Skip to comments.Bishops suing bishops "is inventive" [TEC]
Posted on 07/17/2006 4:56:34 PM PDT by sionnsar
llegations that four revisionist bishops might bring presentment charges against an orthodox bishop because he has requested Alternative Episcopal Oversight, would require "incredible inventiveness", with one canon lawyer and retired bishop saying that that he was not aware of any canon that could be used legitimately against such a bishop.
VirtueOnline has learned that bishops J. Jon Bruno (Los Angeles), William Swing (California), James R. Mathes, (San Diego) and Duncan Gray, III, (Mississippi) are about to lay presentment charges on the Bishop of San Joaquin, John-David Schofield because they fear he will take his diocese out of The Episcopal Church.
"I have no idea of the canons they could use, but we have seen a propensity of some of our more aggressive bishops to read the canons in very inventive and imaginative ways," said Wicks Stephens, Chancellor of the Anglican Communion Network. "We can only wait to see," he told VirtueOnline.
Retired Eau Claire bishop William Wantland, a canon lawyer and Anglo-Catholic bishop told VOL, "I am aware of no canon that could be legitimately used against him."
None of the bishops returned calls to VOL, but a spokesman in Bishop Schofield's office said that as of the end of last week they had received nothing, but had heard rumors of such possible action. "We would be very surprised, as it would indicate a level of vindictiveness we have not seen before," said a source who asked not to be named.
BUT in another incident, charges have been filed by the Bishop of Kansas, Dean E. Wolfe and the Bishop of Oklahoma, Robert Moody against a retired orthodox bishop, but he had received no copy of any complaint as of this week.
An attorney for the bishop (who asked that the bishop's name not be revealed at this time) said such charges would have had to have been filed with the Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold who then would have had to forward them to the Title IV Review Committee who would in turn forward them to the Title IV Church Attorney. According to the Church Attorney they were forwarded to him on June 21.
The episcopal membership of the Title IV Review Committee consists of five bishops appointed by the Presiding Bishop to look at charges to see if an investigation is appropriate. If they think an investigation is in order they send it on to the Church Attorney who then investigates and processes the charges.
In May, 2005 John Lankenau, Church Attorney, made 39 charges against the former Bishop of New York, Richard Grein disappear, even though Grein committed adultery, divorced his wife, remarried and was found guilty of firing a woman priest at Grace Church in the Village and the church was obliged to pay her several hundred thousand dollars.
To date the Episcopal Church has not heard anything from nineteen Episcopal lay leaders and priests in Connecticut officially charging Connecticut Bishop Andrew Smith with undermining the structure of the Episcopal Church and denying canonical due process for the so-called "Connecticut Six" clergy. These charges, filed a year ago, accuse Bishop Smith of violating the Episcopal Church's Constitution, national canons, diocesan canons, and the laws of the state of Connecticut. Nothing has been heard of since then.
In the case of charges being laid on Bishop John-David Schofield we are moving in unchartered waters. A number of orthodox priests wrote to VOL say that Bruno's fingers are all over possible presentment charges, because he is angry that he has lost five parishes in his diocese to overseas bishops, with the courts coming down squarely on the side of the parishes in property disputes.
Word of presentment charges first appeared at an orthodox Blog but quickly morphed into the broader mainstream media, based on a meeting at St. John's Church in the Diocese of Los Angeles, where Bishop Bruno was alleged to have made the announcement.
Bishop Schofield's "sin" is that, as an Anglo-Catholic bishop, he rejects the ordination of women to the priesthood and in June the diocese's standing committee appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury for Alternate Primatial Oversight.
At their 2004 and 2005 diocesan conventions the Diocese of San Joaquin strengthened its bylaws regarding diocesan property ownership, approving changes to its constitution so that it submitted to the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church.
Ironically, the new bishop of the Diocese of the Rio Grande, Jeffrey N. Steenson was recently elected unanimously to the episcopacy even though he opposes the ordination of women to the priesthood.
To date six orthodox dioceses including the dioceses of Fort Worth, Texas; Pittsburgh, Pa.; San Joaquin, Calif.; South Carolina; Central Florida; and Springfield, Ill., have requested APO with the Diocese of Dallas requesting direct primatial oversight from the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Jan Nunley, deputy for Communication at the Episcopal Church Center in New York, observed that "Dioceses and congregations, however, do not officially "leave" the Episcopal Church simply because leaders or any number of members depart. Parishes are created by dioceses and dioceses are created by action of the General Convention," she said. "People are free to leave," but congregations and dioceses continue within church structures.
Nunley confirmed that the Episcopal Church's elected leadership may, if necessary, declare a diocese vacant, and that in such a case the Presiding Bishop would call for the election of a new diocesan bishop, among other actions.
"There is absolutely no authority for that proposition," said canon lawyer Wicks Stephen.
But a presentment of an orthodox bishop would be particularly onerous at a time when the Episcopal Church is coming unraveled. Bishop John-David is a Network bishop and the Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed extreme displeasure at the actions of liberal bishops at their recent General Convention over a lack of serious debate on The Windsor Report. "This will only ratchet up the pain on Dr. Rowan Williams to do something," said a priest.
But it should be noted that there are presently canons which are being violated by liberal bishops. There is a canon that says Holy Communion is only for the baptized. Do you suppose that some of the more aggressively liberal bishops have violated the canons by providing communion to unbelievers?
When the House of Bishops met a number of years ago they were addressed by a Jewish scholar at the request of Frank Griswold. Later he was literally dragged to the communion rail by a number of bishops including Mary Adelia McLeod the former Bishop of Vermont.
But the question needs to be asked, are some of our more liberal bishops who openly violate the Canons on Communion, which restricts communion to the baptized, themselves presentable? And what of Pennsylvania Charles Bennison who cannot uphold the faith and has been cited for fraud, apostasy and lunacy.
Is this the beginning of presentments around the Episcopal Church? Is it possible that liberal and revisionist bishops want to start a war? If so, they had better have good legal advice. If not they might just find themselves on the losing end of lawsuits and more.
The Diocese of California won't be the only diocese to lose parishes in legal dogfights. Already across the country large orthodox parishes are beginning to tell their bishops they are gone. The Great Unraveling has only just begun.
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