Thursday, 2 August 2007

Virginia: bishop removes 21 clergy

Updated again Saturday

The Bishop of Virginia has removed 21 priests from the ordained ministry of The Episcopal Church.

See the full details here: Inhibited Clergy Released from Obligations of Priesthood:

Yesterday, in an official act observed by two presbyters of The Diocese of Virginia and with the advice and consent of the diocesan Standing Committee, the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee took the required canonical action to remove from the priesthood clergy inhibited by him on January 22, 2007. Those clergy were inhibited following a determination by the diocesan Standing Committee January 18 that they had abandoned the Communion of The Episcopal Church. The possibility of such a determination was explained by the Bishop in a December 1, 2006 letter to the clergy and leadership of the now-former Episcopal congregations. By this action, the former Episcopal clergy are “released from the obligations of Priest or Deacon and … deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority conferred in Ordination.”

In addition to losing their capacity to officiate in Episcopal churches or in any manner as Episcopal priests, the former Episcopal clergy lose their capacity to contribute to pension plans begun during their time as Episcopal priests and any other benefits of service as Episcopal priests or employees of Episcopal churches or institutions. Pension benefits accrued to this point will remain payable…

The names listed do not include Martyn Minns who was earlier consecrated a bishop in the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). In a letter dated October 2, Bishop Lee wrote:

…On August 20, 2006, the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns was consecrated a bishop in the Church of Nigeria. That act established his canonical residence in Nigeria and ended his canonical residence in the Diocese of Virginia. Consequently, as a Bishop from another province of the Anglican Communion, Martyn’s ability to function in any jurisdiction other than Nigeria, where he is canonically resident, requires that he be licensed by the Bishop with oversight.

…I have licensed Martyn to serve as priest-in-charge of Truro church through January 1, 2007. The details of the license also establish that Martyn will perform no episcopal acts in the Diocese of Virginia through January 1, 2007 and that Martyn will exercise his ministry in compliance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church and The Diocese of Virginia.

The Anglican District of Virginia, an “association of Anglican congregations in Virginia”, has responded. See ADV Responds to the Bishop of Virginia’s Announcement to Depose Former Clergy.

ADV describes itself thus:

ADV is currently comprised of 19 member congregations, 15 of which are under the ecclesiastical authority of the Bishop of CANA, The Right Reverend Martyn Minns, and four of which are ecclesiastical members under direct authority of other Anglican Archbishops, strongly supported by ADV members.

The Anglican Communion Network has responded. See Bishops will continue in ministry with Virginia priests:

…The Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman of the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, the Rt. Rev. Peter Beckwith of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield, the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, the. Rt. Rev. Jack Iker of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the Rt. Rev. John David Schofield of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin have issued the following statement:

“In conscience we must remain in relationship and ministry with these priests, and the many others who have had this canon used against them because of their determination to stand with mainstream Anglicanism. As bishops, we ordain priests for the whole church. Surely we overstep our bounds when we attempt to decide for the whole church that a priest’s ministry is ended because he is no longer under our authority.

“Because these Virginia priests are priests in good standing in the Provinces of Uganda and Nigeria, respectively, the deposition is, in fact, of no effect. Each is recognized as a priest in good standing of the Anglican Communion. Therefore we welcome them to exercise their sacerdotal ministries in our Dioceses. Though we continue to work and pray for a charitable disengagement, actions such as this only make our relationships with each other more difficult and divided.”

Julia Duin has this report in the Washington Times Episcopal bishop ejects clergy.

Updated Saturday morning
Associated Press Priests reject Virginia Episcopal bishop’s sanctions
Living Church Network Bishops Pledge Solidarity With Virginia Clergy

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Comments

Well done, Bishop Lee! It's about time!

Posted by: Kurt on Thursday, 2 August 2007 at 8:07pm BST

They all were removed save one - Rev. Nicholas Lubelfeld, associate pastor at Falls Church for 14 years, who restated his desire to remain in TEC on June 30th and has been relocated to another church. I would love to have a talk with him about his thinking and processes.

Posted by: C.B. on Thursday, 2 August 2007 at 9:45pm BST

The secessionists claim that these clergy could not be deposed because they were no longer under +Lee's jurisdiction, having transferred to other provinces.

But I thought I'd read that this is not canonically possible without letters dimissory from the bishop (viz., +Lee)?

Posted by: D. C. on Thursday, 2 August 2007 at 10:31pm BST

The irony about the bishops who proclaim they still recognize these men as being priests is that as a result they have undercut any ability they might have to depose anyone. Thus all discipline is abandoned in the Anglican Communion; as in the case of Armstrong, steal half a million dollars and flee to another jurisdiction where he is welcomed with open arms. And so it goes.

Posted by: John N. Wall on Thursday, 2 August 2007 at 10:31pm BST

That fudges one stacking the numbers game strategy. Wonder which rat hole they will try and squirm through next.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Thursday, 2 August 2007 at 10:50pm BST

I really can't understand the desire of US bishops to depose such clergy (even if they regard them as disobedient). Surely, it's the licence or permission to officiate that is the business of the Bishop of Virginia, rather than their standing as priests in the Church? They haven't abandoned the Christian faith, they haven't behaved immorally. Why defrock them?

It all seems rather vengeful and vindictive from this side of the pond.

Posted by: Andrew Carey on Thursday, 2 August 2007 at 11:23pm BST

The disaffected few bishops in TEC will take the rebels under their wings. I wonder if they will be paying their pensions and health care as well? Oddly nothing was said about that.

Posted by: deaconmark on Thursday, 2 August 2007 at 11:32pm BST

John has hit the nail on the head. It seems anyone can do anything and still be a priest, as long as long as another province will take them. As for my Bishop, Duncan, his statement basically says he's bigger than TEC. His judgement trumps the rules set out by TEC. I wonder what Duncan or the rest will do when someone returns the favor?

The madness get's worse.

Bob

Posted by: Bob in SW PA on Thursday, 2 August 2007 at 11:40pm BST

Very sad.

Fellow Christians - fellow priests - out of fellowship - very sad!

Though it does seem that the way to avoid this is to become a bishop - and as things unfold we may see less deprivation and more consecration!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 12:35am BST

I respect anyone who says "The TEC is the Antichrist! I will not darken her door again!" and then leaves, shaking the dust off his feet. But you can't have it both ways. Lot didn't leave Sodom and keep his property there at the same time.

I don't see what's wrong with having two churches in America connected by apostolic succession to the Archbishop of Canterbury, each one with it's own set of disciplines. But you have to be in one or the other.

I'll be in the gay one. I suspect Jesus will be there more often.

Posted by: James on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 1:53am BST

From the ADV's press release: “We were shocked when the bishop suddenly cut off negotiations following the vote and inhibited our clergy," Perhaps the fact that the wording of the breakaway parishes' ballot questions and the conduct of the vote itself violated the terms of the protocol (drafted by the breakaway parishes themselves) had something to do with the bishop's action. And their later letter to Bishop Lee threatening him with prosecution for trespass should he set foot on "their" property probably didn't help keep things on a polite basis, either.

Posted by: Steve Lusk on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 2:31am BST

I am sure that the kingdom of God is expanded extensively by the ongoing deposition of priests, particularly those priests who have built up significant sized churches. The faster the TEC can get rid of such people the better. If only those wholeheartedly supported the prophetic movement of the spirit were in the church it would be perfect.

Posted by: MG on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 5:43am BST

It is high time to bring presentment charges against the Network 'drama queens', who no longer recognize the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, and are thus in violation of their own ordination vows. Once their sees have been declared vacant, faithful Episcopalians will have an opportunity to elect honorable Christian men or women to be their bishops and pastors.

Posted by: John Henry on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 5:46am BST

Go for it Peter Lee......I want to see real differences highlighted like this so the fudgemakers do not fool the AC into more wasted years.

The faithful people Peter Lee gets rid of can come work for the AC after Sept 30th - they re very much in line with most of the AC.

What is the crime of the vicars now "excommunicated"....well, these radicals want to uphold the agreed position of the Anglican Communion as we see it Lambeth 1.10 and to maintain the unity of the AC!
Radical! Dangerous! Where did they get these dastardly ideas from? Lucky Peter Lee has sorted out this problem!

Posted by: NP on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 7:21am BST

Andrew

As I understand it (and I am happy to be corrected) the American church does not have the system of real, physical (paper) licensing (or PTO) to which we in the CofE are accustomed.

That doesn't entirely explain why this action was taken. And in particular why Martyn Minns was treated differently.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 8:00am BST

Simon --

My understanding is that Bishop Minns worked out an arrangement with Bishop Lee to continue as interim rector for the remainder of the year -- the others required letters dismissory if they were transferring to another church in communion with The Episcopal Church (of course the Nigerian church is not in communion with TEC, according to its primate, but many Nigerians in this country think that they are, including at least one bishop -- the situation is confusing)

And I think John Henry makes an excellent point -- the bishops named have repeatedly violated their ordination vows -- if they think TEC apostate, the only honorable thing to do is leave (IMHO)

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 9:53am BST

Bob

Apparently even Radner agrees with you on this one
http://www.christianpost.com/article/20070802/28731_Anglican_Splits_from_Conservative_Group_Over_'Sweeping'_Judgments.htm

This press release quotes Radner as saying he finds Duncan's "...judgment to be dangerously precipitous and unfair..."

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 10:37am BST

An interesting decision of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325), Canon 16:

"[I]f anyone dares to steal away one who belongs to another and to ordain him in his church without the consent of the other's own bishop among whose clergy he was enrolled before he departed, the ordination is to be NULL."

I'm not sure, but where does that leave Minns, Guernsey, Atwood & co. Were these men not under the canonical jurisdiction of another bishop and, if so, did said bishop assent to their consecration in another jurisdiction? If not, according to an Ecumenical Council of the Church, their ordinations are not merely a transferring to another jurisdiction, but are NULL and VOID. They are not bishops.

Posted by: MJ on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 12:41pm BST

MJ, that is an interesting question, although I must point out that although the decisions of the ecumenical councils are traditionally considered infallible, the cannons are not and have not been from the earliest times.

Besides which, none of these men were re-ordained, they simply transfered jurisdictions, already being ordained.

Some of them, it must be said, were never ordained in the Episcopal church or diocese of Virginia in the first place, at least two are from the CofE originally. As for whether Lee can even deprive these two of right and gift in ordination seems unclear to me.

Posted by: James Crocker on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 1:00pm BST

I spy the names of a few women in Holy Orders on the list of those deposed. In light of their subsequent acceptance by Quincy, Fort Worth and San Joaquin, should we understand those dioceses to have changed their stance with respect to women's ordination?

Posted by: In Connecticut on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 1:05pm BST

"MJ, that is an interesting question, although I must point out that although the decisions of the ecumenical councils are traditionally considered infallible, the cannons are not and have not been from the earliest times."

No, but Canons can be regarded as binding without being infallible.

"Besides which, none of these men were re-ordained, they simply transfered jurisdictions, already being ordained."

The point is they were ordained as bishops by another jurisdiction without the assent or permission or their canonical bishop. That, according to the Council makes their episcopal ordinations invalid.

"Some of them, it must be said, were never ordained in the Episcopal church or diocese of Virginia in the first place, at least two are from the CofE originally. As for whether Lee can even deprive these two of right and gift in ordination seems unclear to me."

Interestingly, the most recent Anglican-Orthodox Agreed Statement (2006) agrees that ordination does not convey an indelible seal or mark upon a person. One is a priest only in so far as one is recognised as such within the Church. As soon as that recognition is removed (deposement, loss of licence, etc.) one returns to the status of layperson. A consequent return does not necessitate re-ordination, however - the grace of ecclesiastical ministry is simply restored.

Posted by: MJ on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 1:30pm BST

In Connecticut --
You are very naughty!

MJ --
Good work on Nicea -- the dissenters have made it clear that homosexuality trumps everything -- an odd religion of which I am happy not to be a part.

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 2:35pm BST

"I really can't understand the desire of US bishops to depose such clergy (even if they regard them as disobedient). Surely, it's the licence or permission to officiate that is the business of the Bishop of Virginia, rather than their standing as priests in the Church? They haven't abandoned the Christian faith, they haven't behaved immorally. Why defrock them?"

A small matter of pension benefits accruing to people who have first tried to undermine and then abandoned the discipline of the church. It's called justice in these parts.

Bishop Lee has given new meaning to the term 'patient endurance' with these folks. In return, these folks have lied and vilified him.

Good riddance.

And I wonder how the ABC and the C of E will enjoy the atttentions of an Akinola-appointed 'flying bishop?'

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 3:49pm BST

MJ, I went here: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ecumenical/dialogues/orthodox/index.cfm, but cannot seem to locate the 2006 Anglican-Orthodox Agreed Statement to which you refer.

Do you know where on the web one might be able to find it? I should like to read more the section referring to "indelibility" of Orders, to contrast with the RC position on the matter.

Thanks in advance.

Posted by: Viriato da Silva on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 4:14pm BST

Cynthia replied in answer to my question 'why deposition': "A small matter of pension benefits accruing to people who have first tried to undermine and then abandoned the discipline of the church. It's called justice in these parts."

I'm still not sure I understand this. It's all about money? As far as I can see they are still entitled to the pension benefits they accrued up till now. But if they're no longer being paid by TEC or the diocese presumably they have no further benefit? So how is the pensions issue connected to deposition?

Posted by: Andrew Carey on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 5:21pm BST

Andrew:

Simon is correct: there is no process of licensure separate from ordination within one's own diocese of canonical residence. There is only a separate process when one regularly ministers in another diocese. For example, I live and reside canonically in West Missouri; but my house is within 50 of the state and diocesan boundary with Kansas. To allow me to supply in Kansas I am licensed by that diocese.

That's why I regularly emphasize that in the Episcopal Church, the technical term is to "depose" a cleric: to remove that person from his or her position within the Episcopal Church. That does not make a claim on the Holy Spirit, whom most of us believe does leave an indelible mark in ordination. It simply establishes a new relationship with the institutions of the Episcopal Church. And that is why the headline on the diocesan news release is, "Inhibited Clergy Released from Obligations of Priesthood." They have no authority, responsibility, or obligation specifically within the Episcopal Church. Whether or not another body can or should recognize any authority or obligation related to ordination without following institutional processes is another question.

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 5:31pm BST

The recent Anglican-Orthodox Agreed Statement 'The Church and the Triune God' is not available on-line (its quite substantial, c120 pp)but can be ordered from the Anglican Communion Office, Church House Bookshop, etc. It also includes useful work on 'Heresy, Schism and the Church', and 'Reception in Communion'.

Posted by: MJ on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 6:26pm BST

There seems to be a great deal of confusion about what Bishop Lee did -- his action simply made official from the responsible bishop's point of view what the clergy involved have already said, viz., that they are no longer priests of The Episcopal Church, (which is therefore no longer responsible for them or their actions, they no longer contribute to the Church Pension Fund, etc.).

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 6:58pm BST

A bit off-topic perhaps, but for those interested here are the relevant passages (from among a much fuller study of priesthood) from the Anglican-Orthodox Agreed Statement concerning the 'indelibility' of priesthood. It is significantly different from RC teaching, in which the grace of priesthood can never ontologically be removed - even after 'laicisation', which only removes the rights and responsibilities of priesthood from a person - they could still perform valid (if illicit) sacramental actions.

"VI:22. Bishops and presbyters do not possess an indelible mark as if ordination were a magical seal granting them personal power to celebrate the Eucharist or any other liturgical action, apart from the ecclesial body. The priestly ministry is rather a charismatic gift, enabling those who receive it to serve and build up the body of the Church. It is a permanent order of service only in union with the Church and by its discerning authority. Any notion of 'indelible mark' would imply that the ordained individual possesses forever this peculiar mark of priesthood, which can never in any circumstance be removed or surrendered. Such a doctrine absolutizes priesthood and isolates it from the community of the Church. Priesthood is thereby grossly distorted and its significance greatly overestimated. It becomes something imposed on the Church, which is unable to deprive the ordained individual of the priestly mark, even if the ordained person is unworthy to retain ecclesial grace. Such a doctrine divorces priesthood fromits organic context in the life of the Church. It gives the ordained person an autonomous power above the Church itself, such that the Church cannot remove the indelible mark even if those ordained relinquish the exercise of their ministries, or are deprived of them, or even excommunicated.

23. We are not aware that the theory of an indelible mark conferred by ordination can be found in patristic teaching. On the contrary, the canonical data leave no doubt that, once the Church decided to depose a bishop or presbyter, they returned to the rank of layman. Those deposed or excommunicated were in no way considered to retain their priesthood. The fact that the ministerial rehabilitation and restoration of such persons did not, according to the canons, involve re-ordination, does not imply any recognition that they were bishops ot priests during the period of such punishment. It meant only that the Church recognised what had been sacramentally performed. The grace of ecclesiastical ministry was restored upon his assignment to an ecclesial community with no other sacramental sign or rite."

Posted by: MJ on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 7:09pm BST

Re pensions - they do indeed get what has been peviously vested. As they are no longer paid by TEC, they have not been contributing. However, being a participant in the Church Pension Fund makes one eleigible for other benefits - being invited to a CREDO event, for example. These are week long seminars that help clergy address spiritual, mental, physical, and financial health. Being non-stipendiary, and not a participant, I may have missed some other aspects of this.

They have been deposed because they have violated to discipline of the church. It's called consequences, a concept some have trouble applying to themselves.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 7:29pm BST

The idea of an indelible character to orders is rather late, I believe, even in the west. There is an account of St Gregory the Great ordering a bishop who had made a troublesome deacon (who was informing on the bishop's bad behavior) into a priest (thereby "binding" him to his parish and keeping him http://www.gregorians.org/Greghon.htm

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 8:45pm BST

First off, someone needs to tell Julia Duin that these priests "ejected" themselves (when they broke their vows to their bishop: NONE OTHER than +Peter Lee)

*****

Thank you, In Connecticut: who would have guessed that the icky-ness of being gay (or merely being *associated* with gays) would triumph EVEN over the icky-ness of girl-parts (where ordination is concerned)? ;-/

*****

"They haven't abandoned the Christian faith, they haven't behaved immorally. Why...?"

{Sigh}

I wonder why, Andrew C, you didn't ask this question earlier---when some AC churches began *breaking communion* w/ TEC? :-(

Lord have mercy!

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 8:54pm BST

Thankyou Simon and Marshall for informative answers to my questions.

Posted by: Andrew Carey on Friday, 3 August 2007 at 10:54pm BST

To MG:

Can people walk together unless there is basic agreement and allegiance to a common Lord? This action is sad, perhaps there has been a lack of ptience on both sides. But here we are dealing with heavy handed action from a bishop called to care for the people of God. This inflicts further deep wounds (is this the action of a wolf or a shepherd? cf. John 10). At the least this will throw further obstacles on the path to any hope for resolution.

MG you speak to the basic point,"these radicals want to uphold the agreed position of the Anglican Communion as we see it Lambeth 1.10 and to maintain the unity of the AC!
Radical! Dangerous! Where did they get these dastardly ideas from?" There is a basis for walkig together.

God help us to find a better way.

Peace,

BW

Posted by: BW on Sunday, 5 August 2007 at 5:27am BST
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