Nothing makes for better "in-house" special information than the practice, well established in The Episcopal Church, of not actually saying what we mean, or alternately, not actually meaning what we say. This practice is refined to the point where only those who know the secret realities of the inner workings get to fully participate in decision making in the Church's governance. These worthies live in rarefied regions of inner knowledge. The rest of us wonder what the hell is going on.
(i) There are four nominees for Presiding Bishop, produced by the Joint Committee through a process spelled out quite adequately in the canons. Now comes time for other nominations, called "nominations from the floor." At a joint session of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies the Nominating Committee will formally place the names they have brought forward in nomination. Then the canon (I.2.1.f) says, "At the Joint Session to which the Joint Nominating Committee shall report, any Bishop or Deputy may nominate any other member of the House of Bishops for the consideration of the two Houses in the choice of a Presiding Bishop, and there may be discussion of all nominees.
That is what it means to nominate from the floor.
However, earlier the canons specifically charge (i.1.2.1.e.2) the Nominating Committee with:
"establishing a timely process for any bishop or deputy to express the intent to nominate any other member of the House of Bishops from the floor at the time the Joint Nominating Committee presents its nominees to the joint session of the two Houses, and for each Bishop so nominated to be included in the information distributed about the nominees."
Now,on the day of the joint session, any bishop or deputy can nominate any bishop he or she likes. That's what it says.
But the assumption of the earlier section is that the Nominating Committee will put in place a process for expressing the intent to nominate. This, for obvious reasons is prudent, since with notice all persons so nominated can be vetted, prodded, screened, and otherwise deemed OK for the process.
Still, nothing prevents a genuine last minute nomination from the floor by someone who can claim extraordinary reasons for doing so.
If we are not going to allow real nominations from the floor we should say so. If we are, then we should say that. But what we have is an area of nebulous muck. Ah, but perhaps not.
Apparently the House of Bishops agree among themselves that they will not consider someone actually nominated from the floor, without the previous screening, and so forth. So, we have the insider out. No matter what the canon says on the surface, those who are not screened according to the Nominating Committee's (or perhaps even the bishops own) criteria won't be considered.
Now I don't know if this agreement exists as a long term standing understanding in the House of Bishops, if it gets discussed each time there is an election, or if it only exists sometimes, but it adds a layer of insider information not available in the canons.
It would be helpful for the canons to be clear that either (i) real nomination from the floor is possible, or (2) dispense with the pretense of nominations "in the moment" being possible (get rid of the "nominations from the floor" idea).
I'm not against screening, a needed thing. I am against saying one thing and meaning another.
(ii) The Constitution of The Episocopal Church states (Article 1), "There shall be a General Convention of this Church, consisting of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, which Houses shall sit and deliberate separately; and in all deliberations freedom of debate shall be allowed. Either House may originate and propose legislation, and all acts of the Convention shall be adopted and be authenticated by both Houses."
Thanks to Scott Gunn for pointing out that there is no exception offered in the Constitution. Actually, reading his whole article, I see that he also remarks on the "from the floor" problem. He is on the case. I wrote on this some time ago. I got roundly trounced by a Church legal beagle who informed me of the bishops trump card.
But given Scott's observation, perhaps we either ought to clean up the Constitution to provide for joint sessions, or drop the "joint sessions" idea entirely. The other regular "joint session" that takes place is on the matter of the DFMS budget, but in the past there was a clear division of that being part of a meeting of the DFMS, not the General Convention. So General Convention did not meet, but rather the DFMS, of which the members of the two houses, while General Convention was in session, constituted the meeting membership.
Of course it all could become moot if the TREC proposal of a unicameral legislature takes hold.
(iii) I have already written on the problem of the two canons in conflict: namely the canon that provides that clergy can decline to marry any couple at their discretion, and the canon that says that clergy and this church may not discriminate. See my article HERE.
If we mean to allow clergy to act with discretion in a class of cases (all gay couples, all formerly married couples, etc.) then let us say so, specifically excusing this discretion from the non-discrimination canon. If not, then let's say that: as pertains to the ministries and sacraments of this church no clergy can exercise unilateral discretion for a whole social class of persons.
(iv) There was a time when the official name of this church was only "The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America." The clear understanding was that this was a church organized with bishops and their jurisdictions, not part of the Roman Catholic Church, but rather protestant, in the United States of America. It's domestic mission was clear - to be that witness (church) in all parts / states/ territories of this nation state. All of which was in conformity with the idea of a church for the nation, or what Professor, now bishop and indeed bishop nominee for presiding bishop, Ian Douglas called "the national church idea."
This set part of the agenda of the DFMS - the domestic mission was to see that TEC- PECUSA was present in jurisdictions with bishops throughout the USA. That mission continues in our support of those jurisdictions most in need of such support even now.
The agenda of the DFMS that engaged "foreign" mission was less clear. But the basic intent seems to have been to develop the presence of Episcopal / Anglican communities in those places where Episcopalians found themselves or were sent, with the intent that at some point those congregations and / or dioceses formed in "foreign lands" would become their own expressions of a "national church idea." That is, they would become their own church entities - a synod or convention of dioceses - that would constitute the "church in place."
But we in TEC have found ourselves in a difficult place, in that we both want to include overseas dioceses and regional groupings of churches related to TEC in the body of our deliberations and life AND we want them to have their own life. The end result is that we call ourselves an international church, in that we have other countries / non- US dioceses as part of our own church body - the General Convention, AND we work at various levels of interest and intent on growing their witness to be THEIR witness, not ours, and for autonomy.
We are, however, very unclear about it all. If we want to be an international church, say so and develop an understanding of ourselves as a church deliberately larger than one with jurisdictions in the USA. If we want to be the church "in this place," then say so, and be clear that overseas jurisdictions are temporary "for the time being" estates, as we hope for and work for their witness as their own.
As it stands we are variously enamored with this or that overseas jurisdiction or grouping. Province IX gets lots of attention and has reasonably wide engagement in the life of TEC. It also receives lots of critical comments about its slow development and consistent dependence on funding from TEC and places of corruption.
At the same time one diocese, attached to Provence II, Haiti, is in all likelihood the largest diocese in TEC, and at the same time one of the least represented in the governance of TEC. There too there is both pride in their being part of TEC and wide criticism of its dependence on US funding official and unofficial, and of possible corruption.
But in neither case is there a clear missionary goal, honestly stated and reflected in canons of the church. We have mostly abandoned the notion of missionary diocese or missionary bishop, believing that this distinction breeds inequality. But at the same time we know (or at least the inner gang knows) just who is dependent and why, and just who is really first and second class.
It is time we straightened this out: Either all dioceses are the same - domestic in that they are part of this body - in which case they get support on an as needed basis, or some are "overseas jurisdictions" part of TEC because we are engaged in a missionary enterprise that expands and frees national or regional episcopal churches to be their own witness in their own places.
There are those who are just as glad to have side agreements on nominations, disparities between constitution and canons, ambiguity in matters of discretion and discrimination, and lack of clear intention in forming overseas jurisdictions. But my sense is, why don't we just say what we mean? Why don't we just say so?
Either have nominations from the floor, or not.
Either have a constitution that takes precedence over canons or not.
Either have an exclusion of some forms of discretion from the non-discrimination rule or not.
Either be an international church or not.
But perhaps I ask for too much. If it got clearer, then more of us would know what is going on. If it got clearer, some people would leave. If it got clearer, there would be no need for some of us telling others of us that we don't know what we are talking about, because it is all run by the people in the know.
TREC has not even touched on the power that comes from "special knowledge" in this church.