Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bishopsgate Plot Thickens: Complaint Timed to Intimidate Witness

Over at StandFirm, there is a copy of a message sent out by the Rt. Rev. John W. Howe of Central Florida about the complaint made to the Disciplinary Board for Bishops against him for signing his name to an amicus brief filed with the Texas Supreme Court in the Fort Worth litigation. The brief, written by the Anglican Communion Institute, took issue with the ahistorical and very questionable position being advanced by ECUSA in the Texas courts that it is in a hierarchical relationship with its own member dioceses.

It is as if the United Nations -- to take a parallel example of a conglomeration of individual members -- were to claim that it could order its members what to do, or could prevent them from withdrawing any time they so choose. Bishop Howe and six other Bishops in ECUSA, along with the ACI scholars, merely pointed out the obvious flaws in 815's argument.

Bishop Howe writes, in part:
I am at a complete loss to know how the filing of this brief could constitute an offense for which any of us could be charged! 
At this point, formal “charges” have not been filed. A “complaint” has been submitted, but we have not been told who filed it. 
My understanding is that Bishop Matthews (Director of the Office for Pastoral Development, and “Intake Officer” regarding this matter) could dismiss the complaint on his own reconnaissance - unless the Presiding Bishop were to direct otherwise....
Well, Bishop Howe -- and any others who may be wondering about both the timing and the substance of these complaints -- let me shed some further light on the matter for you.

It turns out that in the Diocese of Quincy litigation, each side was scheduled to file last Friday, June 29, a list of the witnesses, both lay and expert, whom they plan to call to the stand at the trial scheduled for next April.

What a curious coincidence, then, that on the day before the Anglican Diocese of Quincy had to file its statement (i.e., on June 28), one of the Bishops which they planned to list as an expert witness received an email from the Intake Officer, the Rt. Rev. F. Clayton Matthews, that a complaint had been lodged against the Bishop for providing testimony earlier in that same case.

To drive the point home, the Intake Officer did not say in his email anything like "Of course, I find the acts alleged could never constitute an offense under the Canons, and will be recommending dismissal of the complaint." No, instead, what he said was just the opposite: "In the next few weeks, I will institute disciplinary proceedings [under the new Title IV] ..."

The timing of the complaint, and the instant notification by email to the concerned Bishop, while hinting at several weeks delay in actually looking at the sufficiency of the charges, could not be a coincidence. 

It has to have been a calculated effort to intimidate -- not just this particular Bishop, but any of the nine Bishops who might be thinking of offering testimony on behalf of the Diocese of Quincy. 

And now, your Curmudgeon comes to the most disturbing question: Who knew??

Who knew about the court's deadline for naming witnesses in Quincy, but at the same time knew about the filings in Fort Worth -- and also knew about how disciplinary proceedings against Bishops worked under the new Title IV?

As a reader has reminded me, there are candidates in two categories: (1) bishops involved in the litigation; and (2) attorneys involved in the litigation.

As for bishops, both the Rt. Rev. C. Wallis Ohl, Jr., the Provisional Bishop of Fort Worth and the Rt. Rev. John C. Buchanan, the Provisional Bishop of Quincy, are involved on the ECUSA side. And of those two, Bishop Buchanan would have read the Quincy affidavits, and would also have known about each side's deadline to designate witnesses. Moreover, Bishop Buchanan is the bishop whom the Presiding Bishop has designated to sign and verify pleadings on behalf of the Episcopal Church (USA). He also serves at her pleasure as the Parliamentarian of the House of Bishops.

As for attorneys, there is only one law firm which is involved in both cases. And there is one attorney in that law firm who also happens to be the Presiding Bishop's Chancellor. His name is David Booth Beers.

There is also only one attorney on the Presiding Bishop's own staff who also could have known about all three items, and she used to work under Mr. Beers. Since then, she was hired by the Presiding Bishop as her "Special Assistant for Property Litigation" -- i.e., the Quincy case, among others. Her name is Mary E. Kostel.

So we have one Bishop and two attorneys who happened to be in the unique position of having the big picture in front of them: the Bishops who had submitted testimony in Quincy, the Bishops who had signed the amicus brief offering similar arguments in Texas, and the need for Quincy to commit itself to the expert Episcopal  witnesses it would be calling at trial.

When it comes to Church property litigation, Bishop Buchanan and those attorneys all work directly for the Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Who just happens to be the "Diocesan Bishop" with authority to agree to dismiss the complaints filed against the Bishops.

Enough said. This whole affair reeks to high heaven.

Post scriptum: The intimidation did not work. The Bishop told the Quincy attorneys to keep his name on the list, and he will testify in April. And by the way -- for those who are as outraged about these tactics as I am, you should know that the little Diocese of Quincy, whose savings and bank funds the Episcopal Church bullies managed to have frozen at the outset of the litigation, could use some financial help as it faces the trial against those same bullies in April. Send your donations, marked "Quincy" on the memo line, but made out to the "American Anglican Council", at 2296 Henderson Mill Road, NE, Suite 406, Atlanta, GA 30345-2739.


  1. Sir,

    We still do not know who filed the complaints or why. They are in fact complaints, not charges. They are before the Intake Officer for review and until the Intake Officer's review is complete I do not expect we'll know much more factually.

    I am praying for all involved in this matter. I question whether it is right and proper to accuse various parties of unethical and immoral behavior given the absence of facts. Your thoughts, sir?

  2. SFiTC, there is too much legally at stake in the courts for the timing of these complaints to have been sheer coincidence. (Complaints, by the way, involve charges. See my comment to Grandmere Mimi at this post.)

    The article makes no accusations, but lays out the timing and the relevant other facts, and then lets the reader draw his or her own conclusions.

    As for those at 815 involved in this affair, and who may read this post, I say: Honi soit qui mal y pense.

  3. Isn't this witness tampering? The person with this question was wildcard from a thread over at T19.

  4. I will talk to my wife about a donation for the defense of Quincy. We are far from rich, and have had real financial trouble as recently as late 2011 or early 2012, but the Lord has blessed us much recently, has helped us right our financial ship, and I feel this is one cause that is worthy of our money.

    In the meantime, maybe all of us together could take some time over the 4th to pray the 25 Psalm together?

    "To you, O LORD, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in you: let me not be ashamed, let not my enemies triumph over me. Yes, let none that wait on you be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause. Show me your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me: for you are the God of my salvation; on you do I wait all the day. Remember, O LORD, your tender mercies and your loving kindnesses; for they have been ever of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to your mercy remember you me for your goodness' sake, O LORD. Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way. All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth to such as keep his covenant and his testimonies. For your name's sake, O LORD, pardon my iniquity; for it is great. What man is he that fears the LORD? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose. His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth. The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the LORD; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net. Turn you to me, and have mercy on me; for I am desolate and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring you me out of my distresses. Look on my affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins. Consider my enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred. O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in you. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on you. Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles."

    I'm going to try to pray this Psalm a few different times tomorrow for Quincy.

  5. MF, I have been asked before about the crime of “witness tampering.” It is not possible to provide a thorough answer.

    First of all, crimes are specific to each State (unless a federal court is involved, which is not the case here). So an Illinois criminal attorney would be the best one to ask here. There may be degrees of tampering, which might include threats or intimidation on the one hand, or dismissal from one’s job or other such retaliation, etc.

    Second, the attempt to intimidate, if that is indeed what it was, did not succeed. So we would not have a full, completed offense, but only an attempted one.

    Third, all crimes must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. At this point, we have no such proof, but only a striking coincidence.

    That said, the attorneys for the Diocese of Quincy might be able (if they receive enough donations to cover the cost) to depose Bishop Buchanan, and ask what role, if any, he played in alerting either the Church or Bishop Matthews to the filings. The answer would be most interesting.

  6. TRR, thank you so much for prayers and for considering donating what you can. I know that the people in the Anglican Diocese would be most grateful.

  7. TRR, as a member of the Diocese of Quincy, I thank you - for your prayers and any donation you might make, but mostly for your prayers.

    Thanks for this post, also. It is telling that this type of behavior is not surprising. I just wish they'd quit it.

  8. I put my small check in the mail today. (I would liked to have given more, but we're buying new school uniforms for my eldest daughter next week.) I want to give again next month. Had I known about Ohl's and Buchanan's letter before I put the check in the envelop, I might have doubled the amount. Thank God I have never walked into a church pastored by these two men.