Panel wants “conciliation” with 9 bishops who support breakaways

Updated several times to correct an earlier error, flesh out the membership of the Reference Panel and include a story from Episcopal News Service.Thanks to the Office of Public Affairs for information on the membership of the reference panel, which is determined by canon.

A Reference Panel composed of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop Clay Matthews and Bishop Dorsey Henderson has found that a prima facie case for misconduct exists against nine bishops who have offered legal arguments in support of breakaway factions claiming ownership of property and assets of the Episcopal Church.

The panel has recommended “conciliation” (click Read More to see the disciplinary canon) rather than further disciplinary proceedings.

The Presiding Bishop, Matthews, the “intake officer” for complaints regarding misconduct, and Henderson, the president of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, serve as the Reference Panel for misconduct complaints against bishops.

Complaints were filed against the nine in July.

Seven bishops filed an amicus brief with the Texas Supreme Court supporting the faction led by former Bishop Jack Iker in its attempt to maintain control of church property and assets. Iker’s group broke from the Episcopal Church in November 2008. The bishops who signed the brief include three retired bishops, Maurice M. Benitez, John W. Howe, and D. Bruce MacPherson; one suffragan, Paul E. Lambert of Dallas; and three diocesan bishops, William H. Love of Albany, Daniel H. Martins of Springfield and James M. Stanton of Dallas.

MacPherson and retired bishops Edward L. Salmon, Jr., and Peter H. Beckwith signed an affidavit opposing summary judgment in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, which is attempting to recover property and assets from a breakaway faction that left the church in November 2008.

The Episcopal Church has released no information on the case. However, Anglican Ink, which is supportive of the breakaway factions, filed a report yesterday.


CANON 16: Of Conciliation of Disciplinary Matters

Sec. 1. If the Ecclesiastical Authority or the Standing Committee, as the case may be, shall receive a complaint or Charge against a Priest or Deacon, or if the Presiding Bishop shall receive a complaint or Charge against a Bishop, which complaint or Charge on its face, if true, would constitute an Offense and the Ecclesiastical Authority or Standing Committee or Presiding Bishop, as the case may be, considers the complaint or Charge not to be a serious Offense against the Church and its good order and Discipline, but an interpersonal conflict not involving immorality or serious personal misconduct, or one that may be a technical commission of another Offense, the Ecclesiastical Authority or Standing Committee or Presiding Bishop may offer the persons involved the opportunity for conciliation in lieu of canonical proceedings seeking a Presentment.

Sec. 2. If all persons involved in the matter agree that conciliation is desirable and are willing for the matter to be conciliated, the Ecclesiastical Authority or the Standing Committee or the Presiding Bishop receiving the complaint or Charge shall appoint a Conciliator, who shall labor with those involved in the conflict that they may be reconciled.

Sec. 3. If the Conciliator is unable to achieve conciliation within a period of thirty (30) days, which may be extended by consent of all the participants to the conciliation for additional periods not to exceed a total of ninety (90) days from the date of the appointment of the Conciliator, the Conciliator shall refer the matter back to the appointing authority without recommendation for further proceedings under this Title.

Sec. 4. If conciliation is achieved, the Conciliator shall report back to the appointing authority with the results of the conciliation. The Conciliator’s report shall be in writing, concisely state the allegations of the original complaint or Charge, state the terms, if any, and the results of the conciliation, which shall be agreed to, signed and Acknowledged by and between the participants in the conciliation.


Canon IV.2 defines Reference Panel as “a panel composed of the Intake

Officer, the Bishop Diocesan and the president of the Disciplinary Board to

serve as the body which performs the duties prescribed in Canons IV.6 and


By virtue of Canon IV.17.2((c), “Bishop Diocesan shall mean the Presiding

Bishop . . . .”

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