Bishop Pierre Whalon writes in response to the notion that an Episcopal diocese is free to disassociate from the Episcopal Church at will and reminds us about the process for disciplining bishops who attempt to take their dioceses out of this church.
The Constitution makes clear that dioceses are created by General Convention (Article V). It also provides that dioceses can be merged and therefore dissolved by action of GC, but in all cases a diocese does not have by itself the power to vote to secede or merge with another diocese. It could petition General Convention to do so, of course. In particular, there is significant provision for transferring TEC jurisdictions to other provinces of the Communion, in “foreign lands.” Through this we have been able to create about 25% of the Communion’s provinces. But none of those happened merely by diocesan action.
Nor does a diocese have the power to change the doctrine of the church, though it would have the right to petition the GC to do so, by action of its convention and bishop. (Whether the General Convention can change the doctrine of the church is an issue for another day.)
Turner’s argument against the interpretation of Canon IV.9, “Of Abandonment of the Communion of This Church by a Bishop,” to depose Bishops Cox, Schofield, Duncan and soon Iker has a little more substance. (You can download the Canon Law in .pdf here.) Certainly Canon IV.9 has some confusing passages. Does it really intend to give one single bishop, on the basis of seniority alone, the power to stop a proceeding of abandonment? One can read it that way, and it would seem that the whole argument against these actions turns on that issue. But this is inconsistent with the rest of the canon. What is the Review Committee for, in that case? Or the House of Bishops, for that matter? Why not just submit the matter to the triumvirate of the seniors…?
n the final analysis, our polity exists to support a dynamic missionary expansion as its first priority, and it does this admirably. After all, TEC, despite our small size, has launched about one-quarter of the provinces of the Communion. As such, it is less well suited to resolving significant conflicts about doctrine and discipline, because sufficient agreement on these is presupposed in the structures themselves. How can you undertake to evangelize the world if you do not have enough basic trust in each other’s grasp of the Gospel and catholic order—the synthesis that is the genius of Anglican ecclesiology?
Read it all here.