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Dear Southwark and Scotland: Evidence of Election fraud

June 17, 2010

I am, to my great dismay, coming to realize that few in the Church of England have any stomach to investigate Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori’s words regarding our dear Christ, and what she commends to belief (or unbelief) about Him amongst those she is given opportunity to teach. Any who are still in doubt on this matter, please read this. For any who are still wavering on what they believe about Christ, there is ample reason to avoid further invitations to Jefferts-Schori, and to general cooperation with TEC, simply because this cooperation is inducing fundamentalism within the Communion and within world Christianity.

To add to this matter, for many years now, supporters of TEC – often high-ranking clergy – have been implying that persons who oppose TEC do so because they do not “want their gay and lesbian friends and relatives to be part of their church communities.” This last quote is from Diana Butler Bass – a church historian whose writings I have enjoyed, and is usually a good bit more honest than this. I have never known an Anglican who does not want gay and lesbian people to be part of church communities, and the Anglican Communion’s official teaching on sexuality (known as “Lambeth I.10”) makes very clear that gay and lesbian people must be welcomed and provided pastoral care. I am concerned about this trend of attempting to paint all opposition to the Presiding Bishop as stemming from homophobia, or opposition to female leadership amongst respected Episcopalians, especially when it involves ample deception, as is so often the case.

In the Diana Butler Bass article, one of the respondents who seems to identify himself as an attorney writes: “Rowan Williams personifies the lower terminus of the alimentary canal.” Is it not obvious that writing such untrue things will induce some to extreme prejudice against those it targets, and are not such comments clear evidence that this may be happening? Is it not worth trying to paint a more honest picture of the beliefs, values, opinions, and actions of the group one is criticizing? Does she not realize that some gay and lesbian people who oppose Jefferts-Schori because of her Christology will also be thus tarred with the same brush as persons who do not wish to have any gays and lesbians visit their churches (and I repeat, I have never met any such person who is an Anglican)?

I must warn people in the other provinces of the Communion that TEC is frequently defended by words which are either untrue or patently false – and that even respected “moderates” such as Diana Butler Bass are capable of engaging in such.

Anyone who is still in doubt regarding the integrity of inviting Jefferts-Schori to the Church of England, and in the general credibility of the General Convention of TEC and its other reigning bodies, should look into what occurred at the time of the Presiding Bishop’s election. A major problem was found in the materials given to convention delegates describing Jefferts-Schori’s accomplishments – while she had been an assistant clergy member at her church (I believe 200 or so parishoners – the number dropped during her tenure), she was in charge of adult education. Someone – perhaps she – chose to describe this as being “dean” of a “school of theology,” and on the CV it appears just like this – “Dean of the Good Samaritan School of Theology.” She later provided an explanation for this fanciful description, which I find quite unconvincing, here, though she doesn’t explain why the language is so deceitful, nor if it was she herself was the one who provided the CV information, nor why she did not tell General Convention that the information was false before they voted. This was discovered shortly after the election occurred, though it was a few months before she was invested as Presiding Bishop. No inquiry was made, as far as the public knows, and no transparency was brought to the weighty questions arising from it.

This has far-reaching consequences for issues of trust regarding the structures which govern The Episcopal Church. If they are willing to tolerate deceit to their very General Convention, and when this is discovered, do nothing to investigate it in a transparent manner, where else might deceit be tolerated, and under what conditions can we trust the governing structures of The Episcopal Church? And if, as is very likely, this deceptive language came from the Presiding Bishop herself, to her own General Convention, how difficult it becomes in trusting her in her words to the larger Communion at such a time that there is so much tension, and so much to gain for The Episcopal Church by representing things in a manner other than how they actually stand?

I would plead with loyalist supporters of The Episcopal Church to be generous in honesty when engaging in dialog with others, and especially when describing those who they feel are opposing their views and aims.

The original CV is still on the site of The Episcopal Church here – and if it is removed from their site, a copy is available from this site: PB.Booklet.EnglishFinal

I shan’t judge whether election fraud took place, or not; this is immensely trivial compared to a Primate of the Communion who denies the resurrection and the divinity of Christ. I write this for the sake of those who are still wavering in faith about the reality of Christ – that you might not be deceived by the information you are hearing from TEC’s loyalist supporters. They are under stress, there is something understandable about using extreme characterizations of their opponents; and we must forgive and not judge. But forgiveness does not mean that we must agree with them, nor relinquish a healthy skepticism.

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6 comments

  1. I had hoped for a smattering of honesty rather than rhetoric at this blog but clearly my hopes were in vain.

    To argue that TEC is currently engendering fundamentalism is laughable. Perhaps it might be most honest to say that some folks believe god is contained in a book and that they cannot conceive of a legitimate faith which differs from their reading of that book. My God is Triune and not bounded by a book too often misread and misused to justify the abuse and dismssal of others.

    Perhaps you should go back and read Leviticus 19 in detail and ask, “Am I going among my people as a talebearer?”


  2. I am sorry that you are so disappointed, Mark. It would help me personally if you would elaborate here on what is “rhetoric” and what lacks honesty – I’m sure this article is far from perfect, but these simple characterizations without examples or elucidation do not help one understand what here might be “rhetoric” or less than honest.

    You offer here a characterization of what “some folks” might believe, and I’m sure such folks exist – I’m still not sure how this relates to the text above. The matter of how we engage the authority of Scriptures is an important one, and I won’t try to describe it here, but a slogan or rallying cry to one’s favorite description of a notion on the authority of Scripture is – I would say – more like “rhetoric” than it is constructive, rational dialogue.

    The article regarding how a close association with TEC might induce fundamentalism amidst the Communion and in world Christianity is linked there in the sentence where this is mentioned – if you would read that article, you would understand better what I mean and whether or not you still find this “laughable.”

    If there is dishonesty here, Mark, I do want to know about it – I have researched these issues and reflected on them, and know of no other source which treats the issues of the resurrection and the divinity of Christ in Jefferts-Schori’s public pronouncements as thoroughly as I do here on this site. You can help me by reading that article and pointing out its flaws, or even dishonesties, if there any. Writers and philosophers have been known to fool even themselves. And there is definitely some deception going on in the Communion – the question really is how and where. Some of that may well be here – but I need, in turn, honest critique if I am to pick that mote out of my own eye.


  3. You one piece of evidence offered to support the assertion of possible election fraud. In other contexts, an entry such as that on the Bishop’s CV might have been misleading to raise concerns. However, the Bishops and Deputies were not likely to misunderstand the nature of the education program in question. None of them would have thought it was in any way comparable to any of the seminaries of the Episcopal Church and been in any way unreasonably influenced. Some may well have been reasonably influenced, seeing in this item an indication of the Bishop’s commitment to the education of the baptized.

    I once was involved in organizing a diocesan school for ministry and the two persons who ran it were given the title of dean. Perhaps that was too grand a title, but no one was misled into believing that the school was more than it was.


  4. Many thanks, Fr. Weir.

    Actually, that had never occurred to me. There are indeed diocesan schools for training clergy.

    In this case, it was a parish’s adult education class, and not a diocesan program that leads toward ordination.

    I did reveal this information to one person who had previously been a deputy to General Convention, more than once, I believe. This person was actually quite shocked.

    Episcopalians are in general also aware that there are schools of theology other than those of the Episcopal Church, and that Episcopal clergy sometimes teach there. Given the lack of the word “parish” or “diocese” in the name “Good Samaritan School of Theology,” I think that most probably assumed that this was a graduate-level school of theology they had never heard of. The information was also disseminated outside of General Convention, and it was repeated by dozens of mainstream media sources, so it seems to me unlikely that this was information intended for a specific public with a specific set of interpretive principles. If the intention had been emphasizing lay education, I would have expected the school title to have been qualified with the word “parish” or something similar.

    I do suppose, though, that your hypothesis is possible. This is one of many reasons I think that credibility of TEC should be bolstered by a third-party inquiry into the matter. Even if the results look bad for TEC, there would be the opportunity to discover who erred, and why … and to find repentance, forgiveness, and political guidelines to make sure that such an error does not repeat itself.


  5. I appreciate your response, although really the only issue that bears upon the question of election fraud is, “Was it likely that the Bishops and Deputies were misled by this information?” I think the answer to that is “No.”


  6. And thank you, Fr. Weir. I remember now one of the deputies of convention at the time posted about it here:
    http://generalconvention2006.blogspot.com/2006/08/we-did-remember-to-check-her.html

    She at least doesn’t seem to have “gotten it” that the mention of this “school of theology” was really more like an adult Sunday School program for a church with an average attendance of about 200 (thus probably a tiny fraction of that showing up for the adult education programs).

    I don’t remember any blog postings after the convention where the posters claim that all felt that this designation really meant a kind of adult education program. This would have been a normal response after David Virtue’s article. So frankly, I find it highly unlikely that any present, except for Jefferts-Schori’s own friends and those “in the know”, would have thought that this was something other than a “school of theology.”

    I must add, however: I like the creativity of this riposte, and it’s by far the most creative defense I’ve heard in favor of Katherine Jefferts Schori. It does, though, fall into the lines of “Episcopalians are different; you just don’t understand us; it’s not nearly as bad as it looks” type response – the “we have a special gnosis” kind of thing.



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