The news that the House of Bishops voted with only a quorum present – and not the voting membership of the House – reveals that the Presiding Bishop and the House of Bishops apparently did not follow the canons of The Episcopal Church in its recent attempt to depose a Diocesan Bishop with Jurisdiction, but were reinterpreted by David Booth Beers. This action, though, also reveals a troubling lack of moral and principled judgment. Not only does it now appear that the Presiding Bishop reinterpreted the canons to suit her personal agenda to remove an opponent, but also that significant moral and democratic principles were abandoned in favor of the expediency of the process.
And what does the Presiding Bishop do? She pushes her lawyer out on the plank. So it’s all his fault.
To illustrate why there is a failure of principled moral and democratic reasoning in this debacle – we can imagine what would happen if the House of Representatives could impeach a President of the United States with the simple majority of a quorum. What havoc would break out – we’d be having impeachments every time the president vetoed a bill or made a speech or wore the wrong necktie. No, they must have the majority of the entire membership vote, not a quorum for heaven’s sake – and that’s why they call the roll (and why their votes are recorded, especially for something as severe as that). To impeach a president is a grave thing to do and leads to a trial in the U.S. Senate and finally to the removal from office.
We are now faced with something at least as serious as that in the Episcopal Church – the actual removal from ordained ministry of a seated Diocesan Bishop with Jurisdiction. What the Presiding Bishop attempted to do was impose an ecclesiastical-version of a death penalty sentence on the ministry of a Diocesan Bishop of the Church, duly elected by the clergy and laity of his diocese, by taking a simple voice vote of the majority of a quorum – not the membership entitled to vote. What is more severe than this?
As we recall, the Bishop of San Joaquin’s resignation was rejected and so was not recognized by the House of Bishops. The Presiding Bishop put all her eggs into one basket. But it sure wasn’t an Easter Basket.
The fact remains that the Presiding Bishop’s lawyer, David Booth Beers, told her she could basically depose an opponent with the simple majority of a quorum – and then on top of that she went and did it with an unaccountable voice vote.
Imagine such a thing in the United States Congress – well, I can’t and thank God for that. But there is no way that the Episcopal Church House of Bishops can claim that its deliberations are based on open and free democratic principles, at least under the direction of this particular Presiding Bishop.