Thursday, 7 March 2013

More developments in South Carolina

Previous report on this subject here.

Now, further legal action has been taken, as ENS reports: Lawsuit seeks to recognize vonRosenberg as bishop of South Carolina.

Acting to protect the identity of the diocese he serves, the Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg filed suit in U.S. District Court today against Bishop Mark Lawrence, asking the court to declare that only vonRosenberg, as the bishop recognized by The Episcopal Church, has the authority to act in the name of Diocese of South Carolina.

Having renounced The Episcopal Church, Bishop Lawrence is no longer authorized to use the diocese’s name and seal. By doing so, he is engaging in false advertising, misleading and confusing worshippers and donors in violation of federal trademark law under the Lanham Act, the complaint says. It asks the court to stop Bishop Lawrence from continuing to falsely claim that he is associated with the Diocese of South Carolina, which is a recognized sub-unit of The Episcopal Church.

The suit does not address property issues directly. But by asking the federal court to recognize Bishop vonRosenberg as the true bishop of the diocese, the suit would effectively resolve the issue of who controls diocesan property and assets, including the Diocesan House and Camp Saint Christopher on Seabrook Island. The ownership of individual parish properties is not addressed in the complaint…

The full text of the complaint can be found here (PDF).

And the Motion for a Preliminary Injunction is here.

At the time of writing, this action has not been reported on the website of the “Lawrence” diocese. The latest news item there is 222nd Annual Diocesan Convention to be Held in Florence, March 8-9 and also Three More Parishes Join in Suit to Prevent TEC from Seizing Property.

The latter press release summarises the situation thus:

…47 of the Diocese’s 71 parishes and missions have voted to support the Diocese; 18 support TEC and 7 remain undecided. The parishes and missions supporting the Diocese represent 80 percent of the Diocese’s 30,000 members.

The TEC diocese website reports that the Annual Convention of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, will be held March 8-9, 2013, at Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston.

And it has this press release: Diocese added as defendant in lawsuit.

…Remaining with The Episcopal Church are 19 parishes and missions so far, along with at least 10 more “continuing parishes,” where members are maintaining official ties to The Episcopal Church even though their parish leadership has left the church. In addition, at least seven active and growing worshiping communities have organized across the diocese to allow displaced Episcopalians to continue to worship together…

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Comments

The Episcopal Church still have a significant number of loyal parishes and continuing parishes as well as mission areas.

Even in this supposed stronghold of breakaway movement there isn't that much enthusiasm to leave the mother Church. Certainly not enough to merit what Lawrence has attempted to do.

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Thursday, 7 March 2013 at 12:59pm GMT

The lawsuit has not yet been reported on the website of Bishop Lawrence's diocese yet for the reason that Bishop Lawrence has not yet been served with the complaint -- the only information he has about it is the press release from Bishop vonRosenberg's communications officer. Given a few days, I am sure there will be a response.

Posted by: A. S. Haley on Thursday, 7 March 2013 at 2:49pm GMT

Can we have flying bishops who will serve the many parishioners in the pews who do not wish to leave the Episcopal Church, and who regard all this as "bishops behaving badly"?

Posted by: Nat on Thursday, 7 March 2013 at 5:26pm GMT

What a sad state of affairs. While the Church of England has its problems they have not reached this point - yet.

Posted by: Fr Paul Webb on Thursday, 7 March 2013 at 7:26pm GMT

http://scepiscopalians.com/Seriously_.html

Go to the Site Above which is the web site of
the Episcopal Church that is still in communion with the National church. Click on Home Page in top right hand corner for all the latest developments. The loyal group under their new Bishop are doing very well. ex Bishop Lawrence has a great deal to answer for.

Posted by: C.D. Bell on Thursday, 7 March 2013 at 11:00pm GMT

Don't forget that there is another diocese in SC, the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. And they are doing fine and ministering to their neighbors.

Lawrence orchestrated this. It is also in one of the most conservative parts of the US. Exactly the geographic location of the ancestors who would not give up slavery peacefully and lawfully (as the North did, and places like England).

I suspect this is the last blast of schism. I'm not thrilled about it. On the one hand, the gospel of hate just won't cut it in the broader TEC anymore. On the other hand, they were not forced into anything. They certainly would never elect a liberal bishop (and that's mostly OK), conservative parishes wouldn't call a liberal rector, and no one is being forced to do same sex blessings. So really, why the brouhaha? And this is where the word "cult" comes to mind.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 8 March 2013 at 12:03am GMT

Cynthia, they feel as if they WOULD be forced to elect a liberal bishop. TEC denied Lawrence the first time and 8 or 9 other conservative bishops are all waiting to see if they're going to be disciplined/defrocked for filing briefings with the secular courts. Why it's wrong for them when a bunch of liberal bishops just did the same thing for same-sex marriage, not sure. If liberals do it for liberal causes, great. Conservatives? Forget it. I really don't see how a conservative bishop could be chosen now. Since in TEC they have to be approved, a conservative diocese would just keep having their choice denied. Just as the liberals in the CoE don't want any more bishops who won't ordain women and have forced one or two conservative choices out, TEC doesn't want to ordain any more conservative bishops. Two or three General Conventions ago a resolution was passed that said any diocese that hadn't ordained women yet would have to have some or at least have a plan for their first woman priest by the next GC. Since then many conservatives have felt under attack by TEC. Should the Supreme Court rule same-sex marriage legal, I'm sure there will be another resolution passed for that. Sooner or later, they will be forced to do something they don't want.

Please, don't throw the word "cult" around. Saying that anyone who disagrees with you isn't a Christian doesn't help. They're just trying to maintain the Anglicanism/Episcopalianism they were raised with. The BCP does still say marriage is between a man and woman, and women priests are still relatively new.

Posted by: Chris H. on Friday, 8 March 2013 at 1:20am GMT

"Given a few days, I am sure there will be a response" - C,S. Haley -

And no doubt Mr Haley (Anglican Curmudgeon) will be a party to that response - as an advocate of the former Bishop in the TEC Diocese of South Carolina.

One wonders what Mr. Haley really thinks about the chances of Mark Lawrence getting away with the attempted high-jacking of the TEC Diocese of S.C. Of course, one expects it may take a little time for a response, but it would be interesting.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 8 March 2013 at 10:29am GMT

"...women priests are still relatively new"...

The first women were ordained 40 years ago...that's more than a generation. I'll bet these people so concerned about "relatively new" things are using smart phones (under a decade old), flat-screen TVs (less than 15 years), and the like. I bet they watch cable, drive cars with GPS, and other things that are far "newer" than four decades of practice.

Perhaps we should remind them of this: "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." [Ecclesiastes 1:9]

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 8 March 2013 at 11:31am GMT

Chris H's post makes me realise the strength of the moral integrity of 'the conservative' position, and their sheer shameless oppression of women and lgbt.

And they are bare-faced enough to demand our implication in such bad.

ex bishop Lawrence is hardly a good advertisement for 'Conservatism'. What a shame they ever relented and let him be consecrated-- we all knew it would this way - like one of those Westerns that from the go, it is clear it'll end in a big shoot with with multiple bodies blown away and land twitching in the dust.

Conservative values ?

Count me out.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Friday, 8 March 2013 at 11:42am GMT

The Presiding Bishop of TEC renounced the orders of the Bishop of the Diocese of SC. I think most true liberals acknowledged how irregular and wrong that was. Just like the use of the pulpit that followed.

I doubt that the state court will take a very positive view of seeking to go over their heads to Federal Court. It failed in TX when it was tried there on similar trademark logic. I doubt the repercussions of that will take very long to be felt.

I would agree that consents will likely be impossible for any Bishop elected in TEC that is not with the progressive agenda. We had noises to that effect from a member of Executive Council.

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 8 March 2013 at 12:10pm GMT

Moreover, 'An added difficulty for Bishop vonRosenberg is that by suing as Provisional Bishop of the "Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina," he may be violating a temporary injunction issued by the state court (an injunction to which TEC consented).'

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 8 March 2013 at 12:17pm GMT

Florence Li Tim Oi was ordained during the Second World War !

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Friday, 8 March 2013 at 1:49pm GMT

I'm sure, Brother Seitz, that you will acknowledge that the matter is far from concluded in Texas, albeit farther along than in South Carolina. It is not finally concluded in Virginia, either. However, as I recall in every state where it has been concluded (which includes, I think, California, New York, Connecticut, and perhaps Georgia) courts have supported the right of churches to decide their own rules of governance and accountability (including those in the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church).

Could a conservative bishop be elected today? Certainly. Could one be approved by a majority of bishops and Standing Committees? Depends, I think, on how one understands what "conservative" requires. Remember that Lawrence was approved based in part on his commitment not to take the Diocese of South Carolina out of the Episcopal Church. His change on the import of his commitment has made it less likely that a conservative bishop would be approved based on simple trust in the electing process and the will of the electing diocesan convention. But, then, he's hardly the only one.

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Friday, 8 March 2013 at 3:21pm GMT

"The Presiding Bishop of TEC renounced the orders of the Bishop of the Diocese of SC. I think most true liberals acknowledged how irregular and wrong that was."

Um, interesting framing. Lawrence renounced his membership in TEC first. So if Lawrence separated, which he did famously and publicly, the PB then had an obligation to remove his standing to act in the name of TEC.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 8 March 2013 at 4:05pm GMT

"Please, don't throw the word "cult" around. Saying that anyone who disagrees with you isn't a Christian doesn't help."

Chris H., I didn't say that they aren't Christian. I do believe that misogyny and homophobia are not compatible with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. But people have different litmus tests for what is "Christian."

Lawrence broke a promise not to lead the diocese out of TEC. He schemed and invoked legal machinations for years to do just that. The brutal way in which he did it was surely traumatic for many who were living together in community with brothers and sisters holding differing views. He seems more like a cult leader than a spiritual leader to me.

TEC has been ordaining women for 40 years, that is beyond my adult life time. So yes, "conservative" bishops in TEC who oppose the ordination of women and consecration of women bishops are going to seem like knuckle dragging neanderthals to me.

I think it might be possible that there's a new conservative position for bishops. One that is quite humble about all the issues, loves and welcomes all people, and is sensitive to the needs of the flock. Maybe one doesn't need to declare their egotistical positions, but simply to serve. To me, that resembles Christ.

There is another view that support for women and LGBT people is a needed affirmation, but maybe in TEC we don't need all of the bishops to be openly affirming all the time.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 8 March 2013 at 4:22pm GMT

The Federal Court issued a stay in the Ft Worth trademark case back in 2010.

Of course a conservative bishop could be elected; at issue is whether they could get consents. I referred to the 'progressive' cause as the new proxy. Can a bishop get consents without agreeing to certain contested things (SS blessing, the character of the constitution re: dioceses and hierarchy)? Probably not. That is the new post-+ML reality.

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 8 March 2013 at 4:32pm GMT

"Conservatives? Forget it. I really don't see how a conservative bishop could be chosen now. Since in TEC they have to be approved, a conservative diocese would just keep having their choice denied."

That is a LUDICROUS allegation (smear). The problems that arose for xLawrence in his confirmation process was the (since-proven) suspicion he would lead a *schism*, NOT that he was "conservative." There is ZERO reason to suspect a conservative---but loyal to the governance of General Convention---would not be confirmed. Chris H, PLEASE retract.

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 8 March 2013 at 10:34pm GMT

"I do believe that misogyny and homophobia are not compatible with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ."--therefore someone who believes that is not a Christian.

Perhaps we need to define "cult". Living near the former campus of the Church Universal and Triumphant, a maze of underground bomb shelters, an armory, and years of food stocks so they could defend themselves from any outside survivors of World War III, a cult here is a small group of people with bizarre/sinister beliefs outside the accepted theology of any accepted religion. Their leader controls all aspects of members' lives-jobs,family,money, etc.- and uses brainwashing and coercion to control them. There is no positive religious use of the word here. I'm not counting fans of bands or tv shows. Even the term "the cult of Mary or St. X" ,sometimes seen in the media, is understood as indicating members worship Mary or whoever to the exclusion of Christ/God, etc. Someone trying to explain to a kid why Bloody Queen Mary killed all those people could easily say, "Because she thought they were part of a cult." Around here it's not possible to belong to a cult and be a Christian.

Even Christianity Today, the largest Evangelical magazine in the world, won't allow its use because it is so perjorative. Several psychologists and others have tried to get the word banned because the meanings and uses are too easily misunderstood. I have heard that it's use isn't that negative in British English, but can't say from here.

Posted by: Chris H on Saturday, 9 March 2013 at 3:00am GMT

JCF, sorry, can't do it. Our "via media" bishop won't ordain conservative priests and has implied it and our representatives at the last GC came back and said pretty much the same thing. No women priests and gay blessings/marriage, no ordination. Why do you want bigots,homophobes, misogynists, etc. in the church leadership anyway? Why aren't you rejoicing? The liberals have won. Time to rewrite the BCP for the new reality.

Posted by: Chris H. on Saturday, 9 March 2013 at 3:20am GMT

Chris H, this thinking is rather black and white, yes? There are many differing views of what is "Christian." It's possible for someone to hold "conservative" views but be wonderful about feeding the hungry, for one example.

The problem comes when that view is elevated to action and public words. Because discriminatory actions and words by leaders are hurtful. They do harm. For example there is the high suicide rate amongst LGBT teens, especially those in regions hearing that "God hates fags." Then there's Uganda, that felt more empowered to pass draconian anti-gay laws after American evangelicals went there and preached a gospel of hate. And there's always the unstable person who "knows" that "God hates fags," and therefore believes that it is just fine to beat, murder, etc. That's what happened to Matthew Shepherd.

Jesus said that we can tell the true prophets from the false ones by the fruits of their labor (sorry, labour). We know that the fruits of institutional misogyny and homophobia are degrading, at best.

There needs to be a place for all people of all views to worship, pray, and workout our salvation. All views. But the institutional leadership must produce life giving fruits.

Not one conservative is harmed when women and LGBT people are liberated. No harm what-so-ever. Well unless they were overly invested in judgement, and that is never healthy.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 9 March 2013 at 4:03pm GMT

From here
http://www.episcopalchurchsc.org/legal-news.html
Affidavits include:
Dr. Walter Edgar, Professor of History at the University of South Carolina and author of “South Carolina: A History,” who notes that there is no historical support for the notion that the Diocese of South Carolina was one of the “founders” of The Episcopal Church, or that its formation predates the establishment of The Episcopal Church. In fact, “it was the actions of the organizers of The Episcopal Church that actually precipitated the formation of a structure for the parishes in South Carolina,” Dr. Edgar writes. “The South Carolina organization did not even have a bishop until 1795, six years after the formation of The Episcopal Church.” The Episcopal Church’s Constitution was adopted in 1789, and the Diocese of South Carolina acceded to that Constitution in 1790. That accession stayed in place continuously, Dr. Edgar noted, until Bishop Lawrence and others aligned with him took actions that purported to remove the accession clause and other references to The Episcopal Church from the diocese’s Constitution and Canons.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 9 March 2013 at 11:55pm GMT

On the status of dioceses:

"[A]s recently as 2009 one of TEC’s ecclesiastical courts ruled that dioceses are “wholly autonomous” and in 2001 Bishop Jane Dixon submitted affidavit testimony in federal court on “the hierarchical structure of the Episcopal Church, and the diocesan bishop's position at the apex of that hierarchy as the apostle, chief priest, pastor and ecclesiastical authority of the diocese.” When the trial court accepted this interpretation of TEC’s polity, repeating the conclusion that the bishop is the “apex of the hierarchy,” the current Presiding Bishop joined 25 other TEC bishops in filing an amicus brief in support of the trial court’s ruling in favor of Bishop Dixon."

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 10 March 2013 at 12:18am GMT

Thanks Simon. That link and historical information is certainly clarifying.

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 10 March 2013 at 1:50am GMT

I look forward to reading the rebuttals from the Lawrence connection to the academics supporting TEC.
From reading previous offerings there seemed such a certainty in the historical account set aside by these scholars.

Perhaps cseitz can help us?
His fellow contributors to the ACI blog seemed to think differently .....

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 10 March 2013 at 9:07am GMT

Mr Reynolds, I do not understand your remark.

This is a useful link http://www.deimel.org/church_resources/acc_usc_0522.pdf

The US 4th District Appeals Court rules that TEC is a church of dioceses; the Diocesan Bishop is "the highest ecclesiastical authority"; and amicus curia briefs are (in this case) signed in defense of this position by 25 TEC Bishops.

The then Bishop of Nevada is one of the amici curiae.

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 10 March 2013 at 7:31pm GMT

IIRC Bishop Dixon's affadavit concerns the bishop being the apex of the hierarchy within the diocese. Article IX provides that Bishops may admonish and/or pronounce sentence upon other Bishops -- so the bishop is not an apex in relation to the whole church, but a member of a college, which has a President, and rules established by the whole church.

Some context on that 2009 eccelsiastical court decision would also be helpful.

As it stands, it is a strange species of "autonomy" that
-- requires every diocese to gain consent of the church for the election and consecration of their own bishop
-- requires dioceses to make use of the Book of Common Prayer as approved by the General Convention
-- requires a diocese to obtain the consent of the General Convention to divide, or to merge with another diocese
-- requires a diocese to maintain its own diocesan rules for the rights and duties of its Standing Committee in concord with those provided by the General Convention...

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Sunday, 10 March 2013 at 8:12pm GMT

I encourage everyone to read what is written in the legal document which 25 Bishops signed as amici.

"Within the diocese" (so Mr Haller) is nowhere a relevant category in that document. Hierarchy entials the Diocese and the Diocesan. Let it be shown by reference to the legal document that it is speaking only with in the Diocese.

And: the conciliation process objects to filing amicus briefs tout court. The PB clearly objects formally to that which she herself undertook. Is this in doubt? No.

Those outwith the USA can helpfully see in

http://www.deimel.org/church_resources/acc_usc_0522.pdf

what TEC claims about itself, and what the Courts concur in respect thereof.


Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 10 March 2013 at 11:40pm GMT

As it stands, it is a strange species of "autonomy" that
-- requires every diocese to gain consent of the church for the election and consecration of their own bishop
-- requires dioceses to make use of the Book of Common Prayer as approved by the General Convention
-- requires a diocese to obtain the consent of the General Convention to divide, or to merge with another diocese
-- requires a diocese to maintain its own diocesan rules for the rights and duties of its Standing Committee in concord with those provided by the General Convention...

**

Can you point to anything in the US Appeals Court decision that discusses any of this?

The PB signed an amicus brief (objected to in principle in the Title IV complaints entertained and followed up on). She was joined by 24 others.

The PB signed an amicus filing that insisted the 'highest ecclesiatical authority' in TEC is the Diocesan Bishop.

The court concurred. In order to reach this conclusion, it defeated a claim of any other hierarchy.

The 'national church' would only have confused issues, as indeed it does to this very day. Little wonder +Griswold himself signed the amicus. This is fully consistent with his view that diocesan bishops should be free to negotiate parishes wishing to leave.

Only the present PB sought to wrest out a polity nowhere envisioned in a church and in a document she signed previously.

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 10 March 2013 at 11:51pm GMT

xLawrence is no longer a bishop in TEC. By his very own choice. So if he chooses not to remain in TEC, then he can hardly be an "autonomous" bishop of a diocese of TEC.

The whole thing is really bizarre, unseemly, and nefarious.

There just aren't any legal arguments that are going to convince me that suddenly and brutally separating was a compassionate and Godly action. It demanded a choice from each and every member of the former diocese, splitting up communities that had be getting along with difference. But of course, tolerance isn't a strong suit of xLawrence and his cult ilk.

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 11 March 2013 at 1:42am GMT

Check the sidebar of the South Carolina Episcopalians website (http://www.scepiscopalians.com/) for details of recent developments and changes in the financial condition of Mark Lawrence's organization.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Monday, 11 March 2013 at 1:56am GMT

The case to which CR Seitz refers addressed a fairly narrow dispute, concerning the relationship of parishes and clergy to their Bishop. It is in this context -- and this alone -- that the Bishop is at the apex of the hierarchy. This is what the amicus briefs addressed.

Notwithstanding the narrow concerns of the case, the appeals court decision finds that the Episcopal Church is hierarchical (including on a national level), by applying the neutral standards provided by the Supreme Court in Milivojevich. (Section V.A.2. of the decision). In applying these tests the court finds:

"Our examination of this record, and our study of the organization and operation of the Episcopal Church, compels the determination that the court was correct in both its analysis and in its conclusion: The Episcopal Church is hierarchical."

Among the evidence cited for this finding is the Declaration of Conformity sworn and signed by all ordinands, which refers "to the doctrine, _discipline_, and worship of _The Episcopal Church_." (emphasis theirs)

The court then goes on to address the narrow question,

"Because the Episcopal Church is hierarchical, we must next assess whether Bishop Dixon, _in the context of this dispute_, is its highest ecclesiastical authority..." (emphasis mine)

They do so find: within the diocese the bishop is the ecclesiastical authority. I will note that although bishops stand at the apex of the hierarchy within their own diocese, they operate entirely under the governance of the general church, and in accord with its Constitution and Canons. This is why bishops are answerable to the larger body for offenses alleged against them.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Monday, 11 March 2013 at 2:40pm GMT

Mr Haller-- can you explain why the PB and 24 other Bishops filed an amicus curiae brief that declared the diocese the main unit of the church and the Diocesan the highest ecclesiastical authority, and nine Bishops who did the same thing were subject to Title IV proceedings? You seem like an intelligent and fair-minded man.

The Diocese of LA, when Bennison materials were requested, declared itself 'autonomous' and refused to do so. That was the end of the matter.
The language 'autonomous' is in the record. You may consult it.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 11 March 2013 at 3:25pm GMT

Continued from above...

Although this was not an aspect of the case, which solely concerns the relation of a Bishop with clergy and parishes within her diocese, the Court did allude to the higher hierarchical level of the Church, in terms of the Court of Review, to which Bishop Dixon was answerable. (V.A.3) "Bishop Dixon is the highest ecclesiastical tribunal of the Church _for the purposes of this dispute._" (My emphasis, again.) The footnote to this sentence reads,

"There may be an issue, under the Constitution and Canons, whether the Review Committee possessed the authority to overturn Bishop Dixon’s decision on the licensing of Father Edwards, or whether it merely possessed the ability to sanction her if the decision was improper. Because the Review Committee declined to proceed against Bishop Dixon, that issue is not before us."

I observe that in either case this is an explicit recognition that there is a national level of church hierarchy to which Bishops are answerable.

It continues to strike me, although it has ceased to surprise me, that Dr. Seitz can read the same document as others yet come to an entirely different conclusion as to its meaning. On the present matter, his opinion that hierarchy stops with the diocesan bishop remains a "minority view."

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Monday, 11 March 2013 at 9:58pm GMT

Dr Seitz, I thought I had explained the issue you raise. The case on which the PB and others filed an amicus brief solely concerned the role of the bishop in relation to clergy licensing, asserting a "buck stops here" authority, which the court supported. The amicus brief of the nine bishops, as with the "Bishops' Statement on Polity" asserts a broader authority, almost a plenipotentiary one, for diocesan bishops, and denies that the Episcopal Church is hierarchical beyond the level of the diocese.

The two sets of documents thus differ in their form, intent, and content.

You raise now an additional case concerning materials that one diocese refused to hand over to another. I am not in a position to say if I think they were correct in this decision, but the mere fact they assert autonomy in this matter does not prove that there is such autonomy. People make mistakes all the time; including, I would add, the PB -- with some of whose actions I have found fault in the public forum. In fact, the decision of the Appeal Court in Dixon v Edwards also contains a number of factual errors (including a reference to the General Convention that ought to have referred to the diocesan convention.)

Better scholars than I have critiqued the "Bishops' Statement" and the misapprehensions contained in it. It is quite true that the Bishop exercises a significant executive authority within his or her diocese, as well as a few judicial and legislative functions; but all of these are hedged about, and answerable to, the rules and regulations -- and if violated, the judicial proceedings -- of the general church. The Dixon v Edwards decision makes passing reference to this at footnote 24.

For these and other reasons, anyone who claims dioceses are autonomous is either misusing the word or simply wrong.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 at 2:50pm GMT

Let me also add that as much as I disagree with their conclusions, I regret that a complaint was filed against the Bishops who filed amicus briefs in the property cases. I communicated this personally to Bishop MacPherson when I saw him in Indianapolis.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 at 3:30pm GMT

Thanks, Roger for that link to the SC Episcopalians blog: http://www.scepiscopalians.com

Very informative. Especially following the money. A truly sad state of affairs.

The links from that site are helpful as well.

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 at 5:29pm GMT

I do hope that people like Haller will continue to speak out against things like charging people for filing amicus briefs, esp given that Bishops have routinely done this. The amicus brief in question actually asked the court NOT to interfere in a church matter. This is consistent with the canonical requirements of TEC, whicn forbids recourse to civil court to adjudicate TEC affairs.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 at 7:40pm GMT

One thing the Accord did do, by indirection, is publicly inform the TX Supreme Court that a bona fide disagreement over the polity of TEC exists. Indeed, the fact the +Buchanon publicly stated that what he asked of the Bishops at GC he did not get, viz., a conclusive statement on polity. I thought that was sufficiently damning off its own bat, and now the Accord reiterates the fact of disagreement. And, further, it must tred carefully enough so that the civil courts do not find TEC quilty of intimidation and harrassment.

I do hope clergy like Haller and others will persist in requesting that we have no more of these Title IV adventures. He has his special view of the polity of TEC, shared with others; qualified canon law scholars, and others, have theirs.

As the Accord itself concedes: Bishops of TEC do not agree the polity of TEC. So the courts cannot interfere to sort that out (even as it tip-toed around doing that in the Dixon case, declaring her "the highest ecclesiastical authority" tout court).

The LA case can easily enough be looked up. Again, simple use of the term "autonomous" even if "wrong" shows that TEC must sort this out at some future point in time (or not).

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 at 9:21pm GMT

As a TEC parishioner "on the ground" in South Carolina and and still in touch with friends who followed Bishop Lawrence group, I'd say that these lawsuits are disappointing but not unexpected. Many of us are relieved that this breach is finally out in the open and that our roads are diverging. The atmosphere in many parishes was toxic -- rectors loyal to Lawrence condemning TEC from the pulpit, the few liberal priests being pressured to tow the theological line set out by the cathedral, LGBT Episcopalians being encouraged to "look elsewhere for a church home." It was time to split.

Posted by: Dan Ennis on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 at 1:32am GMT

If TEC is a hierarchical church, and if GC is its highest authority, then whatever GC says is its polity, IS its polity. I don't see the problem.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 at 10:21am GMT

The 'problem' -- and this is why there is a major public debate and indeed efforts to discipline/suppress -- is that Bishops and others do not agree on what the Constitution and Canons stipulate re: 'highest ecclesiastical authority.' If it were obvious, there would not be recourse to courts (against the canons) by TEC in places like FW, Quincy, et al.

For those who want a hierarchy in clear (Roman, black letter law) terms, it will require constitutional construction. And this will also require those who wish such a thing to sort out the roles of the PB, GC, EC, etc.

A good example of non-Roman polity is to be found in the PCA. Its constitution was drafted by lawyers and the property implications were crystalised and made air-tight. But of course it is not an Episcopal (w/ Bishops) church.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 at 2:22pm GMT

Thank you, Dr. Seitz. I would suggest that the "disagreement" described in the Accord is rather like that over the ordination of women. There remains a minority view that women should not, or cannot, be ordained; but the law of the church says otherwise. The minority view of broad episcopal authority and diocesan autonomy is a view people are free to hold. (I am glad the Accord made that clear, as I do not think minority views ought to be prosecuted.)

It would be perhaps helpful for the General Convention to "revive" the now almost 50-year-old resolution on the "Levels of Authority in the Church." That resolution makes it clear that when speaking on what The Episcopal Church holds to be true one ought to relay, after the Scripture and Creeds, on the BCP, the Constitution and Canons, and the Acts of General Convention. Next follows the House of Bishops (as a college) and then "each Bishop may speak as an apostolic Shepherd within his own jurisdiction, yet with a sense of mutual responsibility to his episcopal brethren and with faithfulness to the teachings of the Church."

Naturally this does not settle the issue of differences of interpretation of the Constitution and Canons, any more than of the Scripture. I advise, and have adopted, in all of these, a "canonical" approach which seeks to look at the whole context and content of the documents.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 at 3:00pm GMT

I suspect the issue will be preceded by civil court rulings in TX and Quincy.

The Constitution and Canons do not give the PB the authority Title IV and other legal adventures appear to want to give the PB. +FG did not rule from on high in the case of +Dixon. He was one Bishop amongst 25.

So levels of authority would still need to see careful re-editing of the C/C. I doubt places like LA and PA would ever agree to that, as well as other liberal dioceses which do not like the power being seized by the PB and her chancellor.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 at 3:48pm GMT

Mr O'Neill--further in response. You may recall that (provisional) Bishop Buchanon did indeed ask the Bishops at GC last summer to declare the polity of TEC as hierarchical (presumably with a PB with legal standing?) and to reject the view of the amicus brief. They would not do that. He said that they did not do what he asked and complained that they had not done so. It is in the record. A pretty good case of being very careful what you are asking for.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 at 5:20pm GMT

"The Constitution and Canons do not give the PB the authority Title IV and other legal adventures appear to want to give the PB. "

Ahhh--but General Convention DID, by passing Title IV. Since GC is the highest authority on the meaning and intent of the Constitution and Canons (there being no equivalent of a Supreme Court in TEC's polity), it would seem that resolves the issue.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 at 9:18pm GMT

Well, that settles it! Kindly drop a note to GC, the HOB, and the civil courts and it will all be resolved quickly. Why didn't anyone think of this?

Pax et bonum

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 at 11:55pm GMT

Perhaps the Bishops at GC refused to "declare the polity of TEC as hierarchical" because it is not their place to do so? Because the bishops are not the ultimate authority in TEC, but GC (meaning all three houses meeting in concert) is. Bishop Buchanon made the request of the wrong body--he should have asked all of GC.

Further, I would argue that TEC *is* hierarchical, but that the top of the hierarchy is not the PB, but GC. The PB is designated to carry out GC's wishes (and to act in its name in the periods between GC's meetings), but is not the ultimate authority.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 14 March 2013 at 2:45am GMT

Thanks for your Witness, Dan. Godspeed.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 14 March 2013 at 3:26pm GMT
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