Sunday, 30 July 2006

more ECUSA legal moves against bishops

Several reports of American bishops under fire:

First, in relation to San Joaquin some correspondence has been published on Brad Drell’s blog. Here is a PDF file which contains:

  • a five page letter dated 17 July, from the Chancellor of the San Joaquin diocese to the Chair of the Title IV Review Committee, which seeks to rebut the claims made against his bishop, and
  • another five page letter dated 22 June, from Bishop Swing of the Diocese of California (now retired) to Bishop Schofield of the Diocese of San Joaquin which seeks to persuade the latter to take action to rescind the amendments to the constitution of his diocese which precipitated the action against him.

Second, the Living Church has a report that the Presentment Against Bishop of Connecticut Moves Forward. This refers to an action which was last reported on 11 months ago, in August 2005.

Third, there are reports of a complaint against another bishop, this time retired Bishop William J. Cox. See here, and corrections here.

And finally for the record, the Living Church reports on changes to the membership of the Title IV Review Committee. (Title IV of the ECUSA Canons concerns Discipline.)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 30 July 2006 at 2:17pm BST | TrackBack
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Comments

There is nothing wrong with Bishop William Swing's letter to his fellow-Bishop of San Joaquin. He is drawing the latter's attention to the fact that the uncanonical and unilateral actions of the San Joaquin Diocese have placed the property rights of all four California dioceses in jeopardy in the event any incorporated parishes seek to disaffiliate with TEC.

In fact, in 1988 Bishop Swing stuck his neck out for Bishop-elect Schofield, supporting his election during the confirmation process when some bishops and standing committees had legitimate reservations about Schofield's refusal to recognize the ordination of women permitted by General Convention action.

As late as June 2006 Bishop Schofield was being given a fair chance to act in good faith and reverse the uncanonical actions of the diocesan convention in his legal position as corporation sole. As a TEC Bishop, at his consecration, Bishop Schofield vowed to uphold, among other things, the discipline of TEC as expressed in its Constitution and General Canons.

By ignoring Bishop Swing's request, and not complying with it, Bishop Schofield has acted in bad faith, opening himself up to disciplinary action. Bishops need to be held accountable for their actions under the due process provisions mandated by the disciplinary canons. No bishop is above the canon law of a duly constituted Province of the Anglican Communion.

Posted by: John Henry on Monday, 31 July 2006 at 3:33am BST

I wonder how the author of the letter reconciles these contradictory statements found therein:

"[T]he complaining bishops seek Bishop Schofield's removal from The Episcopal Church under Canon IV.9 which is meant to safeguard the doctrine and worship of the Church or, in other words, theological and scriptural points of view."

which seems like quite an inaccurate summary when compared with

"Canon IV.9 provides for an expedited and closed-door deposition process where a bishop has alledegdly abandoned the communion of the Church. However this unique deposition procedure applies in only three situations: (1) where a bishop openly renounces the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of this Church;[...]"

What part of "Discipline" does the Chancellor not understand. The diocese, with the bishop's consent and encouragement, has put itself up as the arbiter of which canons it will accept and which it will not. That sems to be a prima facie case of abandonment of the Discipline of the Church.

The letter seems quite ingenuous later on when it complains that nothing the bishop has done violates the doctrine or worship of the Episcopal Church. He fails to deny a violation of the disclipline of the church.

It seems like an open and shut case the way the Chancellor describes it since he fails to deny the very charge which is alledged.

Posted by: ruidh on Monday, 31 July 2006 at 3:57am BST

I'm not sure whether this fiasco should be called "The Empire Strikes Back" or "The Four Stooges".

Posted by: Steven on Monday, 31 July 2006 at 4:20am BST

Canon IV.15 of the Canons of the Episcopal Church clearly defines Discipline as follows: "The Discipline of this Church shall be found in the Constitution, the Canons, and the Rubrics and the Ordinal of the Book of Common Prayer." Therefore, a statement by any ordained person that he or she has placed personal (or diocesan) judgment over and against that of the Constitution and Canons, by a refusal to make an unqualified accession, is a rejection of "the Discipline of this Church."

It is significant that in his letter of response, the San Joaquin chancellor downplays the matter of "Discipline" almost to invisibility, while repeating several times the claim that nothing has been done contrary to Doctrine or Worship. Of course that is not the point; Discipline is.

Finally, if the Bishop wished to settle this matter, he could issue a good faith statement that he does not support the amendments to the diocesan documents, and remains fully committed to abiding by the Discipline of the Episcopal Church in the way in which this Church understands it.

Posted by: Tobias S Haller BSG on Monday, 31 July 2006 at 3:56pm BST

Is the Chancellor the Bishop's personal attorney or the attorney for the Diocese? The interests of the Bishop personally and the Diocese may well conflict, which in most states would prevent the attorney from serving in both roles.

Posted by: Paul Davison on Monday, 31 July 2006 at 5:59pm BST

"Is the Chancellor the Bishop's personal attorney or the attorney for the Diocese?"

I can't find a copy of S.J.'s Constitution and Canons on their web site. The language from the Diocese of Virginia says that the Chancellor of the Diocese "... shall be the legal advisor of the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese, and of the Council of the Diocese, and to the Executive Board of the Diocese." This person is appointed by the bishop or the standing committee if it is at the time the Ecclesiastical Authority [i.e., the bishop is dead or incapacitated]. This person must be a communicant in good standing and also a member of the Virginia Bar.

Don't know how standard this description is.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Monday, 31 July 2006 at 9:38pm BST

The chancellor in most dioceses is the attorney for the diocese. However, like a corporate attorney, he also provides legal advice and litigation support for the officers of the diocese in their official capacity. Although they are technically "constituents" and not "clients," the effect is almost indistinguishable so long as the client (the diocese, acting through its official decision-making bodies) considers its interests to be aligned with those of the constituent. If a conflict should emerge, it would be the duty of the chancellor to advise the officer to seek independent representation.

Posted by: Dale Rye on Tuesday, 1 August 2006 at 3:20pm BST
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