Saturday, June 30, 2012

The June Ruine: Seven Episcopal Bishops "charged with misconduct" just days before General Convention

UPDATE: Bishop Dan Martins of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield responds at his blog, Confessions of a Carioca.  Here is an excerpt:

Bishop Dan Martins
I cannot presume to speak for any of the other eight, but I need to be clear that my intention in attaching my name to the amicus brief was in no way to affect the outcome of that case. As the Bishop of Springfield, which is in Illinois, it is no concern of mine how a property dispute in Texas is resolved. If my action has the effect of aiding one side or the other, that is, from my perspective, an immaterial consequence. Rather, I took the action I did with the best interests of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Springfield, as nearly as I can discern them, at heart. My principal concern was to not leave unchallenged the assertion that the Episcopal Church is a unitary hierarchical organism at all levels, and that the dioceses are entirely creatures of General Convention. I viewed signing the amicus brief as consistent with my vow to uphold the doctrine and discipline of the Episcopal Church. 

Read it all here.

It's official: The Episcopal Church jumps the shark.

Best guess for the reason they are actually are doing this and doing this right now - just days before General Convention begins - is that the leadership is in complete chaos.  Bonnie Anderson and Katharine Jefferts Schori put forward two competing budgets, then did a major switcher-roo on the Executive Board and Bonnie Anderson threw in the towel.

Not a little angst is now filling many leaders in the House of Deputies towards the House of Bishops (many are still steaming from 2006 when Bishop Schori took the unprecedented action late in that General Convention to march onto the floor of the House of Deputies and plead for the deputies to change their pending vote her way - right, and no, many are not so happy lately about her new Chief Operating Office, Bishop Statcy Sauls, who has been lobbying the House of Bishops to call for a Constitutional Convention before Bishop Schori flies the coup in 2015).

The HoB/HoD list serve has been a portrait of chaos, with the activists using it for their usual strategic maneuvers to lobby the list remnant for their latest radical twist (and yes there is a doozy).  But the main focus has been budget, budget, budget and it's not very pretty.

So what do we have just days before General Convention begins?  Why a massive witch hunt (ever wondered why Dorothy went on a witch hunt?) to stir up the townsfolk to forget about the mess TEC is in and get the attention to look else where - exactly!  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Seven bishops have been charged with misconduct for having endorsed a friend of the court brief prepared by the Anglican Communion Institute in the Diocese of Fort Worth case. 
On 28 June 2012, the Rt Rev Maurice M. Benitez, retired Bishop of Texas, the Rt Rev John W. Howe, retired Bishop of Central Florida, the Rt Rev Paul E. Lambert. Suffragan Bishop of Dallas, the Rt Rev William H. Love, Bishop of Albany, the Rt Rev D. Bruce MacPherson, Bishop of Western Louisiana, the Rt Rev Daniel H. Martins, Bishop of Springfield, and the Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton, Bishop of Dallas were informed they had been charged with misconduct.

Did they miss anyone?  Oh yes, there is one not yet on this list who no doubt is being saved for dessert, saved so that he may get his just desserts by the litigation long knives.

In a U.S. election we wait with great anticipation for the October Surprise, but apparently in the Episcopal Church it's called the June Ruine.  Remember, Gene Robinson was elected - you guessed it - in June 2003.

“As the Intake Officer for the Church, I am obliged to inform you that a complaint has been received against you for your action in filing of Amicus Curiae Brief in the pending appeal in the Supreme Court of Texas in opposition to The Episcopal Diocese of Texas and The Episcopal Church. In the next few weeks, I will initiate a disciplinary process according to Title IV Canon 6 Sec. 3 & 4 of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church,” Bishop F. Clayton Matthews wrote to the seven bishops.

You know, I remember when Clay Mathews was once the Suffragan Bishop of Virginia.  He was kind and gentle and wise.  How he ends up left holding the bag to lend his personal gravitas is, quite simply, sad.  He was once friends with John Howe, back in the day, back before the dark times, before the Empire.

The bishops have not been notified with violation of the canons they have committed, but Bishop Matthews’ notice refers to the pleading they endorsed in the Diocese of Fort Worth case presently before the Texas Supreme Court.

Of course not.  They have to make sure the press release gets out in time before General Convention kicks off so that all the momentum shifts from the big-time doo-doo to "let's get the conservative tar baby back out for one more roll."  It would be one thing if the Empire could think up a new strategy forthwith, but they don't, they keep using the same play over and over, even as $millions drain out of the Episcopal coffers.  Bringing Clay Matthews to kick the tar baby back out before General Convention denotes the fact that this is right out of any DC political activist's playbook.

What have they done wrong?  Nothing.  They exercised their freedom of being a citizen of the United Sates of America and expressed their opinion that the litigators financed by the office of Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is incorrect in their filings against the Diocese of Ft. Worth.  So much for freedom!

What is Bishop Schori and her litigators going to do - depose them all?   Is it hoped that the chaos of factions now breaking out all over General Convention will tidy up and mind their manners?  So much for that that "I in you and you in me" Ubuntu stuff.

The 29-page brief stated that attorneys for that national Episcopal Church sought “to establish an alternative authority to that of the diocesan bishop” in their pleadings, which they said was contrary to the church’s Constitution and Canons.

What it all really means is resistance is futile. 

Read it all here.


Anonymous said...

Just imagine if the Presiding Bishop was Archbishop of Canterbury. We would have an Anglican Covenant with teeth, after that cleansing the remnant would be TEC and a few liberal dioceses.

Kevin said...

Sad, surprising, no, but still very sad.

RWK said...

So this is the "polity" of TEC? John Howe? Seriously? Kafka would laugh, the rest of us can just weep. The only solace I take is that the liberal bishops don't seem to realize that one day they too will cross whatever arbitrary line is drawn by 815. I assume opposition to 815's official position on TEC membership in the RCRC or possibly healthcare or immigration legislation will be next. Eventually, the revolution will consume its own.

Anonymous said...

Amicus filings are very peculiar things. They sometimes are very helpful to a court, taking as they can a different perspective or bringing to the fore different facts that the parties have not touched on. Other times, they are just me-toos, with the main parties lining up buddies to add paper to their respective sides of the scales.

I've only read descriptions of the content of these amicus filings, not the filings themselves so I can't really venture an opinion on how useful the positions might be to a court.

The idea that the Episcopal Church is not a hierarchical church is, as far as I know, a very new construct, born of desperation in a string of defeats for departing groups who have tried to have their cake and eat it too as they leave the church for more palatable denominational alignments. Prior to this crisis, I doubt very much that any secular court on the outside looking in would see in a Church that calls itself "Epsicopal" and has piles of bishops and dioceses anything but a hierarchical organization. But if one can't find a way to wriggle the hierarchical foundation stone out of the structure, one cannot win these property takeover cases in the secular courts. This is particularly true in the Diocesan departure scenarios, where people leaving the Church purport to do so as an intact Diocese, as opposed to individual parishes within a Diocese that itself stays put (as happened in Virginia). The Texas situation is clearly a crucial test for the latter scenario.

Nonetheless, one has to wonder why the national church considers it useful to bring these charges against those who signed on to the amicus documents. There is no way to determine the validity of the discipline charges without re-litigating in a canonical setting the very issues that are before the secular courts. Clearly if Roman Catholic bishops took a similar position mitres would roll in a trice, but the fact that the national church lashes out with this kind of retributive action may, ironically and by contrast, make it look far less hierarchical than its leadership wants to appear.


William said...

Truly, there's nothing like a good old fashioned show trial to distract from the true shape of things.
It just continues to amaze me though how an institution which rabidly embraces "sexual" freedom and "reproductive" freedom is so ready to crush freedom of expression with abandon.

Lapinbizarre said...

Your question why "they are actually are doing this and doing this right now", is very pertinent. In a June 30th letter to his diocese, Bishop Love of Albany writes that he has received a letter from Bishop Matthews, stating that “As the Intake Officer for the Church, I am obliged to inform you that a complaint has been received against you for your action in filing of Amicus Curiae Brief in the pending appeal in the Supreme Court of Texas".

Bishop Love continues "To date, I have not seen a copy of the “complaint,” nor do I know who issued it, or what it says.

"While Bishop Matthews has informed me that he has received a “complaint,” against me and the other six bishops dealing with our participation in the above mentioned Amicus Curiae Brief, at this point, I have not been officially charged with anything and may not be depending on the outcome of the initial investigation of the “complaint.”"

In short, all that has happened is that Bishop Love and others have been notified that a complaint has been laid against them by an identified individual. That's all, No charges have been made - nor, I'd bet, will they be.

So why, coming back to your question, is someone - and I do not mean yourself, though I have no doubt that this is not coming from someone on TEC's side of the fence - out to make inflate this molehill into Mt Everest?

Lapinbizarre said...

For "identified" read "unidentified" in next to last paragraph of post above.

Anonymous said...

What a wet blanket you are, LB. Just when we'd all gotten ourselves completely wound up, you show up at the party with pesky facts. Complete kill joy, I'd say.

Do you think Bishop Love's situation is applicable across the board with the other Bishops? when a complaint is filed,is there some intermediate procedural step that permits the Church not to pursue the complaint?

Many of these Bishops are well-respected. I know a few of them and one is a schoolmate. I think it appalling that they would allow themselves to be sucked in to a dispute in which the "hierarchical" nature (vel non) of the Church is merely the last device by which reaffiliators are justifying property grabs. I assume (and hope) that they have concluded that that issue has some significance in other, more elevated issues facing the church.


Lapinbizarre said...

I think that it holds for all the bishops, Scout. I also know that a number of "Revisionists" were pretty appalled when they initially took Conger at his word, but now, after Bishop Love's letter, they have realized that it's storm in teacup time. Not sure, BTW, why BB threw Mark Lawrence into the stew, him not being a signatory of the brief in question.

Lapinbizarre said...

This also applies to Conger's claim re Bishops Salmon, Beckwith & MacPherson in the Quincy lawsuit, Scout.

Small Farmer in The City said...

I would love to know who told Conger inasmuch as (it is my understanding) the emails were not meant to be a general communication...heavens, we don't even know who made the complaints!

Dale Matson said...

The dimmer switch is turned down an additional notch. Will the last person to leave TEC please turn out the lights.

Lapinbizarre said...

Sounds rather as though only those who agree with you qualify as "persons", Dale. Along the lines of the Dred Scott ruling's definition of citizenship.