I had a troubling daydream the other day.
In this daydream Diocese X chooses to have an election and call for consents that would fall due prior to the next General Convention. A majority of the bishops with jurisdiction abide by their covenant and do not consent to the election. The leaders of X accuse the bishops of inconsistency, in that some of the bishops stated they consented to the election of Bishop Robinson not because of their personal approval of him, but as a recognition that the proper forms had been observed — and they have just chosen not to follow the form in the case of the election in Diocese X.
In reflection on this daydream, I realized the following:
1) No covenant was in place for the bishops to violate in the case of Bishop Robinson, where they were free to consent or withhold consent as they saw fit. They are technically “free” in the case of Diocese X, apart from the non-binding covenant; but one would hope that they would stand by their word.
2) To chastize the bishops for not consenting as a matter of form in this case is for the leaders of X to take the position that that is all the bishops’ consent amounts to; which hardly makes their point, as the leaders of X protested this same form of argument in the case of Robinson. They would be inconsistent with themselves in calling for this consistency in others.
3) The bishops would be acting in accord with the canon, covenant or no. The consent process is not an election in which the bishops vote for or against the candidate (although it is often seen that way). Close reading of the canon indicates that this is a consent process, and the withholding of consent (which any bishop is empowered to do at any time) is in the nature of a pocket-veto rather than a No vote.
For Diocese X to ignore the bishops’ covenant and proceed with an election in this way could only be a Pyrrhic victory, or perhaps a Parthian shot.
I raise this latter as a further fear arose in my mind, that Diocese X might then ignore the canonical finding of the Presiding Bishop that the election is null, and seek the consecration of their elected candidate at the hands of some others of the domestic or foreign episcopate, on their way out of the Episcopal Church.
I earnestly hope this fantasy does not become a reality.