Skip to comments.Northern California Bishop Warned: Statements Could be Libelous
Posted on 01/12/2007 6:08:51 PM PST by sionnsar
The Rt. Rev. Barry Beisner, Bishop of Northern California, has been informed that public statements he and his predecessor have made about the Rev. David H. Miller might be determined libelious and defamatory by a court of law.
On Dec. 17, Fr. Miller, rector of St. Johns, Petaluma, informed Bishop Beisner and his predecessor, the Rt. Rev. Jerry Lamb, that the parish had voted to disaffiliate from the diocese and come under the oversight of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. In the letter, Fr. Miller asked that a letter dimissory be sent to Archbishop Gregory Venables.
In response Bishop Lamb, who retired Dec. 31, issued a public statement Dec. 27 in which he said I have chosen to view [the Rev.] David Millers letter...as a request to renounce orders in this church.
Please understand that we are not limiting your freedom of speech or religious discretion to render ecclesiastical decisions, whether we agree with them or not, the Rev. Lu T. Nguyen wrote in a letter sent to Bishop Beisner on Jan. 2. Therefore, you can state that you have deposed Fr. Miller according to your canons, despite our disagreements as to whether you denied Fr. Miller due process to defend himself. You should not, however, make statements that Fr. Miller voluntarily renounced orders or statements to that effect when it is false especially after we have informed you in the letter dated December 30, 2006, and with this letter.
To date the diocese has not responded satisfactorily, according to Fr. Nguyen, who is a canon lawyer and ordained priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. He told The Living Church that the seemingly willful mischaracterization of Fr. Millers request has been very hurtful to his client, but that Fr. Miller and the parish leadership remain committed to seeking an amicable resolution of the situation, one that avoids litigation.
If the diocese decides to try and sue the parish for its property, however, we would consider all options to be on the table, Fr. Nguyen said. It is pure defamation and libel when you [knowingly] state something that isnt true. Not to correct that after you have been properly notified is usually considered malice.
The deposition of active priests without benefit of trial was pioneered by the Bishop of Pennsylvania, the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr., who deposed the Rev. David Moyer, rector of Good Shepherd, Rosemont in 2002. That decision was criticized at the time by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, but the practice has subsequently been widely embraced throughout The Episcopal Church as an economical means of dispensing with dissentient clergy.
Glad I could help you on that.
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