Saturday, December 08, 2007

Episcopal Diocese Votes to Secede - New York Times

Episcopal Diocese Votes to Secede - New York Times: "FRESNO, Calif., Dec. 8 — The Diocese of San Joaquin voted on Saturday to cut ties with the Episcopal Church, the first time in the church’s history a diocese has done so over theological issues and the biggest leap so far by dissident Episcopalians hoping to form a rival national church in the United States...

It will be a huge, huge legal battle,” said the Rev. Ephraim Radner, a leading Episcopal conservative and professor of historical theology at Wycliffe College in Toronto. “The costs involved will bleed the Diocese of San Joaquin and the Episcopal Church, and it will lead only to bad press. You have to wonder why people are wasting money doing this and yet claiming to be Christians.”

You do have to wonder. But I'd say that the national Church and its various local subsidiaries are pouring out this dough because they can. EUCSA is stinking rich and can't even begin to use up those bucks paying denominational bureaucrats, of whom there are many, lavish salaries or maintaining a high-rise on prime Manhattan real estate. "815" (Second Avenue, NY) sucks up money that goes from individuals to parishes, parishes to dioceses, and thence to HQ. Moreover, some dioceses and parishes are flush with endowment and sitting on very expensive real estate themselves.


But the money they spend going at one another full throttle will be chickenfeed compared to the costs of a US presidential campaign. The cost for the 2004 race was 4 billion and the current campaign is expected to be significantly more expensive. So this is how the Market works. Consider the transaction costs in legal fees and advertising: doing business as such costs money. And the cost of doing business seems to be greater than the intrinsic value of the product. It's like they're selling pet rocks, where the only value of the product comes from it's being packaged and marketed. Moreover, when firms that sell pet rocks compete, the only way they can add more value to their products is through better packaging and more extensive advertising. So to compete, since their products are inherently worthless, firms compete by spending more and more on the inherently worthless business of doing business.

This isn't a flaw that comes from the lack of fit between the market model and the real world: it isn't a consequence of irrationality. It's inherent in the very nature of competition. People have a taste for products that are effectively packaged and advertised. That's de gustibus so we can't call them irrational for acting on it. Nevertheless, at least intuitively, advertising and packaging are a waste just as war is a waste. Yet in both cases the costs get cranked up higher and higher just because there is a competition, just because the market is, after a fashion, working.

So here is the Episcopal Church fighting this war which is a war of pure waste. No one dies but nothing material is accomplished. It's simply a matter of pouring out money in legal fees so that lawyers can draw up documents and argue with one another until one side runs out of money and has to say uncle.

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