Thursday, April 23, 2009


So, in case you missed a meeting, there is still much commenting going on about the "Bishops' Statement on Episcopal Polity" leaked early yesterday and then released shortly thereafter.

Matthew Davies offers a very thorough overview in his ENS feature today ... and The Chicago Consultation also issued a thoughtful statement today.

Mark Harris posted a follow-up to yesterday's flurry entitled "Cleaning Out the Stalls" on PRELUDIUM and Elizabeth Kaeton wonders "This is News?" on "Telling Secrets."

And if you want to find out what the "other side of the aisle" is saying, well ... those you can go find yourselves. Suffice to say, it's the usual comments by the usual suspects.

ANYWAY, what I want to write about today is the question I've gotten from a variety of sources that I think begs an answer. The question -- in several slightly different iterations -- goes something like this:

How is what these bishops and their buddies are doing any different than what Integrity does to influence General Convention and advance its inclusion agenda?

The answer brings me to the title of this post: It's as different as "Apples and Oranges."

And to unpack that I'm going to turn to the wisdom of my colleague (the Reverend Dr. Ruth Meyers) who answered a similar question on a listserve earlier today and has given me permission to share her response here to the comment, "Just because something is organized does not make it 'subversive'." Ruth writes:

I agree, just because something is organized doesn't make it subversive. Here is the part that seems subversive to me (from the leaked emails, as posted by the Washington Blade):

1) The CO priest will request of +SC, as a CP Bishop, a 'visitation',

2) the purpose of which is to prevent his parishioners from concluding that the only route for them is joining ACNA (which will be happening in CO soon) because their Diocesan is not foregrounding his covenant commitments and indeed has ordained an openly homosexual priest, etc, but also has said he means to create space for others' views, etc;

3) +SC will phone +O'Neil and ask that this request be honored and seek to persuade him of its importance,

4) +SC will ask +Salmon to visit, and will indicate to +CO that +Chane is using Salmon in this way in DC ...

"Importantly, +SC reminded us that he does not want to get into a quid pro quo situation that, having implemented something like this, the PB makes sure he reciprocates when SSBs pass in General Convention and he is forced to let a proponent of the same do a visitation in SC. Hence, using +Salmon."

As I understand the Delegated Episcopal Parish Oversight (DEPO) plan (commended by the 2006 General Convention in A163), the first step for a parish disagreeing with their bishop is to seek reconciliation through direct conversation. If reconciliation does not occur, then the rector and vestry may request delegated episcopal pastoral oversight, and in that case, the diocesan bishop appoints another bishop to provide that oversight. [source]

What feels subversive to me in the Communion Partners plan (as outlined in the email correspondence) are the following elements:

1) The request from the Colorado priest to the Bishop of South Carolina, rather than to his own bishop or through an appeal to the provincial leadership.

2) The efforts to keep the Bishop of South Carolina on the edges, delegating the visit to the retired bishop of South Carolina, so that the diocesan will not be forced to accept a similar visitation.


Thanks, Ruth! It "feels subversive" because ... IT IS! The good-faith offer to provide alternative pastoral oversight in order to give elbow room to thelogical minorities to continue to find a a place in this beloved church of ours is being turned into a blunt instrument to pry parishes out of their dioceses -- undermining the historic polity and unity of the Episcopal Church toward the end of "purifying" it from those who would include all the baptized equally in the Body of Christ.

And WE'RE the ones they call revisionists.


Here's the "apples and oranges" part, boys and girls: We are "out" about what we do. We lobby bishops. We caucus with deputies. We show up. We create educational resources to change hearts and minds. We tell our stories. We show up. We organize. We build common cause with other justice allies. We show up. We publish our platform. We write resolutions. We work to get them through committee. And then we work to pass them on the floor. And we keep showing up.

It's all out in the open, kids. We haven't got any secret agenda. Honest to Pete.

It's the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments of the church.


And we're going to keep showing up until we get there.

That's something you can bet both your apples AND your oranges on.



Sidney said...

I am inclined to think that there were better uses for the emails than this. So, by going public with them, you scored some more points appealing to people who are already on your side. So you exposed a strategy session. Big deal. This isn't the worst church politics that's ever happened.

It's often better if your enemies don't know what you know about them. Then when you catch them claiming something that, say, directly contradicts what's said in the emails, THEN you come out and prove them liars. Why tip them off that you have this information?

Or you give the emails to the Bishop of Colorado so he can have some fun with them. As in: he could have gone on to insist that Bishop Lawrence make the visits and force him into the difficult position of either refusing to provide oversight to the parish or undermining his own ability to refuse DEPO in his own diocese. Did anybody know that this non-reciprocation principle was so important to the conservatives? So that's why they like to use retired bishops and bishops from Bolivia and Uganda! Ah, the fun that could have been had...

There are probably other possibilities. I just don't see that much has been gained by publishing them.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Actually, Susan, it's more like apples and spaghetti - what the 'orthodites' do is so far removed from the reality of the work of the various Justice organizations, we're not even part of the same 'food group'.

From years of observation, what the 'orthodites' do is about as tangled and tasteless as a pot of overcooked pasta - and their plots are about as convoluted.

Thanks for writing this. It's important to say - especially since one of their own asked the question.

Brian F said...

"Here's the "apples and oranges" part, boys and girls: We are "out" about what we do. We lobby bishops. We caucus with deputies. We show up....."

And Susan, I imagine this all happens somewhat providentially, as if guided by the Holy Spirit, without any prior organisation or email correspondence whatsoever at all between you and your fellow travellors?. No Susan, it really is oranges and oranges girl.


Yep, Brian ... we send emails -- while we transparently work through the political process that has served this church well for the last 200+ years. We're working within it -- not working to dismantle it.

Apples ... Oranges.

And Sidney, thanks for the great suggestions ... but I think we'll just stick to blowing the whistle and turning on the lights when we need to.

Brian F said...

It just goes to show that what is one person's organising to effect change is another person's conspiracy to survive. The apples and oranges bit is in the contrast between the objectives, not in the methods - otherwise, Integrity really would be a paragon of virture and fulfill all righteousness. And doesn't Sidney's suggestion hint at just a little bit of subversion and sneakiness? Anticipating the fall of another brother - oh what love and inclusiveness.

Muerk said...

One thing though. These emails are about trying to convince people to stay in The Episcopal Church rather than leave and attend the Anglican Church in North America, so isn't this what you want too?

I know there is a disagreement over the office of Presiding Bishop and how it isn't an Archbishipric, but that was made utterly plain by the statement that was officially put out. It _was_ transparent.

JCF said...

It's often better if your enemies don't know what you know about them.You reeeeeeeeeeally don't get it, do you, Sidney.

Seven Words, that Susan said (says repeatedly!) above:

All.The.Sacraments.For.All.The.Baptized.Notice how not ONE of those words is "Enemies"? Or "Proving them liars"? Or "having some fun" at the expense of others?

Once again:

"All the sacraments, for all the baptized."

That's it.

That's the TOTAL agenda...

...and it's for ALL of us. Leaving no so-called "enemies" outside the door (excluded from actual holy fun---like a wedding!)

Susan (and a few others) made the decision that transparency with this Surprise Package of Information, might be helpful towards that agenda (One more time! "All the sacraments for all the baptized").

Transparent, like the Holy Spirit (blowing where She will): makes sense, verdad?

Song in my Heart said...


I disagree. I don't think that dishonest strategies, in the long run, are good ones. I think the only options that aren't just succumbing to the same sneaky game are to ignore the information or blow the whistle.

Ignoring the information doesn't seem like it would be easy, and it smacks of condoning the cheating.

I'm just a confused heretic living in a foreign land, but I don't think the aim of inclusivist liberals is to harm those who oppose them. I don't think they want to hurt or exclude their "enemies" but to show them other ways of thinking which are more accepting. Maybe I'm just naïve, but I think there is a difference between wanting to disempower others and wanting your own interpretation respected. I think there's a difference between victory over someone and victory with them.

I don't think loving one's enemies or neighbours comes easily but using this information secretly does not seem like a step toward the recognition that our enemies *are* our neighbours.

Just my tuppence worth.

Lapinbizarre said...

Apologies for using the "pot calling kettle black" metaphor at Mark Harris's blog re robroy's foamings against you. There is no intended implication that you and he are equally culpable, or that you are in any way so.

Christopher said...


Though it is "fun" to return like with like, to do so is not Christian and it undermines the position and integrity of the one who does so irrespective of what others have done and irrespective of whether or not doing so might increase the liklihood of a "win". Doing so is always ultimately a loss.

By simply putting these e-mails in the open, what some of us long have suspected but been unable to verify, and what many more have suspected not at all, and therefore not considered possible, is now available for all to see. A clear, deliberate, and consistent willingness to undermine this Church by any means necessary, and often, using multiple strategies, that on the surface have appeared unrelated, but are now clearly understood to be intimately related, such as this strategy and the Covenant definition of Church, etc.

This exposure places engagement with the Covenant process in a different light for TEC, puts our fellow Anglican Churches on notice that undermining is afoot--and not likely only in/of TEC, and makes room for moving beyond anxious decision-making precisely because subversion increases anxiety often without our being able to pin a finger on what's what and why.

Brian F

Communicating among one another to clarify a message, intentions, and strategies are not necessarily subversive.


The plain statement, however, belies a will to subvert any authority of the PB and in turn General Convention (which acts as Metropolitan of this Church).

Had a proposal been put forth that worked with the PB and others to come up with pastoral options to keep this parish "in", that is different than going around and behind the backs of many and putting actions into play that undermine all along the way.

Unknown said...

Angels and ministers of grace preserve us!

Kick these bastards out and get on with our lives, for Pete's sake!

Muerk said...


"The plain statement, however, belies a will to subvert any authority of the PB and in turn General Convention (which acts as Metropolitan of this Church)."

Yup. I agree it does. However it does so plainly and well... bluntly. I don't think anyone can say that they are being sneaky, this document is there for all to see and critique. Just as Integrity is there for people to critique.

The emails are just more of the same. They are consistent with the officially published document.

But I still would like to know this, surely the goal of keeping people within the fold of TEC is something that is shared here?

If anyone is being plotted against, isn't it the ACNA?

Christopher said...

Sorry muerk, no dice.

"The plain statement, however, belies a will to subvert any authority of the PB and in turn General Convention (which acts as Metropolitan of this Church)."

By plain statement, I was referring to the plotting in the e-mails, not to that draft that resulted from them. The plot not only entailed a proposal, but actions to undermine and do so by the back door.

I don't always agree with our PB, indeed, have found some of her past statements offensive. I don't even think she's the greatest of theologians. But, I would not countenance such plotting as these e-mails reveal.