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COLUMBUS, OH: Laity may be removed from Title IV revisions

COLUMBUS, OH: Laity may be removed from Title IV revisions

By Jim DeLa
Episcopal News Service
June 14, 2006

The committee dealing with sweeping revisions to the disciplinary canons of the church may attempt to win approval for the plan by removing its most controversial aspect: the inclusion of laity.

In hearings June 14, the Legislative Committee on Canons decided to attempt a massive revision of resolution A153, which is of itself, a complete rewrite of Title IV, replacing the present adversarial system with a multi-layered approach stressing mediation and reconciliation.

Holding laity accountable under Title IV has caused a great deal of concern among critics of the resolution, some of whom expressed their views at a June 13 public hearing.

"I would just forget about the laity," said committee member William Fleener, a lay deputy from Western Michigan, during the committee meeting on Wednesday. ". . .if that is included in the version that hits the floor, I think that's going to be such a lightning rod that it really would take down the whole thing, regardless of how good the rest of it is."

The Rev. Virginia Herring of the Diocese of North Carolina, who described herself as "passionate" about keeping the laity in the proposed canons, was willing to compromise in order to save the rest of the resolution. "If we get something, if we can get the basic philosophy changed; if we can get this passed in this year of anxiety, we can do things with it later," she said.

The task of rewriting the resolution will be done by a subcommittee led by Stephen Hutchinson of the Diocese of Utah, who served on the task force that wrote the revisions contained in the resolution. After the hearing, he would not speculate on what the new draft could look like. "The committee has made its views known," he said, adding the group needs to organize and begin work.

The full committee also discussed a laundry list of other issues for Hutchinson's group to address. The topics include:

-- Burden of proof: The current resolution changes the standard of proof from "clear and convincing" to the less stringent "preponderance of the evidence," which merely requires that the matter asserted seem more likely true than not.

-- Impairment: Some committee members suggest moving all references dealing with impairment to Title III, which deals with ministry.

-- Compelling testimony: The proposed resolution would compel respondents and complainants to testify at hearings, possibly exposing participants to litigation.

-- Refining the role of the Intake Officer: The new draft may include language to further define the officer's duties, to emphasize pastoral considerations in the initial phases of a complaint.

-- Default options: The current resolution makes no provisions in the event a diocese fails to appoint personnel to fulfill the duties the new Title IV would require.

The committee will next meet June 15 at 7:30 a.m. in the Union D room of the Hyatt Regency hotel.

The full text of the resolution is available at http://gc2006.org/legislation/view_leg_detail.aspx?id=160&type=ORIGINAL

--- Jim DeLa is director of communications for the Diocese of Southwest Florida.

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