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.