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Friday, May 02, 2008

"Impenetrability! That's what I say!"

Everyone who knows George Conger, an Episcopal Priest and religious journalist, knows that he is a man with a mission to assist the spread of the neo-orthodox gospel.

His writing, therefore, is hardly without a particular perspective and prejudice. I appreciate and respect that about George's work. His has been an important voice, one that has been listened to by many on both sides of the aisle.

Somewhere in the last few months Conger has crossed the line. He is clearly writing more and more from the fringe of the Religious Right. It was he who, after the last House of Bishop's meeting in which they formally deposed three bishops who had already left The Episcopal Church for greener 'orthodox' pastures and sheep, led the dubious claim that the canonical process was invalid because there was not a quorum.

I don't mind that. It's important to raise questions. Truth be told, the canons regarding the deposition of bishops in particular and many of the canons in general, need to be revisited and revised and clarified, especially with regard to the new technological advantages available to us.

Until such time as the canons are revised, it is business as usual: We rely, as we always have, on the Chancellor to interpret and the Presiding Bishop to apply the canons to the very best of their ability. (Please read again the statement from the Presiding Bishop.)

What I did mind was the shrillness of Conger's . . . "report". You can read it here. As my Grandmother would say, it has "tone." The article clearly plays to the confusing wording of the canons to try to gain political advantage.

Which, on the one had, made no sense. I mean, the deposed bishops themselves were not crying 'foul'. They all admitted that they had "walked away" from TEC.

No, there was clearly another agenda in Conger's writing. We began to see it unfold like a Spring flower that had mutated after a long, cold winter in the hard, frozen ground.

Just this week, the Presiding Bishop issued a statement about the process of the depositions of the bishops. You can read it below where I have posted it. It is her usual clear, level headed, non-anxious, self-differentiated, gracious writing - which drives the neo-orthodox right round the bend.

It's bad enough that she's a woman in authority. It's worse that she is the canonical authority over them. It makes 'em absolutely crazy that she is smarter than most of them, and without being either arrogant or condescending, is self-possessed, confident and does not rely on them to define her or the sacred work to which she has been called.

Conger was ready for her. Immediately after the release of her statement, this article appeared in TLC online.

It is a report about nothing except the specious speculation and posturing of the disgruntled.

There is a . . . "memo" . . .which has been prepared by . . . "an attorney" . . . which claims that Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori demonstrated a “willful violation of the canons, an intention to repeat the violations, and a pattern of concealment and lack of candor” in her handling of the cases of bishops Robert W. Duncan, John-David Schofield and William Cox, and that she “subverted” the “fundamental polity” of The Episcopal Church in the matter of the Diocese of San Joaquin."

The article ends with this: "The authors of the legal memorandum were not optimistic the current legal and political environment within the church would be conducive for a conviction. The Title IV committee could issue a presentment, it could decline to issue a presentment and “produce a rationale that is persuasive to most objective observers,” or it could “decline to issue a presentment on grounds that are not persuasive and serve only to discredit the Review Committee and the process as well as the respondent,” it said.

This third outcome is “highly likely,” the paper concluded, but it noted the effort should nonetheless be made to hold the institution “accountable.”

Right. "Holding the institution 'accountable'". That's what they're doing. Of course. There is no basis for this complaint except a pathetic need for some to reassert their testosterone levels and, as George H.W. Bush once said before a debate with Geraldine Ferraro, "Kick some butt tonight."

It's called bravado: 1 a: blustering swaggering conduct b: a pretense of bravery 2: the quality or state of being foolhardy

Actually, it's scurrilous! What the neo-orthodox, neo-puritan, evangelicals are hoping for is some kind of "traction" from this on the international front. It won't happen, of course, the real agenda of this action being painfully obvious to anyone who has eyes to see.

This is a pathetic attempt to set up a smoke screen to try and conceal their blatant disregard for the canons of this church and the hideous disrespect for the authority of "that woman" - the Most Rev'd Katharine Jefferts Schori.

The smoke will dissipate soon enough and no real damage will have been done to either our Presiding Bishop or The Episcopal Church.

What it will achieve, as is painfully obvious from the torrent of anger and hate left in the comment section of the neo-orthodox blogs, is to continue to whip up support in the ranks. So be it.

The only real damage is that which the neo-orthodox will bring upon themselves. I continually marvel at the variety of ways in which they can shoot themselves in their own feet and blame everyone else because they're limping.

Shame on you, George Conger. You're a better journalist than that. Shame on you, the editorial board of The Living Church, for actually running an article built on innuendo and speculation. This "news" has been constructed with so many holes shot through it that it begins to challenge the ethics of journalism.

Shame on all of you who participate in this charade who claim to be Christian.

But, I'll let Humpty Dumpty have the last word:

"I don't know what you mean by 'eggs,' "Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!'"

"But `eggs' doesn't mean `a nice knock-down argument,'" Alice objected.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all."

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again.

"They've a temper, some of them -- particularly verbs, they're the proudest -- adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs -- however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That's what I say!"


Steve Waring said...

You neglected to note that The Living Church article on the House of Bishops' canonically questionable depositions was co-written by Steve Waring, the news editor. Thanks for reading and letting others know "I'm not dead yet!"

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I was trying to be kind to an old friend, Steve. While I'm very disappointed with the article, I'm flattered to find you over here.