Episcopal Activism Gone Awry
Most of us are aware that racism in the United States has led to a new kind of “white flight.” In the 1960s, it was to the suburbs. But now it is to private schools paid for by public tax dollars but with no real accountability to the public. When a bishop proud of his reputation on such matters decided to do something about it, he got eleven conference agencies to vote to take action and then channeled their energy through the Greater New Jersey Conference Board of Trustees to enter a law suit to do something about it.
The Judicial Council caught him cutting one major corner, not letting the annual conference vote to support the action, a Disciplinary requirement, before the Trustees (the appropriate legal entity) could enter such a legal action. He wanted it done on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education case, four days before annual conference. He got the conference’s approval after the suit was entered but the Council did not let him get away with it.
The Council is not being inadvertently racist here. The majority on the Council are people of color.
They are sending a message. There is the rule of law in our denomination. Just because someone had a good motivation about a real problem does not release them from their commitment to uphold the Discipline.
Whether the bishop was on an ego trip or was simply careless about church law, he chose to add the symbolism, the anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling, rather than call an emergency meeting of the annual conference. By the way, just a few months before, he did call an emergency meeting of the annual conference for another purpose, according to my sources.
Embarrassing, no doubt about it. The suit had to be withdrawn, which is sad.