Friday, November 28, 2008

Taming the keyboard

Some of you may have noticed that I recently changed the text in the About Me section. I don't actually remember exactly what it said before. The new wording, though, has a pretty clear message:

Comments here do not represent the official views of my parish, my diocese, my bishop or the Anglican Church of Canada. Neither do they purport to represent the official views of God. They are merely the views of this particular opinionated prairie priest - who hopes that his views on issues are generally consonant with God's views, but claims no certainty on that score.

I think my point is pretty clear. This is a personal blog, not an official blog. Therefore, statements made here by me should not be attributed to anyone else. I'm responsible for what I write here.

One of the links in my blogroll is to the Mad Priest's blog, officially called Of course, I could be wrong. It frequently capers about in the world of the absurd. It is often quite . . . um . . . earthy. It routinely becomes a little caustic. From time to time it can even be a bit . . . too earthy.

The Mad Priest, like me, is a priest. I'll let others judge our relative madness.

Yesterday, he was summoned to a meeting with his bishop.

I've been summoned to a meeting with the bishop. Twice. Neither of these meetings was with my current bishop. Neither meeting was at all comfortable. The second ended, from my perspective, particularly badly. Seventeen plus years later, a call from the bishop can still make me a bit jumpy. Probably a guilty conscience.

Mad Priest's meeting was to discuss . . . his blog. He reports on the outcome of the meeting here.

I was amused by this observation:

A perfectly reasonable request was made. I have to avoid swearing so much. Evidently, it is officially "behaviour unbecoming of a person in holy orders," equivalent to adultery and a lot worse than trying to break up the Anglican Communion. As this is an issue I see no need to become a martyr over I shall try my best.

He then asks his readers to provide appropriate alternatives for a list of words (obscured slightly, but not much, with the use of asterices). Of the seven words on the list, two would be considered of no particular note in Canada, and two others would be mildly incomprehensible.

But it did get me thinking about the issue of self-censorship.

All of us do some amount of self-censorship - much of it based on where we are and what we are doing.

Like my front page says, I am an opinionated prairie priest. I have opinions about politics - both secular and ecclesiastical. I have opinions about organizational and institutional leadership. I have opinions about the poor quality of officiating at Canadian Football League games. I have opinions about the ridiculous amount of violence that is tolerated in hockey (ice hockey for any non-Canadian readers).

There are places I will express those opinions, loudly, unambiguously - and occasionally colourfully. There are other places where I won't.

I refuse to use the Sunday sermon to tell people that they should vote for the New Democratic Party. Don't get me wrong, I do think they should vote for the New Democratic Party. I just think the sermon is not the place for me to say that. I did preach about voting and values on the Sunday before our recent federal election. I just didn't tell them where to mark their "x." (Like they'd have listened anyway.)

There are things I won't say when I am presenting myself as a public spokesperson for my secular employer.

There are things I won't say when I'm presenting myself as an officer (not a chaplain, BTW) in the Naval Reserve.

There are things I won't say when I am presenting myself as speaking on behalf of the Church.

But this little blog, to some degree, is a grey area. While I do make it clear that my comments do not purport to represent the parish, the diocese, the bishop, the national Church or God, there are still some things I don't think I'm prepared to say here.

I don't claim to be eirenic by any means. I really am opinionated and not at all inclined to hold back when I'm responding to utter crap. Those who are seeking to divide our Church and our Communion are seeking schism - that makes them schismatics by the most straightforward definition. And those who knowingly say things which are not true are appropriately called liars.

But much of the present Anglican discord has been fueled - on all sides - by intemperate, ill-considered and frequently inaccurate statements distributed on the internet. Where is the line between fighting fire with fire on the one hand, and randomly flinging gasoline at blazing infernoes on the other?

If Jesus's brother James had lived in our age, he might well have written this:

The keyboard is a simple device, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the keyboard is a fire. The keyboard is attached to our computer as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole computer, sets on fire the entire blogosphere, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the keyboard - a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same keyboard come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ideas for Advent

Here's something thought-provoking.

For Canadian readers: as a rule of thumb, to apply American statistics to Canada, divide by ten. Thus, $450B in the US becomes $45B in Canada.

For more information, visit Advent Conspiracy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The Bolsheviki, nasty lot though they may have been, provided us all with a useful term with their concept of "realpolitik." It refers to the practical and pragmatic strategic and tactical issues involved in generating revolutionary action.

The GAFFEPRONE participants from North America have announced their intention to launch their new and improved North American Anglican "Province" at the beginning of next month. As always, Thinking Anglicans provides us with comprehensive links, analysis and discussion here and here.

There are now four quasi-dioceses claiming affiliation to the Province of the Southern Cone (ur-San Joaquin, ur-Pittsburgh, ur-Quincy and ur-Fort Worth). Traditionally, it takes four dioceses to establish a province, so there you are. There are also an assortment of independent parishes in the United States and Canada claiming various affiliations to the Southern Cone, to Nigeria, to Rwanda, to Kenya and to Uganda.

There are certainly enough folk about (including twelve or so with pointy hats) to create a genuine denomination. The issue is whether or not that new denomination gets to be a Province of the Anglican Communion.

The process of creating a Province of the Anglican Communion is set out in the Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council, one of the four Instruments of Communion (alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference and the Primates Meeting). The process is defined in Section 3, subsection a, as follows:

3. Membership
a. The Council shall be constituted with a membership according to the schedule hereto. With the assent of two-thirds of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, the council may alter or add to the schedule. "Primates," for the purposes of this article, shall mean the principle Archbishop, bishop, or Primates of each of the bodies listed in paragraphs b,c and d of the schedule of membership.

The "bodies listed" are as follows:

  • Anglican Church of Australia
  • Anglican Church of Canada
  • Church of England
  • Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)
  • Church of the Province of Rwanda
  • Church of the Province of Southern Africa
  • Church of South India
  • Anglican Church of Tanzania
  • Church of the Province of Uganda
  • Episcopal Church (United States of America)
  • Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia
  • Church of the Province of Central Africa
  • Province of the Anglican Church of Congo
  • Church of Ireland
  • Anglican Church of Kenya
  • Church of North India
  • Church of Pakistan
  • Episcopal Church of the Sudan
  • Church in Wales
  • Church in the Province of the West Indies
  • Church of Bangladesh
  • Episcopal Anglican Church of Brasil
  • Church of the Province of Burundi
  • Anglican Church of the Central America Region
  • Church of Ceylon
  • Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui
  • Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean
  • Nippon Sei Ko Kai (Anglican Communion in Japan)
  • Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East
  • Anglican Church in Korea
  • Church of the Province of Melanesia
  • Anglican Church of Mexico
  • Church of the Province of Myanmar
  • Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea
  • Episcopal Church in the Philippines
  • Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of America
  • Scottish Episcopal Church
  • Church of the Province of Southeast Asia
  • Church of the Province of West Africa

That's 39 bodies. (The number usually quoted is 38, but the Church of Ceylon, which like the Anglican affiliated churches in Spain and Portugal is extra-provincial to Canterbury, unlike them has representation on the ACC.)

A 2/3 majority means 26 Primatial votes for a new province.

Now, it can be something of a mug's game predicting how people will vote, but here goes:

Defintitely Yes - 8

  • Nigeria
  • Rwanda
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Kenya
  • West Indies
  • Jerusalem and the Middle East
  • Southern Cone

Definitely No - 12

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Southern Africa
  • United States
  • Aoteoroa, New Zealand and Polynesia
  • Ireland
  • Wales
  • Brazil
  • Central America
  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • Scotland

That leaves 19 provinces unknown (though several probably leaning yes). To win, the schismatics would need to carry 89.5% (17/19) of the remaining provinces.

One province (Congo) currently has no Primate, and is riven with dissension over a number of issues related to the present controversies. It is not clear if or how Congo votes.

If we add in those provinces which are likely leaning yes, we'd include:

  • Central Africa
  • Congo
  • Sudan
  • Burundi
  • West Africa

That makes it 13 - 12 with 14 remaining - and the schismatics needing to win 12/14 or 85.7% of the remainder.

But is England likely to vote for this innovation - especially when there are already Global South rumblings about starting the same sort of campaign against the CofE? Only if Rowan is suicidal, I'm thinking.

That leaves one more no vote needed to end the charade. One vote. That means the schismatics need to win every single vote from among:

  • South India
  • North India
  • Pakistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Ceylon
  • Hong Kong
  • Indian Ocean
  • Korea
  • Melanesia
  • Myanmar
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Philippines
  • Southeast Asia

I have no doubt that Bob Duncan and his friends will establish a new Christian denomination come early December.

Establishing a new Province of the Anglican Communion might best be described as a long shot.

UPDATE: Here is the link to the Washington Times item Anne Marie refers to in the comments.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes They Did

Okay, let's face it. It was a transformative night, however you cut it.

It represented the diminution (though not the elimination) of race as a wedge issue. It represented a massive rejection of the failed presidency of George Walker Bush.

Most of all, I think, it represented generational change.

For me, it creates the awkward moment of knowing the the next President of the United States is younger than I am. I don't think I like that.

There were two great speeches last night. Obama's speech was gracious, moving, inspiring.

John McCain's speech was fundamentally tragic.

Yes, it was gracious.

But it was tragic, because it reminded us of the John McCain who should have been running for President - the John McCain that ran for President in 2000, the John McCain who was running for President in 2008 until he was possessed by the twin spirits of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.

The only Republican who had any chance of winning in 2008 was John McCain. He had the maverick's appeal to independents and to the Reagan Democrats. That was the John McCain who was able to defy the odds in New Hampshire. That was the John McCain who nearly secured the Republican nomination all on his own.

But that John McCain blinked.

The Quixotic Huckabee bid to continue the race after it was no longer a race unnerved John McCain. It showed that he was not the preferred candidate of the religious conservative base.

Traditionally, candidates play to the base until they've won the nomination. Then they tack back to the centre for the general election. John McCain did the opposite. Having secured the nomination, he then gave himself over to the most hardline - and the least appealing - segment of his party, allowing them to make over his public image into that of an angry and divisive fossil of a bygone election.

They say that generals lose if they fight the last war. This son and grandson of admirals proved that the same foolishness can happen to sailors.

McCain ran the Bush '04 strategy.

There were only three things wrong with this.
  1. McCain is not Bush
  2. '08 is not '04
  3. Obama is not Kerry

In Season One of The West Wing, the fictional Bartlet Presidency is turned around when his staff realize why things haven't been working. Their conclusion? It's the title of Episode 19 - Let Bartlet be Bartlet.

People want authenticity. That's what they liked about Barack Obama. That's what they used to like about John McCain. As one might cynically say, "authenticity is everything - and once you can fake that, you've got it made."

Had Republican operatives "let McCain be McCain," this would have been an entirely different campaign. It would certainly have been a tighter election race.