Say it isn't so.... seven bishops charged with misconduct

According to George Conger, writing for Anglican Ink, seven bishops have been charged with misconduct. They are 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.

Apparently the charges have to do with the fact that these bishops, along with the members of the Anglican Communion Institute filed a "friend of the court" brief supporting the position that The Episcopal Church is not a hierarchical body. See the full article HERE.

What is going on here?  Apparently someone believes that these bishops along with the ACI have done something that involves misconduct somehow related to the filing of the "friend of the court" brief.  We don't know what it is but there it is.  Someone has charged them and so Bishop Matthews was required to inform them that the charges have been made and that an inquiry will have to be held.

The folk who believe that Title IV is a bad piece of canonical work will no doubt shift from muttering to high pitched screech. On the other hand crank accusations are always in the offing and better an inquiry. And better it be an inquiry without much information for those of us outside the loop. So, let it go to the next step.

I hope that the charge IS that the bishops engaged in misconduct by the very fact of filing the brief. Because if that is the charge we can also hope that the inquiry will note that there is no reason to proceed further. Having opinions, even bad ones, is the perfect right of bishops and even people belonging to the Anglican Communion Institute, and all the rest of us.  Bad opinion is not a basis for claiming bad conduct.

On the other hand, several of these bishops have been known to work together in less that open ways and some of those actions might well have involved misconduct. Who knows?

What ever else is going on, if the charge of misconduct is that of filing a brief that is wrong, then we need to stand with these bishops.  Strange as it seems I have sometimes said stupid or wrong things and have even gotten together with others who agreed with me and worked to a common cause. But stupidity, wrongheadedness and bad opinion is not misconduct.  I have always appreciated the support of people who did not agree with me but who agreed for me.  My sense is we can only do the same.

If the charge lies elsewhere, the inquiry will I hope bring it to light and examine it. Then we will see. But if the charge is in the action of filing the brief itself, and for some reason if it goes forward, then we are in for quite a ride.


Christina Brennan Lee said...

You've said it well, as always (mostly!). I agree that "wrong" or at least differing opinion is not in itself misconduct. Let's "Hear" evidence before we all pounce.

JCF said...

Judgment: Reserved, till I learn a LOT more. About ALL the parties involved.

Prayers for the Church.

Robert said...

This will allow the energy to shift away from the mounting and cresting concern with the role of the PB in budget matters, infighting with Bonnie Anderson, restructuring of GC, financial decline, etc.

But will progressives not ever realize that to allow this sort of metropolitical authority to accrue re: Title IV simply means reinforcing the PB's own take on her authority in other areas as well?

It is one thing to want absolute hierarchy so as to defeat causes one does not agree with, but another to see the same hierarchy at work vis-a-vis budget, EC, GC consents processes, and so on. When it was New Hampshire elected VGR, everyone said they must be allowed to do as they did without interference. But will the same be true of newly elected Bishops when it comes to consents in Indianapolis? We are already hearing of a plan to interrogate them on their understanding of TEC polity as held by the Chancellor, e.g., in the ED of Ft Worth.

All should agree that this is the last thing needed to be added into the agenda and climate of GC. But perhaps it was added so as to shift people away from the serious questions being raised about the budget process and other matters.


SCM said...

What else unites the 3 Bishops in Illinois and the 7 in Texas EXCEPT the mere filing of an amicus brief?

What ELSE COULD be the content of a complaint?


Grandmère Mimi said...

Joining in litigation against the church in which the bishops took their vows, Dan Martins, quite recently, is more than just having wrong opinions. The mere fact that the bishops joined the lawsuit on the side of the breakaways speaks ill of their loyalty to their own church.

And what about the people in the continuing Diocese of Fort Worth? Haven't they had enough? True...this is not a pretty picture. I have no idea how all of this will play out, or whether further action will be taken against the bishops, but they surely make their share of mischief.

Tom Downs said...

Holding opinions, even voicing them is one thing. Campaigning for change through the proper channels is also just. But willful acting against the interests of the church they have vowed to protect is another. The fact that the church is a participant in the court case, there can be no doubt what the official position of the church is.
If this is civil disobedience, then it is proper for the bishops charged to accept the consequences for their stand on principle.

Lapinbizarre said...

The Anglican Communion Institute's amicus curiae brief can be found here. Fascinating to discover that over the past five years, ACI has softly and silently morphed from "three guys and a web-site" to "an international think tank of bishops, clergy and other scholars dedicated to promoting the Anglican Communion".

Alexi said...

If the filing of an brief with a court is NOT part of the "misconduct" of these bishops, why would Bishop Matthews include it in his letter to these bishops? It is indeed a sad day when exercising ones civil right to free speech can be considered "misconduct".

I agree with Robert the timing could be purposeful to deflect serious disagreement over budget process. Yes indeed the bishop-elects from several diocese will now be subject to an investigation of their understanding of the nature of TEC. If the answer does not please the ruling oligarchy and other dioceses of TEc, then sorry no bishop for your diodes. What was put forth by NH in2003, this is the man we elected, you need to give him consents is now turned around and it no longer matters that these people were elected by their dioceses, all that ammeters is that their knowledge of TEc please certain group of people. A very sad day for TEC.

Ephraim RAdner said...

Let's be clear: if in fact the filing of an amicus brief ("friend" of the court, not of Forth Worth) is part of the "charge" against these bishops (and whomever else), then the complaints of Grandma and Tom above are out of line. These bishops have argued, NOT that Fort Worth is right to have broken away -- they have explicitly said the opposite! -- but that the grounds TEC lawyers are using to argue their case seriously misconstrue the constituted order of TEC. This is a matter of interpreting the polity of TEC, and in the process attempting to be "loyal" to that polity and church, nothing less. Mark is right: if disagreeing about the proper constitutional interpretation of our church is "misconduct", woe to anyone who exercises informed thought in TEC. Title IV's capacity to be used to attack such an exercise ought to bring a chill to any "loyal" member of our church. The entire Christian discourse of TEC has rapidly descended into the ad hominem. To which Pilate's declaration, "Ecce homo" should give moral pause.

Ephraim Radner

Grandmère Mimi said...

This is a matter of interpreting the polity of TEC, and in the process attempting to be "loyal" to that polity and church, nothing less.

Ephraim, must interpreting the polity of TEC must be done in a court of law? By joining with a breakaway group in a lawsuit against the church? That seems an odd way to conduct the business of the church.

I don't know what's going on with the complaints, and I make no judgement about them.

David and John said...

I tend to agree with Mark+ on this one.

Even though, I do have to question the loyalty of a Bishop who would sign on to any kind of document that comes from the Anglican Communion "Institute". While I think the Bishops who signed on to the document in question bear watching as we move forward, it seems no real "misconduct" has occured.

Besides, we really shouldn't put much stock in things coming from the inconsequential ACI. Most people see right through their pretentious publications and prognostications (especially those in the judicial realm).

Tom Downs said...

Dr Radner, you are close to the bishops involved, perhaps you can tell us why they chose to offer this amicus brief. Are they simply offering an unsolicited opinion or are they attempting to interfere with the arguments offered by the representatives of TEC in a court case. If their goal is to weaken the church's case, then their action is intended to hurt the church. If it's the latter then in my opinion they are culpable. I say again, disagreeing is fine, but taking actions that deliberately weaken/harm the church is actionable. If on the other hand all they intended was to inform the world of their opinion regarding the polity of TEC, wouldn't they be just as well served by publish it in an magazine read by Episcopalians? Could they really be intent on changing our polity by using the secular courts rather than using our own internal system for effecting change--General Convention.

Anonymous said...

Some of the criticism in earlier comments is based on a misunderstanding of how an amicus brief works. Grandmère Mimi said the bishops were "joining in litigation" and Tom Downs said they were "a participant in the court case." Neither claim is true. "Amicus brief" is short-hand for a brief filed by an amicus curiae, or in English a "friend of the court." It is a brief by someone who has expertise on some question before the court and who is writing to aid the court's deliberations, often not fully taking one side or the other in the case. In an adversarial legal system like the one in the United States, where the court relies on each side to make the best arguments for its position, amicus briefs serve an important function of providing views that may not fully align with those of the parties. To file an amicus brief is not only a help to the court, but it is also a classic exercise of free speech in the public square.

Also, those who oppose the bishops' right to file this amicus brief should think long and hard about the precedent this sets. For example, the Church of England's official position as stated in the recent government consultation is contrary to same-sex marriage--should English bishops be disciplined if they filed a brief encouraging a court to consider the diversity of religious opinion on this question? Be consistent.


Robert said...

I see we now have a sensible response from +Dan Martins and another "pretentious publication" from ACI.


And thank you, Samuel, for pointing out what an amicus brief actually is.

Meanwhile GC is just around the corner. What lovely timing. Nice way to shift the discussion away from the Budget and the PB's personal offerings on that score.

All very sad.


Grandmère Mimi said...

Now that I understand a bit more about the amicus curiae, I wish to correct my statements that the bishops were suing TEC or joining in the litigation against them. Agreed that the bishops did neither. Still, the information the bishops offer to the court will be helpful to the case of the breakaways, Iker et al. The bishops may be friends of the court, but their actions are not friendly to their own church. Again, why not settle church polity within the church?

All the information we know about this matter comes from George Conger. I doubt very much that the intake officer of TEC released the information, so who did, and why?

Anonymous said...

Thank you to Samuel, @ comment #13, for explaining what an amicus brief is, and saving me the trouble.

And what about the 3 other bishops, against whom complaints have been lodged "for [their] action in signing affidavits in opposition to a motion for Summary Judgment made by representatives of The Episcopal Diocese of Quincy and The Episcopal Church in the Fall of 2011…"?

As an initial matter, I would emphasize that the complaint against the three is based merely on the signing of affidavits – affidavits in which the only thing they did was express an understanding of Church polity which differs from that espoused by 815.

I will note that, by signing affidavits, the three bishops did NOT join the lawsuit. TEC had filed a motion for summary judgment, and the three bishops offered some support to the other party in opposing that motion. After reviewing the information, the Judge rejected some of the evidence put forth by TEC as irrelevant and non-binding, noted that even acceptance of TEC’s position “would not entirely resolve the dispute,” determined that “reasonable persons could draw different inferences from the undisputed facts,” and held that, “although the evidence of the hierarchical character of TEC is substantial, factual issues exist on the present record, which preclude the granting of summary judgment.” (You can read his decision here: http://embedit.in/Gy542N3hSW) In other words, as soon as the judge determined that reasonable minds could reach different conclusions, he was unable to award summary judgment.

In the hopes of heading off confusion, I feel I should offer some explanation of summary judgment: Joe files a lawsuit against Ann; Joe is the plaintiff, and Ann the defendant. Once discovery has been completed, Ann files motion for summary judgment; this means she is arguing that the available evidence, even if taken in the light most favorable to Joe, supports a ruling in her favor. In order to obtain summary judgment, Ann must satisfy both parts of a two-part standard: (1) no genuine issue of material fact is in dispute between Ann and Joe, and (2) Ann must be entitled to judgment as a matter of law. If there are no important facts in dispute, the judge can apply the relevant law(s) to the undisputed facts and render a judgment without having to go to trial; however, if even one important fact is disputed, summary judgment is improper.

Small Farmer in The City said...

Dr. Radner writes, "This is a matter of interpreting the polity of TEC, and in the process attempting to be "loyal" to that polity and church, nothing less."

It is my understanding that polity for TEC AS A WHOLE is legitimately set, and for that matter interpreted, by the GC and between Conventions interpreted by the EC, NOT individual bishops OR deputies.

It may well be that the signatories are correct in their understanding, but absent a clear statement to that effect by EC OR GC it might be seen as misrepresenting individual opinions as the consensus and customs of TEC, which is clearly not the case I believe we can all agree.

I would like to suggest that irrespective of where one stands on hierarchy within TEC, that arguments over governance and structure might best be kept "in house" and dealt with at GC rather than played out in public courts of law.


Lapinbizarre said...

Ephraim Radner more than "close to the bishops involved", Tom - he is one of those who filed the brief.

Ephraim RAdner said...

Samuel has well explained the nature of an amicus brief -- which has nothing to do with "taking sides" in the actual determination of a contest, but in making sure that the court has correct information with which to make that determination. IN this case, I believe (as did those who signed the brief with me) that there was a danger that the court was not aware of what we condsider to be the valid arguments over TEC's constitutional ordering (by the way, the brief itself was not even about what this ordering actually is, but rather that there is a real and legitimate ARGUMENT over it!). In our view, it was and remains important that the court not assume that the question of our constitutional order is settled; and that any determination it makes in this case therefore should not (for various US constitutional reasons) be based on such a reasoning. It would be wrong and highly deletorious for the court to enter into its own parsing of a TEC ecclesiological debate. If it is to deal with the property dispute at issue, let it do so on other grounds than trying to figure out on its own the nature of TEC's polity and the theological meanings informing our understanding of it.

There is nothing disloyal about this. Nor is there anything disloyal about thinking that the arguments being made by TEC lawyers in this case are both wrong and harmful to TEC's own integrity. To claim that every bishop (and priest?) must publicly support TEC's lawyers in their arguments before any given court is not only an odd position to take, but surely one that is without canonical let alone evangelical basis.

Ephraim Radner

Dave Sims said...

Tom and Grandmere: The amicus brief did not 'side' with either party per se, of the court case, but simply stated an opinion as to the nature of the constitution of TEC itself, whether by the Constitution's own definition, diocese are or are not creatures of the General Convention.

On your view, it would seem that no bishop, nor any member under the broad jurisdiction of Title IV for that matter, may hold or express publicly an opinion regarding the interpretation of the Constitutions and Canons of TEC, that contradict the opinions held by the current administration?

An interesting organization that would be, where the administration whose very authority is derived from its Constitution, holds unquestionable authority on how that constitution is to be interpreted.

Lapinbizarre said...

It is now clear from Bishop Love's letter to his diocese that George Conger's statement that "seven bishops have been charged with misconduct" is untrue. Perhaps Mr Conger will offer a retraction.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

The amicus brief was wrong - rubbing salt into a wound is never right. The bishops and others were wrong. The should be charged with arrogance unbecoming a bishop. The only way we have to deal with that is through Title IV - which is in serious need of revision.

Until we change Title IV, we have no other choice but to proceed.

Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

Robert said...

"Until we change Title IV, we have no other choice but to proceed"

Indeed, that says a huge mouthful about what is wrong with all this.


The nine charged should simply and politely say it is the business of GC to get a cleaned up Title IV in place and until then it is pointless to use it -- with secretive complainants, roles for PB the Constitution has not given the PB, etc.

My gosh, we are in a place of lawlessness and confusion it would be hard to know WHO oughtn't to be charged.


CS said...

Elizabeth Kaeton: I'm shocked. Do you honestly mean to suggest that anyone who dares to express an opinion or interpretation which is not officially endorsed by 815 should be deposed? That failure to toe the party line in every detail is such an egregious sin that clergy who have devoted the entirety of their long lives to the service of God, the Church, and their fellow man should be attacked, demonized, and shunned? Has it never occurred to you that statements such as yours here might be taken as rubbing salt in someone else's wounds? Or that your apparent certainty that (a) you have all the information necessary to make such a pronouncement, and (b) 815 is absolutely and unerringly correct, might perhaps demonstrate a little of the arrogance you see so easily in others?

CS said...

I would also offer a word of caution those who have been quick to rush to judgment against these bishops: No two people ever agree on absolutely everything. While you may be in perfect accord with 815 right now, the day will come when you won’t be. When that day arrives, will you still feel that any dissent is deserving of this sort of response?

Douglas Lewis said...

I am appalled by some of the comments here, especially by claims that these bishops were wrong because matters of polity are to be decided only in the Church. TEC has shown no hesitation in joining or initiating suits which require its lawyers to put forward an interpretation of its polity. i.e. to submit that question to the court's juridiction. This is hardly keeping questions of polity wihtin the Church.
--Douglas Lewis

Daniel Weir said...

I find the use of 815 as a label troubling. As far as I know, and I am ready to be corrected, the party to the legal action is neither a building nor a bureaucracy, but the Episcopal Church. I agree with Mark that filing the amicus brief seems hardly grounds for discipline, but I am convinced that any argument that the General Convention is not always a party to the creation of Episcopal dioceses Is simply wrongis

MLucka said...

It is disconcerting for anyone in TEC leadership positions, bishops or clergy included, to file official documents that are incorporated into lawsuits between TEC Dioceses and breakaway parishes and dioceses, that take stances in direct opposition to the very structure and governance of TEC.

In reading the affidavits and the Amicus Brief, the statements are more than just expressions of views; they argue against TEC's being a hierarchical denomination. This conflicts with the TEC Constitution and Canons, and only bolsters the "sovereign diocese" theory that is being floated around. Dioceses do have a lot of power, but they are not autonomous; they are connected through the overall structure of TEC.

Katie Silcox said...

Daniel and MLucka, ACI has drawn on extensive sources of information to provide substantive legal, political and theological arguments which they have presented as a logical case for a given ecclesial polity. This is in contrast to your rather sparse opinions on the matter which of course offer no sources and thus no grounds for your claims. Could you please provide, or direct me to evidence or comprehensive and coherent argument in support of your respective opinions? Thanks,


Robert said...

Why would a complaint be formally lodged *the day before the final expert witness list in the Quincy case was submitted* -- that is involving people and a time certain only the principals in the matter know -- against the expert witnesses themselves?

Can someone here answer that?

The only people who have this information are the attorneys, the provisional Bishops, and the expert witnesses themselves (should they be told who the other side has called).

And of course the legal team from 815, and the provisional Bishop of Quincy, who the PB has placed in charge of all litigation matters.

Who filed the complaint? They'd need to know these things.


Daniel Weir said...

The Constitution provides in Article V a clear process for a diocese to be admitted into union with the General Convention, which is the way a diocese becomes an Episcopal diocese. That process requires both a vote by the organizing convention of the new diocese and a vote by the GC. There are differing opinions about the autonomy of dioceses, but on this point the evidence is clear. I think it is also clear that there are significant areas of diocesan life which must be ordered by the Episcopal Church's Consititution and Canons and the actions of the General Convention. These include the ordaining of persons, the liturgies that are authorized for use, the requirement of financial audits for congregations and dioceses, to mention only a few obvious ones. On one matter, the election of a bishop, the autonomy of a diocese is more limited than that of a state when it elects a governor. What state would agree to the requirementbthat its choice of a governor be confirmed by a majority of the governors and legislatures of the other states? Dioceses and congregations have a great deal of autonomy, but it is not limited and certainly, to my mnd, the notion of diocesan sovereignty needs to be questioned.

Lapinbizarre said...

I continue to recommend Richard Hofstadter's classic 1964 essay The paranoid style in American politics to those who follow "Reasserter" politics.

Robert said...

Let it be then a matter of 'to my mind x or y.' That is, the polity of TEC admits of varying interpretations. The amicae have indicated their interpretation.

The point is that courts cannot make these determinations. That is what the First Amendment disallows.

The second point is, if you want to move from 'to my mind X or Y' to 'this is the cold hard rule' you must do the hard constitutional work.


Katie Silcox said...

You response contains reasoning reminiscent of that given by Mark Harris to proposed resolutions in the Diocese of South Carolina back in 2010 to which Mark McCall responded. I direct you to his response with the following highlight: "The part [Mark] Harris gets right is that the “discipline” of TEC to which bishops vow to conform in ordination includes matters covered by TEC’s Constitution, which says in its Preamble that it “sets forth the basic articles for the government of this Church.” The part Harris gets completely wrong is the suggestion that one article in that Constitution, the one specifying procedures for the “admission” (not “creation”) of dioceses (already constituted) and requiring the newly admitted diocese to accede at the time of joining to both the Constitution and canons of General Convention, exhausts the “basic articles” of governance of TEC and supersedes other constitutional provisions."

Here is the link to the article: http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/2010/09/ordination-vows-do-bishops-pledge-to-conform-to-unconstitutional-canons/

I also found the following article helpful in discerning these matters: http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/2011/03/title-iv-and-the-constitution-dioceses-exclusive-authority-for-clergy-discipline/

And finally, probably one of the more convincing pieces concerning TEC's polity: http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/2010/02/losing-their-nerve-what-the-courts-would-discover-if-they-examined-tec-polity-afresh/

Perhaps you could offer some response and reply to these arguments that would provide some further food for thought. Thanks,


David Crawford said...

This whole argument is wrong. How many priests and bishops have already blessed same sex marriage and conducted services contrary to the canons which have not been approved by general convention. How many parish's practice open communion contrary to the canons. Should those individuals be brought up on charges ? It seems as though we can pick what to violate and what to punish. Then the canons mean nothing. David Crawford

Lapinbizarre said...

Care to explain, preferably without reference to self-serving ACI cribs, the matter of consents for newly-elected bishops, Katie?

Daniel Weir said...

My interpretation of Article V is fairly simple. Whatever you may call a group of congregations before the General Convention voted to admit them, I do not think they are dioceses of the Episcopal Church until that GC vote. Certainly they can be thought of as a "diocese in formation" as the congregations organize themselves and request admission, but it takes the GC vote, in my opinion, for the erection of a diocese to be complete.

SCM said...

It was very useful for the Bishop who asked that the HOB set the record straight on the polity of TEC was the same one who said after 3 closed sessions the HOB did not do that. So much for a unitary hierarchy. The Bishops of course realized that as a group that was not a position they agreed on.

The attorneys in Quincy and FW will doubtless take this to the bank. I suspect +Buchanon made a big mistake in asking for something the HOB cannot give and did not finally give anyway.

It doesn't take an 'ACI' to establish this new fact. It is there for all to see.

And +John Buchanon is disappointed....


SCM said...

The funny thing is, if a Diocese elected a Bishop and said Bishop did not get consents, the consecration would still take place if the Diocese so decided.

I mention this because it may not be too long before that kind of situation will arise, given the general lassitude TEC is displaying in respects of canons. A 'provisional rite' -- where does Art. X envisage such a thing, pray tell?

But leaving that aside, how does gaining consents bespeak a unitary hierarchy? Isn't it just conciliarism? What happens to one Bishop it is agreed should be true for all Bishops.


Lapinbizarre said...

Gotta love the way that those who are forever accusing TEC of making it up as it goes along are so seldom at a loss when they themselves need to create convenient "facts".