Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia has inhibited 21 priests who left the Episcopal Church and placed themselves under the authority of other provinces in the Anglican Communion. The diocese’s news release is beneath the “continue reading” tab. As Andrew Gerns explains here, the bishop really had not other choice.
“No one is saying that these are bad people, or even that their orders are suddenly invalidated,” Andrew writes. “The process means that they cannot function as priests in the Episcopal Church. That’s all. Since they don’t want to be priests in the Episcopal Church, this should neither be a problem nor a hardship for them.”
Bishop Inhibits Clergy; Diocese Responds to Filings by Separated Churches
Following the votes of the majority membership of 15 Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Virginia to leave The Episcopal Church, the diocesan Standing Committee met on January 18 and determined that the clergy attached to these departed congregations are now leading congregations that have declared that they do not recognize the ecclesiastical or legal authority of either The Episcopal Church or the Diocese of Virginia. As a result those clergy have openly renounced the doctrine, discipline or worship of the Episcopal Church and, therefore, have abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church. Under the “abandonment Canon,” the clergy have six months to reverse their decision to abandon the church before they are removed from the Episcopal ministry.
The Standing Committee delivered its determination to diocesan Bishop Peter Lee over the weekend. Consistent with the Canons of the Episcopal Church regarding such circumstances (IV.10.1), the Bishop responded to the Standing Committee’s determination and on Monday inhibited 21 clergy canonically resident in the Diocese. In addition, he has rescinded the licenses granted six other clergy canonically resident in other Episcopal dioceses but functioning in the Diocese of Virginia.
Inhibited clergy are not members of the Annual Council under article III of the diocesan Constitution.
“…No member of the Clerical order under ecclesiastical censure shall be entitled to a seat in the Council.”
As further evidence of their decision to abandon The Episcopal Church and the Diocese, the majority membership of the 15 churches have filed civil actions styled as “reports” with the respective circuit courts in an effort to transfer ownership of the affected properties. The Diocese has filed responses denying any transfer of property, citing both Virginia law and the Canons of The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia. The majority membership of the 15 churches voluntarily chose to sever their ties with the Diocese and, in doing so, they abandoned the property for the purposes for which it was set aside, namely the mission of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia.
As Bishop Lee said in his January 18 letter to the Diocese: “In the structure of the Episcopal Church, individuals may come and go but parishes continue,” for generations and generations.