Saturday, 14 May 2005

Connecticut and DEPO

I have reported earlier on the situation in the Diocese of Connecticut.

Recent developments this week include:
The Day 900 Show To Support Embattled Clergymen
Bristol Press ‘Connecticut Six’ rally at State Capitol

Some 900 people, including nine bishops from other states, attended a church service, and then 120 people including at least one bishop, from Pittsburgh, attended an outdoors rally. Those bishops who were expected to attend the service are listed here and a raft of press coverage is linked from here.

Update This report in the Hartford Courant Episcopal Clergy At Capitol Denounce Church On Gay Issue contains more details:

During the hourlong rally, speaker after speaker railed against the Episcopal Church and its leaders…

Bishop Robert Duncan of the diocese of Pittsburgh and head of the Anglican Communion Network said, “We are here to warn the people of this nation that there is a counterfeit abroad in the land that looks and sounds like the real thing but has no currency when you try to spend it.”

Duncan called on the supporters to “oppose the false message of unity for the sake of unity,” uphold what he called the historic faith and order of the church and “choose to uphold the sanctity of marriage, and chastity outside of marriage.”

Other visiting bishops included Bishop Donald Harvey of Newfoundland, the leader of the Anglican Communion Network in Canada; Bishop Jack Iaker of Fort Worth, Texas; Bishop James Adams of Western Kansas; retired Bishop Fitzsimmons Allison of South Carolina; retired Bishop Andrew Fairfield of North Dakota; and Bishop Samuel Chukuka of Nigeria.

Elsewhere I have been criticised for not understanding the supposed shortcomings of the American DEPO plan.

The following noteworthy people, among others on the Lambeth Commission,

  • Archbishop Drexel Gomez, Primate of the West Indies
  • Archbishop Josiah Iduwo-Fearon, Archbishop of Kaduna, the Anglican Church of Nigeria
  • Archbishop Bernard Malango, Primate of Central Africa
  • Bishop James Terom, Moderator, the Church of North India
  • Bishop N Thomas Wright, Bishop of Durham, the Church of England.

said this about DEPO (my emphasis added):

In this regard, we commend the proposals for delegated episcopal pastoral oversight set out by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (USA) in 2004. We believe that these proposals are entirely reasonable, if they are approached and implemented reasonably by everyone concerned. We particularly commend the appeal structures set out in the House of Bishops policy statement, and consider that these provide a very significant degree of security. We see no reason why such delegated pastoral and sacramental oversight should not be provided by retired bishops from within the province in question, and recommend that a province making provision in this manner should maintain a list of bishops who would be suitable and acceptable to undertake such a ministry. In principle, we see no difficulty in bishops from other provinces of the Communion becoming involved with the life of particular parishes under the terms of these arrangements in appropriate cases.

It was NACDAP that issued “A Statement of Acceptance of and Submission to the Windsor Report 2004” , now signed by some 30 bishops. The Bishop of South Carolina said:

“The response of the House of Bishops did not rise to the level expected by the Communion. We heard a call for submission, and we who are unequivocally prepared to submit have responded accordingly.”

But that “statement of submission” omits any reference to this part of the Windsor Report.

The Diocese of Connecticut has published a note explaining exactly how DEPO would work in that diocese. It is in PDF format, but an accessible copy is now here.

The subject will no doubt be reviewed by the newly appointed Panel of Reference. This move was welcomed earlier in the week by Frank Griswold, see Presiding Bishop welcomes appointment of Panel of Reference chair.

Update for a counter-argument against all this, from Kendall Harmon, see On the Inadequacy of DEPO.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 14 May 2005 at 11:58am BST
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: ECUSA

It's true that the Windsor Report included words of praise of DEPO. I suspect that that those words, like the disproportionately harsh condemnation of boundary-crossing, were part of a bargain between ECUSA's representative and other members of the Windsor panel.

In any event experience indicates that the DEPO structures do not "provide a very significant degree of security."

Posted by: Irenaeus on Saturday, 14 May 2005 at 4:06pm BST

As a CT6 parishoner, I find this interesting and hopeful. After reading this I see the names serving on "the panel" are expected to be released next week. I'm hoping this panel will allow orthordox churches such as the CT6 to report to England outside of ECUSA entirely. Is this true, or will they simply investigate bad DEPO deals?

Does anyone know when this panel will be up and operational? I beleive time is critical here. And also beleive Smith is a loose cannon and could act on his threat of inhibition to the CT6 parishes at any moment.

Also, I'm not familiar with Archbishop Peter Carnley. Is he part of the ACN? Does he belive in scripture... and not in the way that Smith does?

Peace & still hoping I don't have to leave my church!

Posted by: CTSister on Saturday, 14 May 2005 at 4:47pm BST

OK, this is what the first 3 comments on this thread look like from where I stand (FWIW)---

Irenaeus: offers perfect submission to the Windsor Report . . . EXCEPT for those parts *he deems* "part of a bargain"

bob: notifying us that certain Connecticut Episcopalians (?) are *institutionalizing their brokenness* w/ their bishop by defining themselves via a "dot org" website


"I'm hoping this panel will allow orthordox churches such as the CT6 to report to England outside of ECUSA entirely."

. . . and thereby meaning the effective end of the *Episcopal* Church in the USA.

This is *absolutely unacceptable*: that CTSister can even suggest it . . . at the very least testifies to the questionable job that CTS's priest(s)/parish(es) have done in forming her as an Episcopalian!

"Also, I'm not familiar with Archbishop Peter Carnley. Is he part of the ACN? Does he belive in scripture... and not in the way that Smith does?"

"orthordox-y" revealed?

"Peace & still hoping I don't have to leave my church!"

God's Peace to all---w/ the sincere hope that, in faith and charity, we may find a common understanding of OUR church: Anglican, in loyalty to one's *local bishop* (good, bad or mediocre: and IF not-so-good, elect yourselves a better one next time!)

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Saturday, 14 May 2005 at 9:48pm BST

CTSister wrote:
"I'm hoping this panel will allow orthordox churches such as the CT6 to report to England outside of ECUSA entirely. Is this true, or will they simply investigate bad DEPO deals?"

I'm sure such a wild conjecture won't come to pass. My understanding is that the ECUSA's DEPO plan is pretty well thought of by the people who crafted the Windsor Report and the Abp. of Canterbury. You really should read it in its entirity:

"Also, I'm not familiar with Archbishop Peter Carnley. Is he part of the ACN? Does he belive in scripture... and not in the way that Smith does?"

Sorry, but I'm afraid Abp. Carnley isn't rabidly "orthodox" like, say, his fellow Australian Bp. Jensen, or Bp. Duncan of Pittsburgh. I also find your comment about Bp. Smith disturbing and, quite frankly, rather rude. You may have disagreements with him, but how he understands Scripture in his heart is between him and the Almighty - and last time I checked, neither you nor anyone else gets to stand in the middle of *that* relationship :)

Posted by: David Huff on Sunday, 15 May 2005 at 12:57am BST

DEPO (1) is strongly slanted towards recalcitrant bishops, and (2) fails to recognize the issues of conscience confronting orthodox congregations.

Under DEPO the diocesan bishop is always in control (unless he or she voluntarily chooses to relinquish control). The dissenting congregation has NO substantive rights and practically no procedural rights.

Let’s look at the three stages of DEPO as announced by ECUSA’s House of Bishops on March 23, 2004. (see 2nd-from-last paragraph).

First, congregational leaders “meet with the [diocesan] bishop to seek reconciliation.”

Second, “if reconciliation does not occur,” then the congregation can, by a supermajority vote, ask the diocesan bishop for “a conference regarding the appropriateness and conditions for” DEPO.

Third, if the diocesan bishop does not ultimately grant DEPO, the congregation can “appeal…for help in seeking a resolution” to the bishop in charge of the ECUSA province. The provincial bishop NEED NOT DO ANYTHING in response to the appeal. The provincial bishop “may [but need not] request two other bishops, representative of the divergent views in this church, to join with the provincial bishop to review the situation, to consider the appeal, and to make recommendations to all parties.” But even if the review panel concludes that the diocesan bishop is totally in the wrong, it has NO authority to impose a solution.

If fact, NO ONE has any authority to impose a solution on a recalcitrant bishop. Nor does anything in DEPO restrain such a bishop from retaliating against a congregation for requesting DEPO.

The DEPO bottom-line is that a recalcitrant diocesan bishop holds all the cards.

DEPO is also unsatisfactory in failing to recognize the issues of conscience confronting orthodox congregations. DEPO implicitly assumes that a rift between an orthodox congregation and a revisionist bishop is a relationship problem needing an appropriate process of “reconciliation.” Nothing prevents a bishop from demanding that an orthodox congregation fully fund diocesan programs that the congregation believes immoral.

DEPO is a gussied-up way of protecting the prerogatives of recalcitrant revisionist bishops. From the standpoint of orthodox congregations dealing with such a bishop, DEPO is like giving mice the right to ask the local cat for “reconciliation” — and, if the cat remains hostile, to ask another cat to review the situation and make recommendations to your local cat. Nothing in DEPO prevents the local cat from doing in the mice whenever it chooses.

Simon: You wouldn’t write rules like this. You wouldn’t treat people like this. DEPO-style high-handedness sounds inconsistent with the tenor of the Church of England. Please don’t confuse DEPO with alternative oversight as practiced in England.

Posted by: Irenaeus on Sunday, 15 May 2005 at 11:42pm BST

"Peace & still hoping I don't have to leave my church!"

It's still "our" that welcomes, includes and loves you AND your Lesbian sister equally...EVERYONE...that's what my Bishop said in his homily this morning and I believe him!

Leonardo Ricardo

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Monday, 16 May 2005 at 12:13am BST

DEPO may look good (to some) on paper but in reality it has not worked. Not a single revisionist Bishop has delegated any significant Episcopal authority. At our parish, sometimes mistakenly described as a beneficiary of DEPO, interference and hostility from our revisionist Diocese (Newark) has actually INCREASED. Our oversight Bishop has been permitted to conduct a single Confirmation service. We have been given no assurances that we can call an orthodox rector in the future or that any of our candidates for the priesthood will make it through the Diocese. DEPO is a joke. JW McCann, Sr Warden, St Anthony of Padua Hackensack NJ

Posted by: JWMcCann on Monday, 16 May 2005 at 2:31am BST

It seems to me that the problem with the position of some conservatives on DEPO in the ECUSA is that they do not recognize a difference between a diocese and a diocesan. Simply put, the DEPO policy allows a parish to get pastoral care from a bishop with more congenial views, but it does not allow a parish to leave their diocesan sister congregations.

However, from a process standpoint I do agree with Irenaeus that under the current policy it is entirely up to the good will of the local diocesan that a parish get a bishop they are entirely happy with, and that the diocesan has substantial control over whether they get one at all. I think the goal is that there be pastoral care provided by a bishop who is mutually agreeable to both the diocesan and the parish. And there obviously seems to be a strong undercurrent that a diocesan who refuses any bishop from outside the U.S. will be able to enforce that desire.

On the other hand, I think there are a number of suitable conservative bishops within the U.S. who would help out. And the Panel of Reference may well take up cases where the diocesan is simply being completely unreasonable - so a bit of a balancing consideration. But I don't think it reasonable that a parish can just pick any bishop it wants for DEPO over the objections of the diocesan - there needs to be a balance of concerns.

As for the funding of programs, at least from our diocesan budget I can say that the majority of the diocesan contribution goes to keeping things like the diocesan financial and payroll office open (which handles payroll and benefits for most parishes), etc. The amount spent on programs is decently sized, but the subamount of that to which anyone could in good conscience object to is really a pittance. If I recall correctly, the Bp. of Connecticut appears willing to negotiate on the assessment.

In the end, I don't think conservatives in the U.S. should count out the DEPO plan without trying it, especially given the establishment of the Panel of Reference and the fairly sympathetic response these cases have received from the Primates including the ABC. Perhaps it might actually work.

On the other hand, if the real goal of these particular conservatives is to engineer a split at any cost, then I can see DEPO as a major obstacle. If the problem is that they really don't want to be members of ECUSA under any bishop then it seems they really need to rethink their church commitments.

Posted by: Rob Leduc on Monday, 16 May 2005 at 3:14am BST

Rob, that was well said - esp. the final, two paragraphs.

"Irenaeus" mentions some "issues of conscience" with which I can't personally sympathize, but I can understand from an intellectual point of view. However, I'd also suggest that these issues cut both ways. In a diocese like mine (Dallas) with a reactionary, Network bishop the 30% or so of our parishes who are mainstream Episcopalians feel similarly threatened. Our diocesan assessments go to morally questionable projects like paying the way for "orthodox" lobbyists to attend the recent Primates meeting in N. Ireland, and our mainstream parishes are unsure if they will be allowed to call non-Network clergy or have *their* candidates for ordination supported in their calling.

But perhaps these things don't concern our "victimized" conservatives commenters. After all, mainstream Episcopalians are apostates anyway, so we deserve whatever happens to us...

Posted by: Simeon on Monday, 16 May 2005 at 2:46pm BST

Can anyone with firsthand knowledge comment on how DEPO is working in Massachusetts? Don Harvey (retired bp. of Eastern Newfoundland & Labrador) has been brought in for a conservative congregation, after he was specifically suggested by the rector. Harvey was one of the bishops at the rally in Hartford.

Is the arrangement in Mass. working out, or are there continuing tensions between parish and diocese?

Posted by: Jim Pratt on Monday, 16 May 2005 at 3:21pm BST

Some of those who find the form of DEPO being offered unacceptable will most likely find any form unacceptable, unless they are given the freedom to pick their own bishop. That's not going to happen, as it will be the beginning of the end of the authority of all diocesan bishops. Don't like your bishop because he wears a rochet and chimere (those frilly sleeves are a bit much)...just order up a new one.

If the examples we have seen so far are a foretaste of things to come, foreign bishops won't ever be an option, and appropriately so, it seems to me.

But, this may all be just a straw man; another means to claim persecution and so justify schism.

Posted by: Jake on Wednesday, 18 May 2005 at 4:22am BST

Fr. Jake wrote:
"But, this may all be just a straw man; another means to claim persecution and so justify schism."

Which, I'm positive, is the real motivation here. The "persecution card" gets played over and over and OVER again by the traditionalists ("being disagreed with" ≠ "persecution" notwithstanding).

An excellent overview of the traditionalists' real motivations to cause schism in the ECUSA can be found in the blog of Br. Thomas Bushnell, BSG:

(also mentioned below on this site - thanks, Simon :)

Posted by: David Huff on Wednesday, 18 May 2005 at 3:37pm BST

It may seem odd at first, but I agree with pretty much everything everyone has said, both for and against DEPO, on this list so far.

I think Irenaeus is right in criticizing the policy as having virtually no checks on the diocesan. Hopefully the establishment of the Panel of Reference will help this, even if only by the possibility that cases may end up there. But it is too early to comment on the success or failure of the scheme. I will continue to remember the parish of St. Anthony of Padua in my personal prayers and hope they can resolve the issues with their diocesan. In my humble opinion, they should clearly be entitled to a visitation at least annually from their DEPO bishop at a minimum and anything less is unreasonable. I don't know if cost is an issue here, but this may require the selection of a DEPO bishop sufficiently close to home to keep travel expenses reasonable.

On the other hand, I think some conservatives are expecting too much out of DEPO. It is not meant to devolve Episcopal authority, but only to provide pastoral care [visitation, confirmations, etc.] by another bishop to those who cannot receive their bishop in good conscience. It is not intended to somehow transfer a parish to another diocese or establish a parallel jurisdiction. It is not to be expected that a parish would stay in this state of affairs forever. I don't see this as a flaw in the policy as such a change is not the goal of the policy, nor should it be in my opinion.

In the case of St. Anthony's, I would expect they should have the same rights in calling a new rector as any other parish in the diocese, and likewise that their candidates for ordination do not suffer from bias on account of their theology or their parish. If I were a diocesan, however, I would find it difficult to ordain someone who I thought could not keep their ordination vows as I understood them, and I might be concerned whether such candidates would try to lead their future parish out of the Episcopal Church. Differing on the theology of sexuality would not be such grounds, however. The same would go for calling a new rector.

Likewise, Irenaeus raises the issue of the diocesan asking, and I think there should be a reasonable negotiated settlement. Parishes should clearly expect to fully pay for line items having nothing to do with the theological issue at hand, which I expect would amount to a substantial proportion of the full asking.

In a hypothetical case, I would be concerned whether a given parish has a problem with their bishop or with the Episcopal Church. If the latter, then no amount of episcopal visitation under any plan is going to help.

Borrowing from a courageous young priest I heard in MD, it is as the tag line from Oceans 11 suggests: "Are you in or are you out?"

Posted by: Robert Leduc on Wednesday, 18 May 2005 at 3:54pm BST

I'm posting this link because it seems highly relevant to the discussion above....

Posted by: Neil on Friday, 27 May 2005 at 10:22pm BST
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