Update to this article: see bottom of page.
See also my follow-up editorial on this issue:
Jefferts-Schori and Corvallisgate: Electoral justice is also a “justice issue”
See also my follow-up editorial on this issue:
Jefferts-Schori and Corvallisgate: Electoral justice is also a “justice issue”
A few months ago, the online biography of Katharine Jefferts-Schori was edited by an Episcopal Church Center staff worker at her behest - noted here and here. The staff worker removed in its entirety, without providing any reason for this removal, a paragraph about how the description of candidates for election for Presiding Bishop contained information about Jefferts-Schori which was false - namely, that she was "Pastoral Associate and Dean, Good Samaritan School of Theology, Corvallis, OR." It turned out that at that time, she was merely in charge of her parish's adult education program - and not a very large parish, at that. This was revealed shortly after the election, before her installation as bishop.
Jefferts-Schori most certainly was aware of the election materials; we have no evidence that she warned the House of Bishops or General Convention of the falsity; and as evidence to the contrary, one of the General Convention delegates blogged about the discovery. To date, there has been no public inquest regarding this rather astounding election anomaly.
To this day, perhaps the greatest story here is the lack of a story: that after so many years, we still haven't heard of an inquest, despite the significant likelihood of election fraud in a church which prides itself so in its electoral process. The Episcopal News Service hasn't even bothered to issue a retraction of their original story about Jefferts-Schori, based on this same, false information, which was repeated in hundreds of news sources.
On the Wikipedia discussion page, it was pointed out that TEC Church Offices should have known about the ethics of Wikipedia editing, and that one musn't remove items without reason - since in 2007, Barbara Alton had been so persistent in removing items from Bishop Bennison's Wikipedia page, after having been warned, that her account had been deleted, and this was reported in an international news source (as well as various Anglican news outlets). It was pointed out that an EpiscopalLife article on the site of EpiscopalChurch.org noted that Alton "never received an order from Jefferts Schori." Though the article quotes the Church Times for this information, Episcopal Life is a branch of TEC's media department at Episcopal Church Center; so Episcopal Church Center was at the very least informed of this incident, as they themselves reported on it. So Episcopal Church center should have known better than to simply edit without providing information as to why the information was false (which it seems, it wasn't).
Now, this specific article brought up in the discussion has been removed from the site of The Episcopal Church. The original url of the article is http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79901_89447_ENG_HTM.htm - an archive of the article can be viewed at archive.org. Another archive of the ENS newsletter highlighting the top stories of August 25, 2007 shows that this is the only one of the four stories highlighted which has been removed; i.e., the article most definitely wasn't removed in a routine "clean-up" of old stories selected by date.
The Episcopal Church does seem to be trying to eliminate the digital "paper trail" of evidence of possible culpability. It seems also that it's getting itself somewhat entangled in the Barbara Streisland Effect: in the attempt at hiding information, unwittingly prompting others to further disseminate it.
This may seem insignificant - the removal of a single article from 2007 from the TEC website. But it does seem to fit a larger pattern of attempting to remove information which is important for the critical discernment regarding its character by its own members, other members of the Anglican Communion, and the public at large. Anyone who alleges that this information is not important must ask themselves: if it is so unimportant, then why is it being removed, instead of allowing people to judge for themselves - especially given the fact that this is a publication of TEC itself, and most certainly isn't "disinformation"?
The initial issue here was transparency: instead of an admission of impropriety, we are seeing further signs of cover-up.
When the issue was first raised - there should have been some sort of investigation with public findings. How did the false information find its way into the election materials, who was responsible for putting it there, and why? Was it an honest mistake, or an attempt to make Jefferts-Schori seem more experienced than she was? Who amongst those who read the materials, was aware that this was false, and failed to mention this to General Convention and the House of Bishops? Why did Jefferts-Schori herself fail to make clear the false description?
Perhaps TEC Church Center, or the Standing Committee, wished to "save face" and hoped that the issue would not be published beyond the single article at VirtueOnline. If so, they were wrong - it also became a news item at WorldNetDaily. And with a number of steps afterward in efforts at silencing the issue - more opportunities have arisen to alert members of TEC, the Anglican Communion, and the public at large of this ongoing cover-up regarding the likely election fraud.
A question worth asking one's self: Have any other noteworthy organizations or corporations, after such a significant election anomaly signaling likely fraud, ever continued daily business as if nothing consequential had occurred - instead of launching an investigation, to determine what had happened, to prevent its happening in the future, and to maintain organizational transparency and trust amongst its members? And if so, how did the uninvestigated election anomaly influence that organization's future? The question is particularly alarming in the case of a religious organization claiming inspiration by the Holy Spirit - since if this is not properly dealt with, it could be used as a precedent in future elections, much like how the situation with Bishop Pike became something of a precedent for Bishop Spong. "We did not find Bishop Pike's teaching in need of explicit correction by the House of Bishops; would we not be hypocritical if we now did this with Bishop Spong?" It was perhaps implicit in the decision on Bishop Pike, that TEC would begin to depart from Trinitarian Christianity, and begin advocating a new, non-Trinitarian form of Jesus-following - though no one imagined that this decision would form a precedent in dealing with someone like Bishop Spong. "We did not launch an investigation regarding Bishop Jefferts-Schori's deceptive credentials ... would it not be hypocritical to do so now for Bishop Jones?" Elections are likely to become decreasingly democratic and transparent, and increasingly guided by insiders who are "in the know," in elections whose outcomes have largely been determined beforehand by such insiders - i.e., "false elections," in place merely to convince the membership of their leaders' legitimacy. Church leadership is likely to become increasingly esoteric (and not exoteric - as is the teaching of the gospel) - affording more power to church leaders over those they control, with members needing to trust leaders since they are not privy to the knowledge and wisdom of the few. Spirituality is likely to become more a matter of credentials than it is something which can be wisely cultivated by all who wish to follow Jesus in spirit and truth. The question of who is accorded these credentials will largely be a question of maintaining respect for those who are already credentialed - i.e., those in power. Discourse is likely to become more emotive and "spiritualist" in character than rational, in discussing persons and groups more than issues - or linking discussion of issues primarily to the reputations of persons and groups. "I see Jesus in this person ..." - i.e., this person should be followed ... "How can you take that idea seriously? It sounds to me very passé, like what those ['Fundamentalists,' 'conservative Evangelicals,' 'woman-hating Catholics' etc.] are saying." We will find ourselves increasingly trying to express our adherence to the proper groups in the opinions we express, instead of actually trying to discern truth or uncover meaning, with all but a rather narrow spectrum of thought marginalized. We are already seeing something to this effect with our discourse being reduced to the notions of love and inclusion.
Perhaps it is this very situation - a church claiming to be Trinitarian, but seeming to be moving gradually into a non-Trinitarian form of Jesus-following - which requires a culture resistant to transparency, and characterized by vagueness and emotional responses. Unitarians are known for being much more clear than Episcopalians about what they do and do not believe.
Was the false information provided about her ministry experience merely a bit of "CV puffery" or exaggeration, or was it pivotal in swaying the outcome of the election?: It is difficult to tell to what extent the false information might have swayed the election without some form of inquiry. However, it was no trivial "CV puffery." It has often been noted that Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori is remarkable in her relative lack of experience in practical ministry for a Presiding Bishop. She has never been a rector. Next to the position "Bishop of Nevada" in the "Parish and Related Ministry" list, "Pastoral Associate & Dean" far outranks the other positions in seniority. The most senior position attested to other than these two is the position of Assistant Rector for a period of one year. Her lack of experience was a major factor here; few diocesan bishops have been elected with as little experience as she had when elected diocesan bishop of Nevada, and (as far as I know) few if any Presiding Bishops have had this little experience in the history of TEC. So it is highly likely that some voted for her, who would not have had they realized how little experience she actually had in practical ministry. The original document (also linked above) is available from the site of The Episcopal Church here. Whether or not this item actually swayed the outcome of the election, an inquiry is still warranted; the deception here (though it may have initially been an "honest mistake," it became dishonest when Jefferts-Schori and others knew it to be false, refrained from pointing out this discrepancy) is most certainly a deception which should not be tolerated in elections in general - and least of all, in elections for the highest level of leadership within the Anglican Communion.
It is also not merely a case of "exaggeration." It contains multiple fabrications. Jefferts-Schori explained the first fabrication in her written answers to Terry Ward - her use of the word "Good Samaritan School of Theology" - as a kind of term of endearment or inside joke or between her rector and the congregation - meaning the smallish parish's adult education program. Her explanation does not cover the second fabrication - use of the term "Dean" - for her being in charge of the parish education program, which of course leaves any normal Episcopalian reader with the impression that she indeed had been the dean of an academic institution of higher learning. Jefferts-Schori has indeed been dean of a diocesan school for lay ministry, in 1990-1991, which met at a parish in Wilsonville, OR. But this was a full three years before the completion of her Master of Divinity and ordination as a deacon. Rhetorical fabrication of the "Good Samaritan School of Theology," moving her tenure there by three years in order to coincide with the attaining of her diploma and ordination, and stretching it from one year to six is not a simple exaggeration or stretching of one reality. It calls into being a set of affairs which is qualitatively different (ordained ministry with Masters of Divinity, vs. lay ministry without qualifying education) in addition to the three other modified factors. See Terry Ward's 2006 article for the details of this paragraph. The combined effect is so deceptive that the word "exaggeration" does not do this fabrication justice. It should also be noted: Jefferts-Schori answered Terry Ward's questions selectively - e.g., she failed to mention how many persons were involved in the adult education classes.
Additional info: The Anglican Curmudgeon draws our attention to the fact that an early, rather substantial article from the Corvallis Gazette-Times in 2001 - about 1,500 words - contains no mention of "The Good Samaritan School of Theology" when Jefferts-Schori was broadly speaking of her ministry experience. Neither is there a mention of it in the 2000 article of The Living Church "Oregon Priest Elected Bishop of Nevada" by Dick Snyder - one of the bishop's fondest supporters, who wrote an eight-page book about her shortly before her installation. Likewise, an article highlighting Jefferts-Schori's lack of experience in the 2001 Living Church article "Bishop Schori's Inexperience May be an Asset" makes no mention of the "school," in an article where the experience question is the main issue. I mention this since one of the very few defenses I've found of the election, in comments, was of the general nature: "If her parish called the parish's adult education class The Good Samaritan School of Theology, than that's what it is, and this is no deception." There are many flaws to this line of defense; but significant to this line of defense is the fact that in opportunities where the language "The Good Samaritan School of Theology" could have been used - it is not.
A note to "liberal" bloggers: I would highly recommend you cover this topic. It speaks to the very credibility of TEC and of the Anglican Communion, as a very good case can be made that there was likely electoral fraud in the election of one of our Primates who is now seated in multiple Instruments of Communion - or at the very least, there is a most serious anomaly which has never been adequately clarified, and which further more has been subject to Church Center's manipulation of the media. It is understandable that some "liberal" bloggers have shied away from this difficult topic; but I'd argue that the ongoing cover-up of Church Center brings greater urgency to pointing out to members of The Episcopal Church the problematic character of this election anomaly, and its possible implications for our life together. The longer TEC itself does not organize an investigation with public findings, the greater urgency there is for the Communion to organize a third-party investigation of this electoral anomaly, given +KJS's prominence in the Instruments of Communion.
A note to "conservative" bloggers: I am puzzled that this election anomaly was not more widely covered to begin with; and now that we have seen multiple steps of deliberate obfuscation, the topic is most certainly becoming more urgent, more evidence of possible culpability is coming to the fore, and we are more broadly implicating ourselves with every year that passes that we do not request an investigation of the original incident (while our church officials seem to be attempting to obfuscate it). I do think that we are showing critical disrespect if our attitude is that Episcopalians and "liberals" simply will not care. In my experience, many Episcopalians do care a great deal about democracy and transparency in electoral process; and very, very few have been informed of the original election anomaly. If we can raise awareness and help them raise a voice to request an investigation into this anomaly, we are most certainly doing a good thing.
The nominating committee spent a sum of $200,000 for nominating and vetting candidates for Presiding Bishop. One must ask, with such a huge sum spent (presumably mostly in vetting; nominating is rather simple), how this escaped attention (or who actually knew). Link: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/75383_73733_ENG_HTM.htm [edit: article is now found at http://archive.episcopalchurch.org/3577_73733_ENG_HTM.htm ]
After the election anomaly was discovered, with Jefferts-Schori's explanation re. being head of adult education at her parish, and before installation as Presiding Bishop, she gave an interview with The Associated Press, saying: 'I'm someone who believes transparency is incredibly important. It's part of integrity.' Link: Jefferts Schori: ‘Transparency’ on views vital (one might ask: "What would we think of American democracy if Americans hadn't pressured Nixon to resign after Watergate - and a few weeks after the revelations, he gave a speech about how much he believes in and values honesty - without mentioning or repenting of his own shortcomings? And how much moreso if Nixon weren't only a secular politician, but also a church leader?)
There is a report from Church of England Newspaper, 2006 regarding four bishops of the Anglican Communion Network (no longer on original site, but in archive):
'Four bishops affiliated with the Network voted for Bishop Schori with the express purpose of “bringing down the house of cards”. The four swung the close election to Bishop Schori, prompting a charge the three retired and one sitting diocesan bishops had behaved badly, and had acted with “unmitigated evil”. '
Link: Church of England Newspaper at archive.org
George Conger has written an article on this matter for the June 17 2011 edition of The Church of England Newspaper. In that article, a staff member of Episcopal Church Center is cited regarding the removal of information from the Wikipedia page:
"There was incorrect information and it was corrected. There is no attempt to hide or mislead, just to be accurate."
I was able to obtain an early version of Mr. Conger's article, and wrote to the media contact person for Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori, Neva Rae Fox, on June 7 - asking her:
"In the interest of transparency and the vouchsafing of the integrity of future electoral process in The Episcopal Church and the wider Communion, given the discrepancy between your above assertion and the information which my own research has yielded (which confirms the information in the removed paragraph), would you please be so kind as to answer:
Is any of the information in this removed paragraph (as quoted above) incorrect? If so, which part is incorrect, and how is it best corrected?"
As of this writing (June 16), I have not had a response.
My abiding thanks to Archbishop Cranmer, for covering this issue in his own inimitable style, Katharine Jefferts Schori ‘embellishes’ her CV to become the first female primate of the Anglican Communion
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