October 25, 2012

Maxims on Diocesan Separation

That a diocese may have been an independent entity prior to its entry into union with The Episcopal Church is no more relevant to an asserted right to separate than that a husband was single before he married.

There is no provision in the Constitution of The Episcopal Church for the independence or separation of domestic dioceses from union with the Church.

Dioceses are not sovereign in that they are legally incapable of obtaining their own bishop absent the cooperation and consent of the rest of the Church.

A diocese cannot even divide itself without the consent of General Convention.

And that's enough for now.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


marnanel said...

Or think of Texas. Nobody denies that it was once an independent republic, but that doesn't in any way give it the right to secede. (See Texas v White, etc.)

David said...

And that's enough for now.

And should be enough, period.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Exactly so, Marnanel. Texas v White demonstrates that the silence of the US Constitution on the subject of secession does not imply consent! As with TEC, "union" means "union."

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

David, one would think so, yet the counterclaims continue...

C. Wingate said...

I do not think, however, that these impossibilities can be justified on anything stronger than a strictly legalistic basis. The existence of all Anglican churches depends upon the kind of separations here condemned.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

CW, as near as I understand you, you are mistaken, in particular your closing sentence.

The primary principal organizing Anglican Churches is that of the "national church" -- which is the principle rationale for the polity aspects of the English Reformation, the formation of TEC after the Revolution, and is both why the Confederate Episcopalians thought they had to start their own church, and the Union Episcopalians refused to recognize its existence. It is also why domestic dioceses cannot separate, but missionary dioceses in other countries can. I know of no Anglican Church (legitimate ones anyway) that goes against this rule, with the possible exception of the anomalous situation of the Churches in Europe, and those are regarded essentially as missions of their parent churches.

And, for the record, this is a matter of law, so to say it is "legalistic" seems very odd. This is what polity is about.

C. Wingate said...

The Church of England itself exists as a separation from Rome, after all. One can grant that an organization may establish its own rules and that there is some obligation for them to be followed, but there comes a point where that obligation is wont to be dispersed into a contrivance for escape when it is found needful. Or as Franklin is made to say in 1776, "a rebellion is always legal in the first person." One may presume that what ever reason is given to justify the separate polity of the Church of England, the Bishop of Rome does not consider it sound.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

CW, that is true as far as it goes, but it is not the topic under discussion, which is the theory of diocesan independence. You are correct that Rome would advance a theory of a "universal" church under its own authority -- but of course the historical evidence on that thesis is also to the contrary, there never having been a time when all "catholic" churches were under ecclesiastical obeisance to Rome. The English at the Reformation believed themselves to be reasserting an ancient right and polity, and history agrees with them, whatever fantasy Rome might promulgate! From the earliest times the church catholic was constituted along metropolitan and national lines, as the Eastern Orthodox are today, never having submitted to the myth of Roman hegemony.

I by no means wish to suggest that those in Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, Fort Worth, or South Carolina who disagree with the decisions of the church have no right to object, or depart. What I am affirming is that they do so, as Franklin suggests, in the first person, and not as a diocese. No one is forcing anyone to remain part of TEC if they choose not to be part of it. But when they leave, the real Episcopalians in that area remain the true diocese of The Episcopal Church. This is a matter of church and civil law.

The Hackney Hub said...

Yet, General Convention creates no new dioceses, it only admits them, which leads one to believe that the authority of a diocese is not bound to General Convention. Your second point has some merit "There is no provision..." which is true, but that does not automatically arrive at the national church's viewpoint (i.e. that dioceses cannot leave). Granted, that is one possible interpretation, however, the other, perfectly valid, interpretation is that they can leave. What do we make of the idea that the ecclesiastical authority of a diocese, in the absence of a bishop, is the Standing Committee, not General Convention?

I've been looking for an answer to this question from proponents of the Presiding Bishop's understanding of Protestant Episcopal polity... how is the departure of the Diocese of South Carolina during the Civil War justified? I'm searching for an honest answer. If Dioceses cannot leave, then DSC could not have left then, but they did, and it was acknowledged that way back then.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

The first line of Article V, Section 1, of the Constitution states, "A new Diocese may be formed, with the consent of the General Convention and under such conditions as the General Convention shall prescribe by General Canon or Canons..." General Convention does far more than merely passively "admit" Diocese, and it consent is required for their "formation." So your initial point is entirely in error.

You also appear very much to misunderstand the term "Ecclesiastical Authority." All that means is that in the absence of a bishop, the Standing Committee is charged, by the national canons, with certain responsibilities for that diocese. IN the same way, a church warden takes up responsibilities in the absence of a rector, but that does not mean the parish is independent of the diocese or bishop!

As to South Carolina's earlier "departure," the fact is that the Episcopal Church never recognized the departure of any of the "PECCSA" dioceses, and continued to call the role of their bishops and deputies at General Convention. The General Convention did not acknowledge that the dioceses had left, only that they had stopped attending Convention. The Southerners, believing themselves to be part of a new nation, naturally, at their own first Convention, "It was unanimously resolved that the secession of the Southern States from the United States, and the formation of the government of the Confederate States, rendered necessary an independent organization of the dioceses within the seceded States." (Charles Tiffany, History of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, 496) As the Union did not recognize the validity of this new "nation" so too the PECUSA did not recognize the validity of this new "church" as such. You can regard this as an act of pious fiction, and ignoring the obvious, but this is what happened. Hope that helps you grasp why the SC diocese felt it had to "leave" and how that "leaving" was not recognized.

The effort to leave now has no historical or theological justification whatsoever, and goes against most of the principles of polity that Anglicanism has long expressed, from the Articles of Religion on.