That old internet dowager, the House of Bishops/Deputies listserv, is usually a little slow on the uptake, so its members are only beginning to share their wisdom over the controversy that won't quite go away--namely, a pattern of conveniently incoherent intepretation of canons on the part of the Presiding Bishop and her staff. Some express annoyed dismay that we're talking about it at all. To them I had this to say earlier today:
What follows is nothing new. It isn't anything that hasn't been said many times before, including by me. But one should never tire of telling the truth when it needs to be told, and the responses on this thread make it abundantly clear that some critical elements of the truth have not yet sunk in with a lot of the members of this list.
So, here goes ... one ... more ... time.
Everybody I know is willing to stipulate to the substance of the charges against Bishops Cox and Schofield--that they have indeed "abandoned the communion of this church" (i.e. TEC). (One could make a case that the abandonment canon was the wrong one to use in their cases, but that's another conversation.) So nobody on either "side" of this mess is contesting the outcome--that Bishops Cox and Schofield be no longer allowed to exercise ordained ministry as representatives of the Episcopal Church. That ball is not in play and nobody is trying to put it in play.
Opinions vary on this, but I, for one, do not attribute any dishonorable or malevolent motives to the Presiding Bishop or to Chancellor Beers with respect to how the depositions were handled at the March HOB meeting. I think it was an honest mistake on their part. I agree that they were following established precedent. Nor do I blame the bishops for not objecting at the time; they too were following precedent and assumed everything was on the up and up. They may have been culpably ignorant, but they were, I would wager, nonetheless ignorant. Nobody was trying to pull a fast one, and nobody was sitting mutely while an injustice was being perpetrated. But, as has been amply demonstrated, it was a bad precedent, and two wrongs don't make a right. There is a legitimate distinction to be made between the precedent of a judicial opinion and the precedent of an administrative practice. The former helps shape the body of legal tradition. The latter, when it is pursued in error, only compounds the error, and makes it only that much more imperative that the error be rectified.
All this is taking place, of course, in a wider context of grave crisis in TEC and in the Anglican Communion. We are staring at each other across spiritual minefields, from foxholes and trenches. The general level of trust and presumptive good will is at what could be an all-time low in our history. The "bonds of affection" have been strained not only *to* the breaking point but well beyond that point. In such a conflicted environment, process becomes all the more important. Even when we cannot trust one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, a shared commitment to due process--to the rules we agreed to live under in less cantankerous times--becomes the only bit of glue that can bind us together, short of a completely sovereign and veritably miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit.
In such a conflicted state, when mutual adherence to constitution and canons is all we have to hang onto, the strict observance of those canons by everyone involved takes on paramount importance--more importance than in more "normal" times, when the resilience of the organism is more capable of tolerating some technical defects in processes like the deposition of bishops. We don't live in such times presently, and, as a body, we don't have the resilience to withstand such defects. There isn't enough trust to go around at the moment. If there were ever a time when we need to be punctiliously compliant with the letter of our own laws, this is that time.
And what do we have now in this time of Anglican angst? We have a widespread and growing *perception* that due process was abused. We have heard officially from South Carolina, Central Florida, and Springfield. I predict there will be more. This perception of canonical laxity extends from the Cox-Schofield depositions to the whole manner in which 815 has dealt with the San Joaquin meltdown--IMO, a much more egregious problem. In such a time as this, even the perception--let alone the reality--of canonical abuse poisons the well from which we all drink.
Fixing the mess, and restoring some modicum of confidence that we are abiding by our own rules, is difficult but not impossible. There are multiple ways this could happen, but the simplest one, in Bishop Schofield's case, would be for the HOB, by a telephone poll, to accept his letter of resignation from the HOB as tantamount to resignation from ministry in TEC, and just be done with it. But if some find that objectionable, then the Title IV Review Committee should meet (a half-hour conference call should suffice) to form the charges against Bishops Cox and Schofield, either using the same "abandonment" canon or, better still, filing a presentment and scheduling a proper trial. My guess is that neither gentleman would show up to contest the charges, so it need not be a matter of inordinate expense. But the benefits of such a move--especially if combined with an effort to face up to the boondoggle that was made of San Joaquin--would be immediately palpable.