Monday, November 24, 2008

News and notes from here and there

The Episcopal News Service has posted a story on the inhibition of Bishop Iker here.

Mark Harris comments on Bishop Iker's actions here.

Pierre Whalon, Bishop of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, has written of why dioceses just can't up and leave, no matter what some may claim. Here's his response to one such claim:

The latest from Phil Turner—there’s the rub

The Rev. Dr. Philip Turner is a significant thinker of a conservative cast of mind. Among many things, he is a member of the Anglican Communion Institute.

He has written a paper entitled “Subversion of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church: On Doing What it Takes to Get What You Want.”

This is a paper to be contended with. Dr Turner has done us all a favor by making the case for diocesan autonomy, something argued by some people both on the Left as well as the Right.

In essence Turner sets out the whole matter of diocesan independence. When a diocese acts with its bishop and convention (synod), what are the limits of its action? Dr. Turner invokes subsidiarity, which I think is perfectly appropriate, though the concept itself was certainly not around when the framers of our Constitution & Canons wrote it. However, subsidiarity works both ways: not only does the local need to have the powers and rights to do what it is competent to do, without interference; the local "owes" to the provincial body the rights and powers to do what only bodies of that competence can do.

Those who have argued that a diocese has the right to elect whomever they want as bishop (so long as the election is free and fair) are the mirror image of those who argue, like Turner, that dioceses trump the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. Both sides make hash both out of historical precedence as well as what good church governance requires. Bishops are ministers ordained for the world, not just a region, and as such it is not only a diocese but a higher authority that must validate the selection of bishops--whether by ballot or otherwise.
Historically, GC has invalidated episcopal elections simply on its say-so. Furthermore, the fact that the standing committee can act in the bishop's stead under certain conditions is not proof that the Standing Committee can run a diocese indefinitely. Throughout the C&C, the role of bishops is basic, while the SC's role is in essence to temper the powers of the bishop. That is arguably the founders' original intent, and recent canonical changes have not invalidated it—they have clarified it.

The Constitution makes clear that dioceses are created by General Convention (Article V). It also provides that dioceses can be merged and therefore dissolved by action of GC, but in all cases a diocese does not have by itself the power to vote to secede or merge with another diocese. It could petition General Convention to do so, of course. In particular, there is significant provision for transferring TEC jurisdictions to other provinces of the Communion, in "foreign lands." Through this we have been able to create about 25% of the Communion's provinces. But none of those happened merely by diocesan action.

Nor does a diocese have the power to change the doctrine of the church, though it would have the right to petition the GC to do so, by action of its convention and bishop. (Whether the General Convention can change the doctrine of the church is an issue for another day.)

Turner's argument against the interpretation of Canon IV.9, “Of Abandonment of the Communion of This Church by a Bishop,” to depose Bishops Cox, Schofield, Duncan and soon Iker has a little more substance. (You can download the Canon Law in .pdf here.) Certainly Canon IV.9 has some confusing passages. Does it really intend to give one single bishop, on the basis of seniority alone, the power to stop a proceeding of abandonment? One can read it that way, and it would seem that the whole argument against these actions turns on that issue. But this is inconsistent with the rest of the canon. What is the Review Committee for, in that case? Or the House of Bishops, for that matter? Why not just submit the matter to the triumvirate of the seniors?

The failure of the House of Bishops to discipline our own for lesser infractions than pulling a diocese out of TEC (thereby giving incontrovertible proof of violating the oath to “conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church) is a matter of significance, I think.
Bishop Duncan in particular has done a number of things which should have called for a disciplinary response from the HoB. Indeed, he asked for it specifically, back in September 2002, when he stated to the House that he had deliberately "provoked a constitutional crisis" (his words) by interfering in a parish in another diocese. And nothing happened. That the present Presiding Bishop is acting may be closing the barn door after the horse has left. But just leaving it swinging in the breeze would be dereliction of duty.

In the final analysis, our polity exists to support a dynamic missionary expansion as its first priority, and it does this admirably. After all, TEC, despite our small size, has launched about one-quarter of the provinces of the Communion. As such, it is less well suited to resolving significant conflicts about doctrine and discipline, because sufficient agreement on these is presupposed in the structures themselves. How can you undertake to evangelize the world if you do not have enough basic trust in each other's grasp of the Gospel and catholic order—the synthesis that is the genius of Anglican ecclesiology?

Therein, Gentle Reader, lies the rub.

23 novembre 2008/ Last Sunday of Pentecost
And here is Dave Walker's advice [from Cartoon Church] on how Christians can work together across the divide:

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