Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Searching for the Christ Child

The traditional Simple Massing Priest Christmas story - as told each year since 2007.

The title isn't quite so allegorical as you think. We actually spent about ten minutes before the Christmas Eve service desperately seeking the Baby Jesus for the main creche at the parish where I serve as interim priest.  
It is actually a very interesting creche, set up inside the altar itself. A simple wooden chevron suggests the stable, while the remaining figures stand on black satin.  
It was already in place on Sunday last. Actually in the Sunday before last as we compromised the calendar in the interest of the children's pageant. But Sunday last the creche had only its minimalist roof, one ox and one ass. Mary and Joseph were not far away - standing on the altar pavement - but they hadn't arrived yet. The shepherds weren't there yet either, out tending their sheep on the edge of the pulpit. And the magi were in the middle of the aisle at the back of the church, still some ways away.  
Tonight, Mary and Joseph, and after some panicked moments, the Baby Jesus, were all installed in their places. The shepherds were "summoned to his stable" during the gradual hymn. And the magi were now half way up the aisle - accompanied by a helpful "Mind the Camels" sign prepared by my good wife.  
It was a good celebration in a community which seems increasingly hopeful and future oriented. And generally united. There is no parish on earth that doesn't have some divisions and tensions. But this little parish seem quite determined to be a family together.  
We found Jesus tonight at St. James - literally, allegorically and eucharistically. We all came to the same table, together. That is where we belong in worship - at the same table, together.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Voice is Heard in Ramah

When I was in Indianapolis this summer, I had the privilege of meeting Ian Douglas, the Bishop of Connecticut.  I have been thinking of Bishop Ian a great deal over the past 36 hours as he, his suffragans, his clergy and his diocese respond to the act of terror which occured yesterday.

Ian has been posting regular updates, including the most recent I've seen, here.

He mentions the messages of support and the assurances of prayer that he has received from around the world.

The Diocese of Connecticut has been blessed by sisters and brothers in Christ across The Episcopal Church and from around the Anglican Communion who are holding us all in their hearts and prayers. We have heard from colleagues in almost every province of The Episcopal Church and from around the Anglican Communion. We are being remembered in prayer and in specific worship services in churches as far away as: Australia, Canada, Congo, Dubai, England, Guyana, Myanmar, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, and others. Never before have we felt the importance and efficacy of our common bonds in the Anglican Communion than we do now in this time of need and in the prayers received.

Bishop Ian's diocese is the oldest Anglican bishopric outside the British Isles.  In 1784, the Bishop of Aberdeen and two other Scottish bishops consecrated Bishop Ian's predecessor, Samuel Seabury, establishing an enduring link between the Episcopal Church in Scotland and the Episcopal Church in the United States.  Today, there is a formal Companion Diocese relationship between the Diocese of Connecticut and the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney.  The following prayer was written by the present Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, Robert Gillies, in response to the events of yesterday.

Sustaining and redeeming God, 
In sadness and in the tragedy of awful loss, we offer before you those young lives lost as a consequence of human violence this past week. 
We raise in the distress of this time the families of whose children are no longer to share life and joy with them. 
We mourn those other families also fractured by the needless killings of that day. 
As Jesus first came to his people and lives of the young and innocent were lost in the cruelty of one individual upon others, so now 2000 years on we stand alongside those whose similar grief is beyond our imagining. 
Holy and loving God bring all consolation that can be brought to those most in need of your presence today, and never cease to make your presence real in this their hour of need.
To you we voice this prayer, Amen.

Bishop Robert's prayer makes reference to the now often forgotten story of the Holy Innocents as related in Matthew 2: 16 - 18.  Herod, terrified at the prospect of a new King in Israel, orders an act of mass murder and state terrorism.  This aria relates to the the scriptural account:
A voice is heard in Ramah ... Rachel, weeping for her children.  She refuses to be comforted because they are no more.
The selection does not speak of hope, for the hope which Jesus brings is not yet known.  We pray that the Rachels of Newtown may know a greater and more immediate comfort.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Suffer the little children . . .

Today, as usual, I picked up my grandson and his mother to give him a ride to preschool.  Unusually, I also ended up picking him up at lunch time and delivering him back to his mother.  I was at the school for only a few moments, and shared only a few words with the teacher who was supervising their play time.

Yet somehow, that brief encounter made the horrific news from Newport, Connecticut feel as though it was even closer to home.

A school, likely not all that different from the school Oliver attends.  Teachers every bit as dedicated to their charges as Oliver's teachers.  Children not much older than Oliver.

Like every parent, every grandparent, every person who has ever cared for a child, my heart is torn in grief for those children, for those teachers, for those families.

The insanity of a political culture that wails in grief while effectively condoning an epidemic of mass murder is simply to much to bear.  Already, the NRA and their fellow travellers are playing their propaganda games.  One longs for the day when the endorsement of the NRA will be as politically toxic as the endorsement of the KKK.

In the mean time, at least 20 children are dead, brutally slain.  Dedicated teachers have died with their charges.  An entire community has been rent asunder.  A generation of young children have had their innocence destroyed.  And all of this with the enthusiastic support of the far right fringe and the effective collaboration of a fearful majority.

Lord have mercy.

O God, whose beloved Son took children into his arms and blessed them, give us grace to entrust these innocents to your never-failing care and love, and bring us all to your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Most merciful God, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding, deal graciously with the people of Newtown in their grief. Surround them with your love, that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your goodness and strength to meet the days to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


 The picture is Trinity Church, Newtown, Connecticut, immediately prior to a prayer service earlier this evening.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Conformed to the Image of Christ the Good Shepherd

In less than 12 hours, our diocesan synod will begin voting to select the XIIth Bishop of Qu'Appelle. You can read about the process, including the diocesan profile and the profiles of the candidates here.

Although I've had ample time for it to sink in, I still find myself somewhat surprised to be one of those candidates.  Until six months ago, I had presumed that past blotting of my copybook would preclude me ever being a candidate.

It has been very strange to be a part of this process.  From time to time I found myself imagining what I might do about certain things were I to be elected.  It was not a helpful place for me to dwell.  But difficult in a different way was planning future activities in the parish, aware that I might not be the priest to see those things through.

A friend sent me an email yesterday with some excellent advice should I become bishop.  The thing is, it is equally good advice should I not become bishop and remain a simple massing priest.  I share it here as he has written it to me, with certain identifying bits and pieces appropriately redacted.
Hi Malcolm,
I think you would be a good bishop. God has certainly refined you in the fire over the years. May I ask you to do one thing if you are chosen? Love your people, Malcolm. Love your people and love your clergy. Shepherd them. Do not drive them before you like cattle. In a sense whatever you do as a bishop is irrelevant. (In my humble opinion.) It’s who you are as a bishop that is essential. And whether you’re bishop, pastor or housepainter, you already are who you are, created and called by God, formed by the Holy Spirit, refined in the Spirit’s fire, conformed to the Image of Christ the Good Shepherd. 
Please don’t think I have it in for all episcopoi or even for the archbishop that has been given to me. The man who ordained me,                          ,was a saint. What shone through his shy demeanor was immense love and humility. Whether he was “conservative” or “liberal” ultimately didn’t matter. He cared for us. He loved us. That kind of love cannot be faked. He literally breathed it with every fiber of his being.                           , too, before him, loved us.              was “liberal”,              was “conservative”. Ultimately, none of that matters. I could give a rat’s ass in what “direction” my diocese goes or what “great plans” anyone has for it. Maybe I once believed that was important, but I don’t anymore. Malcolm, love your people with all your heart, be their shepherd, be a father to them. Shepherd and father may sound archaic but, dammit, that’s what we need!  
Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.
God bless!

Good advice for anyone who has the cure of souls.
By the end of tomorrow, someone will be the Bishop-elect of Qu'Appelle.  I ask your prayers for whoever it may be.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

... not the debtor forgiven 50 denarii, but the one forgiven 500

This is my response to the third and final question on the diocesan profile.  My complete candidate profile and the profiles of all the candidates, including their responses to the same three questions, can be found here.

Given the concerns, challenges, ministries identified in the diocesan profile and the challenges facing the wider Church in this present age, what vision and gifts do you have to assist the diocese in more ably living and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

I think I bring three unique gifts to this process.

1. My work in the Navy, particularly in the latter years, where I was responsible for the education and formation of junior officers, led me to read and reflect extensively on the nature of leadership to a degree which likely would not have happened had I remained in parish ministry during that period.

2. My work in public relations gives me particular insight and expertise in how organizations communicate complex ideas to a broad range of audiences outside the institution itself, using a variety of tools and techniques. Again, this likely would not have been the case had I remained in parish ministry.

3. The circumstances which led to my time away from the exercise of my ordained ministry led to an extended period of alienation from the Church. This experience, I believe, gives me a particular capacity to understand the perspective of those who are likewise alienated. At the same time, the experience of grace in my life, which overcame that alienation and which eventually led to my return to active ministry gives me a particular capacity to speak to the transformative power of God’s love. I was not the debtor forgiven 50 denarii, but the one forgiven 500 (Luke 7: 41 – 44). To my surprise, many of those who encouraged me to let my name stand pointed to this as the most important experience I have to offer in this process.

The Church I want to see proclaims this kind of transformative power to the world using every means available. That is the mission Christ has given us.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"... influencing human behaviour to accomplish a mission ..."

I had hoped to post an in depth response to the recent vote on female bishops in the Church of England, but due to a computer meltdown I'm working from an unfamiliar machine.  Instead, I'll publish (as promised) the next installment of my responses to the Qu'Appelle Diocesan Profile.

What is your understanding of the nature of Christian Leadership, and how would you see that functioning in light of the diocesan profile?

Clearly any discussion of Christian leadership must begin with Jesus, who came not to be served, but to serve. Christian leadership – and, frankly, any kind of effective leadership – is focused not on the leader, but on the led.

Transformational leaders change the culture of the body they lead. I think principally they do this by example. They also do it by engaging their people more closely and more personally. I’m a big fan of LBWA (Leadership By Walking Around). Practically, that means a Bishop who is on the road in the Diocese, for whom St. Cuthbert’s House is not a workplace, but a base of operation – as our church buildings are bases for mission.

The Canadian Navy Leadership Manual defines leadership as, “the art of influencing human behaviour to accomplish a mission . . .” That’s not a bad place to start. Effective leadership will require different approaches at different times. While some situations may require the leader to be very direct, the “Father Knows Best” approach is generally unhelpful. People will own the mission more effectively if they are led to a decision rather than compelled. Sometimes effective leadership requires the leader to let people make their own mistakes in order to learn from them. And one of the principal tasks of any leader is to develop the leadership capacity of others. In the latter part of my naval career, my most important responsibility was teaching and mentoring young officers to become effective leaders.

If our next Bishop can focus on the lives of the parishes and congregations and on strengthening the lay and ordained leadership of the Diocese, we will be well on our way to accomplishing our mission.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted . . ."

The title of this post is a quotation from the Chicago - Lambeth Quadrilateral, which sets forth an Anglican view about the basis for eventual organic union among Christian Churches.  I'm pondering the nature of the historic episcopate a little more closely these days because I find myself nominated as one of seven candidates to be the XIIth Bishop of Qu'Appelle.

As part of the process, each of the candidates has completed a profile which includes basic curriculum vitae information as well as our responses to three questions regarding the Diocesan Profile (.pdf).  The profiles of all seven candidates can be found here.

Over the next few days, I intend to share my responses to the three questions.
The diocesan profile speaks about the challenge of moving "from a maintenance mentality to a mission mentality." From the evolution of locally ordained leadership to the use of the internet and social networking, from ecumenical partnerships to the renewal of First Nations ministries, the Diocese of Qu'Appelle has often been prepared to experiment and to take risks. Based on your reading of the profile and your knowledge of the diocese, which of these or other opportunities would you see for the diocese to pursue the Great Commission more effectively in the post-Christendom context?
Shifting from the Christendom / Maintenance mentality to a post-Christendom / Mission mentality will have to run significantly deeper than seizing opportunities or engaging in new and experimental approaches. It will require a complete transformation of our understanding of the mission context.
At the Ascension, Jesus tells the Eleven to return to Jerusalem to await the Holy Spirit. And he tells them, "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1: 8b). So they go back to Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit comes upon them and they witness to Jesus in Jerusalem. The earliest followers of the Way are comfortable in Jerusalem. They know and understand the religious culture in Jerusalem. They "get" the familiar rhythm of Temple worship. It takes the crisis of the arrest and stoning of Stephen and the subsequent persecution before the early Church is "scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria" (Acts 8: 1b) and "those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word" (Acts 8: 4).
We are comfortable in our parishes and congregations as they are. We know and understand the religious culture of our congregations. We "get" the familiar rhythm of Anglican worship. But like the early Church, we need to be reminded that the mission of the Church is not in here, it’s out there.
The first Mission Action Plan, entirely appropriately, was mostly focussed internally, on equipping current members. This was essential. But the next iteration of the Mission Action Plan needs to shift us to the next phase, so we can be scattered throughout the countryside of Qu’Appelle to proclaim the word.
Initiatives like the Qu’Appelle School for Mission and Ministry can be very effective at equipping us to be Jesus’s witnesses. Regional approaches like the Pelly Deanery mission can strengthen local congregations as centres of mission. Q-Events not only provide useful learning opportunities, but they also help people to realize that they are part of a much larger missionary enterprise. These things prepare us to be scattered.
We need to learn more about the social context we find ourselves in. In the US, almost 20% of adults (almost 33% of adults under 30) now have no religious affiliation. Yet 68% of them believe in God, 41% say they pray regularly, while 18% say they are religious and 37% spiritual but not religious. Only 10% are looking for a faith community, in part because 70% say that religious institutions are too concerned with money and power. These are American numbers, but I doubt the Canadian numbers are that different.
That is our primary mission field. They are not hostile to the Church. They are largely indifferent and they see little to challenge that indifference. Reaching them will require creative, effective and strategic communications using all the tools at our disposal, including stronger online presence and more visible presence in our communities.
In the heart of our see city is one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in Canada. There are people in communities throughout the diocese who are learning that "more stuff" does not fill their spiritual need. There’s mission to be done and there are people who need to hear the Good News. But to tell them this Good News, we need to have the courage to leave our buildings and to go where they are.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Stadium, the Civic Election and Captive Campaigning

(Me in my 'Rider gear
at the Episcopal Church General Convention
in Indianapolis this summer.)

I'm a huge 'Rider fan and a long time season ticket holder.  I even agree with the idea that it makes more sense to replace the current Mosaic Stadium with a new facility rather than refurbish it.

However, I'm not a fan of the stadium project as it has come together.  I'm not a fan of how it has played out in the current municipal election.  And I'm not a fan of the recent "captive campaigning" by the Saskatchewan Roughrider Football Club.

I didn't appreciate being campaigned at on Saturday, when I was at Mosaic Stadium to watch the 'Riders play Montreal.  I also didn't care to get an email from Club Chairman Roger Brandvold this morning attempting to influence my vote.

I'm not questioning the Football Club's right to make these pitches.  But I don't have to appreciate them.

In any event, here's the email I sent back to Chairman Brandvold outlining my problems with the current proposal for a new stadium and with the politicians who have mucked up the project from the start.

While I don't question the organization's right to advocate for a new stadium, I really didn't buy 'Rider season tickets all these years in order to be pressured to support candidates whose records indicate they consistently place corporate interests ahead of citizens' interests.

The present Council, including your preferred mayoral candidate, have bobbled this issue from the start. They have failed to secure any federal funding (unlike Hamilton). They have failed to secure adequate provincial funding. They have utterly failed to secure meaningful private sector funding.

They have failed to highlight the proposed use of the current Taylor Field site, even though an emphasis on use for social housing might have opened the federal coffers. They have failed to ensure proper public consultation, rushing the approvals through in the dying days of a lame duck Council.

I'm a 'Rider fan and a long time season ticket holder. And unlike some critics of this plan, I actually am inclined to agree that a new stadium is the right way to go. But I cannot support this fly-by-night process, nor can I feel any confidence that a Council led by the same usual suspects could properly manage this project.

They've mismanaged city pensions, generating a huge deficit. They've failed to plan for major infrastructure renewal, putting our drinking water at risk. They've underfunded and undermined city services, from transit to waste management to snow clearing.

If the present Council leadership were on the 'Rider roster and played with a comparable level of skill and effectiveness, they'd be cut after a single game, not offered a four year contract.

I'll happily support a new stadium when I'm presented with a proper plan, part of a larger development and redevelopment strategy and with appropriate levels of federal, provincial and private sector funding. I'm not prepared to support a slate of incumbents who have failed in every aspect.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Vic Toews' Assault on Religious Freedom

Earlier today, Canada's Public Safety Minister, the Honourable Vic Toews, announced that all non-Christian chaplains in federal penitentiaries would have their contracts cancelled and that all chaplaincy services would be provided by the remaining Christian chaplains.

The following is my email to Vic Toews, with copies to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair, and my local Member of Parliament, Tom Lukiwski.

As a Christian and as a priest, I am writing to object in the strongest possible terms to your frankly bigoted decision to eliminate all non-Christian chaplains from Canada’s prisons. 
In announcing this decision, you properly state that it is not and should not be the government’s place to pick and choose among religions, yet it appears you are too addled to realize that this is precisely what you have done.   
What other religious tests do you intend to introduce in so arbitrary a fashion? Will you start banning Christian clergy from denominations which don’t hew to your personal views on abortion or capital punishment or human sexuality? Will United Church or Anglican chaplains be the next to be banned because they do not conform to your religious practices? 
If a state with a predominantly Muslim population had arbitrarily axed Christian chaplains, you and your colleagues would be shrieking blue murder. It appears you need to be reminded what Jesus had to say about hypocrites.
Father Malcolm French 
[contact information provided]
Ironically, Mr. Toews is a Mennonite whose family came to Canada to escape religious persecution.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Appearing before the Electoral Boundaries Commission

Here is my presentation to the federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Saskatchewan.


Thank you for the opportunity to address you on the important matter of the redistribution of electoral boundaries.

While I am not here in any official capacity, I would note by way of background that I am an Anglican priest who has served in several multipoint point parishes and single point parishes across the Diocese of Qu’Appelle, which constitutes the southern third of the province geographically and the southern half of the province in terms of population.  I’ve served congregations
·        in Oxbow, Alameda, Carnduff, Carievale, Gainsborough, Alida, Carlyle, Manor and Cannington Manor
·        in Kerrobert, Major, Coleville, Smiley, Prairiedale, Kindersley, Brock, Eston, Loverna and Alsask
·        in Esterhazy, Cotham, Dubuc, Bangor, Llewellyn, Saltcoats, Churchbridge and Langenburg
·        in Balcarress, Cupar, Dysart, Kelliher, Abernethy and Katepwa
·        in Avonlea and Ogema
·        and in three different parishes in Regina.

I would suggest that this experience has given me some passing insight into the commonalities and differences between urban Saskatchewan and rural Saskatchewan. 

Early on in the boundary review process, there were widespread calls from academics, political analysts and major media to move away from the previous model of having no all urban constituencies in Saskatchewan.  The argument was simple and straightforward:
·        Urban and rural voters have different interests and different issues.
·        The previous practice of having no urban constituencies was an anomaly in that Saskatchewan was the only province without a single all urban constituency.
·        The previous practice resulted in distorted electoral outcomes, with Saskatchewan consistently having a greater variance between party popular vote and party seat distribution than any other province.

I am very pleased to see that your commission has heeded that advice.  I think the proposed boundaries make a great deal of sense, and while it has not been possible to eliminate mixed urban – rural constituencies entirely, the commission has kept it to a minimum.

Some have tried to argue from history that the previous mixed urban – rural constituencies are of such longstanding as to be almost an inviolable tradition in Saskatchewan.  I suggest, with respect, that the argument is entirely ahistorical and actually rather fatuous.

The geography currently known as Saskatchewan has been represented in the Canadian Parliament since 1887.  One cannot speak in any meaningful way of mixed urban – rural constituencies in Saskatchewan prior to 1968, when the former riding of Saskatoon was replaced with Saskatoon – Biggar and Saskatoon – Humboldt and the former riding of Regina City was replaced with Regina East and Regina – Lake Centre.  In other words, the inviolable tradition of rural – urban constituencies only covers 44 years of the 125 year history – barely more than one-third. 

And more importantly, what was that former commission’s motivation in dividing the two cities?  The answer is stunningly obvious.  By the mid-1960s, both Saskatoon and Regina were too large to constitute one constituency but not large enough to constitute two.  Not to mention that, in 1968, most residents of Regina and Saskatoon were no more than a generation or two off the farm - which is ertainly not the case today.

There are significant differences between the issues and interests of rural and urban voters in Saskatchewan.  While the arithmetic of subdividing Saskatchewan’s population into 14 more or less equal constituencies may not make it possible to adhere perfectly to the principle of communities of interest, it is absurd to argue (as some have) that the interests of a voter in the Rosemont neighbourhood of Regina, where my current parish is, are essentially no different than the interests of my former parishioners in Carlyle or Coleville or Cotham.  The significant variance in voting patterns alone suggests a significant divergence.

But the current pattern has served the interests of one political party very effectively over the past ten years.  That party has doubtless encouraged many of the presenters who will appear before you to argue in favour of having only mixed urban – rural seats in Saskatchewan.

Indeed, if they are serious that mixed urban – rural ridings are just the thing, then wouldn’t a replication of the existing boundaries leave the seven all rural ridings at a significant disadvantage?  Surely the logical corollary of their position is to have seven long, thin ridings radiating out of Saskatoon and another seven out of Regina, each extending to the provincial boundaries.  Instead, they apparently believe that having all rural constituencies is just fine, so long as there are no all urban ones.  It seems intellectually inconsistent, perhaps even a trifle disingenuous.  The only logical argument in favour of the current arrangement is an argument rooted in partisan advantage – an argument which, by statute, the Commission cannot take into account.

You have been appointed to serve the citizens of Canada and the citizens of Saskatchewan, not to serve the interests of any political party.  You have demonstrated your integrity by producing a very well balanced set of electoral boundaries that effectively honours the principle of communities of interest with as few exceptions as reasonably possible.  While some presenters may suggest minor tweaks here and there, the overall proposal is sound, reasonable and fair.

I would note one anomaly, though it is not related to the question of urban – rural ridings.  That is the two proposed constituencies of Lloydminster – Battlefords – Rosthern and Kindersley – Rosetown – Humboldt.  It does strike me as odd to have two constituencies extending from the Alberta border to somewhere east of Saskatoon.  I would suggest, respectfully, that the commission might consider maintaining the outer boundaries of the two ridings but dividing them east and west rather than north and south.  I don’t have a specific suggestion, but something along the lines of Lloydminster – Battlefords – Kindersley – Rosetown and Rosthern – Humboldt, if you will.  As a former resident of Kerrobert, it strikes me I’d have had more commonality with both Kindersley and the Battlefords than with either Rosthern or Humboldt.

But that is merely a proposed tweak.  Your overall proposal is very sound and will, I hope, be finally adopted with very few changes.

Again, thank you for this opportunity.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

September Midday Mass

The tall old priest entered the half-lit sacristy,
fresh from his usual Tuesday morning studies.
The fair-haired acolyte with the bad complexion
was ready, vested, standing in the dimness
quietly.  The old priest noticed he was sniffing
and his eyes were red. A failed romance,
he thought; but keeping his own rule on chit-chat
in the sacristy, vested silently.
The old familiar motions and the prayers
displaced whatever thoughts he might have had;
the only dialogue to break the stillness was
the rote exchange of formal preparation.

Then, in one motion as he slipped his hand
beneath the pale green veil, the other hand
upon the burse, he lifted vested vessels,
turned and followed in the sniffing server’s
wake. Eyes lowered to the holy burden
in his hand, he failed to notice that
the chapel for this midday feria —
on other days like this with one or two
at most — was full of worshippers; until
he raised his eyes, and saw the pews were filled —
but undeterred began the liturgy:
the lessons and the gospel from last Sunday,
his sermon brief, but pointed, on the texts.

It wasn’t till the acolyte began
 the people’s prayers, and choked out words of planes
that brought a city’s towers down, and crashed
into the Pentagon, and plowed a field
in Pennsylvania, that the old priest knew
this was no ordinary Tuesday in
September —
not ordinary time at all,
that day he missed the towers’ fall.

Tobias Haller BSG March 8, 2008
Reposted now annually as a traditional observance

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

An end to Gerrymandering?

New federal constituency boundaries have been proposed for Saskatchewan.  This is part of a redistribution which follows automatically based on the most recent census.

Early on in the process, there were widespread calls from academics, from media and from basically anyone with a lick of sense for the commission to move away from the gerrymandered "rurban" constituency model which saw the cities of Regina and Saskatoon split into four separate ridings with vast rural components..  The net effect of the old model was a massive electoral advantage to the Conservative Party.  Indeed, Saskatchewan had the unique distinctions of a) being the only province where there was not a single all urban constituency and b) being the province where the Parliamentary representation was most at odds with the actual election results.

Overall, the commission has done some fairly good work.  Saskatoon will consist of two all urban constituncies and one mixed riding with a small proportion of rural voters.  Likewise Regina will have two virtually all urban ridings, but the third riding will have a larger proportion of rural voters than the rurban seat in Saskatoon.  Indeed, the proposed new Regina - Qu'Appelle is virtually unchanged from the current version except for the addition of the Walsh Acres neighbourhood in Regina and a few minor tweaks in the rural boundary at the east end of the seat.


As mentioned, the changes to Regina - Qu'Appelle are very minor, much to the joy (no doubt) of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer.  But the changes to Wascana are also very limited, principally in the loss of rural areas.  Long time Liberal MP Ralph Goodale should be pleased - although he may decide not to run again in 2015 since he'll be collecting his Canada Pension and eligible for a very handsome Parliamentary pension as well.  If Ralph (who wins despite being a Liberal, not because of it) were to retire, the seat would likely become a Conservative - NDP marginal with a slight edge to the Conservatives.

The principle change is the combination of the Regina parts of the former Palliser and Regina - Lumsden - Lake Centre seats into the all urban Regina - Lewvan.  Notionally this seat would have gone NDP by a narrow margin in the 2011 election, and that despite the former RLLC having not been a priority riding.  Former Palliser candidate Noah Evanchuk would be the obvious frontrunner for the NDP nomination here in what should be a highly winnable priority seat.

The only point that has been questioned in my hearing has been the choice to carve out the Walsh Acres neighbourhood from Regina - Lewvan to Regina - Qu'Appelle.  Obviously this was to equalize the population numbers, but it does look a trifle odd.  If Walsh Acres were to be put into Regina - Lewvan, obviously a comparably sized neightbourhood would have to go the other way.


I don't claim to know Saskatoon well enough to say much, though I'm told that there are some odd spots where the proposed boundaries slice through neighbourhoods.  Notionally all of these are competitive seats for the NDP.


Most of the proposed rural boundaries seem sensible enough, with the exception of the west central region of the province.  I don't see the sense of a pair of constituencies that run from the Alberta border to past Saskatoon.  It would seem to me that splitting that area between east and west would make more sense.  I don't have the detailed census data to suggest a precise line, but the following gives you the sense of what I'm suggesting.


The next stage is a series of public hearings.  Here again, Saskatchewan proves unique in that all of the hearings are during business hours, which hardly encourages a broad response.  The hearing schedule can be found here.  Anyone wishing to speak at the hearing must inform the commission prior to September 3, 2012.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Thoughts on St. Dominic's Day

I've has this huge collection of links that I've been intending to post.  Mostly I've been waiting for the opportunity to put them all in the context of a narrative.

This evening, as I put together the service sheets for tomorrow's midweek eucharist, St. Dominic gave me the narrative.

Dominic realized that the people could not be brought back to the Church so long as bishops and priests made the rights of the institution their primary concern. So he adopted a life modelled on today’s gospel: he renounced all property except for the robe on his back and travelled up and down the countryside, preaching to strangers on the road and to crowds in the market-places.
The first five articles - every one of them worth the read - speak to the problem of an institutional church that is confused about the proper focus.  We are concerned with the survival of an institution - preferably a survival accomplished without making any serious change to how we do things.  Christendom is over, and we need to stop pretending it isn't.  We desperately need to change.  The sixth article, writing from a secular perspective, talks about why change is so hard, and how leaders often undermine their own attempts at reform.

Perhaps the difference is that this cohort of clergy is that they aren’t critiquing an institution we just assume will still be here in ten years. They are calling us out of the cloud of denial - telling us that if we don’t act, it won’t be - and that we have to talk about it.
It is time to give up our excuses for not engaging in God’s mission to make disciples, and, by doing so, to make a difference in our communities.

Washington DC Baptist Pastor Amy Butler calls for the end of the church as we know it.
Our work is not to control the trends of society or to prop up a comfortable model we’ve become accustomed to. Our work is to make faithful disciples of Jesus Christ: to bring the gospel to the world, to nurture people in their faith, to live as good stewards of what we’ve been given and to bring justice and peace to a society desperately in need.
The more I have read the Bible and studied the life of Jesus, the more I have become convinced that Christianity spreads best not through force but through fascination. But over the past few decades our Christianity, at least here in the United States, has become less and less fascinating. We have given the atheists less and less to disbelieve. And the sort of Christianity many of us have seen on TV and heard on the radio looks less and less like Jesus.
Theologian Wendy Daxon, guest posting at Lay Anglicana, questions if the Church is serious about reaching the spiritual seekers.
What other institution does this? When a retailer or manufacturer does not reach its intended market, does it say, ‘We’ve got a tremendous product, how silly are they to reject it? We’ll just keep it on the shelf, gathering dust, not bringing anyone through our doors, because we know how good it is.’ Of course not. A smart, entrepreneurial business venture asks questions, and adapts. It brings in new people on staff, it welcomes new points of view—even uncomfortable ones. Hearing hard truths about why something is not working, and acting on what one hears, is the fastest way to get things working again. And yet, this is exactly what the churches refuse to do.
The answer or a key leverage point for overcoming this problem lies somewhat deeply or unconsciously within the human psyche. We all make personal and work-related commitments to change. Why do we fail so often to do what we say we want to do? It is because we have secret, hidden commitments beyond our awareness that counteract our espoused commitments. These hidden commitments are often based on false assumptions. It is as if we have one foot on the gas with our espoused commitments and another on the brake with the hidden commitments. This realization came to me clearly while I was recently reading the work of Kegan and Lahey (Immunity to Change).

So read 'em and weep.  And when you're done, go change the Church and the World.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How do you know the "Global South Primates" are fibbing?

It's an old joke.

How do you know (insert name of despised group) is lying?

Their lips are moving.

I've heard it told about assorted professions, various subsets of addicts and most every sect of politicians.

It seems to me quite apropos of the so-called "Global South Primates."

They issued a communique the other day.  Mostly the usual self-congratulatory and self-justifying boilerplate.  And, as usual, a long and impressive list of "Primates present or represented" - including the Most Revd David Vunagi, Primate of Melanesia.

A day or two later, this comment (from the Rt Revd Terry Brown, former Bishop of Malaita) at Thinking Anglicans:
I have asked the Archbishop of Melanesia (who was present at Bangkok) about this “Global South Primates’ Communiqué” and he says he knows nothing about it. He says TEC, same-sex blessings and the Anglican Church of Canada were not even on the agenda or discussed; that the main focus was on mission and resource sharing issues and that in this respect the conference was very good. He says the only statement the Primates signed was a letter to the Crown Appointments Commission asking them to appoint an ABC who could hold the Communion together. Therefore, this “Global South Primates’ Communiqué” is a totally specious document, not discussed or agreed upon by the Primates but put together afterwards by a small group of people (some Primates and their US advisors possibly?) and put on the Global South webpage without the consent of the Primates whose names are attached to it. Notice that those names are only attached as “present” at the meeting and not as agreeing to or signing on to what was written above their names. Most of them do not realize such a statement has been sent out. A similar sort of thing happened after one of the earlier Global South Primates meetings when Primates’ names were added without their permission.

Ponder that for a moment.
this “Global South Primates’ Communiqué” is a totally specious document, not discussed or agreed upon by the Primates but put together afterwards by a small group of people (some Primates and their US advisors possibly?) and put on the Global South webpage without the consent of the Primates whose names are attached to it.

". . . a totally specious document . . ."

". . . not discussed or agreed upon by the Primates . . ."

". . . put on the Global South webpage without the consent of the Primates whose names are attached to it."

As Bishop Brown points out, this isn't the first time the so-called "Global South Primates" have issued communiques with (shall we be charitable?) misleading lists of attendees intended to imply endorsement.

A wise old journalist once told me that Rule Number One for a serious public relations practitioner is "Don't Lie."  There are two reasons for this rule.  First, it's wrong.  But more importantly, it doesn't work - and when you get caught, it destroys your credibility.

You'd think that the so-called "Global South Primates" would know basic moral theology.  Failing that, you'd hope their communications advisor would know the fundamentals of ethical PR practice.

How do you know the so-called "Global South Primates" are lying?

They issue a communique.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Episcopal Church General Convention - Day 8

While Deputies and Bishops still work their way through the budget and some other issues, for the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, it's all over but the shouting. 

I had a worthwhile conversation with Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas about what happens now.  Bishop Douglas is one of the Episcopal Church's representatives at the Anglican Consultative Council.  As much as I'd love to be in Auckland, New Zealand for the ACC meeting this fall, such is not to be.  Our Coalition hopes there will be a grown up conversation about an appropriate ratification threshold and a reasonable sunset clause.  The Covenant has drained far too much energy from the life of the Communion for so little purpose.  There needs to be a clear decision point at which the thing stands or falls.

I have no responsibilities between now and the departure of my flight on Friday morning.  After 111 minutes on hold with Airmiles, it wasn't possible to move my flight a day sooner.  Oh well.  I expect I'll attend the final Convention Eucharist tomorrow, and perhaps spend much of the rest of the day trying to put paid to this lingering cold.

Episcopal Church General Convention - Day 7 (Late)

I really should have blogged about this last night, but we were busily sorting our the official Coalition response to events.  We clearly got what we wanted in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.  The final result in the Episcopal Church obviously fell short of the clear "no" we desired, yet the final resolution praises with such faint damnation that it is hardly a win for the Covenanters.

As a result, our official response (issued less than two hours ago) essentially claims victory. We got 100 percent of what we wanted from ACANZAP and 80 percent of what we wanted from TEC.  Not bad results, overall.

I especially want to draw your attention to the final paragraph of my statement:

The next major step in the Covenant process will be at the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, this fall. We understand that there will be an attempt to introduce a ratification threshold and a sunset date to the Covenant process. Depending on the details, our Coalition is likely to be broadly supportive of both initiatives.

The lack of a ratification threshold has been remarked on by several commentators, and is one of the most glaring examples of just what a hot mess this proposed Anglican Covenant really is.  It has been said that Section 4 was a collaboration between a lawyer and a theologian.  The problem is that the lawyer wrote the theological bits while the theologian wrote the legal bits.

If we look at a ratification threshold in the order of two-thirds of Provinces and a sunset deadline of ACC 16, then anything short of a "yes" becomes an effective "no" and the Covenant's days will truly be numbered.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Episcopal Church General Convention - Day 6

Attended the hearing on another pair of "let's not say no" resolutions on the Anglican Covenant.  After breakfast, we watched the whole committee approve the replacement resolutions that they were always intending to send despite the overwhelming testimony for a clear no vote at the hearings the other day.  Very disheartening.

Add to which that I've been felled by an air conditioning cold that had me spend the rest of the day in bed with Mr. NyQuil.

We need to work out the floor strategy.  The committee's first resolution, affirming the Continuing Indaba and the Episcopal Church's love of the Anglican Communion is about as controversial as tapwater, but probably needs to be said.  I'm inclined that the best approach to the "just say anything but no" resolution is an amendment to replace the whole thing wth a clearer resolution based on last night's final resolution from the Anglican Chuch in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

Speaking of which, here is the Anglican Communion News Service story on the ACANZAP decision, and here is the resolution that was passed, may I remind you, without dissent.

Now, back to bed.  Ugh.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Episcopal Church General Convention - Day 5

For reasons that escape me, we actually had our busiest day at the booths today.  We're hearing increasing frustration from many deputies about the possibility the committee may report out a "defer the decision" resolution on the Anglican Covenant.

This apparent intent of the committee seems to be rooted in an assumption that a polite "non, merci" could not pass the House of Bishops.  I think there are two - well, actually three - problems with this approach.

First, I'm not convinced that the state of play in the House of Bishops is, in fact, what the committee assumes it to be. 

Bear in mind that the two bishops on the relevant subcommittee do not want a "no." Bishop Little of Northern Indiana would actually like to say "yes," while Bishop Douglas of Connecticut believes that ambiguity gives the Episcopal Church better room to manoeuvre.  I'm not suggesting either is being dishonest.  They both seem to be decent and honourable folk.  But perception is inevitably filtered through the lense of desire, and their perception does not seem consistent with the observations of other bishops. 

My intelligence suggests that something between 40 to 45 percent of the bishops actually want to say "no," while a slightly smaller amount want to avoid a "no," whether for tactical reasons or because, like Bishop Little, they'd actually like to say "yes."  However you cut it, that leaves 15 to 20 percent "swing voters" who could be persuaded either way.  One bishop I spoke to from the "don't say no" camp actually believes his position is the minority of the decided bishops, while one pro-Covenant bishop seems convinced a "no" from the House of Bishops is a slam dunk.

Second, it is not at all clear that an ambiguous motion to punt the decision to 2015 would pass the House of Deputies.  I'm certainly not convinced it would.  As the days go on, the patience of the deputies for the Covenant seems to be wearing ever thinner. 

Third, this whole dynamic seems consistent with one of the major flaws of the Anglican Covenant.  It is a very "purple" document - concerned principally (and almost exclusively) with bishops.  It seems almost to envision a church which is both episcopally led and episcopally governed, where the concerns of bishops are the principle engine of decision-making and where the role of the laity is, as the old saw has it, "to pray, to pay and to obey."  In the workings of the legislative subcommittee, we see a process that is driven, not by the heartfelt views of deputies, but by the combined anxieties and machinations of bishops.

If I might risk to make an outsider's observation about process, it appears to me that the committee structure which exists in the Episcopal Church, while providing the appearance of collegial transparency in the development of legislation and resolutions may actually do just the opposite.  The subcommittee proceedings seem less a healthy exchange of views than a self-reinforcing echo chamber.  The Primus of the Episcopal Church of Scotland referred the other day to the "smoke-filled rooms" of the General Convention.  This allusion to the bad old days of political powerbrokers and machine politics should, perhaps, be a clarion call to reconsider the whole approach to "managing" the debates of the Church.

Dare I say, the Episcopal Church's response to the Anglican Covenant should be determined by those who have been authorized to make decisions on behalf of the Church - the Deputies and the Bishops - and not by a cabal of apparatchiks, however well-intentioned.


A report from the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

"rejected the proposed Covenant based on section 4,
but ... subscribed to 1, 2 and 3 as a useful starting point
for consideration of our Anglican understanding of the church. 

We have also affirmed the commitment of the ACANZP
to the Communion and the Instruments,
and to using procedures similar to those in Section 3
if another church raises concerns
about what we are doing or going to do. 

The whole motion has been passed in open Synod,
with no negative voice.

Official text and links to follow.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Episcopal Church General Convention - Day 4

With last night's hearing out of the way, today was a day to consolidate our energies a bit.  At the Eucharist this morning (commemorating Harriet Beecher Stowe, in accordance with the experimental TEC calendar Holy Women, Holy Men) we heard a powerful sermon from North Carolina Bishop Michael Curry.  Note that the sermon text at the link simply doesn't capture the power of the man's oratory. (UPDATE: h/t Ann Fontaine for a link to the video of Bishop Curry's sermon.)
We need some crazy Christians. Sane, sanitized Christianity is killing us. That may have worked once upon a time, but it won’t carry the Gospel anymore. We need some crazy Christians like Mary Magdalene and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Christians crazy enough to believe that God is real and that Jesus lives. Crazy enough to follow the radical way of the Gospel. Crazy enough to believe that the love of God is greater than all the powers of evil and death.

After the Eucharist, it was back to our table to answer questions, distribute literature and hand out buttons.  We had any number of interesting visitors past the booth, including the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Revd David Chillingworth.  Scotland, you may recall, gave the Anglican Covenant a resounding no just a month ago (6 in favour, 112 against, 13 abstentions).  Obviously the Primus was not here to campaign, but he feels responsible to explain his Church's position on the matter.

In non-Covenant news, I met a couple of Episcopal icons.

Louis Crew was one of the early adopters of online communications to advance ecclesiastical discussion, and his Unofficial Anglican Pages are still a great source of information and insight.

I also met the Revd Emily Bloemker, an associate priest at Trinity, Wall Street in New York.  Of course, Emily is more famous for her star turn on TLC's What Not To Wear.

Finally, with an additional gift today, Lionel and I still fall a few hundred dollars short of covering our expenses for this trip.  The money collected to date will cover all but two nights of our stay in Indianapolis.  We'll be picking up our own travel and meals.  Some of you will have already contributed.  If anyone else cares to, every little bit helps.  Plus, for gifts of $25 or more, you get a lovely "Yes to Communion, No to Covenant" pin for your very own.

Donate to NACC

Friday, July 6, 2012

Episcopal Church General Convention - Day 3

The main task today was to prepare for this evening's Committee Hearing on the Anglican Covenant.  Lionel Deimel, Susan Russell, Mary Roehrich and I all spoke nominally to Resolution D007, which was closely based on the model resolution we had prepared a few weeks ago.  You can find my speaking notes and Lionel's at the Comprehensive Unity blog.

The committee seems to be inching towards a conclusion that they will not be able to finesse a resolution that would be able to pass both Houses.  We await developments. 

Other than staffing our information table, we are now in a holding pattern pending the committee's final report and the eventual debate on the floor of the House of Deputies.

I was sitting outside for several minutes late this evening, speaking with Deputy and blogger Lisa Fox.  Again, I have to marvel at the experience of meeting these blogosphere dwellers I have known for so long but had never met in person. 

I also have to marvel at the fact that midnight in Indianapolis can be hotter than any day I remember in Saskatchewan.

And for a little variety, here is a picture of me in my 'Rider gear at one of the General Convention exhibits.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Episcopal Church General Convention - Day 2

With our small table now set up (thanks to some creative uses of discarded cardboard and the comshaw of a white table cloth), we now have a functioning base of operations in the exhibits area of General Convention.  Our Yes to Communion - No to Covenant pins are doing a brisk business and most of our interations with bishops and deputies have been positive and fruitful.

Along with my Episcopal Church Convenor colleague, Lionel Deimel, I attended a meeting of the legislative subcommittee charged with consolidating the assorted Covenant resolutions into more or less one votable resolution.  The current trend actually seems to be for two resolutions.  The first would affirm the Anglican Communion.  The second would offer a rather fudge-laden "maybe" on the Anglican Covenant.  There still seems to be much (perhaps deliberate) confusion that rejecting the Covenant would somehow set the Episcopal Church outside the Communion - despite the growing list of rejections to date (Philippines, England, Scotland) and the likely imminent rejection by Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

Despite this, the few adamant Covenanters I've spoken to seem quite convinced their project is doomed.  (A certain pro-Covenant bishop asked that we not gloat too loudly when the time comes.  I will attempt to oblige.)

Tomorrow, an early meeting of the same subcommittee, followed by another day of staffing the booth.  In the evening, the World Mission Committee will hold hearings on the Anglican Covenant, which will be our best hope to shape whatever camel of a resolution eventually emerges from the committee.  We intend to press for a clear "no."  In due course, watch the Comprehensive Unity blog for an essay, Why Not "Maybe", which will be published in tomorrow's edition of Issues, which will be distributed tomorrow morning at General Convention.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Episcopal Church General Convention - Day 1

And an interesting day it was.  Among the best parts was meeting any number of people I had previously known only virtually.

Even better was discovering a lot of strong opposition to the Anglican Covenant.  Many of the folk I spoke with understand that the centralization of authority implicit in the Covenant process is antithetical to Anglican history.

Our New Zealand colleague, Lawrence Kimberley, has provided a link to keep us updated on developments in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia who are also meeting in their General Synod / Hinota Whanui this week.  A decisive rejection of the Covenant by ACANZAP (which seems likely given the opposition of Tikanga Maori) will certainly affect the momentum of the issue here in Indianapolis.

Off to bed now.  Tomorrow is yet another longish day.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Financial Appeal

As I've mentioned previously, I will be attending the Episcopal Church General Convention in July in my capacity as Moderator of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition.  I will be joined there by Dr. Lionel Deimel, our Episcopal Church Convenor.  Several other Coalition members will also be at General Convention, but Lionel and I will be there specifically to represent the Coalition.  The cost of our attendance, including accommodations, travel and registration, will be in the order of US$3000 (that's total, not each).

Internally, we have already raised some money from the active Coalition membership to pay for buttons and literature that Lionel and I will be distributing in Indianapolis.  While Lionel and I have oth assumed that we would end up covering some portion of our own expenses, the Coalition has issued an appeal for funds to contribute to offsetting our costs.

I know that some readers of my blog are supportive of our efforts to defeat the proposed Anglican Covenant, and some have in the past, indicated that they would be prepared to contribute financially to our efforts.  Well, here's your chance.

The button below will take you to a PayPal account.  This PayPal account belongs to Lionel personally since the Coalition doesn't have its own bank account.  Several Coalition membes have already referenced this appeal on their own blogs, so we are already partway there, but Lionel and I are still looking at a significant out of pocket expense.

Thank you all for your consideration.

Donate to NACC

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Statistics are for losers"

There's a saying in the Canadian Football League - and I'm sure it's a saying in many sports leagues - that "statistics are for losers."  It is applied when the losing team starts pointing to one or more of the game statistics to claim some sort of success. 

For example, my beloved Saskatchewan Roughriders lost the 2009 Grey Cup when, on what would have been the last play of the game, they had too many men on the field.  The penalty gave their opponents another opportunity to attempt a field goal which won them the championship.  It was the first and only time in the entire game that the Montreal Alouettes were in the lead.  At the end of regulation time, the Saskatchewan Roughriders were in the lead.

Those last two sentences are statistical assertions.  Both are entirely accurate.  Neither of them changes the fact that the 2009 Grey Cup championship went to Montreal.

Yesterday, the Church of England issued a news release outlining the agenda for the upcoming session of General Synod at York from July 6 to July 10.  (Coincidentally the Episcopal Church General Convention and the General Synod of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia will both be running over that time period as well.)  Oddly, for a news release about what was on the agenda, there was a long and detailed paragraph about a certain item which is not on the agenda.
One item not on the Agenda for July is the Anglican Communion Covenant.  The Business Committee publishes today its report on the voting in the diocesan synods on the draft Act of Synod adopting the Covenant. 18 diocesan synods voted in favour and 26 against, so this draft Act of Synod cannot be presented to the General Synod for final approval. As the report shows, the voting was quite close. The majority of Houses of Clergy (26) voted against, but the majority of Houses of Laity (23) voted in favour. Overall, of the 1516 members of houses of clergy who voted, 732 (48%) voted in favour and 784 (52%) voted against, whereas, of the 1813 members of houses of laity who voted, 960 (53%) voted in favour and 853 (47%) voted against. The Business Committee believes that it would be helpful for members of the Synod to have time to reflect on the position before the Synod debates the report and the Diocesan Synod Motions about the Covenant that have been passed by nine diocesan synods. These will therefore be debated not in July but at the next group of sessions after July.

This is, of course, another excellent example of the aphorism, "statistics are for losers."  The aggregate voting figures are profoundly irrelevant to the issue.  The Covenant was submitted to diocesan synods, and the majority of diocesan synods said "no."

So why are Church House apparatchiks going into such detail about this?

Well, I'm just a poor colonial and I don't necessarily grasp all the subtleties of establishment sensibilities.  I have, however, been involved in the cut and thrust of partisan politics for more than 30 years.  I've organized floor fights at political conventions and I've been involved at senior levels in a few very competitive leadership and nomination races.  I know a bit about hardball politics.

What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is the early stages of an unseemly attempt at political hardball from the smoke-filled backrooms of Church House, Lambeth Palace and the Anglican Communion Office.  This data is going to be used to justify some sort of General Synod resolution to affirm the Anglican Covenant despite the defeat in the diocesan synods.

Oh yes, it will not "adopt" the Covenant - but the message will be clear.  The ecclesiastical bureaucrats are not about to allow the ephemeral concept of due process to get in the way of their project to recast the Anglican Communion from a fellowship of autonomous churches into a centralized, unitary and curial body.

We've already seen their capacity to make up the rules on the fly.  Within hours of the defeat of the Covenant in England, the Anglican Communion Office put out a news release asserting that the Archbishop of Canterbury's role as an Instrument of Unity was independent of his membership in the Church of England and therefore, even if England were to defeat the Covenant, he'd still be in charge of meting out "relational consequences."

It's the sort of behaviour one expects from the worst sort of political operatives.  It's a pity one can't expect any better in the Church.

Hardball politics has marked the Covenant process from the start. 

  • We Covenantsceptics were warned, surely, when the very day we launched the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, a former ACO staffer compared us to the principle fascist party in the United Kingdom (a vicious slander for which he has only ever offered a politician's non-apology apology). 

  • It was confirmed when both the ACO and Church House declined to provide balanced background material, and when several dioceses refused to allow any material critical of the Covenant to be distributed to members of their synods.

  • And let us not forget the many synods where even the debate was deliberately manipulated to give unfair advantage to the pro-Covenant position.  Indeed, this applies to most of the diocesan synods that voted yes - and which is the source of the now claimed "moral" victory.  (Lichfield may be the best example of this, where the 90 minutes allocated for debate began with a 30 minute speech from a prominant Covenanter, followed by a ten minute speech to move the motion to adopt.  Fully 40 minutes of a 90 minute debate before the Covenant's opponents were permitted to utter a single syllable.  Curiously, the Covenant passed by a wide margin.)

And yet, despite every institutional advantage, despite a propaganda onslaught, despite an international campaign of slander, despite the manipulative use of the bully pulpit, the proposed Covenant could not overcome its internal contradictions and the combined might of Church House, Lambeth and the Anglican Communion Office were unable to defeat a wee band of bloggers.  The remarkable thing about these voting results is not that the Covenanters "almost won," but rather that they blew a commanding lead and managed to lose.

So they will try to make a silk purse from this particular sow's ear with a motion to "affirm" the Anglican Covenant and expressly denying that the failure of the Covenant in the diocesan synods means anything at all.

Stand by for Round II.