Well, it's not a new gambit, and it's not a good gambit, but at least the ACN gambit is consistent in trying to sidestep the clear intent of the Canons of the Episcopal Church.
The news today: The Bishop of Virginia, Bishop Lee, has released 21 priests from the ordained ministry.
Some of the Anglican Communion Network bishops have stated that these priests are just fine with them, since they have left TEC and become priests of another Province with which TEC is in Communion, and therefore could not be inhibited by Bishop Lee. That means, in their minds, that these priests are indeed still priests, etc.
Here is what they had to say:
"As bishops, we ordain priests for the whole church. Surely we overstep our bounds when we attempt to decide for the whole church that a priest’s ministry is ended because he is no longer under our authority.
Because these Virginia priests are priests in good standing in the Provinces of Uganda and Nigeria, respectively, the deposition is, in fact, of no effect. Each is recognized as a priest in good standing of the Anglican Communion. Therefore we welcome them to exercise their sacerdotal ministries in our Dioceses."
As I understand the Canons, the deposition of a priest of this Church means that that person is not a priest recognized as such in this Church. Period. The fact that the clergy in question, without prior approval or letters giving their oversight to another bishop, have left The Episcopal Church for another church, is of no consequence, save to prove the charges.
If they have been deposed for abandoning this Church, then it stands as a deposition for the whole church. There are no provisions for a deposition being "undone" on the argument that the priest in question was no longer part of this Church precisely because the charge is that they have abandoned the communion of this Church. Priests are under the jurisdiction of a particular bishop and diocese until released for service elsewhere. These 21 priests were not so released.
So, The Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman of the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, the Rt. Rev. Peter Beckwith of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield, the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, the. Rt. Rev. Jack Iker of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the Rt. Rev. John David Schofield of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin stand in contravention of the Canons of The Episcopal Church by determining that the deposition by the Bishop of Virginia is "of no effect."
Who do these bishops think they are? And just where did they get their authority to simply deny the validity of deposition for reasons of abandonment? One may suppose these 21 priests are fine people and that they left for the best of reasons, etc, but they were not, it appears, released from the authority of their bishop. They left without release. They are therefore still bound.
These five bishops are the core of the Network on its way to being a new church. They have already abandoned attentive engagement with the Canons of The Episcopal Church.
There are other signs of this abandonment: The Moderator stated in his address to the ACN Annual Meeting,
"The Network Bishops have agreed to take part in the upcoming meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Primates Steering Committee and Anglican Consultative Council. We do so, some of us at least, without any implied recognition of or submission to the American primate ..." "Some at least," and I would suggest it is the core five, do not recognize the American Primate. This, of course, also makes it clear that such distinctly canonical matters as the election of the Presiding Bishop are able to be dismissed as well.
Looking at the statement of the core five, One half of the Network Bishops have made it clear that they consider the Canons of the Church to be without merit, at least in this instance.
It is of some interest to note those absent from the list of bishops receiving the 21 priests: Bishops Stanton of Dallas, Bishop Howe of Central Florida, Bishop Steeson of Rio Grande, Bishop Love of Albany, and a bishop for South Carolina.
By the way, NO ONE is a "priest in good standing of the Anglican Communion." We are priests in good standing in our own churches (Provinces) and at the sufferance of other provinces may exercise ministry there, but we have no rights to do so.