The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church has passed a resolution voiding the constitutional amendments passed recently by a few diocesan conventions to limit their diocesan accession to the General Convention of this church. It has been reported that the Council passed Resolution NAC-023 stating:
Any amendment to a diocesan constitution that purports in any way to limit or lessen an unqualified accession to the constitution of The Episcopal Church is null and void, and be it further resolved that the amendments passed to the constitutions of the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, Quincy and San Joaquin, which purport to limit or lessen the unqualified accession to the constitution of The Episcopal Church are accordingly null and void and the constitutions of those dioceses shall be as they were as if such amendments had not been passed.
Although this is a position I would take, I wonder about the value of doing so. This sounds to me like children playing in a sandbox:
“I’m not your friend any longer.”
“Yes, you are.”
“No, I’m not.”
“You can’t stop being my friend unless I let you stop being my friend.”
A member of the Council (Bishop Stacy Sauls of the Diocese of Lexington apparently described this resolution as a helpful, authoritative statement. My question – to what extent does the Executive Council have the authority to make such a statement?
I suppose it comes from a provision in the Constitution of the Episcopal Church concerning the erection of new Dioceses. Article V, Section 1, of the church’s Constitution states in its concluding sentence:
After consent of the General Convention, when a certified copy of the duly adopted Constitution of the new Diocese, including an unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of this Church, shall have been filed with the Secretary of the General Convention and approved by the Executive Council of this Church, such new Diocese shall thereupon be in union with the General Convention.
My copy of the Constitution is not annotated, so I cannot tell if all of the dioceses in question (Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, Quincy and San Joaquin) were formed and accepted into the communion of this church under this provision, but I suspect they were. If that is the case, then it would seem that the diocesan conventions of those dioceses were constitutionally incapable of making the amendments they have attempted, and that the Executive Council’s resolution is a statement of fact.
Still, it seems to me to have been an unnecessary resolution in light of the clarity of Article V, Section 1, and it seems perhaps ill-advised. It is likely to have no effect at all, other than to ratchet up the rhetoric again and lead to more argument and name calling … just like a sandbox argument between children.
This sort of bickering doesn’t promote a realization of St. Paul’s precatory words to the Christians in Rome: “Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10) Nor, more importantly, those of Jesus: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
There’s just not a lot of love being shown in these competing “official” pronouncements.