Monday, September 22, 2008

Bishop Henderson's Rules

Charlie Foss delivered a good sermon today on Matthew. Although the focus on the heart as opposed to the "statutes" did not deter me from proceeding on with today's posting.

It looks like Black has lost two Bishops.

I never was good at chess. The main problem is that you have to run through a number of possible moves and the anticipated moves of your opponent. Give me a good old game of chance. Any Episcopal parish, diocese, or Bishop unhappy with the current state of the Church had better be good at chess. Not only that, but they have to anticipate "House rules" being declared at any time. I am still analyzing Bishop Henderson's moves in the matter of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

His statement is found here, and I have reproduced it below. I have added 'House Rules' at certain points.

"From Bishop Henderson, re: House of Bishops
September 18, 2008

The Feast Day of Edward Bouverie Pusey

Sisters and Brothers, Greetings from Salt Lake City, where the House of Bishops is meeting. Yesterday we focused on our experience at the Lambeth Conference in July, about which, more anon. You are probably more interested today in the action of the House of Bishops regarding +Robert Duncan, Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Last night we met for more than an hour discussing the canons, their meaning {'House Rules'} , and the process {'House Rules'}leading up to the present situation. This morning we began our discussion of the certification of the Title IV Review Committee, based on information provided by attorneys for certain clergy and laity of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, as well as the Presiding Bishop {'House Rules'}, that Bishop Duncan had abandoned the communion of this Church by renouncing the discipline of The Episcopal Church (which renunciation is defined as abandonment in the Canons){'House Rules'}.

The following is a fairly accurate account of my statement to the House at the very beginning of discussion; after identifying myself (always the practice, whenever one speaks) by name, diocese and as President of the Review Committee, I continued:

As an attorney-and self-appointed {'House Rules'}President of the House of Bishops Bar Association-I am wondering whether we are permitting the letter of the canons undermine the spirit for which the canons were crafted {'House Rules'}.

"Let me say clearly that I concur completely with the finding and certification of the Review Committee. My only concern is with the timing. There is no question in my mind that +Bob Duncan intends to leave The Episcopal Church-and in his heart and mind perhaps already has {'House Rules'[he might argue that the Church has left him-U.P.]}. I don't doubt that Duncan intends to do exactly what he has said he will do, personally, and with his diocese.

"I am persuaded by the legal argument of the (Presiding Bishop's) Chancellor regarding interpretation {'House Rules'} of the phrase ‘whole number of bishops entitled to vote'; it is akin to my own views on that issue. So I do not question the validity and legitimacy of our action in finding that John-David Schofield had abandoned.

"And I am concerned, too, about the legal issues (especially those relating to property), should abandonment by Duncan not be found at this particular point in time. I appreciate the presentation already made by Bishop Sauls (who had discussed relevant laws of Pennsylvania), but expect that, despite our action, the matter of title to property will nevertheless end up in the secular courts.

"But I am influenced heavily by the impact on relationships-relationship within The Episcopal Church and relationships within the Anglican Communion, if we act now rather than acting AFTER the Pittsburgh Convention has its second reading on the proposed constitutional change. To be sure, there will be a price to be paid whether abandonment is determined now or then-but I think the cost will be considerably higher if we are seen to act precipitously. There is a matter of "good will", of mercy, as well as justice, which I consider relevant.

"Yes, Duncan intends to abandon within the meaning of the canon {'House Rules'}-no doubt in my mind whatsoever. But I think the finding of abandonment will be viewed as less unacceptable, less unfavorably, if the diocesan convention has acted the necessary two times, rather than just one. I also believe that we should put the ball back in Duncan's court-let the decision be his, not ours.

"I also consider it important that we attempt as much as possible to separate what we think and feel about Bob Duncan (and others considering similar moves) from the greater good of Christ's mission and Church-that is, separate personalities from what, by God's grace, we can do to promote more effectively both the mission AND the unity of the Church.

"I am anxious to hear the thoughts and opinions of others, but this is where I am at the moment. I am not compelled, or even impelled-but I am inclined to vote no on a finding of abandonment now, and to vote yes on any effort to suspend action until after the Pittsburgh convention acts.

"My prayer for myself at this point is similar to the line from the hymn we sang today during Morning Prayer: ‘Listen to the voice of wisdom...."

After several hours of discussion and prayer, I ultimately voted "no" on the proposed resolution which would authorize the Presiding Bishop to make a finding of abandonment as defined by the canon. The resolution, however, passed.

For more information on today's action, see the statement prepared by several of us bishops who, although voting on opposite sides of the resolution, were asked to draft a statement for public release. It may be found through a link on our diocesan website, and on the website of The Episcopal Church.

As I stated for the benefit of that draft: "This is one of the most somber and solemn occasions in my experience as a bishop. It is a time for prayer for all of us-especially for Bishop Duncan and the Episcopalians of the Diocese of Pittsburgh."

Coveting your prayers as always, I remain faithfully yours in our Lord, +Dorsey USC VII"

Did you ever hear this one,
St. Peter greeted two newcomers at the Pearly Gates. One was the Pope; the other was a lawyer. He ushered The Pope to a small shack and settled him in to his austere quarters; then led the lawyer to a huge, luxuriously appointed mansion.

“I don’t understand,” the lawyer puzzled. “That man was a Pope, and you gave him a shack. And yet, you’ve said I am to live in this luxurious, huge mansion. Why?”

“Sir,” said St. Peter. “We’ve had lots and lots of Popes, here. But, you, sir, are our very FIRST lawyer.”

It sounds like in spite of our Lawyer Bishop's "No" vote, he was in agreement with the charge of "Abandonment." To me it sounds like Bishop Duncan was tossed overboard before he could abandon ship.

I could not help but think of Bishop Duncan as Jonah and the H.O.B. as the crew in Jonah 1:7-15,
"The sailors said to one another, ‘Come, let us cast lots, so that we may know on whose account this calamity has come upon us.’ So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, ‘Tell us why this calamity has come upon us. What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?’ ‘I am a Hebrew,’ he replied. ‘I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.’ Then the men were even more afraid, and said to him, ‘What is this that you have done!’ For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them so.
Then they said to him, ‘What shall we do to you, that the sea may quieten down for us?’ For the sea was growing more and more tempestuous. He said to them, ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quieten down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great storm has come upon you.’ Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more stormy against them. Then they cried out to the Lord, ‘Please, O Lord, we pray, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life. Do not make us guilty of innocent blood; for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.’ So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging."

If Bishop Henderson had felt strongly that Jonah should be thrown into the seas later, Jonah still would be in the drink. Couldn't Bishop Henderson as "self appointed President" of the H.O.B. "Bar Association" have done something earlier to slow the process down in the review committee of which he serves as "President" before it came up for a vote (in his speech he did ask for a strategic delay but only after it was out of committee and presented to the House). After all, aren't Episcopalians famous for talk and delaying decisions (witness Lambeth 2008)?

The hasty actions of the H.O.B., acting before the Dio of Pittsburgh's convention makes any outcome of the convention highly predictable. The people will probably vote to follow their ex-Bishop into another branch of the Anglican Communion. This is assuming that the Episcopal Church does not have a game plan to try to nullify the results of the convention. This is where my dislike for the game of chess comes in. The possible moves are beyond me.

Give me a game of backgammon any day, you don't lose any Bishops to the enemy Queen in backgammon.


  1. Don't you think it incredible that anyone would profess to know what is in another man's heart? To know what he will do and when he will do it? I believe +Dorsey Henderson has missed his calling. My stock portfolio could benefit mightily from his extraordinary feats of perspicacity.

  2. Excuse me for jumping topics as well as blogs, but just WHAT is so wrong with living in McConnells?