Skip to comments.13 Network Bishops urge Griswold to act against CT Bishop
Posted on 10/03/2005 5:26:07 PM PDT by sionnsar
September 27, 2005
The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold III
The Episcopal Church Center
815 Second Ave.
New York, NY 10017
Support for Charges against the Rt. Rev. Andrew Smith
Dear Bishop Griswold,
This letter is for the purpose of urging you to act promptly and affirmatively in passing along to the Review Committee the charges recently filed with you by clergy and laity of the Diocese of Connecticut against The Rt. Rev. Andrew Smith, Bishop of the Diocese of Connecticut.
Those charges relate to the conduct of Bishop Smith in respect to six parishes, their rectors and congregations in the Diocese of Connecticut. Those parishes are: Bishop Seabury Church, Groton; Christ Church, Watertown; Christ & the Epiphany Church, East Haven; St. John's Church, Bristol; St. Paul's Church, Darien; and Trinity Church, Bristol (the "Parishes").
Our investigation reveals the following:
1. On February 17, 2005, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Connecticut received a complaint from its Bishop, Andrew Smith, concerning Frs. Allyn Benedict, Ronald Gauss, Mark Hansen, Donald Helmandollar, Christopher Leighton and Gilbert Wilkes (collectively the "Six Priests"), and their alleged violations of Canon IV.10.1. One month later, on March 17th, the Standing Committee met to review that complaint, and, at that time, determined that each of the accused priests had "abandoned the Communion of this Church by an open renunciation of the discipline of this Church . . . as evidenced by their conduct." Their determination was reported to Bishop Smith by letter of the same date. The Standing Committee's determination was communicated to the Six Priests, although Bishop Smith took no action on it at that time.
2. We learned of the Standing Committee's determination and the threat of Bishop Smith to depose the Six Priests using Canon IV.10.1. On April 14, 2005, we wrote our first open letter to Bishop Smith, informing him of our belief that such an application of Canon IV.10.1 would be a flagrant misapplication of that canon and imploring him not to do so. That letter was subscribed by 17 Episcopal bishops, 13 of whom are diocesans.
3. We have subsequently learned that just five days later, Bishop Smith sought from the Standing Committee backup to support its determination that the Six Priests had abandoned communion. The Standing Committee responded with its 10 page report of April 29, 2005. We commend the report to you and will provide a copy if one is not readily available. Any fair reading of that report will reveal a contorted analysis designed to justify the wholly unsupportable application of that canon to the Six Priests who Bishop Smith and the Standing Committee know have continued resolutely to maintain their commitment to the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.
4. As you by now know, that is not the whole story. Purporting to act under the authority of Canon IV.10.1, on July 12, 2005, Bishop Smith inhibited Fr. Mark Hanson, Rector of St. John's Church in Bristol. He then acted against the parish on the following day by appearing unannounced at St. John's with an entourage which assisted him in physically seizing the property, evicting without benefit of the law its rightful possessors, changing the locks and installing a "priest-in-charge" without the vestry's approval. Declaring himself to be above the law, Bishop Smith has continued to hold possession of the property and has relegated the injured congregation to the civil courts for redress. Since the seizure, the vast majority of the members of St. John's have been worshipping at Trinity church in Bristol.
5. The immediate response of the bishops of the Anglican Communion Network was to appeal to you to intervene. That request was made to you by letter and telephone by Bishop John Howe on the 17th of July. You reported that you had referred the matter to your Chancellor, and subsequently indicated that you would not respond further to that request.
6. On July 27, 2005, a second open letter to Bishop Smith was sent. It was signed by nine diocesan bishops. Bishop Smith responded in writing the next day with denials and challenges, and refused to cease and desist from his inappropriate conduct.
7. Subsequent to receiving the notice of inhibition, Fr. Hanson prepared and lodged with Bishop Smith a detailed verified denial of the charges on which the inhibition was purportedly based. Under the provisions of Canon IV.10.2, Bishop Smith is obligated to rescind the inhibition unless he makes a finding that the submittal was not made in good faith. Perhaps not surprisingly, Bishop Smith has not acted to withdraw the inhibition or to declare the grounds on which he finds the submission from Fr. Hanson not to be in good faith. Fr. Hanson remains under inhibition, unable to act as a priest in the diocese unless he wishes to disobey his bishop. Additionally, the others of the Six Priests remain under the cloud of a pending, inappropriate and unlawful inhibition for "abandonment of communion."
We believe that the conduct of Bishop Smith in using Canon IV.10.1 as the basis for threatening the Six Priests with inhibition and deposition is deplorable. In our judgment, that act alone would support a presentment of Bishop Smith for conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy. For a bishop of this Church to threaten his clergy with disciplinary action under an inapplicable canon that would deprive them of a fair hearing and trial on their alleged wrongdoing is an exercise of raw power which cannot be condoned.
While the charges previously filed by clergy and laity of Connecticut recite several canonical violations committed by Bishop Smith, they do not include a charge of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy. In our view, Bishop Smith's conduct includes the following:
1. Deceitfulness. Bishop Smith is asserting as a ground for discipline a canon which he knows has no application to the circumstances at hand.
2. Injustice. By using Canon IV.10.1, Bishop Smith is intentionally seeking to deprive clergy under his jurisdiction of access to the ecclesiastical trial processes to which they are canonically entitled when charged with violations of the canons.
3. Bullying. By groundless threats of inhibition and deposition, Bishop Smith is seeking to intimidate clergy under his pastoral authority and care into not opposing him on grounds of conscience and theology.
4. Arrogance. Bishop Smith has exercised the powers of his office in such manner as to declare that he is above the law, both ecclesiastical and civil, and thus to bring great disrepute upon the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Connecticut as a whole, and upon the office of bishop in particular.
5. Oppression. Bishop Smith's act of intentionally leaving clergy within his jurisdiction under threat of charges of abandonment of communion when he knows he has no basis in fact or law to press those charges is an act of pure oppression directed at the clergy and all those who care about their welfare.
Can such conduct be anything other than conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy?
We believe that Bishop Smith's actions have come about because the Six Priests have expressed their disagreement with him on theological issues, including in particular his support of the consecration of V. Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire. We implore you to exercise your role as Presiding Bishop of the whole Church and in so doing to promptly pass those charges on to the Review Committee with the direction that the charges of the Connecticut clergy and laity receive a fair and objective hearing. Such action will obviate the need for us to proceed further at this time to formalize and file charges against Bishop Smith for conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.
Faithfully in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Keith L. Ackerman, Bishop, Diocese of Quincy
The Rt. Rev. James M. Adams Jr., Bishop, Diocese of Western Kansas The Rt. Rev. Peter H. Beckwith, Bishop, Diocese of Springfield
The Rt. Rev. David J. Bena, Bishop Suffragan, Diocese of Albany
The Rt. Rev. Robert W. Duncan, Bishop, Diocese of Pittsburgh
The Rt. Rev. Andrew H. Fairfield, Retired Bishop, Diocese of North Dakota
The Rt. Rev. Daniel W. Herzog, Bishop, Diocese of Albany
The Rt. Rev. John W. Howe, Bishop, Diocese of Central Florida
The Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker, Bishop, Diocese of Fort Worth
The Rt. Rev. Stephen H. Jecko, Retired Bishop, Diocese of Florida
The Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon Jr., Bishop, Diocese of South Carolina The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, Bishop, Diocese of San Joaquin
The Rt. Rev. Henry W. Scriven, Assistant Bishop, Diocese of Pittsburgh
Network Bishops Ask Presiding Bishop to Forward Complaint
Anglican Communion Network Press Release
September 28, 2005
Thirteen bishops of the Anglican Communion Network have asked that Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold forward a complaint against Bishop Andrew Smith of Connecticut to the Episcopal Church's Title IV Review Committee.
In a letter dated September 27, the bishops say that sending the complaint to the review committee would "obviate the need for us to proceed further at this time to formalize and file charges against Bishop Smith for conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy."
The complaint, filed in late August by priests and laity of the diocese, says Smith has denied due process to the priests known as the Connecticut Six: Allyn Benedict, Christ Church, Watertown; Ronald Gauss, Bishop Seabury Church, Groton; Mark Hansen, St. John's, Bristol; Donald Helmandollar, Trinity, Bristol; Christopher Leighton, St. Paul's, Darien; and Gilbert Wilkes, Christ and Epiphany, East Haven.
Smith inhibited Hansen on July 13. Smith and a team of diocesan officials seized the parish's property on the same day, and Smith installed the Rev. Susan McCone as priest in charge. The other five priests face possible inhibition.
In an open letter to Smith, released on July 27, nine bishops of the Anglican Communion Network said they would prepare a presentment against him for conduct unbecoming a bishop if he did not "turn back from continued abuse and misapplication of the Canon on Abandonment of Communion [Title IV, Canon 10] in dealing with these six parishes and their clergy."
Of the 13 bishops writing to Griswold on September 27, 10 are diocesans with jurisdiction; two are suffragans; and one is retired.
"We believe that the conduct of Bishop Smith in using Canon IV.10.1 as the basis for threatening the Six Priests with inhibition and deposition is deplorable," the bishops wrote to Griswold. "In our judgment, that act alone would support a presentment of Bishop Smith for conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy. For a bishop of this Church to threaten his clergy with disciplinary action under an inapplicable canon that would deprive them of a fair hearing and trial on their alleged wrongdoing is an exercise of raw power which cannot be condoned."
The bishops added:
"We believe that Bishop Smith's actions have come about because the Six Priests have expressed their disagreement with him on theological issues, including in particular his support of the consecration of V. Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire. We implore you to exercise your role as Presiding Bishop of the whole Church and in so doing to promptly pass those charges on to the Review Committee with the direction that the charges of the Connecticut clergy and laity receive a fair and objective hearing. Such action will obviate the need for us to proceed further at this time to formalize and file charges against Bishop Smith for conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy."
The full text of the bishops' letter to Presiding Bishop Griswold is available at http://anglicancommunionnetwork.org/news/dspnews.cfm?id=183.
Six Episcopal Churches Challenge State Diocese
By FRANCES GRANDY TAYLOR
Courant Staff Writer
September 28 2005
Six Episcopal churches involved in a protracted clash with Connecticut Bishop Andrew D. Smith over his support of a gay clergyman filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday, alleging that Smith and other diocese officials violated the civil and property rights of the churches' priests, members and officials.
The dispute, which has drawn national attention, ignited after Smith voted in 2003 to approve the consecration of New Hampshire's openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson. The "Connecticut Six," as the priests who lead the six parishes have been called, sought to break away from Smith and to be placed under the authority of a bishop from another state.
The lawsuit says that the priests were wrongly charged with being "out of communion" with the bishop, putting their positions in jeopardy, and that they were denied due process.
"We have been left with no choice but to seek intervention by the civil courts in order to protect our constitutional rights and serve our congregations without interference and harassment," said the Rev. Christopher Leighton, rector of St. Paul's Church in Darien, one of the churches that filed suit. "We are being punished for upholding biblical truth as well as Anglican teaching, faith and practice, and our ability to proclaim the Gospel is being dramatically hindered."
Some of the allegations in the 67-page lawsuit stem from the state Episcopal diocese's recent takeover of a Bristol parish. In July, Smith stripped the Rev. Mark Hansen of St. John's Episcopal Church of his duties as rector, and appointed the Rev. Susan J. McCone to lead the church; she was named as a defendant in the suit.
Hansen is not involved in the suit, but vestry members of St. John's who are plaintiffs in the suit charge the diocese with trespassing, seizing church property, fraudulently claiming ownership of the church and all its assets, and usurping legal and canonical rights of the church wardens and vestry.
The five rectors who filed suit with their parishes against the Episcopal diocese are Leighton; the Rev. Ronald Gauss of Bishop Seabury Church in Groton; the Rev. Gill Wilkes of Christ and the Epiphany Church in East Haven; the Rev. Donald Helmandollar of Trinity Church in Bristol, and the Rev. Allyn Benedict of Christ Church in Watertown.
Smith was out of town Tuesday attending a House of Bishops Conference in Puerto Rico, according to Leslie Tollefsen, a spokeswoman for diocese.
Frank T. Griswold III, presiding bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church, also is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, which says he refused to intervene over the charges against the priests and the seizure of St. John's - essentially condoning Smith's actions.
The lawsuit also names Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, alleging that the state has entangled itself in the dispute because of a law that requires Episcopal parishes to operate under the rules of the Connecticut diocese.
"The Episcopal Church has been given special status that other denominations are not given," said Cynthia Brust, a spokeswoman for the six priests. "In some ways, when Bishop Smith acts, he's basically representing the government."
But Blumenthal said the state is not involved.
"We have no idea what factual or legal basis there could be for naming the attorney general of the state," Blumenthal said. "Neither I nor my office has played any role whatsoever in this ongoing controversy, which seems to be an internal religious dispute."
Since I will soon be moving to Central Florida, I was heartened to see Bishop Howe's name on the list.
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