1/23/2009

Bishops on the Move


Bishop William Wantland, retired, of Eau Claire and Bishop Henry Scriven, sometime assistant bishop in Pittsburgh, formerly of the CofE Diocese of Europe and soon to be with SAMS UK, have been taken from the list of bishops with standing in The Episcopal Church. Episcopal News Service covers this HERE.

Bishop Wantland, now of the Province of the Southern Cone, somehow believes that there is a real difference between quitting, leaving, and that taking up camp elsewhere is something like rejecting TEC but not renouncing his ministry in TEC. But the thing is, he has left the House of Bishops here, has renounced TEC, and moved on. So his muttering about being shocked by all this is a bit much.

Bishop Scriven has been playing all sides: He has been part of the ministry of TEC, now part of the ministry of the Province of the Southern Cone and soon to be part of the ministry of the Church of England. The one thing he has clearly done is continue to serve in the Pittsburgh diocese related to the Southern Cone. My sense is he has been a hired assistant, under contract with the then Diocese of Pittsburgh and really didn't see much reason to think in a larger box. But there it is: He went with the Southern Cone and he is leaving for the CofE. He is not part of TEC and we hardly missed him.

"Voluntary renunciation" is about giving up standing as a bishop in TEC. The implications are clear: by not being a bishop in TEC nothing done or said by the person can be claimed as a ministry of TEC. Nada, nothing. There will be the usual wringing of hands that these two really did not renounce the ministry, that they are still bishops, that elsewhere they are recognized, etc. Right. But they did reject the exercise of episcopal office in The Episcopal Church and made it clear that they were no longer part of this church. It would appear that they voluntarily rejected, and renounced, their role as bishop in TEC. And that is what this is about. They have left, and did so having rejected TEC, and now TEC is agreeing with them. Having left they are no longer bishops of this Church.

Bishop Wantland is making a fuss, which fuss can be read about HERE. He claims he has not resigned his orders (which, if he is speaking sacramentally, fair enough) and that he wants to be part of the House of Bishops of TEC. He is living a bit on the edge there, since he also claims to be part of the Province of the Southern Cone. He believes that in the Presiding Bishop's letter concerning voluntary renunciation he has not received a response to his request to be part of the House of Bishops. What part of 'No" doesn't he understand. He has left, it seemed voluntary, it is both a rejection of and a renunciation of ministry in TEC.


Meanwhile the deposed bishop of Recife, now bishop in the Province of the Southern Cone, has decided with his diocese to move on to join the Anglican Church in North America. No great surprise here, except that the article on this by George Conger includes this item of interest:

"The IEAB (Episcopal / Anglican Church of Brazil) reconstituted the remnants into a new IEAB Diocese of Recife, and at present there are two Anglican jurisdictions in Northeast Brazil. On Oct 30 the diocesan standing committee rejected suggestions that it was a “continuing church.”
“We are part of the Anglican Communion, part of the Global South, partners of the Networks of the Anglican Communion in the US and Canada, partners of the Common Cause Movement, of GAFCON, signing on to the Jerusalem Declaration and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, in permanent dialogue with all the orthodox expressions of Anglicanism, seeking to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in this slow, difficult, but inevitable realignment,” they said."

This, of course, is propaganda of the worse sort, produced by the deposed bishop of Recife.
There are not "two Anglican jurisdictions in Northeast Brazil." The Province of the Southern Cone (PSC) diocese of Recife is not recognized in any way by the Anglican Communion office. The PSC diocese is not part of the Anglican Communion. All the rest - concerning their alignment with the variety of realignment agents is true, save the "Networks of the Anglican Communion." I have no idea what they are talking about there, but perhaps they meant the Anglican Communion Network, now going out of business and making way for the Anglican Church in North America.

There continues to be all this foolishness of reporting on a "third province movement" or a "third province in North America." The movement is not about anything "third." It is about claiming to be the true faith as opposed to those awful people in TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada.

Bishops are on the move, but fortunately they are not our bishops.

15 comments:

  1. Mark,

    I seem to be making a habit of popping up here, of late, so apologize for any repetition in which I may indulge. Two points:

    1. Whatever else you may think of him, Henry Scriven IS a loss to Pittsburgh and not just to realigners. Partly because he was free solely to exercise his pastoral gifts (as +Bob was during his years as Canon to the Ordinary), Henry was able to go and minister even to congregations who completely disagreed with him and be accepted without rancor. The years from 2003 to 2008 were unpleasant enough even with his presence; they would have been far worse without it.

    2. You state "[Bishop Wantland] claims he has not resigned his orders (which, if he is speaking sacramentally, fair enough) and that he wants to be part of the House of Bishops of TEC."

    I wish the first clause of this sentence were more widely affirmed by TEC, but the sustained impression that I have been left with is that this is not so.

    Certainly with abandonment of communion cases, the inference has been that those so affected have been deprived of their priestly/episcopal orders. And in one sense - if you're asserting that there cannot be parallel Anglican jurisdictions in North America - it follows logically.

    I'm willing to bet that you might well have seen much greater flexibility on the property issue that many in TEC seem to hold so dear, if, from the beginning, it had been explicitly stated that abandonment/renunciation cases involved no judgment by TEC as to the validity of the orders of those affected, with liberal bishops, as a matter of form, transferring clergy to the provinces of their request.

    When the decision was made in most dioceses - with some praiseworthy exceptions - not to so act, are you surprised that the conservative stance hardened? Nor does it help when the House of Bishops and the Presiding Bishop appear to play fast and loose with constitutional process. Bishops Duncan and Iker would have been deposed eventually, anyway, so why give even the appearance of circumventing constitutional safeguards just to get a quick result? Precedents of that sort could end up compromising due process even for people of a more progressive theological disposition.

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  2. Jeremy...I agree. Henry Scriven has been a positive presence in Pittsburgh.

    There is no question that all sides (and there are more than two) have made mistakes in what is a quite unusual set of circumstances.

    As I understand it, the sacramental character of ordination means that once done, it's done. But the permission to exercise ordained ministry is a Church matter. When a person is deprived of their priestly/ episcopal orders by deposition the only place where that can be enforced seems to be in the Church bound together in the same order, i.e. in a canonically ordered Church. So the effect of deposition is to make the person no longer able to exercise ministry as a priest or bishop IN the Episcopal Church (or whatever other ordered community.) As to what the status of that person's license elsewhere, that is determined by other church bodies.

    One hope in the Communion is that we would (i) honor the validity of ordination as a sacramental activity and (ii) honor the removal of license by bishop or synod.


    The announcement by TEC bishops that they will not honor the deposition of clergy in other dioceses, or that they will not honor deposition of bishops in TEC is itself a violation of canons.

    None of this says the person is not a priest or bishop, but rather that he or she cannot exercise the ministries of their orders in this Church.

    As to the simple release of clergy or bishops to another province.... it happens often. We receive many clergy from other parts of the world by this method. But when the released is meant to provide a means of continuing in ministry in the jurisdiction of a diocese of this church, without permission of the diocesan bishop, something is seriously amiss. Why should a person be transferred to another Province so that they can stay in the area and encourage people to leave TEC for better climes? To release a person to work elsewhere under the directions of a bishop of another church makes sense. To release them so they can come and work here, without any need for license or permission from the church in place is odd to the point of being mad.

    Abandonment seems to be most easily understood when the person has clearly and pointedly left the church. It is not as easy to recognize it when it is in process. A good clue to the reality of abandonment is when the bishop or rector begins pulling things together legally so that abandonment is with property claims.

    When someone yells "the ship is sinking," prepares lifeboats, sounds the alarm and seeks decision to leave, we can be pretty sure they are abandoning ship, even if the order has not yet been given.

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  3. Much of this would be so much clearer if we spoke, as the English do, of licensure. We use the term "deposition" to emphasize that we are speaking of institutional position, not of sacramental marks. Bishop Wantland knows that, of course; but perhaps doesn't agree with it. In any case, surely he should expect to lose licensure when moving to another jurisdiction, as surely as mine would change were I to move to another diocese. I can still exercise the occasional function within another diocese, but only in accord with the Canons, both of the Episcopal Church and of that diocese.

    You comment regarding orders vs. position, "I wish the first clause of this sentence were more widely affirmed by TEC...." However, I haven't seen evidence that it hasn't been affirmed by TEC. If a bishop resigns his position in TEC (moving to another national/regional church), as opposed to resigning his position in a diocese (simple resignation of position) he resigns it for all of TEC. Surely this is clear. Having resigned that position, why would he expect to be invited to meetings of the leadership (House of Bishops) except as a guest, and then only under specific circumstances? I have colleagues who are chaplains at other institutions in town. They can expect to attend Leadership meetings in my hospital except by invitation; nor can they expect the invitation unless there is a reason.

    Those leaving the Episcopal Church have often wanted to define the Episcopal Church "out," and still define themselves as "in" not only a church in the Anglican tradition, but also in the Episcopal Church as well. If they're going to be so definitive, they have to expect us to take them seriously - unless they're not really serious themselves.

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  4. The only real movement are the lips emitting the sound of excluding voices that have been dodging reality or basic common sense for a very long time...it´s getting to be more like high-pitched squawking then speaking as blundering/infighting cause more desperation...trying to make sense out of insanity isn´t easy...admitting wrong and harm done is worse.

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  5. Mark,

    I can understand that +Wantland may be miffed and upset, feel harassed, and so forth.

    I can understand that +Wantland may disagree with our PB's decision.

    I can understand that +Wantland surely blew his stack.

    What I really can't understand the need to write such nasty letter, and then make it public.

    For those who like to shroud themselves with the Scripture, and are so keen in singling out the straws in the eyes of fellow Christians, +Wantland's rude letter is totally unwarranted, even much less so from someone that has been called and ordained to be "merciful to all" (BCP p. 518), and faithful to the apostolic injunctions to be kind and compassionate to each other and to bear with each other (cf. Eph 4:32, Col 3:13), particularly when one feels he has be wronged.

    Even if +Wantland does not believe in the ordination of women, our PB certainly is an elder in the Church, and someone that at least deserves politeness... the same kind of politeness that he would expects from others.

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  6. It seems to me that we (all the commenters in all the blogs generally!) are making too much of the issue of whether a priest or bishop who has been deposed for abandonment is still a priest or bishop. As you say, sacramentally he (or she, if there are any such!) still is.

    But we have been dealing with this issue for a long time. A priest of the Roman Catholic Church decides he does not want to remain such and is laicized, or is defrocked for cause (I'm not sure what the exact RC terminology is), and subsequently joins The Episcopal Church and applies to be received as a priest. After appropriate examination and canonical processes, the bishop may then receive him as a priest (deacon first, I think, and then priest) in TEC. He is not re-ordained. His previous priestly ordination is recognized and authorized/licensed for ministry in this church. There are currently dozens, if not hundreds, of these priests currently ministering among us.

    So with those bishops and priests who have left TEC for The Sons and Daughters of I Will Arise (or whoever): they are still bishops or priests. They may not exercise that ministry in TEC. If somebody else wants to recognize and authorize their ministry, that's their problem. If that "somebody else" is another province of the Anglican Communion, that's an anomalous situation, and someday we should probably sort it out.

    We might note that in Roman canon law, as I understand it, even a deposed priest may administer the last rites in an emergency situation if no other priest is available.

    I agree with Jeremy that the use of the abandonment provisions in these situations has been unwise rush to a "quick result." In all these cases, as nearly as I can tell, the bishops were guilty of violation of their ordination vows and of the Constitution and Canons, and should have been tried and convicted on those charges. Messier in the short run, but much more satisfactory in the long run.

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  7. Fr. Mark,
    Isn't renunciation a tad different than deposition. Being deposed one is prohibited from exercising the rights of ordination (in this case) but in renouncing the vows one cannot even if one wanted to. Not unlike taking a vow, a scared oath, one realizes that one can no longer hold to the vow and therefore renounces the vow. And this is not simply one of changing one's mind -- way more serious and lasting than changing one's mind. A vow renounced is a vow relinquished. Without going through the ordination process all over again one cannot JUST become a priest (or bishop) somewhere else.

    In other words, one cannot renounce the ordination vows in TEC and have them still "good" somewhere else. Vows are not matters of decisions per se, but a scared oath.
    What do you think?

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  8. Leaving aside the question of whether Bishop Iker's, Bishop Wantland's or Bishop Scriven's statements constitute a notice to the PB of their intention to renounce their ministry (which is particularly questionable in the case of Bishop Scriven), there's a problem in the wording of the certificate of renunciation which states that the person 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." That makes it sound like they are being deprived of the right to exercise their ordained ministries everywhere in the Church Catholic, not just in TEC. I believe that expansive language follows the language of the canons, which GC may want to modify when it has the opportunity.

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  9. Mark, it might be helpful for your readers to review Wantland's history, particularly the "PECUSA,Inc." scam that he attempted.

    This is not an honorable man we are dealing with.

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  10. Fred Schwartz: If you are correct and a renunciation of ordination vows means that the person doing the renunciating cannot act as an ordained minister anywhere, then the Presiding Bishop's "acceptance" of Bishop Iker's, Bishop Scriven's and Bishop Wantland's "renunciations" is particularly objectionable because it's not clear that any of them has declared in writing to the Presiding Bishop a renunciation of the ordained ministry of this church, as required by Canon III.12.7(a). Bishop Iker did declare that he was no longer subject to the jurisdiction of the Presiding Bishop (and even stated that he never was, which was going a bit far), but this was in a press statement published on the diocesan website, not in a communication to the Presiding Bishop. Bishop Wantland did send a letter to the PB stating that he was no longer a member of TEC (which is a little closer to the canonical requirement), but he didn't state that he was renouncing his ordination vows either. And Bishop Scriven, who wasn't consecrated in TEC to begin with, just said that he was going to work for an organization that I think is affiliated with the Church of England. How in the world is that a renunciation of his ordained ministry?

    The other problem is that unlike a presentment where the bishop involved gets a full fledged ecclesiastical trial or a deposition, which requires a vote by the House of Bishops at which he/she is presumably given the opportunity to addresss the House (although neither Schofield nor Duncan chose to avail themselves of this opportunity), acceptance of a "renunciation" by a bishop only requires the approval of the PB's council of advice. There is no provision for the "renouncing" bishop to appeal or to seek to have this "acceptance of renunciation" overturned by the HOB. For that reason, unless the renunciation is clear and unambiguous, it violates any notion of fair play to use it as a means of removing a bishop.

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  11. Agreed, ninh. You can find all the information about the suit here: http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/coup17.html

    The date was January 29, 1998. +Wantland lost. He has been trying to find a way to 'steal' TEC for years. Hell hath no fury like a bishop who feels scorned by 'mother church'.

    The fascinating thing, at least to me, is that there was a bit of a scandal a few years back when he divorced his wife and took up with his secretary. He has been accorded more respect for that personal scandal than he has given others.

    Three things are patently clear:

    1. He is still sacramentally a bishop.

    2. He has, however, functionally resigned as a bishop from TEC.

    3. He is not an honorable man.

    The word verification is TINGS

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  12. Oh yes, Elizabeth, let us not forget the wonderful irony in TEC's most homosexuality-obsessed bishop having dumped his wife so that he could take up with his mistress.

    It just doesn't get much better than that, does it?

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  13. WSJM,

    It may be TOO MUCH but it is all we have. The trick is that those who move to some other (Non-Anglican) church go through a process. For us, TEC, the Anglican Communion not only was there no real process (I do not count magic wand waving) but we are the same communion and as such ought to be observant or each of our depositions/accepted renunciations.
    We here in San Joaquin have lived through the experience of having had a defrocked priest placed into a rector-type position even while the bishop knew that the priest had been defrocked. The priest did exactly what Mr. Schofield wanted, he destroyed the parish, and then suddenly, the priest was persona non grata and Mr. Schofield threw him out (taught that priest a lesson by Gawd!). No it was not fast enough for us and it was not nearly as pristine as you think and it was not nearly as universal as we would hope.

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  14. Regardless the general wording of deposition, all those bishops decided to pick up their miters and march their own way. Fair enough. It was their choice.

    Granted also, that the wording that currently we have in the Canons is not the best. But it is what we have and what all agreed at ordination, not once, but three times!

    In general, our canon law has been developed as circumstances change. The changes are made always after the mess is over.

    However, and it is a big however, they did not tendered their resignation as set by Canon, and which I am sure it would have been accepted by acclamation or regret, according to each individual circumstance, but, certainly would have not been refused.

    They just left The Episcopal Church.

    And they complain and whine-- It is invalid! Well, they cannot have it both ways.

    Either, they either accept that in fact they have not moved out of TEC and still subject to the discipline of the Church, or if indeed, they have left, they should not be writing to a Church they profess they no longer belong.

    Thomas+

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  15. Schismatics: We are no longer Episcopalians!

    KJS: OK.

    Schismatics: Strumpet! Vile woman! Why dost thou persecute us so grievously!

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