Author Archive

Consumed By Litigation: TEC In South Carolina

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Sunday, November 11th, 2012

It is becoming increasingly apparent as we witness developments unfolding in The Episcopal Church that secular litigation objectives are paramount, trumping other principles such as the fundamental norms of Christian conduct, the canonical integrity of the church, ancient standards of catholic ecclesiology and even the pastoral care of TEC’s own people. Proof of this startling proposition abounds, including the inexplicable disciplinary charges brought against nine bishops for joining ACI in filing an amicus brief asking the Texas courts to refrain from deciding complex questions of TEC polity and in submitting truthful affidavit testimony in Illinois. But nowhere is the ascendancy of litigation imperatives more apparent than in the actions TEC has taken concerning the Diocese of South Carolina.


November 11 2012 | Articles

Polity Politics or The Rule Of Law? A Response To Bishop Whalon

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Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Bishop Pierre Whalon’s recent essay, “Polity Politics,” offers a critique of the amicus curiae brief submitted to the Texas Supreme Court by ACI and seven bishops of The Episcopal Church. Surprisingly, there is much with which we agree in this essay, especially the conclusion Bishop Whalon reaches at the mid-point that “on the face of it, the seven bishops are right.” He goes on to assert that although we are right “on the face of it,” we are nonetheless ultimately wrong in light of his interpretation of TEC’s history, Constitution (which he never quotes) and ordination vows. While we disagree with him on these latter points, it is useful to start with the common ground where Bishop Whalon’s observations support the perspective expressed in the amicus brief.


October 11 2012 | Articles

Title IV Under Review

Written by:
Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

The recent General Convention passed two resolutions calling for fundamental review of the new Title IV. Resolution C116 called for a review of the “Constitutionality of Certain Provisions of Title IV,” including:

the constitutionality of the power granted therein to the Presiding Bishop to restrict the ministry of a Diocesan Bishop [and] the constitutionality of the creation of a charging and trial system applicable to Presbyters and Deacons in violation of Article IX of the Constitution which provides that Presbyters and Deacons shall be tried by a Court instituted by the Convention of the Diocese.


August 15 2012 | Articles

The Quincy Three, The Fort Worth Seven And Title IV: What Now?

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Sunday, July 1st, 2012

This weekend’s news that Title IV “complaints” have been lodged against nine bishops brings together two matters that have long concerned ACI. The first is the polity of The Episcopal Church. For several years ACI has advocated the same understanding of TEC governance as the accused bishops. Indeed, the three ACI clergy submitted the same affidavits as did the bishops in Quincy and signed the same amicus brief as did the bishops in Texas. In addition, since Title IV was revised three years ago, ACI has been in the forefront of those arguing that the revised title is unconstitutional, unwise and unworkable. The sequence of events of the last few days leaves little doubt that these two issues of polity and Title IV were coordinated to coincide with the General Convention that begins this week. It is clear that the Title IV process is being used as a means to enforce a uniformity of thinking on polity that was inconceivable a generation ago. Less clear is whether differences of opinion over polity will be used as an excuse to preserve Title IV overreaches from corrective amendment.

We summarize below the factual background to the complaints against the nine bishops and conclude that the complaints are patently frivolous and should be dismissed at the outset. We then summarize our broader concerns about Title IV and suggest a way forward for this General Convention. Finally, we conclude with our hope that this coordinated abuse of the disciplinary process will not succeed in exacting a mindless uniformity on polity questions simply to promote the litigation tactics of the moment.


July 01 2012 | Articles

Friend of Court Brief Filed in Fort Worth Lawsuit

Written by:
Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Today several bishops of The Episcopal Church joined The Anglican Communion Institute, Inc. (“ACI”), in submitting an amicus curiae brief to the Texas Supreme Court in the lawsuit arising out of the withdrawal of the Diocese of Fort Worth from The Episcopal Church. All of these bishops and all of the officers and directors of ACI remain in The Episcopal Church and have submitted this brief solely because they disagree with the characterization of the governance of The Episcopal Church as submitted in support of the motion for summary judgment that the trial court granted in this case. As is well known, these bishops and ACI oppose the decision by the Diocese of Fort Worth to leave The Episcopal Church. They have no intention of withdrawing from the Church, but it is precisely because they intend to remain in the Church that they are concerned that the trial court ruling has misunderstood, and thereby damaged, the constitutional structure of The Episcopal Church.

In their brief, the bishops and ACI argue that the summary judgment ruling by the trial court in the Fort Worth litigation violated the First Amendment to the United States Constitution because it immersed the court in an impermissible “searching” and “extensive inquiry into religious polity.” Under the Supreme Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence, courts may constitutionally defer to a church authority rather than apply neutral principles of law only if they can identify the appropriate ecclesiastical authority without conducting such an extensive inquiry into church governance. In the case of The Episcopal Church, its governing constitution specifies that the diocesan bishop is “the Ecclesiastical Authority” in the diocese. Acceptance of TEC’s claim that there are other bodies or offices with hierarchical supremacy over the diocesan bishop would require the Court to become embroiled in a searching historical analysis of difficult questions of church polity without any explicit language in the church’s governing instrument on which to base its conclusion. The First Amendment does not permit such a result.


April 23 2012 | Articles

The Communion After Williams

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Monday, March 26th, 2012

Rowan Williams’ formal announcement of his resignation at the end of the year as Archbishop of Canterbury comes as no surprise. Well-sourced public rumors had been circulating for some months. It will take time to provide an accurate assessment of his tenure. He came to the position as the most highly touted Anglican theologian in generations. And although it would be wrong to place him above the level of any previous archbishops on this score – one thinks of Anselm, Baldwin, Thomas Bradwardine, John Peckham, Cranmer, Wake, Temple, Ramsey – his wide-ranging mind, prolific output, and previous academic influences meant that his new bully-pulpit would engage a broad intellectual front for the church in novel ways. Indeed, Williams’ many lectures and papers, interviews and statements, even a few books, over the past decade have generated public debate of an unexpectedly broad and passionate engagement. Throughout the well-documented Anglican struggles of these years, furthermore, Williams has provided subtle and provocative theological reflection on relevant matters that have, at least in theory, shown these events to be about more than church politics. At certain key times, e.g. with respect to the Sudan and Zimbabwe, he has courageously engaged unjust civil powers on behalf of defenseless peoples and churches. His own deep faith and disciplined spiritual life and commitments have shown through his public witness repeatedly.

Williams’ resignation, however, seems an admission of failure on his part. In this case, the failure is twofold. First, there is his loss of authority in the Church of England, where his attempts at brokering a compromise on women bishops and his advocacy on behalf of the Church of England’s adoption of the Anglican Covenant are both poised for rejection. Williams’ unpersuasive leadership on this front has weighed heavily on his office. But second, and more deep-rooted and perhaps consequential, is Williams’ perceived failure with respect to the Anglican Communion’s integrity of common life.


March 26 2012 | Articles

South Carolina: The Disciplinary Board Decides

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Thursday, December 1st, 2011

We are greatly encouraged by the decision of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops to dismiss charges of abandonment against Bishop Mark Lawrence. We appreciate the timely decision by the Board and the articulation by its President, Bishop Dorsey Henderson, of the legal basis for the decision to dismiss. We find reason for encouragement not only in the decision itself, which has been greeted with relief by those on all sides of the Church’s disputes, but also in the legal reasoning of the Board in those parts in which Bishop Henderson is speaking for the Board as a whole and not just for himself. We and others have previously expressed concerns over procedural questions raised by the Board’s investigation in this matter. This decision not only makes those procedural issues moot, it gives us new grounds for hope on five counts.

First, the Board’s decision is explicitly based on the recognition of a distinction between official actions of the Diocese of South Carolina and statements and acts by Bishop Lawrence as an individual. Bishop Henderson’s statement, here speaking for the Board as a whole, suggests that the Board probably regarded certain “actions by conventions of the Diocese of South Carolina” as “abandonment of the Church and its discipline by the diocese” (emphasis in the original). The Board, of course, did not state this conclusion so definitively, and we will address its qualifications below. But it is important to note that the Board acknowledged that the actions in question were official acts of “the diocese” even when they might constitute abandonment of TEC.


December 01 2011 | Articles

Clarification Needed On Bede Parry

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Thursday, November 17th, 2011

We are pleased that the Presiding Bishop and Bishop Dan Edwards of Nevada have issued further statements on Bede Parry. In light of these statements, however, two further clarifications are needed.

First, the Presiding Bishop addresses a psychological report prepared for the Roman Catholic Church in 2000 that found he had “a proclivity to re-offend with minors.” The Presiding Bishop states:


November 17 2011 | Articles

Following The Canons To Bede Parry

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Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

In 2004 the Bishop of Nevada, Katharine Jefferts Schori, received a former Roman Catholic priest, Bede Parry, as a priest in TEC. What made this instance of a relatively common phenomenon remarkable is that Parry had sexually abused minors under his care as a Catholic priest, he had been barred from exercising his ministry in the Catholic Church, and this was known to the Bishop of Nevada when she received him into TEC.

The question of how a former Roman Catholic priest who has admitted to repeated abuse of minors under his care and who agreed to be laicized could have been received into TEC as a priest has been much discussed. It is startling that the Diocese of Nevada acknowledges that it was aware of his past misconduct, including a police report, prior to his reception, but proffers the reassurance that the Bishop and Commission on Ministry


November 15 2011 | Articles

South Carolina: The Church Needs Transparency

Written by:
Thursday, October 20th, 2011

We have considered carefully the available information related to the allegations against Bishop Mark Lawrence that are currently under review by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops. That information discloses an extended and troubling sequence of events that raises serious questions about transparency in the church.

We note the following:
In January 2010, Thomas Tisdale sent nine letters to the Diocese of South Carolina requesting voluminous documents from the diocese and its parishes. He advised the diocese that he had been retained to act “as South Carolina counsel for The Episcopal Church” by the chancellor to the Presiding Bishop. This caused the diocese to conclude that “perhaps the Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor, if not the Presiding Bishop herself, is seeking to build a case against the Ecclesiastical Authorities of the Diocese (Bishop and Standing Committee) and some of our parishes.” The Presiding Bishop subsequently told the Executive Council that “I think it’s important that people who want to stay Episcopalians there have some representation on behalf of the larger church.”


October 20 2011 | Articles

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