By Bradley Hutt
Special to Virtueonline
January 21, 2015
"By virtue of Baptism, all Members of the Church are called to holiness of life and accountability to one another. The Church and each Diocese shall support their members in their life in Christ and seek to resolve conflicts by promoting healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life and reconciliation among all involved or affected." TEC Canon IV.1
The very first Canon of the Title IV Disciplinary Canons of the Episcopal Church is crystal clear in its call to support its members and resolution of conflicts where they exist, but many have observed it is in reality "a rule for thee, but not for me" for The Episcopal Church and its Presiding Bishop have not practiced what they dictate, or abide by their own canons in the handling of its biggest church fight in history.
The Episcopal Church has been involved in more than 90 lawsuits against its own members, parishes and five dioceses; Removing or suspending more than 700 Clergy without a required trial or hearing, and spending an estimated $40 million by the end of 2015 in the ongoing, seemingly never ending, litigation related items.
Refusal to talk about the conflict at the parish level generated hundreds of letters to the Episcopal Church but the letters went unanswered. A Petition signed by 5,000 Christians requesting clarity and information of the dispute was also totally ignored.
The American Anglican Fellowship (AAF), a group of long-time current and former members of the Episcopal Church, believing Laity had to act through some sort of a formal complaint to get a response, filed a Complaint against Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori on December 29, 2013.
The AAF complaint was generated from numerous public reports of violations of the church constitution and canons. Whether they are or are not violations, the AAF's stated primary interest was and still is, that they saw the entire process as an opportunity for a pastoral resolution of the issues that divide Episcopalians.
AAF provided information not to persecute or defame anyone but to initiate a possible resolution of conflicts that have forever changed thousands of lives, and destroyed relationships in the church. There are so many persons, clerical and laity who have been damaged by these actions it is impossible to determine the actual harm that has come to them.
So the question must be asked "If the Episcopal Church and its Presiding Bishop write the rules, why do they not play by the rules?"
The Presiding Bishop intervened and abruptly ended negotiations of settlement between parishes and dioceses. Where is the "healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life and reconciliation among all involved or affected " in that sort of action?
The seemingly endless litigation and unprecedented removal of an estimated 700 Episcopal clergy are a discredit to all members of the Church as they contradict Christ's teaching to be charitable and loving towards fellow Christians (Mt. 5:43-48).
Further, Policies of past Presiding Bishops of the Episcopal Church, and practices of Presbyterian and Lutheran denominations allowed parish departures with property. Why in the world cannot the Presiding Bishop and its Executive Council do the same?
There is a solution, for it is never too late for conciliation. AAF called for action in their complaint to end the madness of Christians suing Christians. To begin a process to reach an accord agreeable to all parties, determined at the diocesan level, for peaceful settlement of the conflict in recognition and support of the departing as an Anglican Church.
It is the right thing to do.
American Anglican Fellowship Chairman and former Senior Warden Christ Church Clinton and The Church of the Holy Communion, Diocese of Washington D.C.