Friday, June 23, 2017

+Bruno Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place [UPDATED]

The Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, has landed himself in a difficult spot. As detailed in this earlier post, he entered into a contract in 2015 to sell the property of St. James the Great in Newport Beach to a developer for a price of $15 million, without bothering to inform its parishioners beforehand. When the congregation and its vicar protested, he changed the locks and kicked them out.

This being Bishop Bruno, litigation soon ensued -- between the parish and its Bishop, and between the original donor of the church's property (who sought to enforce a restriction on the use of the property for anything besides church purposes). The parishioners also brought charges of fraud, misrepresentation and "conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy" against +Bruno before the national body's Disciplinary Board for Bishops, as detailed in this earlier post.

The litigation grew nastier, as narrated in this post. Matters even began to sour between Bishop Bruno and his own Diocese's convention. Eventually, the original purchaser pulled out of the contract (because of the litigation, no doubt), +Bruno rejected all attempts at mediation / conciliation with the parishioners, and the Disciplinary Board's review panel ordered the matter (over +Bruno's hypocritical objections) to a full-blown, public hearing, which took place over three days at the end of March of this year. (You can read the day-by-day accounts of the proceedings at this site, if you choose. With my departure from ECUSA, I have pretty much stopped chronicling all the desultory conduct that goes on in the name of that body.)

In the civil courts, meanwhile, +Bruno achieved mixed results. The parishioners' lawsuit to stop him from selling the property was dismissed, but his suit against the original donor has not fared well. On February 24, the Court of Appeal reversed a decision by the trial court which had denied the donor's motion to strike +Bruno's "slander of title" claim against it. The decision ordered the trial court to strike the claim from the lawsuit and award the donor its attorneys' fees and costs incurred as a result of its filing. The fees and costs will have to be paid out of the Bishop's own corporation sole, since it was the plaintiff against the donor. In another ruling, the trial court found the original donor had failed to record a renewal of its deed restriction as required by law to keep it enforceable. That freed +Bruno to sell the property, but by then (as we now learn -- see below) the original buyer had backed out.

After the disciplinary hearing concluded on March 30, the hearing panel took the matter under submission for briefing before issuing its decision. The Bishop's attorneys asked the panel to dismiss all charges against him, while the attorney prosecuting the charges asked the panel to find him guilty and suspend him from active ministry for up to a year while fashioning a remedy that would foster reconciliation -- for which +Bruno to date has shown no interest whatsoever.

On June 14, before the panel had issued any decision, one of the complainants submitted colorable evidence that +Bruno had entered into a new contract to sell St. James while the disciplinary proceedings were going on. The panel asked +Bruno's attorneys to disclose to it whether he was under contract with a buyer or not, and when they gave evasive replies, the panel issued a sanctions order on June 17 directing +Bruno not to sell or contract to sell the property until "further order of the Hearing Panel."

Now comes word from Anglican news sources that on June 22, +Bruno's attorney sent an email to the panel in which she disclosed that Bishop Bruno had signed a contract to sell the property to another developer -- just three weeks after the disciplinary hearing (the purchaser signed the contract a month later). She explained that neither +Bruno nor his attorneys could respond substantively to the panel's inquiry earlier because he had been bound by a "confidentiality clause" in the purchase contract, which the parties had just agreed to modify so that he could disclose the fact of the sale. (You may read the details here and here.)

Other sources are now reporting that not only is +Bruno selling the St. James church property, but also its rectory and a huge commercial property which his corporation sole owns in Anaheim. The total sales which he reportedly has currently in escrow come to approximately Forty Million Dollars ($40,000,000).

In his desire to recoup the money he has squandered on over twelve years of litigation -- against parishes, their clergy, and (as shown above) generous donors to his Diocese -- Bishop Bruno has now landed himself between a rock and a hard place. He is under a direct disciplinary command not to complete the sale of St. James. But his contract with the purchaser provides that he will be in default -- and liable for damages and costs -- if he does not sign the deed in escrow.

Can the Hearing Panel actually block the sale? No, it cannot, since it has ecclesiastical jurisdiction only, and that is over Bishop Bruno, not the purchaser. But it can certainly discipline him for flouting its order. Such discipline could include suspension from his ministry (he will reach mandatory retirement age in late 2018), or even deposition (a drastic step he has not hesitated to take in the past against dissident clergy).

Will the Dennis Canon's trust provisions affect the marketable title to St. James property? Again, no: the Canon applies only to property in the name of a parish, and not to property held by a corporation sole or by a Diocese. (That was the ruling of the Fifth District Court of Appeal in the San Joaquin case last year.)

However, it appears from the latest stories linked above that the new purchaser runs the risk of displeasing the City Council of Newport Beach, if it tears down the church to put up some industrial or commercial complex -- for which it will need a zoning change. So the developer may find it convenient to let +Bruno out of his contract, after all.

There is no doubt that +Bruno's underhanded conduct has thrown a monkey wrench into the deliberations of the Hearing Panel. By selling the property while the disciplinary panel was considering his case, +Bruno in effect attempted to bypass its authority to maintain the status quo until it reached its final decision. No court likes to be told that a defendant has acted on his own, and surreptitiously to boot, to alter the status quo while the court has the matter still under submission.

Do not expect, therefore, that Bishop Bruno might wiggle out from this dilemma unscathed. It may cost his corporation sole still more money, and it may cost him his bishopric. I will update this post when the Panel renders its decision.

[UPDATE 06/24/2017: Bishop Bruno has filed with the Disciplinary Board for Bishops an appeal of the Hearing Panel's sanctions order. The attachments to the appeal dispel some of the mysteries surrounding his dealings with the Newport Beach property. We learn:

1. The original purchaser pulled out of the sales contract in early November, 2016.

2. At that time, Bishop Bruno was contacted by other "potential purchasers." Though there was no express canonical jurisdiction of the Diocesan Standing Committee over the Bishop's corporation sole, Bishop Bruno sought and received on November 16 the consent of the Standing Committee to a future (unspecified) sale of the property, in order to obviate one of the disciplinary charges against him (that he had entered into a contract to sell the property without obtaining the consent of the Standing Committee as required by the national canons in the case of sales of property by a Diocese).

3. The discussions with purchasers crystallized into the present buyer, which signed a "Due Diligence and Confidentiality Agreement" with the Bishop on April 19, 2017, and then entered into a formal purchase and sale agreement on May 25, with escrow to close on July 3.

4. The "colorable evidence of a pending sale" furnished to the Hearing Panel by one of the complainants consisted of a screen capture of an online property reporting service that indicated a title insurance policy had been ordered from Fidelity Title for the property on June 6, 2017 -- a sure sign that an escrow had been opened. (I assume there are similar title policies ordered for the other sales which the "Save St. James" group has reported as pending, making up the $40 million total mentioned in the post.)

5. Bishop Bruno turned down a request earlier this year from a long-time parishioner at St. James to allow her mother's ashes to be interred there in accordance with her dying wishes. The parishioner appealed to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, but was told it was a decision which Bishop Bruno alone could make, as the Presiding Bishop had no authority over him.

6. Bishop Bruno is utterly non-repentant about keeping his dealings with the property out of the purview of the disciplinary proceedings. Once the initial sale complained of fell through, he believed there was no restraint of any kind on his ability to enter into a new sales contract for it.

7. He has asked the full Disciplinary Board to set aside the sanctions order of June 17, so that he will not go into default under his current sales contract.

Some further observations on these disclosures:

A. The "consent" by the Standing Committee (both the one in 2015 and the one in November 2016) was a meaningless gesture. In neither instance was the Standing Committee given any particulars about the sale, so its "consent" was uninformed, and for outward form's sake only.

B. We still do not know the amount +Bruno has contracted to accept for the church property, or for any of the other properties he is selling: $40 million is just an educated guess, based upon tax roll values. Nothing could demonstrate more clearly +Bruno's determination to keep all particulars of his dealings as a corporation sole from both his Standing Committee and his Diocese as a whole.

C. The Standing Committee is itself complicit in these matters, and acts as a willing rubber stamp for anything +Bruno decides to do. It has requested that he amend the articles of his corporation sole to provide for oversight and consent of its property dealings, but that is only a request -- as was the request the Convention made to +Bruno to disclose the finances of his corporation sole. He has thus far ignored both of them.

D. By virtue of his office, Bishop Bruno stands in a fiduciary relationship to his Diocese and to its governing bodies. A fiduciary under law has a duty to act in utmost good faith toward those who have put their trust in him. +Bruno's secretive conduct is the polar opposite of how a fiduciary is supposed to act toward those in his charge. For him, it's all about the money: business comes first, and to hell with fiduciary duties that get in the way.

E. Thus far, the complainants are the sole members of the Diocese who are trying to compel Bishop Bruno to observe fiduciary standards of conduct, and they are a decided minority. The Hearing Panel is their last resort. The Diocese of Los Angeles is receiving exactly the kind of fiduciary care that it asks for -- especially after its Board voted in May 2014 to transfer the Newport Beach property to the corporation sole, where it could be sold without +Bruno having to account to anyone.

F. Bishop Bruno's claim that the Panel "lacks jurisdiction" to direct him not to sell the property, while accurate in a church constitutional sense, ignores his fiduciary duties to the church of which he is an episkopos -- the Greek word for "overseer" or "guardian", used since the earliest days to describe the role and functions of a bishop. The Panel most certainly can sanction him for breach of his fiduciary duties toward his Diocese and its governing bodies, because such breach is the essence of "conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy." If you can't put your trust in a man ordained to serve God, whom can you trust?

G. The whole charade of this matter puts ECUSA's Title IV procedures to the ultimate test. It brings into sharp relief the actual autonomy of dioceses and their bishops in relation to the national body itself, which is surprisingly weak in light of how recent Presiding Bishops and their Chancellors have sought to portray its supreme authority in civil litigation over church property. Oh, yes -- the Presiding Bishop and hired attorneys will swoop down upon any hapless rector and parish (or bishop and diocese) who dare to try to leave ECUSA, and drag them into never-ending and ruinously costly litigation, regardless of the harm done to its reputation. But let one of their own have his sovereign authority to act in his own diocese be challenged, and just watch how effete ECUSA will be in response. It has taken over a year to bring Bishop Bruno to this point, and he still defies the authority of the disciplinary bodies to hold him accountable for his conduct unbecoming. (It is ironic that the ENS is currently carrying a lead story on how bishops learn to be bishops.)

The proof will be forthcoming shortly. First the Board will act on the appeal (it has been asked to do so by next week, when Bishop Bruno is obligated to sign escrow papers to close the sale), and then the Hearing Panel will have to agree upon a final decision. Well, not really "final", because then there will be a motion for reconsideration, followed perhaps by a further appeal. You get the picture.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Trumphooey

In the face of yet another onslaught from the never-Trump, ever-snorting boars (actually, bores) in the media, echoed by world so-called leaders from Europe and elsewhere, and by the brainwashed Democrats who can still commandeer a platform for a statement, it is time to pour another dose of cold reality onto the overheated political front.

Briefly: behind the Gadarene rush to condemn President Trump's announcement that he will no longer abide by the provisions of the Paris Agreement signed by President Obama is nothing more than political posturing. The campaign is designed only to spread rampant disinformation in an effort to undermine Trump's public support.

At the same time, the remarkable breadth and effrontery of this campaign is highly revealing of the motives of those behind it. There is no science (understood properly, as a prediction of what will happen when a process is repeated) to back their claims. Instead, there is a consensus of the like-minded and like-motivated, around the moniker of "climate change" (after all, who in his right mind could disagree that the climate changes over time?), that is propped up by highly flexible (and debatable) computer models.

And now that President Trump has had the gall to question the validity of their unsupported (and unsupportable) consensus, the elites and their media are in an uproar: an uproar based on fear of exposure, and not on facts (because there aren't any facts -- only elaborately constructed, and continually revised, computer models). I shall not boost their Web traffic by linking in this post to all the stories they have generated. You may, as Claude Rains would say, round up the usual suspects by going to Huffington Post, MSNBC, CNN or the New York Times, and take it from there.

In short, Obama signed the Paris Agreement as a hollow gesture to his Potemkin legacy, and now Trump has decided he won't play along with the charade. 

You will never read the whole truth in the mainstream media. So those of you who find your way to this obscure outpost on the worldwide Web may thank the luck (or chance) that brought you, because here you will find nothing but the unvarnished truth, as always -- no matter how unpalatable it may be. Qui potest capere capiat.

Let me begin with some unvarnished facts.

First, the so-called "Paris Agreement (or Accord)" of 2015 is called that, because it is not a full-fledged international treaty. It is more akin to a "gentlemen's agreement" between those who signed it as to the levels of greenhouse gases they will individually (as leaders) strive to meet on behalf of their respective countries. (I say "strive", because the Agreement contains no consequences for signatories who fail to reach their own set goals -- see below.)

Second, because it is not a treaty, it is not legally binding on any country whose leader signed it. Instead, it contemplates only a series of implementation measures to be adopted by the signers at future sessions, subject to formal ratification and adoption by the respective governmental bodies of their individual countries.

Third, in the United States, our Constitution gives legal effect only to a treaty that has been signed by the President and ratified by a two-thirds majority of the Senate. (See Article II, Section 2 for the language.) All else is ephemeral: what one President signs, a later President may revoke.

President Obama signed the accord, but he never submitted it to the Senate for ratification. So it has no legal force on the United States, and never has had. It was only his personal commitment to the other signers to lower CO2 gas emissions, and that commitment ended when he left office. Trump was in no way legally bound to continue to honor it -- and now he has announced he will not.

Thus the vocal opposition to Trump's announcement is not based in law, or on any other justifiable ground. The measure of it is simply the degree to which the globalists are outraged that any public figure should attempt at this date to thwart their agenda. (After all, they managed to persuade the heads of 197 countries to climb on board initially, and now those heads have secured official ratification in 147 instances.)

In other words, their bobbing balloons having been punctured, the "climate change" enthusiasts are now emitting a gaseous pollution of their own into the atmosphere. The collective phenomenon is so unique to our experience that I have had to invent a new word for it: "Trumphooey".



Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Inclusivity Revisited

In lieu of an update while I still explore my alternatives, I am reposting this 2014 article, because I deem it most relevant to the decisions I face just now in evaluating what it truly means to join an "inclusive" church. Obviously, ECUSA has not achieved all that it expected from its plan to "broaden" its outreach while deposing those who dared to oppose its progressive agenda.

There is no future for those who would strive to remain orthodox within the oppressive atmosphere of ECUSA. This post from 2014 says it all:


Consider the following Canon of the Episcopal Church (USA), Canon I.17.5:
No one shall be denied rights, status or access to an equal place in the life, worship, and governance of this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities or age, except as otherwise specified by Canons.
(There is a similar Canon applying to the discernment process for would-be clergy.) The words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity and expression" are the most recent additions to the list of grounds upon which Episcopalians are called not to discriminate. As this Canon's predecessor stood from its adoption in 1964 (at the height of the civil rights movement) until 1982, it read:
Every communicant or baptized member of this Church shall be entitled to equal rights and status in any Parish or Mission thereof. He shall not be excluded from the worship or Sacraments of the Church, nor from parochial membership, because of race, color, or ethnic origin.
With only slight rewording in 1982, the threefold grounds of "race, color, or ethnic origin" remained untouched until General Convention 1994, when the categories were expanded by one Resolution (1994-C020) to include "national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, disabilities or age." Most recently Resolution 2012-D002 added the categories "gender identity and expression."

What we see here is a progression from characteristics which define every human being, to characteristics that define only broad segments ("national origin, marital status, ... disabilities or age"), to ones that are much narrower ("sexual orientation" -- meaning, of course, "other than heterosexual"), and concluding with a category that characterizes a tiny minority indeed ("gender identity and expression").

Paradoxically, however, there appears to be an inverse relationship between the number of persons who could be placed within a given category and the sub-categories within that category.  Thus "marital status" breaks down into categories of single, married, divorced or widowed. Likewise, "race" and "ethnic origin", while capable of many gradations, are still defined by less than a dozen boxes on the census forms. But as Facebook (the largest social media site on earth) now is recognizing, there are no less than 58 sub-categories of "gender identity and expression."

Episcopalians point to this progression of smaller and smaller categories as one of increasing inclusivity. "There will be no outcasts in this Church," said Presiding Bishop Browning in 1986.

At the same time, the Episcopal Church has, since around 2000, been alienating hundreds of thousands of churchgoers, and deposing nearly a thousand of its clergy. What single characteristic do you think best identifies with those who have left or have been forced to leave?

If you responded "orthodoxy in tradition and belief," you would be correct.

And that fact speaks volumes about the Church's "inclusivity."

When the disenfranchised minorities pressed over the last ten years for their listing in the anti-discrimination Canons, where were the voices speaking up for the orthodox? It's a good question.

One could certainly put forth a modest proposal to rectify this increasing discrimination against the orthodox by those in ECUSA. It would propose to amend Canon I.17.5 (and its clergy counterpart) to read as follows:
No one shall be denied rights, status or access to an equal place in the life, worship, and governance of this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, orthodoxy of belief or practice, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities or age, except as otherwise specified by Canons.
I can see people at once objecting: "How do we define 'orthodoxy of belief' or 'orthodoxy of practice'?" To which the obvious answer is: "Difficulty of definition was not an objection to adding the words 'gender identity and expression' in 2012, so why should we get hung up on definitions? Judging from the number of clergy being deposed, the Church leadership has no difficulty whatsoever in discerning just who is 'orthodox'."

Consider: we already have attacks on bishops and other clergy who do not march with the LGBTs, or who do not speak out enough against anti-gay laws, or who will not back same-sex marriages and blessings. (Does the word "homophobe" sound familiar?)

The addition of these words to the Canon would at least furnish a basis for trying to limit or end such attacks. They would also create a "safe harbor" for those who read their Scripture as it had been read for at least two thousand years before General Convention 2003.

And do you know what? That is exactly why such an amendment would never be adopted at General Convention.

For those now in charge of the Church want to keep up the pressure on the orthodox to go elsewhere. They are all for inclusion, but not of the traditional or orthodox. Those who once held power must apparently pay for the years of oppression they (albeit unintentionally) inflicted on minorities -- simply by being who they are, and upholding their traditional understandings of Holy Scripture.

It is Father Neuhaus' Law in spades: "Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed." The tendency to limit orthodoxy by making it optional, and then to proscribe it altogether, cannot be stopped so long as the new liberalism of self-identity holds sway.

And why is that? In the essay just linked, Fr. Neuhaus gives a very perceptive explanation:
Orthodoxy, no matter how politely expressed, suggests that there is a right and a wrong, a true and a false, about things. When orthodoxy is optional, it is admitted under a rule of liberal tolerance that cannot help but be intolerant of talk about right and wrong, true and false. It is therefore a conditional admission, depending upon orthodoxy’s good behavior. The orthodox may be permitted to believe this or that and to do this or that as a matter of sufferance, allowing them to indulge their inclination, preference, or personal taste. But it is an intolerable violation of the etiquette by which one is tolerated if one has the effrontery to propose that this or that is normative for others.
I think Fr. Neuhaus has it exactly right. To adhere to tradition is to adhere to standards of right and wrong. People could disagree over particulars, and it was possible to have debates about the finer points. But no longer:
With the older orthodoxy it is possible to disagree, as in having an argument. Evidence, reason, and logic count, in principle at least. Not so with the new orthodoxy. Here disagreement is an intolerable personal affront. It is construed as a denial of others, of their experience of who they are. It is a blasphemous assault on that most high god, “My Identity.” Truth-as-identity is not appealable beyond the assertion of identity. In this game, identity is trumps. An appeal to what St. Paul or Aquinas or Catherine of Sienna or a church council said cannot withstand the undeniable retort, “Yes, but they are not me!” People pack their truths into what Peter Berger has called group identity kits. The chief item in the kit, of course, is the claim to being oppressed.
Oppression means that there are victims and oppressors, and the latter must pay for their sins against the victims. But first, they must forced to acknowledge the error of their orthodox ways. Are they against "being inclusive" or "being accepting"? Who would dare so be? So hit them with guilt -- after all, they are rich, white Episcopalians:
The proponents of truth-as-identity catch the dissidents coming and going. They say their demand is only for “acceptance,” leaving no doubt that acceptance means assent to what they know (as nobody else can know!), [and] is essential to being true to their authentic selves. Not to assent is not to disagree; it is to deny their humanity, which, especially in churches credally committed to being nice, is not a nice thing to do.
The culture of identity, however, is one of increasing fragmentation. For very few others can have shared all the experiences you have gone through to make you what you are -- i.e., there is no longer any common ground of experience. And the lack of common ground is the ultimate barrier to consensus and agreement on going forward. Appeals to past tradition and Scripture fall on deaf ears:
This helps explain why questions such as quota-ized representation, women’s ordination, and homosexuality are so intractable. There is no common ground outside the experiential circles of identity by which truth is circularly defined. Conservatives huff and puff about the authority of Scripture and tradition, while moderates appeal to the way differences used to be accommodated in the early church (before ca. 1968), but all to no avail. Whatever the issue, the new orthodoxy will not give an inch, demanding acceptance and inclusiveness, which means rejection and exclusion of whatever or whomever questions their identity, meaning their right to believe, speak, and act as they will, for what they will do is what they must do if they are to be who they most truly are. “So you want me to agree with you in denying who I am?” By such reasoning, so to speak, the spineless are easily intimidated.
Those who are not intimidated simply grow weary of the endless attacks on their orthodoxy, and the  stridency of those behind the attacks. But both kinds end up leaving -- not just in the hope of finding peace and quiet, but also because being constantly on the defensive is both spiritually debilitating and physically stressful. Religion is not supposed to consist of confrontation, of having continually to justify your faith while being called a "bigot", a "homophobe", and worse.

For traditional conservatives, religion used to be a communal affair. You were baptized in the church, married in the church, and given a funeral in the church -- in the midst of your community. (Indeed, that is the only reason, for example, we know when William Shakespeare was born, when he married, and when he died: the dates are all due to carefully preserved parish records.) The church was, for better or worse, the thread that linked all of your significant life events.

But the point was not that you made the church; instead, you came to the church in all humility, as an infant, and the church thereafter sheltered and supported you as you passed and marked each of life's milestones. It had its own authority, derived from the community that comprised it and the God they  worshipped, while you derived from it the nourishment that came from being part of that community which worshipped God. Nevertheless, it is due to man's fallen nature,which makes him think that he does not need God to help him, that man eternally tries to remake the church in his own image.

There is much more to commend in Fr. Neuhaus' essay of six years ago. Not least is his longer view, in which he contrasts the forces behind today's identity-liberalism with the forces that gave rise to the Anglo-Catholic movement in the 19th century. Both took on their respective cultures. While the latter was transformed in the process, we are unfortunately not yet able to see just what kind of transformation the current ideology will undergo.

Nevertheless, the two movements differ greatly in their essential goals. Anglo-Catholics sought to travel the via media of Anglicanism on a path toward the ultimate reconciliation of Orthodoxy and Catholicism. The modern crop of identity-liberals have no common goal other than to celebrate their own individuality, and to make others respect (and even honor) it. It is difficult to see, at this juncture, just how a church can stay together when the center no longer holds.



Monday, April 24, 2017

Turnings -- a Series (I)

Spring has been slow to come to the Sierras this year. Interspersed with periods of cold and freezing, we have experienced the heaviest rainfall thus far in our recorded history. It is raining even more as I write. The official season will not end until September 30, so the new record being set will keep pushing higher until then.

The copious precipitation is keeping, and will keep, our meadows and fields greener longer than ever this year. Normally they start to turn brown in early to mid-May (which is the usual start of California's "dry" season). The wildflowers are running riot, and the birds and the bees have plenty to do before the weather warms up.

With spring this year came Easter, of course. And with Easter came some significant changes in your Curmudgeon's household.

I still link to this post on the masthead of this blog, because it describes a significant milestone for me: it marks the date I decided I could no longer be a member of ECUSA, due to the blasphemous marriage rites adopted by the House of Bishops in General Convention. Although I had been a member ever since my earliest years (I was baptized into our local parish as an infant, and started singing in the choir at the age of four), June 30, 2015 marks the date when I became a wanderer in search of a denomination. ECUSA itself was irretrievably corrupted, and the choices available within even an hour's driving time were severely limited.

I still cherish nothing but warm feelings for the parish that raised me, and as they remain fully orthodox, I have trespassed upon their generosity by continuing to attend Sunday communion there. But the dichotomy of being now a guest in what was once my home has caused the connection I felt since childhood to be lost. It used to be a coherent part of a larger body for me, but now appears (I speak only for myself) disembodied. Moreover, the parish is undergoing a transition to a new (and as yet unknown) rector, and what it will be like in another year's time is very much an open question (in which I have, for the first time, no role to play).

Meanwhile, my dear wife of forty-five years patiently suffered through this time of limbo with me, until finally she could drift untethered no longer. Following up on an interest that she had developed from our attending a conference of the American Chesterton Society, she began taking instruction last year as a candidate who would follow in the path of that great man (and his wife). At an Easter vigil ceremony on April 15 this year, she was formally received into our local Roman Catholic Church.

And so for the time being (just as the Chestertons were, because Frances was too Anglican to follow G.K. into Catholicism immediately), we are a denominationally divided household. Though we both may of course still attend services and sit and pray together, I cannot take communion any longer with my wife, as she can no longer take communion with me. (If there were an Anglican Ordinariate parish within driving distance, our joint decision might be far less difficult.)

This temporary state of affairs has spurred me to look into just why it must be so. Of course I know the historical reasons, but I know just as certainly that there will not be any denominations after the Second Coming. So if we as Christians will not look to them in the future, why exactly do we have need of them and their arbitrary boundaries now? Salvation is a matter of faith through God's grace -- even the Lutherans and the Roman Catholics have reached agreement on that much. The other things that divide us are things that the Second Coming will render irrelevant, such as the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, or the catechism, or the prayer book.

Blogging has fallen away precisely because of my preoccupation with these (for me) vital questions. With the five hundredth anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation this year, I have been spending my available time going back through the history of those momentous times, in an effort better to understand how we Christians all ended up where we are today.

Scholars appear to agree that Luther did not intend to start a new denomination, but his own temper and acerbity provoked his opponents to meeting his attacks with wounding parries of their own. Nevertheless, there was not just one Reformation between 1517 and 1648, but many, once Luther gained the princes' attention (with the help of the printing press), and once the momentum he built up then spread across national borders.

There was no one driving force behind these individual movements. Instead, it appears to be a case of many pressures having built up to the point that the customary boundaries of religion and society could not withstand the internal and external onslaughts from so many directions at once.

Likewise, as we today appear to be heading into the end times, there are many currents that threaten, just as they did in the 16th century, to overwhelm and engulf what traditional religious outposts remain to provide society's glue. The secular forces of today are allied as they have never been before by their common contempt for the principles of orthodox Christianity -- by which I mean the faith once handed down to us by the saints. For that matter, the defenders of those principles appear as few and far between.

It is too early in my explorations for me to say whether I will eventually be able to bid Anglicanism goodbye, since its spirit still runs strong in my veins -- no matter how much the weak-willed Welbys of the world appear bent on diluting it. But as I foreshadowed in many posts here long ago, the tocsin is now sounding the passing of the Church of England; its days as a single denomination are numbered. And once the mother salt loses its saltiness, of what use is it to the rest of us Anglicans?

Although I have long considered myself in the tradition of Anglo-Catholics, it is the patrimony of Cranmer, Hooker and Jewel -- and their identification with the Catholic traditions that came before -- that I cherish more than any label of the service that I attend. I respect those worthies' attempts to stay Catholic (i.e., retain the saltiness of their mother church) within the bounds that the English monarchy's own selfish desires set for them. And Sir Thomas More remains one of my great heroes precisely because he refused to yield up to the demands of his monarch his faithfulness to his church.

Luther, though, is a different story. For one thing, unlike the other heroes I have been mentioning, he was inseparable from his own ego, even while he no doubt believed in his heart he was unable to do (or stand) other than as he did. But his sheer inability to see other points of view made him into a one-note record: he either drowned you out, or drove you away, and he cared not which, just so long as you ceased offering opposition to his views. There was nothing to admire in his scorn for Erasmus, who tried so hard to keep Luther from burning all the bridges that originally tied him to Catholicism. After their final and very public rupture in 1526, the rest is history. And western Christianity has never recovered, but become only more and more splintered.

So as I continue with my readings and researches, I hope to put before you from time to time some preliminary results, as well as pointers toward future and further inquiries, along my path to a new discernment. I invite you, as always, to share your civil comments and insights as you are moved to do so by what appears here. And I thank you for your patience and indulgence as this old dog tries to find a place where he may lay his head. Please keep us in your prayers -- may God bless you all.








Saturday, April 1, 2017

Episcopal Church Forms Title Company, Acquires Law Firm

Unable to obtain title policies any more on any of the thousands of properties held at the national, diocesan or local parish level, the Episcopal Church (USA) announced plans today to use part of its endowment to establish its own company to provide title insurance for its members. At the same time, ECUSA announced it has acquired a national law firm in an effort to control its litigation expenses, which reportedly are out of control.

"The [title insurance] problem appears to be with our [so-called] Dennis Canon," said a Church spokesperson at the national headquarters in New York City. After a full review of the more than 90 cases in which the title to church property has been disputed in the last sixteen years, the national association of title insurance companies recommended last month that no further title policies be given to any parish, diocese or other entity affiliated with ECUSA, or to any person purchasing property from any Church unit.

"All we have been told," the spokesperson continued, "is that multiple uncertainties over the meaning, application and effect of the Dennis Canon, as demonstrated by the extremely variegated reception it has had in State courts across the country, make it impossible for title companies reasonably to assess the risks of insuring such properties. And without being able to assess the risks, they are unable to set any premiums for such coverage. So, if a property was ever at any time arguably under the strictures of the Dennis Canon, they just won't issue a policy for it any more."

Asked whether it was a problem that the Dennis Canon purports to create a nationwide trust in favor of ECUSA that is unrecorded in any State, the spokesperson admitted: "We understand that is a significant part of the problem, yes."

And why can't the Church simply proceed to record trust documents in every State, to get around that problem?

"Well, that's why we resorted to the Canon in the first place," the spokesperson responded. "We simply could never count on the over 7,000 individual parishes across the country agreeing to sign such documents. So we just created the trust on our own -- and it worked very well for the first twenty years, because no one ever noticed what we had done. But ever since that case in South Carolina -- the Wiccam case, or whatever its name was -- there have been nearly a hundred cases brought either to enforce or to nullify Dennis Canon trusts."

"And we've reached a decision, just like the title companies, that we can't continue in this fashion. So we're forming our own Title Insurance Company of The Episcopal Church for Terrae Omni Ecclesiae -- that Latin part means 'all Church properties'.  That abbreviates as TICTECTOE, which we think is rather a handy mnemonic for our clergy and vestries."

In a separate announcement today, ECUSA gave a nod to its burgeoning litigation activity on all fronts, which to date has included: (1) filing suit against its own Church Insurance Company; (2) being sued by its own former employees; and (3) bringing suit against the donor of one of its most valuable properties, to say nothing of (4) suing over 90 of its former parishes, dioceses, bishops, and clergy. The statement released from its 815 Second Avenue headquarters reads as follows:
The Episcopal Church (USA) is pleased to announce its acquisition of the national law firm of Dewey Sooem and Howe, in order to bring the handling of all civil and ecclesiastical litigation under one roof. "We see this as a natural continuation of our policy to serve Jesus by having all our legal matters handled in house," said Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

In order to avoid violating legal professional norms, all partners in the famed firm have agreed to accept priestly orders in the Church; associates will be ordained as deacons. While the salaries they will be paid will not even approach what they had earned in their own firm, a partner said off the record that they were handsomely compensated by the buyout, and further that, as clergy, they could now look forward to the extremely generous benefits paid by the Church Pension Fund.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry stated that the $160 million expense of the acquisition will be offset by future savings in fees paid to outside law firms in the various States, which Curry said had cost the Church and its 110 dioceses over $60 million to date. "We will make up the cost in just five to eight years," he said. "From that point forward, litigation for the Church will be an addition to our bottom line, instead of the constant subtraction it has been till now. Moreover, when not busy with litigation, the firm's members will be available for us as supply priests for all the new missions we are hoping to establish in the coming years. So from our point of view, it's all win-win."

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Slouching Towards Socialism

It seems I am constrained to commenting these days on politics. (Religion news is akin to reporting that "there is a Beast slouching towards Bethlehem.")

The recent fiasco in Congress over repealing and replacing Obamacare was the result of an inability to obtain agreement, even among so-called "Republicans", that more welfare is not the answer to what is plaguing the American Republic.

That proposition should have earned the unqualified assent of every Republican Congressperson elected to office last November. That it did not is the measure of the State's degeneration to date, under both parties.

During Obama's eight years, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed dozens and dozens of measures repealing Obamacare. They went nowhere, thanks to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic President Barack Obama.

But now, when Republicans control the White House and both houses of Congress, they were unable to undo the regulatory disaster that is Obamacare for once and for all. Why?

The answer may not be popular, but here it is, in plain black and white:

Obamacare is welfare, plain and simple. Americans are hooked on welfare (the government paying for things that people used to obtain privately, whether on their own or though private charity). Rather than simply pass a bill repealing all of Obamacare, the Republican leadership tried to replace the welfare of Obamacare with a new form of welfare. And they could not get all of their colleagues in the party to agree to it -- because there are still some Republicans, at least, who think that subsidizing health care is not the proper function of the federal Government.

There are two major reasons why that stance is correct.

First, Government-run welfare programs are a guaranteed road to deficits and disaster. Look at how well Obamacare has fared, and look at the 225-plus years of the U.S. Postal Service. The reason is plain, but no bureaucrat will admit it: in welfare run by the government, there is no accountability to the bottom line. The tab for any and all deficits is simply picked up by "the taxpayers."

Second, people naturally value things only as they have to pay for them. Paying people's medical costs for them -- even with the absurd "deductibles" recently set under Obamacare -- keeps them from learning what are the real costs of the health care that they demand. And paying so that pre-existing conditions will be covered without question guarantees that people will not ever pay for health care coverage before they have need of it. Once again, the taxpayers are left with the deficits.

Notwithstanding those self-evident truths, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (and President Trump) tried to railroad through the House a replacement for Obamacare that would have kept Americans on medical welfare. The only thing to lament is that there were so few genuinely conservative Republicans who voted to block their attempt. But at least it was enough for the moment.

As America sinks ever deeper into the mire of unaccountable and unaffordable government, may those who see clearly come to dominate the current trend and reverse its course. We have not come this far only to abandon all that we stood for when we declared our independence, and to succumb again to serfdom under a (this time, self-imposed) tyranny.

Obamacare should indeed be repealed (along with the restriction of offering insurance across State borders). But there is no necessity whatever to replace it, and certainly not at the federal level. Let those States who have a majority of socialists vote in their own welfare programs, and let the markets decide what works best.

Friday, February 10, 2017

About that Ninth Circuit Opinion

First: Like the original non-decision by Federal District Judge James L. Robart, the 29-page order by the Ninth Circuit on Thursday does not qualify as a genuine decision on the law. Neither one of them cites or discusses the basic statutory authority for the President's Executive Order. They simply brush right past his authority in order to reach conclusions on issues that are really beside the point until one has addressed the scope of the President's powers in this area -- which are about as extensive as they can be. (See this article for a full explanation.)

Second. Although upholding the States' standing on a very narrow ground involving attendance / employment at State universities, the Ninth Circuit panel ignored US Supreme Court precedent that requires that a plaintiff demonstrate standing for all of the claims being asserted. (See the author's second point in the article just linked.) The States had no basis in fact whatsoever to present claims on behalf of foreign refugees seeking to come here; nor did they have standing to argue on behalf of other aliens who had no university-related visas (the vast majority of aliens affected by the EO). That fact did not stop either court from ordering a halt -- nationwide -- as to either the 90-day ban (for aliens from seven countries) or the 120-day ban on refugees.

Third: "Could the President have issued an order that simply banned all Muslims?" asked Judge Canby of the panel. The question was irrelevant to the issues actually involved, since the EO nowhere uses the word, and as even another member of the panel pointed out, it still allowed in the vast majority of the world's Muslims. Moreover, whether one practices Islam is beside the point -- no one has ever urged keeping an alien out based on his or her professed religion. The question displays a basic liberal confusion between the religion of Islam (whose followers are called "Muslims"), and the (non-religious, at least in my book) doctrine of jihad against infidels, which sanctions terrorism. Most of the jihadis who engage in terrorism will tell you that they are also Muslims -- but again, that is why one would not want to define terrorists by the religion they profess. The EO was aimed at seven specific countries that sponsor and inculcate terrorism. It was thus not aimed at any religion per se, but at specific places of origin. The made-up issue of "religious discrimination" in the EO is a giant red herring, designed to mislead. And it certainly sucked in the panel, right along with Judge Robart.

In sum: One could say the courts told the executive branch: "You are (probably -- since this was just a TRO) guilty of overreaching. Under our system, only the courts can overreach. We can stop you, but you can't stop us."

Or perhaps Ben Stein of the American Spectator says it best of all:
What that court did on Thursday was the equivalent of Japan suing FDR in 1941 saying that if the USA went to war against Japan many Japanese would be killed and wounded. Therefore, Japan argued, the due process rights of the Japanese would be violated and the court must enjoin the U.S. going to war. Incredibly, this court in Seattle said Thursday that foreigners who were neither citizens nor residents had due process rights against the USA. This is obvious nonsense.
Yes, the EO was poorly considered, poorly drafted and poorly implemented. But the response to it by our judicial branch has been simply disgraceful. No one involved in this sorry spectacle has any reason to be proud of what they did. And there is no reason at all to continue the circus for one moment longer.

May better days be ahead.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Taste of Their Own Medicine?

The ever-litigious bunch at 815 Second Avenue, the New York headquarters of ECUSA, may be getting a taste of their own medicine. Or it may just be a case of litigation inculturated beyond the point of no return: the litigators at ECUSA have been sued by the Rt. Rev. Stacy Sauls, one of their own (and a former lawyer in his own right), who worked there as Chief Operating Officer until the Presiding Bishop terminated him last April.

The complaint, unusually filed in Alabama's Mobile County Circuit Court (see remarks below), makes for an absorbing read (or maybe that's just a lawyer talking): you may download it here. (A big tip o' the Rumpolean bowler to The Living Church, which first broke the story.) It names ECUSA and its corporate arm, the DFMS, as defendants, along with 30 unidentified "John Does", who allegedly participated in some manner in the actions alleged.

Herewith are some pertinent extracts, with my annotations in between:
6. Bishop Sauls has served in a number of leadership capacities in his career in the Episcopal Church. For more than four years, he served as the Episcopal Church’s Chief Operating Officer, under two Presiding Bishops. Both of those Presiding Bishops have praised his work performance. In the annual performance evaluations of Bishop Sauls, The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, by whom Bishop Sauls was appointed Chief Operating Officer, complimented his “creative and deeply effective leadership as COO”. Bishop Jefferts Schori’s successor, The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, who took office in November 2015, has stated publicly that DFMS was never more effective than under Bishop Sauls’s leadership.  
7. Sauls, however, is the victim of a wrongful conspiracy via a calculated, determined, and prolonged series of acts in furtherance of the conspiracy, as carried out by individuals employed by the Church, and others outside the employment of the Church, who repeatedly have attacked the office and person of Chief Operating Officer, including by measures calculated to undermine the authority, stature, and leadership of the Plaintiff and his former office, as part of a scheme to elevate the stature and authority of the President of the Church’s House of Deputies and to constitute that position as an office to be regarded and treated, in respect to Church governance and the exercise of authority over the staff and resources of the Church, as co-equal with the office of the Presiding Bishop.
Got that? Bishop Sauls is alleging that he lost his position due to "a determined and prolonged ... conspiracy ... to elevate ... the President of the ... House of Deputies ... as co-equal..." That would be the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, who indeed is named in the next paragraph.

I won't copy all the details of that and the next five paragraphs, but will just summarize them. According to Bishop Sauls, the Rev. Jennings and her (unnamed) cohorts in 2014 twice accused him of official misconduct, but he was exonerated each time following two costly ($500K!) outside investigations, plus another internal one. Nothing daunted, the conspirators then introduced legislation (horrors!) at GC 2015 to change his position to one that serves at the will of the Executive Council, instead of at the will of the Presiding Bishop -- but that legislation also went nowhere.

Nevertheless, the attacks by the Rev. Jennings resumed as soon as new Presiding Bishop Michael Curry assumed the duties of his office late in 2015. Paragraph 14 of the complaint gives some small inkling of what may have been irking the President of the HOD (my bold added for emphasis):
14. In particular President Jennings attacked, as she had on numerous previous occasions, a policy instituted by Bishop Sauls requiring that every DFMS staff member notify him, as COO, or the Deputy Chief Operating Officer, of any contact or communication received by any such person from any member of the Executive Council or from the President of the House of Deputies.
It appears as though Bishop Sauls was running a very tight ship at 815 (as he is reported to have done when he served as Bishop of Lexington, before coming to New York). He wanted to know about every single contact that the Rev. Jennings or any member of the Executive Council made with any of his staff. And perhaps that was one straw too much for the determined Rev. Jennings:
15. The John Doe Defendants’ wrongful conduct persisted into late 2015 and 2016, when new false charges prompted yet another investigation of alleged misconduct by Bishop Sauls. The objective again was to attack Bishop Sauls, for the further purpose of elevating the authority of the President of the House of Deputies over the Presiding Bishop. Such an alteration in the governance of the Church, in Bishop Sauls’s view, would have far-reaching and extremely harmful consequences for the Church, impairing and impeding the ability of its leadership to carry out their management functions and mission of the Church.
The outlines of the turf battle at 815 are now clear. By way of background, the reader is reminded that rivalry between the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies goes back to the relationship between former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and former HOD President Bonnie Anderson -- over issues of turf and budget. (Notice how Bishop Sauls makes an appearance in that latter story, as well.)

The details of putting the conspiracy into action, leading up to the suspension and eventual dismissal of Bishop Sauls by the Presiding Bishop, are alleged in paragraphs 16 through 25 of the complaint. Along the way, the chief litigators for ECUSA, David Booth Beers and Mary Kostel, make brief appearances -- such as this one (from paragraph 16, with my emphasis added):
In November and early December 2015, during a meeting of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice, the Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop, David Booth Beers, a lawyer in the Washington, D.C. law firm of Goodwin Procter LLP, commented on upcoming disciplinary matters, stating that there were two such matters that “would be ugly.”
(Note that word "disciplinary," when as we shall see, ECUSA never brought any disciplinary charges against Bishop Sauls.) And then this confrontation is alleged:
18. At the noon meeting [on December 9, 2015], Mr. Beers told the Plaintiff and his colleagues that the allegations against them were grim and serious, including charges of racism, sexism, retaliation, sexual harassment, and creation of a hostile workplace. Mr. Beers and Ms. Kostel declined to provide any details. According to Ms. Kostel, the charges were “too inchoate” for the Church to be able to say anything more, but were “choate enough” to warrant placing the three on leave and under investigation. Mr. Beers warned that the Church planned to engage an independent investigator, and that the Presiding Bishop wanted the investigation concluded quickly. Mr. Beers ordered Bishop Sauls to exit his office by 5:00 p.m. on that day, and return his office access key card, barring him from TEC premises. In an attempt to further frustrate any search for the truth, Mr. Beers instructed Bishop Sauls to have no further contact with any officers, employees, or staff of DFMS.
[Note: I love that resort to the non-existent word "choate" as a supposed antonym for "inchoate". Ms. Kostel apparently never argued a case in front of Justice Scalia.]

This is conduct we have all become familiar with, through many posts here about ECUSA's litigation tactics. Bishops swoop into parishes, fire the vestry, order the rector out, change the locks, and most often do so without warning or explanation. The irony should not be lost -- now the friendly folk at 815 did it to three of their own! And still without providing any details or explanation to the victims!

The remainder of the allegations have to do with the attorneys for the parties jockeying over the wording of the public statements that the Church released -- first in December, when the suspensions of Bishop Sauls and two of his staff were announced, and then in April of this year, when their terminations were announced after an arduous investigation. It should be noted that although the investigation exonerated Bishop Sauls of all charges, he alleges that to this date he has never been informed by anyone at 815 just what the charges against him were. As a result, he alleges, ECUSA's highly public announcements gratuitously ruined his reputation.

One last, telling detail from the complaint (paragraph 26, with my emphasis):
The Presiding Bishop offered no explanation for this decision [to dismiss him] other than remarking to Bishop Sauls, during a private meeting between them on April 4, that “things are too broken,” and that “there were people who wanted your head.” At the outset of their meeting, one of the first things that the Presiding Bishop said to Bishop Sauls, was: “Stace, you’ve been through hell,” a characterization that the Plaintiff then considered, and continues to consider, as a gross understatement of what he had endured.
The complaint asks relief from the court for (1) breach of contract (i.e., the Employee Handbook at ECUSA); (2) libel and slander against him; (3) failure to reimburse his attorneys' fees and expenses incurred as a result of the investigations, which exonerated him; and (4) intentional interference with his prospects for future employment in ECUSA.

Paragraph 48 indeed contains a litany of seven positions for which Bishop Sauls has subsequently sought employment, only to be turned down -- including even by "a small parish with average Sunday attendance of about 30..." (!). He alleges that his difficulties in landing a job are due to all the bad conduct by 815 in publicizing anonymous charges before they were even investigated, with such resulting damage to his reputation that anyone Googling his name will not want to hire him. (Well, Google does tell quite a tale -- not all of it, however, related to his time at 815, but even going back to his tenure as Bishop of Lexington.)

It is very unusual for a complaint like this, involving a New York resident against a New York religious corporation, to be filed in a circuit court of Mobile County, Alabama. The complaint explains (paragraph 44) that as a result of the accusations against him, Bishop Sauls hired a southern law firm whose Mobile, Alabama office ran up most of the bills for which he is seeking reimbursement. (Notably, they are not his attorneys for the lawsuit -- perhaps because their earlier bills have not been paid.) Because ECUSA operates in all 50 States it of course may be sued there, but it remains to be seen whether the Alabama court will find sufficient connections there to entertain the suit. (Watch for ECUSA's attorneys to file a motion to dismiss the case to force the plaintiff to refile it in New York.)

The complaint is notable for other things which it does not say. In particular (presumably because Bishop Sauls maintains ECUSA has never disclosed the basis for the charges against him), there is no mention of the infamous hidden tape recorder incident. That discovery came at a meeting of the Executive Council, held just three weeks before the suspensions, when the Council went into executive session (without Bishop Sauls or other staff present) to discuss, among other things, the amount of housing allowance to be given to clergy on ECUSA's staff, including Bishop Sauls). Despite the close proximity of that incident to the suspensions, the only indications the complaint gives of the charges brought are the ones quoted in paragraph 18 above.

So what does all this amount to? There are a number of preliminary observations that can be made.

It is impossible to escape the intent of the complaint to portray the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings as a major schemer and conspirator in the downfall of Bishop Sauls. It is understandable that he does not want to lay charges against his former boss, but the allegations made in the last paragraph I quoted above give the appearance of a Presiding Bishop who has surrendered to the forces with which he is contending, and is not fully in charge as the chief executive.

Essentially, as per Bishop Sauls, the President of the HOD wants to function in ECUSA's polity as a "co-equal" with the Presiding Bishop (see paragraph 7 quoted above). Doing so means commandeering more of the national budget, and adding to her staff. Those designs brought the Rev. Jennings directly into conflict with Bishop Sauls, whose job was to oversee the executive portion of the budget, and whose power, prestige and authority could be undermined by any diminution in the stature of Presiding Bishop or his office.

It is also to be noted that in their joint statement to the staff at 815 about the lawsuit, Presiding Bishop Curry and President Jennings allude to the fact that they tried to buy off Bishop Sauls with a "good faith and compassionate [severance] offer, [which] was not accepted. The Presiding Bishop, as a steward of church resources, felt that he could not go beyond that offer and explain it in good conscience to the church." (Well, how does Bishop Curry feel now about having to explain all of these unsavory allegations to his flock?)

Compassion at the top, in other words, goes only so far -- but the fact he received no severance package or reimbursement is why Bishop Sauls appears now to have to reckon with a large unpaid legal bill. And that may well have forced his hand in bringing the lawsuit.

So in the end, as with so many other things involving ECUSA these days, it's all about money. The good folk at 815 spent probably around a million dollars on outside investigations of Bishop Sauls -- three times -- without a single result. But they could not provide enough of a severance package to prevent the airing of some rather unsightly laundry, and would rather spend more of their trust funds on fighting a lawsuit. And this is an organization that still styles itself a Christian church.




Monday, February 6, 2017

Exacerbating Disunion

This is ostensibly a blog covering matters Anglican, but the news from that front has been so desultory that till now I have refrained from writing about it.

Essentially, the Anglican Communion is sundered, and is no longer accurately described as a "Communion." It should be restyled "the Anglican Disunion."

There is no single cause of the brokenness, but certainly one major cause has been the lawlessness of ECUSA. (That is one acronym for what was formerly the Episcopal Church of the USA, of which I was once a regular member; it also referred to itself as "TEC." Now those initials -- for me, at least -- stand only for the words "The Episcopal Congregations [in the USA]", since a denomination that has made blasphemy part of its official rites is no longer entitled to be called a church).

Those who need more background will find at this page links to all the previous posts here describing the breakup process.

A year ago January, as reported in this post, the Archbishop of Canterbury managed to gather most all of the Anglican Primates at his see for a discussion about the state of the Disunion. The outcome of that discussion was an agreement "requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity."

Just three months afterward, the Anglican Consultative Council (a deliberative body in which lay persons, clergy, bishops and Primates all take part as elected representatives of their respective denominations) held its sixteenth triennial meeting in Lusaka, Zambia. Representatives from ECUSA attended, but refused to honor the Primates' requirement to abstain from certain deliberations of the Council having to do with "doctrine or polity." Nor did the Council bar them from doing so.

The Episcopal delegates not only refused, but they gloated about the Council's refusal even to consider the Primates' requirement. In an open letter they sent to ECUSA after the meeting, which was published in the official Episcopal News Service, they reported that although Archbishop Welby had communicated the results of the January meeting to the Council, "ACC members seemed to have little energy for answering the primates’ call for consequences".

(Needless to say, a number of the Primates not in attendance at ACC-16, including mainly the ones affiliated with the organization known as GAFCON, treated this "lack of energy" as a personal betrayal of them by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He has constitutional authority over the ACC as its permanent President, and certainly could have brought their requirement up for a vote. Instead, he simply mentioned it in his report to the ACC, and failed to push it after that.)

Thus just as they flouted Resolution 1.10 from the 1998 Lambeth Conference in 2003, when they approved the consecration of Bishop V. Gene Robinson contrary to that Resolution, and just as they have repeatedly, in the years since, rejected all calls to change their course, ECUSA is determined to walk apart from the former Communion while keeping up the pretense that their actions have not turned it into a Disunion. ("How could it be a 'Disunion'?" I hear them asking. "We still attend all its meetings!")

Not only do they insist on exercising their full authority and rights when it comes to participation in Anglican-wide affairs, but they rub it in the GAFCON Primates' faces every chance they get. For instance, Archbishop Welby has invited all Anglican Primates (with the exception of ACNA's, whom he had invited the previous year) to another meeting at Canterbury next October. Just last week, the official news organ of the Anglican [Dis]union published a story about his invitation, and his expectations for the meeting. In the process, they rather loosely characterized ECUSA's actions at ACC-16 in Lusaka (by serving up what is called "Anglican fudge" to describe what happened).

The ECUSA delegates to that meeting issued a response challenging the story's accuracy, and ACNS had to add some further explanation by way of making the fudge thicker. (See the updated story here, and the explanation at the end. What ACNS added is the last sentence to the next-to-last paragraph.)

The upshot is that ECUSA once again saw to it that the other Primates were told in no uncertain terms that ECUSA had never yet acceded to their demands, and was not about to change its course.

Needless to say, the GAFCON Primates (who had already signaled that they would be unlikely to accept Archbishop Welby's invitation, in view of what they saw as his betrayal, above) were amused neither by ACNS's waffling, nor by ECUSA's response.

Where are we, then? Nothing really has changed since last January. There is supposedly a "Task Force" at work trying "to maintain conversation among [the Primates] with the intention of restoration of relationship, the rebuilding of mutual trust, [and] healing the legacy of hurt . . ." It met last September and according to the ACNS story linked earlier, is due to meet again this year.

Well, as they say, good luck with that. For the Archbishop of Canterbury decided to try to keep the conversation going by appointing ECUSA's Presiding Bishop to the Task Force. Doubtless that was an act of good faith taken just after the meeting last January, after the Primates had agreed (in their Statement just linked) on their "unanimous desire to walk together."

But that desire to walk together was expressed before ECUSA and its ACC delegates -- once last April, and now again just last week -- reiterated their determination not to yield one inch, to walk apart, and to stick it to the other Primates who had called for ECUSA's discipline.

It's a little hard to carry on a dialogue when one of the parties continually shouts the others down, and rejects any consensus.

When the Primates representing a majority of the world's Anglicans do not show up for the ABC's meeting next October, the ones who do attend will probably express regret at the absences, and then go on with their meeting. They will not, however, hold ECUSA accountable for the breakup it has caused.

And by rights, of course, if both the ABC and ECUSA's Presiding Bishop were to abide by the requirements laid down last January, then Archbishop Welby should not have invited the Most Rev. Michael Curry to attend this year, and the latter should not accept the former's invitation. But he will -- so ECUSA's defiance of the agreement reached at the Primates meeting last January, and the ABC's betrayal of his colleagues, will continue right into October and beyond.

The separation will by then be a fact of life, and each side will thereafter just meet on their own. As foretold long ago by the Primates who met in an urgently called session in London in October 2003:
To this extent, therefore, we must make clear that recent actions ... in the Episcopal Church (USA) do not express the mind of our Communion as a whole, and these decisions jeopardise our sacramental fellowship with each other. . . If [Bishop Robinson's] consecration proceeds, we recognise that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy. In this case, the ministry of this one bishop will not be recognised by most of the Anglican world, and many provinces are likely to consider themselves to be out of Communion with the Episcopal Church (USA). This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level, and may lead to further division on this and further issues as provinces have to decide in consequence whether they can remain in communion with provinces that choose not to break communion with the Episcopal Church (USA).



Monday, January 30, 2017

The Left Engulfed

Your Curmudgeon could barely manage to look at the Internet this morning. Everywhere one clicked were stories and screaming headlines about the worst calamity ever to hit the country since Donald Trump took the oath of office (er, that would be exactly ten days ago).

A mere ten days, and the left has already turned the dial up to 11? Tomorrow at 8 PM Eastern, the President will announce his nominee to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Scalia. Will the ensuing clamor drown out all that has gone before? We moderates wait with bated breath.

In the meantime, as an initial antidote to the absurd freakout over the President's immigration order, please read this sober assessment of its real impact, in light of similar actions by four previous presidents, as we go forward.

Then, if additional smellling salts are needed, perhaps gentle laughter might be the best medicine.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

No Need to Drown in a Sea of PC

It was entirely foreseeable, but unavoidable nevertheless. The Sea of Political Correctness, fed since November 9 by the tears of the self-righteous, is now engulfing its devotees and followers. Vainly casting about for safe spaces where they may continue to breathe air unsullied by what they perceive as the sulfurous emanations of their opponents, they are gasping, choking and sinking as wave after wave of fresh emotional outbursts crashes over their heads.

The sad thing is that it is all a mirage of their own manufacture. Political correctness is the ultimate vanity of the self. The self presumes to judge others as unworthy of it, or as threatening to it, or even as indebted to it -- in other words, political correctness builds up the self at the expense of the other. Ask yourself: just who is it who makes the determination of what is and is not "correct"?

The phenomenon is the prime example of what Elias Canetti described in 1960 in Crowds and Power:
A man stands by himself on a secure and well defined spot, his every gesture asserting his right to keep others at a distance. He stands there like a windmill on an enormous plain, moving expressively; and there is nothing between him and the next mill. All life, so far as he knows it, is laid out in distances — the house in which he shuts himself and his property, the positions he holds, the rank he desires — all these serve to create distances, to confirm and extend them....

These hierarchies … exist everywhere and everywhere gain a decisive hold on men’s minds and determine their behavior to each other. But the satisfaction of being higher in rank than others does not compensate for the loss of freedom of movement. Man petrifies and darkens in the distances he has created. He drags at the burden of them, but cannot move. He forgets that it is self-inflicted, and longs for liberation. But how, alone, can he free himself?
(My emphasis added.) How, indeed? Canetti's insight was that in such individual acts of discrimination, and in the psychological, self-induced fears that they generate, crowds have both their genesis and their reason for existing:
Only together can men free themselves from their burdens of distance; and this, precisely, is what happens in a crowd… Each man is as near the other as he is to himself; and an immense feeling of relief ensues. It is for the sake of this blessed moment, when no-one is greater or better than another, that people become a crowd.
So it is with political correctness. An individual's fear of being viewed as "different", or as a victim, or as inferior, weak or helpless, dissolves when that individual can link up with others of like mind and form a crowd which possesses the collective power of their groupthink: they can express a condemnation of the source of their fears that has the illusion of being well-nigh universal. "Everyone agrees that ...  " "No one would ever be so cruel as to think that ..."

Despite the seeming power of a crowd, it is ephemeral and illusory. So long as it has a defined direction, it can continue to grow. But if it splinters into groups headed in different directions, or meets an insurmountable barrier, it breaks up, dissolves, and loses its apparent collective force.

And that is what we are witnessing in the aftermath of the election. The politically correct crowd was so certain of its ability to name the next President that it shattered on the shoals of the Electoral College. It has been unable since then to re-form under a single, agreed leader. It is instead trying to coalesce under a common hatred of the successful candidate. Hatred, however, like fear, needs a crowd in which to dissolve, and a crowd needs direction -- which is supplied by a leader.

As the successful candidate has demonstrated time and again, the best defense against political correctness is to refuse to play along with its illusory power -- indeed, to do the very opposite of what it "commands" in any given instance. By saying and showing that the emperor has no clothes, the bubble of the illusion is popped, and sober reality steps in.

But it is not enough just to prick the balloon of political correctness. The reality that replaces it has to be a genuine reality, or else it, too, will devolve into just another variety of PC miasma. And to be genuine, that reality has to be experienced as having its own integrity -- as possessing an inherent guiding force that derives from its goals, and from the means employed to achieve them.

Such a reality has been but dimly encapsulated in the campaign slogan "Make America great again." It needs to be fleshed out with concrete programs of proposed legislation and executive actions that are designed once more (as they were at the country's outset) to foster American exceptionalism, in order to allow both Americans and others to be comfortable with a world leader that seeks no one's subjugation, no territorial conquests, and no applications of force save in the defense of America herself, or of her allies.

We are not there yet. Such a program has not yet taken discrete form.

But there is every reason to hope that a beginning has been made -- is being made as I write -- and that, with God's grace, America may truly once more show the way in its humility, in its decency, and in its willingness to serve without expectation of reward.

And in the meantime, it will not hurt to pray for those currently drowning in the sea of their own political correctness: that they may shake off their self-absorption and fear, and emerge onto the firm, dry land of an America that could put them to good purpose as well.