GC2012: Anonymous Accusers Come Out of the Closet? Two Provisional Bishops Attack
By Michael Heidt in Indianapolis
July 6, 2012
No stranger to litigation, the Episcopal Church (TEC) is witnessing another round of internecine legal action against nine conservative bishops and one prominent clerical theologian, the Rev. Dr. Philip Turner. All have been issued a letter from Bishop Clayton Matthews, the church's Intake Officer for canonical complaints, specifying that a complaint has been lodged against them under Title IV of TEC's disciplinary canons.
At present, the specific charges and who made them are unclear, but recent committee discussion and a joint letter to Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori from Provisional Bishops Wallis Ohl and John Buchanan, may shed some light on the mystery, while representing an escalation of the attack on the nine anonymously accused bishops.
On July 4, the Committee for the Consecration of Bishops met to review and recommend eight names be brought before the Convention for election to the episcopate, but not before the potential bishops had been vetted on matters of property and allegiance to Episcopal Church doctrine.
The vetting took place at the unanimous request of TEC's Fort Worth deputation, which according to the Episcopal News Service (ENS) asked, "that none of these bishops-elect harbors the views expressed in the amicus brief recently filed against Fort Worth by seven bishops and three priests of this church ... specifically whether he or she contends that dioceses have the unilateral and autonomous authority to leave the Church and take church property with them; and those views be published or otherwise communicated to both houses."
The request was later signed onto by the TEC Dioceses of Quincy and San Joaquin and verified by Katie Sherrod, Communications Officer of TEC's Diocese of Fort Worth and Deputy to General Convention.
Then, on July 5, after the vetting procedure of the eight bishops-elect, a joint letter from the Provisional Bishops of Fort Worth, Wallis Ohl, and John Buchanan of Quincy, was sent to the Presiding Bishop.
Addressed to "The Most Rev. Katharine Jefforts [sic] Schori", the letter lists a series of complaints against the bishops being threatened with Title IV discipline. In a paragraph under the title "Factual Background", the Provisional Bishops state:
"Recent events illustrate that there are still bishops in our Church who harm the Church by officially misrepresenting the polity of the Church; invading the episcopal jurisdiction of other bishops; taking official, formal, affirmative actions directly against their own Church and sister dioceses; and even recognizing the continuing authority of breakaway former bishops over the bishops who are recognized by this Church. In doing so they give aid and comfort to breakaway factions who would take title and control of substantially all of the real and personal property of this Church and cripple its mission and ministry."
They go on to make a series of accusations including a violation of the Dennis Canon, recognition of "the wrong bishops", violation of episcopal jurisdiction and failure to safeguard property. Given the animus that Ohl, Buchanan and their respective deputations to the General Convention have displayed against the bishops being threatened with Title IV disciplinary action, many suspect that these parties are the originators of the complaint. If so, it seems likely that the charges listed in the Provisional Bishop's letter to the Presiding Bishop are those contained in the Title IV charges.
According to George Conger, quoting an episcopal source for the news blog Anglican Ink, the letter issued by bishops Ohl and Buchanan might be an attempt to perform "an end run" around the Title IV canons.
While this may be speculation, the depth of feeling on the part of bishops Ohl, Buchanan and their respective deputations against those written by the Rt. Rev. Clayton Matthews cannot be questioned.
It could well be the case that the action against the nine accused bishops is escalating as the deputations from TEC's Dioceses of Quincy and Fort Worth round on their orthodox opponents. END The nine bishops accused under Title IV are:
1. The Rt. Rev. Maurice M. Benitez (resigned, Diocese of Texas);
2. The Rt. Rev. John W. Howe (resigned, Diocese of Central Florida);
3. The Rt. Rev. Paul E. Lambert (suffragan, Diocese of Dallas);
4. The Rt. Rev. William H. Love (diocesan, Diocese of Albany);
5. The Rt. Rev. D. Bruce MacPherson (diocesan, Diocese of W. Louisiana);
6. The Rt. Rev. Daniel H. Martins (diocesan, Diocese of Springfield);
7. The Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton (diocesan, Diocese of Dallas);
8. The Rt. Rev. Peter Beckwith (resigned, Diocese of Springfield); and
9. The Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon (resigned, Diocese of South Carolina).
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