Her latest foray into jeffertsoning the canons was admittedly for a worthy cause. No one will ever want to call her on the carpet for it, because the subject of her action was a very good and well-beloved person. Nevertheless, the fact that she felt no compunction about rewriting the canons to suit a desired outcome is instructive as to her lack of restraint. The next time, we might not all be so lucky.
Here are the facts. In March 2007, the Rt. Rev. Dan Herzog, resigned Bishop of the Diocese of Albany, announced that he was making a voluntary renunciation of his orders in the Episcopal Church in order to become a member of the Roman Catholic Church. (The article on this event which appeared in The Living Church is no longer accessible on line, but Baby Blue quoted much of it in this post.) In doing so, he made use of the procedure for voluntary renunciation in Canon III.12.7(a), which reads:
If any Bishop of this Church not subject to the provisions of Canon IV.8 [i.e., under a presentment] shall declare, in writing, to the Presiding Bishop a renunciation of the ordained Ministry of this Church, and a desire to be removed therefrom, it shall be the duty of the Presiding Bishop to record the declaration and request so made. The Presiding Bishop, being satisfied that the person so declaring is not subject to the provisions of Canon IV.8 but is acting voluntarily and for causes, assigned or known, which do not affect the person's moral character, shall lay the matter before the Advisory Council to the Presiding Bishop, and with the advice and consent of a majority of the members of the Advisory Council the Presiding Bishop may pronounce that such renunciation is accepted, and that the Bishop is released from the obligations of all Ministerial offices, and is deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority as a Minister of God's Word and Sacraments conferred in Ordinations. The Presiding Bishop shall also declare in pronouncing and recording such action that it was for causes which do not affect the person's moral character, and shall, if desired, give a certificate to this effect to the person so removed.So far, so good -- this is what was done in 2007. Next in 2009, we are told that Bishop Herzog had a change of heart, and wanted to continue to serve the Diocese in which he had ministered for 35 years. He asked the current Bishop, the Rt. Rev. William Love, if he could come back to work as a priest. Bishop Love was overjoyed to welcome him, but asked if he would consider serving instead in his capacity as a retired bishop, and he agreed, provided that there was some way he could undo his renunciation of his orders.
Apparently contact was made with the Presiding Bishop, and the following plan was worked out. First, Mr. Herzog (since he was currently a lay person) would "rescind" his previous renunciation, and indicate his desire to retain his orders in the Episcopal Church (USA). This rescission would be delivered in writing to the Presiding Bishop, and then everyone would simply "unwind" the procedures previously taken under Canon III.12.7 above. The Presiding Bishop would show the letter of rescission to her Advisory Council, and confer with them. If she received a favorable indication from them, she would then "rescind" her declaration of removal, and pronounce Herzog again a (resigned -- that is, without jurisdiction) bishop in the Episcopal Church (USA).
All well and good -- right? The problem is that there is no provision in the Canons for doing what the Presiding Bishop and her Advisory Council claimed the power to do. Canon III.12.7 provides for a bishop to renounce his orders in the Church; it does not provide a means for him to be reinstated upon his "rescinding" his earlier renunciation.
And now more problems ensue -- as will happen when one invents new procedures that do not have any sanction in the Canons. For look at the Presiding Bishop's official formulation of her act, called a "Restoration document" (because obviously ENS has no idea what else to call it):
Upon the retraction of his Renunciation of Ordained Ministry in this Church, which retraction was made to me in writing on April 1, 2010, and his execution of the Declaration of Conformity prescribed by Article VIII of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church, and with the advice and consent of the Council of Advice to the Presiding Bishop, I have rescinded the Declaration of Removal and Release from the Ordained Ministry of this church, executed by me on September 6, 2007.
This is bothersome to anyone who lives by the Canons, and works with them all the time. Notice that it is the Presiding Bishop who is doing the "rescinding", and that what she says Bishop Herzog did was to retract his renunciation -- in fact, she uses that word twice.
What is the problem with using "retract"? As Father Eaton also notes, the only place one finds that word used in the canons to describe the withdrawal of a statement previously made is in the Abandonment Canons -- as in (for a bishop) Canon IV.9:
Sec. 1. If a Bishop abandons the communion of this Church (i) by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of this Church . . . it shall be the duty of the Review Committee, by a majority vote of All the Members, to certify the fact to the Presiding Bishop and with the certificate to send a statement of the acts or declarations which show such abandonment, which certificate and statement shall be recorded by the Presiding Bishop. The Presiding Bishop, with the consent of the three senior Bishops having jurisdiction in this Church, shall then inhibit the said Bishop until such time as the House of Bishops shall investigate the matter and act thereon. . . .
Sec. 2. The Presiding Bishop, or the presiding officer, shall forthwith give notice to the Bishop of the certification and Inhibition. Unless the inhibited Bishop, within two months, makes declaration by a Verified written statement to the Presiding Bishop, that the facts alleged in the certificate are false or utilizes the provisions of Canon IV.8 or Canon III.12.7, as applicable, the Bishop will be liable to Deposition. If the Presiding Bishop is reasonably satisfied that the statement constitutes (i) a good faith retraction of the declarations or acts relied upon in the certification to the Presiding Bishop . . . the Presiding Bishop, with the advice and consent of a majority of the three senior Bishops consenting to Inhibition, terminate the Inhibition. . . .
One sees from this excerpt that the procedures in Canon III.12.7 are an alternative to being deposed under Canon IV.9. A "retraction", within the meaning of Canon IV.9, is the disavowing of a previous act of renouncing the "Doctrine, Discipline or Worship" of the Church, which act was sufficiently overt to furnish grounds for a charge of abandonment. The first bishop to be charged with "abandonment" under the earliest version of this Canon, for instance, had simply left his post without resigning, and taken a voyage of indeterminate length to Europe, where word came back at last that he had joined the Roman Catholic Church -- without ever renouncing his orders in PECUSA, or asking the House of Bishops for permission to resign his see. He had clearly "abandoned" this Church, but in order to lawfully remove him from his position, this canon for dealing with such acts of abandonment had to be enacted first.
If a bishop first renounces his holy Orders in the Church before leaving it, then there is no need to invoke the Abandonment Canon to remove him; he has removed himself voluntarily. And that is why it is so strange for the Presiding Bishop to have resort to a procedure under the Abandonment Canon -- or at least to borrow its terminology -- to reinstate him.
Calling the document reinstating Bishop Herzog a "Restoration" document invokes the special terminology of yet another canon, which deals with modifying or remitting a sentence of deposition. Canon IV.15 defines "restoration" as follows:
Restored or Restoration shall mean the act of a Bishop or the Presiding Bishop remitting and terminating a Sentence imposed and returning a Member of the Clergy to good standing in the order to which the Member of the Clergy was ordained.
The problem here again is that Bishop Herzog was not under any "Sentence" imposed upon him; he had simply voluntarily given up his orders. So there was no "Sentence" to remit or terminate. But the Presiding Bishop required him to subscribe to a new Oath of Conformity -- exactly as is required in remitting a sentence of deposition under Canon IV.13.2:
That before such Remission, the Bishop shall require the person so Deposed, who desires to be restored to the ordained ministry, to subscribe to the declaration required in Article VIII of the Constitution.
Here again, however, we have a mishmash of the canons which makes no sense in Bishop Herzog's case. For the provision of Canon IV.13.2 which I just quoted deals with the restoration of priests and deacons to their ministry, not bishops. The procedure to "restore" a bishop is much more elaborate, requires much more than just the Presiding Bishop acting on her own (with or without her Advisory Council), and is set forth in Canon IV.13.1:
The House of Bishops may remit and terminate any judicial Sentence which may have been imposed upon a Bishop, or modify the same so far as to designate a precise period of time, or other specific contingency, on the occurrence of which the Sentence shall utterly cease, and be of no further force or effect; Provided, that no such Remission or modification shall be made except at a meeting of the House of Bishops, during the session of some General Convention, or at a special meeting of the House of Bishops, which shall be convened by the Presiding Bishop on the application of any five Bishops, after three months' notice in writing of the time, place, and object of the meeting being given to each Bishop; Provided, also, that the Remission or modification be assented to by not less than a majority of the Bishops . . . .
No one, as I say, quarrels with the restoration of Bishop Herzog to the episcopacy; he is beloved by all in the Church, and proved his dedication to it by service over thirty-five years. What troubles me here is the lack of respect for the canons by the Presiding Bishop, and her inventing procedures -- borrowing from this Canon and that one as she sees fit -- to suit her purposes.
In fact, I find it downright perplexing that she felt free to go this length to restore to his position an orthodox member of the clergy such as Bishop Herzog, and yet could not be troubled to adopt a similarly lenient posture to allow another orthodox Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Henry Scriven, to return to his mother Church in England without first insisting that he had renounced his holy Orders before doing so. One does not, under Canon III.12.7, renounce just one's orders in ECUSA; as we saw in the case of Bishop Herzog, one renounces one's orders in the one holy, catholic and apostolic church into which all members of the clergy are ordained. Thus, after his renunciation, Bishop Herzog entered the Roman Catholic Church as a lay person. Bishop Scriven, on the other hand, returned to the Diocese of Oxford with his orders intact -- at least as far as the Church of England and he himself were concerned. Both he and his Church regarded the Presiding Bishop's sentence of removal to be the meaningless and futile act it was.
"Meaningless and futile" characterizes so much of what ECUSA does these days, as far as the rest of the Anglican Communion is concerned. It is truly remarkable to find a Church where things are so out of balance. It spends nearly ten million dollars to come together in a triennial convention which devotes hours and hours to dealing with resolutions which are neither binding nor lasting, and which are largely for show. It also manages to have committees whose sole purpose is to propose amendments to the Constitution and Canons, which are also duly acted upon at each convention. But it steadfastly refuses to consider amendments to the canons which would fix the problems with how the renunciation and abandonment canons are currently interpreted and applied. (The latest Convention's complete revision of Title IV left intact the requirement that a "majority of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote" approve any motion to depose a bishop for "abandonment of communion" -- yet the Presiding Bishop unilaterally and routinely ignores that requirement, and pronounces deposition when only a majority of bishops with jurisdiction have so voted. Go figure.)
And now this latest maneuver of the Presiding Bishop sets one more precedent for failing to follow the canons. As a result, the Episcopal Church (USA) is now a church with one sole gatekeeper, who decides which bishops shall leave, which shall stay, and which shall be allowed to return. All power over such matters is concentrated in the hands of a single person, and evidently she and her colleagues like it that way, so that is the way it will be for at least six more years to come.
Please pray for our church.