So, let's get our act together, people! (Revised 7/26)

Dan Martins published a rather scathing report on the lack of proper canonical procedure in the election of coadjutor bishop for Virginia, siting the concerns of the diocese of San Joaquin that proper canonical procedure was not followed and therefore questioning the rejection of the various diocesan consents to the election of Mark Lawarence in South Carolina. The interesting refutation of this by EpiScope pointed out that the form used in Viriginia was the same as used in South Carolina and in many other elections in the past ten years. (EpiScope has since retracted that claim re South Carolina, but not in general - it appears it was not used in SC but was in many prior elections.) The whole thing, in spite of BabyBlue's commentary, and the Living Church's posting, is going down as a rather odd bit of Episcopal Church trivia.

Except for one thing: Dan Martins is right to point out the initial problem. If the Canons require a particular form, then why not use it? The fact that many dioceses, including South Carolina, did or did not use it is no reason to drop the question. It is every reason to drop the use of the question as a way to discredit the decision that the consents for Mark Lawrence were not proper.

I agree with Dan that if we want to be consistent we might actually try following the rubrics, the canons, the Constitution and living with the Creeds with sufficient integrity that we can say them with a clear conscience, and so forth. So, if the Canons stipulate a particular structure of a letter then let's use it. Meanwhile, let's get off the high horse of thinking we do better than others at actually doing what is required.

So let's cut Dan a break: His question is valid, even though the conclusion does not follow.

And maybe, lets play by the rules, or if we decide not to, agree that we have decided not to, and if necessary pay the consequences.


  1. The President of the Standing Committee of SC refutes Jan Nunley's assertion that SC used the same incorrect form as Virginia and Jan has since retracted her at assertion.

    A question for David Booth Beers, "How do you spell duplitious"

  2. Mark,

    I'm glad you've written about this. Mostly the left has ignored this one. While I do not think it is the Major Scandal as do many on the right, I do believe this is more than "trivia."

    It seems to me that this problem makes real the concerns on the right that ECUSA leadership is just not fair. Simply put, if we're asking for justice, we have to behave justly -- not sometimes, but all the time.

    In one case (SC), the canons were quoted chapter & verse. In other cases (VA et al), the canons were considered optional. Seems like it would be helpful for 815 to acknowledge the problem, and promise to get their act together for future elections. Instead, this has been ignored -- except for Jan Nunley's blog postings.

    For what it's worth, you might want to make note of the epiScope update. In fact, SC did indeed use the correct canonical form for the text. Signatures did them in. VA apparently gathered signatures, but ignored the prescribed text.

    So, until we change these canons, I agree that it would be only fair to follow them. After all, we clergy have promised to obey them.


  3. It appears the canonical form was only used in the SC case only after being reminded. That is, in the SC case somebody actually realised the “short” form was un-canonical.

    However, this didn’t make the person remember that the un-canonical form had been/was being used by other Standing Committees.

    Which to my mind speaks against the “malicious intent” interpretation, rather than for.

    I cannot see however, that the consents to past elections are invalidated retroactively by the “short” form. If nobody objected at the time, but instead mistook them for valid, the result stands against the impropriety of “form”.

    The law doesn’t approve of retroactive changes detrimental to the parties.

    That’s valid for legal systems based on Roman Canon law (intentio; if the form was assumed correct, albeit erroneous, or if nobody realised the form was incorrect, then the result stands).

    In short; SC still has its signature problem nullifying its consents procedure:

    No legs – no Horse => no consents – no Consent.

    V only has the incorrect form – and that cannot be used against it retroactively.

    What needs be established now is the Who? When? Why? of the “short” form to avoid repetition of this kind, at least, of error.

    And then a decision as to which form, “long” or “short”, to be used by a l l in the future.

    So this does not, in my opinion, represent real "concerns" as much as Bad faith.

    At the most it's a storm in a tea cup - but it is being used to accuse the Presiding Bishop's Office of malicious intent.

    Law is not for amateurs.

  4. The lawsuits are running the show now, as we can see in the Virginia press release. The Diocese of Virginia cannot even use the word "canon" or that they didn't follow the canon in the procedures (though it seems that Canon Matthews is very aware of the difference). But the lawsuits will not allow what you are suggesting because so much of 815's case is based on a a strict adherence to canon law and that TEC is a Roman Catholic-style top-down organization.

    Both the lack of following the canons in the situation, as well as the lackadaisical way that the Episcopal Church views some canons (others are now coming to light regarding receiving communion in an Episcopal Church) does not help their case against the Virginia Churches.

    On that we are in agreement - but I would caution all of us of seeing 815 turn into the canon-enforcer, as it it doing with lawsuit-driven canon enforcement. It has been selective in enforcing discipline - biblical and canonical - and that is perhaps another reason we are seeing the unfolding division. Some canons, or so it appears, are more equal than others.

    And so the Diocese of Virginia dare not speak the name "canon" in it's press release. The canonical requirement is reduced to a mere administrative request. Perhaps we should do the same with the Dennis Canon - and it turns out that this canon as well is just a non-binding suggestion as this canon appears to be in practice.


  5. I think Fr. Don has a point. If there are rules they should be observed.

    There are some other things to note.

    At this point there is no remedy. That is, the bishop is ordained, the election approved. We are at the 'if any know cause why this man and this woman' point in the marrige liturgy.

    If there is a kit 815 sends diocese entering a selection process, it should be checked and in necessary, updated. If there is no kit, someone should be tasked to create one.

    It might help to stop assigning motive. Bp. Katherine bent over backwards trying to advance Fr. Lawrence's cause. Arguably she at the very least bent canon by giving the process some extra time. The rule is clear, and given the controversy surrounding the election, it was obvious that all the i's had to be dotted.

    I frankly wish the consents had been found. Fr. Lawrence seems like a decent person, he has made what he thinks are reasonable assurances that he understands the ordination oath for a bishop, and the folks in Carolina clearly want him.

    The conservative tactic of choice is to portray themselves (dishonestly in most cases, dillusionally in the case of at least one former deputy) as the sad victims. Handing them a cause celeb, even when it is phony is a bad idea.

    SC will re-elect Fr. Lawrence. I hope he has consents in hand in a few weeks. Let's move on.


  6. Goran,

    Thanks for your helpful post. It helps clarify things.

    My point in all this, however, has not been to claim a malicious conspiracy at 815. Rather, my point has been to observe that the response to this situation can reveal something about our church and our leadership.

    I'd like to see an admission of past problems, and a commitment to follow the canons strictly in the future. That's the just thing to do.

    I can't imagine anyone really wants to invalidate every election using a defective form in the past. Rather, I think we'd like to see clarity, fairness, justice, and transparency in new elections and consents.

    As for deciding which form to use, the canons are quite clear. There really isn't anything to talk about. The so-called "long" form it is.

    Canons are not for amateurs. ;-)


  7. BabyBlue -
    In response to part of your comment, "that TEC is a Roman Catholic-style top-down organization," please refer to the The Ministry in the Catechism of the current Book of Common Prayer.
    Presuming the traditional use of English, in which the most significant is first in a list, you will notice that the worldly heirarchy of TEC is: LAITY, bishops, priests and deacons.
    Don't you agree that this is the reverse of, "...a Roman Catholic-style, top down organization and wouldn't you like to retract your statement?


  8. "I'd like to see an admission of past problems, and a commitment to follow the canons strictly in the future. That's the just thing to do."


    "I can't imagine anyone really wants to invalidate every election using a defective form in the past."

    Can't be done. Protected by the "intentio".

    "Rather, I think we'd like to see clarity, fairness, justice, and transparency in new elections and consents."

    Be it so.

    "I'd like to see an admission of past problems, and a commitment to follow the canons strictly in the future. That's the just thing to do."


    "The so-called "long" form it is."

    If the short form has been used a certain number of times it will have its proponents (remember it says We consent! instead of We know not of any impediment... ;=)

    Apart from the apparent sloppiness common to both, both on diocesan and PB Office level (and remember, people in the Church are amateurs, not professionals…), the two cases are un-related.

    Diocese 1 did not receive enough signed consents. Not even prolonging the period. Nil.

    Diocese 2 did receive Consent, however un-canonical in form.

    “Form” is secondary.

    “Form” does not trump “matter”. Nor is every “violation” a VIOLATION, indeed every violation does not carry the same weight.

    The “matter” of consent is primary.

    If there are no signatures, no consents can be established. Simple as that.

    Nor did the “short” vs “long” muddle start yesteryear over the SC case, but years ago.

    To my mind this speaks strongly against the “malicious intent” interpretation…

    In short, the SC and V muddles are unrelated. There is no case; there is nothing to see. Claiming there is – as is currently done all over Titus-one-nine and Stand Firm and other blogs – is indeed malicious.

    Amateurish sloppiness versus The Evil Eye. An un-even battle to be sure…

  9. Whoops! I left out part!
    Here it is:
    So, the heirarchy of the government of TEC, as I was told, is Laity, Presiding Bishop, Both the House of Bishops & the House of Deputies, Priests, Deacons - certainly unlike the Roman Catholic Church.

  10. To my mind SJ and SC are much mistaken to make a case out of this. If they want their candidate consented to, they really shouldn’t highlight the (material) difference between the 2 forms used.

    For in the case of Electus Lawrence the difference “matters”.

    To sign a consent saying merely “we consent to the election of NN” is not the same thing as saying we “know of no impediment”.

    Because in this case we do.

    Questions have been raised of Loyalty towards TEC, towards the GC, towards the Constitutions & Canons, and so on…

    The difference highlighted, many will say “we know of this impediment” who otherwise would have said “this is not and ideal candidate, but as you say you want him so much we go ahead”...

    : - (


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.