frgavin on April 6th, 2011

By David W. Virtue

After a challenging address by the PB to “show up” in the various challenging venues of today’s world, we had a report from a committee on changes in governance of The Episcopal Church, concerns about the new Title IV Canon revisions (clergy discipline), a report from the committee on same gender blessings, and from a group looking to devise a process for the “reconciliation or dissolution of a pastoral relationship between a bishop and a diocese.”

Thus spake Bishop Christopher Epting retired bishop of Iowa and current Interim Dean of Trinity Cathedral in Davenport, Iowa.

The bishop dropped more morsels in this one blunt statement than all the high sounding ecclesiastical nonsense that usually emanates from these bishops’ gabfests.

Then Epting exclaimed, “Wow. For the new bishops: welcome to your new role.”

Wow indeed. These newbie bishops arrive at a time when their boss’s newfound powers kick in on July 1. ANY opposition to the Presiding Bishop’s thinking can and will be met with inhibition and deposition with possibly a trial, but don’t count on it. Can we count on her to exercise her new powers and toss PA Bishop Charles Bennison into the ecclesiastical equivalent of the Schylkill River?

For those bishops who haven’t rolled over to The Blessed One, tread softly for you tread on my neck, might be their silent prayer. Opposition is useless.

The Presiding Bishop’s sermon at the House of Bishops opening Eucharist at the Kanuga Conference Center exuded a certain collegial bonhomie. It also contained her usual ecumenical/interfaith rant with this line, “We’re also going to be asked to show up in relationship to the larger Abrahamic body. Mary may be honored even more in Islam than she is in Christian communities. She is certainly mentioned more often in the Quran. Are we willing to show up long enough and faithfully enough to find out why? How is our own Christian faithfulness going to be deepened in the encounter?” I doubt the Roman Catholic Church would agree with her assessment of Mary and Islam.

So you may be as ecumenical and interfaith and pro-gay as you wish. Propose and use all the same-sex rites you like, but if you oppose anything I say or believe in, you are history. Bishops beware.

One can almost hear the ecclesiastical wheels churn as she contemplates how she will come down on South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence. He’s waiting, they’re ready and now it is just a matter of when she lights the fuse. It is when not if.

The new Title IV Canon revisions (clergy discipline), give Metropolitan Jefferts Schori unprecedented powers for devising a process for the “reconciliation or dissolution of a pastoral relationship between a bishop and a diocese.” The sovereign rights of dioceses be damned.

San Joaquin Allan Haley observes, “What better subject for the “teachers” than the newly created metropolitan authority of the Presiding Bishop herself? She begins the process with an exhortation to the assembled bishops to “show up in the various challenging venues of today’s world” (how postmodern can we make this?). Having thereby subtly established her authority to issue pastoral directives to her colleagues, she hands the real task of instruction over to those who were the architects of the changes to Title IV of the national Canons — the members of the (Second) Title IV Task Force.”

The constitutionality of their changes has been called into serious question by Haley who is concerned with Episcopal Church polity. “It is a bit disconcerting, but nevertheless entirely within the character of the current administration, to have the assembled bishops hear only from members of the Title IV Task Force, who continue to maintain — in the face of all historical and logical evidence — that they are right and every other canon law expert is just wrong.”

Never mind that Jefferts Schori has no diocese, these new bishops, have never known what it means to be an independent diocesan with no superior. Will they miss their freedom?

So they enter the new Era of Jefferts Schori when the slightest challenge they might offer to her primatial authority can trigger an immediate suspension from office. Talk about being kept in line — they will never summon the gumption to test the strength of the velvet nooses around their necks, writes Haley.

What if there is a revolt by the handful of orthodox bishops that still remain in TEC and who have not fled to Rome or the ACNA? We know that Bishop Lawrence is in Jefferts Schori’s cross hairs, but what if there was a wider Middle East type rebellion where one nation follows another in a domino style display of ecclesiastical revolt.

Could Springfield, Albany, Dallas, Central Florida test the ecclesiastical waters and take up arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing, end them (her)?

We are, says Haley, in for some interesting days.

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