Thursday, March 27, 2008

Conger Reunites Coup Conspirators: Wantland, Howe and Schofield

First we have an opinion piece in the Living Church floating the idea that the votes to consent to the recent depositions at the last House of Bishops' meeting were inadequate. And now we have this announcement in the Church of England Newspaper:

...A subsequent investigation by CEN in conjunction with The Living Church magazine revealed an insufficient number of votes to convict were cast also...
The author of both articles is George Conger. It is safe to assume that this "investigation" is most likely nothing more than Conger's "opinions."

Conger, and if we follow his extension, the Church of England Newspaper, has gotten it wrong before. And, in my opinion (or should I call it my investigation?), Conger has gotten it wrong once again.

As Mark Harris points out, the errors begin with the title. There was no "trial." Thus, there was also no "conviction." The Bishops voted to give consent to the Presiding Bishop to depose those bishops who have abandoned the Church that ordained them, following the same process that has been used in every other deposition of a Bishop.

We've discussed the matter of the various interpretations of the relevant canon already. Some friends of Jake's place shared their concerns as to the way the House of Bishops has interpreted that canon. I tend to agree with the Bishops' interpretation. That is the way that canon has been understood in every other deposition. Conger's interpretation is the innovation. But, out of respect for those here who have voiced their concerns, I will agree that the canon in question needs to be cleaned up, hopefully at GC2009. Yet I still hold to my opinion that Conger's interpretation is simply wrong.

There's one more very strange matter in Conger's latest bit of "investigative reporting." Who does Conger quote as his "expert" regarding Canon Law? Retired Bishop William Wantland. Who does he quote from the House of Bishops? John Howe. And who is one of the deposed Bishops they are defending? John-David Schofield. Wantland, Howe and Schofield. Got that?

Ok, now let's go back twelve years to 1996 and Bishop Wantland's Attempted Coup d'Etat:

...According to documents obtained by the presiding bishop's office, a group of conservative bishops created a non-profit organization in 1996, using a variation on the corporate name of the Episcopal Church. Bishops William Wantland of Eau Claire (Wisconsin), John Howe of Central Florida, and John-David Schofield of San Joaquin (California) are identified in documents as founding directors of a new, non-profit corporation registered in at least 24 states as PECUSA, Inc.--The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, Incorporated.

The incorporation papers, first chartered in the state of Wisconsin in August 1996, stated that the corporation's purpose is "to engage in religious, educational and charitable activities and particularly the executive, administrative and financial administration of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, otherwise known as the Episcopal Church. It shall have charge of the church pension fund and the church's program ..." (emphasis added)
Well, imagine that.

Bp. Howe backed off when confronted by the Presiding Bishop:

...In a statement sent to all clergy in Central Florida, Howe said he had "immediately resigned" when the presiding bishop "learned of the effort earlier this month."

Howe wrote that he had been approached by Wantland "about a year and a half ago." Wantland "suggested there might be a way of creating a structure within the church that would preserve its faithfulness to the scriptures, the Book of Common Prayer, and the faith we have received. It would not be a matter of creating a new organization, but simply incorporating who we are . . ."

"Bishop Wantland's thought was that if at some point the General Convention should take actions that were truly unacceptable, actions that represented a departure from `the faith once entrusted to the saints,' there would be a kind of safety zone within the church where orthodox believers could remain. . . . I agreed to be a part of that effort and to put my name on the board of trustees."
"A structure within the church." That sounds familiar. Sounds like these three Bishops hatched Plan A for an attempted coup. What we're now witnessing must be Plan B, C, D or E, depending on whose history of the ESA, FiF, AAC, Network, CCP etc. you follow.

The point being, I think the integrity of this "investigation" became even more deeply flawed with the introduction of Bp. Wantland's name into it. Some of us have longer memories than Conger may have assumed.

J.

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