ACI: Misuse of the Canons & Abuse of Power by the Presiding Bishop: A Statement on Bishop Scriven

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Notwithstanding these facts, on January 15, 2009, the Presiding Bishop purported to accept Bishop Scriven’s renunciation of his ministry “of this Church” and claimed to remove him from all ministry conferred in his “Ordinations.” Canon III.12.7, the canon under which the Presiding Bishop claimed to be acting, plainly applies only to a “Bishop of this Church.” The only way Bishop Scriven could have been a bishop of TEC on January 15 is if the deposition of Bishop Duncan were invalid. In such a case, Bishop Duncan would have continued to serve uninterrupted as Bishop of Pittsburgh and Bishop Scriven’s tenure as Assistant Bishop would not have ended by operation of Canon III.12.5(e). We doubt, however, that this is the theory under which the Presiding Bishop is operating.

Moreover, in addition to constituting an abuse of the canons, the Presiding Bishop’s action has profound consequences for TEC’s status as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion and its communion with the Church of England. The Declaration of Removal and Release states categorically that Bishop Scriven “is deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority as a Minister of God’s Word and Sacraments conferred on him in Ordinations.” Those ordinations occurred, of course, in the Church of England. On its face, this declaration appears to prohibit a bishop in good standing in the Church of England from acting sacramentally in TEC. Since the use of Canon III.12.7 carries with it a certification that the bishop is not in violation of the constitution and canons and is not taken for causes that affect moral character, Bishop Scriven in this regard stands in no different position than any other bishop in the Church of England. If Bishop Scriven is so barred, is not the Archbishop of Canterbury barred as well?

Defenders of the Presiding Bishop’s course of conduct attempt to soften the impact of these actions by claiming that all that is being done by these acceptances of “renunciation” is the removal of a license to act in TEC. But this is clearly erroneous.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)Presiding Bishop TEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: PittsburghTEC Polity & Canons

Posted January 27, 2009 at 12:47 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Creighton+ wrote:

Good article and places the PB’s actions and violation of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church clearly in front of everyone.

January 27, 2:06 pm | [comment link]
2. Br. Michael wrote:

Well and good, but nothing will be done about it.  TEC’s House of Bishops will not act and neither will the ABC or the AC.  The PB acts with impunity.

January 27, 2:13 pm | [comment link]
3. Mike L wrote:

The PB acts with impunity.

It’s good to be queen.

January 27, 2:42 pm | [comment link]
4. chips wrote:

From what little I know about the ACI - it would appear as if its theology is such that it acts as if it were still the 17th century and that the reality of modern church life in America does not exist.  Hence they have not proven very effective and that Gay Bishops and SSB are secondary issues to catholic order and tradition.  That being said this article points out that ++KJS most recent bad acts strike at the very heart of Catholic order and tradition within the Communion - that might be a reason for the ACI to part ways with TEC.

January 27, 2:50 pm | [comment link]
5. chips wrote:

A question for those in the know -
Is ++KJS
1) not very bright
2) not very ethical
3) so ideological that she just doesnt care about structures, ethics, legality, christian mode of behavior etc; or
4) all of the above.

January 27, 2:52 pm | [comment link]
6. pendennis88 wrote:

Indeed, sadly, I would expect the ABC to say nothing but act consistently with recognition of TEC’s authority to remove Scriven as any occasion to treat him as a bishop should arise.

January 27, 2:53 pm | [comment link]
7. Grant LeMarquand wrote:

Dear ACI folks - this is an excellent statement! Perhaps the key term is the one used towards the end: ‘autonomy.’  Sadly, the Presiding Bishop has not (as yet?) lived up to the full implications of the autonomy, what the Windsor Report called ‘walking apart.’ We may hope that if TEC and the ACoC do not wish to admit that they are the ones who have strained the Communion to (and beyond) the breaking point and therefore withdraw from the Communion, it may be that the Communion itself through its instruments may finally see the need to take action. That hope still exists perhaps, but apart from the Primates (who seem to have been marginalized) I for one see little hope that this kind of action will take place. The longer this all goes on, the more it is clear that Wales, Scotland, Brazil and, it seems, England have no intention of allowing the US and Canada to receive discipline.

January 27, 3:30 pm | [comment link]
8. Ralph wrote:

#5, chips, I’m not in the know. I suspect that she is in an office that is beyond her abilities and spiritual gifts, and is living in an isolated fantasy world, believing that she is doing a very good job in her position, and that she will be greatly rewarded in heaven.

I would guess that she is a reasonably intelligent person who is thoughtlessly and recklessly acting on very, very bad advice from those around her - and choosing to ignore those who are conscientiously trying to help her.

Some of her actions (as in this present matter) seem to mirror the ethical principle of consequentialism, or, “The end justifies the means.”

I don’t think she realizes that she will go down in history as one of the worst PBs in the American church. Yet, she has to know enough church history to realize that no matter how intense and angry past disputes in the Episcopal Church got, NEVER did 4 entire dioceses walk away. (Except for that temporary little matter of the War of Northern Aggression.) I honestly believe that there was a point at which she could have kept this from happening.

January 27, 3:33 pm | [comment link]
9. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

There is some very interesting information in this:

..on October 16, 2008, Bishop Scriven informed the Presiding Bishop, by letter copied to the Bishop of Oxford, that he was returning to the Church of England where he would become an Honorary Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Oxford and be subject to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Oxford.  The Presiding Bishop clearly acknowledged this fact in her letter of response, dated November 12, 2008: “I understand your request to resign as a member of the House of Bishops to mean that you will become a bishop of the Church of England, serving as assistant to the Bishop of Oxford.”  Bishop Scriven has now resumed his residence in the Diocese of Oxford in the Church of England, where he is recognized as a bishop in good standing and has been asked to perform episcopal duties.

Notwithstanding these facts, on January 15, 2009, the Presiding Bishop purported to accept Bishop Scriven’s renunciation of his ministry “of this Church” and claimed to remove him from all ministry conferred in his “Ordinations.”

What is clear is that in a clear challenge to the Bishop of Oxford the PB presumed to accept the “renunciation” of orders of one of his bishops.  It is further clear that she was well aware of his actual status when she did so and that as an English bishop he was outwith her authority [just as well really].

I was really sorry to hear of this treatment of Bishop Henry Scriven of whom I have nothing but of his missionary heart and work for building up the body of Christ.  He deserves our love, prayers and support.  He will continue to be a great asset to the mission of our Church throughout the Communion and has since 1st January been in post leading in our finest merging mission agencies.

As for the Presiding Bishop of TEC who presumes to depose CofE bishops from their orders based on a reading of language which can only be described as willfully untruthful…..words fail me.

January 27, 3:47 pm | [comment link]
10. billqs wrote:

Does anybody know the background on this?  I read the ACI piece and agree with it wholeheartedly, but I’m wondering what was going on behind the scenes.  Is this vindictiveness against any former member of the Diocese of Pittsburgh who left?  With what knowledge I currently have I can’t see any reason to do what she did.  At best it seems like she is getting really bad canon law advice, at worst she seems to be rapidly creating an atmosphere in the HOB where she can rule by fiat.

January 27, 4:34 pm | [comment link]
11. mugsie wrote:

#5, my answer would be “none of the above”, but instead “totally deceived by satan”

January 27, 4:54 pm | [comment link]
12. mugsie wrote:

#5, I thought I should elaborate on my answer a bit. The Bible states that God is not the author of confusion.
1 Cor 14:33     For God is not [the author] of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
God’s Word is actually quite clear if you read it very carefully, and read ALL passages on a specific subject. But everything that seems to proceed from the mouth of KJS is VERY confused and convoluted. That sort of stuff comes from one source—-satan!!!! Rev 12:9 states that satan will deceive the whole world. He’s already well on the way to accomplishing that feat as evidenced in our world today.

We can only pray for KJS to have an “awakening” to the death of her spirit due to her self deception driven by satan. God, alone, has the power to override satan. Will he do it in this case? Only he chooses who he works through and when.

January 27, 5:07 pm | [comment link]
13. wvparson wrote:

The action against Bishop Scriven indicates a proprietary claim by TEC on the Sacraments of the Universal Church, a claim typical of a denomination and not of a Province of the Church Catholic.

January 27, 5:50 pm | [comment link]
14. Nevin wrote:

Nothing to see here.  We have been reassured by the Schorites at the TEC loyal Diocese of Pittsburgh that this action was perfectly “routine” and good order.  Yea, right…

January 27, 6:12 pm | [comment link]
15. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

#14 I am not sure that your reference makes sense in relation to this

The Right Ref. Henry Scriven, Assistant Bishop of Pittsburgh,
who is, therefore, removed from the Ordained Ministry of this Church and released from the obligations of all Ministerial offices, and is deprived of the right to excercise the gifts and spiritual authority as a Minister of God’s Word and Sacraments conferred on him in Ordinations.

and this

Scriven had been serving assistant bishop in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. He announced in August 2008 that he would be leaving that post for a leadership role with the United Kingdom-based South American Mission Society (SAMS). He was scheduled to begin his work in early 2009.

Scriven had provided “episcopal ministry” to the Diocese of Pittsburgh after Jefferts Schori deposed Robert Duncan as bishop of the diocese September 19 for his efforts to re-align that diocese with the Southern Cone. The leadership and the majority of the members of the diocese agreed to make that re-alignment October 4 at their diocesan convention.

Scriven, who is a British citizen, had worked with SAMS in Argentina, serving as the chaplain of the British Embassy Church in Madrid, Spain and as Suffragan Bishop in Europe for the Church of England before he came to Pittsburgh in September 2002. Former Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning had made Scriven an assisting bishop for the Convocation of American Churches in Europe in May 1995.

Jefferts Schori said her acceptance of Scriven’s renunciation also came with the advice and consent of her advisory council.

If it is meant to be an apology I think Bishop Scriven deserves something better.

January 27, 6:36 pm | [comment link]
16. BMR+ wrote:

I entirely agree with the spirit of the ACI piece, but I’m a little less certain that the narrative is exactly right.  Although Bishop Scriven could have served as Assistant Bishop of Pittsburgh while a Bishop of the Church of England, in fact he was received into the Episcopal Church and given a “number” in the American succession.  When Bishop Duncan was deposed, he ceased to be Assistant Bishop of Pittsburgh, but continued to be and to describe himself as a Bishop of the Episcopal Church.  During the interval between the October 4 Convention in Pittsburgh and the departure of Bishop Henry and Catherine to England in mid-December he continued with the knowledge and consent of the Standing Committee (actually, of “both Standing Committees”)  in pastoral and sacramental ministry in congregations that supported realignment and in congregations that were continuing in TEC. 

I’m not sure how this might affect the argument put forward in the ACI paper.

Bruce Robison

January 27, 6:51 pm | [comment link]
17. BMR+ wrote:

And to follow, as I just looked it up, +Henry holds #980 in the American succession.

Bruce Robison

January 27, 6:54 pm | [comment link]
18. Nevin wrote:

Is Bishop Scriven the first Bishop to ever leave TEC for another province in the Anglican Communion?  If not, were all the other bishops who left for another province “defrocked” using this canon?  If not, it would hardly be honest to describe this action as “routine”.

January 27, 6:58 pm | [comment link]
19. Ralph wrote:

I would wonder whether she even KNEW that Bp. Scriven wasn’t one of “hers” at the time the letter was sent. That would explain a lot. If so, then 815 must be trying to figure out how to do damage control without admitting to having a room-temperature (or ocean-temperature) IQ. Celsius.

#12, mugsie. You state a reasonable alternative hypothesis. A malevolent individual, blinded by the devil. Could be. The ignorance argument does fail when one considers the matters of Bps. Wantland, Iker, Duncan, and Cox.

We pray for her every Sunday.

January 27, 7:00 pm | [comment link]
20. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

Well, in notable contrast our Archbishop is dealing with departing Episcocrats differently.  Far from engaging in de-frocking he is dishing out gongs

January 27, 7:25 pm | [comment link]
21. Intercessor wrote:

Simply put the PB IS THE Anglican Communion and she has the cancelled checks to prove it.

January 27, 7:37 pm | [comment link]
22. pendennis88 wrote:

#19, I would be somewhat suprised if the PB’s office had not done some back-channel inquiries in Lambeth before acting with respect to Scriven (“What would you do to us if we do this?”  “Nothing.”  “Well, all right then.”)  Isn’t that, you know, the sort of thing Rosenthal got his Cross of St. Augustine for?

January 27, 7:43 pm | [comment link]
23. Brian from T19 wrote:

Moreover, in addition to constituting an abuse of the canons, the Presiding Bishop’s action has profound consequences for TEC’s status as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion and its communion with the Church of England.

Oh no!  Our house of cards is crumbling!! What will we do?!?!?!  Oh wait…Canterbury and the CoE could care less.  I forgot.

January 27, 8:46 pm | [comment link]
24. sophy0075 wrote:

Don’t worry - at the next General Convention, the Canons will be re-written to make all such future actions by 815 in full compliance with TEC church law. I am sure additional clauses will be added to tighten the noose on the faithful who for reasons that I cannot understand (hello, South Carolina!) choose to stay within the Titanic - oops, I mean TEC.

January 27, 9:24 pm | [comment link]
25. Larry Morse wrote:

You misunderstand Schori, I suspect. Everything I have seen suggests that she fully believes in all her acts and that therefore, she is incapable of acting unlawfully, since she sees herself as fully lawful. We don’t run across a Schori very often, but one sees them in the sciences if you look for them. That is, her intelligence is not leavened with even a small shred of imagination. That is, she is unable to imagine herself doing wrong, and if you cannot imagine such a state, you cannot do it. What we see, what we know, is of no consequence to her because she is what we would call a fanatic, if we could imagine a fanatic without fanaticism. Such is Schori. She is simply a True Believer in herself.

  In short, she is unbreakable. Others will break on her because they are capable of being of two minds. She is not. She may lead all around her to destruction, but we will find that she is herself indestructible.  Larry

January 27, 10:20 pm | [comment link]
26. Bill C wrote:

Sophy:  ““Don’t worry - at the next General Convention, the Canons will be re-written to make all such future actions by 815 in full compliance with TEC church law.”

Sophy, I would say rather that ‘... at the next General Convention, the canons of the CofE will be rewritten to ensure that all future actions by 815 must result in immediate compliance by any dastardly English bishop, priest or archbishop’.  +Scriven, beware!  +Schori’s iron grip will cover the green and pleasant fields of the New Jerusalem.

January 28, 12:21 am | [comment link]
27. Sarah1 wrote:

I actually completely agree with Brian from T19—the Presiding Bishop’s actions have no affect or consequences at all for “TEC’s status as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion and its communion with the Church of England” and I am simply at a loss to understand why anyone at all should continue with that delusion after the past five years.

It’s quite clear that TEC could promote and enforce the sacrifice of goats on the altars every Sunday at Eucharist and there would be no affect or consequence for TEC’s status as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion and its communion with the Church of England.

January 28, 10:12 am | [comment link]
28. seitz wrote:

It appears Fr Robison has answered several of the questions he raised himself in the recent response on another thread. Whether +Scriven has a ‘number’ (much less retains it for future visits) is irrelevant to our account. It issue is whether one is using the canons (whose understanding of orders is catholic) in a functional/national way, and what this bespeaks regarding the understanding of the church held by the PB and others. This seems clearer in general terms in the newer account from Fr Robison:
My friends on the Standing Committee have accepted the statement of the Presiding Bishop’s representatives that this action was not intended as “punitive,” but was instead simply a routine administrative matter to clarify Bishop Henry’s status, accomodating his own request.  While I’m sure this is what they were told, I simply don’t buy it.
The canonical background in Title III suggests that when a cleric of TEC intends ministerial service in a church not in Full Communion with TEC, then the appropriate canonical action is that the cleric voluntarily renounce his ordained status in this church.  If he declines to do so, then the procedures for determining his “abandonment of the communion of this church” are then specified. 
(I would add that I personally believe there may be a legitimate extension or interpretation of these canons that would permit their use in cases where clergy have left TEC to serve “missionary initiatives” or extra-geographical extensions of Anglican Communion provinces, as per the Southern Cone realignment, when those initiatives are in violation of the constitution of those provinces related to geographic boundaries of jurisdiction.  But that has nothing to do with the situation with Bishop Scriven.)
Bishop Scriven arrived in Pittsburgh in the fall of 2002, a bishop of the Church of England, and was received into the Episcopal Church and made a full and voting member of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, #980 in the American succession.  When he departed from Pittsburgh in December, 2008, he was still a bishop in good standing in TEC, and in fact had continued to maintain that identity even following the deposition of Bishop Duncan and the “realignment” vote of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in October.  During the interval between October 4 and his departure for England Bishop Scriven continued pastoral and episcopal ministry, preaching, celebrating, confirming, and administering the Rite of Reception in parishes (such as my own St. Andrew’s, Highland Park, and St. Stephen’s, McKeesport) continuing in the TEC-Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.
The Title III canons do not require either the renunciation of ordained ministry or the finding of abandonment of communion when clergy in good standing undertake service within the constitutionally defined jurisdictions of churches in Full Communion with the Episcopal Church—the ELCA, for example, or any Anglican Communion church.  There is no specific provision for “transfer,” but a form is given in Title III, for example, to confirm good standing, with the note that such assurances are not transfers, but “temporary,” and needing to be reaffirmed annually (though without limit).  The assumption, then, is that within the community of Full Communion churches, TEC canons tacitly approve “dual citizenship.” We see this in the Red Book each year, as we might turn to the list of non-parochial clergy listed in various dioceses, some in secular employment, some retired, and some with notations like “England,” or “Uganda.” This of course applies equally in all orders of ministry.  At the present moment Bishop Mark MacDonald, resigned Alaska, is seated in the House of Bishops of TEC, serves as Bishop in Navaholand, and at the same time is a bishop in good standing serving with jurisdiction in the Anglican Church of Canada.  No “renunciation” or finding of “abandonment” was required for this dual appointment to be recognized by both bodies.
My reading is that when Bishop Henry notified the PB that he had accepted appointment as Director of SAMS-UK and would be serving as assisting bishop in the Church of England Diocese of Oxford, the most appropriate thing for the PB to have done would have been to send +Henry and Catherine a Bon Voyage card, and indicating that as for all other TEC bishops who have resigned from active service, he would continue on the clergy roster of the TEC-Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, and that a chair with #980 would always be available for him at meetings of the HoB, should he ever wish to join them.
The fact that the PB “partnered” her announcement about Bishop Scriven with her announcement about Bishop Wantland shows, I think, that she approached this matter with an essential misreading of the canons.  I believe that for a bishop to indicate that he intends to continue an active ministry in a jurisdiction (here the “realigned” and other extra-mural entities) not constitutional expressions of a church in Full Communion relationship with the Episcopal Church, as I believe Bishop Wantland has done, probably does set the stage for abandonment/renunciation actions.  But this is simply not the state of the facts for Bishop Scriven.
My experience is that in the current environment it is essentially impossible for parties on either side of the rumble to say something like, “I was wrong.” So I don’t expect retraction from the PB.  And of course, as Bishop Scriven does in fact continue as a Bishop in Good Standing within the Church of England, his ministry will continue essentially unchanged—though I’m sure this mark “on his record” is one that he’d rather not have.
What is suggested, though, is that in the heat of the conflict, good order and common sense and simple graciousness is pretty much out the window.  I agree with the Standing Committee of my diocese that “this is what the PB’s representatives told us they thought they were doing.” And I agree with them as well, with strong affirmation, that when Bishop Henry as a Bishop of the Church of England, and Catherine and their family may return for a visit, they will be warmly welcomed by their friends here in Pittsburgh on both and all sides of our sad division.  But I think a little more of a push back should have been expressed.  The PB just plain did a wrong thing here, and somebody should say so.
Bruce Robison

January 28, 12:19 pm | [comment link]
29. jamesw wrote:

Larry (post #25): I think you are incorrect.  I think that KJS knows exactly what she is doing with regard to her misuse/abuse of TEC’s canons, and that she is doing so quite deliberately.  Furthermore, I think that from KJS’s mindset, her actions make perfect sense.

I believe that KJS’s end goal is to become the “chief tyrant” of TEC.  I know that that term is derogatory, but I believe that it is actually very accurate provided one uses the right definition.  I define “tyrant” in this case as follows “3. ancient Greek ruler: in ancient Greece, a ruler who took control of a state without legal sanction and governed with absolute power.”  So, I believe that what KJS is attempting here is to take control of TEC without canonical or constitutional sanction and to govern TEC with absolute power.

KJS believes she needs this power in order to fully and quickly achieve the progressive agenda in TEC.  If one looks at extremist social liberals in other contexts, one sees a regular pattern of bypassing constitutional or democratic methods of achieving change, and selecting and using quick, easy and autocratic means to achieve their agenda.  KJS was put into power by a cadre of extremist liberal TEC bishops to be their tyrant.

In order to assume absolute control of TEC, KJS would either have to legitimately change the canons in such a way as to completely change TEC’s polity (time consuming and very unlikely to happen) or to subvert the canons.  KJS has chosen the latter approach, as it is faster and may net her a kind of absolute power in TEC that even legitimate canonical change could not give her.

Once KJS had set her mind on this course, she needed to achieve a number of goals.  1) She needed to keep the TEC extremist liberals on side; 2) she needed to cow the “moderate” wing of TEC into letting her get away with it; 3) she needed to be assured that Rowan Williams was sufficiently a milquetoast so as not to seriously threaten her Communion status; and (perhaps most importantly) 4) she needed for the courts to accept her right to be the final arbiter of the canons.

ALL of her actions to date can be seen to serve these causes.  Regarding point 1, she has discovered that her extremist liberal wing is throwing their full support behind her.  She can do whatever she likes, and sycophants like Tom Woodward and others will chirp out their defense of her.  TEC’s liberal faction has shown itself to be completely supportive of this sea-change to TEC’s polity, and supportive of turning the PB into a TEC pope.

Regarding point 2, KJS has used a very basic strategy.  She has started with some very minor biases in enforcing the canons, and then has moved gradually to greater levels of abuse and misuse.  She started by imposing a different standard on Mark Lawrence’s election as bishop of South Carolina.  While there was some modest pushback, in that Lawrence then was confirmed, there was no real outcry.  Her next act was to declare that Schofield had been deposed despite not receiving the requisite number of votes.  But at least he had been inhibited.  She got away with that.  So then she decided to declare Duncan was inhibited despite not getting the requisite votes and despite him not even being canonically liable for deposition.  She got away with that.  So then she went yet another step, and interpreted Iker’s press release as a “renunciation of ministry”.  This was a major step forward as she could now simply depose bishops at will.  Scriven is simply the next step, where she is now deposing bishops at will.  She knows full well that the “moderate” faction within TEC will offer her no resistance.

Regarding point #3, she has pushed the Communion, and Rowan Williams has not pushed back.  She is relatively confident that Sarah Hey is right - she could probably declare that SHE is the new personification of Jesus Christ and demand that all bow down before her, and sacrafice raison cakes to her supreme divinity, and Rowan Williams will do nothing substantive.  In fact, I believe that KJS couldn’t care less what Rowan Williams or the Communion does anymore because she considers that a victory.

Her one last outstanding fight is with the secular courts per point 4.  All of the rest of the points, go towards serving this goal.  If she can brazenly violate the canons, with no opposition from the vast majority within TEC, and with no consequences from the Communion Instruments, then it is very possible that a secular court which is applying the “heirarchical church” approach will say that TEC precedent shows that she is clearly the “highest authority” within TEC and that she has the absolute power to authoritatively interpret the canons of TEC.  And once she has that power granted to her by the secular courts, her Quest for Absolute Power in TEC is complete.

January 28, 5:34 pm | [comment link]
Registered members must log in to comment.

Next entry (above): LA Times: Scrambling to preserve Holocaust memories

Previous entry (below): Churches help ‘transitioners’ hunt for jobs

Return to blog homepage

Return to Mobile view (headlines)