Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Church Law" Part IV - What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?*

Title IV, Canon 1 (Blue Book p. 770) says that the canons for clergy discipline seek to "resolve conflicts by promoting healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, amendment of life and reconciliation..."

That is an interesting slip. Disicipline ceases to be the correction of misconduct and is recast as "conflict resolution." Since the canon routinely intones the "hierarchical" nature of The Episcopal Church (TEC), the onus for any conflict is going to rest upon clergy who disagree with hierarch Bishops. Although the canons do not limit "Injured Persons" to Bishops, it is the Bishop who designates just who counts as an Injured Person (p. 771). (NB the Canon capitalizes terms which are formally defined in the Canon itself).

The key word in all this is the lovely sounding (and quite Biblical) "reconciliation." TEC uses this to mean, "You can't stand at a distance and disagree with me. You must come in and have this conflict 'resolved.'" Except that Biblical reconciliation, in Jesus' words, assumes a brother or sister relationship, a healing of distress between parties of equal value and standing in Christ.

But how is one "reconciled" to an hierarch? Reconciliation suddenly transmutes into submission.

Indeed, a frequently whispered critique of TEC discipline is that Biblical and theological words are twisted to fit assumed entitlements to power, not just the longstanding power to conduct discipline for the protection of the faithful, but a newfound power to equate dissent with misconduct.

And this power is enabled by subjective standards of misconduct...

* Nick Lowe, 1974, became a hit for Elvis Costello

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