Archive for April, 2009


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Thursday, April 30th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 26 Comments

The Episcopal Organization must really have been thrown by that Communion Partners statement of over a week ago because ENS has yet another story on it:

The spokesman for a group of Episcopal Church bishops and clergy who released an April 22 statement challenging the polity of the church pledged the group’s commitment to remaining in the Episcopal Church, but said that his diocese would consider signing onto a proposed Anglican Covenant if General Convention did not agree to do so.

Meanwhile, an expert on Episcopal Church polity labeled as “bizarre” the idea that individual bishops or dioceses could take that step, and questioned what meaning it would have in the wider Episcopal Church or Anglican Communion.

Diocese of Western Louisiana Bishop D. Bruce MacPherson told ENS April 28 that “one common thing [the Communion Partners bishops and rectors who signed the statement] have, and this has been shared from the beginning with the Presiding Bishop, [is that] we are committed to remaining a part of the Episcopal Church as opposed to some of the other directions that have been taken by others.”

MacPherson, who said he helped organize the crafting of the statement and is the group’s spokesman, acknowledged that the Communion Partners and some clergy and lay people who left the dioceses of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin and Quincy share “a concern for the constitution, the canons, the polity of the Episcopal Church being lived out in the manner they are designed to be by General Convention.”

Sure makes it tough to allege “abandondment of communion” when the folks involved publicly and repeatedly insist they don’t want to leave, doesn’t it, Kate?  Anyway, ENS dug up a guy named Christopher Webber to explain to all of us why the CP statement is a really, really, really, really, really icky idea.

Commenting on the Communion Partners statement, the Rev. Christopher Webber, author of a number of books about the Episcopal Church, who is based in Sharon, Connecticut, told ENS April 28 that for some of the church’s dioceses or bishops to adopt “an item of faith or a relationship to the wider church that other dioceses don’t have … seems to me pretty bizarre.”

Why is that, Chris?

“What you would be doing would be creating a new worldwide church made up of separate dioceses that have signed a covenant. And how would that be different from being, say, the Roman Catholic Church — a worldwide church made up of dioceses who are obedient to the pope?” he said.

Saw that one coming a mile away, didn’t you?  Eat your heart out, Chick, you little wuss.  Episcopalians rule the anti-Catholic roost these days.  TEO will be observing Boyne Day before too much longer.  And nice job not actually engaging the Communion Partner arguments, CWebb. 

“We would become something more like that: a worldwide church with a covenant instead of a pope and many, many bishops who had signed onto it.”

Uh…quite correct?  Is this a trick question?  That’s kind of the whole point, there, Webbs.  Because of your organization’s action in 2003, maybe the Anglican Communion has decided that it MIGHT just be a good idea to sit down and finally figure out just what being Anglican actually means.

Having Episcopal Church dioceses or bishops accepting an Anglican covenant “doesn’t make any difference, absent a grand re-structuring of the Anglican Communion in which it reconstitutes itself as a communion of covenant-compliant bishops.”

Or a group of churches that share a common set of principles.  To-may-to, to-mah-to.

Webber also suggested that the church as the body of Christ “is composed of dioceses that are like the cells of the body” which don’t exist apart from each other.

“What they’re saying is that we can be related to the Archbishop of Canterbury even if the rest of you aren’t. How would part of the body be related to the rest of the Anglican Communion if the whole of it wasn’t?” he asked. “It’s a weird idea.”

I’ve had surgery for it so go ahead and insert the cancer analogy that popped into your head just now.  I won’t be offended.

In addition, Webber argued, “we don’t relate to the other parts of the Anglican Communion via our bishops. They go off to Lambeth and that’s very nice, but that’s not a governing body of any kind; it’s just a consultation of bishops.”

“We’re not governed by bishops,” Webber said of the Episcopal Church. “Bishops can’t make decisions for us and so the notion that a bishop can sign this? Well, OK, but what does that prove? It has no legislative standing.”

Translation: we want to continue to keep doing whatever the hell we feel like doing while still telling ourselves that our church is part of the “apostolic succession.”  ENS?  For the love of God, when you want someone to argue your side, have Tobias Haller do it.  Dude at least knows how to present a serious case.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 19 Comments

Sometimes a person says a whole lot more than he means to:

A New York state trial court justice has ruled that members of Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton who left the Episcopal Church over theological differences are not entitled to keep a 1986 bequest of jewels and money.

Lebous had been asked to rule on the ownership of a gift that a former clerk of the Good Shepherd vestry, Robert Branan, made in his will. He left $1,500 “together with all my diamond, ruby and opal rings for the purpose of creating a chalice and paten.” The jewels were to be set into the vessels.

“While Good Shepherd may have abandoned the Episcopal faith, Mr. Branan never did, and his intent was clearly to benefit a local Episcopal church,” the justice wrote. He added that there is “simply no basis on which to find that Mr. Branan would want his money to go to those former members of the Church of the Good Shepherd that abandoned the faith that he, apparently, held so dear.”


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 32 Comments

MCJ health news.  Things may get somewhat sporadic around here because Editor has developed a badly-strained left ankle.  So badly strained that it’s extremely difficult just to get around the apartment, never mind walking down the stairs, running errands, seeing a doctor or sitting up for long periods.

I’ll figure something out and see how it goes but unfortunately, what that means is that last chapter of the current “Chris Johnson, Anglican Investigator” will probably be delayed a week.  But in a related story, when I moved the site over here, I thought I had lost the back stories posted at the new site.

Turns out I hadn’t.  Someone had saved them and sent them to me the other day.  They are safely stored on a Flash drive and will begin to appear here from time to time.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Monday, April 27th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Was Genpo done in by the Internet?  Greg Griffith thinks the Web played a major role:

Within just a couple of weeks of his election – and months before the consent process was to end – bishops and standing committees all over the country received stacks of information about Forrester – some of it opinion, to be sure, but most of it, I’m guessing, was just copies of his Trinity Sunday sermon, copies of his 2008 Easter service, copies of the service in which he replaced the New testament reading with a reading from the Qur’an, copies of the diocesan newsletters and such in which he outlined his shaky Christology, view of sin and salvation (in other words, the core doctrines of Christianity itself), and probably that photo of “Genpo” standing in his Buddhist garb next to his mentor.

Forrester, in his mountains of written testimony, wrote his own indictment. The web, this site and others, and engaged clerics and lay people carried this information through the right channels and to the right destinations.

Today, if you’re a TEC bishop, granting consent to someone like Forrester means that a whole lot more people back home are going to be asking a lot of difficult questions of you. For some, those questions will be accompanied by implied or overt statements about your suitability for office, and about their willingness to continue contributing their money. Now, all of sudden the pats on the backs of a few liberals in your clergy order and tiny activist groups isn’t so compelling, compared to the consternation of a lot more “rank and file” types back home in the pews.

This is certainly not to say that everyone who needs to be engaged is engaged; far from it. We have a long way to go. But what has happened here with Kevin Forrester did not happen with, for example, Gene Robinson. Robinson was a complete unknown to all but the most deeply engaged Episcopalians during his consents period; Forrester and what he believes, on the other hand, I think it can be safely said is known to a significantly larger number of people, most of whom were not engaged in this debate in 2003. What’s more, those people came to know about him through the same medium that we’ve used to transmit information to the people who make the decisions about whether or not he will be seated in the HoB. They came to this medium because Robinson’s election awakened them, energized them, and prompted them to seek out whatever information they could get, as quickly as they could get it, and this medium was where they found it.

But look at what happened in 2009: Instead of rumor and vague, unsubstantiated reports, there in the parishioner’s hands – and as a result, in the bishops’ and standing committees’ hands – was a stack of documents, displaying Forrester’s naked syncretism in all its incoherent weirdness. I don’t mean to take away from any bishop’s independent analysis and decision to withhold consent – certainly some of them would have rejected Forrester without the efforts outlined here – but I think the community that has grown up around the Anglican blogs, the amount and accuracy of information it can collect, the speed with which it can collect it, and the way it can disseminate it in a highly-targeted way, made the difference.

On one level, Greg’s absolutely right.  There was not an Anglican blogosphere as such in 2003.  For all practical purposes, the Robinson story created this incarnation of the MCJ.  Before it, this site consisted mostly of general news and  commentary.  I didn’t start emphasizing Anglican news and commentary until after Robbie got his pointy hat.

Not that there was all that much information that needed to be disseminated about Robinson other than the fact that he was a non-celibate homosexual and that information didn’t need sites like this one to spread.  Blogs were still a new and untested tool then.

But I am wary about coming to broad conclusions based on this particular case.  While it is true that Stand Firm has excelled all of us in making information about Genpo available to the public along contact information so that readers could easily make their opinions known, this situation is unique.

Kevin Thew Forrester is an easy No; in some respects, his candidacy is a Vague, Ambiguous, Circumlocutory, Deity Concept-Send for the Episcopal Organization.  As Captain Yips observes, it lets TEO bishops pretend to be “orthodox” one more time secure in the knowledge that whoever eventually wins the Northern Michigan election will be just as hard-left as Forrester is now.

And then, of course, there’s the $64,000 question.  What if Thew Forrester was a gay Buddhist/sort-of Christian syncretist?  Would all this quickly-spread information have had the same effect and produced the same results?  Telling homosexuals “no” is not something TEO squishops(and I coined that term for a reason) are good at so I’m not at all sure that it would.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Monday, April 27th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 33 Comments

There’s dialogue and then there’s dialogue.  Harvard Professor Mary Ann Glendon, a former United States Ambassador to the Vatican, tells Notre Dame President Father John Jenkins to find himself a new prop:

Dear Father Jenkins,

When you informed me in December 2008 that I had been selected to receive Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, I was profoundly moved. I treasure the memory of receiving an honorary degree from Notre Dame in 1996, and I have always felt honored that the commencement speech I gave that year was included in the anthology of Notre Dame’s most memorable commencement speeches. So I immediately began working on an acceptance speech that I hoped would be worthy of the occasion, of the honor of the medal, and of your students and faculty.

Last month, when you called to tell me that the commencement speech was to be given by President Obama, I mentioned to you that I would have to rewrite my speech. Over the ensuing weeks, the task that once seemed so delightful has been complicated by a number of factors.

First, as a longtime consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.

Then I learned that “talking points” issued by Notre Dame in response to widespread criticism of its decision included two statements implying that my acceptance speech would somehow balance the event:

• “President Obama won’t be doing all the talking. Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, will be speaking as the recipient of the Laetare Medal.”

• “We think having the president come to Notre Dame, see our graduates, meet our leaders, and hear a talk from Mary Ann Glendon is a good thing for the president and for the causes we care about.”

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Finally, with recent news reports that other Catholic schools are similarly choosing to disregard the bishops’ guidelines, I am concerned that Notre Dame’s example could have an unfortunate ripple effect.

It is with great sadness, therefore, that I have concluded that I cannot accept the Laetare Medal or participate in the May 17 graduation ceremony.

In order to avoid the inevitable speculation about the reasons for my decision, I will release this letter to the press, but I do not plan to make any further comment on the matter at this time.

Yours Very Truly,

Mary Ann Glendon

If you’re free that day, send Father Jenkins an e-mail:

We are, of course, disappointed that Professor Glendon has made this decision. It is our intention to award the Laetare Medal to another deserving recipient, and we will make that announcement as soon as possible.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Sunday, April 26th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 14 Comments

A new “Chris Johnson, Anglican Investigator” adventure
Chapter One / Chapter Two
Chapter Three – Trackers
“What have you got?” I asked Diane.

“A video file,” she said as Dale and I walked over. Diane held up her hand. “I wouldn’t advise Mr. Price to see this right now. Chris, you’ve at least had direct experience with this sort of thing.”

“And one way or another, Dale’s about to get direct experience with this sort of thing,” I replied. “So right now is as good a time to start as any.“ Diane nodded and clicked on the file.

There they were. Both our alternates were relaxed and smiling. “Hi, bitch,” my alternate told the camera. “Let’s get the housekeeping out of the way. As far as us allowing you to enter our reality, which you couldn’t have done on your own, you’re welcome.

“That kid we killed? We‘re glad you enjoyed it. Most of our five-year-olds, except for that little retard, could take out your entire reality without lifting a finger. The holy prophets, eternal blessings be upon them, have seen to that.

“Did you know that over here, we can look like anyone we want to. We can turn ourselves into an exact duplicate of anyone on your side. Perfect in every detail.

“We can even send over anyone we want.“ The two of them clasped hands and someone who looked like Pope Benedict XVI materialized alongside them. “Once again, perfect in every detail.“ The “Pope” then said something in German exactly like Joseph Ratzinger.

“So watch your back, bitch. And trust no one,“ said alternate Price. “You never know where we might show up. I don’t know what they call you in this reality and I don’t care. We just wanted to let you know that final operations are officially underway.

“And we also wanted to tell you that all realities, every single one of them, have been cleansed of their infestations. All their vermin has either been stored or eliminated and this is the last one. You officially have nowhere left to run. Bitch.”

Frantic, Diane checked some sort of device, the purpose of which I couldn’t begin to fathom. Then she switched everything off, murmured, “Oh God,“ and sat back in her chair, crying, shaking her head slightly and trembling in terror.

“Mr. Johnson and Mr. Price,” my alternate continued. “Assuming the bitch is crying right about now, the two of you know, or should, that you can’t defeat us. We thought we’d tell you that my friend and I REALLY don’t like to waste our time.

“If you respond to this message immediately,” continued the other Price. “We will make your deaths quick and painless.

“But the longer you two delay us…well let’s just say that you can’t begin to even remotely understand the agony that we will put you through.

“So if you have even a little intelligence, you’ll contact us right now. We can be merciful even to animals like the two of you. But this is your ONLY chance.”

“One more thing, Dale” said my alternate. “Dale, I mean the one next to me, and I REALLY appreciate the recent…recreation your wife provided for us. Ta.” As the picture went blank, Price briefly clenched his fist but otherwise said and did nothing.

After several minutes of horrified silence, Diane finally made herself ask, “What…what should I tell them?” She sounded like a frightened little girl.

“Tell them nothing,” I forcefully responded. I wrote down her cell number and then scribbled an e-mail address on a piece of paper and handed it to her. “Forward that e-mail there first chance you get along with anything else they send you.”

“They’re gunning for you,” Dale told her, instantly all business. “But they’re gunning for us first. Get back to Washington and stay out of sight. Sullivan, you and Trimble see that she gets back there safely. We will contact you, you are not to contact us.”

I looked at Fuinseoig and Little Myrmidon. “Last chance. In or out?”

Fuinseoig stared back at me unemotionally and didn‘t reply. “Considering the fate they have in store for us,“ Myrmidon said quietly, “death doesn‘t sound half bad. Damn straight we’re in.”

I wrote down Trimble’s and Sullivan’s phone numbers.  We all looked at each other. Then, without a word, Trimble, Sullivan and Diane turned and left the room. Fuinseoig, Little Myrmidon, Dale and I walked out of the building, climbed into the truck and drove off.

“Where are we going?” asked Fuinseoig.

“I have no idea,” I responded.

“So tell me about these portals,” inquired Little Myrmidon.

“They’re doors between realities,” I said. “If I remember correctly, there are usually two of them. One goes from here to there, the other from there to here.”

“Open both at once,” said Price. “Ballgame, thanks for playing. Or so we thought.”

“Yeah,” I said. “So we have to figure a way around what they‘ve seem to have figured a way around.”

At that point, conversation died down. We made it as far as Boise that evening before deciding to call it a night. I didn’t feel like sleeping right away and Dale and I thought someone should keep awake just in case so I took first shift.

I e-mailed Diane some preliminary security ideas, cc-ing them to Dale, before turning off the lapper. Then I made myself a bourbon-and-soda and took my customary seat by the desk, my feet up, staring out the window.

Twenty minutes later, Fuinseoig came out, poured herself a bourbon, took a seat nearby and put her own feet up on the desk. “Couldn’t sleep,” she said.

“You’re not really Ulster, are you?” I asked.

“No. But I do have an Orangeman or two in me lot. They buy me drinks every July 12th.”

“Let me guess. Clare?”

“Close. Kerry. Got an aunt in Clare. These days, I’m all over the place, mostly staying as far away from cities as I possibly can. I hate Dublin. You are good.”

“I know. Why did you go to work for MI7?”

“Do you know how to get to the top of Irish Christian investigation? By standing up. Besides, to paraphrase one of your country’s bank robbers, London is where the money is. Now can I ask you something?”


Fuinseoig suddenly seemed nervous. “For a long time…I, um…I know how much Nicole means to you and always will. But if she’s already been…if they’ve already…made a point of…if she isn’t going to be…if she’s already been…would you possibly be…you know?”

I sadly smiled and sipped my drink. “No,“ I said quietly. “Not going to happen. Don’t get me wrong, kid, you’re as hot as it gets. But for one thing, I’m a thousand years too old for you. For another, Genesis 2:24 most emphatically isn‘t Middle Eastern poetry.”

Fuinseoig was silent for a while. “Good to know. Sorry if I got too close.”

“Not a problem at all,“ I said. “The idea’s come up more than once over the last year.”

We both refreshed our drinks and watched an approaching thunderstorm for a while. Then Fuinseoig looked over and said, “They mean to kill you.”

“I know.”

“And that‘s not a problem?”

“Didn‘t say that. But there’s not a whole lot I can do about it. Besides, to be honest with you, I’ve been trying to die ever since I got that call.

“Actually I’ve been trying to die a lot longer than that. I can’t tell you the number of times back when I was a single drunk hopped up on plain-label bourbon that I used to watch funeral processions go by and think, Damn, buddy, who do you know?

“All I can do is give it my best shot. And if I happen to cash in my stack, well, greater love hath no man and all that.”

Fuinseoig took a contemplative sip. “Problem is, if you lay down your life, that means they’ll still be in that void. That’s why I plan on going in guns blazin’.”

Now it was my turn to be silent. The idea hadn’t really occurred to me until just then. If we failed, Nicky, Paul and Dale’s entire family would be sentenced to the most hideous deaths imaginable. And even if we won, all of them might already be dead.

For the first time, it hit me and it hit me hard.

Winning might not matter at all.

“End of the day,” I finally told Fuinseoig. “You can only play the hand you’re dealt, go wherever it takes you and don’t think too far ahead. Because you‘ve got no control over too far ahead.”

“What do you suppose these…beings are?

“No idea. I’ve heard lots of theories since the last time I dealt with this sort of thing. For lack of a better term, dark matter realities, entire dark matter universes, completely inaccessible from this side.”

“Know what occurred to me?” said Fuinseoig, pouring herself one last shot of bourbon. “Maybe Satan’s officially opened final hostilities. Good night.”

She downed her drink in one gulp and went back to bed while I made myself another bourbon-and-soda and continued to stare out the window.

We arrived in Denver on a Sunday morning. There was literally no traffic at all. Dale surprised me when he said, “Big man? If you see a church, pull off, will you? I’d really like to go to Mass.”

“Me too,” said Fuinseoig.

I saw a tall steeple a bit off the road and exited the interstate. As luck would have it, it was St. Michael and All Angels, a Catholic parish, and the service had just started.

The parking lot was full so we parked way at the back. I decided to go in with them; I needed a little peace right about then. Dale opened the church’s great doors and we walked inside.

Suddenly, Price stopped, held up his hand and drew his gun. Instantly, Fuinseoig drew her Glock, Little Myrmidon drew her Smith & Wesson and I drew my Heckler-Koch. “There’s no one in there,” Dale said under his breath.

Dale quietly motioned for Fuinseoig to take the right aisle, Little Myrmidon to take the left aisle and me to take the balcony.

I hurried quietly up the steps. Quickly determining that there was no one in the balcony, I called out, “Clear!” went back downstairs and came up the center aisle behind the other three.

As they reached the transept, Little Myrmidon, looking left, and Fuinseoig, looking right, called out, “Clear!“ one right after the other. Dale took a quick peak around the back of the altar and said, “Clear.”

We met at the altar rail. “The parish hall?” I suggested.

Price looked around.  “It’s got to be through there,” he said, pointing to a door and nodding at Fuinseoig.  The two of them exited and quickly returned. “This place is empty. Let’s get out of here.”

The four of us ran to the truck. Down the street was the Pool of Siloam Full Gospel Assembly, once again with a full parking lot and a service that had just started.

We drove to the church and stopped before the entrance. I ran inside, quickly ran back out and got back behind the wheel. “Empty,“ I told Price as we sped off. “Call Diane.”

“Diane? Dale,“ he said. “It’s started. We’re in Denver and there‘s nobody here.”

“We know,” I heard Diane say. “The news hasn’t gotten out yet. The military has just started to cordon the place off. Are you there?”


“Get out. Get out now. I’ll alert the roadblocks to keep an eye out for you.”

We got back on Interstate 70 and sped east. The military roadblock immediately waved us through and we headed into eastern Colorado.

“Now what?” asked Myrmidon.

“We monitor the radio,” I told her as Price switched it on.

The Denver story dominated everything.. “I guess they’re aiming for the cities,” said Dale. “Let’s stay away from them as much as possible.”

“Roger that,” said Fuinseoig.

We got as far as Hays, Kansas that evening. We got a room and ate at The Mall. Then we tried to lose ourselves in a movie but that didn’t work out too well.

Back at the room, I once again took the first shift, poured myself a bourbon-and-soda, put my feet on the desk, turned on the TV and watched it in silence. The story had broken and it was all that was on any channel.

And it was rapidly spreading.

An hour later, the others came back out. None of them could sleep so they all made themselves drinks from the various 40-proof beverages and other essentials that I had purchased at a stop the day before and silently stared at the TV.

“Status?” Price asked me.

“Denver, obviously. Add to that St. Louis, Indianapolis, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Boston.” At the mention of her hometown, Little Myrmidon briefly pursed her lips but said nothing.

“They’re calling them some kind of coordinated worldwide terrorist assaults but they won’t say what the attacks consist of. All they’ll say is that it’s too dangerous to enter any of these places right now.

“Nothing coming out of Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle at the moment. Washington’s still there but the government’s scattered to the four winds.

“Nobody can get into or out of London and nobody can contact the British government or the Queen so I assume London’s been taken. There was an announcement that the Irish counties were assuming direct rule so I guess Dublin’s gone.” Fuinseoig didn’t react.

“Paris, Munich, Milan, Warsaw, Rome…”

“All of it?” wondered Dale.

“Yup. The Pope’s nowhere to be found. Tokyo, Beijing, New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Djakarta, Sydney, Melbourne.

“Johannesburg, Nairobi, Algiers, Cairo, Jerusalem, Mecca and Medina. Muslims everywhere are in meltdown panic mode. There may be others but those are the ones I remember.”

“Recommendations,” said Dale, looking around the room.

“We might as well contact them,” I said. “See what we can find out.”

“Directly?!” asked Fuinseoig, mildly alarmed at the suggestion.

“No, a videoconference.”

Dale nodded. “We all agreed?” he asked. Myrmidon and Fuinseoig tentatively nodded so I e-mailed the suggestion to the sending address on the file Diane had forwarded me.

While I did that, Price contacted David Trimble and put his phone on speaker. “Dear Lord, am I glad to hear from you guys. Are you all okay?” He sounded totally exhausted. “Where are you?”

“None of your business. Where are you?”


Dale allowed himself a smile. “Good man. How’s Diane?”

“She’s in a safe place But like all the rest of us, she’s just about defeated. Are you guys close? Do you have any idea where those portals might be?”

“No,” I said. “Listen, Trimble, have the Washington computers been shut down?”

“They’re about to be. They‘re turning off the power in all the places that have been hit.”

“Leave them on. We may need access.”

“You’ve got it. Wait a minute, Mark Sullivan has just come in with some…”–Then Trimble sounded like he wanted to shoot himself–”This just in. New York City is now off the grid. God help us all,” he whispered and hung up.

As the television provided background noise, the four of us sat silently sipping our drinks. Then I glanced at my laptop. “We have an answer,” I said.

It was a video file. I clicked on it and saw my alternate, once again smiling that arrogant smile of his. “My associate couldn’t be here. He’s had a busy day and he’s currently relaxing with your wife this time, Mr. Johnson.

“Figured I owed him one. I’d show her to you but Dale’s getting after it with her at the moment so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

“But I also thought you deserved an answer right away so the mick and that Boston skank could begin to come to terms with their fates. So you’d like a videoconference?

“You had your chance and you don’t get another one. And besides, why would we agree to such a thing when you treat us with such disrespect?

“I’m actually offended, Mr. Johnson. I know I’m WAY better than you are but that’s no reason to be insulting. Do you really think I’m that stupid?

“You know the most basic rule of this line of work. If you don’t want to let them get in your head, get in theirs first. And that’s exactly what you intended to do.

“You’ll mention some of the holy prophets, eternal blessings be upon them, by name. You’ll probably say something insulting about them figuring that it will anger Mr. Price or myself.

“Which it will. You hope to anger us enough so that we will give away some vital information. But you forget something.

“We don’t have to take any of you at all. We can empty this entire reality and then take those two bitches at our leisure.

“Which leaves the two of you. Dale and I got to talking the other day and we think it might be fun just to leave both of you here and then hunt you.

“You can either spend the rest of your miserable existences running for your lives or put bullets in your own heads and take your chances with that sky god of yours.

“Dale and I have studied you two for a long time and we have no doubt that you two are bright enough to find us. But we also know something else.

“We are quite happy to do something the two of you have consistently refused to do. So until you‘re ready to do what you won‘t do, you can‘t stop us. Ever. Ta.” The screen went blank.

The four of us sat silently for a while. “Is that what…is that…” stammered Fuinseoig.

“What you were thinking?” finished Myrmidon.

“Correct in every detail,” I said.

“My God,” whispered Fuinseoig. “They can read our minds. They can’t be stopped.”

“They’re perfect,” said Little Myrmidon who looked like she was about to lose it.

“They’re not perfect,” Dale told her.

“Not perfect?!” exclaimed Myrmidon. “Not perfect?!! They figured Chris out and they don’t make mistakes! That sounds perfect to me!”

“They made at least three mistakes,” Price told her.

“Four, if you count making those videos in the first place,” I added.

“What do you mean?” Fuinseoig demanded.

“Do you know how to identify a great practical joker?”

“No. And what the hell does that have to do with…”

“Distance. Most practical jokers, when they mail you a rigged exploding box filled with chocolate pudding, are going arrange to be somewhere around when you open it.

“A great practical joker isn’t. He’s content to put the package in the mail and then sit in his chair and imagine what will happen when you open that box.”

“If these guys were as good as they think they are,” said Dale, “they wouldn’t have said anything to anybody, they would have just started emptying the planet and kept their mouths shut.

“But they didn’t. Which suggests arrogance. Which also suggests…“ Price’s voice dropped to a whisper. “…the biggest stage in the…” Price grabbed my lapper, tapped into a satellite feed and found New York City.

The five boroughs appeared completely dark. Down a bit farther toward the deck, though, and we noticed a light on in Manhattan.

The Empire State Building.

I immediately called Trimble back. “Two things. You can shut off Washington power, we don’t need it anymore. And has the NYC power grid been shut down?”

“Yeah, it was shut down immediately.”

“Alert who’s ever manning the roadblocks into Manhattan. We’re on our way.”

“What do you need us to do?”


“Chris, what’s going to…”

“You’re getting ahead of yourself, David. Let’s see how this plays out first,” I said and hung up.

Little Myrmidon was mystified. “I don’t get it. Don’t we have to find those portal things?”

“We just did,” said Dale.

“Mind telling us when?” asked Fuinseoig.

Dale and I reached out and clasped hands. “Boom. Benedict XVI,“ I said. “Not an exact copy, by the way.” I handed the NFD report and the DNA test across to Fuinseoig and Little Myrmidon who examined each, stunned at what they read.

“And when the two of them were…doing…whatever they were doing with Dale‘s wife, altered appearance and everything, I assume they made contact with one another.”

“Her way through,” whispered Little Myrmidon.

“And my alternate couldn’t conjure up my wife just now because…”

“Alternate Price wasn’t there,” said a stunned Myrmidon.

“So we have the portals and we have their location,” said Price who took a long, contemplative sip of his bourbon. His voice became almost inaudible. “And we know what we have to do when we get there.”

Fuinseoig and Myrmidon started for bed while Dale and I remained a while longer with our feet up on the desk. Then Myrmidon stopped and looked back. “One more thing. What was that thing that you have to do but have been unwilling to do up to now?

Dale shut his eyes and leaned his head on his hand. “Chris?” asked Fuinseoig. “What is it? What do you have to do that you‘ve refused to do?”

“Kill someone,” I sadly replied, staring out the window.

Next week’s thrilling conclusion – Showdown


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Sunday, April 26th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Down here, a commenter named Aquila poses an intriguing question:

Sounds to me as if there is only one way to rescue this nomination to the bishopric of northern Michigan. It will be tough on Forrester’s family, but he has to do it for the sake of the Episcopal church. In these tough times, being a syncretic universalist is no longer enough to garner approval by the requisite number of dioceses. He has to announce that has just discovered that he is gay. Katie will be there to consecrate him tomorrow. I am sure that Bishop Robinson will be there, as well, and will even provide training for the whole process.

What if Kevin Thew Forrester was a gay Buddhist Christian-in-name-only?  If Forrester was gay, would we still be hearing reservations from bishops and standing committees of reliably liberal dioceses about the manner in which he was nominated, readings from the Koran or other changes he’s made to the liturgy?

Would homosexuality trump all of this?

I honestly don’t know.  I would like to think that the objections so far raised to a straight Forrester as to nomination procedure, beliefs or liturgical changes would also be raised for a gay Forrester.  I would like to think these men and women had a little integrity.

But as we all know, TEO’s Homosexual Party basically runs the place and TEO’s squishops are not exactly known for their intestinal fortitude.  In such a situation, I suppose what would probably happen is that a great many squishops would wait until Genpo got a few Yes votes and then suddenly discover “pressing duties” that prevented them from dealing with the matter in the time allotted.

They’ll express their “profound” disagreement with Genpo, of course, and perhaps even “dismay” at his approval.   They certainly wouldn’t have voted for him, believe you them, Forrester’s syncretism would never EVER be permitted in their dioceses, but what’s done is done, we shouldn’t let ourselves get sidetracked and it’s time to get on with the “mission” of the Episcopal Organization.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Friday, April 24th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 51 Comments

As Kevin Thew Forrester’s bid to become the next Episcopal Bishop of Northern Michigan wends its way toward its inevitable crushing defeat, I’ve noticed a few suggestions here and there, some perhaps jokes, some not. 

“Kate’ll find a way to push this thing through, you watch,” they say.  “She’s ignored canons before, hasn’t she?  Why should this be any different?”  If you seriously think that, I have one request.

Stop thinking that.

It’s not going to happen.  The Presiding Bishop is a great many things; one of the things the Presiding Bishop is not is stupid.  You can make a principled stand over a great many things but the episcopal choice of a barely-viable diocese with 2,000 members, only 700 of whom actually turn up in church on any given Sunday, should not be one of them if you have a brain in your head. 

Mrs. Schori does not have that much invested in the guy.  She knows that whatever she perceives the mission of the Episcopal Organization to be will not stand or fall based on whether Kevin Thew Forrester is a bishop or not, particularly since whoever Northern Michigan’s next candidate is will probably just as hard-left as Forrester is now, hopefully without the open enthusiasm for non-Christian religions.

And the Presiding Bishop also knows, or should, that if she were to somehow figure out a way to overrule the clear decision of her church in the performance of the most solemn of its duties, a great many people in the church, even some of those on the center/left who oppose it now would look at the Communion Partners paper of the other day in an entirely different light.

Will Northern Michigan come up with a slate of candidates, including Forrester, and elect Genpo again?  Only if they want him defeated again.  In just about all the explanations I’ve seen, bishops have expressed grave reservations about what Forrester has done with the liturgy.  Those reservations should be just as grave a year from now as they are today.

Might some of Thew Forrester’s episcopal supporters, Marc Andrus, Double J, John Chane, Tom Ely, the Mormon and Tommy Three-Sticks, say, defy the national church, fly to the UP and consecrate Forrester anyway?  Doubtful unless they relish the prospect of spending time in a Fort Worth court room explaining why what they did was okay while what Jack Iker did was not.

The most interesting question is how will Gene Robinson vote.  I would actually be very surprised if Robbie voted to approve.  Gene constantly pictures himself as just a run-of-the-mill evangelical who happens to by gay so a No vote should be the easiest thing in the world.  

Robbie enhances his evangelical street cred, or thinks he does, secure in the knowledge that whoever follows Thew Forrester will be just as leftist as Robbie is.  On the other hand, if Robbie votes to approve, all his Christian pretensions are finally and forever blown out of the water.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Friday, April 24th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Reality’s landing punches at-will on Genpo’s head and body, the ringside doctor’s starting to stand up and a towel should be flying into the ring any minute now.  Both the bishop and the standing committee of Maryland, one of the most reliably liberal dioceses in TEO, vote no.  As for how the judges are scoring the fight, right now(3:45 PM) it stands 26 bishops and 13 standing committees NO, 10 bishops and 1 standing committee YES.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 | Uncategorized | 30 Comments

I think that there are many on the Episco-left who have absolutely no conception of how petty, mean-spirited and stupid they sound.  Katie Sherrod on Geralyn Wolf:

All the writers of these emails are men, but there is one female bishop signed on as a Communion Partner. That would be, to the surprise of no one, Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, also known to many in the Anglican Communion as an honorary man.

For any aspiring Anglican bloggers out there, there are three ways you can approach something like this.  You can leave it alone, realizing that Katie has just made a complete and total jackass of herself and there really isn’t anything else you need to add. 

A sarcastic question is another possibility, something along the lines of “Gosh, Katie, you write pretty well for a 12-year-old girl.  Wanna be my BFF?”  Or you can take the low road and remark that Katie knows a great deal about honorary things since she has the intellect of an honorary tree stump and the literary ability of an honorary belt sander.

All three would work so go with your gut.  Thanks to Betsy McCall.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 | Uncategorized | 22 Comments

The Episcopal Organization joins the battle:

A statement released April 22 and signed by Episcopal bishops and clergy challenges the polity of the Episcopal Church by suggesting that dioceses are autonomous entities and independent of General Convention, the church’s main legislative body.

The statement, which drew swift criticism for being an attack on the church’s governance, was signed by 15 active and retired Episcopal Church bishops and endorsed by three Episcopal clergy who are members of the conservative Anglican Communion Institute. It was leaked online April 22 and officially released later the same day. It suggests that Episcopal Church dioceses are “not subject to any metropolitical power or hierarchical control” but rather “the ecclesiastical authorities in our dioceses are the Bishops and Standing Committees; no one else may act in or speak on behalf of the dioceses or of the Episcopal Church within the dioceses.”

Tobias Haller tries his best to refute the statement.

“The General Convention is superior to any given individual diocese, and establishes laws that limit what the dioceses can do,” said the Rev. Tobias Haller, a member of the Brotherhood of Saint Gregory and a General Convention deputy from the Episcopal Diocese of New York, in an April 22 blog post. “The fact that this limitation comes about because of the agreement of the dioceses acting together in convention is not an indication of their individual autonomy — as the paper suggests — but is rather proof of their submission to the jointly taken actions of the whole body.”

I wasn’t aware that Tobias Haller could speak ex cathedra.  I guess that settles the question then if, by “settle the question,” you mean not settle anything at all.

The relationship between dioceses and the national church has been basically been whatever the national church wanted it to be.  Since that view has greatly benefited the left(see Gene Robinson, same-sex marriages and general acceptance of homosexual activity), it has never been challenged.

Until now.

Haller further noted that “an individual diocese cannot even elect a bishop of its own without the consent of the rest of the church, either through General Convention, or … by a vote of the other diocesan bishops and standing committees.”

Me, I thought dioceses could elect anyone they cared to(see the idiot Northern Michigan put forward).  They just couldn’t necessarily get them confirmed.  Which, I suppose, also gives them the right to elect a non-confirmed candidate again(see Mark Lawrence) or keep on electing the same idiot over and over until bishops and standing committees get tired and decide, “Aw, hell, it’s just one guy.”

“This is what a hierarchical entity looks like: the constituents agree to be bound by the decisions of the group, even when they are in the minority, and disagree with the decisions. They relinquish their autonomy in order to be part of a larger entity, to whose decisions they submit,” he adds.

Tobias?  Considering how many dioceses permit same-sex marriage despite TEO’s assurances to the contrary and that do so without any sanction of any kind, I really wouldn’t go there if I were you.

Haller said that the statement “makes the curious argument that because the dioceses [formerly states] that formed the original Episcopal Church were independent prior to entering into union with each other, they somehow maintain that independence. This neglects the significance of what union means. One might just as well say that because a couple were single before marriage, they retain their independence afterward.

One might also say that because a man and woman no longer retain their independence after they’re married, the wife can’t regain her independence even though her husband slaps her around and has boinked every female, single or otherwise, in the parish.  After all, we can’t have the wife neglecting “the significance of what union means.”

“In short, the idea that dioceses are autonomous, and not part of a clearly defined hierarchy, is entirely specious,” Haller adds. “That our hierarchy is not as rigid or monolithic as that of, say, the Holy Catholic Church of Rome, and has a more federal structure, in no way alters the fact that there is a central governing body, which, even if it be made up entirely of representatives of the several dioceses, is a body to which those dioceses covenant to submit themselves, without qualification.”

Dioceses have covenanted “to submit themselves, without qualification” to a “hierarchy” whose Presiding Bishop declares that bishops have renounced their orders even when they haven’t, unilaterally marches in and fires standing committees, violates one canon after another in her effort to rid herself of those turbulent conservatives and decides for herself that she’s done nothing of the kind.

A few questions, T.  Why do dioceses have to follow the rules when the Presiding Bishop doesn’t?  And what makes your interpretation of all this the right one?  That’s what’s really angering you Episco-lefties about this statement, isn’t it? 

For the first time, there is another opinion on the table which is backed by a significant number of bishops.  And since it might just mean that you’d have to actually debate the subject instead of deciding what you want to believe and yammering until everyone who disagrees with you gives up, you blow a gasket.

Speaking of blown gaskets, in yesterday’s Integrity statement, Miss Russell got this outright lie in:

The Integrity statement noted that the Communion Partners initiative had originally “pledged to work transparently and in cooperation with the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in attempting to reconcile those of differing theological views. These emails make clear that the group instead was working surreptitiously to undermine the bishop of Colorado, and seeking to set up a system of episcopal oversight controlled entirely by the Communion Partners.”

Let’s see.  “The group instead was working surreptitiously to undermine the bishop of Colorado.”  How?  By asking for his permission to allow a CP bishop, and a retired one at that, to minister to one parish.  Pretty much the same arrangement John Chane recently worked out with one of his conservative parishes.

Seriously, Susie.  Stop saying stuff.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 | Uncategorized | 17 Comments

This is why you’re going down in flames, grasshopper:


Presider: The Candidate for Holy Baptism will now be presented.

Parents and Godparents: I present _______ to receive the Sacrament of Baptism

Presider: Will you be responsible for seeing that _______ is brought up in the Christian faith and life?

Parents and Godparents: I will, with God’s help.

Presider: Will you, by your prayers and witness, help _______ to grow into the full stature of Christ?

Parents and Godparents: I will, with God’s help.

Presider: Do you seek to awaken to the eternal presence of God, who is your very heart and soul?

Parents and Godparents: I do.

Presider: God forever invites you to let go of self deceit to dwell in the house of honesty, where eternal Hope reigns. Will you accept this invitation?

Parents and Godparents: I will, with God’s help.

Presider: God forever invites you to let go of all fear to dwell in the house of courage, where eternal Faith reigns. Will you accept this invitation?

Parents and Godparents: I will, with God’s help.

Presider: God forever invites you to let go of all anger to dwell in the house of serenity, where Love reigns. Will you accept this invitation?

Parents and Godparents: I will, with God’s help.

Presider: Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as the way of Life and Hope?

Parents and Godparents: I do.

Presider: Do you put your whole trust in Christ’s grace and love?

Parents and Godparents: I do.

Presider: Do you promise to follow Christ as the way of life?

Parents and Godparents: I do.

Thanks to Stand Firm.

UPDATE: Stand Firm has the vote totals.  Right now, it’s 23-10 against.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 | Uncategorized | 10 Comments

I’ve had my disagreements with Central Florida Episcopal Bishop John Howe over the years but if he ever makes it to the St. Louis area, dinner and the first three rounds are on me because Howe does not suffer fools gladly.  Responding to a listserv post by Ann Fontaine which called the Communion Partner Bishops statement “tawdry,” the Bishop had this to say:

How is this a tawdry story? The Presiding Bishop has been promoting a version of the structure of The Episcopal Church which simply cannot be supported either constitutionally or historically. The Bishops who have signed today’s Statement to the contrary are not willing to have the structure of our church subverted either by fiat or by court action.

We have not one iota of desire to promote schism. Our desire is to protect our constituent membership in the Anglican Communion. The Executive Council has said that the only body that can act upon the Anglican Covenant is the General Convention. We do not believe that is accurate. We believe that dioceses and even parishes could decide to “opt into” it.

Please explain to all of us how the desire of an Anglican diocese to remain Anglican is a “tawdry story.”

Oh and Annie?  Where exactly did you come up with the idea that the CP bishops are trying undermine Colorado Bishop Rob O’Neill(a hallucination repeated by one of Jim lad’s minions here)?

The private emails that Mark Harris has posted do not reveal any attempt or desire to subvert the authority of the Bishop of Colorado. They envision a possible visitation that would take place only with his explicit permission and agreement.

As for Susan Russell’s temper tantrum, if people insist on publicly humiliating themselves, about all you can do is back away until they come to their senses.

It is interesting to be called a “Cretin” by Susan Russell. To my knowledge none of us have ever used any such epithets against those with whom we disagree. (It is good to be in such an “inclusive” church!)

The Episcopal left is definitely thrown.  Big time.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 | Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Is the Communion Partners statement on Episcopal polity more of the same meaningless Anglican yammering that will lead where all the other meaningless Anglican yammering has led over the last five and a half years, namely nowhere?  Or is there actually something useful going on here?

I’m as cynical about conservative Episcopalian Important StatementsTM as the next person but I’m starting to think this particular statement may have something going for it.  For one thing, ACI position papers never elicited anywhere near the overwrought reaction from the Episcopal left that this statement has.

Previous ACI publications never prompted a member of the Executive Council to do something as sleazy as to publish someone’s private e-mails.  Christopher Seitz or Ephraim Radner have never before made a prominent Pasadena homosexual foam at the mouth(“Cretins,” Susie?  Stay classy, babe).

So what’s the difference?  This time, there are the names of bishops at the end.

A significant number of Episcopal bishops have just signed their names to a statement that almost completely undercuts the stance of the national church.  I can’t see how Mrs. Schori can take the following:

It is significant in this regard that the office of Presiding Bishop, unlike that of diocesan Bishop, is a constitutionally-defined office.  The Presiding Bishop does not have a see and does not exercise ordinary power, but only the limited authority delegated by the Constitution and duly enacted canons.  Included in this defined authority is jurisdiction over the small number of churches known as the “Convocation of American Churches in Europe,” but even this limited jurisdiction is exercised with the consent of other Anglican Bishops having authority in Europe. The Presiding Bishop at the “direction” of the House of Bishops may also act or authorize others to act in unorganized territory, but the primary responsibility of the Presiding Bishop is, as the name implies, to preside at the meetings of the House of Bishops and to act as its agent in canonical matters.  But neither the House of Bishops as a whole nor the Presiding Bishop on its behalf has ecclesiastical authority to act within or speak on behalf of a diocese.  We emphasize this significant feature of our governance at the outset because in the recent controversies surrounding the withdrawal of several dioceses from The Episcopal Church the Presiding Bishop and others acting on her behalf, including the Presiding Bishop’s chancellor and, most recently, the retired Bishop of West Missouri, have purported to act within dioceses, to “recognize” or “de-recognize” diocesan officers and to speak on behalf of The Episcopal Church in civil litigation involving dioceses. However much we may respect the desire of the Presiding Bishop to provide pastoral assistance in these areas, neither she nor anyone acting on her behalf has constitutional authority to act without consent from the Ecclesiastical Authority except in unorganized territory.  Nor are they authorized to speak for The Episcopal Church in civil litigation within a diocese. That is not among the constitutional powers conferred on the Presiding Bishop or the House of Bishops or the General Convention as a whole. That is the constitutional prerogative of the Ecclesiastical Authorities of the dioceses, their Bishops and Standing Committees.

as anything other than a direct threat that presentment charges may, at some point, be brought against her whether such a move has a chance of success or not. 

And if this publication is used in a court case and ends up costing TEO a parish or a diocese?  Let’s just say that Mrs. Schori’s legendary vindictiveness will put bullseyes on the chasubles of every bishop who signed this statement.

So there’s an opportunity here.  Will the Communion Partner bishops take advantage of it?  Will they stick to their guns even if Mrs. Schori determines that they have abandoned the communion of TEO and begins deposing them right and left and firing their Standing Committees? 

Therein lies the great unknown.  I suspect that they will.  You can’t sign a document like this and then back away from it without permanently losing whatever credibility you have left.  And I think Mrs. Schori, on some level, realizes that.  Hence the hysterical reaction to this statement.

We, of course, shall see.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 | Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Has the Episcopal Organization turned its guns on the Communion Partners?  The Communion Partner Bishops have just issued a statement on Episcopal Church polity.  It’s quite long so I’ll just quote a few parts of it:

Following the American Revolution, the several Episcopal Churches in this country received this same apostolic office from the Church of England prior to the formation of The Episcopal Church itself. This point must be emphasized: the Historic Episcopate existed among Anglicans in this country prior to the adoption of our Constitution. By subsequently using the term “Ordinary” to describe its diocesan Bishops, our Constitution affirms this historic office as understood in both Anglican and Roman Catholic tradition and recognizes the inherent authority of its Bishops, an authority they possess by means of their apostolic office and not through administrative powers enumerated in our Constitution and canons.

This inherent authority of a Bishop is also given constitutional recognition by two other provisions in our Constitution. The first, already noted, describes the Bishop and Standing Committee in the absence of a Bishop as “the Ecclesiastical Authority” in the diocese.  The second prohibits any Bishop from acting in another diocese without consent of the diocesan authority.  Not even the whole House of Bishops or, indeed, the entire General Convention acting unanimously could override this constitutional reservation of ecclesiastical authority to the diocesan Bishop and Standing Committee.  Lest there be any doubt about this issue, the Constitution specifies that Bishops can act outside their own dioceses even when authorized by the House of Bishops only in “territory not yet organized into Dioceses of this Church.”

It is significant in this regard that the office of Presiding Bishop, unlike that of diocesan Bishop, is a constitutionally-defined office.  The Presiding Bishop does not have a see and does not exercise ordinary power, but only the limited authority delegated by the Constitution and duly enacted canons.  Included in this defined authority is jurisdiction over the small number of churches known as the “Convocation of American Churches in Europe,” but even this limited jurisdiction is exercised with the consent of other Anglican Bishops having authority in Europe. The Presiding Bishop at the “direction” of the House of Bishops may also act or authorize others to act in unorganized territory, but the primary responsibility of the Presiding Bishop is, as the name implies, to preside at the meetings of the House of Bishops and to act as its agent in canonical matters.  But neither the House of Bishops as a whole nor the Presiding Bishop on its behalf has ecclesiastical authority to act within or speak on behalf of a diocese.  We emphasize this significant feature of our governance at the outset because in the recent controversies surrounding the withdrawal of several dioceses from The Episcopal Church the Presiding Bishop and others acting on her behalf, including the Presiding Bishop’s chancellor and, most recently, the retired Bishop of West Missouri, have purported to act within dioceses, to “recognize” or “de-recognize” diocesan officers and to speak on behalf of The Episcopal Church in civil litigation involving dioceses. However much we may respect the desire of the Presiding Bishop to provide pastoral assistance in these areas, neither she nor anyone acting on her behalf has constitutional authority to act without consent from the Ecclesiastical Authority except in unorganized territory.  Nor are they authorized to speak for The Episcopal Church in civil litigation within a diocese. That is not among the constitutional powers conferred on the Presiding Bishop or the House of Bishops or the General Convention as a whole. That is the constitutional prerogative of the Ecclesiastical Authorities of the dioceses, their Bishops and Standing Committees.

It is significant that the same term, “voluntary association,” has been used by both the founding father of The Episcopal Church to describe the organization he was so instrumental in forming and by the civil law to describe religious societies and other unincorporated voluntary organizations in general. Our Church’s primary architect was, of course, William White, and his blueprint was The Case of the Episcopal Churches in the United States Considered, published in 1782 as the Revolutionary War was nearing an end.  As a result of American independence, many of the former Church of England parishes had become independent churches while others were still organized as state churches under the control of state legislatures. White’s concept, later accepted by others in the former colonies, was that the Anglican churches would first be organized into state churches and then the state churches would organize themselves nationally as a voluntary association of state churches (now called “dioceses”).  Pursuant to this plan, White was one of the first two Americans consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1787 to serve in the Episcopal Churches. When The Episcopal Church eventually was duly organized in 1789, Bishop White and Bishop Samuel Seabury, consecrated by the Scottish Episcopal Church, sat as the first House of Bishops at the first General Convention.

As this brief summary of our founding history shows, the fundamental structure of The Episcopal Church from the outset has been that of a voluntary association of dioceses meeting together in a General Convention as equals. This structure is clearly reflected in our Constitution.  There is no provision in the Constitution that defines a diocese. The dioceses are the undefined constituent elements out of which The Episcopal Church is formed. In contrast, General Convention is created and defined in Article I, which  still provides in language virtually unchanged from the original that “The Church in each diocese which has been admitted to union with the General Convention…shall be entitled to representation….” As this current language makes clear, “Churches” in dioceses are not created by General Convention.  They are “admitted” (upon their application and its acceptance) to union with the General Convention.  Dioceses are both historically and ontologically prior to the Constitution and the General Convention. And upon admission, it is the diocese, not any other body or group, that is “entitled to representation” at General Convention.

As what we have said above indicates, The Episcopal Church is comprised of member dioceses that join together to create various central bodies and offices, including a General Convention, Executive Council and Presiding Bishop. What is not defined in our Constitution is any legal or hierarchical relationship among these various bodies. Indeed, a recent legal analysis of our Constitution and history has shown that the Constitution is devoid of the legal terminology used to express hierarchies in legal documents. On the one hand, a General Convention is created and given legislative authority to enact general canons, but the preexistent diocesan conventions are also recognized as having legislative authority and there is no provision making the General Convention “supreme” or “highest” or providing that general canons supersede diocesan ones.  Indeed, none of the following terms routinely used in legal documents to indicate hierarchical priority is found at all in our Constitution: “supreme”; “supremacy”; “highest”; “hierarchical”; “subordinate”; “sole”; “preempt”; “final”; and “contrary”. Other terms used to indicate hierarchical relationships, including “exclusive”, “subject to”, “consent”, “notwithstanding”, and “inconsistent” are found in the Constitution, but they are not used to indicate a central hierarchy.  This is often assumed and is even alleged in civil cases instituted in the name of The Episcopal Church by the Presiding Bishop and her chancellor, but there are no provisions to this effect in our Constitution as a simple search with any search engine will demonstrate. The only instance that is even debatable is the use of the term “consent” in Article V governing the admission of new dioceses, but as we have already discussed that consent is to a process initiated and controlled by the diocese, whose own consent is thereby presumed.

Diocesan participation in any national program or effort, for example, must be voluntarily given; it cannot be forced. Again, while the bishop’s exercise of independent power within the diocese is restricted by the share in church government possessed by the Diocesan Convention or the Standing Committee, his independence in respect to the rest of the Church is almost complete.

This autonomy was again confirmed as recently as February 2009 by the ecclesiastical court deposing Charles Bennison as Bishop of Pennsylvania. In the Bennison case, the Diocese of Los Angeles refused to cooperate with the court and to produce documents that had been requested not only by the parties, but also by a representative of the Presiding Bishop and even the court itself.  The court concluded that it had no authority to compel the diocese to comply: “Unfortunately, the diocese refused all of those requests and the Court had no ability to obtain those documents…. Rather, the Diocese of Los Angeles, a wholly autonomous entity which is not a party to these proceedings, chose not to produce the documents notwithstanding entreaties from the Court.”

The engagement we made and reaffirm is to conform to the “doctrine, discipline and worship” of The Episcopal Church. The objection that those who do not accept the interpretation of that “discipline” (polity) proposed by the Presiding Bishop are in violation of their episcopal vows is mere question begging. The objectors assume without argument that the discipline of our Church is such that anyone with a different understanding is in violation of that discipline. But this is to assert what must be proved. What the discipline of The Episcopal Church requires is precisely the question at issue. It is the Presiding Bishop’s interpretation that is novel and it is not less so for being advocated in civil court.

Not only is the diocese the fundamental unit of The Episcopal Church, it is also the fundamental unit in catholic ecclesiology by which the people of God in the particular or local churches relate to the wider communion. In a 2007 communication sent by the Archbishop of Canterbury to Bishop Howe, the Archbishop emphasized this point:

The organ of union with the wider Church is the Bishop and the Diocese rather than the Provincial structure as such…. I should feel a great deal happier, I must say, if those who are most eloquent for a traditionalist view in the United States showed a fuller understanding of the need to regard the Bishop and the Diocese as the primary locus of ecclesial identity rather than the abstract reality of the ‘national church’.

We are committed to remaining faithful members of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. We have noted with increasing concern statements by leaders and bodies of The Episcopal Church questioning our participation in the proposed Anglican covenant and opining that dioceses may not sign the covenant if The Episcopal Church as a whole were to refrain from doing so on behalf of all its dioceses.

We must speak plainly here. Any attempt to prevent willing dioceses from signing the covenant would be unconstitutional and thereby void.

What’s fascinating about this is the reaction to it.  As BabyBlue reports, the Episcopal left has gone ballistic.  This report seems to have been leaked because it was published on Apostasy West’s web site.  Susan Russell contributed her standard shrieking hysteria:

Though couched in ecclesiastical language, the statement is an entirely political document. It attempts to lay the foundation for an unprecedented power grab by anti-gay bishops who will assert that they are not bound by the Episcopal Church’s governing body: General Convention. These bishops seek to increase their own authority, while diminishing the role of the laity and clergy in the governance of the church.

The argument that dioceses are independent of the Episcopal Church is novel, and a creature of convenience. It seeks to camouflage the desire of anti-gay bishops and theologians to punish the Church for consecrating an openly gay bishop and permitting the blessing of same-sex relationships in some dioceses.

The authors of these emails profess to be loyal Episcopalians, but they openly express their hope that this statement will be used in litigation by individuals who have left the Episcopal Church to join forces with virulently anti-gay bishops in other parts of the world and are attempting to take the Church’s property with them.

To what e-mails is Miss Russell referring?  Apparently someone also leaked copies of private e-mails between some of the Communion Partner participants.  Selections were published by Executive Council member Mark Harris as well as by Simon Sarmiento.

And all this venom and outright sleaze is directed at people who want to stay in the Episcopal Organization.

Three possibilities suggest themselves.  This reaction is coordinated and 815’s fingerprints are all over it.  Because this report has struck a nerve.

UPDATE: ACI calls out Mark Harris.

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