Received by email
It is both disheartening and baffling that a few days before the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, the Rt. Rev. Clayton Matthews acting in his capacity as Intake Officer, informed seven bishops of The Episcopal Church that a complaint has been filed against them regarding their endorsing a friend of the court brief in litigation involving The Texas Supreme Court, The Episcopal Church, and the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. At issue is not a matter of doctrine but a disputed matter of law on which people in The Episcopal Church clearly disagree. Why does signing such a brief warrant a complaint that Bishop Matthews takes seriously enough to send such a letter? Is this an attack against free speech? Are we not free to state our opinions in a court of law without retaliation by our church? Is this an intentional act of intimidation? Or given how close this is to General Convention, is this a diversionary tactic to throw the spotlight away from weightier matters facing our Convention? Until the content of the complaint comes to light we do not know. However, I want to assure these bishops of my prayers; and I join with the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Central Florida in offering our support, prayers, and friendship.
Daily Archives: July 3, 2012
Received by email
Posted July 3rd, 2012
Central Florida Episcopalian: Around the Diocese
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
There has been much discussion on this list (and elsewhere) over the past few days regarding a complaint leveled against seven bishops (myself included) who filed an Amicus Curiae (“Friend of the Court”) Brief back in April in the Texas Supreme Court related to the dispute between Bishop Jack Iker, the departing “Diocese of Fort Worth,” and The Episcopal Church.
(First, thanks to all who have expressed sympathy and concern both on the list and in posts to me personally. Please allow me to respond to everyone in these general remarks.)
The seven bishops (Benitez, Howe, Lambert, Love, MacPherson, Martins, and Stanton) signed onto a brief that was written by three theologians of the Anglican Communion Institute (Professors Ephraim Radner, Chris Seitz, and Philip Turner) that objected to, and attempted to correct, the way in which the court in Texas interpreted the structure of The Episcopal Church.
The question is: is The Episcopal Church “hierarchical” beyond the level of the diocese? Our brief largely followed the argument the Anglican Communion Institute spelled out in great detail back in 2009, which in turn stemmed from an understanding of the structure of the Anglican Communion expressed in a letter the Archbishop of Canterbury sent to me, personally; and the brief itself can be found on the ACI web site.
In our opening “Statement of Interest” we stipulated that: “All of these bishops and all of the officers and directors of ACI remain in The Episcopal Church, and have submitted this brief solely because they disagree with the characterization of the governance of The Episcopal Church as submitted in support of the motion for summary judgment that the trial court granted in this case.”
We went on to say, “As is well known, these bishops and ACI oppose the decision by the Diocese of Fort Worth to leave The Episcopal Church. They have no intention of withdrawing from the Church, but it is precisely because they intend to remain in the Church that they are concerned that the trial court ruling has misunderstood, and thereby damaged, the constitutional structure of The Episcopal Church.”
I am at a complete loss to know how the filing of this brief could constitute an offense for which any of us could be charged!
At this point, formal “charges” have not been filed. A “complaint” has been submitted, but we have not been told who filed it.
My understanding is that Bishop Matthews (Director of the Office for Pastoral Development, and “Intake Officer” regarding this matter) could dismiss the complaint on his own reconnaissance – unless the Presiding Bishop were to direct otherwise. He has said that “in the next few weeks” he will “initiate a disciplinary process according to title IV Canon 6 Sec. 3 & 4 of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.”
I have just written him to express surprise that he foresees “‘a disciplinary process’ for the filing of an Amicus Curiae Brief…the purpose of which was simply to inform the court that (in our opinion) it misconstrued the structure of The Episcopal Church according to the Constitution and Canons.”
I asked, “In what way can such a filing be considered an offense that warrants ‘a disciplinary process’?”
I concluded by saying, “I look forward to hearing more fully from you.”
When I do I will keep all of you informed. You are free to further distribute this post if you do so in its entirety.
Warmest regards in our Lord,
Bishop John W. Howe
Monday, July 2nd, 2012
Hello, General Convention! Here’s the answer I would give; and it doesn’t appear to be that hard:
1. Define the Gospel of Christ in terms of the smallest social unit and interest possible (e.g. homosexuals and their right to sexual affirmation)
2. Define the episcopacy according to the smallest unit possible (e.g. New Hampshire and its gay bishop)
3. Drive out anybody who has a larger vision ”“ traditional Christians, evangelicals, Bible-readers, people who study Christian lives and thought earlier than 1968 and farther afield than NY and LA.
4. Spend as much money as you can doing this instead of anything else and say this is “mission”.
Crudely stereotyped? Well, let’s admit to facts: The Episcopal Church is dying, having lost a third of its members in the last 10 years, and the decline still humming along; it has fewer and fewer young people and children as a proportion of its membership, fewer baptisms, fewer confirmations; and less and less money; it is closing more and more churches, watching dioceses disappear, go bankrupt or face merger; it’s seminaries are shutting their doors; it has produced little theology of note in over 20 years; its church planters and evangelists have mostly left; and its budget is shrinking and in line to be slashed yet further, with national programs and personnel falling by the wayside within a vacuum of missionary planning.
These are facts. But what are the causes? Multiple, no doubt. But there is a thread of correlation worth taking seriously: nixing evangelism programs and the theology behind them in the 1990’s; steady and relentless pursuit of a gay-centered political and theological agenda in the same period and after; imperviousness to larger church and Communion views to the contrary after 2003; vigorous (and expensive) focus on the legal pursuit of departing or objecting bishops and their flocks after 2005; passage of canonical disciplinary amendments that permit intimidation of dissenting clergy in 2009; massive budgetary losses and use of trust funds for the support of these legal costs and the decline of membership giving in the same period; imploding governance structures since 2011.
And let’s not forget the present: General Convention convenes with a slew of more traditional bishops officially under misconduct investigations over arguing on behalf of an alternative interpretation of TEC’s Constitution; a massive exodus of traditional Episcopalians underway; a theological education system in shambles; and a budget and budgetary process marked by the mutual recriminations of the church’s leadership elite.
Hello, General Convention! Anybody ready for an intervention? Anglican 9-1-1? Charges of criminally negligent ecclesiocide? For all of which I am willing offer an amicus brief”¦
Throughout the years, Christians, like many other minorities in the region, have lent their support to those regimes that have guaranteed their security and religious freedom. In Iraq, Christians rose to the highest levels of society under Saddam Hussein’s regime, while in Egypt, Coptic Christians were protected from ultraconservative Salafists under Hosni Mubarak. As secular leaders from the secretive Alawite sect, the Assad dynasty largely preserved Christian life, protecting Syria’s minorities from what was perceived as a collective threat from the country’s Sunni majority.
Watching their once-shielding dictators fall like dominos across the region, Christians have suddenly found themselves on the wrong side of history. Faced by a rising tide of radical Sunni Islam, Christians in Iraq and Egypt have fled by the thousands. In Syria, concern over Christian repression has fallen on deaf ears, drowned out by popular support for the country’s opposition in the face of the Assad regime’s brutal crackdown.
This March, months before the Qusayr ultimatum, Islamist militants from the opposition’s Faruq Brigade had gone door to door in Hamidiya and Bustan al-Diwan neighborhoods of Homs, expelling local Christians.
[Received by email]
July 2, 2012
We, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Dallas, express our support of our Bishop, The Rt. Rev. James Stanton and our Bishop Suffragan, The Rt. Rev. Paul Lambert. In the midst of great turmoil in the Church, they have led us faithfully and well, stating at every opportunity their allegiance to the Episcopal Church and our Diocese’s place within it.
In a letter dated June 29, our Bishops received the following from The Rt. Rev. Clayton Matthews: “As the Intake Officer for the Church, I am obliged to inform you that a complaint has been received against you for your action in filing of Amicus Curiae Brief in the pending appeal in the Supreme Court of Texas in opposition to The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and The Episcopal Church. In the next few weeks, I will initiate a disciplinary process according to Title IV Canon 6 Sec. 3 & 4 of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.”
The Brief in question was submitted in April by the Anglican Communion Institute, in which a number of Bishops joined. Significantly, the Brief noted that each of the those submitting the Brief “oppose the decision by [the diocese of Fort Worth] to leave The Episcopal Church.” The Brief goes on to discuss that the submitters believe that the “hierarchy” of the Episcopal Church is in fact more nuanced and complicated than The Episcopal Church had previously argued and the trial court had found in its earlier rulings.
This type of complaint and the large number of spurious complaints against Bishops that have been received since the Title IV disciplinary canons were revised a year ago further demonstrate the urgent need to revisit the Title IV disciplinary Canons. Furthermore, as we approach the 236th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we find it stunning that Bishops are now facing discipline for expressing their opinion.
We assure our Bishops of our support and call upon the people of our Diocese to be in prayer as events unfold.
June 30, 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Earlier today, I received an email copy of a letter dated June 29, 2012, from the Rt. Rev’d Clayton Matthews. I was one of seven bishops addressed in the letter. The other bishops include: The Rt. Rev’d Maurice M. Benitez, The Rt. Rev’d John W. Howe, The Rt. Rev’d Paul E. Lambert, The Rt. Rev’d D. Bruce MacPherson, The Rt. Rev’d Daniel H. Martins, and the Rt. Rev’d James M. Stanton.
In the letter, Bishop Matthews states, “As the Intake Officer for the Church, I am obliged to inform you that a complaint has been received against you for your action in filing of Amicus Curiae Brief in the pending appeal in the Supreme Court of Texas in opposition to The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and The Episcopal Church. In the next few weeks, I will initiate a disciplinary process according to Title IV Canon 6 Sec. 3 & 4 of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.”
To date, I have not seen a copy of the “complaint,” nor do I know who issued it, or what it says.
While Bishop Matthews has informed me that he has received a “complaint,” against me and the other six bishops dealing with our participation in the above mentioned Amicus Curiae Brief, at this point, I have not been officially charged with anything and may not be depending on the outcome of the initial investigation of the “complaint.”
At the appropriate time, I will address my participation in the Amicus Curiae Brief with Bishop Matthews (as the Intake Officer) and others involved.
As I learn more about this situation, I will keep you informed. In the mean time I would ask for your prayers as this situation is resolved.
Faithfully Yours in Christ,
+William H. Love
O Lord our Saviour, full of grace and truth: Fill us thy servants with thine own divine compassion; that we may not only bear witness with thee to the truth, but, speaking the truth in love, may speak to the heart and conscience of men; to the glory of thy Name.
When the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the ass with his staff. Then the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” And Balaam said to the ass, “Because you have made sport of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” And the ass said to Balaam, “Am I not your ass, upon which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Was I ever accustomed to do so to you?” And he said, “No.”
Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed his head, and fell on his face. And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your ass these three times? Behold, I have come forth to withstand you, because your way is perverse before me; and the ass saw me, and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have slain you and let her live.”
Then Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, “I have sinned, for I did not know that thou didst stand in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in thy sight, I will go back again.” And the angel of the LORD said to Balaam, “Go with the men; but only the word which I bid you, that shall you speak.” So Balaam went on with the princes of Balak. When Balak heard that Balaam had come, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab, on the boundary formed by the Arnon, at the extremity of the boundary. 37 And Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not send to you to call you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?” Balaam said to Balak, “Lo, I have come to you! Have I now any power at all to speak anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that must I speak.”
Diocese of Fort Worth Communication Director Katie Sherrod told ENS July 1 that she could not comment on the reports of a Title IV complaint being lodged against the seven bishops because, due to the confidentiality of the proceedings, she had no information.
She was a journalist, a blogger, an essayist, a novelist, a playwright, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and a movie director ”” a rarity in a film industry whose directorial ranks were and continue to be dominated by men. Her later box-office success included “You’ve Got Mail” and “Julie & Julia.” By the end of her life, though remaining remarkably youthful looking, she had even become something of a philosopher about age and its indignities.
“Why do people write books that say it’s better to be older than to be younger?” she wrote in “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” her 2006 best-selling collection of essays. “It’s not better. Even if you have all your marbles, you’re constantly reaching for the name of the person you met the day before yesterday.”