Once Again, Conflicts Galore on the Kangaroo Court
I am now confident that whoever may be in my limited audience, it is not anyone connected with the august Disciplinary Board for Bishops (“DBB”—funny how those initials are the same as those of the Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor, who is acting totally in concert with the Board to achieve its nefarious ends). The DBB was created under the provisions of the new Title IV adopted by ECUSA’s General Convention at Anaheim—after just fifteen minutes of debate—in 2009.
The reason I can make that statement is that the DBB continues on its merry way, utterly oblivious to the conflicts which would disqualify many of its members from ever sitting as a judge at law (and one of them is a sitting judge). As far as the Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson and his legal counsel are concerned, the usual pattern of ignoring such problems altogether is the best way to conduct the Church’s “business as usual,” which has the goal of ridding itself of meddlesome bishops on flimsy and risible charges.
Example #1 in point: Bishop M. Thomas Shaw of Massachusetts has himself “abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church (USA)”, by an “open renunciation of the Discipline of the Church”—exactly as the DBB, on which he sits, has proclaimed that +Mark Lawrence has done. Bishop Shaw, as we know, defied both the marriage canons and the Book of Common Prayer rubrics by interpreting Resolution C056 (”Liturgies for Blessings”) adopted by General Convention in 2009 to allow him to authorize clergy in his Diocese to perform same-sex marriages, and then performed such a ceremony himself. According to Bishop Shaw, he and his suffragan bishops are the final authority on what the Canons and Resolutions of General Convention mean in their Diocese. So why is not Bishop Lawrence just as final an authority on the meaning of those same Canons in his Diocese, as well? And how can Bishop Shaw, having made that assertion (which in fact, is entirely correct), now seek to hold Bishop Lawrence liable for the latter’s own judgment of the meaning they are to have in his Diocese?
Talk about hypocrisy—but the members of the DBB (as well as David Booth Beers himself) are immersed in it up to their necks, day in and day out.
Example #2: Bishop Ian Douglas of Connecticut has likewise “abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church (USA)” by heading a diocese which has never acceded to the Canons of General Convention, but only to the Church’s Constitution. And yet he now is presuming to judge whether, by leading his Diocese to remove its previous accession to the Canons of General Convention, Bishop Lawrence has thereby “abandoned” communion with ECUSA.
Example #3: Bishop Herman Hollerith, Bishop of Southern Virginia, should have been brought before the DBB before they ever took up the case of Bishop Lawrence. In the proud and autonomous tradition of his parent Diocese of Virginia, which (like South Carolina) was one of the founding Dioceses of the Church, the Constitution of Bishop Hollerith’s Diocese contains no accession clause of any kind whatsoever—either to ECUSA’s Constitution or to its Canons. And yet the DBB on which he sits has charged Bishop Lawrence with “abandonment” for his diocese’s act of withdrawing its accession to the national Canons.
Example #4: Bishop Dorsey L. Henderson (retired) of Upper South Carolina, the person heading up the inquiry into “abandonment” charges against Bishop Lawrence is the very Bishop who led the “Title IV Task Force II” which drafted and then presented the revisions to Title IV for General Convention to adopt! Bishop Henderson also headed the Title IV Task Force II, which was charged with the duty of educating everyone in the Church about the new disciplinary Canons. In that capacity, he supervised the publication, in its name, of a written memorandum defending the new Canons against the charges of unconstitutionality made by Bishop Lawrence and his chancellor! Finally, Bishop Henderson serves on the subcommittee to bring out a revised edition of White and Dykman’s classic series of treatises on the Constitution and Canons—and what do you suppose that new edition will have to say about the constitutionality of the new Title IV?
Are we getting “kangaroo” enough for you here? Also serving on both the White and Dykman subcommittee (as its Chair) and simultaneously on the Disciplinary Board is Ms. Diane Sammons, an attorney lay member from the Diocese of Newark. She was a deputy from that diocese when the new Title IV passed the House of Deputies in 2009, and chaired the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons at that Convention, which reported the new Title IV to the Houses for approval (caution: 1175 page .pdf, of which the pertinent information is on [printed] page 7 [page 15 of the .pdf]).
Practically all of the other Bishops and lay members on the Disciplinary Review Board are potentially just as disqualified as the above-named members. The reason for their disqualification is that the vote to enact the new Title IV Canons passed the House of Bishops at Anaheim in 2009 (see printed page 227 of the 2009 Journal previously linked) without any recorded votes of dissent by any of the bishops currently on the Board, and likewise passed the House of Deputies by a wide margin. Unless the DBB members who were at Anaheim in 2009 can show that they opposed or abstained from voting on the new Title IV when it was adopted by their respective Houses, they are hopelessly prejudiced against the stand now being taken by Bishop Lawrence and his Diocese. The latter claim that the adoption of Title IV was not in accord with ECUSA’s Constitution; but the all the DBB members voting for its passage in 2009 demonstrated that they already disagreed with him—even before the charges against him had been brought.
[Nota bene: The episcopal members of the DBB, to say nothing of the Presiding Bishop herself, are further disqualified because of their having personally been involved in the ascertainment of the facts—when they had “private conversation” with Bishop Lawrence on a “point of personal privilege” in the House of Bishops at the General Convention last summer, in Indianapolis. See further on this below.]
For instance, the same 2009 Journal (at printed page 52) shows that the Rev. Canon Angela Shepherd served as a Deputy to the General Convention in 2009, and if she also voted for the new Title IV, she should not now serve in judgment of Bishop Lawrence. (Canon Shepherd was in the deputation from Maryland, which was chaired by the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool, soon to be elected suffragan bishop of Los Angeles.)
The only lay and clergy members of the DBB whose names I did not find in the 2009 Journal are the Hon. Joseph Alarid, who serves as a Judge of the New Mexico Court of Appeals; Ms. Josephine Powell; the Rev. Peggy Tuttle, and the Rev. Robert Two Bulls, Jr. That is just four of the current eighteen members.
I have saved a special case for last: Mr. William Fleener, Jr., who comes to the DBB after a long career as the Chancellor for the Diocese of Western Michigan. In that position, he and his bishop advocated the application of the Dennis Canon in a power struggle that enabled the raiding of a separate and independently incorporated endowment fund which had been set up for the failing Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids. Not only that, but he likewise served on the House of Deputies’ Legislative Committee on the Canons in Anaheim in 2009 (Journal, p. 425), and as such reported the new Title IV to the House for its approval. Then he was elected at that Convention to the Court for Trial of a Bishop, on which he participated in the proceedings against the Rt. Rev. Charles Bennison, Jr. The judgment in which he joined, finding the Bishop guilty as charged notwithstanding the canonical statute of limitations, was eventually reversed on appeal.
But we have scarcely begun to detail Mr. Fleener’s many conflicts of interest. For he was also, in this same period, an active blogger, and expressed his views on the Church’s constitution and canons for all to see and read. Here, for instance, in an October 30, 2008 post which he titled “The Chancellor of the Diocese of Fort Worth misleads members of the Diocese,” is what he had to say about the parallel situation in the Diocese of Fort Worth:
The Stand Firm blog has this posting about advice from the Chancellor of the Diocese of Fort Worth. The Chancellor who is unnamed in the post concludes that there is no violation of a fiduciary duty to any entity by voting to take a church or diocese out of the Episcopal Church. I have written often over the last few years that this is in fact not true. The Chancellor uses some neat statements of the law and some assumptions that most do not agree with and comes to the conclusion his Bishop wants. There are many problems with this conclusion.
The parishes (corporations) as they existed before “the troubles” were formed under articles of incorporation and canons that had the parish a part of TEC and they agreed to abide by the Constitution and Canons of TEC. Any act that a vestry member contemplates that removes this or violates this, violates their fiduciary duty to the corporation/parish as formed. They may feel they have a valid reason for violating the duty, but this is a completely different question. The Chancellor of the Diocese of Fort Worth would suggest that there is no duty and this is simply incorrect
On February 2, 2010, Mr. Fleener put up at his blog a post (”Report by Dissidents”) which had this to say about the documentation of the persecution of ECUSA bishops, clergy and parishes carried on under Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori (and by individual dioceses before that):
... The alphabet soup that is dissident Anglicanism has released a report about how they were abused by the Episcopal Church. I was going to read it and then I read the article with its release. It contained this line.
This paper illustrates the lengths to which TEC leaders will go to silence the voices of orthodox Christians in the Anglican Communion - Anglicans whose only offense was to stand for the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and Anglican Communion teaching.
Wow. Only offense? How about taking property that doesn’t belong to you? How about years of trying to undermine the Episcopal Church from within and when that wasn’t going well leaving and trying to be members of both groups at the same time? How about “Seize the Day?” How about . . . I could go on and on. The idea that these are nice blameless people who have done nothing wrong is laughable. I decided not to read their rant. If they had some willingness to share some of the blame for these sad affairs I would have read it. But no. Not this group. Also missing I would guess (since I will not read it) is any mention of the lawsuits initiated by dissident groups.
If you want to read it, it is here.
But don’t bother[. I]t will be exactly what you expect preening and posturing and a one sided description of activities that the[y] were mostly to blame for.
A nice showing of impartiality there, Mr. Fleener. Yes, you certainly must be qualified to sit in judgment of Bishop Lawrence’s actions which the DBB claims constituted an “open renunciation of the Discipline” of ECUSA. For don’t forget—on October 28, 2009 you considered so noteworthy this hate piece by a San Francisco activist, specifically attacking Bishop Lawrence for his scriptural views, that you reproduced it in full on your blog.
Mr. Fleener’s open partiality is welcomed on the Board, and considered par for its members. Your Curmudgeon’s equally open partiality, however, is not so welcomed (the President of the House of Deputies recently informed me that she had chosen others to serve as the lay representatives on the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons).
The standards of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops include these provisions, which spell out the “impartiality” required of all bodies which exercise functions under the disciplinary canons (Canons IV.19.14-15; I have added my comments on their application to this case in italics):
Sec. 14. Impartiality of officials and bodies described in this Title shall be addressed as follows:
(a) Any Bishop Diocesan exercising authority under this Title shall disqualify herself or himself in any proceeding in which the Bishop’s impartiality may reasonably be questioned.
Comment: According to the timeline published by the Diocese of South Carolina in this matter, Bishop Jefferts Schori agreed to meet with Bishop Lawrence, after the Disciplinary Board had already met and decided to bring charges against him. In that meeting, her only concern appears to have been how long Bishop Lawrence planned to stay at his post. Later, after she had restricted his ministry based on what she saw as valid charges of “abandonment”, she still wanted to meet with him—while keeping the charges “confidential.” She saw no conflict in her having to judge (under current Canon IV.16; formerly Canon IV.9) the “good faith” of any response made to the charges, all the while that she also possessed the power to declare anything he said to her in defense as a “voluntary renunciation of his orders.” Are those the actions of an “impartial” diocesan?
(b) Any member of any Panel provided for in this Title shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the member’s impartiality may reasonably be questioned. The member shall also disqualify himself or herself when the member . . . (4) has personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding [such as the knowledge gained by listening to Bishop Lawrence in “private session” at the House of Bishops?], [or] (5) has a personal financial interest in the outcome of the proceeding . . . [such as the potential for being selected as the “provisional Bishop” to replace Bishop Lawrence, if he is deposed?]
And now, please get this next provision (IV.19.14 [c]), which in the context of the role to be played by the members of the DBB, is truly rich in irony:
(c) Any member of any Panel provided for in this Title who has not disqualified himself or herself as provided in this section may be subject to challenge by the Church Attorney . . . . The challenge shall be investigated by the remaining members of the Panel who shall determine whether the challenged member of the Panel should be disqualified and replaced according to the procedures of this Title for filling vacancies.
Let us see . . . in this post and in one previous to it on this topic, I have set forth the basis for why it would not be reasonable to think that fourteen of the Board’s eighteen sitting members could act impartially in the matter of Bishop Lawrence. That leaves the four members named above as the sole judge of their colleagues’ conflicts of interest.
But now those four have conflicted themselves out of the proceedings, as well. For there has been no announcement from Bishop Henderson that any of the Board’s members recused themselves from considering the validity of the charges made against Bishop Lawrence. That being the case, it is now too late for those for to take up the “impartiality” of their colleagues—they have joined with them, without open dissent or protest, in these kangaroo proceedings which would be laughable, were they not so tragic for the future of our Church.
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