Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Climb-Down and an Apology

One of the pieces of advice I routinely hand out in my secular work is to ensure that what you say is accurate.

Another piece of advice is this - when you make a mistake, own up to it and apologize - quickly.

One of my frequent complaints about things from the more toxic sites of the "conservative" Anglican blogosphere is a tendency to misrepresent, and to allow misrepresentations to stand.

I hate it when I forget to take my own advice or act by my own standards.

In the past few days, I have made inaccurate statements about certain events in the Diocese of Saskatoon. In doing so, I have been unfair to the Bishop of Saskatoon.

Today, I'm trying to apply my second piece of advice.

The events in question refer to the resignation of a priest of that diocese. The Anglican Journal coverage of these events can be found here (

My mistake was three-fold.

First, the priest in question was not deposed. He was threatened with the suspension of his license, but pre-empted that by resigning.

Second, even had he been suspended, being suspended and being deposed are two very different things.

Third, the context in which I made my comment (as part of a list of penalties against liberal clerics) made it appear that the actions of the Bishop of Saskatoon were of the same order as the other penalties mentioned, and that it was based in a similar motivation, that is, an intolerance of dissenting opinions. I don't believe that to be true and did not intend to imply it was.

So, having come clean on my three-fold error, I will contact the Bishop of Saskatoon directly with my apology. I will also go to the site where I made these comments and refer them to this correction and apology.

The larger context of my comments was a reference to the threat of sanctions against the one Nigerian bishop who registered for the Lambeth Conference and has since headed home. I was trying to contrast the real penalties that have been levied against dissenters with the constant "conservative" complaint of "persecution" by liberal bishops.

In my experience, I have yet to see a case of sanctions against a conservative or "conservative" priest which did not follow directly on some non-canonical action, such as refusing their bishop entry to their parish or declaring themselves to be out of communion with their bishop or, in one case, serious allegations of financial impropriety which the priest refused to answer.

Yet we have seen real sanctions imposed by such "conservatives" against dissenters, including the threatened sanctions against Bishop Okorocha of Nigeria, the deposition of a supposedly "pro-gay" bishop by the Primate of Uganda and the refusal of the Province of Central Africa to ratify an episcopal election because the candidate once belonged to an organization (the Modern Churchpeoples Union) described as "suspect."

These are (primae facie at least) real cases of people being sanctioned because of views they hold or are alleged to hold. Shawn Sanford Beck's case, while not completely dissimilar, is not quite the same either. The threatened sanctions were not due to his views, but due to a stated intention to act in a way that was not canonically authorized. Further, although the sanction was considered, it was not implemented.

I don't know the Bishop of Saskatoon very well, but I do know him. He is, to my experience, a reasonable man and certainly not one to crush dissent. He did not deserve to be included on that list.


Amie said...

Actually, Malcolm, it wasn't quite that Shawn resigned. He and the Bishop hit an impasse. These are Shawn's own words:

"In January, my bishop cancelled my license to minister, and replaced it with a temporary license which expires at the end of March. It was his way of giving me time to reconsider my decision. After meeting with him again earlier this week, it became clear that I will not be recanting and he will not be renewing my license. So this means that I will no longer be able to preach or celebrate the sacraments, and that I will lose my job at Native Ministry"

The open letter to the Church mentioned in the Anglican Journal article can be found here:

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Malcolm+ said...

Tx, Anne Marie. But it doesn't change the fact that my comments on the situation were not accurate, nor the fact that the context in which I referred to it (ie, the other cases I associated with it) implied a much different circumstance.

Amie said...

No, it changes nothing about your comments. But it does correct a misimpression.

I have noted a few times that the wording in the Journal, while not wrong exactly, does not convey the whole picture or can lead to a somewhat different understanding of events. I'm not faulting the Journal for this as they work with the information they are given and most people giving information want to be seen in the best light possible.

I realize that the comments I have made do not address your apology (by the way - kudos for your honesty). I tend to be touchy about Shawn. He is one of my nearest and dearest friends. I am so aware that things are said about the situation that don't reflect the reality. People end up playing with words. What they say is not wrong but it is not entirely true to the whole picture either.

I think one of the contrasts between Shawn and those who cry foul when a liberal bishop takes action is that Shawn accepts the consequences of his actions without crying persecution on a personal level. He has not ever stated that the bishop acted falsely. His cry is not one of "poor me" but rather one of pointing out the injustice of the system especially in regard to human sexuality. He does not speak of being picked on or persecuted but instead speaks about better understanding the hostility homosexuals face.

He did not go out of his way to seek publicity. He did not want the focus to be on him but rather to be on the issue that brought this situation to pass. And he would not dance for glee should a "conservative" receive the same treatment but would support that person's rights to act from their conscience.

And you are right. The case of the Nigerian bishop is has much more serious consequences. My heart and prayers go out to him and all the bishops like him. And yes, Tim, they also go out to their leaders that hearts may be tempered with the compassion of Jesus.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie