[EDITED 12/12/08] Commenters at the TitusOneNine blog, including your correspondent, are going back and forth with more arguments about the Dennis Canon, about which I posted yesterday. They're worth reading. Here are three arguments that I particularly like (not all of which are my own <g>):
1. The archival records are missing for a relevant legislative day at General Convention, at which a version of the Dennis Canon, amended by the House of Bishops, was approved by the House of Deputies. (I reviewed the evidence summarized in an affidavit by Fr. George Conger.) Some argued that there's a sinister reason these records are missing; TitusOneNine commenter Ross responded pithily:
Oh William of Occam, I invoke thee:
Theory 1: The “Denis” Canon was indeed passed by both houses of General Convention, as required, but various pieces of internal documentation have gone missing in the nearly thirty years since then.
Theory 2: The “Denis” Canon did not pass both houses, but a conspiracy of officials destroyed the evidence that it did not pass, inserted it into the body of canons as though it had passed, and in nearly thirty years, out of all the hundreds of people who were present at that convention and would have remembered it not passing not one single person noticed this and publicly objected.
Yeah, Bill doesn’t think much of that second theory either.
3. In the end, however, I think a court will rely on the following to conclude that the Dennis Canon should be deemed part of the canons of the Episcopal Church:
- the fact that both houses did indeed approve the substance of the Dennis Canon;
- a summary sheet listing items sent to the print shop for reproduction: One such item was a report by the House of Deputies that (what appears to be) an amendment by the House of Bishops — amending the original resolution D-24 approved by the deputies — was itself approved by the deputies, and that message #204 to that effect was sent to the bishops. The report and message were not in the file, according to Fr. Conger. The mention of a specific message number, 204, lends some verisimilitude to the report;
- the absence of any significant, non-circumstantial evidence that the House of Deputies did not take that later vote approving the bishops' amendment — for example, the Dennis-Canon materials are far from the only papers missing from the archive, according to Fr. Conger, so it's not like the people keeping the records did a first-rate job on everything except the Dennis Canon;
- a presumption of administrative regularity on the part of the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons in carrying out its assigned duty, under Canon I.1.2(n)(3)(iv), of overseeing the publication of the ‘authorized version’ of TEC’s constitution and canons — which since the 1979 General Convention has included the Dennis Canon; and
- the acquiescence of nine successive General Conventions — without known objection — in the inclusion of the Dennis Canon as part of the official published version of the canons.