Task Force Revisits Making Laity Liable to Church Discipline

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A task force charged with proposing revisions to the ecclesiastical Title IV disciplinary process met July 23-24 at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kansas City to discuss how it will approach modifications to the current disciplinary process, which does not include jurisdiction over members of the laity.

The 73rd General Convention, which met in Denver in 2000, authorized creation of a previous task force, which conducted surveys and developed a “theology of discipline” for the first three years and then proposed a draft which included among its provisions one making the laity liable for a number of offenses within the court’s jurisdiction.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Polity & Canons

Posted August 5, 2007 at 2:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Br. Michael wrote:

The Laity don’t need this type of “help”.

August 5, 2:20 pm | [comment link]
2. Alice Linsley wrote:

This would discourage orthodox people from joining TEC and that’s exactly why the proposed canon will be put into effect. TEC is all about inclusion.  Yeah, right!

August 5, 2:50 pm | [comment link]
3. teatime wrote:

Since “discipline” when used by TEC seems to have nothing to do with morality and restraint, I’m guessing this is some discussion about how to sue lay people?

August 5, 2:57 pm | [comment link]
4. Grandmother wrote:

teatime, you may be correct, but I read somewhere that volunteers for non-profits may not be sued. 

Of course that also depends on how the organization is “organized”. ie 501-3c, or whatever.

I personally have no doubt that this is the way they find to punish, or remove any faithful ‘orthodox”..


August 5, 3:02 pm | [comment link]
5. BabyBlue wrote:

Once again, another illustration that Delores Umbridge has taken over the church.  And who gets to be on this Grand Inquisitorial Squad?  Crabbe and Goyle?


August 5, 3:22 pm | [comment link]
6. BMR+ wrote:

As one who was much involved in the Title IV discussions in the last triennium I would remind readers that the context for the effort to include laity in the disciplinary canons is primarily the result of the revisions of Title III in 2003, when the roster of what I guess we would call “authorized ministers” was greatly expanded.  In places like, say, Northern Michigan or Nevada, many congregations are led by “Total Ministry Teams” including both locally-trained clergy and authorized lay ministers.  In the current Title IV there isn’t much of anything about due process, for example, when there might arise allegations of misconduct or neglect of office when the “minister” in question is a lay person.  A commissioned lay preacher or catechist, for example, could be removed from office arbitrarily by the ecclesiastical authority of the diocese without any right to hear the charges or to present a defense. A revised Title IV would at least in theory give the accused lay minister at least the minimum protections that the canons presently provide clergy.

August 5, 4:46 pm | [comment link]
7. driver8 wrote:

This would be a real novelty for Anglicanism. Lay people have not sworn oaths of canonical obedience so how can they be disciplined by canons which they have never agreed to obey?

August 5, 4:49 pm | [comment link]
8. RoyIII wrote:

A good reason to just join another church.  If it came to that, I’d just join another.  What makes TEC think we’d put up with that ?  I guess they are just running off those of us who are not their kind of members.

August 5, 5:03 pm | [comment link]
9. drjoan wrote:

I think I was “disciplined” recently when I questioned the theology of ++KJS in a more or less “public” venue at my church.  Actually, the priest and the senior warden took me out to lunch (which clued me in to the “solemnity” of the occasion) and suggested that I was too vocal and shouldn’t I be more careful of what I said as I led Bible studies? 
There is already provision in the Scripture for discipline for anyone in the Church.  But, oh, yes: The Scriptures are not that adequate.  Ah, well.

August 5, 5:04 pm | [comment link]
10. David+ wrote:

How about a canon stating that any layman wanting to leave the Episcopal Church must turn over the keys to thier private homes to TEC for their continued use?  That ought to end all of this messy controvery in a big hurry and scare the——out of those unruly orthodox.

August 5, 5:36 pm | [comment link]
11. teatime wrote:

This is the line that really caught my attention:

“Mr. Hutchison said there was also widespread dissatisfaction that the current system offered no restitution to the victim or healing process for the affected congregation.”

This sounds like he’s talking about sex abuse but that’s never mentioned. The article assumes prior knowledge of the discussion and is confusing.

BUT, any talk of “restitution” implies lawsuits and we all know how TEC’s powers-that-be love filing those things! They might introduce a system for “restitution” citing sex abuse but make the provision broad enough to cover all sorts of “harms.”

Gloria, I wonder if volunteers can be sued, too. But haven’t vestry members of orthodox churches been sued by TEC? I wonder if simply having a lay license for ministries makes one more than a volunteer?

August 5, 6:35 pm | [comment link]
12. Grandmother wrote:

You got me teatime..  All I know is that should such a thing be pushed through, if I’m still a member of TEC (and that’s doubtful), I would immediately no longer be a member.


August 5, 6:39 pm | [comment link]
13. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

How about:
“In consideration of entering into this Baptismal Covenant with TEC the Lay Member covenants to obey all orders, instructions and canons of TEC and charges to TEC all right title and interest in all property, real estate, soul and grandmothers of the Lay member…...

August 5, 7:20 pm | [comment link]
14. John B. Chilton wrote:

#6 BMR,
Thanks for staying on topic and explaining the context.

August 5, 7:50 pm | [comment link]
15. Dan Crawford wrote:

“A theology of discipline”? I am in awe - for a church with no theology to speak of that’s quite an achievement. I can’t wait to read the scriptural references.

August 5, 7:55 pm | [comment link]
16. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

Thanks to Living Church for explaining the topic and its breadth.

August 5, 7:56 pm | [comment link]
17. Harvey wrote:

Still sounds if the criminal is blaming the victim.

August 5, 8:56 pm | [comment link]
18. TomRightmyer wrote:

I appreciate the explication offered by BMR+ that the intent is to provide some due process and appeal procedure for lay ministers. Such is sometimes needed in cases where mission and parish clergy or bishops have been arbitrary and unfair in their judgments. 

    When I was serving as an interim rector a situation developed in which a member of the vestry verbally harassed a part-time church employee. I was on vacation at the time and when I returned the other vestry members concluded that this person could no longer continue on the vestry.  With the approval of the vestry I asked the member for his keys to the church. If he had refused I was authorized to change the locks. In the event he gave me his keys and never returned to church. We consulted with the diocese who could offer no help. On motion at the next regular vestry meeting I was unanimously asked to ask for the member’s resignation, with the understanding that if he did not resign I would inform the congregation what had happened. This followed we thought the guidance given in St. Matthew’s Gospel. In the event after two months the member did resign. This was a small town and I am sure there were some private conversations.

    At the next annual meeting the congregation approved a rule that unexcused absence from three consecutive vestry meetings was considered to be resignation. The diocese approved the rule.

    Perhaps a national disciplinary canon would have helped us; perhaps not.

    Tom Rightmyer in Asheville, NC

August 5, 9:16 pm | [comment link]
19. Br. Michael wrote:

The rector and vestry can always get rid of a lay minister.  ALL lay ministry is at the sufferance of the official church leadership.  This is an exercise in control. Period.

August 5, 9:37 pm | [comment link]
20. Chip Johnson, cj wrote:

Kendall,  I know you were away last week, but I caught , this last Tuesday, and had quite a bit of private e-mail comment.  Seems that old stories do catch a bit of comment when the laity really get a chance to read them!

August 5, 10:06 pm | [comment link]
21. Nikolaus wrote:

I love the reference to Delores Umbridge.  Very appropriate BabyBlue.  Correct as BMR+ and TomRightmeyer might be, I still think is is an audacious move by a denomination that utterly fails to discipline its ordained clergy.

August 5, 11:06 pm | [comment link]
22. Anselmic wrote:

A quibble I know but I wonder how revealing this line is:

‘Clergy also reported unhappiness with a system in which simply being accused often wound up being a career-ending event.’

Perhaps it would have been more appropriate to write:

‘Clergy also reported unhappiness with a system in which simply being accused often wound up being a ministry-ending event.

Then again maybe not.

August 5, 11:13 pm | [comment link]
23. Connecticutian wrote:

I was steadfast against this last time around, but having seen the completion of the Title IV Review Committee’s assessment of the Connecticut situation (St. John’s etc), I may have to reconsider.

In part, they said that the bishop could not be held responsible for the actions of other diocesan staff, such as the chancellor. 

Setting aside the question of whether the CT bishop is not in control of his renegade staff, I have to wonder if things might have turned out differently if the diocesan lay staff were liable for their actions?

August 5, 11:15 pm | [comment link]
24. Daniel wrote:

“Theology of Discipline??!” Are we now heading into a S&M;subculture within TEC.  Maybe they can turn Camp Wapiti into a re-education camp for laity that need to be disciplined.  This stuff is really getting scary.

August 5, 11:23 pm | [comment link]
25. Piedmont wrote:

Serving as consultants to the Task Force are Sally A. Johnson, Esq. and The Rt. Rev. F. Clayton Matthews.

Isn’t Sally Johnson the chancellor to Bonnie Anderson?

August 5, 11:35 pm | [comment link]
26. pendennis88 wrote:

Taking everything #6 says at face value, the problem remains that “A revised Title IV would at least in theory give the accused lay minister at least the minimum protections that the canons presently provide clergy.”

When we see how revisionist bishops treat clergy, and the general failure to enforce the canons either equally or in good faith, it would seem clearly preferable to be outside the system entirely.

August 6, 10:06 am | [comment link]
27. Cennydd wrote:

Wanna guarantee that people will “split” from TEC?  Pass this thing, and I guarantee you that they’ll split…....fast!

August 6, 12:00 pm | [comment link]
28. Tikvah wrote:

Heh heh ... and you’re still an Episcopalian because ... ?


August 6, 12:05 pm | [comment link]
29. libraryjim wrote:

Ministers think it’s difficult to get laity to volunteer NOW, wait until this passes, and it will spell the end of lay ministers (and ministries) in TEc, probably starting with Choir and altar guild on up to lay readers and EMs and vestries and beyond.

August 6, 1:08 pm | [comment link]
30. David Keller wrote:

BMR #6, Tom #18—Nice theory, but if you believe that is why 815 wants the canons changed, I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale.  I have been told who my diocesan staff was planning on bringing charges against if the change had passed in 2006, and it didn’t have anything to do with any of the situations you mentioned. (Also, see #19) Dr. Joan #9—I can beat that one.  The senior warden grabbed me up in the transcept after a service with most of the congregation still present and told me to keep my mouth shut.  #19 Br. M—You are correct sir. Finally, don’t throw me in the briar patch.  If they bring charges against me, I will make them spend the maximum amount of time and money on trial preparation I possibly can, and then I won’t show up at the hearing.  I hope all of you orthodox folks will do the same.

August 6, 2:47 pm | [comment link]
31. David Keller wrote:

On another note, Kendall and Elves, there are two posyings on Stand Firm today, a dictionary from Ireaneus and the search committee process from “St. Odilia” that I hope you will post over here also.  They will lighten the load a bit.

August 6, 2:52 pm | [comment link]
Registered members must log in to comment.

Next entry (above): Sarah Hey interviews Kendall on Leadership

Previous entry (below): Arun Arora: Why Canon Anderson Got it Wrong

Return to blog homepage

Return to Mobile view (headlines)