Colorado Bishop Seeks to Remove Previously Transferred Priests

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Rt. Rev. Robert O’Neill, Bishop of Colorado, is seeking to remove from the ministry more than a dozen priests that his predecessor lawfully transferred to another Anglican province after they joined the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA) more than seven years ago.

The initial list included at least one priest, the Rev. Robert John Bryan, who claims not to have received any communication on the matter. He expressed surprise at the news of his inhibition when contacted by The Living Church, and said he had not received any communication from anyone in the Diocese of Colorado since receiving a copy of his letter of transfer nearly eight years ago.

The Rev. Canon Colin Kelly, president of the Diocese of the Rio Grande’s standing committee, confirmed that Fr. Bryan has been a canonically resident priest in good standing of that diocese since 2002. According to several priests in the Rio Grande who spoke with The Living Church, he served with distinction and loyalty as priest-in-charge at St. Matthew’s, Las Lunas, M.M., for about five years. He decided to retire from the active ministry and moved back to Colorado to be nearer to family last year.

In 2000, 17 priests from the Diocese of Colorado, including Fr. Bryan, sought to leave The Episcopal Church after the formation of the AMiA that year. The Rt. Rev. Jerry Winterrowd, who was Bishop of Colorado from 1991-2004, signed and sent letters dimissory for all the priests to the “Ecclesiastical Authority of the Church of the Province of Southeast Asia.”

Read the whole article.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC BishopsTEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: Colorado

30 Comments
Posted May 30, 2008 at 4:41 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Frances Scott wrote:

When +O’Neill visited our parish in december he carried as a symbol of his office, not a shepherd’s staff, a cattleman’s staff!  When moving cattle, or loading them into a cattle truck, it is used as a prod.  Somehow it does seem more appropriate for +O’Neill to use a cattle prod than a shepherd’s staff…

May 30, 5:08 pm | [comment link]
2. Phil wrote:

Vindictiveness.  One of the fruits of the Spirit?

May 30, 5:08 pm | [comment link]
3. Ken Peck wrote:

Doesn’t O’Neill have better things to do than to discipline priests of Southeast Asia and Rio Grande?

Maybe he could raise some more money for his law suits by selling a few more church buildings so they can be come night clubs.

May 30, 5:10 pm | [comment link]
4. Philip Snyder wrote:

“See how they love each other.”
This is nothing but making reconciliation impossible.  These priests will now never return from AMiA.  Even if they have a change of heart and agree with the Bishop on almost everything, they will still not be allowed to become Episcopal Priests anymore.

He can, however, refuse to license them in his diocese.

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

May 30, 5:24 pm | [comment link]
5. Br_er Rabbit wrote:

So give it up, ComCons. The Episcopal church is bound and determined to place itself in a federal relationship with the rest of the communion.

Feel called to another Anglican province? Feel called to Rome? No diff. The same canonical procedures will be used to eject you from The Episcopal Church, a member of The Anglican Communion Federation. You will be declared as a non-priest or non-deacon who has abandoned his ordination vows.

And remember those ordination vows? You signed up to obey your bishop-for-life (and presumably, his successor). Forget about transferring to another diocese. Your original diocese is your canonical home forever, to wit:

the “House of Bishops rejects the practice of transfer of canonical residence to allow a priest or bishop to exercise ministry outside of the geographical boundaries of his or her canonical residence.”

The boundaries of the two-tiered Anglican Communion are becoming clearer, as they will even more so after GAFCON.

The Rabbit..”

May 30, 5:39 pm | [comment link]
6. Ralph wrote:

Here’s a first-rate example of the vice of tyranny and vengence, the opposite of the virtues of justice, strength and righteousness. This is the bull-headed, stone-hearted use of power and authority to injure people. It’s traditionally considered an attribute of the demon Moloch. A shepherd who would roast someone else’s sheep.

This is the guy who’s going to GAFCON without an invitation, right? Heh-heh.

Slightly edited by elf.

-Elf Lady

May 30, 5:45 pm | [comment link]
7. azusa wrote:

He’s going to Gafcon, is he? Better bring your cattle prod, cowboy!
Yee Hi!
What a pathetic parody of a Christian minister.

May 30, 6:03 pm | [comment link]
8. jamesw wrote:

Come on, folks.  This is just an example of TEC following the ancient tradition of the Church.  Although none of them are dead yet, it bears a certain resemblance to the Cadaver Synod.  I am sure that Stacy Sauls could write up a wonderful memo laying out its precedential value.

May 30, 6:27 pm | [comment link]
9. Rob Eaton+ wrote:

With so much distance (and not the same bishop) between the dimissories and now this action of deposing, one wonders if this isn’t an unintended uncovering of the raw strategy involved.  Not personal, not vindictive, not vengeful, not spiteful (despite how it feels). 
So, what is it, really, that is behind this policy?  I can’t imagine this being being discussed at the baby bishop school, complete with training manual.  The question has been asked before, but can we not marshall the resources and discover the source (with pictures, if possible).

RGEaton

May 30, 6:28 pm | [comment link]
10. Henry wrote:

What it is, Fr. Eaton, is the bishop of CO covering his backside as he continues to fight Armstrong+ and possibly others to come.  He does not want them to be able to claim precidence where others have been transferred.  He is no stupid man.

May 30, 6:39 pm | [comment link]
11. tjmcmahon wrote:

Do I understand this correctly?  Fr. Bryan is canonically resident in the diocese of Rio Grande (the Episcopal diocese of Rio Grande, right???), I assume having returned to TEC from AMiA in 2002.  Now, the current bishop of Colorado is trying to depose a cleric who is not canonically resident in his diocese (or did Fr. Bryan transfer his canonical residence when he moved back to Colorado last year?).  Where you live and your canonical residence are not the same thing.  I suppose Bishop O’neill could revoke his license to minister within the diocese, but I don’t see how, under TEC’s canons, he could depose a priest not canonically resident in his diocese.
Oops…“I don’t see how, under TEC’s canons”... nevermind, I just answered my own questions.

May 30, 6:43 pm | [comment link]
12. w.w. wrote:

Does anybody know whether any TEC priests were issued transfer letters to a Church of England diocese when they took up ministry in a U.K. parish or in an Anglican Communion hqtrs office?  I seem to recall having met an American priest or two at COE parishes, but I didn’t inquire about the particulars of their credentials.

This would seem the kind of transfer forbidden by the new TEC world order.

p.s. I can’t imagine the Church of England deposing renowned theologian J.I. Packer when he transferred to the Diocese of New Westminster in Vancouver. OTOH, look at what happened when he transferred to a diocese in the Southern Cone province of the Communion.

w.w.

May 30, 6:52 pm | [comment link]
13. Brien wrote:

“Once the Diocese of Colorado had received those documents, they acknowledged that their records had not been complete and thanked us for updating them,” Canon Kelly said in an email message. “Bishop O’Neill called me to say that he accepted that Fr. Bryan was a priest canonically resident in the Diocese of the Rio Grande and they would correct their records to reflect that fact.”

Recognizing that I am about to commit logic, I wonder if the Diocese of Colorado could explain how Fr Bryan became canonically resident in the Rio Grande, without a letter dimissory from Colorado?  Can they (will they, do they even realize that they…) implicitly recognize the authority of another province to send a priest back to TEC, but not to receive the priest in the first place?  TEC really is the roach motel.  Never mind how you check in.

May 30, 7:26 pm | [comment link]
14. Br_er Rabbit wrote:

Never mind how you check in.

You can check in, but you can never leave.
The Rabbit.

May 30, 7:30 pm | [comment link]
15. Pageantmaster ن [Repent Justin Welby] wrote:

Presuming to remove someone from the ministry of Christ’s church is a very serious matter.

I find shocking the way the TEC Tyranno-bishops dish out depositions and inhibitions like confetti.

Lord have mercy on their souls.

May 30, 7:43 pm | [comment link]
16. montanan wrote:

It seems obvious that +O’Neill is trying to say his predecessor erred when he let priests transfer to a province which had a mission on “TEC’s soil” and he is trying to correct that perceived error.  His logic, should one want to follow it, would be that the priests didn’t transfer to the geography of the receiving province and therefore their transfer was not truly a transfer and is thus null and void.  An obvious flaw here (of a number), of course, is it means all Anglican (including TEC) orders are subject to the Pope’s option for deposition because they are on the “RCC’s soil”—and, thus, +O’Neill has no authority to issue any letters of any sort.

May 30, 8:27 pm | [comment link]
17. Ricky Bobby wrote:

Glad to see this story finally get some play…its been out for a couple of months.

What about O’Neill’s extortion of the Grace Church vestry…or the Vestry’s forensic audit that cleared Father Armstrong?

It seems there is a lot more going on with O’Neill than is making the light of day…other parishes leaving, huge legal bills, church buildings for sale, very low attendance in others…let’s get the whole story on the table—it is a good illustration of what’s going on across the church.

May 30, 8:49 pm | [comment link]
18. William P. Sulik wrote:

#8 - 8. jamesw, I had never heard of the Cadaver Synod.

This is too rich…

I hate to say it, but I think this could become a permanent part of the new Episcopal Church.  I can see Katie and her minions deposing priests, bishops and other ministers past, until they reach all the way back to St. Peter and depose him as well. 

Sort of like the Mormon’s “Baptism of the Dead,” TEC will start the defrocking and deposing of the dead.

At some point, those of you who remain in that rotting corpse—don’t you have any sense of dignity or decency?

May 30, 11:28 pm | [comment link]
19. robroy wrote:

“Glad to see this story finally get some play…its been out for a couple of months.”

Unfortunately, Ricky Bobby, this reflects animosity between T19/SF and the “other” conservative American blog (the blog that will not be named) site that originally broke the story. We have to wait till some other source reference it, in this case TLC.

And I agree with our Br’er Rabbit #5. We talk about “impaired communion”. But actions such as these and the deposition of Bp Cox and Schofield demonstrate that there are members of the erstwhile Anglican Communion that are not in communion with each other. Thus at present the Anglican Communion is a federation. But it is quickly moving towards an 815 centered communion (THE Episcopal Church) and a GS communion within a federation.

If clergy of one of the communions goes to the other communion, that is grounds for deposition for abandonment of the communion.

May 31, 12:36 am | [comment link]
20. Irenaeus wrote:

“The Episcopal church is bound and determined to place itself in a federal relationship with the rest of the communion”

It seems hell-bent on place itself in a hostile relationship with the rest of the Communion.

May 31, 1:51 am | [comment link]
21. hh6646 wrote:

that “other” conservative American blog mentioned that Eric Zolner, currently with Grace CANA Colorado Springs, was included in this. The T19 article doesn’t mention this. Does anyone know what’s going on with Zolner?

May 31, 9:15 am | [comment link]
22. Ephraim Radner wrote:

I really don’t know the details of all this, given the time that has elapsed since the original events behind them took place.  I certainly do not understand why these canonical actions are now deemed necessary (unless it has something to do with pension rights or something).  I was, however a regional “missioner” in Colorado at the time of the original decision to issue letters dimissory, and was in fact party to the formulation of that policy adopted by Bishop Winterrowd.  From this perspective, two things stand out:

1.  The Letters were never requested nor officially received by the provinces in question.  Perhaps such request and receipt has since taken place—I do not know.  But at the time, the ecclesiastical authorities in Rwanda and Southeast Asia apparently found the entire process of canonical transferral irrelevant somehow to their relationship with the Diocese of Colorado, TEC, and the normal business of the Communion.  I, for one, found this regrettable, and still do not understand it.  (There are a lot of things I do not understand here.)

2.  As far as I know, the Bishop and Diocese of Colorado took no further action with respect to the non-request and non-receipt of the Letters.  They were sent, I think, but because neither requested nor received, they had no canonical standing. That is, the matter was left pending.  So, it appears to have been the case until recently.  If so, it simply means that, canonically, these priests did not in fact “transfer” out of the diocese in any formal sense. Perhaps someone here has further information on this.

All that being said, as far as I am concerned, it strikes me that now is a time in which far more fundamental realities of relationship and recognition need to be sorted out among Anglicans before such canonical niceties can be addressed.  It is clear, for instance, that AMiA and TEC no longer recognize each other as “Anglicans-in-communion”; indeed, as far as I can tell, they never did, and that from both sides.  For it they did, there would be other things that would take place first before the invoking of canons of deposition.  But if, in fact, neither group recognizes each other as having any basis for communion—and hence a mutually recognized sacramental ministry—why does anybody care about this one way or the other?  It is just one more sad fact among many regarding the fracture and dissipation of the Christian Church, much like the Anglican-Methodist split of the late 18th-century. 

Ephraim Radner

May 31, 9:24 am | [comment link]
23. Irenaeus wrote:

“Why does anybody care about this one way or the other?”
—-Fr. Radner

It may tell us something about Bp. Neill and his values and priorities.

May 31, 9:37 am | [comment link]
24. Ricky Bobby wrote:

Dr. Radner, I care because it is simply mean and hurts our witness as a church, certainly not a step toward the alleged desire for reconciliation.

One of these clergy being deposed is an elderly priest in his nineties who is living out his remaining days in a cabin at Sewanee…it seems simply an unnecessary display of power for purposes of terrorizing the clergy of Colorado.

It looks like O’Neill is working out of his frustration in light of the overall failure of his episcopacy to do anything more than engage in petty fights.

The question is how does O’Neill fund all the billable attorney hours he is racking up to do these things?

Doesn’t he also have payments to make on mortgages for buildings abandoned by congregations who have left the Episcopal Church in places like Broomfield and Fort Collins?

May 31, 10:12 am | [comment link]
25. Ephraim Radner wrote:

I agree that these kinds of actions are hardly a contribution to reconciling Christian witness;  nor, 7-8 years after the fact in some cases, do they appear to be very meaningful.  But that is also partly the point:  this is a matter stemming from 8 years, not just of estrangement, but of complete separation.  Reconciliation was something that, quite frankly, has never been in the active vocabulary of anybody in this mess.  That is the saddest part of it.

May 31, 10:40 am | [comment link]
26. Ricky Bobby wrote:

Dr. Radner, that is the curious thing…that there has never been any attempt to settle these arguments in Colorado in recent years in a reasonable way…let alone with an eye toward reconciliation…oh if only you had been elected our bishop…it is now a situation running at 110 mph toward failure, and the brokenness of the last three years of leadership by both the standing committee and bishop leads many of us to think our diocese is beyond repair and we lack hope of a future as a coherent church…all while the bishop runs off to GAFCON…this despair in evident in the empty pews…

May 31, 10:52 am | [comment link]
27. Baruch wrote:

O’Neil is just another on of the Presiding Bishop’s lapdogs. She deposed some, so he had to follow suit.

May 31, 1:26 pm | [comment link]
28. athan-asi-us wrote:

This whole matter is beyond redemption no matter how you slice the cake.  I doubt that the “victims” could give a rats patootie by now. Fr. Zolner seems to be quite happy and productive at Grace CANA.

May 31, 5:46 pm | [comment link]
29. anon wrote:

Perhaps it is beyond redemption.  But if, as someone has intimated, Bp. O’Neill is going to GAFCON (presumably he was invited?), then it would be an opportunity and probably a Christian demand that he speak face to face with the bishops and primates involved from elsewhere in the world, and that they do so also with him.  This is a responsibility that falls on each party, it seems to me.  I shall pray for such a meeting, and for the Holy Spirit to direct its shape and outcome.

May 31, 8:06 pm | [comment link]
30. Br_er Rabbit wrote:

anon, Bb. O’Neill was not invited to GAFCon. He is going to be in the area during GAFCon to hobnob with the Bishop of Jerusalem. Note that GAFCon is an invitation-only conference.
The Rabbit.

May 31, 8:16 pm | [comment link]
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