Saturday, August 25, 2007

Rough Week in the ADN

It's been a rough week in the Anglican Dissenter Network. [Hat-tip to Mark Harris for finally giving us all an efficient short-hand appellation for that gaggle of acronymous groups who want to destroy or replace the Episcopal Church. When I refer to the ADN, I am including CANA, AMiA, AAC, NACDP, Common Cause, IRD, and that whole gang of dissidents.]

Apparently the news about Akinola's "agonizing journey" letter having Martyn Minns' pawprints all over it, combined with Mark Harris's getting his hands on a letter written by a bishop at Camp Allen (telling Archbishop Rowan Williams exactly what he must say to our House of Bishops), has driven StandFirm's Greg Griffith into a fit of pique. He is now offering a primer for the SFiF faithful on how to "cover their tracks" when they want to do things anonymously and how to remain safe when they want to do sneaky things. He concludes his tutorial:

This is by no means an exhaustive catalog of computer security weaknesses or ways to protect against them, but following these instructions almost certainly would have prevented Bishop Duncan's laptop from being stolen in Tanzania, Archbishop Akinola's letter from being dissected by the Church Times, and Mark Harris from getting his hands on the letter at Camp Allen.

Click here to read the whole text of Griffith's "Computer, Data and Communications Security Primer."

At first, I was not sure how to react to this primer, but it seemed rather slimy or sneaky or something.

Let me say up front that some of Griffith's comments about computer security are very helpful and should be heeded by all of us who live and move and have our virtual being in the blogosphere.

As Sarah Dylan Breuer observed to me today, there are some contexts in which some people may need to go to extraordinary lengths to communicate electronically without revealing their identities. Visit Global Voices Online to see some examples from around the world of when anonymous writing is perfectly appropriate and very well justified. I think, for instance, of those living in cultures like Nigeria or China where their words could – quite literally – cost them their lives. But even so, many people in those cultures have the courage to "sign" their statements, even at great personal risk. Dare I point out the contrast with those in the U.S. who are simply too chicken to own-up to their messages and postings?

What troubled me was that Griffith's specific tips about how to be sure that one can make comments anonymously, how to hide one's IP address so that one cannot be tracked, how to sneak confidential documents "over the transom" safely were addressed to disaffected Episcopalians and folks who are not or never were in the Episcopal Church. These folks do not need to worry about their lives. They just want to hide in the shadows. They are the ones who post as "Anonymous" at so many of the progressive or liberal blogs. They don't want to crawl out from under their rocks, and Griffith is helping them be sure they can remain anonymous.

Sarah Dylan Breuer had a much different reaction than mine to the StandFirm primer. She thinks Greg rendered a valuable community service. I can follow her part way in that view. But she also says this, which resonated deeply:

. . . if you want to be REALLY safe, here's a radical suggestion from Jesus of Nazareth: don't say or do anything in secret that would bring you shame if revealed.
Then it came to me, as I thought more broadly about why Griffith's SFiF primer troubled me.

My, my, my. Isn't this interesting? Just recently, there were all those impassioned cries and petitions from the AAC here and again here, which StandFirm supported, calling for accountability and transparency on the part of the Episcopal Church, which puts its entire budget online for all to see, which opens all meetings (except those generally exempted by "sunshine laws") to all who care to attend (and not just those who sign the kind of "loyalty oath" that the dissenters require), and which puts the email addresses and phone numbers of all staff members online.

But let a couple of top super secret computer documents slip out of Networkville, and just watch the fur fly!

It's not the first time, of course. There was the Chapman Memo, back in 2004, which brought denial after denial from the Anglican Dissenters, who assured us it was a draft that was never adopted and that it was not anything significant. Of course, that stance was hard to maintain when the Network followed Chapman's proposed strategy to the letter for the next three years...

Can't you just imagine what life will be like in the New Improved Anglican Communion when these guys take over? Cassock-and-daggery all 'round!

Hey, Stand Firmers! We Godless Liberals would like to talk about the plain sense of scripture now. Let's start with these verses from Jesus' own words:

Matthew 10:26 Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. 27 What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. 28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Likewise, let us consider tomorrow's reading from Isaiah 28:14-22:

. . . therefore thus says the Lord GOD,
See, I am laying in Zion a foundation stone, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation:
"One who trusts will not panic."
And I will make justice the line,
and righteousness the plummet;
hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and waters will overwhelm the shelter.

Here's the bottom line. The Episcopal Church operates openly. The Anglican Dissenters have worked very hard to work in secret. They have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar not just once, but twice this week. Their dismay is quite obvious to us all.

It's been a bad week in the ADN.

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Now let me add a personal postscript: Thinking about all this has moved me to be more transparent, and I have edited my Blogger profile accordingly. My name, location, and the Episcopal Church in which I worship are all now readily available. (I'm not posting my e-mail address, because of all the spam that would generate.) Several months ago, it ticked me off when some of the conservatives revealed my identity before I was ready. At that point, I wanted to be more anonymous. Deliberating on this whole thing has made me realize that's just wrong for me. So here I am: Lisa Fox, living in Jefferson City, MO, and a member of Grace Episcopal Church in this fair city.

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