frgavin on June 13th, 2011
By Peter Ould, on June 12th, 2011

This is astonishing. Instead of just repeating what others have said, here’s Cranmer’s take.

There’s been a bit of an ‘edit war’ on the Wikipedia page dedicated to The Most Reverend Dr Katharine Jefferts-Schori the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States.

Apparently at her behest, a paragraph was removed by an employee of the Episcopal Church Center (sic) which contained false information presented in the official documentation for her election as Presiding Bishop.

She had stated on her CV that she had held two significant positions of ecclesial and pastoral authority, which would have gone a very long way to establishing that she had what it would take to be a bishop. One of these was: ‘Pastoral Associate and Dean, Good Samaritan School of Theology, Corvallis, OR.’.

It transpires, however, that she was actually simply in charge of her parish’s adult education program (and not a very large parish, at that). The fact the she lists the same institution as three of her major qualifications for office is worthy of a little scrutiny, not least because the Good Samaritan School of Theology is shrouded in a little mystery (to say the least): it is not apparently accredited by any academic institution, and there’s some question over whether it exists at all.

Asked in writing to explain her reference to this seemingly phantom school of theology, Bishop Katharine responded: “The Good Samaritan School of Theology was the then-rector’s term for all adult education programs, both internally and externally focused.”

The then-rector’s term? So it existed only in the mind of the then-rector?

She further clarified that she ‘spent a year as Dean of the School of Theology and Ministry for the Diocese of Oregon (1990-1991)’.

But according to her CV, she was not ordained until 1994. How can a lay person exercise such spiritual authority in an Anglican theological college? Unless, of course, it wasn’t quite an Anglican theological college.

Asked to explain ‘El Buen Samaritano’, and her priestly duties there, the Bishop explained: “El Buen Samaritano was the Spanish-language congregation based at Good Samaritan, essentially a parochial mission. I acted as vicar with primary liturgical and pastoral responsibility.”

‘I acted as vicar…’? So you were an unofficial chaplain at a foreign language school?

This is more than a little suspect. Not even (ordained) university chaplains who ‘act as a vicar’ would imply that they are deans of a theological seminary. This place of prestigious theological inquiry of which Bishop Katharine was Dean perhaps offers nothing but distance-learning and advanced degrees based on nothing but life experience.

‘Dean’ denotes senior academic status with authority over an accredited faculty. It would appear that Bishop Katharine was a dean only in her own mind, or was it the then-rector’s mind? Whatever, doubts clearly remain.

The Episcopal Church nominating committee spent a sum of $200,000 on thevetting process, which is rather a hefty sum for a manifestly woefully inadequate vetting.

Attempts to redact the Wikipedia entries relating to this were noted here andhere, (with some comment on the Discussion page).

The edit was made by a user called ‘Matisse412’ and includes this statement: “I work in the Communication Office at the Episcopal Church Center. Edits made per Bishop Jefferts Schori’s suggestion.” This may, of course, be false, but it has not been denied by Episcopal Church staff or Dr Schori (or is it Dr Jefferts Schori?).

A little carelessness or premeditated corruption? A white lie, or a slip of the pen? A spot of tidying up or deliberate concealment? A slight inflation of the job-title after the fashion of calling your secretary an ‘administrative director’, or just mind-numbingly irrelevant trivia? Full-blown election fraud or the consequences of ‘unmitigated evil’?

Perhaps we should not be surprised that a revisionist revises her own history (or, rather, gets a minion to do it). But there’s an awful lot more than mere matters of hat-wearing or CV-embellishing which may lead her to the lake of fire.

It is certainly observed that Bishop Katharine’s rise has been meteoric in ecclesial terms: she has never been a rector, and was an assistant rector for just one year. How many diocesan bishops are appointed with such little pastoral experience of practical ministry? How many have ever risen to become Presiding Bishop?

It is not a criminal offence but, to employers in the real world, CV ‘embellishment’ is fraud. And where an employee obtains employment and pecuniary advantage through deception, it is certainly a criminal offence which has attracted a custodial sentence. It is one thing to try to put your best foot forward and word your resume as optimally as you can to better your chances in the career field. It’s quite another to misrepresent yourself by intentionally misleading others to believe something about you that simply isn’t true or is otherwise an exaggeration of the truth.

If Bishop Katharine had claimed to have founded the local art appreciation society, captained the netball team or suggested that she was paid $5,000 more than it actually was, it would amount to fraud, but not much harm done. The fact that she claimed to be Dean of a college which doesn’t actually exist, and that this may have induced the Episcopal Church to appoint her Presiding Bishop, is pecuniary advantage through misrepresentation and deception (except, of course, in the mind of the then-rector). The statements in the official documentation must have been material to the decision and relied upon by those who voted for her.

Statistics suggest that five per cent of workers admit to ‘embellishing’ their CVs, while 57 per cent of employers say they have caught a lie on a candidate’s application. Of those employers who caught a lie, 93 per cent did not hire the candidate.

In law, if Bishop Katharine’s claims on her CV induced TEC into a contract of employment, the fact that these claims are ‘embellished’ may be considered a breach of contract (in this instance, a breach of the implied duty of trust and confidence). Before dismissal could take place, the breach would need to be considered fundamental to the contract. And that, of course, is where matters will be ‘fudged’ for a few years (no doubt long enough for her to serve her full term of office).

But before any of His Grace’s readers and communicants kick off the comments by accusing him of joining some ‘hate’ campaign against the Presiding Bishop because she is i) American; ii) a woman; iii) left-wing; iv) prays to ‘Our Mother Jesus’; v) ordains (practising) lesbian and gay vicars and bishops; or vi) is a radical feminist, His Grace would just like to make it known that he would do the same (and has done) to those with whom he is far more theologically sympathetic.

Some Anglicans do indeed walk a separate path, perhaps as only the generous breadth of Anglicanism permits. But one might expect that path to be walked in a spirit of conviction with regard at least to the truth about oneself.

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