Breaking News: Bishop Schofield deposition failed to achieve the canonically-mandated majority votes from the TEC HOB

Stunning development. If I understand this correctly, it appears that more than half of the House of Bishops did not attend the Camp Allen meeting where Bishop Schofield was “deposed” Brad Drell, Esq. who is a re-elected Deputy to General Convention, writes that the canon to depose a bishop with jurisdiction “states ‘Bishops eligible to vote,’ not ‘bishops present.'” It does appear that the House of Bishop’s action did not meet the canonical requirements to depose Bishop Schofield and the attempt to depose the Bishop of San Joaquin is illegal. I understand that 147 bishops out of 294 would have had to vote to depose. Only 131 bishops were present at Camp Allen. Oops. There are also canonical issues regarding the deposition of the elderly retired Bishop Cox, who also was deposed. We are also learning that there are reported plans underway to depose Bob Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh and Moderator of the Common Cause Partnership, before Lambeth – though the attempt to canonically charge him failed.

We understand that when Bishop Walter Righter was charged with heresy, the canons stipby one-third of the members of the HOB eligible to vote had to consent for the presentment to proceed to trial, though the percentage may have been lowered by consent of the House. It was a signficant number of bishops that had to give their assent before Bishop Righter’s case could be tried, and it was 1/3 (or 1/4 if the amendment story being circulated is correct) of the total membership, not 1/3 in attendance at a meeting. It’s clear that it was the total membership, not the attendance to a given meeting – that part is clear. And that was not achieved last week at Camp Allen.

Holy Cow. At best this is a very foolish mistake. At worse, it’s duplicitous.

It is also rather shocking to find out that the House of Bishops took a voice vote when they voted to depose their fellow bishop and did not record the votes. Can we imagine such thing for Bishop Righter? It a momentous moment – what some have described as being the equivalent to an ecclesiastical death penalty. That news in itself is very troubling indeed. When the House of Bishops voted to affirm the election of the Bishop of New Hampshire, they publicly recorded their votes – and were held accountable. But when the bishops voted to depose the Bishop of San Joaquin, they took an informal voice vote. It was like asking who wanted pizza for lunch. And they didn’t even raise their hands or a card. Unbelievable. Why was that?

George Conger and Steve Waring break the story the story at The Living Church:

Slightly more than one-third of all bishops eligible voted to depose bishops John-David Schofield and William J. Cox during the House of Bishops’ spring retreat, far fewer than the 51 percent required by the canons.

The exact number is impossible to know, because both resolutions were approved by voice vote. Only 131 bishops registered for the meeting March 7-12 at Camp Allen, and at least 15 of them left before the business session began on Wednesday. There were 294 members of the House of Bishops entitled to vote on March 12.

When questioned about canonical inconsistencies during a telephone press conference at the conclusion of the meeting, Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina said the bishops had relied on advice provided to them by canonical experts, and did not examine canonical procedure during plenary debate prior to the votes to depose bishops Schofield and Cox.

Bishop Schofield was consecrated Bishop of San Joaquin in 1989. Last December, he presided over a diocesan convention at which clergy and lay delegates voted overwhelmingly to leave The Episcopal Church and affiliate with the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone. Bishop Cox was consecrated Bishop Suffragan of Maryland in 1972. He resigned in 1980, later serving as Assisting Bishop of Oklahoma from 1980 to 1988. In 2005, Bishop Cox ordained two priests and a deacon at Christ Church, Overland Park, Kan. Christ Church affiliated with the Anglican Church of Uganda after purchasing its property from the Diocese of Kansas.

Both bishops were charged with abandonment of communion. The procedure for deposing a bishop under this charge is specified in Title IV, canon 9, sections 1-2. The canon stipulates that the vote requires “a majority of the whole number of bishops entitled to vote,” not merely a majority of those present. At least a dozen bishops voted either not to depose Bishop Schofield or to abstain, according to several bishops. The number voting in favor of deposing Bishop Cox was reportedly slightly larger than the number in favor of deposing Bishop Schofield.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was questioned about the history of the canonical proceedings against Bishop Cox. At first she said during the press conference that she had not sought the canonically required consent of the three senior bishops of the church for permission to inhibit Bishop Cox pending his trial. However Title IV, Canon 9, sections 1-2 do not describe a procedure for deposing a bishop who has not first been inhibited.

Consent Never Sought

Later in the press conference, Bishop Jefferts Schori clarified and extended her remarks, saying she had been “unable to get the consent of the three senior bishops last spring. That’s why we didn’t bring it to the September meeting” of the House of Bishops. One of the three senior bishops with jurisdiction confirmed to The Living Church that his consent to inhibit Bishop Cox was never sought.

In 2007, Bishop Cox sent a written letter to Bishop Jefferts Schori, announcing his resignation from the House of Bishops. Since he was already retired, he did not have jurisdiction, and therefore unlike Bishop Schofield, his resignation did not require consent from a majority of the House of Bishops. A trial of the 88-year-old retired bishop was not mandatory.

Bishop Cox also does not appear to have been granted due process with respect to a speedy trial. Once the disciplinary review committee formally certifies that a bishop has abandoned communion, the canons state “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.” The review committee provided certification to Bishop Jefferts Schori on May 29, 2007. His case should have been heard during the fall meeting in New Orleans last September. When asked about the apparent inconsistency, Bishop Jefferts Schori said initially she did not include Bishop Cox’s case on the agenda for the New Orleans meeting “due to the press of business.”

Title IV, canon 9, section 1 requires the Presiding Bishop to inform the accused bishop “forthwith,” in other words immediately, after the review committee has provided a certificate of abandonment, but Bishop Jefferts Schori did not write to Bishop Cox until Jan. 8, 2008, more than seven months afterward.

The two-hour business session at which the deposition votes were taken ran slightly longer than originally scheduled. First a resolution was read followed by prayer from the chaplain. A period of silence followed the prayer. After the silence was broken, the bishops discussed the resolution in small table groups followed by plenary discussion. When it appeared that everyone who wanted to speak had done so, the voice vote was taken. Each resolution was read and voted on separately.

Read it all here.

At a time like this, it seems best to turn to Mr. Dylan – recorded just a few weeks ago in Mexico.

Tip of the Tinfoil to RWB.