Friday, February 01, 2008

Cleaning Up the Canons

At General Convention 2006, Resolution A153 was approved. Here is part of that resolution:

That the 75th General Convention express its sincere and abiding appreciation and gratitude for the diligent, intensive, and dedicated work and leadership of the Task Force on Disciplinary Policies and Procedures (“Task Force I”) since 2001...

...And be it further Resolved, That the 75th General Convention acknowledge that the work of Task Force I requires further work, reflection, and perfection; and be it further Resolved, That Resolution A153 and the work of and documents from Task Force I be referred to a new Title IV Task Force (“Task Force II”)...

...Task Force II shall be charged to complete and perfect this vital work, continuing the focus on the following critical goals, concerns, and values:

1. Reflect the values, ecclesiology, and theology of the Church;
2. Move Title IV towards a reconciliation model for all appropriate circumstances;
3. Encourage the prompt resolution of conflicts in the Church and the reconciliation of persons involved in those conflicts at the earliest appropriate time and the lowest appropriate level of the Church;
4. Consider the possible inclusion of certain Lay Persons in Title IV whose office or other leadership role makes inclusion appropriate, provided the treatment of their accountability and discipline is commensurate with their lay status, responsibilities, and commitments;
5. Maintain the historic pastoral role and canonical authority of Bishops; and
6. Respect the roles, rights, and integrity of those persons subject to Title IV, and of injured persons, communities, Parishes, Missions, Congregations, and the Church.

And be it further Resolved, That Task Force II meet during the next triennium, giving the Church due notice of its meetings; that it make available such periodic reports of its work as will best inform the Church of its activities; and that it make a final report, with a proposed Title IV revision along with explanatory and educational materials, to the 76th General Convention not later than January 1, 2009...
Task Force II has developed an Exposure Draft, with suggested changes to Title IV. That draft can be found here.

Of particular interest are the revisions suggested for Title IV, Canon 16(A), Sections 1 and 2:
Canon 16: Of Abandonment of the Communion of This Church

(A) By a Bishop

Sec. 1 If a Bishop abandons the communion of this Church (i) by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of this Church, or (ii) by formal admission into any religious body not in communion with the same, or (iii) by exercising Episcopal acts in and for a religious body other than this Church, so as to extend to such body Holy Orders as this Church holds them, or to administer on behalf of such religious body Confirmation without the express consent and commission of the proper authority of this Church, or (iv) in any other way; it shall be the duty of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, by a majority vote of all of its members, to certify the fact to the Presiding Bishop and with the certificate to send a statement of the acts or declarations which show such abandonment, which certificate and statement shall be recorded by the Presiding Bishop. The Presiding Bishop shall then place a restriction on the exercise of ministry of said Bishop until such time as the House of Bishops shall investigate the matter and act thereon. During the period of such restriction, the Bishop shall not perform any Episcopal, ministerial or canonical acts, except as relate to the administration of the temporal affairs of the Diocese of which the Bishop holds jurisdiction or in which the Bishop is then serving.

Sec. 2 The Presiding Bishop, or the presiding officer, shall forthwith give notice to the Bishop of the certification and restriction on ministry. Unless the restricted Bishop, within two months, makes declaration by a verified written statement to the Presiding Bishop, that the facts alleged in the certificate are false or utilizes the provisions of Canon III.12.7, the Bishop will be liable to Deposition. If the Presiding Bishop is reasonably satisfied that the statement constitutes (i) a good faith retraction of the declarations or acts relied upon in the certification to the Presiding Bishop or (ii) a good faith denial that the Bishop made the declarations or committed the acts relied upon in the certificate, the Presiding Bishop, with the advice and consent of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, shall terminate the restriction. Otherwise, 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. If the House, by a majority of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote, shall give its consent, the Presiding Bishop shall depose the Bishop from the Ministry, and pronounce and record in the presence of two or more Bishops that the Bishop has been so deposed.
The list of actions that will give evidence of abandonment includes "Episcopal acts in and for a religious body other than this Church," with the phrase "or another Church in communion with this Church" removed.

The Title IV Review Committee is replaced by a "Disciplinary Board for Bishops." With their certification, the Presiding Bishop "shall then" (not optional) place a "restriction" (inhibition) on the exercise of ministry of the Bishop. No Senior Bishops are mentioned.

This would assure that the unusual situation we currently have in regards to Bp. Duncan of Pittsburgh (charges certified and to be heard by the House of Bishops, but not inhibited) will not happen again.

These revisions to the Canons can be approved at General Convention 2009, if both Houses concur. Until then, we'll just have to make do with the current ones.

Take a look at this draft. Note the paragragh at the beginning that explains how you may offer feedback to the Task Force.

What other things in this draft jump out at you?


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