I was generally pleased with the Presiding Bishop's statement
on the proposed legislation in Uganda
that would extend the anti-homosexuality laws to include capital punishment for some homosexuals and prison terms for those who advocate human rights for LGBTs. I am glad she spoke out against this law that has been roundly condemned by all human rights advocates on the left and many on the “right.”
But this troubles me a bit: Now I read (from Episcopal News Service
) that “The release of Jefferts Schori's statement was followed shortly by an announcement that a request for a Dec. 7 teleconference meeting of the church's Executive Council
had been ‘withdrawn’ by the members who signed a petition in mid-November asking
for a meeting ‘regarding the urgent human rights situation in Uganda.’”
Our elected members of the Executive Council are withdrawing their petition, so they won't meet and won't issue a statement on behalf of our church.
When I read the Presiding Bishop's statement, I was jarred by her use of "we think" and "we believe" and "we regret." Maybe I flunked Episcopal Catechism 101, but I didn't realize we had a Primate who was authorized to speak unilaterally of behalf of our whole church. I thought only the Roman Catholics had that. I thought we had General Convention and Executive Council to speak on behalf of all of us. I seem to recall Mark Harris wrote powerfully
on just this point fairly recently.
Today, Mark seems happy
that our Presiding Bishop spoke unilaterally on this matter. In fact, he tags his essay: “The Episcopal Church speaks on the question of the Uganda anti-gay bill.
” But The Episcopal Church
spoken. Our Executive Council has not spoken. Only Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has spoken. Or so it seems to me.
Thanks be to God, our Presiding Bishop has spoken words that I appreciate. But she does not have the weight of the Episcopal Church behind her. She spoke in her own, solitary voice. Her voice is certainly louder than mine, probably louder than that of the Executive Council, and it will be carried by more news media. But, in fact, her voice represents only one vote, as does mine. When our Presiding Bishop speaks in her voice, she speaks in only one voice – not with the full voice of our whole church, and she lacks the backing of our whole church as the Executive Council might have expressed it.
I rejoice that she has spoken these words against the Ugandan legislation. But I regret that she has therein silenced the voice of our Executive Council – the true “voice” that could actually speak on behalf of our whole church. Only the Executive Council can speak on behalf of all the laypeople, priests, deacons, and bishops of our church. Apparently, they have fallen down in front of our Presiding Bishop, now that she has issued her personal statement. In that, I believe they have failed in their duty as our representative voices. I regret that they are so easily cowed.
So I'll take a minority view which will probably be unpopular: I am glad to see KJS's comment. But I do not believe she has the authority to speak unilaterally for all of us, and I don't believe she's entitled to speak in the "we" voice she appropriated; only our General Convention or Executive Council have the right to speak on behalf of our church.
Thus, I am very disappointed to hear that the Executive Council members have cancelled their teleconference Monday. It seems to me that our Presiding Bishop can only speak for herself. Only the Executive Council can speak for all of us. Apparently, they have cancelled their Monday meeting, choosing to believe that our Presiding Bishop’s statement is good enough.
It is indeed good.
But it is not good enough.
Our Presiding Bishop is not an Archbishop. I don’t believe our Constitution and Canons allow her to speak on behalf of The Episcopal Church.
So why is our Executive Council canceling their meeting??
That's my paltry -- and probably minority -- view. I stand willing to be corrected. What am I missing here?Addendum (12/5/09)
: I strongly encourage you to visit Father Jake's blog,
where he has some good analysis, then good dialogue with some members of our Executive Council. What appears at his blog tracks some conversations I've had with Executive Council members. I am now content.