The DPLA has launched, yesterday while I was too busy presenting at a conference to join in the festive announcements across the history blogosphere. The DPLA (Digital Public Library of America) is an ambitious project which casts itself as the first step toward a global, free access library that will include the fullest possible amount of material (i.e. everything not covered by copyright). It is a social leveling project as much as an intellectual endeavor, allowing students at community colleges, in poorer regions of this country and eventually the world, and all the academically disadvantaged to have access to archives at places like Harvard. Relying on a variety of charitable institutions, the DPLA in its present form is a centralizing service that allows scholars–or curious web browsers–to search across a wide range of participating institutions in a single place and be linked directly to the material in those archives. It promises be, whether or not it fulfills its utopian vision of an equal academic play field, a tremendous resource for research (even as it is also likely to thwart the efforts of young scholars trying to think up excuses to get research funding to visit Boston). A link to the DPLA can now be found enshrined on my Resources page.
In less exciting news, the church institutional continues to disgrace itself on a variety of fronts. The Episcopal Church has won a “victory” in its civil case against itself before the Virginia Supreme Court.
The panel affirmed a lower court’s decision that the 3,000-member congregation, which voted in 2006 to leave the Episcopal Church, did not have the right to keep the sprawling property known as the Falls Church.
The Falls Church property is one of the country’s largest Episcopal churches and is a central landmark in downtown Falls Church.
The breakaway congregation, now called the Falls Church Anglican, has been worshiping in the Bishop O’Connell High School auditorium in Arlington County while it sought to overturn the Fairfax County Circuit Court decision from last year.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court affirmed that the property was rightly given to the mainline denomination but said some of the nearly $3 million in church coffers belongs to the Falls Church Anglican congregation.
I put “victory” in scare quotes because it hardly seems appropriate to call either side victorious when both have so miserably failed the basic standard of Christian charity and forbearance, applied particularly to this situation by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6. “Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?” Probably because Paul’s churches never had anything like three million dollars in its “church coffers.” If it did, maybe Paul wouldn’t have been so quick on the draw with that “to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat to you” nonsense.
The Orthodox Church global is having its own struggles. At the end of a long saga that has witnessed significantly more diligence than Catholic handling of sexual misconduct, Bishop Matthias has resigned. The head of the Chicago diocese of the Orthodox Church in America could no longer bear the odium of his sexual misconduct scandal and finally yielded to pressure from above to step down. In a deferential address–a momentary lapse from his conspiratorial theories about a liberal plot to manufacture his ouster–he expressed hope that “my stepping down will end the ordeal, allowing the diocese to move toward healing,” and asked “for everyone’s forgiveness for my failings, my mistakes and sins.” He then graciously offered to forgive everyone else, for what is not entirely clear. Maybe he forgives the woman who misunderstood his “inappropriate words that I thought were being received as humorous.” That certainly is the way this sincere apology feels: “I am sorry that my kindness and generosity to this person was viewed with suspicion and ulterior motives.” Growing up, when I made apologies like that I got slapped. I suppose being stripped of your diocese is the ecclesiastical equivalent.
In Prague, a much bigger fish has been fried by a much sexier scandal. Metropolitan Krystof, the head of the Orthodox Church in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, has stepped down after scandal broke about his lascivious life. The prelate is alleged to have had an affair with the wife of one of his priest’s and of fathering numerous illegitimate children. With all the talk of progress in Europe, it seems they are still very much medieval over there.