Revisiting Article III of the Episcopal Church Constitution... bishops for Foreign Lands.

We ought, as often as possible consecrate bishops for foreign lands, rather than consecrate Episcopal Church bishops for overseas dioceses, that is dioceses not part of the territories of The United States. It is time to be less imperial and international in our reach.

A.    The Constitution of THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH includes the following possibility:

“Bishops may be consecrated for foreign lands upon due application therefrom, with the approbation of a majority of the Bishops of this Church entitled to vote in the House of Bishops, certified to the Presiding Bishop; under such conditions as may be prescribed by Canons of the General Convention. Bishops so consecrated shall not be eligible to the office of Diocesan or of Bishop Coadjutor of any Diocese in the United States or be entitled to vote in the House of Bishops, nor shall they perform any act of the episcopal office in any Diocese or Missionary Diocese of this Church, unless requested so to do by the Ecclesiastical Authority
thereof. If a Bishop so consecrated shall be subsequently duly elected as a Bishop of a Missionary Diocese of this Church, such election shall then confer all the rights and privileges given in the Canon to such Bishops.”

This Article has been rarely been used. White and Dykman note the following use of what was Canon 10 and later Article III of the Constitution (the text above):  Haiti, in 1874, Mexico in 1879, Brazil 1899, and in 1948 consecration of bishops for the Philippine Independent Church.  Recently there has been the attempt to remove this article from the Constitution as being no longer relevant.

B.    “In the United States of America”

One of the early reasons for this canon / article was the notion that “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America” was by intention the Episcopal / Anglican Church for the whole nation, for all places where the government of the United States of America held sway.  Churches established by PECUSA outside the territory of the United States could be formed as missionary dioceses and have some representation in the General Convention, but the forward planning and object was the establishment of national Episcopal churches in the various “foreign lands.”

In recent years, there has been some confusion of this division – between foreign and domestic – and we have talked of The Episcopal Church as being a church that includes 16 (or so) nations. We have talked of TEC as an international church. That move, from seeing the work as distinctly domestic or foreign to seeing the work as international echoes the increasingly international character of many businesses.  This move has been seen by some who find conspiracy under every rock as an effort by TEC to see itself as an international “Church” in the same way that the last two Archbishops of Canterbury erroneously slip into talking about the Anglican Communion as a church.  The error in that instance is confusing a communion of churches for a single entity. It is an error of old empire builders. Just so the conspiracy folk see TEC building empire, or at least international corporation.

C.     Reclaiming Foreign and Domestic mission.

It is time to address this confusion by reclaiming one part of the missionary vision of The Episcopal Church, namely to take our part as a national church in the development and strengthening of cognate bodies – churches like (but not the same as) ours in foreign lands.

It is time to insist again that TEC is a legitimate expression of Anglicanism in the United States of America and that as an Anglican church it has every hope that like-minded believers in other counties, in “foreign parts,” will be raised up and encouraged to form their own Anglican churches, autonomous and related to all the rest of the Anglican churches by bonds of affection and not by bondage to some international cartel or curia. 

It is time to encourage overseas dioceses of TEC to move to greater self-governance, greater self-sufficiency, greater self-propagation.  We need once again to hold up the vision of these churches in “foreign parts” taking their place at the table of Anglican Communion fellowship as independent national episcopal churches.

D.    Article III of the Constitution is a basis for establishing a new / old relationship between TEC and dioceses in foreign lands.

As an example: The Episcopal Church of Haiti has requested TEC permission to hold an election of a bishop coadjutor.  As it stands that bishop will be part of the TEC House of Bishops and the diocese will be a diocese in union with the General Convention, in other words Haiti will remain as a diocese of TEC.  

Any progress towards establishing the Episcopal Church of Haiti as an autonomous church in Haiti would involve getting permission from General Convention to withdraw from that union, and as a parallel action, the Bishop getting permission to leave the House of Bishops.  At the same time, if the church of Haiti were to become an autonomous province in the Anglican Communion, the Church of Haiti would have to establish to the satisfaction of the Anglican Consultative Council that it consisted of four (or perhaps three) dioceses and with sufficient resources.  If the Church of Haiti wanted to it could ask for “extra-provincial” status, with a concordat with an existing province which would place this diocese in relation to the rest of the Communion.

Having a TEC bishop is an expensive proposition: The bishop is expected to go to General Convention, to House of Bishop’s meetings, to have a salary and benefits based on a US standards, and to exercise ministry under the specific requirements of TEC Canon law which reflects the “local” requirements of church life in the United States of America.

If the coadjutor bishop of Haiti were elected as a bishop for foreign lands it would signal the intention that the Episcopal Church of Haiti was an emerging separate entity in the Anglican Communion seeking its connection to the whole by either moving to autonomy as a province of its own, or to union with other dioceses in a regional province of national churches. On a temporary basis connection with TEC could be continued with a concordat under which a panel of several TEC bishops would act as a council of advice to the bishop of Haiti, assuring the bishop of continued connection to at least this part of the Communion.

Freed from the constraints of responsibilities to the House of Bishops and the General Convention, and the expectations of the TEC episcopate, the church in Haiti could establish an episcopal presence that, as the Lambeth Quadrilateral proposes, was “locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of His Church.”  The episcopate, ordered locally, might exhibit such “servant leadership” as would make it possible for the Church in Haiti to ordain several bishops and establish several dioceses, thus moving it further towards being a self-sustaining church.

The canons of the Church in Haiti could also be ordered in ways that were appropriate to its location and, at the same time, through the concordat, aligned in substance to canons of TEC.

E.     What goes around, comes around.

Something very like this was the basis on which the Church in Haiti, already in place as the Orthodox Apostolic Church of Haiti, was first connected to TEC.  The consecration of James Theodore Holly as a bishop for foreign lands in 1874 was accompanied by a concordat, a bishops advisory group, and the establishment of canons for the governance of the church in Haiti. When in 1912 the church of Haiti asked to join TEC as a missionary diocese it lost the right to name its own bishop, became part of TEC and over the years has become a “regular” diocese of this church.  But it began precisely by using the canon on consecration bishops for foreign lands.

Perhaps it is time again to make use of Article III and consecrate the next bishop of Haiti as “a bishop for foreign lands.”  In doing so we would counter the unfortunate assumption that TEC ought to be an “international church,” with whatever imperial or internationalist corporate assumptions “international church” language brings.   Too, we might learn from the experience in Haiti something more about alternative ways to understand the role and function of the bishop in the church.


Anglican Communion News Service plays loose with the facts, lacky of the managers.

(slightly revised from its first posting).

In the land of “alternative facts” there are many players. If it were not so I would have told you.  A little example from Anglican Land, confirming once again that we are all indeed too human.

The Primates of the Anglican Communion were invited to a gathering in January of last year. The event was billed as a gathering, not a “Primates Meeting,” but some formal “meeting” matters were taken up. Among them was a censure of the Episcopal Church for its actions at the 2015 General Convention where it moved ahead with institutional permission and services for blessing same sex marriages.  Those sanctions, punishments, or censures were inacted. They required “that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.”

After that gathering there was a meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. “On April 19, at the conclusion of the Anglican Consultative Council, an internal body of the Anglican Communion, the delegates from The Episcopal Church wrote in “A Letter from Lusaka”:“We want to assure you that we participated fully in this meeting and that we were warmly welcomed and included by other ACC members.” (from American Anglican Council, HERE)

"According to the Anglican Communion Office, Bishop of Connecticut, Ian Douglas proposed or seconded several resolutions for ACC-16. These include but are not limited to resolutions on: Anglican inter-faith engagement, Ensuring both continuity and turnover of the leadership of the Anglican Consultative Council, An Anglican Congress." (From the American Anglican Council article.) 

It was widely understood that the ACC did not concur with the punishments dictated by the Primates Gathering/ Meeting of January, and felt that the Primates had no business telling the ACC how it should conduct its business.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, apparently unperturbed, opined that “Given that my report, referred to in the resolution, incorporated the Communiqué and was very explicit on consequences; the resolution clearly supports and accepts all the Primates’ Meeting conclusions. No member of the Episcopal Church stood for office in the ACC or Standing Committee. The consequences of the Primates meeting have been fully implemented.”

But there is disagreement, yes?  The Archbishop said, “the consequences of the Primates meeting have been fully implemented.” The TEC delegation says, "not so much." They maintain that they took part in polity and doctrine conversations and voted on the resolutions that resulted from them.

Now we leap forward to this past week, when the ACNS (The Anglican Communion News Service) ran anarticle on the Archbishop’s invitation to the Primates to another gathering in October. Near the close of the article it states, “The 2016 Primates’ gathering drew worldwide attention. It concluded with a communiqué which set out consequences for the US-based Episcopal Church (TEC) following its decision to change its canon on marriage. As a result, members of TEC have stepped down from IASCUFO – the Inter-Anglican Standing Committee on Unity, Faith and Order – and also from the IRAD ecumenical dialogue. Members of TEC participated in ACC-16 in Lusaka, but none took part in formal votes on issues of doctrine and polity – another stipulation of the Primates’ communiqué. In fact, all matters of doctrine and polity were agreed by consensus so no formal vote was necessary.” (My underlining.)

The first version of the ACNS article ended “none took part in formal votes on issues of doctrine and polity – another stipulation of the Primate’s communique.”  The TEC deputation took issue with this, maintaining, as they had earlier, that they were integral to the discussions and voted. Episcopal Café has posted their clear position. They write:

Statement from the Episcopal Church’s members of the
Anglican Consultative Council

As the Episcopal Church’s members of the Anglican Consultative Council, we were dismayed to read in today’s Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) an article that claims we did not vote on matters of doctrine or polity at the most recent meeting of the ACC, known as ACC-16, held in Lusaka, Zambia in April 2016. This report is wrong.

Each of us attended the entire ACC-16 meeting and voted on every resolution that came before the body, including a number that concerned the doctrine and polity of the Anglican Communion. As the duly elected ACC members of a province of the Anglican Communion, this was our responsibility and we fulfilled it.

It could be inferred from today’s ACNS story that we did not fulfill our voting responsibilities at ACC-16 to comply with a communique issued by the primates of the Anglican Communion in January 2016.  The communique sought to impose consequences on the Episcopal Church for its adoption of marriage equality at our 2015 General Convention. Such an inference would be incorrect.

At the beginning of ACC-16, the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion issued a statement saying that it had “considered the Communiqué from the Primates and affirmed the relational links between the Instruments of Communion in which each Instrument, including the Anglican Consultative Council, forms its own views and has its own responsibilities.” After ACC-16 had concluded, six outgoing members of the Standing Committee released a letter reasserting that “ACC16 neither endorsed nor affirmed the consequences contained in the Primates’ Communiqué.”

As members of the Anglican Consultative Council, we thank God for the time we have spent with sisters and brothers in Christ from across the globe, and for the breadth and diversity of our global Anglican family. We are firmly committed to the Episcopal Church’s full participation in the Anglican Communion, and we hope that, in the future, our participation will be reported accurately by the Anglican Communion News Service.

Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine
Ian T. Douglas
Gay Clark Jennings”

ACNS has responded by adding the following sentence to their report: “In fact, all matters of doctrine and polity were agreed by consensus so no formal vote was necessary.” They note it as an update, not a correction. They write,"This article was updated on 2 February to make clear that no formal votes were held on issues of doctrine and polity at ACC-16. None was necessary because all such matters were agreed by consensus."

This is, of course, a bamboozle response. It does not address the fact that TEC members took part in discussions of doctrine and polity issues. It does not address the position of the TEC members that they indeed voted on every resolution that came before the ACC. And, of course, it does not address the reality that consensus is as well a way of voting.

It would appear that ACNS wants to paint a picture in which TEC is obedient to, and called to be obedient to, the stipulations of the Primates Meeting / Gathering, and that the wheels of Anglican Communion censure grind exceedingly fine.  But the facts are otherwise. 

TEC members were obedient to their call to serve as members of the Anglican Consultative Council, whose work is not bound by restrictions imposed from outside. In this I believe TEC members did precisely the right thing as responsible members of a council with its own charter of responsibilities.

In this particular case ACNS is a partisan propaganda office, painting a picture to suit the needs of its masters.

ACNS has done good service at various times in the past. But in this ACNS is playing loose with the facts.

There are additional problems of dissonance between the stipulations of the Primates Meeting / Gathering and the reality on the ground. These too will play forward and return to plague the managers.

Regarding content of the proposed meeting, the article states that, “The January 2016 meeting (of the Primates) also called for the setting up of a Task Group to explore differences and seek ways to restore relationship and rebuild trust. The Task Group, which draws members from across the Anglican Communion, subsequently met in September last year and is due to meet again during 2017.”  Presumably their findings will be part of that meeting.  Interestingly, one comment on the article has pointed out that this Task Group must surely be an Anglican Communion body that will discuss matters of polity and doctrine. One would expect that no member of TEC could be part of that Task Group, and yet Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has been appointed to serve on the Task Group.

How is the Presiding Bishop’s inclusion in the Task Group to be reconciled with the stipulations of the Primates Meeting / Gathering of 2016? We shall see. Perhaps “exploring differences” will avoid speaking to issues of polity and doctrine. Perhaps its exploration will be so tame as to lead readers to conclude that their report is drivel.  Who knows.

It will all be revealed.  But not necessarily in ACNS.


A Burning Patience


Pablo Neruda delivered a Nobel Lecture in 1971 on receiving the Prize for Literature. It is an amazing statement about poetry and life in community, and worth quoting from at length.

“I have often maintained that the best poet is the one who prepares our daily bread… The baker does majestic and unpretentious work of kneading the dough, consigning it to the oven, baking it in golden colors, and handing us our daily bread as a duty of fellowship.  And if the poet succeeds in achieving this simple consciousness, this too will be transformed into an element in an immense activity, in a simple or complicated structure which constitutes the building of community, the changing of the conditions which surround humankind, the handing over of human products: bread, truth, wine, dreams.  If poets join this never completed struggle to extend to the hands of each and all their part of the undertaking, effort and tenderness to the daily work of all people, then the poet must take part, the poet will take part, in the sweat, in the bread, in the wine, in the whole dream of humanity.  Only in this indispensable way of being ordinary people shall we give back to poetry the mighty breadth which has been pared away from it little by little in every epoch, just as we ourselves have been whittled down in every epoch.”

I can imagine my friends Fleda, Devon and Tom kneading the dough of daily poetry-bread, building community thereby, and restoring the whole dream of humanity. I can, on a good day, imagine myself kneading such bread. But more I can imagine “the work of all people” contributing to the bread, truth, wine, dreams, of the whole community, and in that can imagine taking my part in the restoration of human community as priest, printmaker, poet, and struggler with all the normal foibles of life, including the cancer that now preoccupies my time.

This last week was difficult for me on many fronts:

We elected a President in that awkward sort of way, where we give our popular vote to a gang of electors who are in turn pledged (mostly) by states to vote for the statewide winner in the Presidential election. And after all the rationale of just why we do this and how we do this we end up with someone who has a majority of electors, never mind who won the popular vote. It is a strange way of doing things, but there it is. So we have a new president elect – Donald Trump – with a small majority of electors apparently to his side. He will, without question, be kneading bread of some sort or another in the coming days.   Secretary Clinton with the popular majority will be looking elsewhere for how she will contribute to the “bread, truth, wine, dreams of the whole community.” But I am not easily confident that either will be able to nourish the whole dream of humanity very much, at least right now.

Leonard Cohen, whose poetry and song have been part of my life even before Pablo Neruda wrote his essay, died this week. “Suzanne takes me down…” to “Hallelujah…” to the wonderfully dark and twisted workings of his mind and soul have fed me as bread and wine for a new communion in apocalyptic times. Fortunately,  there is so much, because he fed himself and us almost every day, and we can always return to his poetry for nourishment.

More locally and precisely, concerning my cancer treatment, the radiation treatments this week have begun to affect my sense of taste. At least for a while bread and wine will fail the test as sacraments of community. So truth and dreams will have to come in other ways. I am learning to eat not for pleasure, but of necessity. But what kind of community does that entail?  Sure, “we do not live by bread alone, but by every Word.” But how is the word made tasty?  So I am afraid I am losing a grip on community as I lose taste. And I am longing for new words and signs. (Sigh.)

And this last Thursday I had to have a feeding tube put in so that as the tastiness of bread disappears and it becomes more difficult to swallow, I can circumvent the whole thing, and find nutrient without even pretending to eat.

It was, in other words, a week in which I have not been feeling very nourished at all… not the bread of politics, or the bread of singers, not the taste of common food or even the commonality of eating seemed immediately available.

And yet there has been nourishment of human community, of love, of support, even as we all have come to grips with the great puzzlements of increasing impairments.

And then I remembered Neruda’s essay, Toward the Splendid City. I remembered that Neruda began the lecture by recounting a difficult journey across the Andes between Chile and Argentina. He was, as many of us are now, on the lam. He spoke of strange small rituals in the mountains, where he and his companions left markers, as had so many others, in small sacred spaces, and how he joined in a dance high in the night sky, and how very small things – a bit of bread and some wine – made for humanity in a torturous time in his life.

So I got a copy and read it again. And there, almost at the end, Neruda quotes a prophetic utterance from Rimbaud the visionary. “In the dawn, armed with a burning patience, we shall enter the splendid Cities.” 

He says at the close, “I wish to say to the people of good will, to the workers, to the poets, that the whole future has been expressed in this line by Rimbaud: only with a burning patience can we enter in triumph the splendid City which will give light, justice, and dignity to all people.” (translation my own).


So I say to my friends it is indeed a time for burning patience.  The necessities of bread, truth, wine and dreams are all there, they are our gifts to one another.

And they are sufficient.


Dealing with Cancer.

I have cancer. Don’t know where else, but at least in some lymph nodes in my neck. As they say, “the news is not good.” I found out yesterday afternoon.  Kathryn is with me and her presence is wonderfully calming.  I wish there were ways to write each of you personally, but there it is.

I’ll know more than I ever wanted to later, but for now it is enough to say that much of my attention turns to the unwelcome visitor and days ahead that are even less in my control than usual.  I’m a bit in reactive mode just now, but God willing will turn more proactive as possibilities for treatment emerge.

Cancer is not another name for death, but I am aware that cancer often deadens the life force. So my most proactive work right now is (i)  to pay attention to the work Kathryn and family and I,  and lots of health care people, have to do dealing with the cancer(s) and (ii) to pay attention to living creatively and with imagination. 

It also means that in this next period I will need to focus on these things and not others. So I will be resigning from a variety of civic and religious committees and stepping back a bit from the busyness of life.  But conversely I will hopefully step forward with at least some grace into those dangerous areas where body and spirit are tested.

So, I’m dealing. Kathryn’s dealing.

What I need from friends is your dealing too.  We will no doubt need help dealing with life not in control. I know I will need friendship and love. I will mostly need compassion.

What I don’t need is too many questions, too many assumptions, too many solutions. Dealing is not rescue. Dealing is not avoiding death (which is really bad theology.)  Dealing is a sacred walk. It is an example of the journey being the destination, which is about God NOW.

So…pray with me for a good walk, perhaps walking away from the unwelcome visitor, perhaps walking with it, but a good walk none the less, in which holiness and loving kindness is present. I’ll pray for you too. After all, we’re all dealing.


The Church of Brazil and its new prayer book.

The Primate of The Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil sent me a copy of the new Book of Common Prayer (2015) for the  Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil. It was a marvelous gift. It is a hefty tome, some 1181 pages long, printed on rather thick paper, so the book is BIG. It is the culmination of a great project.

The BCP for the national church in Brazil appears to be based in large part on the texts and organization of The Episcopal Church's 1979 BCP. But there is much that is new and sets it apart from TEC's BCP.

There are some really fine new liturgies. For example, there is a liturgy of the passion and one for the seven last words. There are a wide range of Eucharistic prayers - a Rite I liturgy and Rite II, with seven Eucharistic prayers. 

Each section of the BCP is introduced with a short commentary on the rites included. Even with bad Portuguese I get the meat of these commentaries. They are a fine addition.

The IEAB BCP is a great "cook book" of liturgical material. But like the TEC BCP it pushes the limits of being a manual that is a book held in the hand of the believer. 

The TEC BCP is of manageable size only because it is printed on thin paper. But the BCP in Brazil is on heaver paper and hefty. Too hefty to be really handheld. In the TEC BCP the careful observer will note that the spine gets broken and the pages pushed forward on those sections everyone uses, and the rest remain mostly unread and unused. I suspect the same will happen with the IEAB BCP.

Occasionally I return to the English "official" BCP which is in fact a wonderful "hand held" item. It is small, compact, and contains the core of English liturgical life. Of course it does not contain all that CofE worshipers now use. Additional materials are published and some of those provide the working norm for life in parishes. But the core material in the BCP provides a manual for devotion. And, it is manual.

The question then is this: Is it time both in the US and in other churches that derive their liturgical material from TEC to consider a smaller set of texts as the core, to be published in one volume, and a second body of material that includes materials used only occasionally. They could both be considered part of the BCP. Part II would not be a supplement, but rather a "volume 2" of the official liturgies of the Church.

The current BCP in the TEC and Brazil might be reduced to a 500 page book. A second book - including "traditional" forms of the Daily Offices, Eucharist, and the special services of Holy Week and other special observances, along with the Ordinal, and the Historical materials, could be published and be available as a kind of "Part II" of the official liturgical materials of the church.

The Church of Brazil has done a massive work. It is to be congratulated for having done so. But the expansion of the BCP to a larger and larger tome means practically that it is no longer easily manual... something to be held in the hand. It is a large lump. In an odd way it begins to be a professionals book, not a people's book.

In new revisions of the TEC's  BCP perhaps the IEAB's BCP is a reminder that it is time to rethink what we want in a BCP. Do we want everything all in the same book, or do we want a book that we can hold in worship and in the quiet of our own place of secret prayer? Do we want a book that contains everything and becomes a cook book, or is it time to return to a people's prayer book, small enough to be a devotional manual?