The Episcopal House of Bishops recently drafted a statement about “the disappointment, pain and grief felt across The Episcopal Church” over the current process for handling disciplinary complaints against bishops and the perceptions that bishops are not held to the same standards as other clergy or lay leaders.
Anglican Watch reiterates its approach:
- The statement is too little
- It’s too late
- It misses the point
Specifically, the problem with the discipline of bishops is that they are, in fact, held to the same Title IV standard as many clergy and laity. In other words, they are not accountable at all.
That must change.
Title IV is explicit about the process that intake officers, bishops, and other judicatories must follow when an intake officer receives a complaint.
Yet in almost every case, these provisions are ignored without consequences. Specifically:
- Intake officers routinely ignore the requirement that they assume the matters complained of to be true. Instead, they act as finders of fact.
- Chancellors often get inappropriately involved in Title IV cases.
- Bishops and intake officers ignore complaints altogether. This approach is a favorite tactic of Shannon Johnston and Susan Goff.
- Bishops falsely claim they cannot get involved if the matter is in litigation.
- Bishops and intake officers inappropriately invoke the “weighty and material” clause of Title IV to dismiss cases, even ones alleging criminal activity.
- Reference panels claim to be finders of fact. They expressly are not according to Title IV.
- Judicatories ignore the requirement of a pastoral response in ALL cases in which a complaint is made to an intake officer. Nor is a pastoral response the same thing as pastoral care.
- Bishops who abuse their authority face no consequences. Indeed, numerous cases filed more than six months ago with Todd Ousley remain unacknowledged by the new intake officer for bishops.
- These observations apply to the worst offender when it comes to Title IV, which is PB Michael Curry. Yes, we get that it’s not pleasant to complain about Curry while he is recovering from surgery, but he and Todd Ousley even rejected pleas for assistance for a victim of child rape by Episcopal priest Richard Losch. Remind us: How is that Christian?
We wish to be clear: Bishops who ignore Title IV complaints, dismiss on pretextual bases, or otherwise abuse their authority have no business being bishops. They must face disciplinary consequences. And the same applies to intake officers.
Until that happens, Episcopalians will continue to vote with their feet.