‘No tradition in the history of the Church’ claiming right of withdrawal

Some bloggers have been getting by the past few days on the validity of the Dennis canon and the true definition of disaffiliation. But the brouhaha this past week in Ft. Worth – for whatever else it brought us – did offer one nugget not to be missed.

At the request of the Presiding Bishop, Professor Robert Bruce Mullin of General Theological Seminary in New York swore out a breathless, 57-page affidavit describing the polity of The Episcopal Church. And while it may not be the sort of thing to put on the syllabus of a confirmation class, it’s going to be durably quotable (you heard it here) for at least another year, or if/until a suite of property cases come down hard on the dissenting side.

Professor Mullin has developed a succinct basis for

why dioceses and parishes of the church, as opposed to their individual leaders, may not, consistent with the Church’s polity, articulated in its Constitution, canons, and Book of Common Prayer, unilaterally withdraw or disaffiliate from the Church and its governing body, the General Convention, or in the case of parishes, from their diocese.

Within a province, the diocese may be the discrete unit of management, but there is accountability within and among the constituent partners of General Convention.

[There] is virtually no tradition in the history of the Church claiming the right of dioceses to voluntarily withdraw from the General Convention… indeed, the overwhelming testimony of the commentators survey rejected any such action. The Church was united and central by purpose, because in only that way could it be the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. It was to be a “perpetual union” according to the great legal expert Murray Hoffman, and only in so doing could it fulfill its mission.

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