A Conversational apology, sort of, from The Secretary General

Following up on what has come to be called "mitergate" let us note the following from Canon Kenneth Kearon's opening remarks to the Presiding Bishop at the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church, meeting this last Friday.

Canon Kearon asked that all of understand that his remarks were in the context of a conversation, one which he (and I think all of us) hoped would be dealt with as something not to be picked apart and dissected, but rather appreciated as a conversation. Fair enough. It was a difficult environment and we ought not gather and gnaw at the bones too much.

Still, given the blowup up concerning ecclesiastical dress and passports and such like that had happened in the Church of England it does seem useful to note that Canon Kearon was up for a bit of an apologetic aside.

Just a few moments into his beginning remarks he said (addressing the Presiding Bishop),

“I gather you’ve also been visiting England and there have been some issues that arose during your visit there. I just want to say I’m not a member of the Church of England, I'm a member of the Church of Ireland."

It was, I think, a moment when Kenneth Kearon was pretty much himself, not the spokesperson for the Archbishop of Canterbury, not the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, but someone actively in the fellowship we call the Anglican Communion and embarrassed by the way a fellow member was treated. It was an awkward moment for us in the room, and there was a bit of laughter, but still, there it was. That tendril of an apology that says more than all the formal statements from that point on.

Canon Kearon did not have to come to this meeting. He did so because it was important to do so. We did not have to invite him. We did so because we wanted to hear more than the bare bones of the reasoning behind the termination of membership of TEC persons in various ecumenical conversations. We got that, for which we ought to give thanks to both the Secretary General and the Presiding Bishop.

I have previously posted the exact questions that were prepared by the EC Standing Committee on World Mission from ideas solicited from EC members. The letter to the Church from Executive Council spoke further to the time we had with Canon Kearon. I will take that up in my next post.

Canon Kearon apologized, within the context of a conversational moment, and distanced himself from the Church of England. It was a little and very human thing, and very central as a reminder that somethings need not be picked apart, but only appreciated for what they are.


  1. Canon Kearon's apology (of sorts) indicating that he, too, was embarrassed by the manner in which Bp. Katharine was treated by Lambeth Palace are not words that should be picked apart, surely.

    But I wonder, Mark, are you suggesting that the rest of the conversation is off limits for commentary, even for what you might call picking-apart commentary?

  2. Grandmere Mimi... no, no! a good bit of bone chewing has already gone on, with more to come. Not to worry.

  3. Under normal circumstances, this would not have been such a big deal. The form for the PB to fill out would have been perceived as an example of bureaucratic folderall befitting a Lambeth employee with a green visor.

    Certainly the unnamed bureaucrat at Lambeth could have--and should have--chosen to recognize +Katharine's and chose not to. (How far that went up the food chain is unknown. One has to believe that it went fairly high up for such a high profile visit.) I am sad that this unknown bureaucrat acted so unwisely.

    I think your read of Kearon's comment, Mark, is spot on. I've been in situations where my boss did something or said something that I would not have said--and really wish he had not said so or done so. Maintaining my appropriate loyalty to my boss to keep a solid front while disagreeing with certain actions is really difficult. I can resonate with Kearon's hinted-at apology.

    Having said that, sadly, this less-than-helpful action by someone at Lambeth Palace was met by less-than-helpful comments by our PB.

    I have long appreciated Bishop Katharine's ability to respond gracefully to ungraceful comments. Many of the comments coming out of the Executive Council meeting have tended to exacerbate the conflict rather than focus it appropriately.

  4. Excuse me, but you've got to take up your beef with Parliament. The 1967 Law followed by the ABC requiring overseas visiting officiating clergy proof of ordination has been required of so many others, not just KJS. If that is "bizarre" and "beyond bizarre" then it's just because a canon was being followed uniformly without the special exceptionalism and deference expected by TEC. KJS herself requires officiating visitors to this country to provide such proof or ordination, does she not? Even if she didn't; it's THEIR Church and their law and they applied it without exception to a visitor. She was nothing more or less than a temporary visitor in a religious community that does not need a poke in the eye; unless that was the goal as it now appears to be.
    Considering the fragile nature of things in the CofE as they are, couldn't KJS have had the self-control to compromise a bit and not be the knockout that she went to England to be? I mean we all know WHY she went, but does she have to be THAT much the attention-seeker and ground-breaker? Talk about rude, poor manners of a visitor. To enter another family's time of tension and throw gas on the problem. (Didn't a clergywoman, in fact, ask KJS in a SPG meeting WHY she is so divisive? I don't think a worthy answer ever followed).
    A mitre isn't worn by any woman in England, so KJS shouldn't be so exceptional in her innovations in an Anglican cathedral that she gets to wreck their delicate period of compromises, especially in light of the current tensions on the subject. The ABC didn't HAVE to allow her to even officiate to start with; and the condition was asked for that most reasonable people would understand if they had the best interest of others in mind. The word that everyone in TEC's Executive Council is choking on here is "delicacy". But then again delicacy is not a current strong virtue being exhibited these days, is it?

    Keep digging it in if you wish but the proof out there is clearly refuting these touchy mind games being played.

  5. Boy, this is grasping at straws! If he was apologising, he certainly changed his tune quickly and obviously, as he was brought into the paddle room and responded by holding his position. There are no women bishops in the C of E. The category does not exist. The PB could have worn her miter had she not been invited to preside sacramentally. Kearon's context is different, and he rightly acknowledged that. Seeing how rudely he was going to be treated--just read the testiness in the record--he was right to signal not to pick on him for the canons of the C of E to boot. Good on him for trying to lighten the mood. It did not work, however. And let's not fool ourselves, no one has read the report of Kearon in EC as apologetic. They are incensed. TOH

  6. Mark, I'm relieved, because I've already had my say at my blog. I'm anxious to hear what you have to say about the meeting, so I'll wait before I say more.

  7. Sorry, Mark--where I come from, an apology begins with "I'm sorry that I..."

    Since Canon Kearon was presumably not responsible for instructing the PB not to wear her mitre, he really had nothing to apologize for on that count.

    The rest of his speech, however...


  8. After your "questions" post, we are all hanging on the post you promised us, Canon Kearon's response to the questions that I found most astute and insightful regarding the CofE and the ACC. As with an extended rallentando at a cadence, we still hang on the delay, hoping for a resolution. Please don't torture us further, Mark, we need to hear Kearon's answers to questions we all wish we had articulated.

  9. Poor Allen and TOH, always a day late and a dollar short when it comes to what is going on. You are both obviously enamored with the Curmudgeon's illogic in his latest irrelevant emission.

    Your argument would bear a listen if this were 2006 and +Katharine was making her first visit to Englandshire. But it is now 2010 and she has been through the rigmarole already. They have the evidence that all of her ordinations were in order. They have previously licensed her to participate in England. And she has previously worn her miter. It is all there and in order, check the file. But most importantly, other female bishops have also been there and done that and none of them appear to have been singled out to be given a hard time about it as was the Presiding Bishop. Ask +Ann, of Canada, she had the mind to post a note in another thread and told us so. She was in Southwark Cathedral just last NOV.

    The only one with poor manners is you Allen. The ABC is in the USA much more often than +Katharine is in England. She went because she was asked to come. She was asked to come because not everyone, even in the CoE, is of the same mind as you. There are many folks of a different opinion who honor her, respect her and sincerely wish to hear what she has to say. We already know that you do not.

  10. Canon--I believe we have a clash of realities here. It is not a faceless bureaucrat failing to recognize +KJS, but a canon law recognition of her and her status, in a period of 'reception,' thus not permitting her to act sacramentally as a bishop. These may not be the canons governing the situation where you work, but you are not a Canon in the Church of England (or Ireland). Had you done this, you would have violated the canons of the C of E. This has nothing to do with needing Letters of Orders (as they are called) but of knowing them and so ruling. (Minns is not recognized as a Bishop by the C of E so in theory can wear 3 miters if he wishes).
    Then you indicate that you, like Kearon, sometimes fake what you are doing out of necessity, due to your role. I think this is massively unfair to Canon Kearon, who is undertaking a difficult assignment -- this was no one-off episode of fakery but part of an ongoing effort to do his job. To put this down to deference and say that he was truly apologising is to make him insubordinate and in dereliction of duty. Do you have more evidence for that? TOH

  11. Thank you Mark, for reminding us that, even though Canon Kearon's remarks will be (and ought to be) picked over carefully, he is a human being. As is the Archbishop of Canterbury. Aggravating, frustrating, and a good few other adjectives, but still human beings.

  12. PS, Canon: To see just how different the situation is in the C of E, thus compounding the error in your anecdotal evaluation of a 'nameless bureaucrat', have a look at the Archbishops amendment of Women Bishops, now published. To allow a woman illegally to preside as Bishop stands hard up against the efforts being made at compromise in the C of E (which must also be approved by parliament) -- the kind of compromise that was promised conservatives in the US as well, but which like a lot of things meant: 'until the clock runs out because we say so.'
    For americans now to lecture the ABC and create nonsensical Mitregates only goes to show how far gone the situation now is, to the effect, our self-description in TEC is normative for all. It's like the ugly americans showing up in Paris and complaining no one speaks english and where is our favorite cereal? It is an effort to export TECdom whilst saying everyone ought also to be autonomous. TOH

  13. Dear Anonymous, I think you got it right; Canon Kearon was trying to lighten the mood. Likewise, I think Mark Harris was trying to lighten the mood to show a "human side" to Canon Kearon. I don't think he was apologizing. I think he was trying to lessen the pain of the sting of the requirement.

    I don't think I spoke very articulately when I described those situations when I disagree with my bishop while carrying out his policy. (First, let me say that I can probably count on one hand the number of times that I have disagreed with his position, and those were on really minor issues and internal to the our diocese.) Rather than "faking it" I would say that I have no right to interject my personal opinion into the situation.

    David, you state that the fact that +Katharine had been there before makes the requirement that she give proof of her orders unreasonable. As I reflect on the situation the difference is this: +Katharine has placed her own relationship with the Communion--and that of the province she represents--in jeopardy by her actions in consenting to and participating in the consecration of Mary Glasspool (and related statements and actions).

    First, this was no ordinary visit. It has come after numerous requests that she graciously restrain from certain acts that are tearing apart the Communion. By her actions she has placed her status in jeopardy. Things HAVE changed, and she is an agent of that change. She is now being disciplined for committing actions that have destroyed the relationships in the Communion.

    Second, she has made strict compliance to law an issue. Her and TEC's disclaimer that TEC is not "authorizing rites for the blessing of same sex unions" may be true in only a very technical sense. But, in reality, TEC has authorized bishops to do whatever they wish: this is effective authorization. And now for her to complain that Lambeth is requiring her to "abide by the law" is inconsistent.

    Third, for her to come at a time when the issue of women in the Episcopate is such a divisive issue makes this visit a different visit. Lambeth must be very careful in navigating these waters. I'm sure in their view, everything must be done "decently and in order" in such contentious times. Then for her to carry her mitre when requested that she not wear it reeks of the worst of American "in your face-ness."

    Standard dress for a bishop preaching in this situation, I believe, would be rochet and chimere. Anonymous again has it right when he describes this as Ugly-Americanism. She comes as a servant. Carrying her mitre was both unnecessary to her role in the service and heightened the tension of the situation.

    Then, and finally, for her to describe these requirements as "bizarre" is to mock the British publicly and exhibits a public disdain for what were reasonable requirements.

  14. So the Cafe reports that Lambeth has now explained the ruling about a Bishop intending to preside at Holy Communion. But it remains the case that the PB says she was asked to provide Letters of Orders, and Lambeth says that requirement was not pursued, so again we have different public accounts. As for other instances (+Camino Real claims she celebrated at Southwark) it was probably overlooked. After all, we are in a superheated context now with the PB on her whistle-stop campaign. TOH

  15. TOH, you foolishly see what you wish to see, obviously. You mention the Lambeth Palace "explanation" but conveniently overlook that the release from LP stated plainly that she was invited to come to Southwark Cathedral back in 2008 as part of an ongoing series of primates visiting the cathedral and that this current visit was the first opening that fit with her schedule. So it puts the big lie to this "whistle stop campaign" that you have been slipping into your latest posts.

    +Katharine's schedule is booked up months, most likely years, in advance, and it is obvious that she tries to get a few invitations scheduled together in a given locale, such as her three UK invitations scheduled for one trip to the UK. No one could have foreseen any of the events that surrounded her visit to the UK at the time in the past when these were put on the books.

    She does few spare of the moment activities. Her role and the canonical responsibilities limit her free time. By canon she has to visit every Episcopal Church diocese in three years. As primate there are folks apart from your crowd who do respect her and do wish to hear from her and do invite her to visit and speak.

  16. David, the explanation from Lambeth Palace does not paint a very good picture of our Presiding Bishop. It turns out that the requirements of proof of orders were done thoughtfully and respectfully. (I give my apologies to some "unnamed bureaucrat" there. Quite the contrary, their background information reveals the best of behavior throughout this time.)

    She held up for derision Lambeth Palace in a most inappropriate way and should issue an apology.

    I agree that no one could have foreseen the events surrounding this visit, but she has a duty to "respect the dignity of [those] human being[s]" both at Lambeth and in the CofE to be a gracious guest in that country. That includes post-visit comments.

    Tensions are high at this time. She had a duty to go the extra mile in courtesy. She did not even go the first mile.

    I gave her the benefit of the doubt, and she, quite frankly, disappointed me.

  17. No, there's no whistle-stop here. From Nova Scotia to Edinburgh to NZ and Australia...that's like every year in the busy PB's schedule. TOH

  18. Gracious and forbearing comments, Canon Neal. TOH

  19. I have two problems with most of what Bob has written here.

    First, I think that his analogy is with the wrong entity. He wants to compare the AC to a university as if the AC is an int'l church, one large world-wide institution. It isn't. It never has been, and I for one do not want it to be and will continue to voice that opinion and work towards it not becoming one. What he should have used was a consortium, which is what the AC is, a federation of independent, self-ruled institutions, churches. But then should he compare the AC to the type of entity it truly is, then all of his arguments regarding +Rowan & Company fall apart.

    Second, he is spewing the same fecal matter that came from the likes of Viagraville and David Virtueless back in 2008 during the Lambeth Conference when various GLBT organizations filmed, produced and showed Voices of Africa. Because you cannot refute the voices of African GLBT folks speaking up for themselves the virtueless and the Viagravillians screamed how these foolish 1st World GLBT folks had "used" these unwitting Africans as mere pawns and had put their lives needlessly at risk for their own selfish means. Obviously these GLBT Africans were too ignorant to know what is for their own good and they allowed themselves to be duped and they allowed others to take advantage of them. Silly, foolish, ignorant GLBT Africans!

    Bob, in my experience you are merely parroting the cries of the heterosexual oppressors, not the GLBT Africans! Where are the African GLBT voices pleading with TEC to refrain. The voices I hear from our GLBT brothers and sisters is encouragement to continue, and that while we are at it, to not forget them and their struggle to also have for themselves what we have in our progressive provinces. Bob, you are echoing the voice of the crybaby AB of Cape Town as he lamented to +Katharine that when she consecrates a lesbian in a committed relationship as a bishop then he cannot control his own press conferences because the press do not want to talk about what he wants to talk about, but they want to ask about GLBT issues in TEC.

    You echo the voice of the crybaby AB of Cape Town when he speaks of GLBT folks who want to be full participants in his church as Other, as Them. What should his church do when They bring Their children for baptism. What should his church do when They bring Their children to the parish Sunday School. What should his church do when Their older children present Themselves for baptism or confirmation.

    Bob, I think that you speak as a concern troll from a place of homophobia. You echo the voice of the homophobia of +Uganda, +Nigeria, +Rwanda, +Kenya, +Ethiopia, +Tanzania, +Southern Cone, of +Southern Africa. You are not raising the voice of GLBT Africans.

  20. Canon Kearon's opening gambit about being Irish should not be interpreted as conciliatory. He used that same joke before two or three speeches at meetings here in Massachusetts two years ago. It simply allows him to catch everyone off base, and muddies the water.

  21. She held up for derision Lambeth Palace in a most inappropriate way and should issue an apology.

    Like hell she should...

    I gave her the benefit of the doubt, and she, quite frankly, disappointed me.

    I'm sure she will manage to sleep at night, Canon Neal.

    I haven't always been a huge fan, but, she delighted me with her frank comments.

    Gracious and forbearing comments, Canon Neal.

    Forbearing? Really?

    Only if you are a man, and have No. Clue. about the sexism that women face in every single area of life...but especially in the church.

    Or maybe if you are two of those sexist males who inflict the misery.

    It's a wonder that any of us women stick with the damned institution at all. Feh.


  22. Nice post! Keep it up the good work!

  23. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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.