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SHOCKING NEWS: Charges against the Rt. Rev. Andrew D. Smith dropped by Episcopal Church

Saturday, April 14, 2007 • 6:24 am

Bishop Andrew D. Smith, who is currently out of the state, was reached late yesterday and notified of the court’s decision. In a statement of response he said:

“I am gratified by the decision of Judge Arterton that it is inappropriate to seek federal intervention in a matter of church life and governance. Non-interference by civil authorities in religious matters is a constitutional foundation of our nation and I trust that those members of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut who appealed to the courts will recognize the significance of this ruling and will seek to live in communion with their Bishop and this Church.”


Ecclesiastical charges against the Rt. Rev. Andrew D. Smith dropped by Episcopal Church review committee

An elected Episcopal Church review committee has decided to drop all charges brought against Bishop Andrew D. Smith by the rectors and vestries of six parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut.

Those rectors and some of their vestry members (elected lay leaders) had filed ecclesiastical charges against their bishop, alleging inappropriate application of canon (church) law, among other charges. The charges stemmed from the six rectors’ disagreement with Bishop Smith’s decision to support the consecration of Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, and their refusal to accept the Bishop’s attempts at reconciliation including delegation of another bishop to them.

“I am thankful to learn that the Title IV Review Committee found no cause to bring a Presentment based on the charges filed against me by the complaining clergy and lay members of this Diocese who found themselves at odds with my decisions and actions as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut,” said the Rt. Rev. Andrew D. Smith in a statement. “My desire has always been to bring reconciliation with the clergy and laity who sought to dissociate themselves from the oversight of their bishop and the mission and life of the Diocese of Connecticut. I will never abandon that desire and hope.

“The Episcopal Church has invested significant time and expense in responding to the charges which were filed by these members of the Diocese of Connecticut in 2005. I am deeply grateful for the care and thoroughness with which the Review Committee and the Church Attorney have investigated and considered the evidence, and I am thankful for their finding.

“My prayer is that Christ move us through and beyond the antagonisms which infect us in these times into stronger and clearer mission, witness and life together, that we may be a blessing to God.”

In spring 2005, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Connecticut, an elected council of advice, determined that each of the six rectors had “abandoned the communion of the Church.” They communicated their finding to the Bishop, who had the authority to inhibit the priests from exercising their priestly ministry based on that finding.

Bishop Smith inhibited one priest in June 2005, Mark Hansen, based on the Standing Committee recommendation as well as other concerns he had for the well-being of the parish at that time. Six months later, following canon law, Hansen was deposed (removed from the priesthood).

The formal ecclesiastical charges by the six rectors and some of their vestry members were submitted to the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop, who at that time was the Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold III. He forwarded the charges to an established Review Committee for further investigation.

The Review Committee is comprised of five bishops, two priests, and two lay persons, appointed at the Episcopal Church’s triennial General Convention. The bishops are appointed by the Presiding Bishop, and the clergy and laity are appointed by the President of the House of Deputies. The Committee acts in a way similar to a grand jury, which determines if there is enough evidence to proceed to a church trial.

During their investigation, Committee members requested and received numerous documents from the complainants and from the Diocese. Their final decision came in the form of an 89-page decision mailed on April 11, 2007 to attorneys for the Diocese and for the six (now five) rectors and vestry members. There is no provision for appeal.

Separately, and at about the same time as the ecclesiastical charges were filed, the rectors and vestry members of those churches filed charges against Bishop Smith in federal court. Those charges were dismissed in a ruling that declared the matter was more appropriate to be decided by church law. The decision was appealed by the rectors and vestry members and the case will be argued in early summer in the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The parishes whose rectors and vestry members filed the charges are Trinity Church, Bristol (the Rev. Donald Helmandollar); St. Paul’s, Darien (the Rev. Christopher Leighton); Christ & the Epiphany, East Haven (the Rev. Gil Wilkes); Bishop Seabury Church, Groton (the Rev. Ronald Gauss); and Christ Church, Watertown (the Rev. Allyn Benedict). The former rector and some former vestry members of St. John’s, Bristol, also filed charges, but the congregation has since elected a new vestry and has a new vicar appointed.

There are 174 parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, which comprises the entire state. Most, but not all, agree with Bishop Smith’s decision regarding Bishop Robinson and the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life and ministry of the church. Two parishes in the Diocese have accepted a delegated bishop through Smith’s office.

The six rectors and vestries, now five, acted collectively and with the direct support of the American Anglican Council (AAC). The AAC has been actively engaged in strategies to realign the Episcopal Church within the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is a member. The strategy has been to get the Anglican Communion to recognize only the conservative parishes and dioceses as the “true” Episcopal Church, and to effectively “cut out” the vast majority of parishes and dioceses of the Episcopal Church.

For a PDF document of the Review Committee’s determination, visit http://www.ctdiocese.org/news/Title_IV_Review_Committee_Decision.pdf

August 21, 2006

Federal lawsuit against Bishop Smith is dismissed

A federal lawsuit filed against Connecticut Episcopal Bishop Andrew D. Smith was dismissed by a judge in a ruling yesterday, August 21.

The civil suit was filed last September by clergy and lay people from six Episcopal parishes (among 176) in Connecticut, against Bishop Smith and others, including the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church USA. The lawsuit accused them of depriving the six plaintiff parishes of their rights, under the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, and sought to have a state law that provided for corporate organization of the Episcopal Church declared unconstitutional.

The plaintiff parishes included lay members from St. Paul’s, Darien; Bishop Seabury, Groton; Christ Church, Watertown; Trinity, Bristol; Christ & the Epiphany, East Haven; and St. John’s, Bristol, and clergy from five of those parishes. All six had been in dispute with the Bishop and Diocese over Episcopal authority and jurisdiction. The conflict started in late 2003 with theological differences. As an accommodation to those differences, Bishop Smith offered Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) in early 2004 but it was not accepted by any of the six parishes. The suit was filed after the actions of the bishop in July 2005, when he intervened at St. John’s in Bristol, inhibiting the priest and installing a priest-in-charge and an administrator.

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Janet B. Arterton concluded that the bishop acted under canon law, and that the claims by the plaintiffs lacked an essential element justifying a federal suit. Several other claims filed under Connecticut tort law were also dismissed by the federal judge.

Bishop Andrew D. Smith, who is currently out of the state, was reached late yesterday and notified of the court’s decision. In a statement of response he said:

“I am gratified by the decision of Judge Arterton that it is inappropriate to seek federal intervention in a matter of church life and governance. Non-interference by civil authorities in religious matters is a constitutional foundation of our nation and I trust that those members of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut who appealed to the courts will recognize the significance of this ruling and will seek to live in communion with their Bishop and this Church.”


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Comments:

This is not shocking, it’s expected.

It also totally mischaracterizes the nature of the charges.

[1] Posted by this_day on 04-14-2007 at 07:11 AM • top

“This is not shocking”

that is the point

[2] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 04-14-2007 at 07:13 AM • top

Indeed, that is the point.  So where do we go from here?

[3] Posted by this_day on 04-14-2007 at 07:18 AM • top

Having perused the findings, here are my comments and questions.

1) The vote was a “majority” and was not mentioned as unanimous.

Does anyone know who was on the Title IV Review Committee [they are appointed every three years at General Convention] that considered this case.  I would assume that it was the committee that was appointed at the 2003 General Convention.

2) Also, the civil lawsuit against the bishop and Standing Committee is going forward in the early summer in the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

So . . . does anyone have contact information for where to send money to these six parishes in order to support their legal appeal to the secular courts.

3) It is quite clear from the response of the Title IV committee that if a priest responds to anything asked by a bishop and expresses their hopes or wishes or desires in any way at all that those words will be used against them as “evidence” on charges of “openly” renouncing the communion of the church.

Any conversation at all with a bishop may later be used as “evidence” even prior to charges being made, and certainly without any ability by the priest to communicate with the Standing Committee that makes the determination. 

The report by the Title IV Review Committee claims that this helps the bishop keep “pastoral” dialogue open with a priest, but that is a lie.  Why would a priest converse with a bishop at any time, knowing that any conversation such as “I sure wish I could move to Tahiti” will be used as evidence that they are “openly” abandoning the communion of the church?  No, such a ruling now places a further chilling effect on the ability of a priest to have conversations with his or her bishop.

4) And finally, I note that one of the primary defenses was “oh no, I didn’t do any of these things—the Standing Committee did!”  So now we see that the canons—which purport to allow a bishop to “be pastoral” so they don’t have to do the dirty work of the Standing Committee, in reality act to protect the bishop from actually being charged with anything, since he’s not the Standing Committee.  But oh yes, anything that you say to the bishop—you know, in all those “pastoral conversations”—will be used as evidence in your trial-without-representation with the Standing Committee.

What.  A.  Scam.

[4] Posted by Sarah on 04-14-2007 at 07:46 AM • top

I’d like to add a question to the ones Sarah mentioned above:

What do you suppose the diocese to consider to be an “appropriate” amount of time between the release of the Review Committee’s report and the inhibition of the other priests so that it doesn’t look like retribution?  Or do we suppose that the diocese is going to wait until the appeal process is concluded before taking that step?

[5] Posted by Vintner on 04-14-2007 at 07:53 AM • top

I hope every orthodox Christian left in the Episcopal Church has or is developing his/her plans to leave it before long.  Otherwise, they will find themselves in a very lonely, isolated position.  Far too many are already finding that out the hard way!

[6] Posted by David+ on 04-14-2007 at 08:15 AM • top

Observations:
“There is no provision for appeal.”
And:
“An elected Episcopal Church review committee…”  Hmmm - contradicts this:
“The Review Committee is comprised of five bishops, two priests, and two lay persons, <u>appointed</u> at the Episcopal Church’s triennial General Convention. The bishops are <u>appointed</u> by the Presiding Bishop, and the clergy and laity are <u>appointed</u> by the President of the House of Deputies.”  Can you say “stacked”?  Are these the same folks who decided to press charges against Bp. Cox?

The other observation is the knot in my gut and the burning feeling in my eyes, which often accompanies news of gross injustice and the squirmy feeling of helplessness.

[7] Posted by GillianC on 04-14-2007 at 08:23 AM • top

Give me a minute and I’ll think of something Shakespearean to say about corruption.  These “people” truly know no bounds….

[8] Posted by Orthoducky on 04-14-2007 at 08:25 AM • top

How can it be any clearer…friends.  Here is my list from the last month…add to it.

How Has TEC told Conservative Christian Clergy/Leaders/Members that the church no longer welcomes them?

1.  HOB letter in March.  (not only no, but…)
2.  Mark Lawrence (try again)
3.  Andrew Smith (charges dropped)
4.  Bishop Cox (flees to Argentina!)
5.  Rob O’Neill (Armstrong debacle)

What else am I missing?

[9] Posted by Texas Hold'em on 04-14-2007 at 08:30 AM • top

GillianC, my hunch is that the names of those on the Review Committee and the names of those on the Trial Court are submitted by the entities you mentioned but are ratified or “elected” by vote of General Convention.  I remember when Griswold was trying to get bishops to agree to serve on a trial court with the words, “Don’t worry, they haven’t met in ages…”...and then the Bishop Righter trial happened soon afterwards!

[10] Posted by Vintner on 04-14-2007 at 08:33 AM • top

Texas hold ‘em:

6) PB who falsified her credentials (Dean of theology of a Sunday school)
7) Homosexual alcoholic bishop (out of all possible candidates was he really the best choice? Or was he chosen to make a political statement?)
8) Official sponsorship of abortion
9) Official sponsorship of Islamic terrorism (visit by Khatami to National Cathedral)

The list is longer, but this is all I have time for. TEC is no longer a Christian Church, it is a left wing secular political movement, utilizing the Episcopal Church as a platform to give their political ideology apparent moral credibility.

The only reason that membership in the AC is important to them is that it gives them the credibility. Clearly, they really do not care what the rest of the AC thinks.

Like all left wing secular political organizations (China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Vietnam…) they use words of peace, tolerance, and inclusion, while suing dissidents, being very intolerant of orthodox views, and excluding those who wish to believe and worship as Christians in most denominations around the world for 2,000 years have worshipped and believed.

[11] Posted by BillS on 04-14-2007 at 08:56 AM • top

I think the next step from here is to take a cue from the parishes in Virginia - Nigeria is a great country… so’s Uganda… thanks be to God there are STILL Godly bishops to be under.

[12] Posted by Eclipse on 04-14-2007 at 09:14 AM • top

In case you’ve forgotten the details, here is the original report on the filing of the presentment charges.

[13] Posted by Jill Woodliff on 04-14-2007 at 09:25 AM • top

On the CT6 site, I read a comment from Connecticutian which answers GillianC’s question and corrects my own understanding.  If I can be so bold as to quote him/her without first asking permission, he/she writes:

The diocese has posted a semi-corrected release. The new paragraph 9 reads:

“The Review Committee is comprised of five bishops, two priests, and two lay persons, appointed at the Episcopal Church’s triennial General Convention. The bishops are appointed by the Presiding Bishop, and the clergy and laity are appointed by the President of the House of Deputies. The Committee acts in a way similar to a grand jury, which determines if there is enough evidence to proceed to a church trial.”

They did not apparently catch the very first line, which continues to erroneously read “An ELECTED Episcopal Church review committee has decided to drop all charges…”

[14] Posted by Vintner on 04-14-2007 at 09:26 AM • top

Sarah got this one right: What.  A.  Scam.

Well, with no fair due process left for conservative clergy in ECUSA, and with one set of canons (peace and blessings be upon them) for them and one for us, it’s pretty much open season, isn’t it?

[15] Posted by Phil on 04-14-2007 at 09:27 AM • top

Sarah asked:  Does anyone know who was on the Title IV Review Committee?

The President of the Title IV Review Committee is Bishop Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina. 

Appointed to the 2007-2009 Title IV Review Committee were Bishop Suffragan Bavi E. Rivera of Olympia, Bishop Suffragan David C. Jones of Virginia, Bishop C. Wallis Ohl Jr. of Northwest Texas, the Rev. Carolyn Kuhr of Montana, the Very Rev. Scott Kirby of Eau Claire, J.P. Causey Jr. of Virginia and Deborah J. Stokes of Southern Ohio. Causey, Kirby, Kuhr and Stokes [and Henderson] served on the 2003-2006 Review Committee.

This information came from an ENS article reporting that the Title IV Review Committee on September 28 notified San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield of the committee’s finding that actions of Schofield “do not constitute abandonment” of communion as defined by the Canons of the Episcopal Church. http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_78215_ENG_HTM.htm

From ENS Thursday, June 29, 2006 Actions of the 75th General Convention meeting in Columbus, OH June 13-21 http://www.episcopalchurch.org/75383_76451_ENG_HTM.htm

Approved the appointment of the Rev. Carolyn Kuhr of Montana, the Very Rev. Scott Kirby of Eau Claire, J.P. Causey Jr. of Virginia and Deborah J. Stokes of Southern Ohio to the Title IV Review Committee (E016).

Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold appointed Suffragan Bishop Bavi E. Rivera of Olympia, Suffragan Bishop David C. Jones and Bishop C. Wallis Ohl Jr. of Northwest Texas, and the House of Bishops confirmed, to the Title IV Review Committee (E019).

—————————————————————————————————————
Elected to the Court for the Trial of a Bishop until 2015 bishops George Wayne Smith of Missouri, Gordon Paul Scruton of Western Massachusetts and Catherine M. Waynick of Indianapolis; elected to the Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop until 2015 bishops Michael Bruce Curry of North Carolina, Don E. Johnson of West Tennessee and Wayne P. Wright of Delaware (E018)

[16] Posted by Maria Lytle on 04-14-2007 at 09:41 AM • top

Inhibit a priest in violation of the canons, fine.  Man, but don’t send in your consent email in Arial font instead of Times New Roman, or we’re cracking down.

[17] Posted by Phil on 04-14-2007 at 10:03 AM • top

An elected Episcopal Church review committee has decided to drop all charges brought against Bishop Andrew D. Smith by the rectors and vestries of six parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut. 

They are only doing the will of their father below.

[18] Posted by DaveW on 04-14-2007 at 10:08 AM • top

As expected!
What’s that date? 9/30/07 Slipping or more likely jumping off the fence by then here in CT.

[19] Posted by asinnertoo on 04-14-2007 at 10:11 AM • top

I just erased my usual response to this kind of thing- a bunch of sarcastic one liners about TEC bishops.  Right now, the people in those parishes need our prayers and such other aid as we can offer.  They are bearing the brunt, along with other parishes around the country in similar straits, for the rest of us. 
It does give us some insight into TEC’s future plans for the dioceses that have requested APO, doesn’t it.  I mean, now that they have established a “precedent” under TEC’s sacred canons.

[20] Posted by tjmcmahon on 04-14-2007 at 10:23 AM • top

If the Review Committee’s work were to be made into a documentary film, it could be called:

“Saving Bishop Smith’s Rear End”

r.w.

[21] Posted by r.w. on 04-14-2007 at 10:25 AM • top

The Church of Moloch has a hungry god.  Its Stalking Bishops can’t devor enough priests to sate themselves.

[22] Posted by Seen-Too-Much on 04-14-2007 at 11:12 AM • top

Just scanning the report, I see a repeated theme of, “It wasn’t the Bishop, it was the Standing Committee , or the Chancellor” (perhaps the one-armed man?).  Straight from the “pass the buck” policy of the TEC, and of course we can’t hold the Standing Committee or the Chancellor accountable.

[23] Posted by GillianC on 04-14-2007 at 11:34 AM • top

Matt—Can you contact Dr. Witt for some of his always enlightening comment?  He was a member of the seized parish.

[24] Posted by In Newark on 04-14-2007 at 11:38 AM • top

Surprise, surprise! Did anyone think that PECUSA was going to discipline one of their liberal bishops. I don’t think so. THey would rather go after an 89 year old conservative bishop. This whole farse shows us just how far that PECUSA has departed from being a Christian Church. Persecute those who wish to hold on to the apostolic faith and honor those who have embraced Unitarian-Universalism.

To my way of thinking it is about high time that the Christians left within PECUSA wake up to the fact that this is NOT a Christian Church. As I heard someone say it is the Unitarian-Universalist Church in drag. Its “theology” sounds more like a left-wing PAC than it does a Christian Church.

There is no longer any place for orthodox Anglicans within PECUSA. I would say to every orthodox Bishop or Priest left in PECUSA, WATCH YOUR BACK. They will try to get you any way they can. They don’t want you in their “church” except to give your hard earned money to support 815 and otherwise shut up and get with the program.

It is now time for the divorce to proceed. Get out of PECUSA and continue to pray for the conversion of the heretics in charge of 815.

[25] Posted by FrRick on 04-14-2007 at 11:51 AM • top

William Witt posted a long comment on Titus one nine. This link should lead you to it http://titusonenine.classicalanglican.net/?p=18828#comments

[26] Posted by ct layperson on 04-14-2007 at 12:16 PM • top

Absolutely, definitely the next-to-the-last straw.

[27] Posted by James Manley on 04-14-2007 at 02:26 PM • top

You know, decisions such as this one make me even more determined to stay, stand up for the truth, worship with all of my heart and soul, and NOT LET THEM WIN! If they succeed in their pogrom to remove every trace of orthodoxy and truth from the church, they have won, Satan has won. But if even a tiny number of faithful believers remain and STAND FIRM, they have not won.

I do not give one penny to the national church but, instead, support Anglican missions around the world and the specific upkeep of the parish. Every time I engage in beautiful Anglican worship of our Lord, I am more resolved. This church, this way, is worth fighting for!

[28] Posted by Brit on 04-14-2007 at 03:02 PM • top

Not much of a surprize here.  Just more evidence of the corruption in The Episcopal (Alleged) Church.  I hope the Primates are watching all this.  Maybe they will realize they have hardly seen the depth of the corruption.  No doubt, there will be more revealed between now and Sept. 30.

[29] Posted by PapaJ on 04-14-2007 at 03:17 PM • top

  I am thankful to learn that the Title IV Review Committee found no cause to bring a Presentment based on the charges filed against me by the complaining clergy and lay members of this Diocese who found themselves at odds with my decisions and actions .  .  . 

Soon after, Drew was seen skipping down the hall and singing:  “I wish I could shimmy like my (PB) Kate.”

[30] Posted by hanks on 04-14-2007 at 03:22 PM • top

This is not a “judgement”. That will occur in due time for Bishop Smith as his heart is read in the book of life and his shameful acts of violence and coercion are revealed. What a hollow “victory” for his pride.

I pray to the Lord for his healing grace on all who have sufferred under this oppressive man.

[31] Posted by Intercessor on 04-14-2007 at 07:43 PM • top

I am just wondering:  If the hierarchy makes this decision, and the Episcpoal system is God’s way to run and discipline the church, then isn’t this God speaking?  If so, everyone just must rejoice, suck it up and say “Thy will be done. Praise be to God for giving us this ecclesology that can give us truth.”  Or you only have two other choices ISTM:  1. The episcopal system isn’t God’s way to govern the church and we will get cracking on those theology tomes and look at presbyterian or congregational or some other patterns to follow, or 2.  TEC is not God’s church and we need to make tracks very fast to avoid TEC’s judgment on us.  This reminds me of my RC friends who tell me they really, really believe the RCC is the only true church…but they don’t believe the Pope can tell them what to do.  What am I missing.

[32] Posted by PROPHET MICAIAH on 04-15-2007 at 05:05 PM • top

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