located to investigate the complaint. The Court of Review may invite response by the Bishop Diocesan, the Chancellor, the Standing Committee and any other persons within the Diocese for which the Bishop was elected. Within thirty days after receipt of the request, the Court of Review shall send a written report of its findings to the Presiding Bishop, a copy of which report the Presiding Bishop, within fifteen days, shall cause to be sent to the Bishop Diocesan, the Chancellor, the Standing Committee and the Secretary of the Convention of the electing Diocese. The Secretary shall send a copy of the report to each of the delegates who filed objection to the election process. (b) The report of the Court of Review shall be sent to the Standing Committees of the several Dioceses, with the Certificate of the Secretary of the electing Convention relating to consent to ordain. Likewise, the Presiding Bishop shall include the report in the communication to the Bishops exercising jurisdiction.”



FIRST APPLICATION OF THIS CANON:

Shortly after the election of Dean Kerwin Delicat of Holy Trinity Cathedral, Port-au-Prince, as bishop coadjutor for the Diocese of Haiti, the requisite number of lay and clerical delegates filed objections under this canon. This is the first instance in which this canon has been put to the test.

The Episcopal News Service reported on the contestation HERE.

Towards the end of the ENS story, interviewing Bishop Ousley, who is bishop for pastoral development on the Presiding Bishop’s staff, ENS reported,

“Ousley said, it is clear that while the provincial court of review is given a role in the contestation process, the canons say the role is that of an information-gathering body charged with producing a report on the allegations, not acting as a court. Normally, the court of review functions within the church’s clergy discipline canons.

“They’re not going to make a judgment about guilty or not guilty. They’re not necessarily going to come down on one side or another,” he said.

Instead, its report will be a compilation of the information the members were able to get. “It’s not the court’s responsibility to decide for the church or to tip the process one way or another,” he said. The group might say that certain allegations are true or not. “But more than likely, it is going have a number of things that will say ‘on the one hand but on the other,’” he said.

“It’s difficult to determine truth when in fact there are a variety of truths that are likely to be revealed,” Ousley said. “For those who are waiting for the report in hopes that the report will make the decision for them, they’re going have a very long wait.”

The report dated August 16, 2018, has now been written and communicated to the required parties.  It can be found HERE.

Contrary to Bishop Ousley’s initial remarks that ““They’re (the Court of Review) not going to make a judgment about guilty or not guilty. They’re not necessarily going to come down on one side or another,” the report reads very much like a findings report of a grand jury suggesting that there is reason to consider the charges of those contesting the election.

It finds “credible” the charges of the contesting clergy and lay delegates, and “credible” the contentions of the bishop and Standing Committee. But its final “findings” in each instance support the case that the election was deeply flawed, and that the “Bishop Diocesan and Standing Committee are chiefly responsible” for  coercion and undue influence” in the lead up to and occasion of the election.

This report from the Province II Court of Review is required to be included in materials sent to every bishop of jurisdiction and diocese for their use in determining whether or not to give consent to the election. It is not subject to review, to objection or to appeal.

What this in effect means is that the Province II Court of Review opinion, giving credence to the charges of coercion and undue influence, hangs over the process of consent like a grand jury indictment.  But unlike an indictment there will be no trial to follow, to see if in fact the so called credible charges can stand up to full scrutiny. Instead, Bishops and Standing Committees will have the Court of Review opinion itself.  

Bishop Ousley said, ““For those who are waiting for the report in hopes that the report will make the decision for them, they’re going have a very long wait.” 

It turns out the bishop is wrong on this. The report is the kiss of death, since it comes down strongly in support of the contention that the bishop and standing committee of the Diocese of Haiti caused the election to be flawed.

Now here is the problem: The Canon, never before used, is now in play and it becomes clear that a Court of Review can, by its findings, and without recourse, invoke pre-justice, prejudice, into the examination of the validity of an election.

Summary of observations:
Here are the major points of this essay. (The details follow and only the committed need read on.)

This essay starts in the somewhat boring world of church law (canons) but ends up in the messy world of real church struggles. So hold on, what starts out fairly muted in significance gets loud and noisy pretty quickly.

The major points to this article are as follows:

(I) The Court of Review has acted like a grand jury, finding credible grounds for considering the objections raised against the election. However, because there is no appeal, but only the report, these findings effectively argue for taking the franchise away from the electors in Haiti. This is not the Courts fault. It is the fault of a bad piece of legislation that put this proviso into the Canons.

(II) The Court of Review, rather than the objectors, makes demands that there be an investigation of compliance with the Covenant between the Presiding Bishop, the Bishop Diocesan, the Bishop Suffragan and the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Haiti. This seems to me to be outside their purview.

(III) The Court of Review has considered the conflict as a “party” conflict, rather than a conflict between ecclesiastical authority and those who would reject such authority. The struggles in the Diocese of Haiti are intimately bound up with the matter of the ecclesiastical authority of the Bishop.  The Court apparently has no sympathy for any such read.

(IV) The possibilities are great that the Report of the Court of Review will result in punitive action by the Presiding Bishop and a crisis in leadership in the Diocese. Already there are muttering about a “provisional bishop” for the diocese and the specter of the return of Episcopal leadership by non-Haitian missionary appointment, if only for a “season.”  Such a move will be seen, much as the occupation by the US in the past, as an intervention that smacks of paternalism. It would be a solution that also assumes the Diocese is not able to function as a Diocese, with its Standing Committee as ecclesiastical authority. Such an assumption is itself a continuation of the “poor Haiti” syndrome, often voiced in circles that continue the myth that Haiti can not handle its own affairs.

Personal disclosure.

In what follows I am aware that I may be vilified by some who believe I have no business “interfering” in things Haitian. Perhaps these persons could be right. So this essay has been subject to critique and limitations by several Haitian clergy with an eye to keeping my own biases in check. But in the last analysis, it is my read on things, and I am sticking with it.

For any interested, I will say that I have a deep and long relationship with the Church in Haiti, with a number of its clergy and lay people, and with the country and people of Haiti. I went to the Seminary of the Caribbean with several of the senior clergy of the diocese.  I have been to Haiti over 20 times in the past 50 years, have known both of the Haitian bishops, and most recently have been first a scholar in residence at the Seminary in Port au Prince and artist in residence at the Echole Nationale des Arts. I am responding in the context of considerable personal concern.



More details of concerns about the report of the Court of Review:

The Court of Review, is no jury of peers.

The Court of Review in Province II, consists of persons drawn from dioceses in New York and New Jersey, While Province II also includes Haiti, the Virgin Islands, the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, and now (oddly) Cuba, there are not representatives of these extra- continental dioceses on the Court.

The matters brought forward by the objectors involved a wide range of accusations that exist in contexts very different from that found in most if not all US dioceses.

Among those differences is the fact that in the Diocese of Haiti all clergy are assigned to their charges by the Bishop with advice from the Standing Committee. This power of appointment means, practically, that at any given moment there are a number of dissatisfied clergy who believe the Bishop is exercising coercion and undue influence in their lives, much less in their roles in diocesan life. Added to this are the conflicts that arise between diocesan efforts to manage and control outside funding of projects and programs in particular parishes and the desire by some clergy and their lay leaders to develop financial and other resources that are independent of diocesan oversight.  The realities of episcopal governance in Haiti are quite different from that in many dioceses in the US. To that may be added the tenuous personal and financial situations faced by clergy in Haiti.

The result is that there are often clergy led struggles with the authority of the bishop. This has been true for every bishop since the inclusion of the Church in Haiti into the life of the Episcopal Church. In its opening remarks the Court of Review acknowledges the long term internal struggles in the Diocese.
The matter of "parties."

The Court did hear from the various “parties” in the conflict, but saw them as “parties,” rather than as supporters of episcopal authority and subordinate dispute with authority. The Court accepted then the notion that this is about conflict between parties, and not conflict between a bishop diocesan and a group of clergy opposed to the bishop and his authority. It does not seem to have been the Court’s opinion that perhaps the bishop’s “party” were effectively clergy and lay persons committed to episcopal governance rather than loyalty to the bishop of the moment. The blindness to this possibility might itself be an extension of a sort of paternalism that sees conflict in “missionary” dioceses as a squabble among children, rather than struggles to address the realities of authority and governance in quite unique circumstances.

The Court is well intentioned, I am convinced, but it has carried its investigation quite far afield from the contestation of the election itself and into a wider critique of the Bishop Diocesan’s adherence to the covenant entered into by the Presiding Bishop, the Bishop Diocesan and the Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Haiti.

It did opine, carefully, that “the evidence before us that the Covenant has not been fully honored and lived into by the Bishop Diocesan, the former Bishop Suffragan, and the Standing Committee of Haiti demands investigation, and we refer that finding to the Presiding Bishop.”

So, while the Court referred its “finding” to the Presiding Bishop, it does so with the demand that there be further investigation. It essentially opens the door to punitive action by the Presiding Bishop (see section 14) regarding any or all of the parties to the covenant. That section reads, “Bishop Duracin and Bishop Beauvoir acknowledge that failure by either of them to comply with the terms of this Covenant, once executed, shall constitute, at the least, the Offense of Conduct Unbecoming a Member of the Clergy, and will be likely to result in the issuance by the Presiding Bishop of a Restriction on Ministry against the noncompliant party or parties.”

The Court, made up of persons from US dioceses, has been asked to “find” for the Bishop and Standing Committee, or for those contesting the election, in a context quite different from what is found in dioceses in New York or New Jersey. That doesn’t make their work invalid, but it does make it much harder to take as convincing.

The Findings:

The first “finding” states, “The allegation that the high number of ordinations immediately prior to the electing convention took place in order to steer the electoral process is credible.” The means the objectors make a case that the Court cannot dismissed out of hand. It does not mean that the objectors proved that the ordinations were indeed made in order to stack the deck. The Court essentially found, as a grand jury might, that there is a case worthy of trial here. But of course there is no possibility of such trial, only rejection or acceptance of the validity of the election with these findings in hand.

This “finding” suggests that the Bishop and his “party,” by which must be meant the Standing Committee, approved the ordinations not because of the merit or abilities of the candidates but for other reasons. This is damning of the Bishop, and denigrates his authority and that of the Standing Committee, making it appear that they use ordination as a political ploy, not a sacramental action.

Oddly, adding to the clergy rolls of the diocese is a great headache for the Bishop and Standing Committee, since each new clergy person in the diocese stretches the budget of the diocese to new limits. It is hard to understand why either the Bishop or Standing Committee would want to foist new clergy onto the responsibilities of the next bishop simply to ensure election of a “party” candidate.  This finding is credible only if the struggles in the diocese are seen as so blatantly political that even the sacramental life of the church can be subsumed in such struggles. This charge is credible only if the diocese is condemned as a place of raw power and total lack of ethical or even practical sensibilities.

The second finding reads,

“The allegation that the Bishop Diocesan interfered with the election, and that the election suffered from coercion and undue influence, is credible. There is fault on both sides, but the simple fact of the number and complexity of these allegations compounded by the failure of trust, suggests a deeply flawed election for which the Bishop Diocesan and Standing Committee are chiefly responsible.”

The Court of Review is there to review “objections to the election process.” While that might extend beyond possible irregularities on the days of election, at some point concerns about influence become matters for person or persons better qualified to speak to the sometimes complex situation in Haiti rather than the Court of Review.

 The Court of Review did not address much in the way of specific issues of voter fraud, miscount, or other electoral processes. It identified a “failure of trust” and “coercion and undue influence” as the matters that lead to the finding of a “deeply flawed election.”  In hearing testimony from the objectors and from the Bishop and Standing Committee, the Court found itself able to give credence to the idea that the bishop interfered in the election process in ways that invalidated the election.
That of course brings us to the covenant agreement, where the parties agreed (section 9) that

“Bishop Duracin and the Standing Committee hereby acknowledge that in Episcopal Church polity, it is the norm for the Standing Committee to take the lead in shaping and leading the process for electing a bishop, and for the bishop diocesan to refrain from efforts to influence that process. Further, the Standing Committee will work to ensure that the process to elect the next diocesan bishop includes the voices and input of persons, both laity and clergy, who may have been regarded as not entirely loyal to Bishop Duracin. The Standing Committee will create one or more committees to oversee and implement the nomination and election process, and will include on such committees persons who have been regarded as outsiders to that process. To the extent that committees preparing for the election have already been formed, the Standing Committee will take steps to make any necessary changes to their membership so that they comply with the requirements of this Paragraph.”

The Court of Review believes that there are grounds to believe that the Bishop has broken his promise “to refrain from efforts to influence that process.” It kicks that finding up the road to the Presiding Bishop, but includes it in its report that will be read by all bishops and standing committees. Again, the belief that there is a credible argument for undue influence and coercion becomes, on publication, a strong prejudice against validating the election, from which there is no appeal except the voiced opposition from those who believe the election, flawed or not, was valid, and more importantly the business of the people and diocese of Haiti.

There has been at least one such voice in support of the Diocese of Haiti managing its own ecclesial life.

A report from Archdeacon Fritz Bazin, of South East Florida, also Canon of the Diocese of Haiti gives voice to the support of the validity of the election and expresses confidence in the Diocese of Haiti governing its own processes. Archdeacon Bazin has been a close observer of the life of the diocese of Haiti. He writes:



“Subject: Response to Province II Court of Review Report of Findings - Diocese of Haiti Election 8-16-18

The report of findings by the court of review of Province II is very troubling.  Clearly this court received many testimonies from both sides, and among their first statements is one that smacks of paternalism.  It is true that “The Diocese of Haiti is both the largest diocese in the Episcopal Church and the economically poorest.”  The fact is that in this context, there is a reminder of Haiti’s economic dependence on the wealthy partners in the U.S.

The court did not simply submit the facts but went as far as condemning the Bishop diocesan and the standing committee who presented credible facts just like those of the opposite camp. Another troubling issue is the fact that the content of the contestant’s paper was widely circulated but not the response of the organizers of the elections. It should be left to the readers to decide whether or not consent should be given (although personally, I believe it would be the right thing to do.)

On the matter of the ordination of 35 deacons in the year of the elections, the massive presence at the celebration is a seal of approval even by some of the contestants who came with their parishioners.

Bishop Duracin argued that it is one gesture of his legacy to place ordained clergy persons in most of the many missions; it is a matter of interpretation that can be biased.

Most importantly, this is a situation that calls for respect for the Church in Haiti to solve its own problem.  There is no need for a big brother to intervene as has happened in the past either in the Church or the nation. If it has to take time, let it be, but the clergy and the people of Haiti are fully capable and must be given space to find the solution which only they can come up with.  Outsiders should not assume that they are able to comprehend fully and manage the complexities of the Haiti situation of ‘tribal” dimension.”

"Liberated Christians must be serious about stewardship and mission. Prolonged dependency makes us objects in the history of others, rather than subjects of our own destiny." 

The above quote is from Bishop Nathan Baxter’s sermon on February 16, 2008 at St. Agnes, Miami, at a celebration of Absalom Jones sponsored by the Union of Black Episcopalians.  With this in mind, I believe that, in spite of poverty, proper management of existing resources and steady stewardship, the Church in Haiti could free itself from chronic dependency.

--
The Venerable Dr. J. Fritz Bazin
Archdeacon for Immigration and Social Justice
Diocese of Southeast Florida”

The Court of Review’s findings are far more damaging that it would appear.  Sometimes bishops elect do not get the required consents from dioceses. That is not the end of the world. The church can move on. But this set of findings sets the stage for a new rehash of an old myth - that the people of Haiti, and in particular the people of the Church, are incapable of handling their own affairs. That is an immediate and deadly possibility.

I hope the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Haiti will immediately respond to the findings and see that their position is also send to bishops of jurisdiction and standing committees.  Those bishops and standing committees must of course exercise their roles and offer consent or not.  I hope they will give their consents. But if not, I am convinced the Diocese will be able to continue and to prepare again for an election.




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