ACI: Response to Bonnie Anderson

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What [Bonnie] Anderson has achieved in this formal letter to South Carolina is a demonstration of what happens when General Convention undertakes to permit actions without bothering formally to amend the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. A similar demonstration is being made in the Presiding Bishop’s recourse to a Canon involving renunciation of orders so as to deal with a problem it was never designed to address. The consequence of such action is the creation of a view of Holy Orders and a ‘denominational regularization’ of them without any counterpart elsewhere in the Anglican Communion. The point is this. To use ‘abandonment of communion of this church’ to refer univocally to TEC makes TEC into its own, private communion. If this be the case, TEC is defining itself and its orders in a way different from that of the Anglican Communion as a whole. For Anglicans, communion is not defined within the circumference of a single province and orders are not conferred within a single province alone.

By arrogating to herself the role of commentary, evaluation, and exhortation, the President of the House of Deputies adopts an authority vis-à-vis the Diocese of SC nowhere granted to her by the Constitution and Canons she claims to be defending. Was the President of the House of Deputies elected with a clear remit to function in this way vis-à-vis the Dioceses of The Episcopal Church? Naturally, the President of the House of Deputies might wish to write a letter to the Diocese of South Carolina and encourage attendance at General Convention. But here the intention is to speak on behalf of the Constitution and Canons as well as on matters of doctrine, church history and theology. Where do the Constitution and Canons grant her authority to address the Dioceses in this way, and is election to this presidential office intended to grant her authority as here presumed?

The questions are serious ones because it appears that the elected leadership of The Episcopal Church is now seeking a clear authority and hierarchy above the Bishops of the Church and also above the Constitution and Canons, without at the same time following the legal procedures necessary for adopting and exercising such hierarchy, constitutionally. If there are those within TEC who desire constitutional reform of TEC polity along the lines of a corporate model or the hierarchical structures of churches such as the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Churches, there are constitutional procedures to follow.

So to receive a notice from an elected official which purports to interpret doctrine, discipline and worship in this church, and to defend the Constitution and Canons, without an obvious warrant for doing so from the same Constitution risks exposing the very problem South Carolina and other dioceses have identified as needing address.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)House of Deputies President TEC ConflictsTEC Polity & Canons* South Carolina

27 Comments
Posted October 26, 2009 at 2:03 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

A brilliant dissection of the logical errors in the arrogant letter of the President of the HoD, Ms. Anderson.  However, as usual with such ACI releases, I think it’s overly polite.  Personally, I’d prefer a more openly adversarial and fierce denunciation of Ms. Anderson’s outrageous letter.  But I welcome this admirable refutation of Anderson’s preposterous claims.

David Handy+

October 26, 2:17 pm | [comment link]
2. Phil wrote:

I don’t like Bonnie Anderson’s attitude at all, and I found her letter to be arrogant, imperious and blind to the errors of her own majority party.  I further think that, it being her first, and, therefore, probably more accurate representation, it’s worth dissecting the letter’s errors.  Nevertheless - I think we need to acknowledge that Anderson wrote what was an apparently well-meaning apology.  That ought to count for something, as we are called to forgive “seventy times seven.”

October 26, 2:26 pm | [comment link]
3. seitz wrote:

I did not see in the apology any retraction of the substance of letter 1. Indeed, the apology did not attach itself to anything actually stated; it was a reference to a holy conversation and a clarification of a role that still invites further questions.

October 26, 2:32 pm | [comment link]
4. tjmcmahon wrote:

David+,
I am sure there will be an adequate number of “openly adversarial and fierce denunciations” of Ms. Anderson’s arrogance.  I think you and I already have our own on the record.

I welcome this calm, canonically accurate and well documented response.  One hopes that the bishops of TEC, even the revisionists who may agree with Ms. Anderson politically and would be happy to see the last of Bishop Lawrence and South Carolina, will give the ACI response serious study and consideration.  Today, Ms. Anderson’s arrogation of power is directed at Bishop Lawrence, but 5 or 10 years down the line, it may be directed at those who now see themselves as the “broad center” of TEC.  After all, 30 years ago, +Mark Lawrence would have been considered a liberal for allowing ordained women to function in his diocese, and +Keith Ackerman was considered a liberal Anglo Catholic for staying in TEC after it began ordaining women.  Things change in “this church” in a hurry.  Once the orthodox have been dealt with, next on the list will be those who are a little behind on their contributions to 815 and those who signed the Anaheim statement.

October 26, 2:33 pm | [comment link]
5. Passing By wrote:

As noted in the +Ackerman treatment, alluded to here, it is obvious that the TEC majority is merely trying to demonstrate the “principle” of absolute power corrupting absolutely. 

Thanks to Ms. Anderson for contributing to that.  It’s showing all the rest of us what we’re truly dealing with, even if ACI tries to analyze such actions in a polite way. 

21st century Animal Farm with humans in play instead of swine.

October 26, 2:33 pm | [comment link]
6. Brian from T19 wrote:

Comment deleted by elf. It does not address the post.

October 26, 2:44 pm | [comment link]
7. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

TJ (#4),

You’re quite right, brother.  There is a time and a season for everything, as Ecclesiastes 3 says.  There is certainly a time for calm, reasonable, logical dissection of the errors of a letter like Ms. Anderson’s, and for some people this fine, clear rebuttal by the bright ACI leaders will be heard when my shrill, fierce denunciations would simply be dismissed without serious consideration.  I fully recognize that.

And of course you’re also absolutely right about the moving target that marks resistance to the agenda of 815 and the Executive Council.  No one is safe, no matter how centrist they now appear to be, if they fail to conform to the new party line.  For all their empty talk of being “inclusive,” the current leaders of TEC are exceedingly intolerant of determined opposition.

Well said, TJ.

David Handy+

October 26, 3:07 pm | [comment link]
8. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Dr. Seitz (#3),

Glad you chimed in.  I agree with your interpretation of the “apology.”  I note that no names are listed on the ACI website as the specific authors of this response, but I assume that you were one of them.  If so, thank you.  Congratulations on a job well done.

David Handy+

October 26, 3:11 pm | [comment link]
9. Br. Michael wrote:

It is a good job.  But I imagine that TEC will ignore it and the ABC will ignore it.  TEC’s behavior should have caused it to be expelled from the AC long ago, but nothing has happened and nothing will happen.

October 26, 3:19 pm | [comment link]
10. Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

I like this response in its entirety. It is respectful (something often lacking from both sides in the current unpleasantness) but also continues logical substantive discussion (another thing often lacking in the current theological and doctrinal issues).

October 26, 4:02 pm | [comment link]
11. kb9gzg wrote:

If the horse died some time ago, is there anything to be gained by continuing to whip it?

October 26, 4:38 pm | [comment link]
12. The Lakeland Two wrote:

Good job, ACI.  Don’t think Anderson or 815 cares or will stop, but thanks for stepping up.

October 26, 5:18 pm | [comment link]
13. tjmcmahon wrote:

“Nevertheless - I think we need to acknowledge that Anderson wrote what was an apparently well-meaning apology. “
#2 (or #3) While Ms. Anderson’s original letter to SC arrived in my email box via the HoBD (just a kibitzer there, what they do is not my fault) I can’t find anything on the web referencing any apology.  Is this in public domain, or is this apology forever consigned to the file drawer at 815 that contains the “renunciations” of Bishops Ackerman, Scriven, Iker, etc., etc.

October 26, 5:22 pm | [comment link]
14. Dorpsgek wrote:

Well over a month ago, in response to similar arrogation of power by the President of the House of Deputies, I wrote

This is rather clearly an attempt to further sideline the Bishops within TEC and concentrate more power in her office. Rather ironic that this is happening in the Episcopal church.  For someone in a role intended to be little more than presiding over a part of a triennial convention. Ms Anderson’s accumulation of power is breathtaking.

I’m glad to see the ACI is noticing what is going on too.  I hope the bishops wake up before they find they are mere figureheads in their own church.

Oh, that the ABC were as good at assuming power to his office.

October 26, 5:49 pm | [comment link]
15. Brian from T19 wrote:

OK, let’s address the post:

It is not her role to instruct or interfere with the lawful diocesan Authority…By arrogating to herself the role of commentary, evaluation, and exhortation, the President of the House of Deputies adopts an authority vis-à-vis the Diocese of SC nowhere granted to her by the Constitution and Canons she claims to be defending. Was the President of the House of Deputies elected with a clear remit to function in this way vis-à-vis the Dioceses of The Episcopal Church?...Where do the Constitution and Canons grant her authority to address the Dioceses in this way, and is election to this presidential office intended to grant her authority as here presumed?...So to receive a notice from an elected official which purports to interpret doctrine, discipline and worship in this church, and to defend the Constitution and Canons, without an obvious warrant for doing so from the same Constitution risks exposing the very problem South Carolina and other dioceses have identified as needing address.

Of course she is free to adress anyone at any time through any mefia.  It is alleged that she is somehow violating a defined role by sending a letter, but how does she actually violate a prescribed role?  ACI offers this:

But we proceed on the logic of the letter, where something more seems to be at stake….But here the intention is to speak on behalf of the Constitution and Canons as well as on matters of doctrine, church history and theology.

Here ACI offers to define Bonnie Anderson’s intentions and motives for us.  Something that they can not possibly know and that is further contraindicated by the language of the second letter which is dismissed in the comments:

I also felt that it was important, in the spirit of open dialog and mutual accountability, to let you know that my interpretation of the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church, are quite different than the interpretations which inform the resolutions that will come before your special convention..Emphasis mine.

Communication is not arrogating power to herself.  She makes no decisions.  Claims no authority.  She has as much right to comment on this as the ACI does in answering this letter directed to delegates in SC. 

A ‘various exigency of time and occasion’ is presumably General Convention 2009’s exigency of wanting to permit rites for same-sex blessings, without addressing the constitutional legality of doing so without changing the BCP in accordance with this desire.

There is no need to change the BCP as there was no actual rite created.  Had they inserted a rite in violation of the Constitution, then ACI might have a point, but this is confusing the actual issue.

An assertion is not a legal fact. This is the matter the resolution is SC has concern about, precisely because it wishes to be in conformity with the Constitution and Canons of TEC on this issue.

The problem here is that the Constitution and Canons are not open to individual interpretation by priest or bishops or Dioceses.  The interpretation of the Constitution and Canons are decided by the groups set up to interpret them.  Neither ACI nor the Diocese of SC is empowered to interpret the Constitution and Canons.  This is where the actual arrogation of power in violation of its role is being done.

For Anglicans, communion is not defined within the circumference of a single province and orders are not conferred within a single province alone.

Since when are orders not conferred within a single Province?  Can ACI show us the individuals who have had orders conferred to serve in multiple Provinces?

Finally, the oddest comment comes regarding accession.

Moreover, given the First Amendment implications of acceding to membership in religious associations, legal authorities suggest that any attempt to make such an accession to membership irrevocable would be unenforceable.

What “legal authorities” are asserting that there is government action involved?  Is the argument that the courts could not enforce the contract because they are a government agent?  No legal authority would assert that.

October 26, 5:55 pm | [comment link]
16. Uh Clint wrote:

Brian from T19,

“The problem here is that the Constitution and Canons are not open to individual interpretation by priest or bishops or Dioceses.  The interpretation of the Constitution and Canons are decided by the groups set up to interpret them.  Neither ACI nor the Diocese of SC is empowered to interpret the Constitution and Canons.  This is where the actual arrogation of power in violation of its role is being done.”

If I’m wrong, my apologies.  But - did not +Jane Dixon interpret the Canons in regard to Fr. Martin Minns?  And did she not proclaim that it is the preogative of a bishop to do so?

And, is it not true that +Schori has interpreted the Canons in regard to their application to matters of “renunciation of holy orders?”  (Remember, she is only a bishop - the presiding bishop, granted, but not a bishop with an office any higher than the remainder of those in the HOB.)

So, just who, pray tell, IS empowered to interpret the Constitution and Canons?  And, upon what is that right of interpretation justified?  Remember your own quote, “the Constitution and Canons are not open to individual interpretation by priest or ***bishops***”.

October 26, 6:07 pm | [comment link]
17. Brian from T19 wrote:

f I’m wrong, my apologies.  But - did not +Jane Dixon interpret the Canons in regard to Fr. Martin Minns?  And did she not proclaim that it is the preogative of a bishop to do so?

And, is it not true that +Schori has interpreted the Canons in regard to their application to matters of “renunciation of holy orders?”  (Remember, she is only a bishop - the presiding bishop, granted, but not a bishop with an office any higher than the remainder of those in the HOB.)

So, just who, pray tell, IS empowered to interpret the Constitution and Canons?  And, upon what is that right of interpretation justified?  Remember your own quote, “the Constitution and Canons are not open to individual interpretation by priest or ***bishops***”.

Actually clint, I wasn’t clear on that.  Anyone can of course interpret the C&C any way they want to.  The next step in the process is for the interpreter to take action.  Once that action is taken, there are two possible outcomes:

1. The action is challenged under the C&C or
2. The action is left alone and tacitly accepted as complying with the C&C

If number 2 happens, then there is no problem.  If the actions are challenged as in number 1, then it is up to the established bodies to handle it (court for the trial of a bishop, priest, et al; House of Bishops; House of Deputies).  Once the decisions are made, then the actions are either declared OK or null and void.  So there are three outcomes:

1. Tacit acceptance
2. Failed challenge
3. Successful challenge

None of these leaves room for a single bishop or Diocese or a group to declare actions in violation.

October 26, 6:16 pm | [comment link]
18. wildfire wrote:

#15,
You would benefit from reading Mike Watson’s careful analysis of this issue in his recent piece published by ACI:

it is well established as a general proposition that a member of an unincorporated association may resign or withdraw from membership.  A recent affirmation of this principle with particular clarity appears in the Revised Uniform Unincorporated Nonprofit Association Act (RUUNAA), published by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.  RUUNAA, although of recent vintage (2008) and presently in effect in only one state (Nevada), has been approved by the American Bar Association.  Section 20 of RUUNAA provides that a member of an unincorporated non-profit association may resign in accordance with the organization’s “governing principles” and that in the absence of applicable governing principles, a member may resign at any time.  A comment to Section 20 states that “[p]reventing a member from voluntarily withdrawing from a UNA [unincorporated nonprofit association] would be unconstitutional and void on public policy grounds.”  So not only do the RUUNAA drafters incorporate into their statute a section permitting withdrawal, they say it would be unconstitutional and against public policy to provide otherwise.

Note the conclusion reached by the Law Commissioners:

Preventing a member from voluntarily withdrawing from a UNA would be unconstitutional and void on public policy grounds.

The freedom of association is a First Amendment right.  The government, including the courts, can no more compel association, i.e., restrict disassociation, than it can prevent association.

October 26, 6:23 pm | [comment link]
19. chips wrote:

TEC is a farce. The ACI continues to act as if TEC is a church with any morality or traditions other than secular humanism, the beilief in “equality” uber allies, baby boomer “do-gooderism,” and the destruction of western civilization as it has been known for the last thousand years or so (prior to 1968).  Once you understand that their are (and have always been) two groups of “elites” in America that detest one another - everthing else makes sense.  If you dont stop thinking that those people are going to act with Christian charity or an English public school boy’s sense of fair play - ya’ll will go mad. I would suggest reading (or re-reading) Orwell’s Animal Farm - it might help you all sort through this mentally.

October 26, 6:50 pm | [comment link]
20. Uh Clint wrote:

Brian,

Hypothetically, there is merit in what you say.  But -

1) There is no appeal from application of the “abandonment of communion” Canon.  No defense can be offered, there is no ecclesiastical trial; in short, it can be used arbitrarily, since those who are on the receiving end can’t do a thing about it.

2) If other clergy within TEC happen to disagree with a Priest/Bishop being deposed under the “abandonment” Canon, they themselves can be accused of “violation of the discipline of this church” and brought up on charges.  This effectively means that challenging an action of the PB may end one’s ecclesiastical career, making it highly unlikely that a priest or bishop would undertake to do so unless there was a realistic chance of their success.  And after the decision in the Righter trial (saying that no “core doctrine” was addressed) the probability of a presentment ever resulting in a “guilty” verdict is only slightly higher than the chances that Elvis is currently alive and recording on the Moon.

Checks and balances are only meaningful when there is complete independence of the various individuals/bodies involved.  That isn’t the case in TEC, so the validity of arguments based upon such an arrangement is open to serious critique.

October 26, 7:18 pm | [comment link]
21. Words Matter wrote:

But - did not +Jane Dixon interpret the Canons in regard to Fr. Martin Minns?

Do you mean when she ousted Fr. Sam Edwards from Christ Church, Accokeek in 2001? They called him as rector and 90 days or so later she objected. Although the canon says she has 30 days to reject the contract. 90+ days became 30 in her interpretation and voila, no more Fr. Edwards. She was presented for it, but the presentment went nowhere.

October 26, 9:12 pm | [comment link]
22. Br. Michael wrote:

20, well said.  It’s kind of like appealing the decision of a kangeroo court to the presiding judge of the court.  You can do it, but the result is pre-determined.

October 26, 9:19 pm | [comment link]
23. Brian from T19 wrote:

But Clint, there is a process.  Bring the PB up on Presentment charges.  Yes, those who do will be deposed and lose their livelihood, but that is simply the way it works in TEC.

October 26, 9:21 pm | [comment link]
24. Br. Michael wrote:

I hate to do it but I agree with Brian.  The PB should be presented.  Regardless of the ultimate success she should at least be challenged.

October 27, 8:21 am | [comment link]
25. chips wrote:

Of course in olden days - the behavior of the PB would have lead to religious warfare - ie the inquisition or the burning/ or beheading of the other side as heretics as in Elizabethian England.  I suppose considering the amount of bloodshed that has not occured that the attorneys seem like minor parasites in comparison.

October 27, 9:53 am | [comment link]
26. WeCanChoose wrote:

Ho hum…around and around we go. yawn.
Sounds like cable NEWS channels.
Is the US govt.‘s leadership’s direction affecting the Body of CHRIST OR the other way around? Which came 1st…the chicken OR the egg.
Let’s hone in on “the RED LETTER stuff”?

October 27, 12:15 pm | [comment link]
27. Albany+ wrote:

Bonnie Anderson did not send such a letter to the 7 Dioceses that went home after GC 2006 and repudiated B033, did she?

There is no integrity to this action whatsoever.

October 28, 1:38 pm | [comment link]
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