Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pittsburgh (TEC) Convention: Day 2 (October 16)

Well there's one characteristic that TEC and ACNA conventions increasingly share - resolutions passed unanimously and with little discussion. No doubt when it comes to drafting a diocesan response to the Anglican Covenant - always assuming that it hasn't become a dead letter by then, there will be more difference of opinion, but for now the mind of both conventions seems - on paper, at least - to be uniform. I can imagine that there are many on both sides for whom this comes as a relief. An endless round of resolutions that pass by identical margins (albeit with clear minority opposition) does little to embody the common will of the Body of Christ, but its absence also leaves comparatively little to report.

Yesterday included an appeal from former Trinity Cathedral dean George Werner reflecting - in a point of personal privilege - on how John F. Kennedy's appeal to discern what one could for one's country had been diluted down by contemporary politicians to the simple "I approve this message." He urged the diocese to continue to grow as a community and assume positive intent as we conduct the bishop search for "if we disintegrate into small groups of like mind no system will save us." No problem with the message, but if the speaker was claiming that he was less of a politician in his day than was (and is) David Wilson, I will eat my hat.

The report of the chancellor - absent because his wife is in hospital with cancer - was delivered by Bishop Price. The hearing of the appeal on the 2005 Stipulation will be on November 9, but the court could take up to seven months to deliberate.

An effective presentation by Bill Green on the work of Calvary Camp which continues to thrive at a time when most dioceses are closing their camps. Certainly a ministry to celebrate.

A resolution passed encouraging parishes to resume giving to the national church. No mandatory language, but a reminder that having committed oneself to stay in TEC that there are responsibilities higher up the chain. Didn't seem that different to discussions about the voluntary tithe in ACNA - interesting at the pre-convention meeting I attended there now appears to be ambiguity about how to relate to a parish that doesn't pay a voluntary tithe (for whatever reason).

The call for an episcopal election process extending over eighteen months, with provision for selection by a nominating committee and by petition, but no candidates from the floor (the circumstances of ++Duncan's election have left certain people gun-shy). Unlike last time, however, the nominating committee will not exercise a veto over a petition candidates, nor - I believe - will their candidates be formally identified during the election process.

Various canonical and constitutional changes of minor importance, apart from Canon XIX revision, incorporating Title IV. Since defeat of the proposal would have brought Title IV into effect immediately, I contented myself with abstaining, merely pointing out to the lay delegates some of the flaws in the legislation that could well affect their clergy - they had better make sure the bishop they choose is going to administer it in a pastoral fashion. Of course, the accepted line is that it can't be defied at a diocesan level - which I don't believe - but only modified at General Convention, which some of our clergy plan to do. I did learn afterwards - which explains a lot - that some of the principle drafters have been coming at the revisions from the perspective of child sex abuse cases, and consequently are more concerned with the reputation of the Church than with clergy due process. The trouble is that the new canons aren't specific to that scenario - even if removal of due process in that one case is desirable - but apply to every issue under the sun. Much better to say that sex abuse cases must automatically be passed to the secular authorities and ecclesiastical judgments follow the resolution of such proceedings.

That's about it really. ACNA's report will follow in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pittsburgh (TEC) Convention: Day 1 (October 15)

A year ago I declared I was done with ecclesiastical journalism and you all breathed a sigh of relief. And here I am back again!

As some readers know I was a delegate to both conventions in 2009 and now - as an alternate elevated to deputy - I'm once again functioning in my bifurcated ACNA/TEC guise, rather like something out of Kafka. Last year, even though the sponsor of a resolution that encouraged parish study of the Anglican Covenant (which passed unanimously), I posted nothing on the TEC convention, largely because there wasn't much happening. This year I feel more inclined to offer some commentary.

Many readers will naturally incline to the "Can anything good come out of Nazareth" school of analysis when it comes to a "rump" TEC Diocese. I'm not sure that this holds even in Fort Worth or San Joaquin, but it definitely doesn't hold in Pittsburgh. Treatment of some conservative clergy on the TEC side has been less than charitable, before and after realignment. I didn't like it then and I don't like it now; in the matter of means vs. ends, I dislike it that the means employed for the end of ACNA are less than perfect.

A case in point for the ambiguity of TEC in post-realignment Pittsburgh was the admission of a new parish - All Saints, Bridgeville - to the diocese. All Saints is led by a crusty - but very loveable - bi-vocational lawyer, Dick Pollard (whose wife Susan is active in the ACNA Diocese!). It's rare to see the good Fr. Pollard emotional, but this one of those moments, as he commended all who had made the worshiping community possible (the membership is about one-third refugees from TEC parishes, one-third refugees from ACNA parishes and the rest from non-Anglican backgrounds). "If you do God's work in God's way, people provide," Dick reminded us, "and today we are giving Him the thanks and the praise."

Other news included expressions of good wishes by Bishop Price to contemporaneous TEC conventions in San Joaquin and Quincy, as well as to retired diocesan Alden Hathaway, the adoption of a new district system with just four districts (reflecting the downturn in active parishes) and the news that Trinity School for Ministry had sponsored the evening refreshments!

But perhaps most interesting was Bishop Price's address, which you can see in its entirety here. Pittsburgh is "better off," he declared, than our counterparts in California, Illinois and Texas, for which we must be "eternally grateful" to the rector of Calvary Church (not sure if a little irony had slipped in here). Furthermore, the prompt deposition of Bishop Duncan meant that the Presiding Bishop "did not have to come to Pittsburgh to convene a special convention" (I know she was present at the other gatherings but I didn't realize she actually convened them). Much more to the point, Pittsburgh had "more parishes, clergy and laity who chose to remain loyal to the Episcopal Church . . . representing a wide diversity of thought and action" (now that is true and should not be sneered at).

Some graceful allusions to ACNA followed; ecumenical and cathedral interaction with the new Archbishop (who has "greater visibility and clout on the global scene" than other ACNA bishops) and a "relatively cooperative" approach to turning over diocesan records. Then a reference to the "distrust, fear and suspicion" that "surrounded life in this diocese leading up to the 2008 split." Now I used to be utterly skeptical about such observations and I know there are those quite happy to fight the liberal corner in southwestern Pennsylvania, but I now know some of the "Rob Eatons" of Pittsburgh and how they were treated when they failed to show adequate loyalty to their bishop, so I have to reserve judgment. By the same token, I can also attest - as a historian - that Pittsburgh liberals in the 1960s and 1970s seem to have been fairly efficient machine politicians too.

So the Diocese now needs to look ahead. To an eighteenth month process of selecting a new bishop; to a parish-by-parish study of the Anglican Covenant in preparation for the drafting of a diocesan response (so my resolution has actually produced a response). An insistence that the Diocese of Pittsburgh "must make its own, unique voice heard," for we are listened to by the Presiding Bishop and the Episcopal Church (here, I must admit, my eyebrows rose a trifle).

The appointment of Jay Geisler of St. Stephen's, McKeesport, as Canon for Formation, building relationships with Trinity School for Ministry and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. An inspired choice this - last year, Jay led the Lenten Study at the realigned Church of the Ascension.

"May we thank God for his many blessing upon us, and for the opportunity to work together in this piece of the Kingdom of Heaven called Pittsburgh." No argument here.

Ah well. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

And I have to do this all over again in two weeks!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Romeward Bound

On Wednesday, it was reported that the vestry of our former parish of Mount Calvary, Baltimore has voted to follow All Saints Sisters of the Poor into the Roman Catholic Church, under the auspices of Benedict XVI's Anglicanorum Coetibus. This vote is to be confirmed in an all-parish meeting on October 24.

This was the parish from which my wife and I were married in 2004, a small, spiky (in the Anglo Catholic sense) congregation, with pronounced Romeward leanings and very warm hearts. In the Nineteenth Century, its ritualism earned it a reputation for defiance of episcopal authority, but it retained considerable freedom of action within the Diocese of Maryland, not least, I suspect, because its sizable endowment generated a significant slice of diocesan income.

While I am in one sense happy for them if it brings peace, I find the news revives all the uncertainty that Anglicanorum Coetibus inspired in me when it was first announced, all the more so because the Diocese of Maryland has apparently signified a willingness to negotiate a settlement. That in itself is striking, given the way in which the Presiding Bishop warned the Diocese of Virginia off settling with the CANA churches, but of course Mount Calvary has considerable resources and it won't be setting up an alternative Anglican hierarchy.

At a deeper level, though, is it wise to depart not just as a community, but as an organized parish, complete with all accouterments? As I understand it, Pope Benedict is not inclined to establish an Anglican Rite, merely a more developed form of Anglican Use. Basically, it is a recognition of the value of certain liturgical forms and in no way undermines Leo XIII's declaration in Apostolicae Curae as to the invalid character of Anglican Orders. By departing in this manner - as opposed to accepting ordinariate status as a community of souls - the impact of the change is blunted. What guarantee is there that Mount Calvary will be any less of an enclave after the transition than before, a place to which Anglican converts to Rome can resort to sustain their former identity? Of course, if an Anglican Rite were to be accepted by Rome on the same terms as the Uniate and Oriental Catholic churches this might not matter so much. If it is not, surely it would be far better to accept the costs that come with sacrifice (and which earlier generations of Anglican converts have been obliged to bear).

All that said, we wish them well!

October 25 Update:

Mount Calvary voted on two resolutions today at a special meeting following 10:00 Mass:

1) That Mt. Calvary Church separate itself from The Episcopal Church, and

2) That Mt. Calvary Church seek admission to the Roman Catholic Church as an Anglican Use parish.

Both resolutions passed by majorities of almost 85%.

The ballots were counted by two disinterested outsiders: Dr. Daniel Page (a friend of many parishioners who lives nearby) and Sister Mary Joan of the All Saints' Sisters of the Poor.

The ballots were counted in the presence of the Rev. Scott Slater, Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese of Maryland.

Source: Stand Firm