jQuery Slider

You are here

Parish Chancellor Writes Bishop Smith of Connecticut

Parish Chancellor Writes Bishop Smith of Connecticut

Dear Bishop Smith:

It is with great anguish that I write you, and ask that you desist from using Canon IV.10 against the six rectors in your diocese. Because of the quickness of communications these days, the entire American church and beyond has much information about what is happening in your diocese to the Connecticut 6. I write you as an Episcopal layman outside of your diocese and a canon lawyer, because what is happening in your diocese is already inflicting serious damage on the entire church of which I am part.

As an attorney who is chancellor of my parish, and who practices canon law in the Episcopal Church and represents dioceses, parishes, and priests, I am intimately familiar with this canon. It is a canon which is not appropriate for bringing discipline against priests who disagree with you over the propriety of the consecration of the bishop of New Hampshire.

Its sole purpose is to remove priests who have left their ministries and work as Episcopal priests and gone into some other conflicting line of work, such as the case where an Episcopal priest becomes a Roman Catholic priest or a Baptist minister without formally renouncing Episcopal orders.

To use this provision of canon law against working clergy in parishes of your diocese who are worshiping with their congregations every Sunday is a serious abuse of canon law, and any standing committee or bishop which countenances such action has departed both from the spirit and the letter of canon law. This scheme can only be seen as using tricks to eliminate from the diocese those who disagree with them without the right to a hearing or trial. The Star Chamber is best left in the dustbin of English history, rather than being resurrected in Connecticut.

If other bishops of all theological and political persuasions did the same based on disagreements over doctrine or practice, the Episcopal Church which I love and where I have found my spiritual home for 29 years would turn into a party of revenge and gottcha. Is this what we have come to? The Gospel of Christ will then have become a distant memory and an odd historical footnote.

If your chancellor is advising the standing committee to proceed in this manner against these six priests, he is seriously in error. You should contact a competent canon lawyer immediately if you do not have a chancellor who is familiar with these matters. If you have a chancellor who is unfamiliar with these canons and procedures, I or any number of other canon lawyers would be willing to speak with him in how the disciplinary canons should be properly used. This is not their proper use, but rather is an abuse of canon law so severe that any standing committee or bishop which goes along with such procedures does inestimable damage to the entire church far beyond your diocese, and it for this reason that I write and caution you to stop this illegal discipline of your six clergy.

If you are meeting with your clergy on Monday as is reported, you can and should put an immediate end to this wrongheaded attempt to bring them around to your views on the issues of homosexuality or any other matter over which you and they share different views. At this point a public apology to them is absolutely necessary, since the entire church across the country and indeed in the wider Anglican Communion has already taken note of this illegal and vindictive attempt to intimidate your clergy. This public act of inappropriate discipline cries out for a public act of repentance by those who initiated or countenanced it.

In Christ,

–Mr. Raymond J. Dague is Chancellor to St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Syracuse, New York

Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top