Now we learn that it was the personal lawyer of Katharine Jefferts Schori, David Booth Beers (he’s the one who sat in the court room last August scrunched down in his chair in his rumpled tan suit staring at his Blackberry the entire time court was in session) who told the House of Bishops what to do. Fascinating that 815 is putting him out on the branch to explain that it’s all his fault (of course he’s not sorry, not sorry at all) and Katharine Jefferts Schori – the PRESIDING bishop must be out shopping at K-Mart. Apparently, it wasn’t stupidity that caused this – it was intentional. Holy Cow.
Here’s David Booth Beer’s defense:
“In consultation with the House of Bishops’ parliamentarian prior to the vote, we both agreed that the canon meant a majority of all those present and entitled to vote, because it is clear from the canon that the vote had to be taken at a meeting, unlike the situation where you poll the whole House of Bishops by mail. Therefore, it is our position that the vote was in order.”
Now let’s get this straight. When Bishop Righter was brought up on heresy charges twelve years ago in the House of Bishops, the entire House had to vote. That was for a trial. This is even more serious – a deposition – to remove a Diocesan Bishop with Jurisdiction from ministry, to strip him of his authority as a bishop of the church, an action that is akin to the ecclesiastical equivalent of the death penalty for a bishop’s ministry and they just got together enough for a quorum and thought that satisfied the canons? What did they do afterwards, vote on whether they wanted pepperoni or Hawaiian pizza for lunch? This is not the actions of a free democracy, this is autocracy – this is why the founders sought to have a separation of powers in the federal government, an action mirrored on the state level as well – to stop this kind of jury-rigging. It is shocking – it shows that duplicitousness was present in the actions taken by the House of Bishops at Camp Allen.
The issue is “bishops eligible to vote,”(i.e., the entire House) not, “present and voting” (which would be the majority of a quorum). Here’s how Nathaniel Pierce describes the error:
Canon IV.9.2 clearly states “by a majority of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote.” The “whole number” (currently 294) is defined in Article I, Sec.2 of the Constitution. Mr. Beers somehow construes “whole number” in IV.9.2 to mean “by a majority of those Bishops present at the meeting during which the matter was presented.”
Nathaniel Pierce continues:
In addition, the article states that the Secretary of the House of Bishops determined that a quorum was present. A quorum is defined (Article I.2) as a majority of Bishops with jurisdiction. For this meeting 52 Bishops constituted a quorum. Under Mr. Beers interpretation, therefore, only 27 votes for deposition would be required in a worst case scenario. That is 9% of “the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote.” Or to put the point another way, there really is a difference between requiring a minimum of 148 votes for deposing a Bishop and interpeting that to mean that only 27 votes to consent are required. For those who have difficulty with counting, the difference is 121 votes.
The action the House of Bishops took at Camp Allen against the Bishop of San Joaquin is similar in severity to an impeachment of the President of the United States in the House of Representatives (though the actual trial is in the U.S. Senate). The House of Representatives doesn’t just call a quorum and impeach a president. The entire House votes to impeach, otherwise the President would be vulnerable to the whims of a minority who put together enough for a quorum and then vote to impeach him – or her. These are safe guards to keep that from happening – and since many of the same folks that originally set up the Episcopal Church system also set up the U.S. system, we are inclined to think they would not look too kindly on Beer’s shenanigans.
What seems to be motivating this rush to judgment is that the Diocese of San Joaquin voted to move under another branch of the Anglican Communion (the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone), which might help explain the recklessness of David Booth Beers’ advice and the willingness of the Presiding Bishop to follow that advice – all of this is laying the foundation for impending civil litigation against Bishop Schofield for the property of the Diocese of San Joaquin. It will illustrate that he was indeed deposed and 815 made sure there were enough media articles to illustrate that he was deposed. 815 has all ready set up a shadow diocese – the game is afoot.
But this also appears to be about the Virginia cases, because if Schofield is not dealt with quickly, it will illustrate that the Episcopal Church has indeed divided and that not only have parishes joined other branches of the Anglican Communion, but dioceses as well. Beers must maintain that the Anglican Communion is another denomination entirely! That’s what’s motivating this rush to judgment.
Even the Lambeth invitations are about the lawsuits. If the Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin is not deposed, then there is no possible justification for Rowan Williams to rescind his invitation to Lambeth. After the vote last week to depose Bishop Schofield with a quorum (it just continues to boggle the mind – think about it – if a vestry got mad at their rector, they could wait until he – or she – was out of town, call a Vestry quorum and vote the rector out – chaos would rein!) the attention immediately turned to this new self-appointed group Rowan Williams has put together to decide who will be invited to Lambeth. It looks like that group has been put on standby with the charge to pull the invites of all the deposed American bishops, like Schofield and Duncan (if Bishop Schori follows through on her intention to call a special meeting of the House of Bishops in May to deal with the Bishop of Pittsburgh) so that they will lose their recognition of one of the major “instruments of unity” in the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury. If they retain their invitation, whether they actually go to Lameth or not, it will again illustrate that American parishes and dioceses have joined another branch of the Anglican Communion and continue to be officially recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
“This deal is rigged because they aren’t going to follow their own rules,” Brad Drell writes, “Beers needs to go and the PB needs to get better legal advice.”
Frankly, I’m not so sure. The deal may be rigged, but the advice is based on winning lawsuits and retaining centralized control, not on doing the right thing.