The Kangaroo Court Should Resign in Toto

In the wake of the resignation of Ms. Josephine Hicks as Church Attorney on the +Mark Lawrence matter, Bishop Dorsey Henderson, President of the new Title IV's Disciplinary Board for Bishops, has sent the following announcement to his members (H/T: Doug LeBlanc, Living Church):
Sisters and Brothers,

This message comes with the prayer that you are all well and joyful.

Because I believe that time is of an essence, I have made a command decision and today requested that J.B. Bur[t]ch assume the work of the Church Attorney in the matter of Bishop Mark Lawrence only; Josephine Hicks continues to work with the other allegations on our “docket.” Mr. Bur[t]ch has accepted.

J.B. held the equivalent position with the Review Committee under the previous version of Title IV. As “Lay Assessor” to the Review Committee, he did the same work that the “Church Attorney” now does for the Disciplinary Board. While in that position, he did preliminary work on the Bishop Lawrence information, so he is already more than familiar with that information and the task which is now ours.

I have informed Ms. Hicks and she will be in communication with Mr. Burch to arrange for an orderly transfer of that labor and ministry.

Faithfully yours in our Lord,

+Dorsey Henderson
Thus Bishop Henderson previously worked with Mr. Jack W. "J. B." Burtch, Jr. (h/t to Milton Finch for correcting the Bishop's misspelling of Mr. Burtch's name) when Bishop Henderson served on the former "Title IV Review Committee" (of which Bishop Waggoner was the chair). And in that capacity, Bishop Henderson tells us, "he did preliminary work on the Bishop Lawrence information . . .". [UPDATE 10/17/2011: On page 801 of the "Blue Book" for the 2009 General Convention, one may read the following: "The Title IV Review Committee, with the assistance and advice of its Lay Assessor, J. B. Burtch, Jr., Esq. (Virginia III), meets as necessary to discharge its responsibilities under Title IV of the Canons of the General Convention with regard to the ecclesiastical discipline of bishops."]

What are we to make of this? It indicates that the so-called allegations of "abandonment" against Bishop Lawrence were on the docket of the former Title IV Review Committee until that body ceased to operate as of July 1, 2011. But if that is the case, they must have been presented with the allegations in June 2011 or earlier -- possibly (as I indicated in an earlier post) as long ago as last September.

One wonders why it took so long for Bishop Lawrence to be informed of the allegations made against him, if that chronology is true. Bishop Henderson did not write to him about them until mid- to late-September of this year -- but now we find out that they had a "Lay Assessor" working on them in the first half of 2011, or possibly earlier? And it is only now -- after the charges have become public -- that Bishop Henderson "believe[s] that time is of the essence"??

Another curious fact, mentioned in my earlier post, was that the old Title IV Review Committee held its last full meeting on November 5, 2010, by teleconference. I suggested that the Committee might have considered the allegations against Bishop Lawrence at that meeting, since their review would have required the full Committee to participate. And if so, I posited that there might be a kind of "double jeopardy" operating here, since the Committee obviously did not certify any charges of abandonment against Bishop Lawrence as a result of its last meeting.

If the charges against Bishop Lawrence were not at that time deemed adequate to constitute "abandonment", then what has happened since November 2010 that could make them more worthy of consideration now? Let us look more closely at what we know of the charges, as detailed in the appendix to the letter from Bishop Henderson received by Bishop Lawrence only a few weeks ago, and published on the Website of the Diocese of South Carolina. (They may actually be viewed in a more concise format in this post at the StandFirm site.)

If one reviews the Appendix thoroughly, the one thing that fairly leaps out, and which happened subsequent to November 5, 2010, was the convocation of the special Diocesan Convention of South Carolina on February 19, 2011. At that convention, two resolutions critical to the current dispute passed on second reading (required for the amendments to South Carolina's diocesan constitution).

Since these Resolutions were not final as of November 2010, the Review Committee may have held off any further proceedings to consider the allegations against Bishop Lawrence until after the amendments became final, when passed on their second reading. But that just makes even more apparent the kangaroo court nature of these proceedings: the Review Committee, and now the new Disciplinary Board which picked up its baton, is seeking to hold a sitting bishop responsible for the corporate acts of the Diocese as a whole.

If the amendments finally adopted in February 2011 (of which those embodied in the first Resolution ["R-1"] are the critical ones) are the gist of ECUSA's "case" against Bishop Lawrence -- and the foregoing observations based on the public record suggest that this may well be accurate -- then we truly are now in the midst of that Constitutional Crisis about which I have for so long been warning. Here is its essence:

1. General Convention adopts on minimal debate an entire new set of disciplinary Canons. These purport to confer upon the Presiding Bishop metropolitical (pastoral and disciplinary) authority over other Bishops, without any warrant for doing so in ECUSA's Constitution.

2. The Diocese of South Carolina objects to this unconstitutional act by General Convention, and takes the requisite steps to ensure that it cannot be legally bound by whatever passes General Convention -- including especially the new Title IV.

3. This corporate act of self-protection by an autonomous member Diocese then becomes the basis for "abandonment" charges against the Diocese's Bishop -- under the new and unconstitutional Canons!

4. Not only that, but the person heading up the inquiry into "abandonment" charges against Bishop Lawrence is the very Bishop who led the "Title IV Task Force II" which drafted and then presented the revisions to Title IV for General Convention to adopt!

Bishop Henderson still heads the Title IV Task Force II, which is now charged with the duty of educating everyone in the Church about the new disciplinary Canons. In that capacity, he supervised the publication, in its name, of a written memorandum defending the new Canons against the charges of unconstitutionality! (Is it any wonder that the Presiding Bishop wanted him to be on the new Disciplinary Board?)

Are we getting "kangaroo" enough for you here? Also serving on both the Title IV Task Force II and on the new Disciplinary Board is Ms. Diane Sammons, a lay member from the Diocese of Newark. (Both appointments were made by the current President of the House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson.)

There are still further revelations to come about the conflicts of interest of those currently serving on the Disciplinary Board for Bishops in the matter of Bishop Lawrence. They will take more time and research to lay out in detail, with appropriate links, and will be fully described in a follow-up to this post. What has been shown here, however, should be enough to taint the entire process of this Board from its inception.

(Note: there are also more observations which you can view as part of the latest Anglican Unscripted episode. And, not to detract in any way from the seriousness of the above, but in a remarkable coincidence, evidence is emerging that the Obama Administration is seriously conflicted on the issue of climate change, as well. The more they try to hide things, the worse it is when they come to light, as eventually they must -- in a democracy under the rule of law, at least.)

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