Skip to comments.Reality Check [TLC interview w/+Howe]
Posted on 08/23/2005 4:58:04 PM PDT by sionnsar
A while back, Episcopal News Service crowed about the fact that Central Florida Bishop John Howe backed off of criticism of Eastern Michigan Bishop Edwin Leidel for the deposition of Rev. Gene Geromel. But judging by this Living Church interview, anyone who thinks John Howe is going the John Howard route is badly mistaken:
TLC: The recent decision by a judge in Los Angeles to dismiss a suit brought by the diocese against a parish that voted to leave the Episcopal Church has been the subject of considerable conversation. In the case, the judge strongly rebuked the diocese for attempting to suppress legitimate discussion and dissent on important issues, particularly human sexuality. Do you think bishops are attempting to restrict the First Amendment rights of clergy and laity when they forbid clergy and parishes from affiliating with organizations such as the American Anglican Council, the Network or the various Via Media groups on the other side, to name some recent examples?
Bishop Howe: I dont want to attempt to assess motives, but, yes, I do think that bishops who forbid clergy from joining groups like the Network or Via Media are vastly exceeding their legitimate authority. And, yes, that is obviously a denial of their First Amendment rights. The Anglican Communion Network was suggested by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and it is recognized as being in full communion with the 22 Anglican provinces which have declared impaired or broken communion with the bishops who consecrated the present Bishop of New Hampshire. How dare any of our bishops presume to forbid their clergy from joining it.
TLC: The proposed revisions of the Title IV disciplinary proceedings would include the laity and make it more difficult for accused persons to defend themselves or retain counsel. Do you think these revisions are a step in the right direction?
Bishop Howe: It is ecclesiastical insanity. What lay person would bother to show up if some trial court tried to bring charges against him or her?
TLC: Part of what seems to be driving the revisions to Title IV is the cost of conducting those trials. In your recent letter to Bishop Leidel, you said, There are a number of bishops who, in my opinion, are misusing the Abandonment canon to silence or expel some of their clergy. Could you elaborate on that statement? Should economic considerations play a part in how ecclesiastical procedures are conducted?
Bishop Howe: I dont want to cite specific instances, but let me say that the Abandonment of Communion canon (Title IV, Canon 10) has a very specific purpose. It is for those instances when a member of the clergy leaves the Episcopal Church to become, say, a Roman Catholic or a Presbyterian, without officially renouncing his/her Episcopal orders. A bishop who says that a member of the clergy who joins the Network, or who--for conscience sake--joins the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA), has abandoned communion is simply outrageous. It is precisely to maintain communion with orthodox Anglicanism that clergy make such decisions. It is a very sad commentary if there are instances of bishops using the Abandonment canon to avoid the costs of a trial. The Abandonment canon denies the accused any due process whatsoever: there is no facing his/her accusers, no weighing of evidence, no answering of charges, no jury, no appeal. To use this canon to silence or remove a member of the clergy who does not support his/her bishop is, in my opinion, a violation of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.
TLC: At the fall 2004 House of Bishops meeting in Spokane, a mind of the house resolution concerning the transfer of licenses to other Anglican Communion provinces spelled out a specific set of requirements that should be met before permission by the diocesan is given. Do you think those guidelines are reasonable? Are you following them?
Bishop Howe: I was not able to attend that meeting, but I wrote to the Presiding Bishop afterward to say that I have been in compliance with every mind of the house resolution previously, but I will not agree to this one. When a member of the clergy, out of conscience, determines he/she can no longer be part of the Episcopal Church, but wants to remain an Anglican, and so he/she joins the AMiA or transfers canonical residence to Uganda (for instance), it costs us nothing to give letters dimissory. To depose that person is simply spiteful, and totally unworthy of someone called to be a bishop and shepherd of the flock of Christ.
TLC: The leadership at the Episcopal Church Center and elsewhere has been critical of those provinces which have declared broken or impaired communion with the Episcopal Church. By refusing to recognize the ministries of clergy from Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya (and elsewhere) who serve those provinces in this country, do you think that the Episcopal Church is attempting to have things both ways?
Bishop Howe: You have said it better than I could.
TLC: In refusing to recognize the ministries of clergy from other Anglican Communion provinces operating in North America, Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold and others have cited 2,000 years of unbroken Church history. Do you find such reasoning disingenuous given the General Conventions willingness to dispense with 2,000 years of unbroken Church teaching on human sexuality?
Bishop Howe: Disingenuous is very kind.
That, as they say, is going to leave a mark.
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