Skip to content

Well done, General Convention!

2012 July 11
by Gordon Reid

Now I am sure that 99% of you think I am going to congratulate or condemn General Convention for passing a rite for the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions. But I’m not. I may comment on that another day.

For the moment I am so happy that a majority of the delegates have at last paid attention to my views on the office of the Presiding Bishop, which I have been voicing for decades, and voted that the next Presiding Bishop may retain his or her Diocese. Bishop White of Pennsylvania must be chuckling in the heavenly places, because that is exactly what he did, not once but twice.

The American Episcopal Church (I will not call it THE Episcopal Church, since we all know that that is in Scotland!) is the only Church of the Anglican Communion whose chief Bishop has no diocese. And this is bad ecclesiology. The Archbishop of Canterbury has his own Diocese of Canterbury as well as his role as Primate of All England. Even the Pope is Bishop of Rome as well as Patriarch of the West.

The Presiding Bishop does have immediate jurisdiction over the Convocation of the American churches in Europe, but she has a Suffragan Bishop to look after them, and there are only 8 or 9 parishes. So she is able to spend her whole time looking after the American Church. Or, some would say, so much time on her hands that she has had to invent ways of interfering with the dioceses of the American Church, which, after all, have perfectly good Bishops to do that job without her. This has resulted in much chaos and law suits.

If she had kept her little diocese of Nevada, she would have been able to  go there every weekend at least to confirm children, ordain priests, visit churches, listen to and talk to vestries – all the duties and joys of a Bishop’s ministry. During the week in New York (or soon, one hopes, Kansas City or Memphis or Buffalo, or wherever it is decided to relocate the National Offices, which should be wherever properties are cheap or free – as in a redundant church) she would have a much reduced staff to do the few things dioceses want the central church offices to do for them.

So you see, in that little resolution, which has been pushed aside  by the hype over Gay Marriage, lies the seed of a revolution in the office of the Presiding Bishop which will, in my opinion, prove much more important for the future of the American Church than anything else decided at General Convention.


24 Responses leave one →
  1. July 11, 2012

    Hear, Hear!

  2. Fr. Timothy Matkin permalink
    July 12, 2012

    It was silly (not to mention unapostolic) to get away from a Presiding Bishop remaining the Ordinary of a diocese. What would you think of going back to the old ways of letting the senior-most bishop preside at the General Convention?

    • July 12, 2012

      Even if the role of the Presiding Bishop was reduced to just that function again, the most senior Bishop might not be thought by the others to be the best person to fill that purpose. They should be able to choose the Bishop they think most suitable for the reduced but still important job of a Primate.

  3. David O'Rourke permalink
    July 12, 2012

    Ah, Father! I see you’ve adopted the American habit of being ignorant of your neighbour to the north. The Anglican primate of Canada also has no See.

    • July 12, 2012

      I am sorry to hear that. Canada should know better.

      • Fr. David Harrison permalink
        July 13, 2012

        The Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada did retain his diocese until 1971. A fairly recent task force on the primacy considered, and rejected, the idea of the Primate once again also being a diocesan bishop.

  4. Sandford MacLean permalink
    July 12, 2012

    Dear Father,

    The Primate of All Canada , like the Presiding Bishop of TEC, has no see.

    Best regards,
    Sandford MacLean

  5. Canon Jeremy Haselock permalink
    July 12, 2012

    Well said, Father, but I think the Canadian Anglicans make the same eccesiological blunder. Perhaps they will be moved to follow ECUSA’s example and make thenecessary change next time round.

    From my point of view, of far more significance is the dismissal of the request to admit to Holy Communion BEFORE Baptism. At least this absurd abandonment of orthodox belief and practice is postponed for the time being.

  6. C. A. Badger, Jr. permalink
    July 12, 2012

    You make some good points Father, on church governance, but sadly, they have been overshadowed by the other irresponsible positions the General Convention has allowed to dominate the headlines.

    When Erskine Bowles uses the foreboding expression of “driving off a cliff,” he could be forgiven for referring not only to Congress’ handling of budget issues and deadlines, but to the positions taken by the Episcopal Church’s General Convention.

  7. David O'Rourke permalink
    July 12, 2012

    Yes, I agree with you, Father!

  8. Fr Martyn Gough permalink
    July 12, 2012

    The Archbishop of the Church in Wales retains their diocesan post- it may be a large industrialised one, as at present, or a relatively small diocese such as Monmouth. When a certain Rowan William was Bishop of Monmouth and Archbishop of Wales he spent Friday evenings visiting not the great and the good, but parish youth groups, confirming in small mining villages, gathering in Working Mens Club- being their Chief Pastor, their Teacher, their leader. Take note American Episcopal church!!! You MUST have a diocessan to be able to exercise your ministry, to be able to relate and to share your priesthood.

  9. Jeff Ezell permalink
    July 13, 2012

    Of course, the Presiding Bishop of the American Church did continue to retain his diocese until the late 1940s, I believe, when the new PB announced that he felt unable to combine the duties of diocesan with those of PB. This led to amending TEC’s constitution to relieve the PB of diocesan jurisdiction. Hence, I fear that we could easily see a re-play of the scenario that led to the innovation in the first place. I certainly agree that both for historical and practical reasons the Primate should have duties as a diocesan bishop (in regard to the latter, it would probably be salubriously grounding for the Primate to continue to experience the reality of serving as a diocesan bishop). It has been suggested before that a small, “token” diocese be created for the Primate, but that may never have been very practical, and now that it appears that 815 is going, it’s questionable where such a jurisdiction could be erected. Whilst retaining diocesan jurisdiction has much to commend it, this will also almost surely entail either added expense for the PB’s home jurisdiction (likely to require a suffragan bishop should the Primate be serving in a smaller diocese with no suffragan, or possibly an additional suffragan if the Primate serves a larger diocese with only one bishop suffragan and without the potential services of retired bishops within the diocesan boundaries), or a reduction in the church-wide and international activities of the Presiding Bishop. Of course, many might welcome the latter possibility.

    I wonder how it came to be that the Canadian Primate has no diocese?

  10. Jeff Ezell permalink
    July 13, 2012

    Oh sorry to double post, but I believe the Roman Pontiff has relinquished the title of Patriarch of the West, rather unfortunately I would think.

    • July 13, 2012

      VEry unfortunate, Jeff, but predictable as a bolster to the Pope’s claim of universal jurisdiction, rejected by the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Of course, Scripture shows Peter getting a mandate to go only to the Jews!

  11. David O'Rourke permalink
    July 13, 2012

    Frankly, I have never read any explanation as to why the Pope dropped the title of Patriarch of the West (which I always thought had a nice ring to it). There seems to be no unusually particular emphasis in this pontificate on universal jurisdiction so I doubt that would have been the reason. If indeed it was the reason I’m afraid it was too subtle for me.

  12. Russell Fuhrman permalink
    July 14, 2012

    I should like to call everyone’s attention to the op-ed piece in this morning’s ( Friday, July 13th) Wall Street Journal regarding General Convention and what a pathetic joke our once proud and respected church has become as it rapidly withers away to a shadow of its former self. Sad, very sad indeed.

  13. Russell Fuhrman permalink
    July 15, 2012

    Not to be outdone by the WSJ Sunday’s New York Times has a column by Ross Douthat delineating the decline of the Episcopal Church as it has pathetically tried to stay relevant by jumping on every liberal bandwagon to come the pike only to have the people leave in droves. Must reading about the liberal fools who have driven our church into the ground and made it a laughing stock.

    • July 16, 2012

      The WSJ article is clearly written by a bitter (jealous?) man. It is full of non-sequiturs and innuendos. Just a few:

      The so-called Liturgy for Dead Animals is actually a deeply caring attempt to minister to people who grieve over their beloved pets.

      A one-chamber legislature is as likely to be successful as a two-chamber.

      Funny how the Primatial Cross (which was carried in front of other (Male!) Episcopal Primates, was never an issue before!

      I doubt if there are a dozen Episcopalians who want lay presidency at the Eucharist.

      As far as I hear from friends who were there (which, clearly the writer of the WSJ article was not), this General Convention was a time of grace, when delegates listened to one another and, even when disagreeing, respected the others’ views.

      • Russell Fuhrman permalink
        July 16, 2012

        Thank you, Father, for reading and critiquing the WSJ article, now would you please be kind enough to do the same with the NYT Douthat piece? Thank you.

        • July 16, 2012

          I liked a lot of the NYT article. I think I am happier to be in a “self-conscious progressive body” than “the sedate pillar of the WASP establishment”!
          But if you want to see real ecclesiastical decline, go look for the RC Church in France, Holland or Ireland, to name only three. The US churches are positively booming in comparison.

  14. C. A. Badger, Jr. permalink
    July 16, 2012

    There wasn’t much to quibble with in the New York Times op-ed piece, (by Ross Douthat). I feel your pain, Russell.


  15. Robert McCormick permalink
    July 16, 2012

    The WSJ piece reflected very poorly on the standards of that paper. Reasonable criticisms are one thing; hysterics (much of which are simply made up or based on very flimsy assumptions) are another. I have been an active Episcopalian for 15 years and have not once encountered a single plea for lay presidency. The writer must have been confusing us with Sydney. In the articles I’ve read which have been critical of the General Convention, not one (that I’ve seen) as mentioned what ought to be a great relief to traditionalists, the adamant reaffirmation of Baptism as the ancient and normative entry to the sacramental life and admission to Holy Communion. That could not have been stated more clearly, despite two proposed resolutions either to change the practice or form a committee to study the issue. I have hope for the future of the Church and believe we may soon see a turn-around in what has been lacking, lackluster, or misguided (with the best of intentions, I am certain). Compared to the days of the Borgia popes, for example, we are already in a golden age of the Church’s life!

    • ambly permalink
      July 17, 2012

      That’s a relief, Robert as I hadn’t read what happened to CWOB. Praise God. But we ignore at our peril the loss of so many of the brothers and sisters who have left our church.

  16. Gary (NJ) permalink
    July 18, 2012

    This is a response to the several homophobic postings in this thread. The early Christian Church DID bless same-gendered unions (see link); so by moving more and more for the full inclusion of lgbt people and women, not only is TEC going down on the RIGHT side of history, we are returning to our earliest Christlike roots of love, compassion and inclusion. I know many people who have joined for that reason (myself included), and I have only heard of a handful who have left; just as I’m sure some/many left when they had to share a pew or wine chalice with a black person. If there is any ‘sin’ to answer for, it will be those whose rhetoric and actions have not only encouraged bullying, but also the toxic shame that has driven more than a few lgbt youths to suicide.

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

Facebook Auto Publish Powered By :