Monday, March 28, 2011

"Unnecessary" elections? You're welcome to move to Libya.

Last Friday, the Canadian government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, was defeated on a confidence motion in the House of Commons.

Under the Westminster system, a government cannot continue without the confidence of the House. So on Saturday morning, the Prime Minister advised the Governor General to dissolve Parliament and issue the writ for the 41st Canadian general election.

It is remarkable that this is the first time in Canadian history that a government has been defeated specifically for its contempt towards the Canadian Parliament.

It is likewise remarkable that Prime Minister Harper and his minions launched their campaign by lying about our system of government, claiming that coalition governments are not an acceptable development under the Westminster system.

(Apparently Conservatives in the United Kingdom are either less dishonest - or less stupid - or possibly both - since Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron's government is a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. But whatever. This whole coalition schtick is a rerun of Conservative lies from two years ago, when his minority government nearly fell and, were it not for the feclessness and stupidity of the Liberal Party, would have been replaced by a coalition government. See below.)

What is most remarkable, though, is the Conservative narrative - endlessly repeated by their media lapdogs - that this is an unnecessary election, that Canadians don't want this election, that the cost of the election (a mere $10 per citizen) is a waste of money.

In the meantime, citizens in Libya, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe and countless other countries are literally dying to have a say in their own governmments.

If any Canadian citizen wants to whine about this "unnecessary election," they are welcome to move to Lybia, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe . . .

And while they're at it, they are also welcome to renounce the Canadian citizenship that they clearly do not appreciate.

Anyway, here's Rick Mercer to make more sence in a two minute comedy sketch than Stephen Harper has made in his entire life.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A fair result cannot arise from a faulty process - UPDATED AGAIN

With the usual balance and evenhandedness one might expect, the official website of the Diocese of Lichfield boasts that the diocese "could be the first in the Church of England to adopt the Anglican Covenant" when they vote on it tomorrow.

Of course, the boast was predicated on the incorrect assumption that Lichfield would be the first to have any vote on the proposed Covenant. In fact, they appear to be third.

But they could still be the first to pass it, because Oxford chose to refer the matter for further discussion at deanery synods, and Wakefield rejected the thing outright.

Lichfield may be in a position to shift the momentum back in favour of the Covenanters. If they pass the necessary enabling resolution, theirs would be the first of the 23 approvals required - and supercede Wakefield's rejection as the "latest news."

It appears that the powers to be in Lichfield are determined to see a particular outcome. The only material provided by the diocese has been the unbalanced, pro-Covenant puff piece from Church House. The debate and vote will be proceded by an address by a prominent pro-Covenant evangelical, Bishop Graham Kings.

A total of one hour has been allotted to the Covenant debate - which includes Bishop Kings's address from the bully pulpit.

In other words, it has all the fairness of an election in [insert tin-pot dictatorship here].

Given the saintly first bishop of Lichfield and another recent example of unfair process, one is tempted to make a joke about hanging Chads.

I have blogged before about the structural unfairness of the Covenant debate to date, particularly in the Church of England. The No Anglican Covenant Coalition has issued a statement on the issue.

Wakefield has shown us what can happen when people are allowed a free, fair and open debate on the Covenant. All the more reason that I expect the Covenanters will continue to manipulate the process in a desperate attempt to prevent a real and honest discussion.

It turns out that yet another diocese has already rebelled to the manipulative behaviour of the Covenanters.
Lesley's excellent blog has learned that the Bishop of Hereford tried to force through the Covenant without a proper debate or information.
It seems that Bishop Anthony Priddis tried to ram the Covenant through the diocesan synod there on March 5th - only to have synod members adjourn the debate until they can hear from more than just the Lambeth echo chamber perspective.
So that's three synods so far (Oxford, Hereford and Wakefield), and three failures by the Covenanters to sneak it through on a nod and a wink.
Not surprisingly, the Covenant passed by a wide margin in Lichfield. The process was a complete joke.
Covenanter Andrew Goddard was given fully 20 minutes to make his case in favour of the Covenant. He did briefly reference some of the arguments against, but only to explain why he disagreed with them. Then another pro-Covenant speaker made a further presentation. That's 25 minutes of the 60 alloted already taken up before a single Covenant critic was allowed to speak - for only five minutes.
Afterwards, one or our English NACC colleagues received a frankly vicious email railing about her "interfering."
Some clarification about Oxford. Apparently it wasn't a vote of the Oxford Synod, but of the Bishop's Council which rejected the idea of an immediate vote on the Covenant and instead insisted on a reference to the deanery synods for further discussion. I still count this as a winning skirmish - but in a different venue than I had been led to believe. Wouldn't it be nice if information were shared transparently?
Of course, this reflects the Machiavellian "transparency" of the Covenanters. When they win (as in Lichfield), there will be news releases and announcements on diocesan websites. When they lose (as in Wakefield, and to a lesser extend Hereford and Oxford) there will be official silence.
If Lesley Fellows beat Rowan Williams in a footrace, Lambeth Palace would say that Rowan came second and Lesley came second last.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Anti-Covenant trend in the CofE???

Excellent news from the English Diocese of Wakefield. The Diocesan Synod has rejected the Anglican Covenant in two of the three houses:

In order for the matter to return to the Church of England General Synod for a final vote, the enabling legislation must be passed by a majority (23) of the 44 dioceses, voting in their respective diocesan synods.

To date, so far as I am aware, two Church of England dioceses have voted on the proposed Anglican Covenant:

  • In the Diocese of Oxford, the synod apparently rejected the advice of their bishop and declined to vote on the Covenant, choosing instead to refer the matter to deanery synods for further discussion.
  • In the Diocese of Wakefield (in a debate which was reportedly free of the usual subtle bullying and emotional blackmail that has marked so much of the Covenant debate), the synod rejected the Covenant outright.
Now, mayhap some other dioceses have voted in accordance with the directions of Lambeth Palace and the Anglican Communion Office. If so, it has gotten no coverage on the blogosphere. Given how badly the sycophants around Dr. Williams need to create the illusion of momentum, I find it less than credible that a diocese could have so voted without Lambeth Palace trumpeting it from the mousetops.

To date, it seems, the Covenant has been dealt two setbacks in the CofE (one small and one large). Whatever momentum the Lambeth and Church House establishment may have had coming out of the last session of General Synod appears to have evaporated.

It's early days yet, of course. The momentum may shift again. And again and again and again.

But at the very least, it means that the proposed Anglican Covenant will not receive the bland and undebated rubber stamp that those around Rowan had hoped.

Deo gratias.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Refreshing Honesty

I'm not ever likely to see eye to eye with Church Society, a very conservative evangelical group within the Church of England. Indeed, their General Secretary, David Phillips, has published an article in the Winter 2011 edition of their newsletter, and I hardly agree with any of it - even though it comes down as firmly sceptical of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

That said, the article is well worth a read for a conservative evangelical Covenantsceptic position.
But what I particularly like is that, unlike so many of the straw men and ad hominems that have marked the Covenant debate to date, Mr. Phillips makes a serious effort to take opposing arguments and perspectives seriously. While I do think he slips up on one particular, I think his overall approach is commendable.

Here is the email I sent him today, both thanking him for his integrity and correcting what I believe is his one error regarding the liberal Covenantsceptic position.

Mr. Phillips, I've read your paper on the Anglican Covenant, and I want to commend you for the way in which you have tried to treat the arguments of the various parties seriously. Far too much of the debate has been characterized (on all sides) by the setting up of straw men and caricatures rather than serious and thoughtful arguments.

Obviously I would disagree very strongly with many points in your narrative, but I very much appreciate the effort you have made in this regard.

I would, however, like to point out one area where I think you missed a nuance of the "liberal anti-Covenant" position. Given the wider context of the article, I believe this was not deliberate.

In paragraph six, you suggest an hypocrisy in our position, juxtaposing our opposition to disciplinary clauses in the Covenant with the willingness to use disciplinary canons to address the actions of certain conservatives who have sought to leave the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada while retaining parish property. You say: "What liberals don’t want is discipline on matters of faith and doctrine, they are very happy to see discipline to maintain the structures and institutions."

I can see how you have reached that conclusion, but I think you have missed a significant point.

The disciplinary pieces of the proposed Covenant establish the locus of authority at the international level, while the disciplinary canons sometimes invoked in current disputes in North America establish the locus of authority at the national / provincial level.

Clearly you understand the significance of the attempt to establish centralized authority in the Communion, and you describe the issue quite effectively at paragraph 17. In particular, you offer an excellent summary of Anglican ecclesiology and history when you say: "Although the Church of England has had clear disciplinary structures, part of the break with Rome involved the rejection of a universal structure within the Church."

I would suggest that, if you look at the "liberal anti-Covenant" position through the lense of that sentence, you will see that there is no inherent contradiction or hypocrisy between, on the one hand, our resistance to disciplinary language and clauses in the proposed Covenant and our willingness to see disciplinary canons used at the level of the national or provincial church.

That caveat aside, I do wish to reiterate my personal appreciation of your willingness to deal honestly with positions and perspectives other than your own. Your paper is well worth the read, especially for those of us who reach a similar conclusion from a diametrically opposed starting point.

Malcolm French

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday - Mortality and Pride

It is a worthwhile story that can both remind us of our own human mortality and our own human pride.

The local lefty community paper, the Prairie Dog, posted a story on their blog about the death of Dorothy Alvina Hennig.

Most people in Regina knew Dorothy - at least by sight. Few of us knew, or cared, that her name was Dorothy.

Dorothy was a sight. She would walk around the downtown in a beige trenchcoat with a scarf on her head and far, far too much makeup - far too much and badly done. I don't think she actually lived "on the street," but she was clearly a woman who did not fit in.

My kids and I ended up, uncomfortably, sharing a table with her at a fall supper once. She didn't say a word to us the whole time, not even in response to our greetings. In all the years I was aware of her (I can't really say "knew her") I only once heard her make any sound at all - and then it was an odd sort of screech when she seemed to be thinking that someone was about to steal her bag.

But it turns out that there was more to Dorothy.
  • In 1958, Dorothy was the valedictorian of her high school graduating class.
  • She studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto - as well as the Walter Thornton Modelling School.
  • She worked as a musician and a opera singer in London and Paris.
  • Illness (the obituary implies but does not say mental illness) brought her home to Regina in 1967.
Dorothy's death reminds me of my mortality.

Dorothy's obituary reminds me that, for all that I may want to be inclusive and accepting and a proper Christian, I never was able to see Dorothy as more than "other" - to my shame.

I'm off, shortly, to preside at the Ash Wednesday liturgy, to remind those who come and to remind myself that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.

And to remember that, in between, we are God's precious children - no matter what.

Today, I think I shall offer this mass with an intention for the repose of the soul of Dorothy Alvina Hennig, accomplished artist and beloved child of God.

Monday, March 7, 2011

For International Women's Day - March 8, 2011

Hearts starve as well as bodies;
Give us bread, but give us roses.