Saturday, April 05, 2008

"The quality of mercy is not strained. . ."

. . . It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings.
But mercy is above this sceptered sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings;
It is an attribute of God himself;
And earthly power doth then show like God's
When mercy seasons justice.

William Shakespeare
The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene 1

Unfortunately, we're not seeing this "attribute of God himself" in today's Episcopal Church. Perhaps a quote from Julius Caesar is more appropriate: "Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war."

From the Living Church [boldface mine]:

Diocese of Ohio Litigation Ends 'Peaceful Way to Coexist'

The Diocese of Ohio recently filed a declaratory judgment with the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas in Cleveland, asking that it, the diocesan trustees, and a minority of members at five dissident congregations be declared the rightful owners of church properties where the congregations voted overwhelmingly to leave in 2005.

The March 26 filing came just a month after an article in the Akron Beacon Journal described how the relationship between the five dissenting congregations and the diocese was an exception to the personal acrimony and litigation prevalent throughout many other dioceses of The Episcopal Church. In another break with standard practice in most other dioceses, Bishop Mark Hollingsworth, Jr., of Ohio did not depose the clergy when they requested transfer of their canonical license to the Anglican Church of Nigeria.

In the Beacon Journal article, Martha Wright, communications officer for the Diocese of Ohio, had said, “We are looking for a faithful resolution to the property issue involving the congregations that have elected to leave the diocese. The priests in those congregations have asked to be released from their orders and their requests have been granted, but we have not taken any action where property is concerned.”

Ms. Wright told The Living Church she was not aware in February of any plans to file legal papers at the time of her interview with the Beacon Journal. But she denied that the decision to pursue litigation at this time represents a new approach in dealing with the five congregations.

“The Episcopal Diocese of Ohio is seeking to resolve issues of property ownership and use with respect to five of its parishes in a mutually respectful manner,” she said in a written statement. “In order to move toward a long-term resolution, the Diocese of Ohio has asked the Court of Common Pleas to decide the parties’ respective rights with respect to the property.”

Bishop Hollingsworth declined to elaborate on the statement provided by Ms. Wright. . .

What, is Bishop Hollingworth in hiding?

Someone please explain to me what hold the presiding bishop has over these bishops. I think of Bishop Lee in Virginia who seemed so close to an amicable agreement. What could other bishops possibly say or do to make a bishop change his mind like that? Is it fear of presentment? Or no longer getting the spiritual and emotional support from other bishops? Or blackmail of some kind? Really, I just do not get it.

Read it all.

1 comment:

Matthew said...

I think there are several factors. One factor are the dioceses that are supported from 815. The reconstituted San Joaquin is the latest example, but there are others. Those bishops don't dare defy 815, because 815 controls their budget. Then there are the party faithful. The dioceses of Washington, New York, Newark, Massachusetts, California, Los Angeles, Chicago et al. They truly believe that they are engaged in the work of the spirit and that those who oppose them are wrong.

Add the two groups together and you get a simple majority of bishops. It takes a certain level of bravery to defy majority opinion.

Lastly, and quite bluntly, we have selected middle managers for bishops for years. The vast majority of bishops, whether party faithful, orthodox or middle of the road, are not the sort to ever rock the boat. They may make a few noises in opposition to the majority, but once the decision is reached, they will implement it.

This is why so few voices were raised in opposition at the critical voice votes in New Orleans and Camp Allen. The consensus had already been reached in closed session, so everyone was already well aware of what would pass and what would not. Since our bishops are largely conformists, they didn't see the need to go on record in opposition.

At least, that's my theory....