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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Prayers ascend

The House of Bishops is meeting this week in Salt Lake City, Utah.

No press have been invited. Instead, Neva Rae Fox, program officer for public affairs at the Episcopal Church Center said that a telephone press conference is scheduled to be held at the meeting’s conclusion. She said the press conference is expected to begin around 1 p.m. local time Sept. 19.

In the meantime, a group of different bishops is reporting on their daily activities and various bishops are "blogging" on Episcope.

The reported focus of the bishop's work will be a de-briefing of Lambeth and the experience of the bishops in their Indaba Groups.

Oh, yes. And they will be hearing and discussing reports from the Title IV disciplinary committee as well as the opinion of the Chancellor and the Presiding Bishop concerning charges brought against Bob Duncan, bishop of the diocese of Pittsburgh, by clergy and laity of his own diocese, concerning allegations of his "Abandonment of Communion."

That's reportedly the agenda item today.

I should note that the Presiding Bishop has reported the findings of the Title IV Disciplinary Committee, the opinion of her Chancellor and her own opinion in concurrence with them and has set it all before the House of Bishops for their action.

She has not made the decision. That will be up to the House of Bishops. This has predictably injected enormous anxiety into the "system". I say "predictably" because if you've even had a cursory reading of any of Ed Freidman's family systems theory as applied to religious organizations, you know that this is precisely what happens.

The lamentations, wailing, moaning, gnashing of teeth and outright scurrilous behavior of those who disagree with these opinions but have no power to act on them has been loud and sustained.

That does not make them true. It only makes them different. The realization that you are in the minority doesn't make you wrong or "not heard". It simply places you in the minority which is not ever a comfortable place to be. Trust me. I know.

This is not an excuse, however, for all of the hate-speech being directed toward our Presiding Bishop. "Presiding Squid" and "Chief Kaitiff" (a play on the word "caitiff" meaning coward or wretch) are only two I care to reproduce in this space.

And, they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love . . . .

The evidence is substantial and there is an equally substantial inclination to depose Bishop Duncan by a jury of his peers. However, an argument is being made that 'it ain't over' till the +Duncan says it's over, and that won't "officially" happen until the second diocesan vote by the convention to change their canons to remove themselves from The Episcopal Church.

The argument is that we ought to wait until the diocese makes its final move and then bring a Presentment against Bishop Duncan which would end in an ecclesiastical court trial where eeevvvvrrrryyy thing would be brought out into the light of day.

We're Episcopalains and the Anglican penchant for "everything in good order" is part our spiritual DNA. At the end of the day, I would prefer this approach as it will give Bishop Duncan a world-wide forum to be heard which will also, I suspect, seal the case for his deposition on that same world stage.

I'm sure there are pieces - legal pieces - of this I don't understand. I'm sure we've learned some things from our sad experience in San Joaquin. I suspect that the impulse to depose Bishop Duncan now, rather than later, is based on legal concerns about the damage that could be done in the time it takes to depose Bishop Duncan via ecclesiastical court trial.

Messy, right?

It's the kind of messiness that is also in our spiritual DNA. That's what happens when each generation seeks to find its own historic place on the historic Via Media, or middle road of Anglicanism.

I understand the HOB need to "control the message." I also understand that part of the reason we are in the mess we are in is due, in part, to the wild speculation on blogs and in the press on both sides of the aisle because the HOB has not done a good job of staying on message, much less controlling their own message.

That being said, I think having bishops function as journalists and report on their own meeting not only begins to stretch the definition of journalism, it also insults the American sensibility about "freedom of the press."

Whatever happens today, one thing is absolutely certain: The bishops of The Episcopal Church need our prayers.

I hope you'll join me in keeping them and deliberations and their individual ministry and mission as a corporate body in your prayers today. It's a tough job, and while we and they may not have fully realized it at the time, this is part of the reason we elected them to these positions of trust and power.

Let us pray that they will use the power of their office to the good and faithfully fulfill the vocation to which they have been called.

Remember especially the bishops of Texas and Louisiana who are not able to attend because they are caring for their people after the devastation of Hurricanes Gustuv and Ike.

Yes, and pray for Bob Duncan, Bishop Diocesan of The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh - for however much longer he has in that role.


Nathan Empsall said...

While I would normally agree with you about the harm in excluding the press, Lambeth has changed my mind. Whether it's the mainstream American media or the British religious press, few seem to provide accurate coverage of the Anglican Communion, The Episcopal Church, or even Protestantism in general. Having the press cover the story as it breaks would likely just distort the whole issue, if recent history is any guide. Letting both liberal and conservative bishops speak for themselves is probably the way to go.

But yes, prayers for the bishops - and if if +Bob is deposed, he will need them all the more.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

This may surprise you, but I was all for the way the media was handled at Lambeth. FYI - there were two - sometimes more - press conferences a day. Only 30 minutes - the first 12-15 minutes taken up by an introduction of and "reports" from a few of those involved in the day's presentation/work. That was followed by only 15 minutes or so of Q&A from about 75 - 100 journalists from around the world - including The Vatican.

That was not ideal but it was not a total lock down as the bishops are doing in Salt Lake.

I understand the impulse, but I'm absolutely opposed to their decision. Information will be 'leaked' anyway and one side or the other will be competing to have gotten the most accurate "scoop."

But, as will be written on my gravestone: No one asked me.