Monday, October 19, 2009

Ms. Jefferts Schori, Produce the Letters!

Concerning the "renunciation of the ordained Ministry of this Church" by the Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman, resigned diocesan of Quincy, the Presiding Bishop said (emphasis added):

In accordance with Title III, Canon 12, Section 7 of the Canons of the Episcopal Church, and with the advice and consent of the Advisory Council to the Presiding Bishop, I have accepted the renunciation of the Ordained Ministry of this Church, made in writing to me in July 2009 by The Right Rev. Keith L. Ackerman, Bishop of Quincy, Resigned . . .
But Bishop Ackerman says (emphasis again added):
I have not renounced, and in fact, in my first handwritten letter indicated that my intention was not to be seen as either "abandonment of the Communion" or "Renunciation."
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church wrote to Bishop Ackerman as follows (emphasis added):
Thank you for your follow up note regarding your plans to function as a bishop in the Diocese of Bolivia in the Province of the Southern Cone.
But Bishop Ackerman says (emphasis added):
After two months with no communication, I sent another handwritten, unduplicated letter in early October asking about this matter.
Bishop Ackerman describes his earlier handwritten letter to the Presiding Bishop (the one sent in July 2009 which she says constituted his "renunciation") as follows (emphasis again added):
This letter was handwritten, sharing with the Presiding Bishop my current health, my new ministry with the homeless, my desire to assist another Anglican partner in ministry in Bolivia and, at their invitation, to participate informally (seat but no voice and no vote) in the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone. At no time did I express dissatisfaction with the Episcopal Church, or make any statement of a desire to be separated from it.
The Presiding Bishop, without bothering to call Bishop Ackerman or ask him for any clarification, took the language I have emphasized as his "plans to function as a bishop in the Diocese of Bolivia". Note the difference: sitting by invitation without voice or vote in the House of Bishops of the Province of the Southern Cone is not "functioning as a Bishop in the Diocese of Bolivia." (News reports that speak of a "House of Bishops" for the Diocese of Bolivia make no sense. There is no House of Bishops for a single diocese; the Bishop of Bolivia is a member of the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone.)

The Presiding Bishop wrote to Bishop Ackerman (emphasis added):
As you know, there is no provision for transferring a bishop to another Province.
But Bishop Ackerman says:
At no time did I request transfer to the Southern Cone.
[UPDATE 10/20/2009: Bishop Ackerman has now clarified that he did request a transfer to Bolivia. (See the comment by Father Rob Eaton below.) However, he asked it of the wrong authority (see my response to Father Eaton); and it does not change the wrongful character of his removal from the ordained ministry.]

It is clear that either the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (USA) or Bishop Ackerman must be lying. The one person who can clear this up is the Presiding Bishop: since Bishop Ackerman says he kept no copies of his handwritten letters, the Presiding Bishop should produce them for everyone to see exactly what they said, and exactly how they constituted a statement of renunciation. An official statement of renunciation is not the same thing as a private letter: it forms a part of Bishop Ackerman's record at ECUSA, and since it was the basis for removing him from his ministry, it should be open for anyone to inspect.

Ronald Reagan famously said: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

I am not the president of anything, but as members in good standing of the Episcopal Church (USA), any of us can say to the Presiding Bishop: "Ms. Jefferts Schori, produce those letters!"

Will some bishops who do have regular access to the Presiding Bishop please join us in demanding to see the letters?

There is the stuff of a presentment here, if it should be clear from the letters that the Presiding Bishop has lied in order to remove a bishop from the Church. And not just the Presiding Bishop should be charged, but also the two subscribing witnesses, Bishop Mark Beckwith of Newark and Bishop Herbert A. Donovan, Jr., assistant to the Presiding Bishop for Anglican Communion relations, together with all of the twelve bishops on the Council of Advice who concurred in "accepting" Bishop Ackerman's "renunciation."

Make no mistake: there cannot be two versions of the truth here. Bishop Ackerman not only says he did not ask for a transfer, but made clear as well that he would not be functioning officially as a bishop in the Diocese of Bolivia, and did not want anything in his letter to be taken as "abandonment of communion" or as renunciation. Yet the Presiding Bishop and her Council of Advice did exactly the opposite.

Is the Church to be ruled by cabal, or by bishops who are open and accountable to their colleagues, and to the members of the Church who pay their salaries? Watch closely what happens in the coming days. If the Presiding Bishop does not produce the letters, and if no member of the House of Bishops (active or resigned) calls upon her to do so, then the fix is in.

Neva Rae Fox, 815's program officer for public affairs, says that the Presiding Bishop will probably not respond to Bishop Ackerman, or have a statement in response to his remarks. So it is up to all of us to raise the hue and cry:

"Ms. Jefferts Schori, produce the letters!"

[UPDATE 11/05/09: Apparently, Bishop Ackerman does not wish to pursue this matter any further. (See the last two comments below.) While I could never fault him for deciding to keep this matter at a personal level between him and the Presiding Bishop, I am disappointed that we have yet one more instance of where the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori is able to have her way by default. I take solace (as must he, as well) in the words of Our Lord and Saviour: " . . . turn the other cheek."]


  1. Splendid idea !!!

    Her contact information per the TEC site is:

    The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
    Presiding Bishop and Primate
    815 Second Avenue
    New York City, NY 10017
    (212) 716-6273 • (800) 334-7626

  2. A.S. - is there a way to send emails to 815?

  3. This is such a travesty. When someone has to photocopy their personal correspondence so they are not misconstrued, misquoted, or railroaded out of a church.

  4. Having had Bishop Ackerman as my parish priest in the past, I cannot see him as lying. He is a most Godly man.

    However, Ms. Jefferts-Schori has constantly twisted the truth. She reads into words things that are not there as long as those things suit her ends. She is not worthy to be a priest nor a bishop because of her person (as well, in my belief, her sex).

    She will not bring forth the letters because they will show what a lie her actions are. She and the rest of the powers to be of TEC are ruled by this world and the prince of it. They will continue to act from Evil.

  5. Thanks. My thought is to flood them with emails requesting that she produce the handwritten letters from +Bp Ackerman and as well produce the pages from the ECUSA C&C stating that she is indeed "allowed" to remove a Bishop as she did. I doubt anyone would get a reply.

  6. Dear Mr. Haley,

    Were not one already departed for Roman precincts, one would be sorely tempted to ask, with respect to the Presiding Bishop of TEC, "will no one rid us of this turbulent priest?" What utter rot and corruption from the leader of a body that purports to be Christian. I can scarcely believe that I have lived long enough to witness such craven and Godless behaviors. The PB appears morally and rationally unqualified to be a juror in a civil trial, let alone the Presiding Bishop of a Province of the Anglican Communion.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  7. From AnglicansUnited weblog, Oct 19:

    Bp Ackerman: (Read his statement, above.0 For clarification , I want to state that I did ask to be transferred to the Diocese of Bolivia.

    Fr. Wetzel: Each of you received an advance copy of the statement? Also received copies of PB’s communication ? Good. Gentlemen, the floor is open for questions:

    Doug LeBlanc: I appreciate the clarification that you did request transfer to the diocese of Bolivia. Would you address the sense that anytime a bishop requests transfer to a diocese outside of the US, the Presiding Bishop takes this as disinterest in TEC.

  8. Thanks, Father Rob, for that cite to Bishop Ackerman's clarification, and I will note it in the text. All it serves to point out, however, is that both Bishop Ackerman and our Presiding Bishop are ignorant of how the Canons work. Bishop Ackerman had no business asking the Presiding Bishop for a transfer; he should have gone to the Standing Committee of his former Diocese and asked it (as the Ecclesiastical Authority) for letters dimissory, which would have been readily granted. Alternatively, since he was still canonically resident in that Diocese, he could simply have requested a license from the Southern Cone!

    And the Presiding Bishop still had no cause whatsoever under any of the Canons to treat a request for a transfer, however misguided, as a "renunciation" of ministry.

  9. I think the "Show me the letters!" policy is wise.

    I'd like to say that 'ignorance of the canons' was disingenuous but have to admit you're probably right. Regardless, at some point the axe was going to fall, canons and devil take the hindmost.

    Out of interest, what's +Burton's canonical status? Licensed by Dallas? Odd to see how easy it can be when the players are basically on the same team.

    Thanks for continued excellent commentary.

  10. LSP, on reconsideration, "ignorance" is too harsh a word to use for Bishop Ackerman; I take that back, and apologize to him. After all that he had recently been through, and being in Texas and not Illinois, probably the last thing to enter his mind was: "now how should I do this canonically?" He is a generous and trusting spirit, and he simply wrote to the chief pastor of the Church in that same vein for her advice and counsel. The trouble is, it was no different from Little Red Riding Hood's innocent mistake with a wolf dressed up like her grandmother.

    Anthony Burton resigned his episcopacy in Saskatchewan in the ACoC to accept the post of rector at Incarnation in Dallas, and has also (according to the clergy directory) transferred his canonical residence there. As far as I know, the ACoC had no need to depose him under their canons, or to deprive him of his ordained ministry for doing so. Interestingly enough, as the Bishop of Saskatchewan he could sign his own letters dimissory if Bishop Stanton had any need for them.

  11. Thanks for that; the +Burton business is by no means isolated - I rather doubt +Michael Marshall's been inhibited for renouncing anything either.

    Love the 'red riding hood' point. I was good of the wolfish Boy Bishop to cut off his health insurance - isn't there a special 'pastoral fund' for situations like +KA's?

  12. So, I sent an email to Shori's office requesting copies of the letters be emailed to me or that they be posted somewhere online. That email was send on Tues 10/20. To date, no response, not even an automated one. Tick tock...tick tock...

  13. 11/5/09 - received the following email from Shori. (my servant? yeah, right!!)


    Dear Mr. Johnson,

    The following is from Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

    Miguel Angel Escobar
    Office of the Presiding Bishop


    Dear Mr. Johnson,

    I am unable to accede to your request, as Keith Ackerman has asked that I not publish his letters to me. I would encourage you to speak to your own diocesan bishop if you have concerns about this matter.

    I remain

    Your servant in Christ,

    Katharine Jefferts Schori

  14. David J, thank you for reporting that email. It is the first confirmation of which I am aware that Bishop Ackerman requested that this matter be kept private, and that his letters not be released. (Sigh.) Score one more for the tyranny at 815!

  15. Understandable under the Ackermans' reported current circumstances; but a sore disappointment, indeed.

    Unfortunately, the only thing the Schoris and the episcopal church cabal types understand is unadulterated brute force. They consider kindness, fairness, forgiveness, and common decency weaknesses to lustfully be taken advantage of.

    There will, however, eventually be an Anglican or, better yet, an inspired group of Anglicans, who SHALL step up to the plate and play exquisite hardball.......they will have brilliant legal acumen, the hearts of a lions, the armor of the Lord, and the Spirit of God Almighty leading them forward.

    Until then............Schori and comrades will gleefully win, scoff at the losers, and joyfully drag their ill gotten gains merrily to the bank to finance the demise of their next unwitting victims.