Thinking Anglicans

Episcopal Church is not divisible

Episcopal Café has drawn attention to a dissertation on this topic:

Episcopal Church is not divisible

Bishops thinking of leading their dioceses out of The Episcopal Church seem to have missed lessons on church history somewhere along the line. The Diocese of Pittsburgh’s vote on Resolution 1, as reported in A House Dividing yesterday is based on the idea that Dioceses are free standing entities. This reading of history has no basis in fact according to scholars of American history.

In 1959, James Allen (Jim) Dator, Professor, and Director of the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies, Department of Political Science, University of Hawaii at Manoa, wrote a dissertation on The Government of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America: Confederal, Federal, or Unitary? It was accepted by the Faculty of the Graduate School (School of Government) of The American University, Washington, DC, in 1959 in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

The complete dissertation is here.

The whole Episcopal Café article is here. It summarises some key conclusions of the dissertation. In particular:

…after carefully reviewing the various drafts of a constitution for PECUSA, and the Church’s Constitution as adopted on October 2, 1789, I conclude two things:

(1) The Church’s constitution was NOT made in imitation of the US Constitution. Thus, while the US Constitution is a federal system, giving the states certain rights and the central government other rights, “there is not explicit in the Church’s Constitution of 1789 any definition of a division of powers [between the dioceses and the General Convention], even though the framers of that Constitution had models of both the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution before them” (p. 53).

(2) PECUSA was created as a unitary and not a federal government: “In summary, neither Bishop White’s “Case”, nor the “Fundamental Principles” of 1784, nor the “General Ecclesiastical Constitution” of 1785, nor the “General Constitution of 1786,” nor the Constitution of 1789 provided explicitly for a constitutional division of powers. Such a division of powers is an essential manifestation of both federal and confederal governments. Neither is there any other evidence to indicate that the Constitution is one of a confederation. Indeed, as far as the written Constitution is explicitly concerned, the Church’s government is unitary” (p. 54).

There is a lot more. Do read at least the whole of the Cafe article.


  • NP says:

    I am sure this will stop +Duncan…..

  • ettu says:

    This is a significant look at TEC’s governing structure done well before the present “troubles”! It will serve as a measure of the conservative blogs- will they take this Ph.D. dissertation seriously or will they marginalize or demean it?
    In any event, I am certain the legal profession will not ignore this structural analysis when it comes to deciding property issues. I wonder whether this will affect the willingness of the disaffected to leave quietly?
    Thanks for posting such an important development.

  • ettu says:

    Predictions are potentially very embarassing … but, yes, I believe that after a period of bravado and chest-thumping and saber rattling that this is a significant measure that will stop Duncanites and Akinolites to a degree. I only hope that the unwary – the lower classes – the laity and ordinary parish priests are not injured – somehow the leaders of armies – religious or lay- manage to protect themselves with their “golden parachutes’ – it is the young parish priest with a family that follows the leaders into exile and who does not have resources who is likely to be the pitiable case.

  • John R. Robison says:

    One does wonder what +Duncan will do when confronted by the agreements he’s signed and the writen statement to a Federal Court that he wasn’t intending to leave TEC.
    Federal judges tend to take a very dim view of perjury and violation of contracts.

  • So that “abstract” body was formed deliberately and consciously to be one body? So much for the idea that it is okay to cherry pick out bishops and dioceses as and when the scavengers think they can “succeed” in hauling away chunks of meat.

    God despises scavengers.

  • Well, this will no doubt be introduced either by an Episcopal diocese or as part of an amicus brief. As to whether it will make a difference: I certainly imagine it will make the judge’s reading (or the judge’s clerk’s reading) longer. On the other hand, as much as I find it heartening, it is a considered expert opinion – no less, but no more. I think it will strengthen an argument. Whether a particular judge (or a dissenting bishop) will find it compelling is another question.

  • Leonardo Ricardo says:

    I am sure this will stop +Duncan…..NP

    Well, if it doesn’t the “shock” of TEC “reality therapy” and the “law suits” ought slow him down…but then, reality takes some getting used to…I won’t hold my breath.

  • Margaret says:

    Well — they are worried.

  • Jerry Hannon says:

    Margaret posted: “Well — they are worried.”

    Nope, sorry to disappoint you, Margaret, we Episcopalians not worried at all.

    US law, and the totality of its Courts system, will make short work of the schismatic separatists.

    Duncan, and others, are perfectly entitled to depart the Episcopal Church, as individual clerics and individual lay persons, but they cannot purloin the real property (basically buildings and land) or personal property (basically everything else) of the Episcopal Church.

    We’re not worried at all, friend.

  • NP says:

    Leonardo – do you even know what the bible says about law suits?

    (I do. Ford does. That is why we both do not like them and see them as a sign of failure. I think Duncan and others should not fight for property even if they paid for it….after all, TECUSA will not even exist in a hundred years so they need the buildings to finance decline and, most importantly, the bible says we should not be dragging matters through the courts, standing on our rights.

    Do have a read of the bible (it’s the book Christianity is supposed to be based on, you know)and it has things to say on law suits and the presenting issues in TECUSA and the AC.

  • NP says:

    All this faith in polity and legalese….while TECUSA slowly dies…..

    Pls see quote below from Anglican Mainstream

    “Over 40,000 faithful Episcopalians left the Church last year (didn’t just change congregations, but left it altogether).

    100 entire congregations have left together to form new churches or worship under the protection of foreign Anglican primates or bishops.

    11 dioceses have formed a Network within the Episcopal Church structure in opposition to the direction their Church is going.

    These dioceses represent 1,100 clergy, 735 congrega-tions and 176,000 faithful communicants.

    Cathedrals and multi-million dollar retreat centers are being closed down and sold to raise money for the Episcopal Church due to losses of parishioners who took their money with them.

    The Washington Diocese alone is tapping $1.9 million from a trust fund just to continue operating ($1.4 million this budget year alone).

    In the Diocese of Newark (NJ), where there is reputedly the strongest support of any diocese for the Episcopal Church’s new agenda, 40 parishes are projected to close this year.

    22 of the other 37 provinces in our Anglican Communion have declared impaired or broken communion with the Episcopal Church.

    15 of these 22 provinces now officially recognize only the Network – not the Episcopal Church – as the voice of Anglicanism in the U.S.”

  • Cynthjia Gilliatt says:

    “… do you even know what the bible says about law suits?”

    Perhaps someone should so inform the N Va absconders and their bishop – since THEY – and not the Diocese of Virginia initiated the lawsuits now before the courts.

    They are the ones who seek to alienate the property held in trust by the Diocese for TEC by asking the court to apply a Virginia law that was drawn up to settle property disputes among independent, congregational, and non-hierarchical churches.

    They are the ones – who put so much store on what they think the Bible says about other issues – they are the ones who went to the law.
    The Diocese is fulfilling its fiduciary obligation to its loyal people, to its posterity, to those who have built the church in the past, and to TEC by defending the lawsuits.

    Those suits were filed the morning after the ‘referenda’ in the now-Sfrican congregations. You don’t prepare a lawsuit of that complexity on the spur of the moment. The results of the ‘referenda’ were a foregone conclusion, since most of the congregations had driven out dissenters, and it is clear that the aim from the beginning was to acquire property and wield power.

    Sexulaity issues proved to be a useful pretext.

  • Pat O'Neill says:

    All of NP’s “facts” would make a lot more sense if put in context…for example, how many “faithful Methodists” left their church in the same time?

    Those 11 dioceses may contain all those clergy, congregations and people, but do all of them support the decision to split from TEC? How many would have preferred the status quo ante?

    Washington DC and Newark NJ are two of the poorest cities in the US; that they are losing parishes and money is no surprise. The RC dioceses in those cities are in the same condition. Is the RC losing people because of its “liberal” positions, NP?

  • ettu says:

    AH!! I see the chest thumping and saber rattling have begun – patience, always patience and then we shall see how reality works out – patience and faith – patience and faith that all things are done as God wills and that our rantings and ravings are, at the least, unseemly and ,at their worst, evil. I do fear for the ill prepared who are being led into this storm by hotheads who represent only one of the 4 well defined strands of American regionalism.

  • ettu says:

    P.S. I am disappointed that the conservative blogs that I check have not yet posted or discussed the above serious analysis of the church structure and governance of the very church they are splitting from – they have previously made detailed analyses that are challenged by the above dissertation which was written well before their schismatic acts. Why have they ignored this scholarly analysis? Why do they not attempt to deconstruct and demolish it? They -or their lawyers- will have to address the issue some day and sooner is better than later. It may save them significant loss and grief.

  • MJ says:

    Actually, as a % of all ‘Protestants’ in the US, TEC has remained basically static since 1972. It is Presbyterians, Lutherans and Methodists whose % has dropped most dramatically. Baptists remain pretty static, while ‘other’ Protestant denominations’ % share has risen. It is, of course, those who consider themselves culturally Protestant but who belong to no denomination which have grown most. So despite what many people would like to think – that TEC is losing members far more rapidly than any other ‘Protestant’ group – it remains the case that Episcopalians have remained pretty static at 3.5% of all Protestants in the US for the past 30 years.

    In 2004, according to the General Social Survey, of those polled who called themselves ‘Protestant’:

    Episcopalians accounted for 3.5% (a rise of 0.3% since 1972)
    Presbyterians accounted for 4.6% (a fall of 3.6% since 1972)
    Lutherans accounted for 8% (a fall of 5.5% since 1972)
    Methodists accounted for 11.4% (a fall of 11.1% since 1972)
    Baptists accounted for 32% (a rise of 0.5% since 1972)
    Others accounted for 21.7% (a rise of 3.7% since 1972)
    No Denomination accounted for 18.9% (a rise of 15.4% since 1972)

    A graph of this data over time can be seen here –

  • Pluralist says:

    “it’s the book Christianity is supposed to be based on, you know” NP

    Yeah, thanks for that. “Based on” being the operative words, not a guidebook according to selective passages taken out of context.

    Plus it is based on other sources too: traditions, reasoning, Greek culture, Roman power, theological work…

  • NP says:

    yes Pluralist….and God brings thousands every week to my CofE church in London to hear his book explained faithfully…..He is just so faithful, isn’t He?

  • Ford Elms says:

    “Do have a read of the bible”

    Perhaps it’s time you did, NP. Or at least it’s time for you to pray for the gifts of the Spirit. Godly fear would be good start.

  • Malcolm+ says:

    Silly me. I thought Christianity was based on the salvific events in the incarnation of God in Jesus.

    Since Christianity existed for some three centuries before the New Testament, NP’s argument is, as usual, absurd.

  • Pat O'Neill says:


    Thanks for that info. IOW, as I’ve noted, the problem isn’t that TEC is shrinking, it’s that all church attendance/denominational affiliation is shrinking.

    And, though NP is sure to argue otherwise, the evidence from polls of young people nationwide indicates the reason for that shrinking is that young people are turned off by the image of Christianity in the media, an image largely created and enforced by the right-wing evangelical forces in the US.

  • NP says:

    Pat – pls come over to London…. I can show you Anglican churches with (literally) thousands of people of all ages including hundreds of young people, university students and children……..praise God, he blesses the faithful preaching of his word.

    The future is bright for many Anglican churches, Pat….depends if they are in tune with God or the zeitgeist but many faithful Anglican churches are being blessed richly by God.

  • Fr Mark says:

    NP: don’t assume that the young people in those big churches necessarily support your view of human sexuality. In my experience, plenty of the Conservative Evangelical churches only take a publicly conservative view on this because their vicar (always a man) is viscerally against equal treatment of gay people. The big evangelical churches are the ones in which the people in the pews have the least say in church policy, as they tend to be led by authoritarian clergy. I know plenty of people who go to those churches despite, rather than because of, their teaching on sexuality. Conservative Evangelical leaders are usually inherently distrustful of consulting their flock on doctrinal questions, as they see it more as their role to tell rather than listen to their people. Personally, I think that’s pretty unpleasant model of chuch leadership, but there we are, that’s their way.

  • NP says:

    Mark – so, why do all those people you claim are in disagreement with these nasty clergy coming week by week…….why do they not go to some wishy-washy vicar instead?

  • Ford Elms says:

    “hear his book explained faithfully”

    His book!?! God’s an author? NP, Divine Inspiration for Scripture does not mean God either dictated the Bible to someone else or sat down and wrote it Himself! And:

    “faithful Anglican churches”

    What’s this if not saying that those who do not agree with you, whom you assert are shrinking into oblivion, are faithless? Still want to deny it?

  • Commentator says:

    Might I ask NP to name his/her Church? Others might like to attend to hear for themselves what is said.

  • Ford Elms says:

    “why do they not go to some wishy-washy vicar instead”

    Probably because they don’t go to Church to worship the vicar, or the Bible. Probably because they realize that being preached at is not worship. Maybe like most Anglicans they from time to time tune out when what Father is saying in the pulpit is just so much hogwash and dwelling on it will only prevent them from worshipping God. Your comments on worship reveal a pretty shrunken soul, NP. You need to get into some Christian meditation. You don’t have to sully your hands with beads if you’re afraid that will lead to you kissing Peter’s toe. (St. Peter, I doubt you’d have a problem being so deferential to Peter Akinola). Or are you like some Evos I have corresponded with, who consider contemplative prayer to be Satanic?

  • Fr Mark says:

    NP: in my experience, quite a few of those people will move on to going to a “wishy washy” (= NPspeak for pastorally appropriate) vicar instead. Maybe you will too one day. Or maybe you’ll end up like the others who are so scarred they’ll never go near a church again. One of the unusual things about Britain compared to the rest of Europe is that it has never had much anti-clericalism. That, I think, is because its clergy always stood alongside the wider society in an integrated way. Your sort of church will be one which pushes people into being anti-clerical, something that we see beginning to happen already. If you read Gay Times,(which I thnk you should be doing if you want to understand the gay community, growing faster than the Evangelical churches in Britain, it seems) you will see how many gay people now carry resentment and upset at their bad treatment by Christians. Go into any gay bar and you will find lots of ex-Christians. If you live in London, you are in one of the world’s cities with the biggest gay scenes: if your church reflects the diversity of the wonderful city, it should include people from that community too.
    I wonder whether you just aren’t well-versed in the Anglican tradition you seem so fanatical to claim ownership of, as it is one of generous intelligent reasonable broad Christian connectedness, not Puritanism.

  • Erika Baker says:

    As I said on another thread, NP claims to be from Holy Trinity Brompton. Info can be found on

    NP, did you know that Changing Attitude has many members from evangelical churches?

  • Fr Mark says:

    Erika: Holy Trinity Brompton, you should be aware, is just off Knightsbridge, conveniently across the road from Harrods, and home to an upper-middle class congregation of wealthy ex-public schoolboys. Nothing wrong with that, but everything wrong with assuming that it could be a model for churches everywhere.

  • Erika Baker says:

    Fr Mark,
    Yes, I know. Did you ever see the Alpha course videos? Not sure if they’re still the original ones I saw 10 years ago, but they were full of chic young people arriving in posh sports cars.

    You say there’s nothing wrong with that, but in practice, there’s a distinct lack of emphasis on biblical teachings about wealth and a lot about sexual purity.

    I drew my own conclusions and have since preferred the Emmaus course.

  • NP says:

    Ford – no problem with prayer or miracles or anything the Lord and his Apostles taught us

  • Ford Elms says:

    “you will see how many gay people now carry resentment and upset at their bad treatment by Christians.”

    Oh, but you see, that’s just evidence that God has, to use the Evo catch phrases, “abandoned them to their sins” and “hardened their hearts”. I am baffled at how some Evangelicals seem to think that anyone who isn’t an Evangelical has no right to be angry, much less spiritually damaged, by being insulted, threatened, scorned, lied about, slandered, and all the other things they do while pretending to be concerned about our salvation. And the complete inability to understand this, the speed with which protestations against this kind of treatment are turned into oppression of the True Christians by the evil world is so predictable. “If you get angry at my insults, you are oppressing me” is an odd attitude, to me.

  • Ford Elms says:

    “Ford – no problem with prayer or miracles or anything the Lord and his Apostles taught us”

    Lovely display of self righteousness, NP, but how does this apply to my post? I am interested how you would comply with Paul’s injunction to “pray without ceasing”. Unless you practice Prayer of the Heart, which is contemplative prayer, as the ancient monks found out. I didn’t say you had problems with miracles, so, again, how does your post have any bearing on what I said?

  • Anthony W says:

    I find it very difficult to accept the claim that St. Paul enjoined the Prayer of the Heart technique on Christians, There is no convincing evidence that he was even familiar with it.

  • Ford Elms says:

    I didn’t say he did. He urged us to pray without ceasing. Prayer of the Heart is something the ancient monks figured out in answer to the question “How do we pray without ceasing?”

  • NP says:

    Ford – the link, which I am sure you can see, is that I am not against the supernatural….just man-made superstitions and traditions without biblical support

  • Pat O'Neill says:

    “Ford – the link, which I am sure you can see, is that I am not against the supernatural….just man-made superstitions and traditions without biblical support”

    There’s no biblical support for organ music in church, NP–organs are never mentioned among the instruments used for worship in the Bible (not having been invented yet). Matter of fact, there’s no biblical support for separate church buildings–the early church met in worshippers’ homes.

    I could go on and on…now, why is it some man-made traditions are OK with you and some aren’t?

  • Fr Mark says:

    NP: those man-made traditions not in the Bible will be things like the Doctrine of the Trinity; acceptance of usury; of democracy; of the equality of women; the abolition of slavery; Darwin’s theory of Evolution…and any other eminently sensible ideas which have developed in the face of opposition from people arguing exactly as you do over the centuries?

  • Organs (often water-organs) existed in Hippodromes and such places, to drench the rmble of the crouds and tell people that something was soon up.

    Like so much else, they are pagan. Took a while to baptise…

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