Yesterday, in an official act observed by two presbyters of The Diocese of Virginia and with the advice and consent of the diocesan Standing Committee, the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee took the required canonical action to remove from the priesthood clergy inhibited by him on January 22, 2007. Those clergy were inhibited following a determination by the diocesan Standing Committee January 18 that they had abandoned the Communion of The Episcopal Church. The possibility of such a determination was explained by the Bishop in a December 1, 2006 letter to the clergy and leadership of the now-former Episcopal congregations. By this action, the former Episcopal clergy are “released from the obligations of Priest or Deacon and … deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority conferred in Ordination.”In response, we have a statement from five network bishops:
A decision by Bishop Peter Lee of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia to declare 21 priests to have “abandoned the communion of this Church,” will not have force in much of the Anglican Communion or in a number of Episcopal dioceses.Surely, Right Reverend Sirs, you overstep the bounds of ecclesiastical discipline when you attempt to decide for yourselves that your judgment on such a matter overules that of a Standing Committee and Bishop of the Episcopal Church, in which you still claim to be members.
The Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman of the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, the Rt. Rev. Peter Beckwith of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield, the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, the. Rt. Rev. Jack Iker of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the Rt. Rev. John David Schofield of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin have issued the following statement:
“In conscience we must remain in relationship and ministry with these priests, and the many others who have had this canon used against them because of their determination to stand with mainstream Anglicanism. As bishops, we ordain priests for the whole church. Surely we overstep our bounds when we attempt to decide for the whole church that a priest’s ministry is ended because he is no longer under our authority."..
You may disagree, but, unfortunately, the Canons are rather clear on this matter:
Title IV, Canon 13...Of the Remission or Modification of Sentences:
(a number of restriction for remission of sentence of a priest residing within the juridiction of the bishop that deposed. Regarding the declaration of such a remission from bishops outside that jurisdiction, the following seems to apply...)
Sec. 4. In case the person applying for Remission shall be residing other than in the Diocese in which deposed, the Bishop to whom application has been made, before granting the Remission, shall be furnished with written evidence of the approval of the application with the reasons therefor from the Bishop of the Diocese in which the person is then residing.
IOW, in all cases, the remission of a sentence must go through the bishop who pronounced the sentence.
These bishops, having no knowledge of the diocesan process in Virginia that led to these sentences, cannot simply disregard them. To do so is to dismiss any form of ecclesiastical discipline within TEC. The ensuing chaos would lead to bizarre situations, such as the one in Colorado Springs, in which a priest being disciplined for theft can jump to another jurisdiction, and so escape any consequences for his actions.
There must be consequences if order is to be restored. There are certainly consequences for making such a statement as these five bishops have made:
Title IV, Canon 1.1 (e):
Sec. 1. A Bishop, Priest, or Deacon of this Church shall be liable to Presentment and Trial for the following offenses...
(e) Violation of the Constitution or Canons of the General