The vote last week by the
Politburo House of Bishops to purge depose Bishops John David Schofield and William Cox continues to stir controversy over what the Canonical process for deposing Bishops does or does not say. The Living Church reported last week that the vote was not canonically proper because it failed to be supported by a majority of the Politburo HOB. KGB Chairman Chancellor David Booth Beers later announced that The Living Church had it all wrong, that the vote need only be by a majority of the Politburo Bishops present at the meeting.
Let's take a look at the Canons rather than accepting anyone's word. I'm no Canon lawyer and no expert on Church polity and all that, but I have read more than a few statutes in my time. Title IV, Canon 9, Section 2 reads, in pertinent part, "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...". Again, I make no claim to be a Canon lawyer, but to my brain this does not say "by a majority of the Bishops present." We are taught in statutory interpretation to not only give words their plain meaning, but to assume by the absence of other words that their omission was intentional. This Canon does not speak in terms of Bishops present, but in terms of "the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote", i.e., the then-sitting House of Bishops in its entirety.
There is also the question of whether Bishop Cox, or Bishop Duncan for that matter, can be subjected to a deposition vote since neither have ever been inhibited. Although Sections 1 and 2 of Canon 9 do not specifically state that inhibition is a prerequisite for deposition, the procedure as set forth speaks in terms of an inhibition taking place as a first step. I know my statement of the principle of exclusion of language having meaning comes back into play here, but at minimum this has been left as a very gray area on the Canonical disciplinary procedures.
Reports from the Camp Allen meeting indicate that of 294 voting members of the HOB, only 131 registered for the meeting. That's only 44.55% of the voting members even present, such that it would not appear that even a unanimous vote at the meeting would have been sufficient. Moreover, some 15 Bishops left the meeting before the vote was taken. If the remaining 116 voted unanimously, then only 39.45% voted for deposition of +Schofield and +Cox. Reports from the meeting indicate that there were some opposition votes, but because this was done by voice vote, no record apparently exists of the precise number of votes that were actually in favor of deposition. Under the Beers interpretation, only 59 votes would have been necessary to bring about the deposition with 116 Bishops present, or 20% of the "whole number of Bishops entitled to vote."
I have to believe that whomever originally authored the Canons in question had to have considered deposition of a consecrated Bishop to be a very serious matter. I have to believe that such author(s) would have thought it sufficiently serious to require a majority of the entire House of Bishops, and not leave the decision to the vagaries of how many Bishops attend a given meeting, or how many Bishops remain at the meeting by the time a vote is taken. I find it very hard to believe that the author(s) of this Canon would have contemplated deposition of a consecrated Bishop to have been something to be accomplished by 20% or fewer of the "whole number of Bishops entitled to vote."
These beliefs and assumptions, however, are perhaps naively based in my training in the rule of law, which we know from the Archbishop of Canterbury's endorsement of Sharia probably means very little in the Anglican or Episcopal Churches these days. In TEC, laws, Canons, rules or regulations are given meaning if and only if they support the liberal/unitarian agenda being pushed by
Comrade Brezhnev PB Schori and her allies in the Politburo HOB. Otherwise, they are tortured, stretched, abused, steamrolled, or outright discarded in favor of whatever Comrade Brezhnev PB Schori and her allies in the Politburo HOB are trying to achieve at the moment.
I am sure some of you think my continued use of the strikeout references to the old days of hard-line totalitarian Communism is silly or unduly pejorative, but actions such as the ones taken by this group of so-called "Christian" leaders are what directly hearkens back to those bad old days of the USSR. It is a world of "Agenda, Agenda Uber Alles" in TEC these days. There is no deference to the Word of God as set forth in the Bible, to the Historic Faith handed down by the Saints, to Anglican principles decided upon at past Lambeth Conference or as stated by the Primates, or even to its own Constitution and Canons. The rules, just as with its theology, are a moving target within TEC, to be manipulated and misused to the benefit of the liberal agenda.
I was discussing this most recent abuse with a good friend who is a cradle Episcopalian on Friday, and his comment was that he could not believe, after so many years of patient, thoughtful and artful manipulation by the liberal portions of the Church to get TEC to where it now is in terms of adoption of the secular, multicultural agenda, that the liberals have more recently gotten so greedy to foreclose their takeover of TEC that they have, in my friend's words, "gotten stupid." Just as so many white-collar criminals could probably have gotten away with a fraudulent scheme had they just maintained some perspective and flown under the radar, overt greed inevitably derails those schemes.
With TEC, while it appears that PB Scori and her allies in the HOB will end up with total control of the entity known as TEC, what will they have won? Membership, attendance and giving are declining at an alarming rate. Parishes are closing and properties are being sold. If TEC wins its litigation over departing parishes (and Diocesan) property, it will be left with a very nice collection of mostly empty buildings with no means of support. TEC is also rapidly losing what little credibility it has among other religious denominations. These events are not taking place in a vacuum. Religious leaders of all stripes have been watching TEC and more than a few have commented on the situation, most of them unfavorable. TEC's standing at any ecumenical table has been immeasurably diminished. The historical significance of the Anglican faiths in the history of America has been left in tatters.
"Agenda, Agenda Uber Alles." Not for this poor, dumb country boy.