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Sunday, March 18, 2007

"It's so unfair!"


Given all that's happened in South Carolina, I suppose I'd be saying the same thing.

Actually, that at various times in my life, I know I have said both statements: "It's so unfair!" And, "God is unfair!"

When your team - your candidate - looses, it's hard to see how anything about the process is fair.

If I've had anything to do with the process, it's hard to take any responsibility for my loss. And, if I've messed up and lost due to a technicality, well, there is no greater consolation than to scream, "Are you kidding me? That's so unfair!"

So, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to hear the cry, "Unfair!" coming from South Carolina where Mark Lawrence's election to the episcopacy failed to receive the necessary consents - especially because so many of those consents were determined to be incomplete or otherwise not compliant with the canons of The Episcopal Church.

One of the leaders in South Carolina recently wrote this: "None of any of this would have been necessary if Mark Lawrence were evaluated fairly, but instead he was misjudged by a different standard than the one claimed to be in use by many in church leadership in the last several years."


I had to respond: Okay, *******. I know that you all are reeling in the pain of this. I don't mean to add to it. Truly. I've said it over and over and I'll say it again: This is a loss for Mark Lawrence, for the Diocese of South Carolina, and for the church. It's a terrible, terrible tragedy.

I know your words are coming from a place of that pain, but I simply cannot let your most recent remarks go without comment.

There can be no doubt that this was a controversial election for TEC. In a controversial election, there's bound to be, well, controversy. People take sides. Passions flair. Mistakes are made.

Pretty normal, so far, even for the church.

The process, by canon law, takes 120 days. That's true for Newark, Hawai'i, Connecticut, South Carolina and any other diocese holding an episcopal election, whether it's controversial or not. Everybody who is elected to the privilege of service on a Standing Committee knows this - or should know it.

In the Diocese of Newark, shortly after Bishop Croneberger announced his intention to retire, we got a visit from a bishop who works at the National Church Center, whose job it is to help inform Standing Committees of their canonical responsibilities. A consultant to the process is also recommended and, at least in our case, our Search Committee worked very closely with that consultant.

In the event of a controversial election, or an election in a diocese which holds a theological perspective considered to be in the minority of or challenge to the mainstream, AND in the present politically charged climate of the church (and SC applies on all counts), it would seem to me that it is incumbent on the Standing Committee - knowing the obstacles before it and the time line which binds it - to, as we say in the circles of activism in the Progressive wing of the church, "work the phones."

In our election of Mark Beckwith in the Diocese of Newark, we took no chances, given the highly charged political climate of our church and the controversial nature of our diocesan theological stands. We targeted those same churches you mentioned, especially "a number of province ix votes (which) were not counted because the procedure is inherently elitist and classist toward them."

You continue, "They are not in a position to have all of the people from a standing committee in one place to sign a form since for them to do so would cost a lot of time and money they do not have."

They had the same 120 days the rest of us had. If the Standing Committee of South Carolina had began "working the phones" as the group led by Sarah Hey over at Stand Firm did at the 11th hour of the consent process, I can assure you there would have been ample time to deal with the forces of "classism and elitism." (BTW, Ms. Hey did a masterful job and is to be highly commended.)

What's the old saying that always makes me go "Ugh!"? Oh, yeah, "Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part." I always hate to hear that, but only because it's true. The problem with 11th hour efforts is precisely what you experienced - with consents arriving 30 minutes to midnight of the deadline.

Again: The Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina had 120 days. They knew this at the beginning of the process. And, the Office of the Presiding Bishop still graciously and generously provided a 'grace period' of three days for the mail system.

Mark Lawrence came under intense scrutiny. Of this there can be no doubt. You may remember that the scrutiny was even more intense - under a national and international microscope while media from around the world camped at the door step of General Convention - for the consent process of Bishop Gene Robinson.

Was any of what either Lawrence or Robinson experienced fair? Hardly.

Were they judged fairly? Well, judging by Lawrence's remarks today about "choosing sides" it would appear so, despite the reported reception, albeit late or incomplete, of an adequate number of consents.

It would appear that that which many of us feared most in Lawrence's episcopacy - that he would "choose sides" rather than "build bridges" (the role of a pontiff or bishop) has come to be true.

Even so, I suspect that if he were to be duly elected tomorrow, he would win consents. He would still be controversial. His election and consent process would still be intensely scrutinized. But, two things would be different:

1. people would be voting with greater clarity about the man's platform and intention and

2. I'm willing to bet a whole boatload of donut holes that the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina would be working a whole mess of phones right from Jump Street.

Again, ******, I'm sorry for your pain. Truly I am. You know as well as I do that ours is a God of great mercy and plenteous redemption.

By the standards of the world, God IS unfair. That's because God knows the end of this story, and what is happening at this particular time in this particular situation is just one part of the picture, the completion of which we can't yet see.

The Gospel story of the Prodigals - father and son - in Sunday's lectionary for Lent IV is a good meditation for healing in this hour.

I pray that the prodigal, extravagant, wasteful love of God will not be wasted on God's prodigal daughters and sons, so that, unlike the angry elder son, healing and reconciliation may be found - and celebrated!

10 comments:

Mike in Texas said...

Well done, Elizabeth!

Bill said...

Sometimes when you screw up, you just have to stand up and say, "I screwed up" and then get on with your life. Then just maybe, because you've stopped blaming the world for your mistakes, you can get it right.

Robert Horn said...

While some have implied that the ruling by PB Jefferts Schori was "unfair," most of the sense of unfairness has been directed toward those who misrepresented Mark Lawrence's written and stated positions-including the President of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Newark. As a priest in the Diocese of South Carolina, I can confidently state that we are committed to following canonical process, and will proceed appropriately. Despite our differences with the current positions of TEC leadership, and reports to the contrary, we have never sought to "secede from the union."

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, Robert. It is probably most appropriate for you to consider my comments about Mark Lawrence "unfair."

Obviously, I do not.

Unfair? Try looking at how Bishop Gene Robinson was - and continues to be - characterized.

As I recall, we lost two entire days in the consent process at General Convention because a link on his website to a group of young LGBT people he had previously helped contained a link to a pornographic website.

We also had to deal with the accusations from a man in the Diocese of NH who claimed that Gene was "inappropriate" with him.

The truth, when it finally came out, was that the pornographic site had linked itself with the youth site - not vise versa - and the "inappropriate" behavior turned out to be that +Gene had placed his hand on the man's shoulder after he had expressed something troubling and it had made him feel "uncomfortable."

But, until those two truths came out, Bishop Gene was labeled in the national and international press as a sexually predatory gay man.

Unfair? You betcha.

Has Mark Lawrence endured anything close to that "unfairness"?

Not from where I sit, but I'm more than willing to be enlightened.

Unfair? This President of the Standing Committee of Newark, at her very first meeting, insisted on a second reconsideration of our vote not to consent at the request of the President of the Standing Committee of South Carolina.

Unfair? This President of the Standing Commmittee of Newark expressed her opinions publicly that Mark's "intentions" were the stuff of what paved the road to hell and begged for a difinitive "yes" or "no."

Mark Lawrence never gave me - or others - the courtesy of a response, much less responded directly to the request.

Unfair? Mark Lawrence only has himself to blame.

I'm sorry for your pain, Robert. Truly. I would never wish on anyone the kind of 'unfair' treatment LGBT people in general and I in particular have had to endure in this church.

Unfair? It's truly 'unfair' that, as President of the Standing Committee, my manner of life is sufficient to be the "ecclesiastical authority in the absence or incapacitation of the bishop," but I am prohibited from being an actual bishop, much less discerning my vocation as one.

Unfair? I suspect you may not see it that way. That doesn't mean that it isn't.

But, there's no sense whining about it or pointing fingers.

There's way too much gospel work to be done. I welcome y'all to it.

Jim said...

"Unfair? It's truly 'unfair' that, as President of the Standing Committee, my manner of life is sufficient to be the "ecclesiastical authority in the absence or incapacitation of the bishop," ...... "

Oh great, now the primates have to go back and amend the communique to prohibit another whole level of office. Then if they figure out some of our layity is gay, it will never end. Oh wait, that is the plan isn't it?

;;sigh;;

In my prayerful judgement, you are one of the most direct victims of B033 along with my dear friend Michale Hopkins. You two should be fighting it out to see which is consecrated first, not fighting a totally phony "fast."

Any yet, it is Fr. Lawrence who is bitter. It is his supporters who are raising the spector of being Anglican not Episcopalian, whatever that means. It is you, and others like you who are demonstrating grace and gracefulness.

"By their fruits...." I am reminded of the priest who approaches his rector after the 11 A. M. mass and says that there were errors. "What you said is not what Jesus said Father." To which the old man responded, "He would have said it if he had all the facts!"

FWIW
jimB

Bill said...

Elizabeth, remind me not to get you upset. Let me take a minute to clean up all the body parts scattered around before I get to a response.. . . . . . . . . . .Oh wait, I found an arm in the corner.. . .. . .Ok, all nice and tidy.

I think that by now Robert understands that he doesn’t know the first thing about being unfair. Unfair is being shot to death in New York for trying to pull out your wallet and present it to the police. Unfair is being gay and being dragged behind a car until your dead. Unfair is being the duly elected Presiding Bishop, representing the Episcopal Church in the United
States, and having a group of fellow bishops refusing to even sit at the table with you because you’re a woman. That’s what it means to be unfair. Ah, why even try to explain.

Let’s talk about Robert’s statement “we are committed to following canonical process” and see if it holds water. No, as I look underneath I see it’s leaking. If they had followed “canonical process” they would have signed all the “consents”, licked the stamps, and put them in the mail. I am therefore giving Robert an “A
“ for effort but a “B – minus” for core content.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Sorry, Bill,

My last nerve gets pulled and all my "mother" stuff kicks in when someone (like the "orthodox") who has been treating people (loike women and LGBT people) unfairly says, "Unfair!"

Thanks, jimB. You are too kind.

Robert Horn said...

Bill, perhaps you do not understand that SC had no way to sign consents for Standing Committees from other dioceses. All canonical processes were followed in the first round. My statement simply observes that we continue to follow the canons as we move forward.

And, by the way, I was not the one whining about unfairness.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Robert,

I believe what Bill meant in his short hand way was that it is the responsibility of the Standing Committee - ANY Standing Committee - to make sure that the consents sent it for certification meet the requirements according to canon.

That wasn't done. There are, perhaps, a few reasons for that, none the least of which was no small degree of "wishful thinking."

I'm sure another reason was due to the "last minute" 11th hour nature of the activism from conservatives outside of the diocese who were earnestly trying to help.

Again, it's hurtful to hear but "lack of planning on the part of one person is not reason for an emergency on the part of others."

I remain convinced that the SC knew, before they licked the envelope on the final package addressed to "815 Second Ave., NY, NY", that the election would be declared "null and void" because the consents were not in proper order or form or completed.

There was no way they could't.

Classism and elitism is the "original sin" of TEC, but that is no excuse for sending in a statement from a Standing Committee without a majority of the required signatures.

If you know places like Alaska have difficulting getting eight people in the same place at the same time, then you start "working the phones" on Day one of Day 120 of the consent process.

It's really that simple - and that difficult. Just grunt work is all.

And no, Robert, you didn't say anything about being unfair, but "reports to the contrary" I didn't say anything about "SC seceding from the union" either.

I simply spoke about the anxiety level that was raised exponentially by Lawrence's refusal to give a definitive "yes" or a "no."

The "orthodox" can not condemn "classic Anglican fudge" on the one hand and then try to employ it with the other.

Although, Lawrence is certainly making himself clear now, isn't he?

Come to think of it, perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps it will be even more difficult to get consents next time - "if," as Don Pardeau always says at the end of 'Spanning the World - "there is a next time" for Mark Lawrence.

It's a painful thing, Robert. It must be hugely embarrassing. I'm acutely aware of that. And, I'm really, really sorry.

Bill said...

I am sorry Robert if I was unclear. I came from the corporate world. I was with a major corporation for thirty-seven years. If we entrusted people to complete a certain function by a certain time and they failed to do so, their titles were changed to "unemployed". The problem with volunteers is that you really hold no sway over them. They do or they don't as it suits them. They comply or they don't comply. What are you going to do, give them less volunteer work to do? They only way to make sure that the job gets done, is for people with a vested interest to stay on top of it and make sure that it gets done. And that did not happen.