10/13/2011

What to do if you (Diocese of South Carolina) don't like Title IV (or TEC's "direction.")

There is considerable weeping and gnashing of teeth in the Diocese of South Carolina about Title IV disciplinary canons, particularly since some there believe or (are being led to believe) it is being used to railroad Bishop Lawrence out of The Episcopal Church. 

Bishop Henderson has gone to some lengths to say this is not true. The media is mixed on what is going on. Again, The Living Church, has reported out a well written piece on both Henderson's cautionary words and the concerns of some in the diocese.  Episcopal Cafe has a fine summary article HERE.

The problem is that (as I understand it) the Diocese of South Carolina has disavowed being bound by the canons (Not they say, the Constitution). But even there one wonders: reports are that the Constitutionally required oath has been changed. Still, the basic concern seems to be that the Diocese of South Carolina proposes that if it doesn't approve of a canon, it is not bound by it and isn't going to follow it. It proposes that it doesn't have to, given that it has not now and never has been bound by what General Convention puts into the Canons.  Bishop Lawrence has spoken with a level of passion that has pushed the diocese forward on all this.

My previous post suggests that they have no grounds for ignoring canons they do not agree with and that their predecessors assented to the proposition that they were bound by convention actions, even if they were not there.  (See HERE.)

Now I have a suggestion for the Bishop and Deputies of the Diocese of South Carolina. If you don't like Title IV as it stands (and there are many of us who have some serious questions about it), go to the next General Convention and precisely using the fact that you are bound to follow the canons, mount a campaign to change Title IV to better suit the needs of the Church. You might find interesting allies.

Break though to the other side of the media's love of conflict, take the conflict to the place it can do the church the most good - into the process of changing the canons for the better.  That, of course, would also make foolish the claim that the bishop or diocese were out to leave The Episcopal Church.

This would also put to rest the suspicion by some that Bishop Lawrence is pushing precisely so that he will suffer the slings of a demented church and a miserable set of canons, thereby poking holes in the current structures and leadership of The Episcopal Church.  This way he would come off as more reasonable and saintly than most, and worth hearing out.

Actually, I think he is worth hearing out now, not in terms of the strange arguments about why the Diocese of South Carolina believes it is not bound by the Constitution and Canons both, but in terms of the critique of Title IV, the statement of concern that The Episcopal Church be itself bound by responsible obedience to ancient truths.  

In the Father's House there are many rooms, but not all have a view. I will be content to be there (assuming I am invited) and I suspect so will Bishop Lawrence. Bishops may have better rooms if for no other reason than that they were pounced on all the time in this age. That's OK with me. But I suspect we will both be mighty poor pickings, given all who are coming.  The rooms with a view are reserved for people who planted their garden and had enough for others and themselves, and for those who had little or nothing here.  Bishops and Church polity wonks may be next to the ice machine and elevator.  Such is life in the Kingdom.

Meanwhile it would do some good to step back from too early condemning the work of the Disciplinary Board (God bless you, esteemed Bishop Henderson), and some of us need to step back from too early believing that the Bishop of South Carolina is throwing off being an Episcopalian. 


Nobody is going to like this post I suspect. (Sigh...)

43 comments:

  1. Mark, I like your post. Bishop Henderson and the board are doing their job. What else can they do? Some commentators have already declared Bishop Lawrence a martyr, when the investigation of the allegations from persons within the diocese is yet in its earliest stages.

    Your suggestion that Bp. Lawrence take up his dissatisfaction with the canon within the processes of the church is eminently sensible and peaceable, but it seems to me that Bp. Lawrence has already given up on the Episcopal Church as a hopeless case. Of course, he could change course, but I rather doubt that he will, but that doesn't mean that your suggestion is not worth throwing out there.

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  2. Being less articulate than most who comment here, I will only say that I like your post. Oh, and that I agree with Grandmere.

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  3. What them two wimmerns up yonder sayed.

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  4. If there are problems with Title IV--as you intimate--the best way to correct them at GC 2012 is certainly not to have SC 'lead the charge.' Mobilize others. That would be strategically far more effective.

    It is also a long time between now and then for SC. In the meantime, +ML could be inhibited and then charged with abandonoment. If that does not transpire, it will then be time to speak of events at GC.

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  5. Re: Fr Harris's 'there are many of us who have serious questions about it'

    Perhaps without intending to – this is not a criticism; we live in confusing times – you have reproduced something of the logic of the Diocese of Central Florida. They now appear prescient in holding that Title IV is too confused and requires some rethink at GC 2012 (for them, as well, this includes more than messiness; constitutionality is also at issue). That being so, why should any Diocese now undertake to include Title IV alterations? Shouldn’t they wait until a review and revision – now should to be necessary in the light of this past week?

    Sam

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  6. add me to the chorus who like this post.

    There are too many (on both sides) who, if the winds aren't blowing their way, pout and rant and misbehave and then make themselves out to be martyrs. I have a lot more respect for people like Jim Ferry or Terry Finlay (ironically, the bishop who inhibited Ferry) who submit to discipline when they have transgressed and work within the church to change it.

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  7. I hope Fr Harris can respond to my query:

    Re: Fr Harris's 'there are many of us who have serious questions about it'

    Perhaps without intending to – this is not a criticism; we live in confusing times – you have reproduced something of the logic of the Diocese of Central Florida. They now appear prescient in holding that Title IV is too confused and requires some rethink at GC 2012 (for them, as well, this includes more than messiness; constitutionality is also at issue). That being so, why should any Diocese now undertake to include Title IV alterations? Shouldn’t they wait until a review and revision – now should to be necessary in the light of this past week?

    Sam

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  8. Priscilla Cardinale15/10/11 10:51 AM

    I foolishly made the trip over to SF, T19, and Anglican Curmudgeon. That these people spew such invective under the cloak of God-fearing, traditionalist Episcopalians and Christians is beyond the pale.

    The character assassination of Ms. Hicks, Bishop Henderson, the Presiding Bishop, and TEC is itself outside the realms of Christianity. The paranoia, fear, and general bilious nature of all the rhetoric makes me very sad. They all but declare that anyone that represent TEC have horns and tails and hooves.

    That some of their followers come here and try to guilt people here is the ultimate chutzpah! Physician, heal thyself!

    I agree with Mark. Use the processes as they are designed to be used or leave. All of this sturm und drang is unbecoming to anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ and indicates how right Mad Priest was when he designated this as a war between the legalists and the prophetic.

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  9. There have been assertions that Canon IV is unconstitutional, but I have seen no evidence presented to support the assertions. It might be helpful if someone could briefly provide specifics.

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  10. Whew! Priscilla, you may need to get some medication! Don't work yourself into a frenzy, please.

    There's enough bilious-ness flying around to clog anyone's system. Read your own comment!

    peace, Sal

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  11. Fr Weir

    http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/2011/02/title-iv-revisions-unmasked-reply-to-our-critics/

    http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/2011/03/title-iv-and-the-constitution-dioceses-exclusive-authority-for-clergy-discipline/

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  12. Fr Harris

    Why is this strange?

    "...the strange arguments about why the Diocese of South Carolina believes it is not bound by the Constitution and Canons both."

    The point of having a constitution is that it has a character different than canons, else they would all go under the same term.

    So, e.g., the BCP is a constitutional document. That is why if a canon is passed which says marriage is between two people of the same sex, and provides rites for that, it would void the constitutional character of the language of the BCP, where 'marriage' has a strict definition.

    One can think of less topically charged examples.

    Could a canon be enacted that said that MP was no longer optional on Sundays. GC could pass such a canon, after debate. But it would properly be held to be unconstitutional by dioceses.

    So there is nothing strange about a canon that could not be followed because unconstitutional.

    It makes perfect sense.

    Your argument must be about specific cases, not about the principle itself.

    Samuel

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  13. Re: constitutionality of canons

    As I understand it at least, there isn't really any sort of mechanism for determining whether or not a particular canon actually violates the TEC'S constitution. We don't have a judicial branch with the authority to review canons, GC resolutions, Executive Committee actions, etc; so it seems that GC would be the final arbiter on what is or is not constitutional. Am I wrong in that conclusion?

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  14. Kevin

    You have put your finger on the problem. We do not have a court to make these important judgments. Lacking this, in order to be logical, TEC would simply have to quash the meanigful distinction between a constitution and a canon, and just call every decision made by GC a 'constitutional datum.' The problem here is obvious.

    And that is why we are getting into problems.

    There had been an assumption about how one went about amending the constitution itself. If one just calls every canon generated by GC a constitutional change, that makes no sense.

    In addition, Dioceses have of course their own constitution/canons. Hence the problems in TX courts.

    Samuel

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  15. I have read the Article of the Constitution that some have claimed is violated by Title IV. The Article does not state, as some suggest, that the General Convention has no role in the disciplining of priests and deacons. If it is taken to reserve everything disciplinary to the dioceses, then all the GC's disciplinary canons would have been unconstitutional and it would have been up to each diocese to determine the list of offenses and the possible sentences. There may be flaws in Title IV, but I find no reason to think it unconstitutional.

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  16. I believe it is widely understood that the role of the PB in Title IV gives the office an authority it does not have by constitution.

    This issue has been raised in the House of Bishops and is by no means resolved. This is one of the reasons people have spoken about revisiting Title IV in GC 2012.

    Samuel

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  17. I think there is a real difference between the PB being given a role not mentioned in the Constitution and the claim that it is unconstitutional to do so.

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  18. Fr Weir

    Which part of this did you find in error?

    http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/2011/03/title-iv-and-the-constitution-dioceses-exclusive-authority-for-clergy-discipline/

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  19. That is not the view held by members of the HOB.

    The constitution is clear about what offices the PB exercises. For the PB to have new authorities given to her, is what the Constitution is for.

    Sam

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  20. I liked you post, Fr. Harris.

    I just don't think Bishop Lawrence is going to do anything that might hinder his destiny of being an official martyr of the self-proclaimed orthodox.

    However, I would be pleased if future events prove my current opinion wrong.

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  21. I wonder if the learned commentators on the canons and constitution of TEC could help an Anglican from Down Under get a better feel for the situation in which +Mark Lawrence seems to be placed?

    In my own reading of Anglican Curmudgeon, balanced by my reading here of those who dispute the fairness of Curmudgeon's understanding of what is at stake, I have nevertheless formed the impression that +Mark Lawrence could, in the end, be charged, tried and deposed under the relevant canon Bishop Henderson is working to without right of appeal against the decision.

    Is anyone here, otherwise not disposed to lean towards favouring +Mark, able to guide my understanding? That is, am I right in thinking that the process unfolding offers the possibility of judgement against +Mark without his having a right of appeal should the judgement lead to his deposition?

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  22. Peter Carrell, you are correct. There is no appeal from a vote of the House of Bishops to depose a bishop on the specific grounds of abandonment of the Episcopal Church. However, before it even gets to the HOB, the Disciplinary Board for Bishops has to certify to the Presiding Bishop that the bishop has abandoned the Episcopal Church, and the bishop is then given at least 60 days to recant or to make a good faith denial that s/he committed the acts complained of.

    The canons don't specify how the HOB is supposed to make its decision, but the house may have some internal rules on this matter. Most likely, the bishop would be given an opportunity argue his case before the house. However, as I recall, in the cases of Bishops Schofield and Duncan, they already had one or both feet out the door and chose not to appear (probably wouldn't have made a difference if they had). In one of these cases (I think +Duncan's, but I'm not sure), there was some question about whether the canon required a majority vote of all bishops eligible to vote in the HOB or a majority of those present and voting at the meeting of the HOB. Based on advice by the parliamentarian, the PB ruled that it required only a majority of the bishops present and voting. Since there weren't enough votes to overturn it, the ruling stood.

    Bishop Iker's case was handled a little differently. He issued a press statement that said in essence "Katharine Jeffert Schori isn't the boss of me" (albeit in more episcopal language). The Presiding Bishop took that to be a voluntary renunciation of ministry, which she accepted (with the consent of her council of advice), and from which there was no appeal.

    Bishop Lawrence's case may play out differently. He hasn't stepped outside the door (at least not yet). So far, all he has done is opened the door and looked outside. He may also have more of an interest in fighting it than +Duncan and +Schofield did, if it gets that far. At this point, though, it might be better to wait and see what the disciplinary panel does.

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  23. Paul Powers...thanks for your observations.

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  24. Thanks Paul. I understand the process to give a form of "appeal."
    Which is good.

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  25. Paul Powers, you good anaswer is limited by the perspective you bring. This is revealed when you say, 'he has opened the door and looked outside.'

    The argument in SC is not to do with looking outside. Or the bank robber in a car with a mask and a gun. Intent, kind 'of.

    SC's argument is that those 'inside' are overreaching in respect of the constitution. SC is fully inside. Others are moving TEC into a place of confusion, power-mongering, and onconstitutionality. SEC is staying the course.

    That many here want to see a different SC does not make them right. For SC the issue turns on keeping TEC in an historical polity and integrity. Let people say they are wrong, and let this be properly contested ecclessially ands civily. It is a view shared by CFL, Dallas, W-TX and many others.

    But the main lens on which to view the struggle is not 'they are thinking of leaving; maybe.' If one wants to put it in this way it ought to read. 'they want to know if they are going to be evicted' because a new TEC is emerging that departs from the constitution and the rule of law.

    And so we shall see the struggle play out. And in the end if the Diocese of SC is removed from the ecclesial books of the new TEC, then the next question will be, will it not simply continue as before?

    Samuel

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  26. Paul Powers, Pete Carroll

    I wonder if the issue is not whether the PB will open up some kind of phase where +ML gets to defend himself against the charges; and if she does, whether he will 'leave' or 'show up' and defend himself.

    I'm not sure that obtained in the case of Iker and Duncan. Of course in old Title IV, she was using this abandonment canon so as to get the job done. It was not designed for this, but deposing them was not going smoothly because Sr Bishops did not agree.

    The point is that we have a process in new Title IV which has phases for review. Intake Officer, Panel of Reference, etc. But this was rejected because the decision was made to consider these charges as 'abandonment' relating. So the Disc Committee goes into a different kind of modality. We have never seen abandonment handled by them so what will its phases of review look like? We don't know.

    The Diocese of SC however does not hold the view that Title IV is constitutional (and in the light of developments, we can see that they and others are right to be concerned; CFL was more cautious about accepting Title IV and Dallas votes shortly).

    So we shall have to see what happens. We have had a legal counsel step down. We have had assurances for calm, necessitated when it became clear that the normal (new) Title IV procedures were not going to be used.

    But to say that SC is different because we can't tell if they are looking outside the door misconstrues what is genuinely different.

    Samuel

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  27. Paul Powers, Pete Carroll

    I wonder if the issue is not whether the PB will open up some kind of phase where +ML gets to defend himself against the charges; and if she does, whether he will 'leave' or 'show up' and defend himself.

    I'm not sure that obtained in the case of Iker and Duncan. Of course in old Title IV, she was using this abandonment canon so as to get the job done. It was not designed for this, but deposing them was not going smoothly because Sr Bishops did not agree.

    The point is that we have a process in new Title IV which has phases for review. Intake Officer, Panel of Reference, etc. But this was rejected because the decision was made to consider these charges as 'abandonment' relating. So the Disc Committee goes into a different kind of modality. We have never seen abandonment handled by them so what will its phases of review look like? We don't know.

    The Diocese of SC however does not hold the view that Title IV is constitutional (and in the light of developments, we can see that they and others are right to be concerned; CFL was more cautious about accepting Title IV and Dallas votes shortly).

    So we shall have to see what happens. We have had a legal counsel step down. We have had assurances for calm, necessitated when it became clear that the normal (new) Title IV procedures were not going to be used.

    But to say that SC is different because we can't tell if they are looking outside the door misconstrues what is genuinely different.

    Samuel

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  28. Paul Powers, Pete Carroll

    I wonder if the issue is not whether the PB will open up some kind of phase where +ML gets to defend himself against the charges; and if she does, whether he will 'leave' or 'show up' and defend himself.

    I'm not sure that obtained in the case of Iker and Duncan. Of course in old Title IV, she was using this abandonment canon so as to get the job done. It was not designed for this, but deposing them was not going smoothly because Sr Bishops did not agree.

    The point is that we have a process in new Title IV which has phases for review. Intake Officer, Panel of Reference, etc. But this was rejected because the decision was made to consider these charges as 'abandonment' relating. So the Disc Committee goes into a different kind of modality. We have never seen abandonment handled by them so what will its phases of review look like? We don't know.

    The Diocese of SC however does not hold the view that Title IV is constitutional (and in the light of developments, we can see that they and others are right to be concerned; CFL was more cautious about accepting Title IV and Dallas votes shortly).

    So we shall have to see what happens. We have had a legal counsel step down. We have had assurances for calm, necessitated when it became clear that the normal (new) Title IV procedures were not going to be used.

    But to say that SC is different because we can't tell if they are looking outside the door misconstrues what is genuinely different.

    Samuel

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  29. Paul Powers, Pete Carroll

    I wonder if the issue is not whether the PB will open up some kind of phase where +ML gets to defend himself against the charges; and if she does, whether he will 'leave' or 'show up' and defend himself.

    I'm not sure that obtained in the case of Iker and Duncan. Of course in old Title IV, she was using this abandonment canon so as to get the job done. It was not designed for this, but deposing them was not going smoothly because Sr Bishops did not agree.

    The point is that we have a process in new Title IV which has phases for review. Intake Officer, Panel of Reference, etc. But this was rejected because the decision was made to consider these charges as 'abandonment' relating. So the Disc Committee goes into a different kind of modality. We have never seen abandonment handled by them so what will its phases of review look like? We don't know.

    The Diocese of SC however does not hold the view that Title IV is constitutional (and in the light of developments, we can see that they and others are right to be concerned; CFL was more cautious about accepting Title IV and Dallas votes shortly).

    So we shall have to see what happens. We have had a legal counsel step down. We have had assurances for calm, necessitated when it became clear that the normal (new) Title IV procedures were not going to be used.

    But to say that SC is different because we can't tell if they are looking outside the door misconstrues what is genuinely different.

    Samuel

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  30. Paul Powers, Pete Carroll

    I wonder if the issue is not whether the PB will open up some kind of phase where +ML gets to defend himself against the charges; and if she does, whether he will 'leave' or 'show up' and defend himself.

    I'm not sure that obtained in the case of Iker and Duncan. Of course in old Title IV, she was using this abandonment canon so as to get the job done. It was not designed for this, but deposing them was not going smoothly because Sr Bishops did not agree.

    The point is that we have a process in new Title IV which has phases for review. Intake Officer, Panel of Reference, etc. But this was rejected because the decision was made to consider these charges as 'abandonment' relating. So the Disc Committee goes into a different kind of modality. We have never seen abandonment handled by them so what will its phases of review look like? We don't know.

    The Diocese of SC however does not hold the view that Title IV is constitutional (and in the light of developments, we can see that they and others are right to be concerned; CFL was more cautious about accepting Title IV and Dallas votes shortly).

    So we shall have to see what happens. We have had a legal counsel step down. We have had assurances for calm, necessitated when it became clear that the normal (new) Title IV procedures were not going to be used.

    But to say that SC is different because we can't tell if they are looking outside the door misconstrues what is genuinely different.

    Samuel

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  31. Enough of the Sam troll, already!

    Kurt Hill
    Brooklyn, NY

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  32. Is a 'troll' someone who speaks to the topic and engages others, as against name-calling and other juvenile behaviour? Maybe the term means something different in your frame of reference, where virtually nothing of substance ever appears.

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  33. Sammy's stock-in-trade is "well-known facts", which are neither, and deeply partisan flights of fancy elevated to the status of certainty.

    Try this unending against-the-tide style at tolerant sites like Stand Firm, Anonymous (how come, by the way, that posts like yours waft, so boldly, from behind the curtain of total anonymity?) and see how long your shelf-life is.

    The grandmother of a friend used to say "A joke's a joke, but bugger a carnival". Sums up Sam.

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  34. Why don't Rabbit and Kurt go off and play whiffle ball if staying on topic is too difficult?

    Now we have news of the retaining of an older Counsel to replace Hicks, who had *already* been on the +ML case before the new Title IV committee kicked in.

    If there were charges already being brought by an old Title IV committee, why weren't these handed over to the Intake Officer, as is required by canon?

    Curious

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  35. BTW, I would find *identical* multiple posts from one person annoying. I am only now checking back in.

    There must have been a malfunction. The site rejected the W.I. several times. But obviously the messages were going through.

    Apologies for that.

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  36. Reason and Humility. Two of the greatest virtues.

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  37. Rabbit--try them out! It's like Paul's exhortations. Do them and one becomes them. Don't just pick away on the edges, name-calling etc. Jump in and deal with the actual issues facing TEC. grace and peace--Sam

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  38. One of the difficulties I am having with this thread and some others is that questions about hypothetical situations are impossible to answer and, IMV, trying to answer them would be a waste of time. So I won't bother. I am content to wait and see what happens with the investigation. I don't particularly like what I hear about the diocese, but that certainly isn't grounds for deposing Bp Lawrence.

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  39. I agree Fr Weir. Let's see what happens with +ML.

    Can you help us understand how a constitutionally approved rite of SS marraige -- which SCLM is seeking; and which we may well get at GC 2012 -- is a rite that Dioceses can declare 'unavailable' with impunity?

    You have been the chief bearer of individual Rousseauian liberalism. But law isn't that soft on its edges, by definition.

    Thank you for your liberal generosity. At issue is whether you will be shut out as TEC moves forward on a cause that really brooks no exceptions.

    Don't hold off. Help reassure the church.

    Samuel

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  40. Peter, please understand that the procedure I described is only for cases of alleged abandonment of TEC. There's a completely different procedure used when a bishop is accused of other canonical offenses. Also, my intention was to describe the procedure used in abandonment cases. Whether that procedure is fair in general or in the specific case of Bishop Lawrence is a question that I'm happy to leave to other bloggers, many of whom are on your own blog roll. I also didn't intend to express an opinion on the relative merits of Bishop Lawrence's case and those of Bishops Duncan and Schofield except that Bishop Lawrence may be more interested in fighting deposition than the other two were.

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  41. Fr Weir

    You asked about constitutionality and were referred to a link where the argument was laid out.

    I see T19 now has a precis of that posted as a new statement from Mark McCall.

    Samuel

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  42. Thanks to Fr Harris for posting it.

    There are also substantive responses.

    Samuel

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OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.
Rule: PLEASE DO NOT SIGN OFF AS ANONYMOUS: BEGIN OR END THE MESSAGE WITH A NAME - ANY NAME. ANONYMOUS commentary will be cut.