Monday, 30 April 2012

Two views of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans

The BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme had an excellent segment on the recent conference, by Gavin Drake. Available as a podcast from this page. The segment starts about 4 minutes into the programme.

Here’s the BBC blurb:

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, meeting in London, say they’ll offer alternative spiritual leadership to dissaffected members of the Church of England. They also want an alternative to the Archbishop of Canterbury as chairman of the Anglican primates meeting. Is this a way of keeping the Anglican communion together or splitting it asunder?

Paul Bagshaw has written an analysis on his blog, at Reading the FoCA tea leaves. He concludes the article thus:

…Therefore there will be no schism in the sense of one organization separating itself out from another on a certain day, followed immediately by either or both bodies setting up new structures and legal identities.

Instead there will be a steady continued tearing of the fabric as distinct ecclesial units (parishes, dioceses and provinces as well as individuals) align themselves explicitly with the FoCA. The legalities will depend on the law of each country (property and pensions being governed by secular law) and on the ecclesiastical structure of each Church.

I anticipate that the FoCA churches will thrive, purposeful and enthusiastic for at least the medium-term foreseeable future. It will thus be self-legitimating.

On the other hand I guess the remaining churches will flounder for a while before accepting the reality that there will be no accommodation between the two Anglican entities. Then they too will revise their own relationships, structures and communications and will settle into the new geography of Anglicanism where, in most places, there will be one dominant Anglican Church and a minority owing allegiance to its mirror image.

I don’t think who is appointed as Archbishop of Canterbury will make much difference to this process - except, perhaps, to the timing.

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Comments

We fight our fights, and it is certainly very important that we do, and that 'the good' prevails. On the other hand, one is struck - not constantly but periodically - that groups such as FoCA (how sonically resonant is that?) don't really, ultimately want to tear the thing apart.

Posted by: John on Monday, 30 April 2012 at 8:06pm BST

Bagshaw writes, inaccurately (a strong word, meant only to mean precision matters): "The legalities will depend on the law of each country (property and pensions being governed by secular law) and on the ecclesiastical structure of each Church."

At least in the United States, although property issues are settled by secular law the courts have consistently relied on the ecclesiastical structure of The Episcopal Church in their rulings. Specifically, we are a hierarchical church and property is held in trust. It does not belong to the parish. The same has held for dioceses in cases thus far settled (e.g., Pittsburgh).

Posted by: John B. Chilton on Monday, 30 April 2012 at 8:08pm BST

I can't get over it. I just can't get over how many people are working so many ways to exclude us queers. Just amazing.

Posted by: Daniel Berry, NYC on Monday, 30 April 2012 at 10:22pm BST

Jesus wept over Jerusalem, how he must today weep,over us. He tells us in todays gospel reading; He is the Way , the Truth and the Life. The gospel message for all his children, regardless of gender, and sexual orientation or race.
Yet the pharisees of today seek to divide His church with their narrow minded thinking, and lack of Grace.
Dear George vi used to call us to days of prayer during the dark days of the war. The one thing the ABC today could do, is to call the whole Anglican Communion to a day od prayer, penitence, and rededication to the true Gospel.

Posted by: Fr John Harris-White on Tuesday, 1 May 2012 at 8:27am BST

My simplistic brain always felt that the Nicene Creed was confessional enough. It is interesting that a group has decided to add to it - a bit presumptuous of them in my opinion

Posted by: ettu on Tuesday, 1 May 2012 at 12:28pm BST

"we are a hierarchical church and property is held in trust" -- so holds +Jack Iker. At issue is the precise *character* of hierarchy (is the Diocesan the authority or something called a 'national church'?). The TX Supreme Court is weighing this very issue at present. It will probably make a decision in the latter months of this year.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 1 May 2012 at 2:31pm BST

y'know, I thought "confessional" was a way of expressing belief that Anglicans had decided we could do without--much as we did with the papacy. Obviously, it's meant here to exclude. Hasn't there been enough of that?

Posted by: Daniel Berry, NYC on Tuesday, 1 May 2012 at 6:21pm BST

Dr. Seitz:

Since the vast majority of dioceses in the Episcopal Church were created by action (in one way or another) of the national church in General Convention (only a relative handful predate the first GC), and since every diocesan vows to adhere to the canons of the national church upon his consecration, I fail to see any question in the matter at all.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 1 May 2012 at 10:23pm BST

This is why it will be good to have the TX Supreme Court review the matter. To say that Dioceses are received into a voluntary association of course says nothing about what courts look for in 'supremacy.'

General Convention as the Hierarch? So GC is suing in TX?

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 1 May 2012 at 11:58pm BST

"Then they (non-Gafcon Churches) too will revise their own relationships, structures and communications and will settle into the new geography of Anglicanism where, in most places, there will be one dominant Anglican Church and a minority owing allegiance to its mirror image"

- Paul Bagshaw -

In the wake of the FCA/GAFCON Meeting in London, this comment by Paul Bagshaw may indeed reflect what might seem to be the only rational process open to the remaining 'faithful' Provinces of the Anglican Communion (including TEC and A.C. of C.)

The GAFCON/FAC self-proclaimed 'Elect & Orthodox', despite their faux-preference for a continuing relationship to the rest of us; inevitably, under the direction of people like the Archbishop of Sydney and the ex-Bishop of Rochester, et al; will proceed with their plan to erect a ghetto-church in the Global South - with pockets of allegiance in the U.K. and North America. This will ensure that they are able to rule their flocks without having them tainted with the real world.

Meanwhile, the rest of us will just get on with the task of showing the Love and Mercy of God-in-Christ, under the traditional banner of inclusive Anglican Christianity that has been the hallmark of our rich diversity in the past.

What, perhaps the GAFCON/FCA people may not realise, is that the Gospel does not demand puritanical uniformity, but rather an expression of God's outrageous generosity to ALL. This is the charism that the non-GAFCON/FCA Churches in the Communion will endeavour, with God's grace, to proclaim and exemplify.

Christ is RISEN, Alleluia!
He has broken the chains of Death. Alleluia!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 2 May 2012 at 12:37am BST

Dr. Seitz:

GC is the governing body of TEC (akin, I suppose, to a legislature). The Presiding Bishop, obviously, presides in an executive capacity. All other bishops report to her (at the moment, sometimes it's "him"). If that's not a hierarchy, I'm confused as to what you think it might otherwise be.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 2 May 2012 at 10:58am BST

Dr Seitz, dioceses don't create themselves, nor do bishops consecrate themselves. Pretending that they are independent entities who voluntarily associate themselves with the Episcopal Church is just that - pretending.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Wednesday, 2 May 2012 at 11:25am BST

Fr Smith's comment puts me in mind of a similarity between the GAFCON "churches" and the scene at the end of the last volume of the Chronicles of Narnia, ("The Last Battle"). The stubbornness of the dwarves prevents their being able to believe in Aslan--or even in the Good News of liberation Aslan brings to them as much as to all the other creatures of Narnia, regardless of their past, if they will only accept it. Perhaps Lewis had in mind the words of Yahweh to Isaiah at Isaiah's commission, "...make the heart of this people fat lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and convert and be healed."

Posted by: Daniel Berry, NYC on Wednesday, 2 May 2012 at 1:42pm BST

Just so we're clear about what the Texas Supreme Court is being asked to do: It's being asked to determine federal law.

This means that if the Texas Supreme Court disagrees with how other state courts have resolved similar issues, then there's a disagreement about federal law that the United States Supreme Court might want to resolve.

And the current U.S. Supreme Court is majority Catholic.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 2 May 2012 at 1:44pm BST

Repeating what I posted yesterday at another site, for years secessionist congregations and groupings have been fighting law suits coast to coast and have won just one, qualified, victory (apropos of nothing AMiA, the victor, is currently imploding acrimoniously). The basic principle behind the cases has been to go through the court systems, one state after another, playing the "sling it against the wall and see if it sticks" game. Hasn't stuck so far and looks very much as though this suit, aimed at the relatively conservative Texas courts, is seen by our buddies at the ever-so-slightly-self-important Anglican Communion Institute as their last great chance. The "Communion Partner" bishops make for better window dressing than previous cases have offered, but doubt they'll actually amount to much. The Texas legal system has been burdened with Ft Worth cases for years now and so far only attorneys have profited. This case offers the opportunity to nail down the coffin lid on these specious, trouble-causing arguments once and for all. Be quite surprised if it's not taken.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Wednesday, 2 May 2012 at 2:50pm BST

Mr Berry, that is as tendentious a reading of the scene as I have ever come across.

Posted by: Douglas Lewis on Wednesday, 2 May 2012 at 3:47pm BST

Ms O'Neill "All other bishops report to her" -- it's precisely this kind of fantasy-land thinking, frequently seen now as autopilot group-speak, that needs pruning.

No, Diocesan Bishops do not 'report' to the Presiding Bishop. They have their own canons. They need give no money. Title IV was not received by Dallas, for example, because it was judged unconstitutional.

Please just spend an afternoon reading the Constitution of TEC.

Mr Dilworth. "Dr Seitz, dioceses don't create themselves, nor do bishops consecrate themselves" -- and this has what to do with an 815 hierarchy?

When the dust settles on this present season--and perhaps we won't have to wait far into 2013 to see what TX Supremes rule--it might be time to publish a primer on TEC Polity. Even the old Westerhoff basic clarifies the role of the PB vis-a-vis the Diocese -- copies are still available. No conservative he.

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 3 May 2012 at 12:29am BST

Jeremy--what you write is frankly incomprehensible. The TX Supreme Court is not doing anything but deciding whether to uphold a summary judgment. If it doesn't the Diocese of Ft Worth will do as it wishes.

Good RC's are fully aware of how the polity of their church functions and how it differs from others. What is becoming clearer to judges -- see recently in Illinois and in SC -- is that rough-and-ready distinctions between congregational and hierarchical polity need scrutiny. What kind of hierarchy does TEC have and what does its constitution read?

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 3 May 2012 at 12:35am BST

Dr. Seitz:

By whom is a diocesan bishop disciplined when that becomes necessary (as, for example, in my own diocese of Pennsylvania)? By the PB, acting through the appropriate committees and functions of her office. If that's not "reporting" to the PB, then what is it?

As for what "dioceses don't create themselves, nor do bishops consecrate themselves" has to do with hierarchy--well, since the PB is the principle consecrator, I thought that was obvious. And since dioceses are created by GC, as I noted earlier, and since GC is the governing body of TEC, it is clear to me that all diocesans owe their very positions to the existence of a national church.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 3 May 2012 at 11:12am BST

In connection with Dr. Seitz's comments on the Episcopal Church as "hierarchical" or not. The Tennesee Court of Appeals recently rejected the claim the TEC was not hierarchical, but a voluntary organization of equal dioceses, based on a claim by 15 or so bishops, apparently the same group appearing in Texas. The court held that they were expressing mere opinion which contradicted the the church constitution and canons, which expressly provided otherwise

The opinion can be read at http://episcopaldiocesefortworth.org/holystewardshipfiles/misc%20pdfs/St.%20Andrew's%20TN%20CA%20042512.pdf and the issue mentioned above is discussed at page 24.

Frankly, I've never understood why this group thinks it's a good idea for the secular courts to decide doctrinal matters for TEC or any other church body.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Friday, 4 May 2012 at 4:37am BST

Interesting link, Dr Primrose. I find it a little inconsistent that groups and individuals who have consistently assailed TEC for its failure to extirpate the heresies of Spong and others by top-down hierarchical action, now claim categorically that the church is not hierarchical.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Friday, 4 May 2012 at 12:38pm BST

Title IV Ms Oneill. Discipline by fellow Bishops. All equally subject. No hierarch. PB not supreme authority. Collegial discipline. Very unhierarchical. True to C and C.

Posted by: Cseitz on Friday, 4 May 2012 at 1:14pm BST

Dr Seitz, you seem to be under the mistaken impression that a single hierarch is necessary for a Church to be considered a hierarchical body under the law. It does not. For example, Presbyterians are considered as a hierarchical body (search for "Presbyterian" on the very interesting link that Dr. Primrose links to). In short, the powers of the PB don't seem to be of much importance in this discussion.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Friday, 4 May 2012 at 4:17pm BST

"the powers of the PB don't seem to be of much importance in this discussion." How odd. Seemed to be important to Ms O'Neill. I'll let her respond to you.

So who/what is the hierarch/hierarchy? Who has 'standing' to bring suit on behalf of said hierarchy and where does the C/C set that forth so a court could read it?

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 4 May 2012 at 8:59pm BST

Concern that there may be a Godwin's Law corollary regarding comparison to King Lear forces me to restrain myself.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Friday, 4 May 2012 at 9:43pm BST

Dr. Seitz:

As one who is very protective of his own titles, please be advised that I am MISTER O'Neill, thank you.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 4 May 2012 at 10:14pm BST

Sorry Mr ONeill, Professor Seitz

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 5 May 2012 at 1:31am BST

"So who/what is the hierarch/hierarchy? Who has 'standing' to bring suit on behalf of said hierarchy and where does the C/C set that forth so a court could read it?"

Dr Seitz, I'm more than a little surprised that we're having such trouble here, since everything seems to be spelled out pretty clearly in Title I of the Canons.

At the top of the hierarchy is the General Convention, which is the highest governing authority in the Church. Because that body only meets once in three years, the day-to-day implementation of its policies and taking order for the Church are delegated to the Executive Council under the leadership of the Presiding Bishop. That's what I meant by the PB's own powers not being the point here: she is elected by and responsible to GC, and it is that body's authority under which she acts, so your comment about her not being the "supreme authority" was beside the point.

Of course, I'm not a lawyer or a canonist, so if I've tripped up here someone will set me straight; I think I have the basic outlines right, though.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Saturday, 5 May 2012 at 6:18am BST

"are delegated to the Executive Council under the leadership of the Presiding Bishop" -- you language is roughly correct and it shows where the slippage is. Courts look for the language of supremacy, and clarity about legal standing. At issue is whether General Convention is a) a *supreme authority* over Bishops/dioceses (you have basically presumed that; Dallas, eg, did not receive the Title IV notion of GC because it judged it unconstitutional; will it be brought under discipline by General Convention? No), b) has delegated its already highly specified kind of role to a PB in such a straightforward way, via EC, such that the PB now has supreme authority.

Typically, one can speak of the Constitution of TEC as its authority. That's what constitutions are about. I think what you are searching for is the Constitution of TEC giving someone supreme authority. It doesn't. It reserves that kind of language for Bishops. Quite properly. We are an Episcopal Church. Not a metropolitan church or a presbyterian church.

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 5 May 2012 at 3:16pm BST

Dallas's "judging" Title IV to be unconstitutional has no more to do with its legality than do the continuing, legally exorbitant ($500,000 and counting since the consecration of Mark Lawrence) revisionist goings-on in the diocese of SC.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Saturday, 5 May 2012 at 6:00pm BST

Reference to TEC has rather clear language revealing the Constitutional authority mandating how dioceses must operate, and that their authority to act is "declared" by the General Convention, and the first place given to the Constitution AND CANONS of the General Convention over any diocesan canons. Article V clearly states in its opening line that the formation of new dioceses requires the consent of General Convention, under conditions it alone sets by Canon. Article X sets the authority to create and amend the BCP, and enforce its use in all Dioceses, with the General Convention. Article IX gives General Convention complete control over the means of discipline of Bishops and Clergy, by Canon.

The Constitution gives very little authority to diocesan bishops apart from liturgy -- and even that is under the governance of the BCP and Canons. As to the PB, the Constitution (Art I.3.) is explicit in saying that his or her duties are "prescribed" by the Canons. Some of these "duties" are plainly metropolitical, though the PB does not have all of the responsibilities or powers of a metropolitan.

In short, one cannot limit the authority of the church to its Constitution -- which document itself states that it is by canon that the details of its operations are determined and governed. I commend a careful reading of the Constitution (and Canons) to see hos clearly hierarchical the Episcopal Church is.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Saturday, 5 May 2012 at 7:15pm BST

I think I lost something at the opening of my comment. It ought to have read, "Reference to Article IV of the Constitution of TEC..."

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Saturday, 5 May 2012 at 11:36pm BST

What the Texas Supreme Court will need to determine is whether what is being alleged by revisionists seeking hierarchical authority for a PB/GC (a) is true, and (b) if by saying so they have had to conduct an investigation prohibited by the First Amendment. This will be an important ruling. (TN is a different case, involving a parish and not a diocese; TEC is not bringing it).

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 6 May 2012 at 2:57am BST

I find it amusing that Dr. Seitz thinks those supporting a hierarchical structure for the Episcopal Church are the "revisionists". I suspect this would confuse the writers of the constitution and canons no end.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Sunday, 6 May 2012 at 11:43am BST

"if by saying so they have had to conduct an investigation prohibited by the First Amendment. This will be an important ruling."

Not to be thick, but who's the "they" here - the Episcopal Church or the Southern Cone folk?

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Sunday, 6 May 2012 at 6:47pm BST

I would think that reference to the Act of General Convention which ratified the formation of the Diocese of Fort Worth in 1982 would be sufficient to demonstrate the relationship between the diocese and the General Convention. The GC resolution rested on certification that the diocese in formation had complied with all requirements of the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention and of the Diocese of Dallas from which it was separating, all in accord with the Constitution of TEC. It is incorrect to refer to dioceses as "creatures" of the General Convention. But there can be no doubt that they are governed by the General Convention and its Constitution and Canons.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Sunday, 6 May 2012 at 9:00pm BST

Mr Dilworth. Read the Amicus. Who? TX Supreme Court.

Mr Haller. 'Governed' -- and just how? When the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas voted not to receive the General Convention wisdom on Title IV, how was it governed by it? The conflation you represent (GC and C/C) is too facile. EDoD simply concluded it was governed by the Constitution and in the light of that judged the Title IV presumptions of GC null.

So, if 'governed' by GC, how will GC render a judgment in this instance? And probably more importantly, prosecute it?

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 7 May 2012 at 3:18am BST

Dr. Seitz:

I suspect that if the EDoD continues to refuse to follow GC's interpretation of Title IV, it might find itself with a bishop under disciplinary investigation and a standing committee replaced. Both of those entities took oaths to abide by the decisions of GC.

Or, is your attitude toward these things like that of Andrew Jackson regarding Supreme Court decisions?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 7 May 2012 at 11:08am BST

"We are an Episcopal Church. Not a metropolitan church or a presbyterian church." - cseitz -

Precisely, as in Episcopal with a House of Bishops, who, under General Convention, help to govern a hierarchical Church - such as TEC. TEC is not just a collection of independent Dioceses, but a centrally-governed Episcopal Church. (i.e. 'hierarchical' as defined by the courts). End of story.

n.b. A.C.I. (e.g.) is NOT a Church - just a few individuals electing to speak for a Church - TEC.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 7 May 2012 at 12:03pm BST

Dr. Seitz, the action of the DoD in failing to endorse the Canons is a nullity. If and when someone actually does something in violation of those Canons, a charge could be brought.

There is no "consent" process to endorse the revisions to the Constitution and Canons, and dioceses are bound by them even if their deputies and bishops vote against them at the session of GC, or refuse to attend.

The subtitle of the Constitution and Canons -- which are under the sole control and authorship of the General Convention -- is "For the Government of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America Otherwise Known as The Episcopal Church." That's what I mean by "governed."

Canute-like protestations notwithstanding, the Episcopal Church is a unitary entity with laws crafted for that whole entity by the General Convention. That some of those laws may not be well crafted -- or even wrong -- is not at issue. The means to correct them lies with General Convention, in which Dallas has a voice.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Monday, 7 May 2012 at 2:49pm BST

"I suspect that if the EDoD continues to refuse to follow GC's interpretation of Title IV, it might find itself with a bishop under disciplinary investigation and a standing committee replaced" -- No, if they and erred and strayed it is obligatory that they be disciplined *right now.* That is what the new Title IV requires. Will this happen? No. Why not? a) no money -- see budget for 2013-15 and its concession on this point, and b) precisely the canonical confusion of Title IV and GC as such, vis-a-vis the Constitution and Diocesan allegiance to it, c) it wouldn't work.

"Both of those entities took oaths to abide by the decisions of GC." -- where would one begin with this piece of sophistry?

You see, this is what you get when people insinuate a system and then pretend it is the Law of the Medes and the Persians. Oaths to abide by the decisions of GC! Find that in the Constitution.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 7 May 2012 at 3:14pm BST

Dr Seitz, can you point to an author from ECUSA's past who supported the idea that the diocese is not subject to GC, or that diocesans could lead their dioceses out of the Church at will? And wouldn't you expect for such ability to be at least mentioned in the C&C? Neither of those documents even hint at the power to secede, AFAICT.

Personally, I find it puzzling that any bishop would think he had the right to leave at will, with or without his diocese, given the fact that bishops can't even resign jurisdiction without the approval of the HoB.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Monday, 7 May 2012 at 7:09pm BST

"the action of the DoD in failing to endorse the Canons is a nullity" -- for purposes of expediency, it might make sense for you, Dilworth, O'Neill and others to appoint a spokesperson. You don't agree amongst yourself.

It isn't a nullity in EDoD. It has full effect.

"There is no consent process" -- of course there is. See EDoD. It was duty bound to reject Title IV because it judged it unconstitutional. So too SC.

Are you claiming that a tribunal will be appointed to make EDoD comply? When will that happen? Who will be on it? How will it contend with the judgment of a diocese that it has defended the constitution against sloppy GC action?

You see, you have moved right back into the territory of assertion, not law. If you were speaking of canonical rule, instead of assertion, there would be perforce some effect. But there isn't any.

The reality is that the polity of TEC never anticipated this kind of 'black letter' canonical adjudication. You can see this clearly in the recourse to assertion and insinuation above.

And that is why we have bona fide confusion, counter-claim, and impasse. We have no Court to sort out the disagreement (in this season, thank goodness for that) so instead we have precisely a default to a process of consent as the only thing available on the ground.

In addition, the notes in the budget for 2013-15 wisely intimate that the litigation and Title IV adventures will need curtailing, as there is simply no money for that.

Fr Smith. You know about as much about the polity of TEC as I do about the history of New Zealand...enough to make mistakes.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 7 May 2012 at 7:49pm BST

"Oaths to abide by the decisions of GC! Find that in the Constitution."

It's not in the Constitution, yes...but it's in the Canons, which are--to use an analogy--the laws written under the aegis of the Constitution. If a diocese objects to a part of the Canon, its course of action--as noted by Tobias--is to make a motion at GC to revise the Canons.

Or, Dr. Seitz, do you believe the proper method to deal with an unconstitutional statute (on the secular level) is to ignore it or even to violate it?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 7 May 2012 at 9:22pm BST

I think it best to note some facts the truth of which is I think evident to any careful student of our polity:

The Constitution gives full authority to the General Convention to create canons, and to amend the Constitution itself.

There is neither a Constitutional nor Canonical diocesan consent process for the Canons of General Convention.

Opinions on the unconstitutionality of a canon, made by individuals, dioceses, or anyone apart from General Convention are just that: opinions.

Expressing such opinions against portions of the Canons is not in itself an Offense.

If and when an actual offense is committed, action may or may not be taken leading to a charge being made, and the rest of the ensuing course of events.

The myth of diocesan sovereignty is just that: a myth. A diocese of the Episcopal Church cannot even licitly obtain a bishop without the consent of the rest of the church. Imagine the hue and cry that would arise if election of state governors had to be consented to by a majority of sitting governors and the House of Representatives. The unitary polity of the Episcopal Church is more hierarchical than the US government, which is federal.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Monday, 7 May 2012 at 11:33pm BST

At their ordination in TEC, bishops, priests, and deacons declare, "I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church." (BCP 513, 526, 538; Constitution, Article VIII). The doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church are established by General Convention. I leave to others to attempt to convincingly parse the difference between a solemn declaration and an oath.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Monday, 7 May 2012 at 11:37pm BST

My, how "three guys and a website" has changed in five years. Had I made a comment along the lines of "you know about as much about the polity of TEC as I do about the history of New Zealand", I would have been quite surprised had it passed scrutiny and been posted. Am I a little old-fashioned in expecting that those who dramatically uphold the importance of tradition would include common courtesy among those traditions?

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 1:05am BST

If a sloppily constructed canon or resolution appears from the GC process--hardly a surprise given its enthusiasms--it is hardly the remit of canonically ordered dioceses to acknowledge such work as constitutionally 'correct but blemished' and then send then back to GC for review. No, the job of canonically ordered dioceses, aware of the content of the Constitution, is to accept what they can and constrain in accordance with the Constitution's plain sense.

"That some of those laws may not be well crafted -- or even wrong -- is not at issue. The means to correct them lies with General Convention, in which Dallas has a voice."

No. The means to correct them is to dismiss them when there are not patently constitutional.

It is up to GC to bring its resolutions into canonical order -- esp if it wishes to arrogate to itself some novel authority. The latter is questionable full stop. But if GC wishes to issue canons and resolutions it should endeavour to see to their constitutional probity. If GC does not do this, so be it. Its final or supreme authority is already constitutionally questionable, and moreso due to questionaly constitutional processes, e.g., leading to things like a new Title IV.

The burden is on GC to comply with the
Constitution.

It is the burden of Dioceses to comply with the Constitution.

If there is a conflict, Dioceses properly defer to the Constitution. GC can then seek to understand its remit within constitutional limits and intention.

Haller makes it sound like Dioceses should defer to unconstitutional canons and resolutions, and then come back to GC and sort that out. That's a fool's errand and they should do, as EDoD and others did, defer to the Constitution and see if the GC can find the temerity to do so as well.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 1:09am BST

O'Neill

"If a diocese objects to a part of the Canon, its course of action--as noted by Tobias--is to make a motion at GC to revise the Canons."

No. If a canon is unconstitutional, the conclusion is that GC overreached, was sloppy, thought of its role unconstitutionally.

Let GC address its own procedural sloppiness vis-a-vis the Constitution. That would also help concentrate attention on its properly constrained role.

This is not a burden for Dioceses to bear. They have their own burdens in respect of the Constitution and their own sovereign role in relation to it.

Perhaps you can propose a way for GC to assess its remit in resolution production, and how to determine whether such is constitutional, before public pronouncements as to its work.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 1:37am BST

"If a diocese objects to a part of the Canon, its course of action--as noted by Tobias--is to make a motion at GC to revise the Canons."

No. It simply requires the GC to do its business properly.

Its 'course of action' is to await proper GC work, within its limited remit.

If GC cannot follow this route, Dioceses cannot receive what it proposes. They are duty bound to attend to the Constitution.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 2:06am BST

Dr. Seitz:

Let us analogize to the secular realm. If Congress passes a law that you believe to be unconstitutional, you believe your proper course of action is to ignore said law, perhaps even to violate it, without fear of legal retribution?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 11:30am BST

For those of us in England the comments on this thread make us realise how different TEC actually is in the way it works from how some of us imagined....it seems to me the Covenant if it had been implemented would never have worked because the polities within the Anglican Communion..the "Established" status of the C of E and TEC for instance are really quite radically different, affecting decision making and so much else...

Posted by: Perry Butler on Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 11:39am BST

A slightly different tack. I wonder if cseitz knows whether (in view of Bishop Mark Lawrence's presence at the recent GAFCON/FCA Conference in London) Bishop Lawrence is aware of the Canons and constitution of TEC, and the implications of his identification with GAFCON for his episcopal leadership of a TEC Diocese?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 12:37pm BST

"The Constitution gives full authority to the General Convention to create canons, and to amend the Constitution itself." --

It can create canons. If they are not constitutional, it is incumbent they be ignored for the sake of the constitution.

If the desire is to amend the constitution, there are means set out to do that.

This does not happen by creating unconstitutional canons, sloppily prepared, and telling everyone to obey them for a three year period. That is manifestly poor government. Especially now that the entire General Convention is a moving target as daily we see calls to revamp it!

"There is neither a Constitutional nor Canonical diocesan consent process for the Canons of General Convention."

It is called the Diocese obeying its own constitution and canons re: TEC Constitution. Otherwise it would simply augment the poorly written canons -- canons you are calling to be revised after three years' incubation.

"Opinions on the unconstitutionality of a canon, made by individuals, dioceses, or anyone apart from General Convention are just that: opinions."

They are not opinions in the case of dioceses' actual working procedures. So, e.g., the EDoD has its own form of Title IV. Not an opinion, a concrete form.

"Expressing such opinions against portions of the Canons is not in itself an Offense.

If and when an actual offense is committed, action may or may not be taken leading to a charge being made, and the rest of the ensuing course of events."

According to your understanding the EDoD, by exercising its responsibility to uphold the Constitution, and so rejecting Title IV as written, needs to be disciplined.

When will this happen? Answer, you are in the realm of assertion, not the realm of fact.

If it is your desire to make The Episcopal Church the 'General Convention Church' you will need to undertake the work to revise the present polity. That takes two General Conventions.

From the sounds of it, GC is under sufficient strain as it is just to figure out its remit and pay for its extended business. I have seen at least 30 proposals to clean things up, eliminate costs, strip back reps, unicameral-bicameral, not every three years, and on it goes.

In the meanwhile the mission of the Gospel in dioceses proceeds apace, especially in the EDoD. Unless you are a member of the GC species, 90% of all church-goers ignore it. They want to see the work of the mission of Christ front and center, and what happens every three years is at best a big and expensive sideshow. That verdict pertains mainly to its purported work. It has not had to extend to matters of polity as well. And it appears, in spite of loose threats about discipling a diocese for upholding the constitution and ignoring canons at odds with it, this may remain the case. One can but hope. More expensive Title IV and other litigation adventuring was earmarked in the 2013-15 budget for scaling back. Thank God the economic reality has asserted itself.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 1:35pm BST

If you want what you call a 'unitary polity,' you have your work cut out for you.

1. get rid of all diocesan constitutions and canons; they are now otiose
2. most importantly, get a system of required giving; at present a diocese can give zero, and many do -- no better sign of sovereignty that
3. stipulate that poorly written GC canons/resolutions are in fact included in 'doctrine, discipline and worship' (pace primrose)
4. very important: get rid of a distinction between a canon and a constitution. Call all business of GC eo ipse 'constitutional'
5. awaiting #4's implementation, create a Supreme Court with constitutional effect, and let it determine when a canon is or isn't constitutional
6. make Bishops vow obedience to a) a metropolitan, or b) a newly configured General Convention -- if the former, we are closer now to CofE, if the latter, the United Methodist Church
7. Declare White and Dykman past its sell-by date.

Until then, the myth-making is on your own ledger.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 1:53pm BST

Well, I'll defer to Dr. Seitz's apparent belief that assertion and repetition is proof, given his inability to cite the Constitutional authority he confers on dioceses. Ample documentation to the contrary has been presented, from the title page of the document on through to the Rules of Order. The defense rests.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 2:52pm BST

"The defense rests."

That is a correct way to put it. The Constitution remains the authority and you have failed to indicate how it is not in fact the proper adjudicator of the Diocesan reality we call TEC.

#1-7 above remain fully relevant if you want to create what you call--not a constitutional TEC, but--a 'unitary polity.' You have your work cut out for you!

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 6:37pm BST

O'Neill. General Convention is not Congress and TEC has no Judicial Branch. Analogy flawed.

1. The only language of supremacy/sovereignty employed in the Constitution pertains to Bishops. 2. Bishops discipline other Bishops. 3. There is no General Convention court (cf Methodism). 4. Dioceses have a duty to comply with the Constitution.

These are facts.

Mr. Butler. Correct. See the fine essay by Colin Podmore comparing the very different entities of CofE and TEC.

What happened was that litigation required a revision of the polity. The former PB stayed within the constitutional guidelines and did not interfere in diocesan adjudications. The present PB sought a different route and with that came an insinuation of a different, top-down hierarchical model, nowhere supported in the Constitution.

As for GC being a supreme authority, that language is nowhere found. And thank goodness for that. Have you seen the plentitude of new proposals for the GC, mooted even now by the PB herself. TEC polity relied on a kind of 'gentleman's agreement' -- it was not designed to bear the weight now placed on it by a litigious (and going bankrupt) 'national church.' So its stress cracks are obvious. A Diocese in TEC has its own constitution and canons; it is free not to pay any assessment; Bishops are consented to for consecration, and there are no oaths to a metropolitan as in the CofE.

Podmore's essay is useful here. Having been a priest in the SEC for a decade, I am aware of the subtle differences in provincial self-understandings. Would a covenant be incorrigible vis-a-vis them? No.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 6:50pm BST

I stand with Tobias; apparently, Dr. Seitz believes that repetition without citation is argument. In the words of Monty Python, "No, it's not, it's just contradiction...."

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 9:24pm BST

Let me know what kind of progress you are making on 1-7, Mr O'Neill. Until then, the repetition and assertion are your own. We have it as a fact that the EDoD refused to accept Title IV as written because it was judged unconstitutional in sections. All of your myth-making and theorising does not change that reality. A Diocese deferred to the Constitution as against the GC. It did so properly and in order. That is the polity of TEC, not what here is being invented and called a 'unitary system.'

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 9 May 2012 at 1:13pm BST

Dr Seitz, you appear to want it both ways: you refuse to acknowledge GC's authority over dioceses because of the lack of explicit wording to that effect, but insist on the "sovereignty" of individual dioceses in spite of the lack of such explicit wording.

How can a bishop be free to lead his diocese out of ECUSA when he can't even resign without the consent of the House of Bishops, by the way?

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Wednesday, 9 May 2012 at 2:21pm BST

While Haller, Dilworth, O'Neill and others are feasting on their fulsome account of the vaunted General Convention, the wheelhouse of all things authoritative in TEC, this in from the Dean of the liberal seminary Bexley Hall:

"Dismantle national church structures to be solely canonical governance. Looks like we will spend 2012, just like we did in 2009, letting the General Convention and the Politburo that makes decisions slowly decide what we cannot do (in 2009, things like Liturgy & Music, Theological Education, and others; in 2012, Youth & Young Adult; in 2015, what next?) so they can struggle to do what they think they can still do or prefer to do. A slow, slow death march to irrelevance. Begin to end it now; shut it down...".

We better be glad we are a constitutionally ordered church and not one reliant on the monstrous GC illusion. Thank God even liberals like Ferguson are acknowledging the dry rot, expense, and unworkability.

Now let him go to work on what a legitimate structure might be to handle our present canonical confusions.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 9 May 2012 at 4:58pm BST

So, let's make a list, shall we?

No diocese can be created except by action of General Convention.

No diocesan bishop can be appointed except by approval of GC and/or the requisite number of other dioceses.

No diocesan bishop can resign without approval of the House of Bishops.

No bishop can be disciplined except under the canons as written and approved in GC.

The constitution can only be amended in GC.

The constitution says the canons as written and approved in GC are the rules by which the national church shall operate.

Yet Dr. Seitz says the dioceses are not bound to GC or the Presiding Bishop or the national church.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 9 May 2012 at 10:05pm BST

Mr Dilworth

Very simple. The sovereignty is manifested by actions such as EDoD's refusal to accept a Title IV as written by GC because the role given to the PB in its was held to be unconstitutional. It's as simple as that. It deferred to the Constitution because that is its canonical duty.

I have yet to hear anyone on this thread say there are clear consequences for this and they will be undertaken. Why not? Because such does not obtain. A diocese acted properly.

If the Bishop of Ft Worth, e.g., removes his diocese from the voluntary association of TEC, he has not resigned his orders. A 'Bishop' is not a a TEC copyrighted affair.

Besides, he has already been scrubbed from the books I suspect. The PB uses an odd canon to accomplish that, saving her the embarrassment of Sr Bishops not going along with her -- as has happened in the past. So Bishop Scriven is no longer a Bishop -- except that he is a Bishop all the same...in the Church of England.

BTW, someone needs to do a short course on the term 'unqualified' -- there is another favorite chestnut of liberal hierarchialists. Unqualified does not, in legal terms, mean 'irrevocable.' That would need to be the actual term employed. 'Unqualified' means 'unencumbered' and 'made with full awareness.' I give 'unqualified assent' to join a club. I can always leave the club. Ask any lawyer what an unqualified assent actually means in the context of TEC polity.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 9 May 2012 at 10:23pm BST

I'm still wondering about the quality and veracity of Bishop Lawrence's loyalty to his ordaining Church, TEC. This; in view of his allegiance to intentional schismatics of the Anglican Communion who follow the 'Jerusalem Statement' rather than Lambeth. One more question: Does Dr. Seitz claim allegiance to the'Jerusalem Statement'?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 12:47am BST

So, let's make a list, shall we?

CAPS FOR CLARITY.

No diocese can be created except by action of General Convention.

AND THIS MEANS EXACTLY WHAT IN RESPECT OF DIOCESAN INTEGRITY, CONSTITUTION, CANONS, GIVINGS? A FORMALITY IS UNDERTAKEN AND WHAT FOLLOWS FROM THIS CONSTITUTIONALLY?

YOU BEG YOUR OWN QUESTION.

No diocesan bishop can be appointed except by approval of GC and/or the requisite number of other dioceses.

GC PLAYS NO ROLE IN APPOINTMENTS OF BISHOPS, AS YOU PUT IT. DIOCESES CONSENT TO BISHOPS, AS THEIR OWN WERE CONSENTED TO.

No diocesan bishop can resign without approval of the House of Bishops.

NOT NECESSARY. THEY ARE DECLARED AS 'RENOUNCING THEIR ORDERS' BY THE PB.

AND IRRELEVANT. A BISHOP WHO LEAVES TEC IS A BISHOP REGARDLESS OF 'RESIGNATION APPROVAL' -- A DUBIOUS NOTION ALTOGETHER.

No bishop can be disciplined except under the canons as written and approved in GC.

AT THE LAST GC TITLE IV WAS INVENTED BY GC WITH A DISCIPLINARY PROCEDURE AT ODDS WITH THE CONSTITUION. DIOCESES REJECTED IT ON THOSE GROUNDS.

The constitution can only be amended in GC.

YES INDEED. WITHOUT SAID AMENDMENT IT IS THE 'LAW OF THE LAND.'

The constitution says the canons as written and approved in GC are the rules by which the national church shall operate.

UNLESS THEY ARE HELD TO BE CANONS AT ODDS WITH THE CONSTITUTION, AS DIOCESES CAN SO HOLD, AND HAVE DONE.

SEE ABOVE.

TELL US WHEN DIOCESES WHICH SO RULE WILL BE HELD IN CONTEMPT AND DISCIPLINED.

Yet Dr. Seitz says the dioceses are not bound to GC or the Presiding Bishop or the national church.

DIOCESES, PB, AND GC ARE 'BOUND TO' THE CONSTITUTION OF TEC.

THAT IS WHAT CONSTITUTIONS ARE ABOUT.


Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 2:33am BST

Dr Seitz, the argument that a lack of consequences is proof of an action's licitness would seem to give the stamp of approval to all sorts of things, from Bishop Spong's denial of basic Christian doctrine, to giving Holy Communion to the unbaptized. +Spong has, as far as I know, suffered absolutely no negative consequences connected with his preaching and writing, and I've never heard that anyone has ever been disciplined for CWOB - and yet many, myself included, view both as clear violations of ECUSA Canons (to say nothing of basic Christian teaching).

Or take a more common violation of the Canons: when was the last time that a member of the Episcopal Church was disciplined for refusing to abide by Canon II.1, "Of the Due Celebration of Sundays"? [For those of you playing along at home, this canon stipulates that "All persons within this Church shall celebrate and keep the Lord's Day, commonly called Sunday, by regular participation in the public worship of the Church, by hearing the Word of God read and taught, and by other acts of devotion and works of charity, using all godly and sober conversation."] Now it is manifestly true that not all of the persons within this Church do any such thing, and yet no one seems to suffer any disciplinary action because of it.

All the lack of consequences shows, it seems to me, is that ECUSA's disciplinary system is far from perfect, and that it's difficult to enforce our canon law. It doesn't excuse the flouting of the Canons.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 2:36am BST

As far as I can tell, Dr. Seitz believes we are hierarchical when the decision makers are at the Primates Meeting or Lambeth but not when they're part of the national church but are again when they're diocesan bishops.

Or maybe it changes by location -- hierarchical in Dar es Salaam or Lambeth but not in New York or Indianapolis but hierarchical again in Dallas or Forth Worth.

Or maybe it's temporal -- it's hierarchical on alternating Tuesdays and Thursdays but not otherwise.

Or maybe it's like the date of Easter -- you have to go to the Table of Golden Numbers in the Prayer Book to find out when it's hierarchical and when it's not.

I'm sure the three or so members of the Anglican Communion Institute and their associated group of 15 or so Bishops are quite pleased in creating this novel argument. But the rest of us find it a huggledy-muggledy, incoherent mess. Don't be surprised if the courts find themselves in the same boat -- I can assure you they've never seen anything quite like this before.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 2:45am BST

"The sovereignty is manifested by actions such as EDoD's refusal to accept a Title IV as written by GC because the role given to the PB in its was held to be unconstitutional. It's as simple as that. It deferred to the Constitution because that is its canonical duty."

"Held to be unconstitutional" by whom? By the Bishop of Dallas? Whereby does he gain the authority to declare what is and is not constitutional? And "canonical duty"? Does it not also have a canonical duty to abide by the decisions of GC?

A bishop who declares that he need no longer abide by the decisions of GC has violated his vows at consecration, has he not? By what standard, then, is he still a bishop?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 4:04am BST

Having read through the debate more than once, it's pretty clear that Dr. Seitz has failed to make his creative case that TEC dioceses are free to operate without consideration of the canons as passed by General Convention or his even more preposterous claim that TEC is not an hierarchical church.

He has raised (it seems to me) one valid point about a failing in TEC's structures that there is no means to test the constitutionality of a canon if challenged. However his suggestion that this structural failing gives dioceses and bishops the open-ended authority to ignore any canon they choose to claim as unconstitutional is beyond fatuous. Indeed, it may be the silliest thing I've ever seen him write.

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 4:28am BST

"No diocese can be created except by action of General Convention.

AND THIS MEANS EXACTLY WHAT IN RESPECT OF DIOCESAN INTEGRITY, CONSTITUTION, CANONS, GIVINGS? A FORMALITY IS UNDERTAKEN AND WHAT FOLLOWS FROM THIS CONSTITUTIONALLY?

YOU BEG YOUR OWN QUESTION."

Well, certainly it means that dioceses do not stand alone; that they are inherently part of a national church; and that they cannot separate themselves from the national church that created them. You may consider all this a "formality", but others may disagree.

"No diocesan bishop can be appointed except by approval of GC and/or the requisite number of other dioceses.

GC PLAYS NO ROLE IN APPOINTMENTS OF BISHOPS, AS YOU PUT IT. DIOCESES CONSENT TO BISHOPS, AS THEIR OWN WERE CONSENTED TO."

When an appointment is made within a certain timeframe before GC, the actions to consent to the appointment are made at GC.

"No diocesan bishop can resign without approval of the House of Bishops.

NOT NECESSARY. THEY ARE DECLARED AS 'RENOUNCING THEIR ORDERS' BY THE PB.

AND IRRELEVANT. A BISHOP WHO LEAVES TEC IS A BISHOP REGARDLESS OF 'RESIGNATION APPROVAL' -- A DUBIOUS NOTION ALTOGETHER."

A bishop of what, however? If he has left the national church that made him a bishop, a national church that holds that his former see is an integral part of its own polity, then what is he bishop of?

More later


Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 11:32am BST

"GC PLAYS NO ROLE IN APPOINTMENTS OF BISHOPS, AS YOU PUT IT. DIOCESES CONSENT TO BISHOPS, AS THEIR OWN WERE CONSENTED TO."

As it happens, this turns out not to be the case if the election takes place within 120 days before GC, according to Canon III.11.3

"NOT NECESSARY. THEY ARE DECLARED AS 'RENOUNCING THEIR ORDERS' BY THE PB."

According to the Constitution, Article II, Section 6, it is absolutely necessary. Being declared as having renounced their orders is a penalty, not an alternative route to resignation.

"AND IRRELEVANT. A BISHOP WHO LEAVES TEC IS A BISHOP REGARDLESS OF 'RESIGNATION APPROVAL' -- A DUBIOUS NOTION ALTOGETHER."

One has nothing to do with the other. The point is that a Bishop cannot separate himself from his diocese without the HoB's consent - hardly a mark of "sovereignty." If he cannot take such a basic action as saying "I quit" without the permission of one House of GC, it suggests that he cannot separate his entire diocese from the Episcopal Church.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 11:58am BST

I take disapproval from Mr French as the very highest form of compliment!

Mr O'Neill.

"Held to be unconstitutional" by whom? -- By the Diocese itself. The Diocese must abide by its own Constitution and Canons, which themselves speak of the TEC Constitution's authority.

Whereby does he gain the authority to declare what is and is not constitutional? -- See above.

Does it not also have a canonical duty to abide by the decisions of GC? -- No. Not when they are declared dubiously constitutional. Title IV was adapted in the EDoD so as to assure its constitutionality, and given its own form for disciplining clergy and Bishop.

A bishop who declares that he need no longer abide by the decisions of GC has violated his vows at consecration, has he not? -- No he has not. Unconstitutional GC decisions cannot be implemented.

More importantly: if he had violated his vows, he would have been tried.

And where is said trial? Not forthcoming. And won't be. Because Title IV will require review at GC because it was worthy of being ignored.

And was.

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 12:00pm BST

"Being declared as having renounced their orders is a penalty, not an alternative route to resignation."

It may be a penalty *within the logic of TEC*, but seen outside of that it is irrelevant on a number of levels. 1. Bishop Scriven simply ignored the idea and functions as a Bishop in the Church of England. 2. It threatens to make a mockery of the theological reality of Bishops by turning them into locally authorized agents of a geographically defined entity. So Scriven, e.g., just went on being a Bishop in the Church of England because the very idea of 'renouncing orders' was just an expediency -- so as to avoid a trial proper.

"The point is that a Bishop cannot separate himself from his diocese without the HoB's consent" -- in the case of +Iker, he is not separating himself from his diocese. He is withdrawing from a voluntary association, with his diocese. He is not resigning, far from it.

What the TX Supreme Court will decide is a) whether TEC has clear rules governing EDFW's actions, and b) if not, whether the grey areas are such that to make a determination would violate the First Amendment.

You left out some CAPS.

When is the Diocese of Dallas to be disciplined, and by whom, for refusing to accept Title IV as written by GC because it was judged at odds with the Constitution by the Diocese meeting in formal convention?

I believe the answer is, Never. GC was at odds with the Constitution and as such, the latter prevails. See 1-7 above and esp #4 and #5.

For something approaching a 'unitary system' see the Church of England. 1-7 are taken care of in that polity. No diocesan constitution/canons. An Ecclesiastical Court. Oaths of obedience to a metropolitan. No 'General Convention.' All very 'unitary.'

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 12:41pm BST

Dr. Seitz:

So, in your opinion, every diocese can declare a canon (or perhaps even ALL the canons) unconstitutional and thereby ignore it? Isn't this an open invitation to chaos...or, at the very least, the total dissolution of TEC? (Or, perhaps, the latter is indeed your intention?)

The lack of a trial does not, ipso facto, indicate the lack of a crime. Or, in your mind, does a burglary not really exist until the perpetrator is tried for it?

"Because Title IV will require review at GC because it was worthy of being ignored."

But until such time it was still duly enacted by GC. A single diocese (or even a a few dioceses) choosing to ignore it does not make it non-existent.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 1:12pm BST

One last point from your prior post, sir:

"The constitution says the canons as written and approved in GC are the rules by which the national church shall operate.

UNLESS THEY ARE HELD TO BE CANONS AT ODDS WITH THE CONSTITUTION, AS DIOCESES CAN SO HOLD, AND HAVE DONE."

Since you appear to insist on the letter of the law, show me where in the constitution or canons it says that dioceses can independently declare a canon unconstitutional and therefore inoperative.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 1:16pm BST

You don't seem to understand the burden of a constitution.

A Constitution exists so as to regulate General Convention and its public life. That is what it means to have a Constitution as such.

So, for example, the Book of Common Prayer is a constitutional document. It regulates the life of the church. If General Convention passes a canon or resolution mandating communion of the unbaptised--nothing can prevent that as it now stands--a Diocese would refuse to accept it on the grounds that the rubics of the BCP are the standard and they do not allow this.

(It was argued quite effectively at the last convention that to allow a Diocese like Massachussets to draw up rites it would in time do was in the very nature of the case unconstitutional, given the rubrics of the BCP).

If GC wants to alter the BCP, it must do so via a protracted year process of two conventions. This is what it means to have a Constitution.

If at one convention it produces decisions without amending the constitution, then a Diocese will simply have to conclude that it has not done its work properly and ignore what was passed.

This is all quite critical. If GC were to mandate the use of rites of SSBs, it would face the reality on the ground that Dioceses would refuse to comply, and the latter would do so because GC had failed to do the requisite work of amending the Constitutional BCP.

You seem to miss the point that General Convention and the Constitution are not interchangeable. The latter governs the life of the church and must be obeyed for the common good order.

I have said repeatedly that what obtains in other polities than TEC's is a way to adjudicate unconstitutionality. When General Convention acts it must seek to assure the constitutionality of its decisions. But there is no way to reach a clear determination of that, so the present Title IV gave authority of a certain kind to the PB the Constitution had not been amended to give the PB.

If General Convention wants to go through the process of amending the Constitution, fine. But it must work through the proper procedures to accomplish that. If it doesn't a Diocese is duty bound to observe the discrepency and order its life accordingly.

And so, it has done. I believe what you are looking for is a disciplinary action against the EDoD. You will not find one for the simple reason that Title IV was poorly written and needs alteration. The measurement for 'poorly' is the constitution and the determination of that a constitutionally ordered diocese.

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 3:40pm BST

"in the case of +Iker he is not separating himself from his diocese."

Well, that's really the question here, isn't it? Since (from ECUSA's POV) dioceses cannot just up and leave the Episcopal Church, he and a large number of the clergy and laity under him have done just that. That they are still clinging to the name "Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth" is irrelevant. But again, that's beside the point, since I am not arguing that Bishop Iker has resigned. I'm saying that as he could not take the lesser action of resigning without the permission of the HoB, so it follows that he can take the more momentous step of taking his diocese out of the Episcopal Church.

Can you name any writer in the history of the Episcopal Church (before the present unpleasantness under discussion, of course) who expressed the opinion that dioceses were free to separate themselves from the national Church as they pleased? Can you name any who expressed the opinion that dioceses could ignore the Canons as they saw fit?

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 4:30pm BST

"So, for example, the Book of Common Prayer is a constitutional document. It regulates the life of the church. If General Convention passes a canon or resolution mandating communion of the unbaptised--nothing can prevent that as it now stands--a Diocese would refuse to accept it on the grounds that the rubrics of the BCP are the standard and they do not allow this."

I was under the impression that the BCP's rubrics had the force of *canon.* I've searched the C&C and don't see anything saying that it has constitutional force. I'm not arguing that it doesn't have such force - the claim has been made elsewhere and before - but I am asking how we know that it has constitutional force?

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 4:53pm BST

Thank you, Dr Primrose, for your logical, clearly-written, 2:45 am reductio ad absurdum - excellent approach to unmasking unthinking, "four-legs-good" silliness.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 6:35pm BST

Again, I must ask, where is the written authorization--in constitution or canon--for a diocese to unilaterally ignore a decision of General Convention? If there is none, then--by your own insistence on literal interpretation of the constitution--then it cannot be done.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 6:39pm BST

Ooops! Missed a "not" in there.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 11:29pm BST

Mr O'Neill. To repeat. The Constitution is the rule of TEC. Dioceses defer to this.

You don't write a Constitution and give authority to dioceses to honour it!

Your question properly is: how does GC have the latitude to create opinions/resolutions/canons which are at odds with the Constitution? Answer: a gap in the system, closed in the CofE for example with ecclesiastical courts.

Mr Dilworth. The BCP is a constitutional document. As such, and because of this fact, GC needs two conventions to amend it -- as with any and all constitutional effects.

As for withdrawal from TEC. Please ask yourself when any diocese has been faced with the season we are now in. Answer, never. We have dioceses in TEC proceeding unilaterally in respect of the BCP; we have communion of the unbaptized though that is against the C/C; we have canons regulating Christian marriage in open defiance of which Bishops and clergy are acting.

So, when you are able to describe the analogy of this kind of disorder, you will find dioceses withdrawing in conscience.

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 11 May 2012 at 12:10am BST

Can one contributor here kindly inform us all, if the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas improperly amended a GC action in respect of Title IV because it deferred to the Constitution, where is the necessary discipling of that given your account of GC's authority?

I await a response. Let's not just go around in circles of your own making.

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 11 May 2012 at 12:28am BST

Dr Seitz, so the proof that the BCP is constitutional is found in its needing two GCs to change? I'd notice the similarity between it and amending the Constitution, but wondered if there were something more specific. And I've read several sources that say it "has the force of canon law." Thank you for the explanation.

Regarding parallels between our situation and the past, I would have thought that the Ritualist controversy of the 19th century would have at least brought the idea of secession into the conversation, if it were a legitimate option. Even when the dioceses in the South formed the PECCSA, GC refused to acknowledge that secession was there right or even a possibility: at the 1862 GC, when the attendance was taken the names of the dioceses in the Confederacy were still called out and, when there was no answer, marked absent. Surely if secession were their right GC would have taken official notice of the breach; they did not.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Friday, 11 May 2012 at 2:48am BST

Mr. Seitz:

I disagree. The Constitution is the document describing the structure of TEC. The Canons are the rules.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 11 May 2012 at 4:30am BST

Dr. Seitz:

That GC failed or declined to discipline a diocese does not mean that the diocese did not err.

If I am speeding in my car and a cop chooses to let me go, it does negate the fact that I was speeding.

While the punishment should fit the crime, it does not follow that the lack of punishment means no crime was committed.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 11 May 2012 at 12:04pm BST

Mr O'Neill.

You made that up, seriously? The Constitution is from beginning to end full of 'rules'.

Will you answer the following question?

Can one contributor here kindly inform us all, if the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas improperly amended a GC action in respect of Title IV because it deferred to the Constitution, where is the necessary discipling of that given your account of GC's authority?

I await a response. Let's not just go around in circles of your own making.

***

Let's call what EDoD refused to accept the constitutionality of a 'rule'. If they broke the 'rule' because they did not accept its constitutionality (what you call here a 'description'), where is the offense to be disciplined?

Answer the 'rule' is overruled by the Constitution.

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 11 May 2012 at 12:09pm BST

Mr Dilworth

Ritualism belongs within the ambit of anglicanism. Newman--agree with his conclusions or not--argued in favor of the 39 Articles and anglo-catholicism.

"Even when the dioceses in the South formed the PECCSA, GC refused to acknowledge that secession was there (sic) right or even a possibility" --
I'm not persuaded this is an accurate characterisation (even as I also do not think it is a suitable analogy).

The GC's disposition was that room should be given for eventual return, should that be what God would see to, after the tragic season of the Civil War. My very strong hunch is, that should these dioceses have decided to maintain an independent life, this would have been what transpired. What then would GC have done? Sued them? No sir. It would have been put down as a tragedy.

There would have been no way for GC to have constrained their fellowship and continued life together.

Here the analogy ought to be fit, but tragically is not. Instead we have the situation before us. So perhaps the analogy is closer than it appears...


Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 11 May 2012 at 12:56pm BST

Mr O'Neill. Let me amend your illustration.

No one issued a ticket because the speed limit sign blew over. It was poorly constructed and unconstitutional to boot.

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 11 May 2012 at 2:12pm BST

How mortifying to mistake "there" for "their"!

Dr. Seitz, with all due respect, you are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. Your very strong hunches about alternate courses of action do not trump reality. It's fruitless to try to combine time travel and mind reading to divine what *would have been* GC's response if PECCSA had decided to continue as a separate entity. All we have before us to work with is what actually happened. And what actually happened is that GC called the names of the would-be separate dioceses at the 1862 meeting and marked them absent.

This was, as far as I know, the only other time in our history that dioceses have asserted the ability to secede from the Episcopal Church, and the response of GC was to act as if no such secession had happened at all.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Friday, 11 May 2012 at 3:57pm BST

Another ruling (Los Angeles) in favour of the National Church - http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/05/episcopal-church-properties-court.html

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Friday, 11 May 2012 at 4:24pm BST

"Ritualism belongs within the ambit of anglicanism. Newman--agree with his conclusions or not--argued in favor of the 39 Articles and anglo-catholicism."

As it happens, this was not everybody's take on the matter. If it were, there would have been no prosecutions in England, no vociferous objection to the election of James DeKoven to the episcopate in the United States, no denunciations of Bishop Ives, no opposition to the establishment of religious orders, and no schismatic Reformed Episcopal Church. Anglo-Catholicism was seen by many as a profound and dangerous threat to "true" Anglicanism, as being merely a somewhat anglicized Roman Catholicism. Its toleration and influence led to the defection of at least one bishop and a fair number of clergy and laity. The idea that it was seen at the time as falling within the "ambit of anglicanism" and consonant with the Articles of Religion simply will not stand up to scrutiny. If there were ever a peacetime phenomenon in this country that might have provoked attempts at secession, Ritualism was it.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Friday, 11 May 2012 at 5:42pm BST

Yesterday, a California superior court ruled that two parishes in the Los Angeles area that attempted to leave TEC and could not take the property within them on their way out. This was in part because TEC is hierarchical and under the TEC constitution and canons, which are binding on parishes, property is held in trust for the diocese and TEC. This has been the virtually unanimous view of the courts in these cases.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Friday, 11 May 2012 at 6:02pm BST

Of course the TX Supreme Court case is NOT about parishes but about a diocese. So the Amicus Brief filed by ACI et al.

No, Mr. Dilworth, you chose an unfortunate example. The PECUSA of its time gave room for the southern Dioceses to return. Had they (PECCSA) not chosen to do so, nothing would have been done except mourne the loss.

And that is a better outcome than spending millions of dollars to sue -- even PB Frank Griswold accepted that reality.

Re: ritualism. The example you are searching for is the Reformed Episcopal Church.

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 11 May 2012 at 7:48pm BST

"Had they (PECCSA) not chosen to do so, nothing would have been done except mourne the loss. "

First of all, this is not only mind-reading, but mind-reading across a century and a half. You cannot possibly know what the authorities of PECUSA of 1865 would have done.

Second, the values of property and such of the time were undoubtedly much smaller. It's somewhat easier to let a property worth a few hundred dollars go (even in that period) than to let a property worth several millions of dollars be taken without compensation.

Further, of course, back then, it was probably true that all the members of the parishes and dioceses (or so substantial a number of them as to be tantamount to all) were in favor of splitting from PECUSA. That is not the case in the current situation; in all the dioceses and parishes where this has become an issue, there is a substantial number (as high as 33% in some instances) of parishioners who prefer to remain with TEC. Are their wishes simply to be disregarded? Are they to be forced to be "unchurched"?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 11 May 2012 at 11:37pm BST

Mr Dilworth, for your apparent cause, you selected a very unfortunate illustration. No historian of the American Church would believe for a moment that the General Convention of the mid 19th century would have remotely been in a position to dictate the fate of dioceses in the southern United States. If they had chosen not to re-associate, they would have been dioceses in the PECCSA. Nothing further would have been done.

This isn't mind-reading unless you mean using your mind! Your illustration perfectly demonstrates that the TEC of the period was a diocesan church. It mirrored the logic of the US at the time. As Shelby Foote put it, before the Civil War everyone predicated the 'United States' with a plural verb ('the United States are doing X'). Afterwards and for the first time, it would become 'The United States is doing X').

What your illustration indicates is how the dioceses of the period were in a voluntary association. Because of the charitable way the assembled Bishops/delegates handled it, and for a host of other cultural reasons of good will, given the huge loss of life, space was opened up for the southern dioceses to come back together.

If they had chosen not to do so, they would have been fully free to do so.

Find any historian of the period who says otherwise. The very fact that you speak of the cost being estimable means you are the very epitome of anachronism. Cost had not one wit to do with it.

And it oughtn't to now.

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 12 May 2012 at 1:26am BST

Sorry, we are having a covenant event in Toronto with representatives from Iran, Nigeria, Burundi, England, et al. I may have confused Messers Dilworth and O'Neill. Apologies.

If the question is, what do loyal episcopalians in the Diocese of Ft Worth do, given that the legal corporation of the Diocese has withdrawn? I am not sure, but I believe the Bishop generously made arrangements for them.

This had, of course, been the pattern approved by the previous PB: let the Diocesans negotiate, and leave them to their affairs (and as we now see, save millions in litigation fees). So, the Bishops of Dallas, CFL, SWFL, and latterly, NJ, all did that. And others.

As we hear from Communion reps in war-torn and Islamic regions, the recourse to suing in TEC is a scandal.

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 12 May 2012 at 1:47am BST

"Of course the TX Supreme Court case is NOT about parishes but about a diocese." Regardless of which both Texas and Los Angeles cases hinge on one question - is TEC hierarchical? No amount of muddied water and squid ink will change this fact.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Saturday, 12 May 2012 at 2:30am BST

"No, Mr. Dilworth, you chose an unfortunate example."

It's not as ifI had an embarrassment of riches to choose from in the matter of schismatic dioceses, Dr Seitz. I used the only example in our history prior to this century.

" The PECUSA of its time gave room for the southern Dioceses to return."

Well, yes, but by refusing to acknowledge that they had in fact left.

"Had they (PECCSA) not chosen to do so, nothing would have been done except mourne the loss."

I agree with Mr O'Neill - this is another attempt at transtemporal telepathy.

"Re: ritualism. The example you are searching for is the Reformed Episcopal Church."

Not only was I searching for it, I mentioned it. Of course, the foundation of the REC entailed an Assistant Bishop abandoning PECUSA, so there was no question of his taking a diocese with him.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Saturday, 12 May 2012 at 3:00am BST

"this is another attempt at transtemporal telepathy." -- baloney. It is called history. Ask any historian of the period.

The southern dioceses left. Had they chosen to stay separated, that would have been the outcome.

Do you seriously mean to suggest that PECUSA was in a position--legally, morally, constitutionally--to force them to remain a part of their association?

How would they have accomplished this, had they even remotely contemplated it?

I know you mentioned the REC. But you didn't seem to apply it properly. They left. The fight wasn't about ritualism only but about baptismal regeneration.

Your difficulty in finding examples of withdrawal from TEC only serves to show how extremely church-dividing is the present set of issues, and the one you did find -- the withdrawal of the southern dioceses -- only underscores the polity that was most certainly TEC's at the time: an association of dioceses, with no central metropolitical authority. In the mid-19th century there was no PB who operated out of a national church office. There was a senior ranking Diocesan who shared the struggles and the responsibilities in like manner as every one of his colleagues. He and his colleagues made room for their southern counterparts to return, and they did.

There would have been absolutely no way to constrain that outcome, and it would not have been contemplated on anything like the terms we see it now. That is sheer (and obvious) historical fact.

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 12 May 2012 at 11:36am BST

"If the question is, what do loyal episcopalians in the Diocese of Ft Worth do, given that the legal corporation of the Diocese has withdrawn? I am not sure, but I believe the Bishop generously made arrangements for them. "

Oh, yes, "you can share our church" but you can't be confirmed by a bishop of the Episcopal Church because there isn't one anymore. Oh, and the church buildings you and your ancestors worked so hard to build and maintain, they're ours now.

If a secular corporate CEO attempted to steal a corporation from its shareholders in such a manner, there would indeed be lawsuits. Why do you believe it is OK for a ecclesiastical CEO to do so?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 12 May 2012 at 11:56am BST

Actually, in rereading the history just now (primary sources in the form of letters from northern and southern bishops are in the record) one sees only how far removed is the climate of the civil war period from what obtains now. The issue was not whether the southern dioceses could be constrained to remain alongside—they had already formed their own independent entity, had a constitution, met in their own general conventions, etc—but whether a) they wished to return, b) what the status of lay delegates would be (who had not been granted a general amnesty), c) if a period of waiting was necessary for the civil peace to be more fully restored, d) as a group or one-by-one, if that so happened.

From the perspective of the northern bishops, some clearly felt that their southern counterparts had been schismatic and did not contemplate so easy or swift a reunion. It was not a question of whether the southern dioceses could withdraw, but rather, having so manifestly done so, it was proper to readmit them, and under what conditions. A diocese had in the meantime been formed in Arkansas, and a bishop consecrated, all within the parameters of the independent entity and its constitution.

No mind reading is required to study the remarks of Bishop Elliott and others about whether and why and under what conditions it might be thought proper to return, as well as the reluctance of the northern bishops in some dioceses to wish it. At no time is there something like an appeal to constitutional constraints requiring them to be in association, and at no time was their ability to disassociate and form a separate entity questioned vis-à-vis the constitution or ‘laws of General Convention.’ At issue was what in consequence one was to do about it, to restore the peace, if God so granted that.

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 12 May 2012 at 12:07pm BST

".... we are having a covenant event in Toronto with representatives from Iran, Nigeria, Burundi, England, et al." All the king's horses, Dr Seitz.

Bit curious, BTW, as to which, if any, generous individuals or groups helped pick up the tab. It cannot, even on a tight budget, have been an inexpensive event, can it?

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Saturday, 12 May 2012 at 1:09pm BST

Mr O'Neill. I do not reside in FW and do not know what arrangements were made. I do know that Bishops in SC, Dallas, CFL and elsewhere--most recently NJ--were quite concerned to make provision for those who wished to leave the Diocese.

I think your question is actually not to do with the intentionally inflammatory notion of stealing, but the status of churches in FW wishing to remain with TEC. I believe discussions went on about having them attach to other dioceses.

It was the refusal of TEC to accept anything like such negotiations, or the notion of EDFW's withdrawal, that led to the appointment of a provisional Bishop and suits to say that though the Diocese was withdrawing after a landslide vote to do so, the small remnant was the EDFW. And so the matter is before the civil courts to decide.

Rabbit. Yes, lots of scary and dark featured right-wingers put together the whopping sums to bring the humble Bishop of Iran, the french-speaking Bishop from Burundi, and +Josiah Idowu-Fearon from the war-torn region of Kaduna in Nigeria (who has a PhD in Islamic Studies from Durham and is a strong Christian-Islam dialogue representative). The latter was teaching a course at Wycliffe College this term.

The witness of all three was very uplifting.

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 12 May 2012 at 7:04pm BST

"Your difficulty in finding examples of withdrawal from TEC only serves to show how extremely church-dividing is the present set of issues, and the one you did find -- the withdrawal of the southern dioceses -- only underscores the polity that was most certainly TEC's at the time: an association of dioceses, with no central metropolitical authority. In the mid-19th century there was no PB who operated out of a national church office. There was a senior ranking Diocesan who shared the struggles and the responsibilities in like manner as every one of his colleagues. "

Well, then, doesn't this indicate to you--as it does to me--that the polity of the national church has most certainly changed in the past 150 years? That it is NOT now the mere "association of dioceses" that it was in the 1860s and that you seem to suggest it still is today?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 12 May 2012 at 8:50pm BST

"Do you seriously mean to suggest that PECUSA was in a position--legally, morally, constitutionally--to force them to remain a part of their association?"

Again, Dr Seitz, no one then or now has mentioned forcing anyone to remain anywhere. Even if such a course of action were possible, it's not the only course of action available. The fact that PECUSA could not keep the people in the Southern dioceses from leaving does not mean that PECUSA would simply have written off the dioceses as lost.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Saturday, 12 May 2012 at 9:57pm BST

Knew it! Thanks for the confirmation, Dr Seitz.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Sunday, 13 May 2012 at 12:12am BST

I imagine there are a number of instances in British colonial history of the creation of new provinces through the division of existing colonies and the creation of new countries. The question of the Confederate church is a red herring - for more than four years the US consisted, de facto, of two separate countries. To question why the Northern church, in wartime conditions, took no action against the Southern is plain silly - a more pertinent fact is that they did not. Had the South held the North to a draw, the formal emergence of two national churches would have been the obvious outcome. But they didn't, and the pre-1861 status-quo was seamlessly resumed. With the unsurprising exception of Bishop/General Leonidas Polk, the Southern bishops apparently regarded the situation as a "separation but not a division". Two states - Tennessee & Polk's Louisiana - never in fact formally joined the Confederate PEC and all Southern dioceses resumed fellowship at the 1865 General Convention.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Sunday, 13 May 2012 at 12:39am BST

"Even when the dioceses in the South formed the PECCSA, GC refused to acknowledge that secession was there (sic) right or even a possibility."

This is just manifestly wrong. It is obvious that many northern Bishops accepted that a new entity had been formed. They resented it and called it schismatic. They were right that a fully new entity had been formed. A new diocese was created (Arkansas) and a new Bishop consecrated according to the constitution of the separated entity. No one held that this was constitutionally illicit -- the argument being made today.

The kindness of the then PB (the Bishop of Vermont) went a long way in setting the tone for peace and reconciliation, which was a far from obvious outcome at the time.

Your selection of this example obviously does not line up very well with the modern state of affairs. By analogy, FW would withdraw as did the Southern Dioceses, and yet unlike then, the larger body is arguing this is not constitutionally possible. That never entered the picture in 1860s. At issue then was what to do with a fully separated entity (the PECCSA), with its own constitution, conventions, etc. This was an issue on both sides of the divide.

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 13 May 2012 at 2:10am BST

"It is obvious that many northern Bishops accepted that a new entity had been formed. They resented it and called it schismatic. They were right that a fully new entity had been formed."

Come now, Dr Seitz. Even you have to admit that the attitudes and actions of "many northern Bishops" on their own do not carry the same weight as the actions of the Episcopal Church as a whole, enacted by General Convention. And the plain truth is that General Convention in 1862 treated the Southern dioceses as merely absent.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Monday, 14 May 2012 at 1:34am BST

As many have pointed out, the example you chose was a very poor one.

1862 is not 1865/6. Read any account -- there are many out there. The situation was: a separate entity, with constitution, new diocese, new Bishop, conventions, etc.

So, is the present GC marking FW down as absent in the same spirit of 1862? Of course not. The circumstances are not comparable. FW is declaring itself part of a separate entity and able to withdraw. The Southern dioceses did the same and the GC of 1862 did not declare they had no constitutional right to do so. They marked them as absent. By 1865 they had to deal with a concrete problem, unprepared for, and it took a lot of patience and goodwill on both sides. That is what is missing in the present period. Instead, scandalous sums have been spent. At least there is some meager hope that will cease because the money is just no longer there. The identity of GC is itself up for negotiation. Maybe it will return to the more modest self-understanding of 1865, and so too the office of PB, who was the Diocesan Bishop of Vermont. Now there's a good way to save a huge amount of money, and maybe with that will come the Christian temperment of that fine gentleman to boot.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 14 May 2012 at 11:44am BST
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