Does it just get stranger and stranger? Here's commentary on Katharine Jefferts Schori's attempt to remove from ministry a bishop of - yes, indeed - the Church of England. From the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) via e-mail and from here:
In recent months ACI has asked with increasing urgency whether the Presiding Bishop is willing and able to comply with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. Her most recent canonical misadventure is purporting to remove from the ordained ministry a bishop in the Church of England canonically resident and working in England and subject to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Oxford and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Her canonical overreaching has now extended into the heart of the Church of England, placing in serious question the extent to which the Presiding Bishop continues to perceive herself as in communion with that church and its primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury.Read it all here. The original "story" from Bishop Schori's office is here. It opens with an amazing lie, which is just incredible that a Christian organization to publish such an untruth without further research (which tells us again that "Episcopal Life" is now a full-fledged flak organ. The article makes no mention that Bishop Scriven was consecrated a bishop by the former Archbishop of Canterbury and that he is now under the jurisdiction of the current Bishop of Oxford (Church of England). Is this bad research and faulty advice on the part of Bishop Schori's executive staff - or do they just no longer care? Whatever the case, it appears that the litigation is now driving the decision-making of Bishop Schori's office, while mere common sense flees.
On January 15, 2008, the Presiding Bishop purported to accept the “renunciation” of ordained ministry by Bishop Henry Scriven. It is now sadly evident that an actual renunciation is no longer a prerequisite for the Presiding Bishop’s “acceptance” of such an extraordinary action by a bishop of the church. In her zeal to remove from office those with whom she disagrees what started only two years ago as the canonically appropriate, if misguided, procedure of using presentments under the disciplinary canons of Title IV quickly evolved into abuse of the “abandonment of communion” canon in order to avoid the procedural protections afforded to those charged with presentment. But even the summary procedures of the abandonment canon require some process, including a vote in the House of Bishops by a majority of the bishops in TEC entitled to vote. The fact that she has been repeatedly unable to assemble such a majority has not stopped the Presiding Bishop from using this canon, most recently in the case of Bishop Duncan, who at the time he was purportedly deposed for “abandonment of communion” was still actively performing his duties as the Diocesan Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. After her widely criticized handling of Bishop Duncan, however, the Presiding Bishop dispensed with canonical process altogether and since then has simply adopted the tactic of “accepting” renunciations that were never given. Bishops of the church are removed with nothing more than the stroke of a pen.
The Presiding Bishop’s problem in the case of Bishop Scriven, however, is that he was not in fact a “Bishop of this Church” as required by the canon the Presiding Bishop invoked when she purported to remove him from the ordained ministry and to pronounce him “deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority as a Minister of God’s Word and Sacraments conferred on him in Ordinations.” Those “Ordinations” of which she purports to deprive him were conferred on Bishop Scriven not by TEC but by the Church of England, including by the Archbishop of Canterbury personally. The Presiding Bishop has no authority to deprive him of the ministry conferred on him by his ordination in the Church of England.
Bishop Scriven was consecrated as a bishop in the Church of England by the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey. He initially served as Suffragan Bishop in the Church of England’s Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe. At the same time, he also served as Assisting Bishop in TEC, acting in that capacity for Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning in the Convocation of American Churches in Europe.
In 2002, Bishop Scriven was again asked to serve as an Assistant Bishop in TEC, this time by Bishop Duncan and the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Under the applicable canon, III.12.5, assistant bishops may be selected from among either “Bishops of this Church” or “Bishops of a Church in communion with this Church.” For bishops in the latter category, special procedures are followed, including obtaining the consent of the church in which the bishop was consecrated and the consents of the TEC House of Bishops. Notwithstanding his prior service as an assisting bishop in TEC, Bishop Scriven’s appointment in Pittsburgh was treated as falling in this latter category in recognition of the fact that he was a bishop of the Church of England. Approval from the Church of England was given personally by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Bishop Scriven served as Assistant Bishop in Pittsburgh until September 2008. Under Canon III.12.5(e), the tenure of an Assistant Bishop automatically ends when the tenure of the diocesan bishop under whom he serves ends. Thus, if the deposition of Bishop Duncan was legal, Bishop Scriven’s tenure as Assistant Bishop in Pittsburgh ended on September 19 , 2008, when the Presiding Bishop pronounced the sentence of deposition on Bishop Duncan. At that moment, Bishop Scriven ceased to be a bishop of TEC. The fact that his tenure as Assistant Bishop had been terminated was recognized both by the Diocese of Pittsburgh and Bishop Scriven, and he ceased to serve as Assistant Bishop on September 19, 2008, and ceased to be a bishop of TEC at that time. At that point he became what the rules of the House of Bishops refer to as a bishop from another Church in the Anglican Communion who is resident in a TEC diocese. Under Article I.2 of TEC’s Constitution, Bishop Scriven was not eligible for membership in the House of Bishops at that point, no longer being an Assistant Bishop, but would have been eligible for membership as a collegial member or nonvoting member under the rules of the House of Bishops had he requested such membership and had it been approved by that House. Therefore, no action was required to remove him from the House of Bishops, certainly not the inappropriate action of purporting to remove him from the ordained ministry. He ceased to be a member of the House of Bishops on September 19, 2008, by operation of canon law.
To the extent Bishop Scriven continued to function in the Diocese of Pittsburgh it was with the permission of its ecclesiastical authority as a bishop consecrated by the Church of England canonically resident in another church. But on October 16, 2008, Bishop Scriven informed the Presiding Bishop, by letter copied to the Bishop of Oxford, that he was returning to the Church of England where he would become an Honorary Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Oxford and be subject to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Oxford. The Presiding Bishop clearly acknowledged this fact in her letter of response, dated November 12, 2008: “I understand your request to resign as a member of the House of Bishops to mean that you will become a bishop of the Church of England, serving as assistant to the Bishop of Oxford.” Bishop Scriven has now resumed his residence in the Diocese of Oxford in the Church of England, where he is recognized as a bishop in good standing and has been asked to perform episcopal duties.
Notwithstanding these facts, on January 15, 2009, the Presiding Bishop purported to accept Bishop Scriven’s renunciation of his ministry “of this Church” and claimed to remove him from all ministry conferred in his “Ordinations.” Canon III.12.7, the canon under which the Presiding Bishop claimed to be acting, plainly applies only to a “Bishop of this Church.” The only way Bishop Scriven could have been a bishop of TEC on January 15 is if the deposition of Bishop Duncan were invalid. In such a case, Bishop Duncan would have continued to serve uninterrupted as Bishop of Pittsburgh and Bishop Scriven’s tenure as Assistant Bishop would not have ended by operation of Canon III.12.5(e). We doubt, however, that this is the theory under which the Presiding Bishop is operating.
Moreover, in addition to constituting an abuse of the canons, the Presiding Bishop’s action has profound consequences for TEC’s status as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion and its communion with the Church of England. The Declaration of Removal and Release states categorically that Bishop Scriven “is deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority as a Minister of God’s Word and Sacraments conferred on him in Ordinations.” Those ordinations occurred, of course, in the Church of England. On its face, this declaration appears to prohibit a bishop in good standing in the Church of England from acting sacramentally in TEC. Since the use of Canon III.12.7 carries with it a certification that the bishop is not in violation of the constitution and canons and is not taken for causes that affect moral character, Bishop Scriven in this regard stands in no different position than any other bishop in the Church of England. If Bishop Scriven is so barred, is not the Archbishop of Canterbury barred as well?
Defenders of the Presiding Bishop’s course of conduct attempt to soften the impact of these actions by claiming that all that is being done by these acceptances of “renunciation” is the removal of a license to act in TEC. But this is clearly erroneous. All bishops, including all TEC bishops, require a license to act outside the dioceses in which they are canonically resident. Indeed, the very canon the Presiding Bishop invokes in the case of Bishop Scriven provides that “No Bishop shall perform episcopal acts or officiate by preaching, ministering the sacraments, or holding any public service in a Diocese other than that in which the Bishop is canonically resident, without permission or a license to perform occasional public services from the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese in which the Bishop desires to officiate or perform episcopal acts.” (III.12.3(e).) If all the Presiding Bishop accomplished in her Declaration of Removal of Bishop Scriven was to inform all the bishops of TEC and the other authorities to whom the declaration was sent that Bishop Scriven needs permission or a license to act in their dioceses, it was a waste of time. That was as true on January 14 as it was the next day after the declaration was issued.
What the Presiding Bishop clearly intended was not this trivial notification, but the more significant one of barring Bishop Scriven from receiving any such permission. And the sole reason for that debarment is that he returned to the Church of England, the church of his ordination and consecration to the episcopate, where he is now a bishop in good standing. The Presiding Bishop treated his return to the Church of England in precisely the same manner she treated Bishop Steenson’s move to the Church of Rome. Does the Presiding Bishop draw no distinction between the two? Has the Presiding Bishop now broken communion with the Church of England?
Thus, it appears that the Presiding Bishop has attempted to remove from the ministry—or at a minimum, bar from TEC– a bishop of the Church of England who is subject to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Oxford and is working in England as director of a missionary society of the Church of England, the patron of which is the Archbishop of Canterbury. At this point, one must ask whether the Presiding Bishop is incapable of interpreting the canons or incapable instead of following them. Her abuse of the canons has now reached beyond TEC and into the Church of England itself.
We have called attention to the problems inherent in sloppy and inappropriate application of the canons and in serious departures from the Constitution of The Episcopal Church. In the case of Bishop Scriven we are witnessing a new problem: the knock-on effect of using canons for purposes for which they are not intended with the consequence of calling into question the very character of catholic life across provinces of our Anglican Communion. Perhaps this is the autonomous counterpart of the autonomous actions in respect of Gene Robinson. The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, in seeking to deal with what is regarded as a problem within her own province, has so misused the canons that it is no longer clear if The Episcopal Church understands what ordination and interchangeability of ministry in a Communion entails. Has The Episcopal Church de facto ceased to view itself and its Constitution and Canons as meaningfully related to the life of catholic Anglicanism at the most basic level and instead sees them as laws governing (it might be hoped) a national denomination and really nothing more? If so, we call on those Bishops of TEC who wish this church to remain “a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, in communion with the See of Canterbury” to call a halt to this conduct or to request that the Presiding Bishop clarify what her understanding is of the place of The Episcopal Church within the Anglican Communion.
WED. UPDATE: George Conger has reaction from Bishop Scriven here, including:
On Oct 16, Bishop Scriven wrote to Bishop Schori to inform her that he was returning to the Britain to take up the post of director of South American ministry for SAMS-CMS. Ordained in the Church of England, Bishop Scriven was consecrated in 1995 as Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe by Archbishop George Carey. In 2002, Bishop Scriven became the Assistant Bishop of Pittsburgh in the Episcopal Church. Following Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan’s deposition from office as Bishop of Pittsburgh on Sept 19, Bishop Scriven’s position in the US church was terminated.
In his letter, Bishop Scriven informed Bishop Schori he was returning to the UK to take up the SAMS-CMS post and had been appointed an Honorary Assistant Bishop and would be under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Oxford.
In her response of Nov 12, Bishop Schori acknowledged that Bishop Scriven was now a Bishop of the Church of England, and said she would “release you from your orders in this Church” for reasons “not effecting moral character.” Bishop Schori added that she believed “that subtlety was lost on some of our Communion partners” over her understanding of canon law, as her action would not undo the “indelible” mark of ordination, but was a housekeeping action that would end his licence to serve in the US Church.
However, before Bishop Schori’s tenure as Presiding Bishop, bishops who left the US church to serve in other provinces were not released from their orders, but transferred to other churches.
The decision to deprive Bishop Scriven of his right to celebrate the gifts of ordination was an egregious violation of canon law, the Anglican Communion Institute said. “Her canonical over-reaching has now extended into the heart of the Church of England, placing in serious question the extent to which the Presiding Bishop continues to perceive herself as in communion with that church and its primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury.”
From a canonical point of view, Bishop Scriven was not under the authority of the Episcopal Church when she released him from his orders, the ACI observed. And the ordinations “of which she purports to deprive him were conferred on Bishop Scriven not by TEC but by the Church of England, including by the Archbishop of Canterbury personally. The Presiding Bishop has no authority to deprive him of the ministry conferred on him by his ordination in the Church of England,” the group of Anglican scholars and canon lawyers argued.
Read it all here.