Thursday, June 05, 2008

Anglican Curmudgeon: A primer on the crisis (the short version)

Excellent wrap-up of his longer posts by the Anglican Curmudgeon (A.S. Haley) [boldface mine]:

I have now devoted seven rather lengthy posts to the history and misuse, both past and current, of the "Abandonment of Communion by a Bishop" Canon (Canon IV.9). In response to some requests for a boiled-down, just-the-meat-of-it version, I am putting up this post. A printable version of it may be found here.

The Current Problem

The current problem can be summed up in the names of just two people: Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and her Chancellor, David Booth Beers. In recent proceedings under Canon IV.9 brought against the Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield and the Rt. Rev. William J. Cox (who had been, prior to his so-called "deposition," the most elderly Bishop of the Church), they ran roughshod over the plain requirements of the Canon. When they were called on what they had done, they gave audacious responses that denied that anything had been done wrong. Not only that, but Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori has just as audaciously announced her intention of going forward with a vote, at the next House of Bishops meeting in September, to depose the Rt. Reverend Robert Duncan from his see in the Diocese of Pittsburgh---on the same illegal basis as the one on which she proclaimed the "deposition" of Bishop Cox.

The Violations of the Canon

First, Canon IV.9 provides (see the end of this post for the text) that when charges of abandonment have been certified by the Title IV Review Committee, notice of the charges shall be given "forthwith" to the Bishop so charged. The charges against Bishop Cox were certified to Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori on May 29, 2007. She did not notify Bishop Cox of them until January 9, 2008---more than seven months later.

Second, before giving notice of the charges, the Presiding Bishop was required to seek the consent of the three most senior active Bishops in the House to inhibit Bishop Cox from performing any episcopal functions pending the vote on his deposition. She did not do so, and she did not obtain any consent to his inhibition, but obtained it in regard to Bishop Schofield.

Third, the Canon provides the "inhibited Bishop" with sixty days to respond to the charges, and says nothing about any further proceedings against a Bishop who was not inhibited. Notwithstanding that language, when Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori notified Bishop Cox of the charges, she told him he had sixty days to respond before he would be deposed.

Fourth, when the sixty days had run, the Presiding Bishop brought a resolution to consent to Bishop Cox's deposition before the House of Bishops at its meeting in Camp Allen on March 12. Again, the language of the Canon provides that only a Bishop who has been inhibited shall be "liable to deposition," but in clear violation of those words, she took up the resolution with the House anyway.

Fifth, the Canon requires that the House of Bishops give its consent to deposition "by a majority of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote." Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution spells out which Bishops are "entitled to vote" in the House---counting those both active and retired ("resigned" is the technical term), there were 294 such Bishops entitled to vote as of March 12. Thus a majority of that number would be 148. But only 131 Bishops registered at the meeting when it began on March 9, and that number was down to 116 as of the last day, the morning of March 12. By the time the resolutions to depose came up for discussion, the roll call registered just the bare minimum of active Bishops needed for a quorum: 68. The vote on the resolution was by voice only; no record of the actual votes exists. But it is obvious that the requirement for a minimum of 148 votes to approve the deposition could not possibly have been satisfied.

Notwithstanding all these defects in the procedure, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori signed certificates of deposition with respect to both Bishops shortly thereafter. When she was challenged on the procedures that had been violated, she defended her actions by saying that she had been advised throughout by her Chancellor, David Booth Beers, and he himself issued a statement that the depositions had been conducted properly. . .

Read it all.

No comments: