Mark Harris: I guess there’s just a meanness in this world..

Centrists / General Convention / Religion

Mark Harris, says in part:

“B033 passed in the House of Bishops last Wednesday, but by what margin we don’t know. The vote in the House of Bishops was followed within several hours by several groups of bishops disagreeing, the Network bishops ‘disassociating’ from the vote and progressives ‘dissenting.’ We do not know the actual vote on the matter, since no roll call vote was taken. But when it was over, perhaps 13% of the bishops in attendance (according to Bishop Wimberly) found themselves protesting or walking out.

What becomes mean spirited is the matter of ‘disassociating’ and leaving. In a religious community part of the democratic process in the church is called sticking around. The Windsor Report calls it by a more fancy name: autonomy in communion. We get to be part of the process provided we don’t walk off because it doesn’t go our way. Where the Windsor Report gets it wrong is insisting that autonomy is limited by some prior state of affairs, namely communion and identifying communion with the Anglican Communion. The democratic process must begin with the assumption of autonomy and along with it a social contract by which we can get our turn later to throw the rascals out. That is why this business of an Anglican Covenant is actually of some importance. The name ‘covenant’ is already in use, thank you very much, but ‘compact’ or ‘constitution’ or some such might do nicely.”

Mark goes on to point out a key difference between the resolution adopted on the final day of Convention (B033) and the one defeated the day before (A161). The difference was a key piece of my and other folk’s thinking at Convention.

He’s also spot on when he talks about the need for people to commit to sticking it out if democracy in the Church is going to work. I’ve certainly lost my share of votes at the national level and even more so at the diocesan level. I’ve never walked out. I’ve never asked for a more amenable bishop. I’ve stayed and tried to understand why I was wrong, or to convince others why they were.

Perhaps, to paraphrase a famous quote, democracy is a messy way to run the affairs of the Church. But I can’t imagine a better alternative.

Read the rest here: PRELUDIUM: I guess there’s just a meanness in this world: A reflection.

(edit: removed paragraph on Athanasius. Made reminder to self not to make historical references without double checking to make sure that they’re correct…)

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. Mark McCall says

    I don’t understand your reference to the Council of Nicea. My understanding was that Athanasius was a deacon at Nicea, present as an assistant to his bishop, Alexander, and that the Trinitarians “won” Nicea: Arius and his supporters were banished and deposed, Arius’ books were ordered burned and we got the Nicene Creed. I realize a lot happened after the council and that then-Bishop Athanasius had to deal with the resurgence of Arianism throughout most of his episcopacy, including depositions by councils at Tyre and Antioch, but your reference to the council at Nicea itself is puzzling.

  2. You are right – I don’t know what I was thinking. Must have gotten caught up in the phrase “Athanasius contra mundum”
    I’ve edited the post to remove the whole paragraph.

  3. Mark McCall says

    Thank you for your gracious reply. Whatever the details, I have often thought that the example of Athanasius in the turmoil after Nicea has much to teach us in the current difficulties. I just can’t figure out what it is!

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