Friday, October 19, 2012

Once Again, Conflicts Galore on the Kangaroo Court

I am now confident that whoever may be in my limited audience, it is not anyone connected with the august Disciplinary Board for Bishops ("DBB" -- funny how those initials are the same as those of the Presiding Bishop's Chancellor, who is acting totally in concert with the Board to achieve its nefarious ends). The DBB was created under the provisions of the new Title IV adopted by ECUSA's General Convention at Anaheim -- after just fifteen minutes of debate -- in 2009.

The reason I can make that statement is that the DBB continues on its merry way, utterly oblivious to the conflicts which would disqualify many of its members from ever sitting as a judge at law (and one of them is a sitting judge). As far as the Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson and his legal counsel are concerned, the usual pattern of ignoring such problems altogether is the best way to conduct the Church's "business as usual," which has the goal of ridding itself of meddlesome bishops on flimsy and risible charges.

Example #1 in point: Bishop M. Thomas Shaw of Massachusetts has himself "abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church (USA)", by an "open renunciation of the Discipline of the Church" -- exactly as the DBB, on which he sits, has proclaimed that +Mark Lawrence has done. Bishop Shaw, as we know, defied both the marriage canons and the Book of Common Prayer rubrics by interpreting Resolution C056 ("Liturgies for Blessings" [emphasis added]) adopted by General Convention in 2009 to allow him to authorize clergy in his Diocese to perform same-sex marriages, and then performed such a ceremony himself. According to Bishop Shaw, he and his suffragan bishops are the final authority on what the Canons and Resolutions of General Convention mean in their Diocese. So why is not Bishop Lawrence just as final an authority on the meaning of those same Canons in his Diocese, as well? And how can Bishop Shaw, having made that assertion (which in fact, is entirely correct), now seek to hold Bishop Lawrence liable for the latter's own judgment of the meaning they are to have in his Diocese?

Talk about hypocrisy -- but the members of the DBB (as well as David Booth Beers himself) are immersed in it up to their necks, day in and day out.

Example #2: Bishop Ian Douglas of Connecticut has likewise "abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church (USA)" by heading a diocese which has never acceded to the Canons of General Convention, but only to the Church's Constitution. And yet he now is presuming to judge whether, by leading his Diocese to remove its previous accession to the Canons of General Convention, Bishop Lawrence has thereby "abandoned" communion with ECUSA.

Example #3: Bishop Herman Hollerith, Bishop of Southern Virginia, should have been brought before the DBB before they ever took up the case of Bishop Lawrence. In the proud and autonomous tradition of his parent Diocese of Virginia, which (like South Carolina) was one of the founding Dioceses of the Church, the Constitution of Bishop Hollerith's Diocese contains no accession clause of any kind whatsoever -- either to ECUSA's Constitution or to its Canons. And yet the DBB on which he sits has charged Bishop Lawrence with "abandonment" for his diocese's act of withdrawing its accession to the national Canons.

Example #4: Bishop Dorsey L. Henderson (retired) of Upper South Carolina, the person heading up the inquiry into "abandonment" charges against Bishop Lawrence is the very Bishop who led the "Title IV Task Force II" which drafted and then presented the revisions to Title IV for General Convention to adopt! Bishop Henderson also headed the Title IV Task Force II, which was charged with the duty of educating everyone in the Church about the new disciplinary Canons. In that capacity, he supervised the publication, in its name, of a written memorandum defending the new Canons against the charges of unconstitutionality made by Bishop Lawrence and his chancellor! Finally, Bishop Henderson serves on the subcommittee to bring out a revised edition of White and Dykman's classic series of treatises on the Constitution and Canons -- and what do you suppose that new edition will have to say about the constitutionality of the new Title IV?

Are we getting "kangaroo" enough for you here? Also serving on both the White and Dykman subcommittee (as its Chair) and simultaneously on the Disciplinary Board is Ms. Diane Sammons, an attorney lay member from the Diocese of Newark. She was a deputy from that diocese when the new Title IV passed the House of Deputies in 2009, and chaired the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons at that Convention, which reported the new Title IV to the Houses for approval (caution: 1175 page .pdf, of which the pertinent information is on [printed] page 7 [page 15 of the .pdf]).

Practically all of the other Bishops and lay members on the Disciplinary Review Board are potentially just as disqualified as the above-named members. The reason for their disqualification is that the vote to enact the new Title IV Canons passed the House of Bishops at Anaheim in 2009 (see printed page 227 of the 2009 Journal previously linked) without any recorded votes of dissent by any of the bishops currently on the Board, and likewise passed the House of Deputies by a wide margin. Unless the DBB members who were at Anaheim in 2009 can show that they opposed or abstained from voting on the new Title IV when it was adopted by their respective Houses, they are hopelessly prejudiced against the stand now being taken by Bishop Lawrence and his Diocese. The latter claim that the adoption of Title IV was not in accord with ECUSA's Constitution; but the all the DBB members voting for its passage in 2009 demonstrated  that they already disagreed with him -- even before the charges against him had been brought.

[Nota bene: The episcopal members of the DBB, to say nothing of the Presiding Bishop herself, are further disqualified because of their having personally been involved in the ascertainment of the facts -- when they had "private conversation" with Bishop Lawrence on a "point of personal privilege" in the House of Bishops at the General Convention last summer, in Indianapolis. See further on this below.]

For instance, the same 2009 Journal (at printed page 52) shows that the Rev. Canon Angela Shepherd served as a Deputy to the General Convention in 2009, and if she also voted for the new Title IV, she should not now serve in judgment of Bishop Lawrence. (Canon Shepherd was in the deputation from Maryland, which was chaired by the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool, soon to be elected suffragan bishop of Los Angeles.)

The only lay and clergy members of the DBB whose names I did not find in the 2009 Journal are the Hon. Joseph Alarid, who serves as a Judge of the New Mexico Court of Appeals; Ms. Josephine Powell; the Rev. Peggy Tuttle, and the Rev. Robert Two Bulls, Jr. That is just four of the current eighteen members.

I have saved a special case for last: Mr. William Fleener, Jr., who comes to the DBB after a long career as the Chancellor for the Diocese of Western Michigan. In that position, he and his bishop advocated the application of the Dennis Canon in a power struggle that enabled the raiding of a separate and independently incorporated endowment fund which had been set up for the failing Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids. Not only that, but he likewise served on the House of Deputies' Legislative Committee on the Canons in Anaheim in 2009 (Journal, p. 425), and as such reported the new Title IV to the House for its approval. Then he was elected at that Convention to the Court for Trial of a Bishop, on which he participated in the proceedings against the Rt. Rev. Charles Bennison, Jr. The judgment in which he joined, finding the Bishop guilty as charged notwithstanding the canonical statute of limitations, was eventually reversed on appeal.

But we have scarcely begun to detail Mr. Fleener's many conflicts of interest. For he was also, in this same period, an active blogger, and expressed his views on the Church's constitution and canons for all to see and read. Here, for instance, in an October 30, 2008 post which he titled "The Chancellor of the Diocese of Fort Worth misleads members of the Diocese,"  is what he had to say about the parallel situation in the Diocese of Fort Worth:
The Stand Firm blog has this posting about advice from the Chancellor of the Diocese of Fort Worth. The Chancellor who is unnamed in the post concludes that there is no violation of a fiduciary duty to any entity by voting to take a church or diocese out of the Episcopal Church. I have written often over the last few years that this is in fact not true. The Chancellor uses some neat statements of the law and some assumptions that most do not agree with and comes to the conclusion his Bishop wants. There are many problems with this conclusion.

The parishes (corporations) as they existed before "the troubles" were formed under articles of incorporation and canons that had the parish a part of TEC and they agreed to abide by the Constitution and Canons of TEC. Any act that a vestry member contemplates that removes this or violates this, violates their fiduciary duty to the corporation/parish as formed. They may feel they have a valid reason for violating the duty, but this is a completely different question. The Chancellor of the Diocese of Fort Worth would suggest that there is no duty and this is simply incorrect
On February 2, 2010, Mr. Fleener put up at his blog a post ("Report by Dissidents") which had this to say about the documentation of the persecution of ECUSA bishops, clergy and parishes carried on under Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori (and by individual dioceses before that):

... The alphabet soup that is dissident Anglicanism has released a report about how they were abused by the Episcopal Church. I was going to read it and then I read the article with its release. It contained this line.
This paper illustrates the lengths to which TEC leaders will go to silence the voices of orthodox Christians in the Anglican Communion - Anglicans whose only offense was to stand for the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and Anglican Communion teaching.
Wow. Only offense? How about taking property that doesn't belong to you? How about years of trying to undermine the Episcopal Church from within and when that wasn't going well leaving and trying to be members of both groups at the same time? How about "Seize the Day?" How about . . . I could go on and on. The idea that these are nice blameless people who have done nothing wrong is laughable. I decided not to read their rant. If they had some willingness to share some of the blame for these sad affairs I would have read it. But no. Not this group. Also missing I would guess (since I will not read it) is any mention of the lawsuits initiated by dissident groups.

If you want to read it, it is here.

But don't bother[. I]t will be exactly what you expect preening and posturing and a one sided description of activities that the[y] were mostly to blame for.
A nice showing of impartiality there, Mr. Fleener. Yes, you certainly must be qualified to sit in judgment of Bishop Lawrence's actions which the DBB claims constituted an "open renunciation of the Discipline" of ECUSA. For don't forget -- on October 28, 2009 you considered so noteworthy this hate piece by a San Francisco activist, specifically attacking Bishop Lawrence for his scriptural views, that you reproduced it in full on your blog.

Mr. Fleener's open partiality is welcomed on the Board, and considered par for its members. Your Curmudgeon's equally open partiality, however, is not so welcomed (the President of the House of Deputies recently informed me that she had chosen others to serve as the lay representatives on the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons).

The standards of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops include these provisions, which spell out the "impartiality" required of all bodies which exercise functions under the disciplinary canons (Canons IV.19.14-15; I have added my comments on their application to this case in italics):
Sec. 14. Impartiality of officials and bodies described in this Title shall be addressed as follows:
(a) Any Bishop Diocesan exercising authority under this Title shall disqualify herself or himself in any proceeding in which the Bishop's impartiality may reasonably be questioned.
Comment: According to the timeline published by the Diocese of South Carolina in this matter, Bishop Jefferts Schori agreed to meet with Bishop Lawrence, after the Disciplinary Board had already met and decided to bring charges against him. In that meeting, her only concern appears to have been how long Bishop Lawrence planned to stay at his post. Later, after she had restricted his ministry based on what she saw as valid charges of "abandonment", she still wanted to meet with him -- while keeping the charges "confidential." She saw no conflict in her having to judge (under current Canon IV.16; formerly Canon IV.9) the "good faith" of any response made to the charges, all the while that she also possessed the power to declare anything he said to her in defense as a "voluntary renunciation of his orders." Are those the actions of an "impartial" diocesan?
(b) Any member of any Panel provided for in this Title shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the member's impartiality may reasonably be questioned. The member shall also disqualify himself or herself when the member . . . (4) has personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding [such as the knowledge gained by listening to Bishop Lawrence in "private session" at the House of Bishops?], [or] (5) has a personal financial interest in the outcome of the proceeding . . . [such as the potential for being selected as the "provisional Bishop" to replace Bishop Lawrence, if he is deposed?]
And now, please get this next provision (IV.19.14 [c]), which in the context of the role to be played by the members of the DBB, is truly rich in irony:
(c) Any member of any Panel provided for in this Title who has not disqualified himself or herself as provided in this section may be subject to challenge by the Church Attorney . . . . The challenge shall be investigated by the remaining members of the Panel who shall determine whether the challenged member of the Panel should be disqualified and replaced according to the procedures of this Title for filling vacancies.
Let us see . . . in this post and in one previous to it on this topic, I have set forth the basis for why it would not be reasonable to think that fourteen of the Board's eighteen sitting members could act impartially in the matter of Bishop Lawrence. That leaves the four members named above as the sole judge of their colleagues' conflicts of interest.

But now those four have conflicted themselves out of the proceedings, as well. For there has been no announcement from Bishop Henderson that any of the Board's members recused themselves from considering the validity of the charges made against Bishop Lawrence. That being the case, it is now too late for those for to take up the "impartiality" of their colleagues -- they have joined with them, without open dissent or protest, in these kangaroo proceedings which would be laughable, were they not so tragic for the future of our Church.


  1. I have just lately read the book "Bonhoeffer", and I can't help noticing the similaritiy with Hitler (and the aquience of the German Lutheran Clergy & the willful blindness of the German people) vs. Bonhoeffer, and the Presiding Episcopal Bishop (with the support of most Bishops, Clergy, & indifferent Parrishoners) vs. Orthodox Dioceses & Parrishes.
    Granted, no one has yet been hung (as Bonhoeffer eventually was)...more like "hung out to dry". The are, however, confiscating property, as did The Third Reich.

    Extream ? Maybe...or maybe not.

  2. It was my mission to read through the entire posting of the Anglican Curmudgeon before voting for it. I have gone over it several times without any regret, and with some success in understanding the intricacies and interplay.
    It comes back to the same point. It is akin to fighting cockroaches.....or dealing with dirty dishes. There are always more. One can only wonder from whence cometh these people who can afford so much time to bedevil and sabotage the lives of the unsuspecting and the compliant.
    They want our word, our structures, our money, our vestments, our relics, our icons, our instruments of worship. They want us just enough "in" so that they can stay latched onto our monthly mite-box offerings, but not "in" so as to interfere with lesbian bishop appointments, marriage of homosexuals, and the teaching of Christianity as an interesting collection of mythological interpretations of mushroom parties.
    If we acquiesce to their demands, they might condescend to mention that we were what Episcopalians were considered to be back in the day when nothing mattered, just before they throw some earth-friendly sand on top of our caskets.
    If we can make it up to a parish that is truly 1928 and apart from all this madness or perhaps my wife and I can cross over to some denomination still practicing some form of Orthodox Christianity. But Saint John's Church in McAllen in the Diocese of West Texas is totally lost. It is a social club where the Word and the Message is lost and where tradition is followed by accident if at all. It is essentially a High Unitarian congregation, full of nice people being nice, while realising that Christianity has pretty much outlived its usefulness.
    My family was involved in the establishment of the first Anglican Church in Boston in the 1600s, and we have traced some of our dead to graveyards in English Churches throughout central East Anglia and down in Sussex to over nearly to the frontier with Wales back to the 1200AD period.
    What are we to do? Die quickly? Many of us who read the Rev. Mr. Haley's truly inspired analysis should demand of him to point to the summit and tell us when to charge, what to do, how to respond to this madness. As Englishmen we can argue with him a bit, but it would be better to use his intelligence and understanding to at least command some kind of guerilla resistance or to join a group that he could recommend.
    We have the luxury of a fairly well stock larder and the time that comes with being both self-employed and somewhat retired. Perhaps I am spoiling for a fight. In knowing that they cannot "beat" me or take anything from me, I can play brave, but I do feel like fighting.

    Thanks for this time and space, and pardon my morosive attitude and bellicose posture. Perhaps it is Benghazi showing.
    El Gringo Viejo

  3. Maxine Schell, thank you for that comment. I had already observed to several of my Episcopal friends that this outrageous action against +Lawrence, who has no more "abandoned" the Church than I have, could well constitute its "Bonhoeffer moment."

    We will have to see what comes next. If +KJS dares to declare that +Lawrence has "voluntarily renounced his orders," so as to spare her the need to present a coherent case to the House of Bishops for his deposition, then we shall truly have arrived there.

    Old Gringo, thank you so much for your support and willingness to stand at the ready. I am sure that in the days and months to come, there will be plenty of things for loyal Episcopalians to do to bring home to 815 the tremendous costs and disadvantages of having ventured to make such an illegal and despicable move. It could start, for example, with a movement to bring charges against each and every bishop on the DBB who has participated in such a blatant violation of the Abandonment Canon.

    More to follow as this develops -- stay tuned ...

  4. A.S.

    Were the pre-2009 Title IV Canons any "better" in dealing with conflicts of interest?

    I ask because while you seem to demonstrate fairly convincingly why the present Disciplinary Board is predisposed to find against Mark+, I'm not certain whether any church disciplinary body is always going to be able to find truly disinterested parties to sit on adjudicatory bodies when questions surrounding church polity arise.

    Historically, TEC's structures always seemed to rely on the judgment of individuals to recuse themselves where desirable and in times of theological polarization there will be great disinclination so to do.

    One has only to to think of the sorry spectacle of Bishop Onderdonk's trial (not that Onderdonk was blameless, merely that he was railroaded) to see that stacked church trials are not merely a contemporary phenomenon.

  5. Jeremy Bonner, thanks for reminding us of the Onderdonk trial, which was a piling on of Low Church types against a prominent High Church (Oxford Movement) type, just as today's proceedings (not a trial) against Bishop Lawrence are a piling on of heterodox types against a paradigm of the orthodox type.

    That being said, the standards for impartiality changed little between the 2006 and earlier versions of the Canons, and the new Title IV adopted in 2009. Nor, in fact, did the definition of what constitutes "abandonment", other than the narrowing of the definition of whose "communion" was "abandoned" by those acts.

    No, what changed began before the adoption of the new Title IV, when Bishop Charles E. Bennison, Jr. first thought to use the abandonment canon to remove without trial a priest (Father David Moyer) with whom he had theological disagreements. As I know you are aware, this was an abuse of that canon for which there was no precedent (and for those interested, they can read all the historical details in the posts linked at this page).

    Bishop Bennison's abuse of the abandonment canon was soon applied by our new Presiding Bishop to other bishops with whom she had theological disagreements, and the road has been downhill from there, as bishop after bishop has charged clergy going elsewhere within the Anglican Communion with "abandonment of communion."

    It was only with that transformation of the abandonment canon that we could set the stage for a parallel to the Onderdonk proceedings today, where the real reason for the charges has little to do with their substance, and much more to do with the theological disagreements between the two sides. And given that divide, as you say, true "impartiality" on the part of the accusers would be an oxymoron.

    The short and simple truth of what has happened with Bishop Lawrence is that he had the temerity, with his Chancellor, to challenge the validity of the work product of the Title IV Revision Task Forces. That work set up a new disciplinary body (the DBB) which was staffed almost entirely with people who had served on the Task Forces, or who had been involved in the passage of the new Title IV at GC 2009. So they are now using the mechanisms of their new DBB to rid the Church of a bishop with whom they cannot agree.

  6. Simply to multiply the list of violaters of canons and BCP, you could include The Rt. Rev. Mark Sisk, who wrote to his diocese immediately following convention granting permission to perform same-gender marriages in the Diocese of NY effective Sept 1, 2012.

  7. According to Wikipeda: "In the 1970s, the Presiding Bishop was given authority to enter dioceses for sacramental and preaching ministry, consulting with bishops, and related purposes." Is that accurate? I rather doubt it. This may be the wrong post in which to ask this, but I could not help but to be curious.

  8. No, Galletta, that is not accurate. The Presiding Bishop has no authority on her own to come into a Diocese and do anything episcopal there without the invitation and consent of the bishop of that diocese. The canonical changes in the 1970s simply placed a duty upon the PB to try to visit each diocese in the course of his term of office, but such visits still have to be requested by the diocesan. See Article II of ECUSA's Constitution, which has remained unchanged in this respect since 1789.

  9. Galletta,

    I suspect the revision in question is the 1967 amendment of then Title I, Canon 2.4, which added provision for diocesan visitations by the PB.

  10. I would add my concurrence with A.S.; no new authority over the dioceses appears in the said provisions - it's more an imposition on the PB.

  11. ASH:

    I'm going to see the Bishop of my diocese tomorrow. What should I ask him regarding these events?


  12. TRR, I would start by asking him if he agrees with the following assessment of the situation by the Rt. Rev. Dan Martins, of the Diocese of Springfield:

    "This is a very serious, and a very disturbing, turn of events. Bishop Lawrence is a longtime personal friend, and a man whose intellect, love for our Lord, and passion for the gospel is without peer. While I am not fully on board with the some of the positions taken and decisions made by the conventions of the Diocese of South Carolina, and while I could find reasons to criticize the tone of much of the rhetoric coming from their direction, I am in essential theological sympathy with the witness made by that diocese as it has attempted to remain faithful to historic Anglican — which is to say, historic Episcopalian — faith and practice in a time when the majority in our church appear to be turning away from that tradition. More to the point, it strains every notion of common sense to apply the charge of “abandonment” in this case. This is a provision that is in canons to make it expeditious to deal with a priest or bishop who has openly decamped to another ecclesial body, or none; a cleric who stops showing up for meetings, stops worshiping as an Episcopalian, and disavows any association with the Episcopal Church. By contrast, since I became a bishop in March of last year, Mark Lawrence has attended every meeting of the House of Bishops except one, which a great many bishops also missed because it was held in Ecuador. He was present at General Convention. He has continued to lead a diocese that uses the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer in its worship. He has abandoned nothing, and to accuse him of doing so is ludicrous on its face."

    If he can't express his agreement with Bishop Martins, then you have a serious problem on your hands.

    If he can, then ask him to put out a statement to that effect, and to contact other bishops to do likewise.

  13. 1TRR, Ditto to what Mr. Haley suggested to you as a conversation starter with your bishop.

    If you or anyone else wants a Diocese lay point of view, I have a post about the recent events on my blog:

    Hope you don't mind Mr. Haley!

  14. I am still trying to figure out how it is that Hollerith was not deposed for abandonment when he accepted a job as bishop from a diocese, that according to the DBB definition, is not in TEC, since it has no accession clause in its constitution or canons.

  15. T J McMahon, the reason is actually quite simple. The Presiding Bishop and her DBB are abusing Canon IV.16(A) (the "abandonment canon" for bishops) as a fast express to deport from the Church any bishop who will not toe their line.

    Normally, a canonical or constitutional violation (such as a bishop breaking his vow of conformity) would be the basis for an ecclesiastical presentment and disciplinary hearing, at which all the facts were aired, and under which a range of punishments would be available short of deposition.

    But under the abandonment canon as they are abusing it there can be no trial; and if the bishop does not respond to the charges within 60 days, the PB's practice is to treat that failure as a "voluntary renunciation of orders" and depose the miscreant forthwith, without even bothering the House of Bishops.

    Bishop Hollerith, as a member of the DBB himself, has zero to fear (for the time being, at least) about the process of abuse being turned against him.

    Also, note that the lack of any kind of accession clause in his diocese's constitution cannot be laid personally at his feet until he has chaired a couple of annual conventions and had the opportunity to fix it. Nevertheless, he still has what I maintain is a disqualifying conflict of interest on the DBB because of that lack of an accession clause in his own diocese. He has no business sitting in judgment of any other bishop whose diocesan constitution is just like his in that regard (or, in the case of SC -- for now, at least -- marginally better, because at least SC's constitution still has a qualified accession to the national constitution in it).

  16. One Daughter, no of course I do not mind you promoting your blog here -- you are, after all, right on the front lines, and people should know about it.

    Here is a clickable link for people to use to get to your blog, One Daughter's Perspective.

  17. I had a good conversation with my Bishop after a really good confirmation service. Like most of these guys, he has a good heart and I believe his desire to serve Christ and keep together his flock is genuine...even if he is slow to recognize some of the political realities that we now face.

    He and I both agreed that more information needed to be known before any definite statement should be made by our Diocese. Maybe I didn't press hard enough, but I guess that's that for now.

    (1). When I asked him if he thought Bishop Lawrence had 'abandoned' the Episcopal Church, he said that it all depended on what we meant by that...and that all the new lingo is confusing for him and others, as it is for us as lay people, etc. However, he did say that he had been one of the bishops who had met with Lawrence over the past few years, and that he personally thought that Lawrence had abandoned TEC.

    However, in the end I think it was my fault in how I asked the question: I mean, now that the Diocese of SC has dissociated itself from ECUSA completely, then of course my bishop can say, "Why yes, I think Lawrence has abandoned the Episcopal Church." I should have asked the question that made it clear that I was asking if my bishop thought Lawrence had left ECUSA BEFORE this 'DBB' bunch accused Lawrence of all of these 'abandonment' charges a second time.

    My fault.

    (2). I asked my bishop if he thought what was happening in SC could eventually cause trouble for us. He told me (most sincerely, I believe) that he believed it could not...that the matter in SC was a special one, had a lot to do with cannons verses constitution, local issues and sentiments, etc. I believe he truly believes that, but I know he is not correct and I fear he might find out the hard way.

    I'd like to hear your analysis as to why he is wrong. (I really don't think he reads the Curmudgeon, etc.)

    I can forsee, though, that when DBB starts going after individual clergy who won't follow their worldview, and when my bishop fights (as he has fully indicated that he will) to protect orthodox clergy (like the priests in my parish) in his diocese, then couldn't DBB accuse him of 'abandonment' of what Episcopal 'doctrine' just happens to be that week? Hypothetically, how might that happen? How far do you think we are from there?

    (3). I asked him if he would clarify what the Episcopal church was...some sort of national superchurch, or was our diocese "The Church" in our boundaries. He didn't seem to want to go there...but once he realizes the people he is dealing with at the national level, I expect he will be grateful that ECUSA's Constitution gives him that autonomy.

  18. Dear ASH (cool initials, by the way),
    in other jurisdictions when a 'voluntary association' (which is what 'TEC' is essentially) fails to follow its own internal procedures openly & with due process, the party offended against can seek redress in the civil courts ... I presume this is the same in the USA? In which case, even if the kangaroos decide against Bishop Lawrence, that will not mark the end of this.

  19. Dear Fr Levi, under the current precedents of our Supreme Court, the civil courts in the USA are limited by the First Amendment of our Constitution as to what kinds of church controversies they may adjudicate.

    If the controversy involves what the court calls "ecclesiastical doctrine or discipline," then the courts are absolutely prohibited from intervening to overturn the decision of the church's highest ecclesiastical tribunal -- with a slight suggestion from former Chief Justice Rehnquist that they may do so in cases where the tribunal's result is based upon overt fraud or collusion.

    But in cases of church property, the courts are fully empowered to decide intra-ecclesiastical disputes over its ownership -- if, again, they can do so without having to go into questions of church doctrine.

    So in the case of Bishop Lawrence and ECUSA's Disciplinary Board for Bishops, that is purely a matter of ecclesiastical discipline, and the civil courts will almost certainly not interfere.

    But you must realize that Bishop Lawrence is now beyond wanting to remain in a corrupt and degenerate Episcopal Church. Therefore, he will most likely not seek to challenge the partiality of the DBB or its accusations in a civil court. He will instead focus on what is needed to keep his Diocese together in this crisis, and eventually seek to bring it under the umbrella of a more orthodox branch of the universal catholic church.

    I am very grateful for your interest in ECUSA disputes, and for your contribution here. Please do not hesitate to comment again, or to ask any questions about matters which remain unclear.

  20. Thanks for clarifying, A.S.,
    I'll keep Bishop Lawrence and his diocese in my prayers. Extraordinary how those who claim to be want to be inclusive are managing to exclude so many.