Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Church Law" Part V - Who's on First?*

Since TEC proposes to shift the disciplinary canons from sanctions on manifest misconduct to "conflict resolution" (hidden under "reconciliation," remember), how do conflicts find their way into the disciplinary process?

They begin with a complaint from an "Injured Person," as defined on p. 771,

Injured Person shall mean a person, group or Community who has been, is or may be affected by an offense.

Has been? Yep, this is probably retroactive, as the "statute of limitations" in this thing is ten years (except for very serious abuse cases, on which there is no time limit.)

May be? What does that mean? Is there going to be proactive discipline, like in Minority Report?

This blog is a bit over 2 years old. In that time, I've railed against certain leaders and groups in the church. If this Title IV revision gets passed in July, will I be on the bad end of a complaint for what has, in somebody's opinion, affected them? Or, if what I've blogged might be used to impede some group's agenda in an upcoming Convention, is that grounds for a complaint?

Depends, I guess, on how you understand "Offense," as defined on p. 771,

Offense shall mean any act or omission for which a Member of the Clergy may be held accountable under Canons IV.3 or IV.4.

Now, these two Canons are 99% about stuff that all of us would consider misconduct, such as revealing the contents of a sacramental confession. But then comes IV.4(h)(2), which says that clergy must refrain from

...holding and teaching, publicly or privately, and advisedly, any Doctrine contrary to that held by the Church...

Stay with me now... just what is "Doctrine?"

...basic...essential teachings of the Church (found in) Holy Scripture, Apostles' and Nicene Creeds... (OK, so far so good, that's what traditional Christians say)

...and the Sacramental rites, Ordinal and Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer. Uh oh. Here things get slippery. Let me play out just one scenario.

TEC has started defining its "Baptismal Covenant" (which is a Sacramental rite in the Prayer Book) as entitling all baptized people to all roles in the church. The GC has passed and probably will pass more resolutions to this effect. This is key to Gay/Lesbian claims for access to ordination, especially as Bishops.

So, are my blog posts opposing this idea "an Offense" because I "publicly held and taught" a "Doctrine contrary... to the Sacramental rites of the Church"? Is a Gay activist who wants to be elected Bishop an "Injured Party" if somebody reads my lil' blog and may be convinced to oppose the activist's election? Are the activists' friends who nominated him an Injured "group or Community" who can go to a Bishop and allege an "Offense," bringing me into the "reconciliation", I mean, "conflict resolution" process?

This kind of subjectivity runs through the "theological" revisions of Title IV.

But wait, there's (one) more...

* Abbott & Costello. Take a break and enjoy.

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