The blogosphere is buzzing with stories and comments indicating that the deposition of the Rt. Rev. John David Schofield and the Rt. Rev. William J. Cox (about whom I wrote in my last post) may have been out of order; that is, it did not actually comply with the requirements of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.
I am going to reproduce the most salient comments I have run across because this story needs to be documented as many places as possible. The most thoughtful thread on the subject is the one at Stand Firm entitled, Let’s Get to the Procedural Bottom of This.
Canon IV.9. states that there are requirements that must be met before one even gets to the point of a vote on deposition of a bishop. The first of these requirements is that, a Review Committee of the House of Bishops must conclude that there are grounds for the deposition. Next the Presiding Bishop must get the consent of the three most senior bishops with jurisdiction (i.e., active diocesan bishops). According to a report in The Living Church, “One of the three senior bishops with jurisdiction confirmed to The Living Church that his consent to inhibit Bishop Cox was never sought.”
This, by itself, is sufficient to indicate that the deposition of Bishop Cox is null and void. I do not know whether the consent of the three senior bishops was sought in the case of Bishop Schofield, but this should be investigated.
The question as to whether the vote to depose Bishops Cox and Schofield was legal hinges on Article 1(2) of the Constitution, Canon I.2.4(4), Canon III.12.8(d), and Canon IV.9.
Section 1 of Canon IV.9 states that once the three senior bishops have given consent, the Presiding Bishop shall inhibit the bishop in question “…until such time as the House of Bishops shall investigate the matter and act thereon.” Section 2 contains the requirements for the actual deposition. If the inhibited bishop does not recant, “…it shall be the duty of the Presiding Bishop to present the matter to the House of Bishops at the next regular or special meeting of the House. If the House, by a majority of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote, shall give its consent, the Presiding Bishop shall depose the Bishop from the Ministry.”
Section 2 of IV.9 also sets forth what constitutes consent by the House of Bishops. Specifically it declares that the consent must be “…by a majority of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote.” The question is what this means. Some have suggested that it means simply a majority of bishops at the meeting in question. However, Canon III.12.8(d) makes clear what language is employed when a simple majority of those present is required, and that language is “by a majority of those present.” Article 1(2) of the Constitution specifies what “the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote” means