Monday, May 18, 2009

Second Search Committee

In acomment to this post from Mad Priest, Terry Martin says:
The idea that the entire Church...or for that matter the entire Communion...will function as a second search committee is absurd, imo. If the diocese elected him, and the process was canonically correct, then consents should be given.

Well, nonsense. Why even have a consent process anyway? And if the process to elect Mark Lawrence the first was correct, why object to his consecration? Ah, but the difference in the reasoning is entirely revealing, and never mind on which side of That Issue the two candidates were thought to stand. The stated reason for objecting Lawrence, one may recall, was that he was not sufficiently convincing in stating that he would not try to take his diocese out of the denomination. The objections to Forrester are mostly theological, though the process under which he was elected (and I am not the first to observer that it looks more like a self-appointment than anything else) has also come under criticism. A lot of bishops apparently don't believe that Forrester believes what the BCP rites teach about baptism, among other issues.

The canons do not in fact give any grounds at all for consenting or not. Historically, the last time someone really failed (skipping over Lawrence, whose first pass was denied on a procedural pretext) was DeKoven, and the objections to him were decidedly theological. So as far as precedent is concerned, there is ample, and never mind whether DeKoven should have been elevated.

And since there is a consent process, it seems self-evident that the other dioceses are expected to review what the electing diocese has done. Such checks-and-balances structures are all over Episcopal Church polity; else the House of Bishops would have led us into the Unitarian wasteland long ago. And the nasty issue at the moment, of course, is that there is in fact a great deal of well-deserved distrust about the work of search committees. The liberal institutionalists are afraid of more attempts to take dioceses out of the church; the theological conservatives, well, don't want any more heretics. The not-entirely-a-surprise here is that, on some important core issues, there are a lot more "conservatives" than anyone banked on, and that a lot of the social liberals aren't going to go along with someone whose baptismal theology goes against the prayer book, not to mention 1700 years of doctrine on the matter.

This awakening of resistance is troubling all around. It's bad for the GAFCONites, because it puts paid to the lie that the choice is between them and the Spong-ite Unitarians. It's bad for the radicals because they've counted on being allowed to have their way as a sort of theological courtesy. But maybe, just maybe, it's good for the church.

(Hat tip to Lisa Fox for calling attention to this.)

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