Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Making Heresy Pay: ECUSA's Hired Expert

In each of its multiple lawsuits against departed parishes and dioceses, ECUSA usually files a sworn statement ("affidavit" or "declaration") from Prof. Robert Bruce Mullin, who teaches at its General Theological Seminary in New York. Required discovery disclosures in some of the lawsuits have finally given opponents a handle on the degree of bias which Dr. Mullin brings to his task. Without mincing any words, let me come right to the point:
Over forty months from September 2007 through December 2010, ECUSA has paid Prof. Mullin, over and above his salary at GTS, a total of $672,020.00 in hourly fees. ECUSA has also paid to reimburse him for a further $8,487 in expenses he incurred in his researches, including travel to various locations to have his deposition taken, or to testify at trials.
Let me put that number into some perspective. It represents just over one percent of the $60 million ECUSA has borrowed against its headquarters at 815 Second Avenue in order to stay in business.

There are a number of subsidiary facts revealed by the discovery which are almost as amazing as the accumulated totals themselves:

  • Dr. Mullin has billed ECUSA for over 3,500 hours of work, although no precise total can be stated because he frequently makes errors in totalling his bills, which ECUSA catches only haphazardly.

  • Of his total hours, nearly 40%, or some 1,300 hours alone, has been for research on what he calls just "hierarchy" in his billing statements. (His statements are not detailed as to the work done on any given day. A typical entry will read just "2/04 6h30m hierarchy".)

  • The degree of oversight exercised by ECUSA with regard to his billings has been slender to none. Frequently Dr. Mullin will overstate the total of his hours actually recorded by two to four hours; ECUSA will on occasion correct his total, but by an amount which makes no sense, and which is even more incorrect than what was on the bill in the first place.

  • The total of some 3514 hours logged in the three years from September 2007 through September 2010 averages out to 95 hours per month, or 1,140 hours per year. That is way more than a half-time job -- about 4 1/3 hours per workday in an average month. On top of this, Dr. Mullin has maintained his teaching and lecturing duties at GTS throughout the same period.

  • At $200 per hour, however, the work ECUSA has paid Dr. Mullin to do has brought him an average of $18,107 per month for 37 months -- not bad for "half-time" work.

The conclusion any opposing attorney would draw from these facts speaks for itself: Paid to repeat the same opinions again and again, without deviation or substantive alteration, in diocese after diocese and court after court, Prof. Robert Bruce Mullin is no neutral "expert", but is a hired gun, whose livelihood largely depends on his keeping his connections with ECUSA -- and therefore on his testifying to their liking.

One also has to wonder about the motivations of ECUSA to spend the money it has on such hired expertise in each of its cases. Here is a breakdown of the amounts it has paid to Dr. Mullin by Diocese (arranged roughly in order of the billings):

Virginia - $46,485

Georgia - $66,060

Connecticut - $58,371

Ohio - $30,794

Colorado - $31,987

San Joaquin - $6,701

Rio Grande - $12,875

Fort Worth $47,400

Pittsburgh - $4,050

Quincy - $50,700

Milwaukee - $19,100

South Carolina - $27,450

Tennessee - $3,150

In addition to this, there are some $12,205 in billings for general work having to do with ECUSA and General Convention, plus (as already mentioned), the humongous sum of $263,180 billed for research into ECUSA's "hierarchy." (Thus, since much of the latter was done in connection with Dr. Mullin's multiple filings in the Fort Worth litigation, the total identified in his billings for just that Diocese is probably greatly understated. A realistic total would show that Fort Worth, instead of Georgia, is the Diocese for which Dr. Mullin was probably paid by far the most.)

One truly has to wonder, I say, about some of the amounts listed above -- for instance, the Diocese of South Carolina. Dr. Mullin's work there occurred in the period from December 2009 to February 2010, with another 24 hours logged in August 2010. The former period followed the decision by the Supreme Court of that State in September 2009 to invalidate all trusts purportedly created by the Dennis Canon. Since the case was over by that time, what was ECUSA paying Dr. Mullin to do? (Remember that Dr. Mullin never itemizes his bills. All that one can glean from them is that 24 hours, say, were spent for a given month on "SC" or "South Carolina".)

Ah, yes -- if one remembers, in December 2009 there was talk about ECUSA filing a petition for certiorari to review the South Carolina decision in the United States Supreme Court. And in February 2009, after obtaining an extension of time, the parish of All Saints Waccamaw, but not ECUSA itself, filed just such a petition. So apparently, David Booth Beers needed some help to understand ECUSA's history in South Carolina, to assist in in his eventual decision to file a brief in support of the parish's petition in March 2009.

And the 24 hours Dr. Mullin spent on South Carolina in August 2010? Recall, that was after the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence of the Diocese had announced the deferral of the annual Convention in light of the Presiding Bishop's moves to interfere in the internal affairs of the Diocese, and then a settlement had been negotiated between the two factions of All Saints itself, which resulted in a dismissal of the petition to the Supreme Court. These developments in March were followed by the scheduling of a special, reconvened session of the convention in October, to consider resolutions which would nullify the adoption by ECUSA of new disciplinary canons, and would otherwise emphasize in no uncertain terms the autonomy of the Diocese within the Episcopal Church (USA).

I can only guess, but sometime beforehand, in August or perhaps July 2010, a group calling itself the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina must have written a letter to the Presiding Bishop to complain about Bishop Lawrence's actions in stressing the Diocese's independence from the Church. This letter would have preceded the official complaint they made in September 2010 to the House of Bishops and to the Executive Council, and would have added fuel to Chancellor Beers's already ongoing investigation into charging Bishop Lawrence with "abandonment of the communion of this Church." Mullins' statements for August 2010 indicate ongoing research into "hierarchy" at the same time as his work on "South Carolina". Given that the former concept was then very much at stake in South Carolina, it would not be surprising if Chancellor Beers asked Prof. Mullin to draw up some historical arguments with which to counter what he and the Presiding Bishop viewed as a rebellion occurring on their watch.

There is much more to glean from a study of Dr. Mullin's invoices. There will be additional disclosures in a future post.


  1. From the link provided,

    "Professor Mullin is a scholar whose areas of specialty include American religious history, the history of Anglicanism and the Episcopal Church, denominationalism, miracles, and the history of American theology. He is the author of seven books and numerous articles. He is presently engaged in a study of the development of the church as an organization from the Civil War to the present. Much of this research is employed by the Chancellor’s Office of the Episcopal Church (for whom he is a consultant) in various church property disputes across the nation."

    Research? If he teaches this stuff, he ought to know it already.

    You may want to check and make sure that 815's budget does not have a line item in there called "Research Grants."

  2. Hmmmm....$650K
    The total plate and pledge for the diocese of N Michigan for a year-

  3. Thank you for that comparison, T.J. McMahon -- here is the link in clickable form. There is truly a gulf between spending at the parish (or even diocesan)level, and spending at the national level.

    UP, there are some good studies out there about the holes and gaps in Prof. Mullin's "research", which has been heavily scrutinized because of ECUSA's equally heavy dependence on it in all its litigation. Perhaps the various authors might be encouraged to publish their critiques of what ECUSA has so dearly bought.

  4. "That is way more than a half-time job -- about 4 1/3 hours per workday in an average month."

    As the former Reference Librarian of the GTS Library, the one who sat 10 feet away from Prof. Mullin everyday for over 2 years, I will say this appears to be an accurate figure. Any student of GTS from over the past several years has seen Prof. Mullin at his table in the library from the morning till evening just about every weekday except when he was traveling for depositions.

    @Underground Pewster: "If he teaches this stuff, he ought to know it already."

    He teaches a lot of it, but there is a huge difference between teaching the themes and trends of 220 odd years history, and knowing the wording and changes to the canons of all the dioceses involved in the lawsuits.

    That said, I am not a lawyer, or an member of TEC, so I don't really have a dog in this fight.

  5. Remind me not to stand anywhere near Dr. Mullin in the judgement.

    Heck, Judas only took 40 pieces of silver. And he threw it back in regret.

  6. Mark, I think Judas was reported as receiving only thirty pieces of silver, but hey -- who's counting these days, especially at ECUSA?


  7. This is a post which is naturally of some interest to me.

    For the record, I've been one of the "hired guns," on the other side and have had occasion to slog my way through Dr. Mullin's prose.

    After Allan's exhaustive recounting, I was curious enough to go back and check my files.

    After roughly a year of research, I have completed some 695 hours on behalf of the Diocese of Quincy, at a cost to them of roughly $25,000, and 116 hours on behalf of the Diocese of Fort Worth, at a cost to them of $3,400.

    Since I was using material for which Quincy had largely paid to write Fort Worth's affidavit, I split my writing fee for the latter and had the Diocese gift back half the money to Quincy.

    I mention this not out of self-congratulation as I still think I was overpaid (but since my wife was writing up her dissertation and academe doesn't appear to need my services, we really needed the money), but for purposes of comparison.

  8. Am I the only who thinks that the word "schiester" should apply to Professor Mullin?

  9. He has just made a "contribution" to the case against our parish here in Omaha, Nebraska as well!


  10. I hope that any of us that happened to read the following portion of the "Ordering of the Church" chapter (that references Dr. Mullin as a source in its footnotes) of the "Ministry in Daily Life" section of the TEC web site might be forgiven for our not understanding, at least until we read your revelatory blog post, just how definitively hierarchical the TEC has retrospectively become since Prof. Mullin started billing the TEC to testify as to the long history of its hierarchical character:

    "American Episcopalianism was forged in the context of
    industrial revolution,
    democratic experimentation, and
    religious pluralism.

    Early Americans who were still committed to Anglicanism needed to recreate their church in a democratic mode - a hierarchical church with presumptions of prelacy was inappropriate in the new nation."

    I agree with the stated position of the TEC's Standing Commission on Ministry Development that a hierarchical church (particularly one increasingly held hostage by ill-trained, self-indulgent, and occasionally even thuggish hierarchs) is "inappropriate" for us anglicans here in america.

    P.S. Concerns about Mullin's academic integrity and competence add just one more chapter to the lengthy treatise on why General Theological Seminary should have been forced to file for financial bankruptcy (it achieved academic and theological irrelevance a couple of decades ago) when it over-leveraged itself and allegedly defrauded (one generously presumes inadvertently, not intentionally as some have suggested) its primary bank lenders a few years ago.

  11. For those wondering how to find the document Dharma Bum discusses, here is a link to the page with the quotation he references.

    It is worth noting that this passage appears in a study on the theology of ministry, prepared by the Standing Commission on Ministry Development for General Convention 2000 -- before all the subsequent litigation began. The document provides evidence of how the official line at ECUSA changed within the space of just seven years -- largely with the cooperation and assistance of Prof. Mullin.

    Thank you for that reference, Dharma Bum!