Daily Archives: March 29, 2008
The Very Rev. Robert Taylor resigned Friday as dean of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, amidst acclaim for his accomplishments but following months of controversy over staff shakeups and parish leadership.
Taylor came to “The Holy Box,” as the cathedral is often nicknamed, in 1999 with a background that put him instantly in the news. He had been an anti-apartheid student leader in South Africa, became a protege of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and is a partnered gay man.
“Despite our many accomplishments together, my vision for our future has diverged from that of the Vestry in significant ways, and that has resulted in a loss of trust between us,” Taylor wrote.
The Vestry are elected lay leaders of the St. Mark’s parish, which is the seventh largest Episcopal congregation in the country.
The newspaper industry has experienced the worst drop in advertising revenue in more than 50 years.
According to new data released by the Newspaper Association of America, total print advertising revenue in 2007 plunged 9.4% to $42 billion compared to 2006 — the most severe percent decline since the association started measuring advertising expenditures in 1950.
The drop-off points to an economic slowdown on top of the secular challenges faced by the industry. The second worst decline in advertising revenue occurred in 2001 when it fell 9.0%.
The Rev. Canon Eugene Taylor Sutton was elected March 29 as the 14th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.
Sutton, 54, canon pastor at Washington National Cathedral and director of the Center for Prayer and Pilgrimage (Diocese of Washington), was elected the first ballot out of a field of five nominees. The election took place at St. James’ Church, Lafayette Square, Baltimore.
Say a prayer for St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church. But not inside the 139-year-old landmark.
The church closed Easter Sunday.
“We should have been smiling and rejoicing and exclaiming, ‘He hath risen!’ ” said the Rev. Dr. Napoleon Bryant Jr., the church’s ordained deacon.
“Instead, the service was as solemn as the funeral of a child,” added the clergyman who has also been a parishioner at the racially mixed church since 1951.
Officials with the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio attribute the closing to declining attendance.
“That’s the main reason,” the Rt. Rev. Thomas Breidenthal, diocesan bishop, said. Only 16 households regularly put money in the offering plate.
God of truth and love; Father Son and Holy Spirit, Hear our prayer for those who do not know You. We ask that they may come to a saving knowledge of the truth and that Your Name may be praised among all peoples of the world. Sustain, inspire and enlighten Your servants who bring them the Gospel. Bring fresh vigor to wavering faith; sustain our faith when it is still fragile. Continually renew missionary zeal in ourselves and in the Church; raise up new missionaries who will follow You to the ends of the world Make us witnesses to Your goodness; full of love, strength and faith ”“ for Your glory and the salvation of the entire world.
The Treasury Department will propose on Monday that Congress give the Federal Reserve broad new authority to oversee financial market stability, in effect allowing it to send SWAT teams into any corner of the industry or any institution that might pose a risk to the overall system.
The proposal is part of a sweeping blueprint to overhaul the nation’s hodgepodge of financial regulatory agencies, which many experts say failed to recognize rampant excesses in mortgage lending until after they set off what is now the worst financial calamity in decades.
Democratic lawmakers are all but certain to say the proposal does not go far enough in restricting the kinds of practices that caused the financial crisis. Many of the proposals, like those that would consolidate regulatory agencies, have nothing to do with the turmoil in financial markets. And some of the proposals could actually reduce regulation.
According to a summary provided by the administration, the plan would consolidate an alphabet soup of banking and securities regulators into a powerful trio of overseers responsible for everything from banks and brokerage firms to hedge funds and private equity firms.
The Rev. Jane Heenan, 62, a longtime Alexandria resident who became the first woman to head an Episcopal church in Nebraska, died March 14 of congestive heart failure at her daughter’s home in Galveston, Tex.
Before moving to Lincoln, Neb., in 1995, Rev. Heenan served as seminarian at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Annandale and was ordained a priest at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Arlington County, where she served as assistant rector and interim rector.
From 1995 to her retirement on disability in 2007, Rev. Heenan was the rector at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Lincoln. She also hosted numerous spiritual retreats for parishioners in Rehoboth Beach, Del., because she saw the ocean as the perfect background for spirituality, said her daughter, Sarah Gandy.
Rev. Heenan’s last formal duty as a priest was officiating at her daughter’s marriage in a serene wooded Texas grove last May.
In response to a question about the status of church property in the diocese, Jefferts Schori said that one of the first tasks of the diocese’s new leadership will be “to recover the corporate sole” of the diocese. This process will involve removing control of the property from deposed San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield.
“We believe since John-David Schofield has been deposed, he has no right to claim the property of the diocese as the corporate sole,” she said.
The Presiding Bishop said that the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church say that parish and diocesan property is held in trust for the entire church. “We believe those properties are a legacy” given by generations of Episcopalians for the use of generations yet to come, she said.
“We don’t have the fiduciary or moral responsibility to simply walk away,” Jefferts Schori told the audience. “They’re meant for mission and we’ll do what we can to recover them.”
Answering a question about reports of problems with the March 12 consent by the House of Bishops to her request for authority to depose or remove Schofield from his diocesan position, Jefferts Schori said that the vote was conducted in the same way that other such deposition requests have been done.
While the applicable canon (Canon IV.9.2) may have “varieties of interpretation,” the Presiding Bishop said that her chancellor and the House’s parliamentarian ruled that the canon called for approval by the majority of those bishops present at the meeting. She added that the canon does not allow for a poll by mail of all bishops eligible to vote, as some have suggested ought to have been done.
“We believe that we did the right thing,” she said, adding that the consent came from “a clear majority of those present.”
I found myself troubled and profoundly conflicted. As many of you know, I served in the Diocese of San Joaquin for fourteen years before coming to Northern Indiana. Thus Bishop Schofield ”“ and many of the leaders of the diocese ”“ have been part of my life for a long time. Bishop Cox, too, is revered and respected, with an important place in the church’s recovery of the ministry of healing. Both bishops acted in accordance with their consciences. Yet I believe that their actions are disordered, theologically and canonically. Nothing good ever comes from schism. When Christians separate from one another, the gospel is hampered and our ability to offer Jesus to a needy world severely compromised. In the days leading up to the vote on the two bishops, I found myself torn between conflicting responsibilities: to the unity and canonical integrity of the church on the one hand, and to honoring conscience in the midst of conflict on the other.
As a matter of theological and pastoral conviction, I am committed to the ministry of reconciliation. This season in the church’s life challenges us, I believe, to find ways of living together in Christian community when we find ourselves caught in conscience-driven conflict. Is it possible for Christians of good will who have come to very different convictions on (for example) painful issues of human sexuality to flourish together in the same institution? I believe that we can; but in our own church we are struggling to discover ways of making that happen.
In the end, I voted No on the resolutions to depose Bishops Schofield and Cox, one of a very small number of bishops to do so. (Since the resolutions passed on voice votes, there’s no specific count.) During the debate over the resolution to depose Bishop Schofield, I spoke to the House and said something like this: that Bishop Schofield is guilty as charged, and his actions have unleashed chaos upon his diocese and on the church. And yet, I said, I would vote against the resolution to depose him. Why? Because a deposition is the canonical equivalent of the “death penalty”; it effectively closes the door to the possibility of future reconciliation. And so, I said, it would be better to find a way of accomplishing the same end (removing Bishop Schofield from his position as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin) without the negative overtones of a deposition. A cord gently cut can be more easily re-tied. If we allow our friends to depart peacefully, we are more likely in God’s time to welcome them home.
What troubles me most deeply is that we are finding it easier and easier to resort to canonical solutions in matters which are at their core theological, spiritual, pastoral, and relational. While I have no doubt that these bishops violated the canons, the issues before us are not purely canonical, and they do not lend themselves to a canonical solution. They touch the heart of what it means to follow Jesus, to be called into community, and learn the complementary imperatives of mutual forbearance and forgiveness (Colossians 3:13). I’m concerned that, with each passing meeting of the House, we will repeat the scene that we experienced at Camp Allen; and each time, the debate will be less agonized and the result more assured.
However, as is now well-documented–on this blog and elsewhere–the four clerical members of the Standing Committee, and two of the lay members, almost immediately following the December convention, signaled their intention to not follow the majority to the Southern Cone. They did so by consenting to the election of a bishop by a diocese of the Episcopal Church, and transmitting that consent through normal channels. In mid-January, the President of the Standing Committee spoke on the phone with the Presiding Bishop and informed her that a majority of committee’s members did not intend to join in the secession, and wished to continue to operate under the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. A day after this phone conversation, Bishop Schofield, in effect, recognized this reality and effectively “fired” these six individuals, and reconstituted the Standing Committee of the Southern Cone Diocese of San Joaquin from the remaining two lay members. But for reasons at this point known only to her, the Presiding Bishop refused to recognize the loyalty of the six, despite clear knowledge of their intention to follow the canons, and publicly declared her judgment that there were in fact no continuing members of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. This was the first of three canonically questionable moves on her part that cast a shadow over the entire project of rebuilding the ministry of TEC in the central valley of California.
The second such canonically questionable (and this is a charitable description) move took place barely two weeks ago at the meeting of the House of Bishops. The question before the house was the canonical deposition of two bishops–Schofield of San Joaquin and Cox, retired Assistant of Oklahoma. In the case of Bishop Cox, the entire process (under the so-called “abandonment of communion” canon, which calls for summary judgment without trial) was botched, as he was never inhibited and the Presiding Bishop held the “indictment” (from the Title IV Review Committee) back when she was canonically required to have presented it to last September’s meeting of the HOB. But in the case of both bishops, the deposition failed on a technicality, though this was not noticed at the time. Within it couple of days, however, outside sources pointed out that the required number of votes to depose needs to be not just a majority of a quorum, but a majority of the “whole number” entitled to vote. As I write, at least one member of the HOB has demanded that this irregularity be investigated, and we can be sure the dust is far from settling.
Now the final ingredient in the Perfect Storm recipe–the one that will act as a catalyst, joining with the others to ignite a cataclysm in the Anglican world. In less than two days’ time, the Presiding Bishop is intending to call to order a special convention of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin in the city of Lodi. While it is arguably her duty to facilitate the reconfiguration and reinvigoration of TEC’s ministry in that area, the way she has gone about doing so seems to ignore, if not flout, the very Constitution and Canons of the Church she serves. This is where the canonical cloud over the deposition of Bishop Schofield becomes extremely relevant. Only in the absence of a bishop can the Presiding Bishop step in to a situation, and then only under strictly limited circumstances. But there is plausible doubt whether Bishop Schofield has in fact been properly deposed, and this calls into question any action that the special convention on Saturday will take. Of course, Bishop Schofield has no desire to be the Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin, and he has in fact submitted his resignation to the Presiding Bishop. The problem is, neither she nor the House of Bishops bothered to accept that resignation! So, do we indeed have a vacancy in the office of Bishop of San Joaquin? Practically, we do. But technically, we do not. And with as much at stake as there is in these times, with the level of trust in our leadership eroding at every turn, this is one occasion when it is imperative to be excruciatingly correct technically, to bend over backwards to avoid even the whiff of an impression of the subversion of due process.
But wait…there’s more! The “unrecognized” Standing Committee–that is, the duly and canonically elected Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin–made it clear to the Presiding Bishop on several occasions that, in the event of Bishop Schofield’s lawful deposition, they stood ready to perform their duty and become the Ecclesiastical Authority of the diocese, cooperating with her office as appropriate under the constitution and canons. As recently as two weeks ago, they expected to shortly be called to act in accordance with the polity of “this Church.” But because of the technical glitch, they cannot recognize the See of San Joaquin as vacant, and are therefore unable to lawfully step in.
So what we will have Saturday is a Perfect Storm–an institution going rogue on itself, ignoring its own polity, its own rules . . . just because it can. The harm that this will do to the commonweal of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion is untellable. If we can’t trust ourselves to live by our own laws, if the ends are seen as justifying the means, if a mistake in the past is used as a justifying precedent for repeating the same mistake, then the confidence of the minority that the protections afforded them under our polity will indeed be effective evaporates like morning mist under the desert sun. We are left to be drowned by the tyranny of the majority. If that is the offering we must make, then so be it. No such costly oblation will, in the redemptive economy of God, go wasted. But on the Last Day, I do not anticipate being envious of whose who, buoyed by a perception of power made invincible by righteousness, are in these days the instruments of such an unholy wrath.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices which they had prepared.
And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
but when they went in they did not find the body.
The central significance of prayer is not in the things that happen as results, but in the deepening intimacy and unhurried communion with God at His central throne of control in order to discover a “sense of God’s need in order to call on God’s help to meet that need.”
–E.M. Bounds, The Weapon Of Prayer, quoted in last night’s teaching
The Rev. James Snell, president of the San Joaquin Standing Committee, has previously raised the possibility that Bishop Jefferts Schori might be liable for a presentment complaint under the canons which prohibit bishops from entering another bishop’s territory without permission. Under the canons to be considered for adoption by the special convention, the standing committee is the ecclesiastical authority of the diocese. The special convention is scheduled to begin in a few hours.
“Bishop Lawrence and the South Carolina Standing Committee have really gone out on a limb in respectfully calling for a second vote on the depositions and for postponement of the special convention,” the Rev. John Burwell, president of the standing committee told a reporter from The Living Church. “I am hoping that other diocesan bishops and standing committees will join me in respectfully calling for the consistent application of our canons.” Fr. Burwell, who also serves as rector of Holy Cross Church, Sullivans Island, also confirmed that the diocese had informed Bishop Jefferts Schori of their intent to make public the letter ahead of time and waited for confirmation that she had received it before doing so.