IRNS for PB!

Editorial note: Although I have a great many pressing subjects on which to write, I thought it best to get the following letter / press release out now so that the campaign can get under way as soon as possible. Time is of the essence; there is not a moment to lose; history hangs in the balance.

8 May 2006

Dear People of God in the Episcopal Church:

Apart from a brief adolescent ambition to be Archbishop of Canterbury (which as I recall came somewhere between signing up as an agent for U.N.C.L.E. and serving as captain of the USS Starship Enterprise), I had never before seriously contemplated high office in the Anglican Communion. However, when I was approached by a group of concerned laity—well, actually, by my wife who, although she is not even an Episcopalian, is nevertheless tired of trying to manage our household on an academic salary—well, as I was saying, when I was approached with the idea of being nominated for Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, I promised to give it prayerful consideration.

Of course, when I pointed out that several people—bishops, no less—had already been nominated, I was reminded of what I like to say to folks who complain about life in general: consider the alternative.

Moreover, I mentioned several people who might make better candidates. There is the estimable William Melnyk, a.k.a. “Oakwyse,” both a priest in the Episcopal Church and Druid leader. Or the Rev. Maury Johnston, otherwise referred to by his coven name of “Shadwynn.” In a church desperately in need of internal reconciliation, these men could certainly set an example, since their dual identities have not thus far resulted in any cases of severe breakdown due to cognitive dissonance.

Then there is the Bishop of Pennsylvania, Charles Bennison. Having risen several steps higher than the Peter Principle would seem to allow, he would appear to be a natural, and his election would solve the problems of both the Diocese of Pennsylvania and the entire Episcopal Church at one stroke. Sure, his career would appear to be a textbook example of “failing upwards,” but heck, look at the current President of the United States, someone still beloved by one third of the country under circumstances that would humble many a lesser man; not only did he get elected twice, but he did it under an electoral system that makes General Convention look like a model of representative democracy.

But no, my lay friends—I mean, my wife—insisted. The rector of my parish just left to enter academia full-time. Shouldn’t I at least consider the reverse? Might not the long hours of reading badly written essays on questions like “If you were on the jury in Athens in 399 BC, would you vote to condemn Socrates or not?” be just the preparation one needs to manage meetings of the Executive Council? Could not the endless march of hapless students into my office for guidance be the perfect training for counseling bishops on how to handle recalcitrant parishes that won’t pay their full assessments?

Nor, she made clear, should the mere fact that I have never been ordained so much as a deacon be any impediment. In theory, any Roman Catholic could be elected Pope. When they made St Ambrose bishop of Milan in 374, not only was he nominated from the floor, so to speak (and apparently by someone underage), but he was just a catechumen—he hadn’t even been baptized yet! Not only that, but there is good reason to suspect that they never bothered ordaining him to the diaconate or presbyterate, but instead just shot him straight to the top. Then I recalled that back in the 70’s I was in fact a lay reader licensed to bear the chalice in the Diocese of New York, which is technically a minor order of clergy, and began to wonder if this was really such a crazy idea after all.

I agreed with my supporters—er, supporter—that these were indeed powerful considerations, and said I would take some time to ponder the matter. I remembered that, when a student asked Paul Tillich, “Sir, do you pray?” he had responded, “No, but I meditate,” so I spent the night sitting in my labyrinth chanting Om, followed by several hours of Law and Order reruns. Yet still I had no sure conviction. Finally, though, when I heard that one of the current candidates for PB had declared he’d had a vision of a pink lambda in the sky and heard the words “in this sign conquer,” I realized that something indeed had to be done.

Therefore, I have decided to allow my nomination to go forward. After all, as JFK said when asked if he liked being President, the pay is pretty good and you can walk home for lunch.

Your brother—oops, sibling—in whatever non-sexist term you use for whichever is your favorite member of the Trinity (assuming that’s still a credal issue for you),

Prof. I. R. N. Say

P.S. For bumper stickers and other election materials, please send five dollars—cash or PayPal, please, no checks—to:

IRNS for PB
815 Second Avenue
New York, NY

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