Saturday, March 29, 2008

Wielding power with the majority of a quorum

Some supporters of Katharine Jefferts Schori, now confronted with the call for investigations by the Bishop of Central Florida and the Bishop of South Carolina regarding the recent activities by the Episcopal Presiding Bishop and her lawyer, are now waving off those actions a mere "technical error" when Bishop Schori lead a majority of a quorum of the House of Bishops to depose the Bishop of Diocese of San Joquin and 88 year old retired Bishop William Cox.


A “technical error” did not impose the equivalent of an ecclesiastical death sentence by manipulating the process to remove opponents with the majority of a quorum. That’s not a technical error - that is either duplicitousness or incompetence.

Earlier today she reiterated this point that she authorized the removal of her opponents through a majority of a quorum. 815's press office reported that she said in a press conference that "We believe that we did the right thing," and added that the consent came from "a clear majority of those present." Yes, that's what a quorum is. So she just stated the obvious - and it's obviously what's wrong here.

Again, the equivalent in our American democratic form of government would be the use of a majority of a quorum to impeach the Presiding of the United States for wearing the wrong color tie - or anything else that gets people upset. It's not hard to get a quorum. With a majority of a quorum and the mood some of the president’s opponents are in right now, they could impeach the president with a majority of a quorum. If we could impeach the president with a majority of a quorum we could have a daily impeachment and could sit around the cafe asking one another, "so what was he impeached for today?"

That’s why it’s common sense that the Episcopal canons mean exactly what they say - it takes all the qualified bishops (the bishops of the whole number) to remove a bishop from ministry. This is the gravest thing that can happen to a bishop, of course it takes more than the majority of a quorum. It should be hard to do - if the House of Bishops still dares to call itself American.

Waving it off and sniffing that it’s some sort of technical glitch is basically affirming that Kangaroo Courts are just fine if you happen to agree with the Chief Kangaroo. And that is exactly what we are hearing from the so called “progressives” on this matter. No longer can they say they are the champions for justice. Manipulating a process by using the majority of a quorum is exactly the sort of action that should cause true democrats and those that care about the cause of liberty to speak out if we dare call ourselves Americans.

Those with clear heads should be quite concerned today if the Presiding Bishop carries out her plan against the duly-elected Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin and put in her puppet bishop. 815 has based its entire rationale of their lawsuits on the Dennis Canon and if they themselves cannot follow the canons of the Episcopal Church then their case is sunk. Canon lawyers are on the sidelines today with their laptops ready to write their briefs about the gross miscarriage of justice going on in Lodi.

Goodbye Dennis Canon.

What seems to be driving David Booth Beers is his attempt to shore up his lawsuits by building a wall between the Episcopal Church and the rest of the Anglican Communion and illustrate the point that the Episcopal Church is a separate and autonomous denomination and the other provinces of the Anglican Communion are separate denominations - like Lutherans or Presbyterians or Baptists. This means that there is no direct link between Diocesan Bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Now all the Episcopal Bishops go directly through the Presiding Bishop to Canterbury - that’s what she is doing today in Lodi.

Should this not set off alarm bells in Lambeth Palace and with the catholic-minded Rowan Williams that the American Church is pulling up the drawbridges between the dioceses in the United States and the Archbishop of Canterbury? The actions today and before Easter continue to weaken Canterbury as just a bearded figurehead and nothing more.

This is in conflict to what Rowan Williams wrote to John Howe that he is in direct communion with the diocesan bishops and not through the province. Bishop Schori and her lawyer, David Booth Beers, appear to be trying to usurp that authority between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the diocesan bishops by reconfiguring the Presiding Bishop as an Archbishop and thereby superior in rank to the Diocesan Bishops. She then becomes a rival to the Archbishop of Canterbury by cutting off his direct relationship to the Diocesan Bishops - which does not go through the Presiding Bishop since she not only is not an Archbishop - she has no diocese.

Katharine Jefferts Schori’s job is to preside over the House of Bishops - she does not have a diocese as Archbishops do. Her manipulation or incompetence in carrying out her responsibilities of “presiding” was in plain view when she orchestrated the removal of two opponents just before Easter.

The deal is - why do the Diocesan Bishops allow her to usurp their authority? And why do the laity continue to follow the bishops that allow her to intervene in their diocesan affairs? That’s what continues to puzzle me.

Of course, those who do resist also face deposition, so perhaps that has something to do with it.

Perhaps the laity is voting their displeasure by withholding financial support to the dioceses and voting with their feet. However, the Presiding Bishop has made it quite clear she doesn’t care. People can leave, she has said - what matters is power, even if that power only comes from her inner circle.

But in America, the power is in the people - that is the principle our form of government is built on, We the People, and many of the same people who formed the United States government, formed the dioceses in the Episcopal Church. That's certainly true in Virginia. Those principles are what are at risk now and if we can’t find agreement amongst ourselves as Episcopalians or as Anglicans or even as Christians - perhaps we can find agreement that our democratic principles are at risk and we know it because we are Americans.


Alice C. Linsley said...

Is this Presiding Bishop by any change a fan of Queen Jadis?

Matthew said...

I rather think she's been boning up on Dolores Umbridge. Jadis had too much class. /snark

You touched on what the Archbishop of Canterbury might do. I think his history shows that Bishop Schori can rely upon him doing nothing. His sympathies are with the reappraisers, but I don't think he wants to offend the Global South more than he has already.

The most he will do is issue a statement regretting the current difficulty and calling it a local matter.

Secondly, as far as a lay response, we are seeing it. I would be very surprised and quite suspicious if the membership and ASA figures for 2007 do not show a significant drop in both figures, but especially in ASA.

What anecdotal evidence I've amassed shows that the laity are indeed heading out the door in growing numbers.