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Posted on 08/24/2005 4:39:50 PM PDT by sionnsar
Speaking of Anglican trials, one should soon be getting underway on this side of the Atlantic:
Nineteen Episcopal lay leaders and priests in Connecticut have officially charged Andrew Smith, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, under provisions of canon [church] law. The notification of charges was sent Monday to Frank Griswold, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA). Specifically, signatories charge Bishop Smith with undermining the structure of the Episcopal Church and denying canonical due process for the so-called Connecticut Six clergy. These charges accuse Bishop Smith of violating the Episcopal Churchs Constitution, national canons, diocesan canons, and the laws of the state of Connecticut. Laity and clergy from Christ Church, Watertown; Bishop Seabury, Groton; Trinity, Bristol; St. Pauls, Darien; and Christ and the Epiphany, East Haven; and St. Johns, Bristol, filed the charges.
Under canon law, a charge is defined as a formal and verified accusation against a member of the clergy that the member of the clergy has committed an offense. Offenses are delineated in Canon 4.1.1 and include such actions as crimes, immorality, conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy, and violations of the Constitutions or Canons of General Convention and/or the Diocese where the clergy member functions. Charges can lead to an ecclesiastical trial much like a military court martial.
The charges address Bishop Smiths actions to freeze bank accounts and custodial funds and securities of Bishop Seabury Church, Groton; Christ Church, Watertown; Christ and the Epiphany Church, East Haven; and St. Johns Church, Bristol. By these actions, he placed funds and securities under his direction and control, thereby assuming management of the church for himself rather than the parish vestries.
The charges also document Bishop Smiths non-canonical and illegal actions with regard to St. Johns, Bristol, where he seized church property and records; changed locks, thereby denying access to the building to vestry members; and appointed his representative as parish administrator. Bishop Smith also appointed a priest-in-charge thereby interfering with the vestrys responsibility for the parish-clergy relationship.
Both canon law and Connecticut law stipulate that the duly elected church boards, or vestries, are to serve as agents and legal representatives of Episcopal parishes. In addition, vestries are given the responsibility for the direction, management and control of parish property and business affairs. The charges assert that Bishop Smiths actions clearly violate canon and civil law, as he has assumed ownership and management of parishes and prevented vestries of the four parishes from carrying out their canonical and civil roles as the agents and legal representatives of their respective parishes.
In addition, Bishop Smith is charged with denying six Connecticut priests canonical due process, as he failed to meet numerous provisions for clergy charged with a violation of the canons. He accused the six Connecticut clergy of abandonment of communion under Canon IV. 10, a provision reserved for those who have left the Episcopal Church in order to join another denomination. Bishop Smith appears to use this charge as a device to avoid the clergys receiving an ecclesiastical trial and canonical due process. Bishop Smith was advised mid-April that accusations of abandonment of communion in such circumstances were deemed invalid by the Presiding Bishop when used by Bishop Charles Bennison, Diocese of Pennsylvania.
Upon receipt of the charges, the Presiding Bishop is required by canon law to communicate the charge to Bishop Smith and forward the charge to a Review Committee no later than 90 days after it is received. The Review Committee, along with an attorney representing ECUSA in the matter, will determine whether the charges constitute a formal presentment (call for adjudication), much as a grand jury determines if an individual charged with a crime should proceed to trial.
Charges against a bishop are rare and reserved as a last resort for extreme cases of abuse of canon and/or civil law. The charges against Bishop Smith speak to the egregious nature of his actions and failed leadership in the Diocese of Connecticut.
The six Connecticut parishes have been in conflict with Bishop Smith over his longstanding record of theology and actions that are contrary to Scripture as well as to Anglican teaching and tradition.
The complete filing is here.
I think you can make a serious case that the Episcopal left would benefit by throwing Andrew Smith over the side. ECUSA's conservatives are, of course, appalled by all of Smith's actions in this case and the silence of ECUSA's liberals suggests that many of them think that Smith went way too far. And as anyone who's been following this story knows, the Connecticut situation has outraged conservative Episcopalians, lay and ordained, all over the nation like nothing since Robbie got his pointy hat.
Were I an Episcopal liberal, I wouldn't shed too many tears if Smith were found guilty or "persuaded" to resign if only because it would show the rest of the Anglican world that ECUSA can discipline one of its bishops and it would take a good deal of steam out of the conservatives. Despite all that, though, I don't think that much of anything will happen. I expect ECUSA to go Walter Righter again.
They'll meet, they'll have a trial, they'll decide that they can't decide anything and Smith will keep his job. At that point, the next big question becomes what Episcopal conservatives will do when that happens. Will the Connecticut Six immediately throw in with AMiA? Or will one of the Network bishops throw down the gauntlet, offer oversight to the six parishes and visit one of them the following Sunday? Stay tuned.
Title IV Review Committee
2003 - 2006
|Causey Jr., Mr. J. P.||Virginia, III|
|Creighton, The Rt. Rev. Michael W.||Central Pennsylvania, III|
|Harris, The Rt. Rev. Barbara C.||Massachusetts, I|
|Henderson Jr., The Rt. Rev. Dorsey F.||Upper South Carolina, IV|
|Hunt Esq., Jim|
|Keil-Kuhr, The Rev. Carolyn S.||Montana, VI|
|Keyser, The Rt. Rev. Charles L. (Chair)||Montana, VI|
|Kirby, The Very Rev. H. Scott||Eau Claire, V|
|Stokes, Mrs. Deborah J.||Southern Ohio, V|
|Waggoner Jr., The Rt. Rev. James Edward||Spokane, VIII||
I will say the a Bishop who has shown a complete disregard for Canon Law will not take civilian law any more seriously. Perhaps the civilian courts can hold him accountable where ecclesiastical courts will not. I hope...
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