Skip to comments.Canon Law and Civil Law Increasingly Dominate ECUSA News
Posted on 05/28/2005 6:59:31 AM PDT by sionnsar
[For those who may not know: the "chancellor" is the bishop's attorney. --sionnsar]
Canon Law, civil law and the Episcopal Church are six words that one hears with increasing frequency, often spoken in the same breath. But you had better bring along your favorite brand of Listerine.
Bishops, especially revisionist ones, don't talk publicly or return calls unless they have first talked to their chancellors.
Frank Griswold, ECUSA's presiding bishop barely says a word unless he has consulted David Booth Beers his personal chancellor, with lesser purple transgressors handled by Bishop Clayton Matthews his pit bull for in flagrante bishops. When he wanted to make the 39 charges against NY Bishop Richard Grein disappear he hired yet another lawyer to make them evaporate up a chimney in ecclesiastical smoke. Never mind that Grein was obliged to cough up a cool $300,000 to the Rev. Janet Kraft whom he had wronged.
Lawyers are part of the fabric of Episcopal Church life these days. Orthodox priests under siege by revisionist bishops have learned not to talk to their bishop, when summoned, without an attorney in tow. When you are dealing with purple bishops like Bennison or Smith or Bruno, take an attorney with you or face a bishop who may possibly lie under oath.
Using the wrong canon to get rid of an orthodox priest can be very costly as Pennsylvania Bishop Charles E. Bennison is learning. The monthly legal bills are rolling in even as money from parishes to the diocese is drying up. He has to resort to Trust Funds to keep the legal fees paid. And still there is no end in sight for the three parishes under threat. Only one case is presently working its way through the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, others will undoubtedly follow.
The raw naked truth is that revisionists have become canon law fundamentalists. They don't believe in anything else. Might is power, power is right and to hell with Scripture. At this point, having established that law is truth, they then move into the next stage which is to deliberately misuse the canons so that a persecuted orthodox priest is denied a church trial.
In truth a church trial is the last thing revisionist bishops want. These revisionist bishops believe they have the upper hand because civil courts generally stay out of church disputes and for the most part they have been successful. The most recent case being in the Diocese of St. Louis where Fr. Paul Walter was ousted from his church - the Church of the Good Shepherd.
Therefore they think they can't lose with no trial either in the church structure or in the civil courts. But such outcomes are not always so certain. Three Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Los Angeles are now before the civil courts and there is no guarantee that Bishop J. Jon Bruno will win. An historic case was decided in favor of a local Methodist Church in dispute with its national body. They won in court and retained their property.
A Philadelphia based Canon law expert and attorney believes that the ONLY way to fight is to go to the civil courts and point out that what has occurred is fundamentally unfair and the revisionist bishops should not have it both ways when they go to the civil courts to seize the property.
"No amount of speeches, dinners, communiques and talk of unity will stop revisionist bishops. A few jury verdicts of several million could and will stop them in their tracks," he says.
At the recent Diocese of Florida convention in Jacksonville, Florida, Bishop John Howard, himself a lawyer, lined up his chancellor, his Canon to the Ordinary and a circuit court judge who was head of the resolutions committee. These four all had one thing in common, they were all were trained and experienced lawyers. They were lined up like a "Maginot Line" on the dais. Howard's message: "You wanna fight me, go ahead, make my day." Intimidation is a wonderful tool. The orthodox roll over every time. They have this phony notion based on faulty biblical exegesis that being rolled over is somehow deeply spiritual when it is not. It's stupid. Fight the bastards. Some of them are beginning to do so.
They recall Paul's words in I Cor. 6: 1-8 about not taking a brother to court before the civil authorities, and assume this applies to them. The assumption, of course, is that these revisionist bishops are even Christians, which most are surely not. Would anybody for a moment think that Spong or Bennison or Griswold were true believers? Secondly, the Apostle Paul was quite happy to appeal to Caesar and Rome to defend himself, demanding it as his legal right as a Roman citizen.
Jane Dixon the former Bishop of Washington spent a ton of money to get rid of one single Anglo-Catholic parish, Fr. Samuel Edwards, but the cost was high - more than $1 million and the Soper fund got soaked to pay for it. The woman was vicious in her attack on one solitary priest and would have bankrupted the diocese to get rid of him. When John Chane took over he was appalled at the financial losses, and is still fighting to stay afloat financially.
"The situation can become far more vicious than the average serious commercial fraud case in South Florida! There is a set litigation strategy and shared resources. There appears to be a willingness to pull out all of the stops. Crowell & Moring threw several partners and associates, and an unknown number of legal personnel into the Dixon v. Edwards mess," says Canon lawyer, Fr. Charles Nalls who heads the Washington-based Canon Law Institute.
Last fall, at the Chicago diocesan convention, they did something similar, wrote a VirtueOnline reader. "They vetted all the proposed resolutions through a lawyer at a leading Chicago law firm before they were even submitted to the convention. Then they designed procedures to prevent the resolutions from being passed. I had a bill that called on all members of the diocese to live holy, Christian lives. This was deemed too controversial."
Another reader wrote about his experience in the Diocese of Lexington with Bishop Stacy Sauls earlier in the year saying he had a similar experience.
"The high point of our orthodox influence was when I was allowed to raise this question from the floor: If this diocese believes marriage is a rite between a man and a woman, let us say so for the world. If it believes marriage is a rite for two persons of the same gender, let us say that for the world. Let's not just sit here; take your stand for the world to know what we are."
"They just sat there."
"As I left the microphone, one of our alternates stood and applauded; the chair (Sauls) immediately gaveled her down, saying he would not allow demonstrations; this, after allowing a five minute standing ovation in response to a motion praising him for his leadership. If not lawyers then the fascist fist of a revisionist bishop.
Says Fr. Nalls, "So much for the Church militant, it has been replaced by the sect litigious!"
Nalls says the Canon Law Institute CLI is involved in at least three serious matters now on issues ranging from property to clergy discipline, and he is advising various groups of disaffected clergy on a regular basis. "We also hear many single pleas for help and cites one from a retired ECUSA priest.
"My brother is the Senior Warden in a parish in which the rector is going to 'marry' two women. He wants to object. Is there anything he can do?" The answer is nothing, says Nalls, other than to raise a public fuss.
There also is a willingness to try to drag vestries in personally, says Nalls. A case in point is St. James the Less in Philadelphia, where Bishop Bennison is suing not only Fr. David Ousley but the vestry as well. This scares the living daylights out of the laity who would sooner settle than fight.
The Rt. Rev. Tom Shaw probably the most visible pro-gay activist in the HOB and a close personal friend of Frank Griswold tried to have the parishioners of St. Paul's Brockton cited for contempt for praying on the sidewalk of the church from which they had been evicted by injunction!
"This doesn't even take into account the assaults on individuals by the surrogates of ECUSA--"activists" like private flatfoot Dallas-based Jack Taylor who file false bar complaints to interfere with the work of counsel during critical moments in trial preparation, not to mention the threatening late night phone calls and anonymous mail that rattle all who are involved on the process," says Nalls.
"While ECUSA counsel deny involvement in such doings, they clearly foster it as they did with the "dissenting" group in Accokeek that was clearly worked by Jane Dixon."
Nalls says that a litigation cost analysis puts average money spent on such cases from $500,000 to $1.75 million depending on the billing rates of counsel, the amount of discovery undertaken and the rapaciousness of the lawyers. "Bear in mind that the parishes or priests tend to be represented at no or reduced rates by most of the attorneys involved, the dioceses seem to be willing to spend like a drunken sailor on the first shore leave in a year."
At the International level the reliance upon canon law in the Anglican Communion while a relatively new thing is coming increasingly into play. It is becoming the new instrument for enforcing discipline or uniformity.
It has really never normally been an issue, writes the Dr. Paul Zahl, Dean of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, in his new book "Understanding the Windsor Report." "But now -- and it is a sign of the times -- canon law is more and more mentioned. Certainly the Eames Commission was feared at times to be in the hands of the lawyers." This would have made its approach to law in harmony with the ruling American mind-set Let the judges decide! Let the judicial branch decide! Let controversy all come down to points of law. Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce in the church, as well as in the world generally."
The first time that canon law was seriously engaged as a means for fostering communion in Anglicanism was at the Primates Meeting in March 2001 at Kanuga Conference Center in North Carolina, says Ian Douglas, professor of World Mission at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass.
It was here that Professor Norman Doe, director of the Center for Law and Religion at Cardiff University in Wales, presented a paper on "Canon Law and Communion." Doe was also a key member of the Lambeth Commission that produced the Windsor Report.
In his 2001 paper to the Primates, Professor Doe put forward the idea that the canon law of each church in the Anglican Communion could be more fully developed to enhance communion across Anglicanism globally. He suggested: "A Declaration of Common Anglican Canon Law and Polity could be issued by the Primates Meeting, in the form of a concordat; all primates would be signatories. The statement would not of itself be law, issuing from the global moral order, but rather would set out the programme for canonical revision in each church."
Professor Doe's paper did not argue that the Primates Meeting should have increased authority for determining or arbitrating communion, but rather the primates could play a key role in helping each Anglican church to develop canon law themselves that would lead to greater unity in the Communion.
In a paper he himself produced for the Lambeth Commission called "Communion and Autonomy in Anglicanism: Nature and Maintenance" Does advances many of his ideas put forward in 2001. Basic to both papers was the need to develop a ius commionis (communion law) within each Anglican church in the Anglican Communion. The idea was for each church to translate global conventions about communion into a meaningful and binding reality for each church, and to enable that church to be responsible for its own maintenance of communion with other Anglican churches in an exercise of autonomy by that church.
Dr. Zahl further argues that to reconcile the whole idea of covenant concept with the Four Instruments of Unity is just to add another layer. "It makes five in place of Four, and given the American reluctance to admit fault here, we could end up with six or seven or maybe eight one.
The Archbishop spoke forcefully and negatively about the Robinson consecration, Lambeth had already spoken very clearly and overwhelmingly, the ACC supported Lambeth. So indeed did the primates But none of these "Instruments" proved capable of enforcing anything. They all fell apart, they were powerless to do anything and when challenged said they could not interfere in the life of another's province with its own canons and constitutions. They were all neutered, castrated and made impotent. Fiat Lux.
The Four Instruments should have worked in this case, but clearly they did not. The Anglican Consultative Council, the most liberal of the Four Instruments is little more than a theologically flexible arm of Western liberal hegemony and gay agit prop, and supported by their money. The ACC power brokers will do nothing to harm either ECUSA or Canada's place at the table. The shrimp hors deuvres, steak au poivre and French wine will always be there courtesy of their respective Trust Funds. The ACC laughs all the way to the bank knowing that as long as both Western provinces remain, their "Instrument" is financially secure!
In Brisbane, Australia last week, Fr. David Chislett was fired from his parish and had his licence revoked because he was consecrated a bishop in the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC). Even though the TAC insists Fr. Chislett will continue as a bishop in the Anglican Church of Australia because he holds a licence from the Anglican bishop of the Murray diocese, Fr. Chislett said his sacking was based on a "subjective interpretation of unjust canon law that needed repealing". Every priest in the Brisbane diocese should "worry about the security of their tenure" in light of the action, he said. Indeed.
It is indeed ironic that as the Four Instruments are being touted as the way to resolve problems the less they seem able too. The one Instrument of Unity know one will consult or talk about is Holy Scripture, and any appeal to that gets blown off with the "many interpretations" notions of Frank Griswold especially when it comes to sodomy.
ECUSA's heterodox leadership is as corrupt as a medieval pope -- with canon lawyers used to preserve the papacy. If there is any hope for the orthodox still standing in the Episcopal and Canadian churches it will not be a unified canon put forth by Norman Doe or anyone else, it will only be found, sadly, in the civil courts, where the orthodox stand a better than even chance of winning, even over the Dennis Canon. The Rev. Janet Kraft won her case by sheer persistence, and a brother with more money than Griswold.
What the Episcopal Church truly needs, however, is a Martin Luther, sadly we don't have one and probably never will. And if one stood up now it would all be too late. The Episcopal Church runs on Canon Law but may yet die on the cross of Civil Law.
"What the Episcopal Church truly needs, however, is a Martin Luther, sadly we don't have one and probably never will."
I must say that in the case of Fr./Bp. Chislet, I can't necessarily reprove the Bishop of one denonimation for deposing one of his priests who accepts ordination as Bishop in another denomination.
I have to agree. I note that our canons prohibit such a thing, at least without approval.
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