Friday, 5 June 2009

The Episcopal Horror Show

Over at Anglican Curmudgeon we find some insights into the current litigation culture bankrupting the Episcopal Church, morally and financially.

What They Saw Is Exactly What They Got

"The reign (a word I use advisedly) of ECUSA's current Presiding Bishop has been marked thus far by a some striking characteristics in contrast to anything that ever came before:

1. First and foremost, the number of lawsuits in which the Episcopal Church (USA) is a plaintiff in court against its own---the initiator of litigation against fellow Christians---has multiplied enormously. A summary of cases I gave last August showed there were then eighteen pending suits that had been brought by ECUSA (either as an original plaintiff, or as a subsequent intervenor) in five different states: California (four lawsuits, counting three in Orange County and one in San Joaquin), New York (two lawsuits, one of which settled in September 2007), Virginia (eleven separate lawsuits), Georgia, and Connecticut. Of those, only the three in Orange County had been brought before Katharine Jefferts Schori became Presiding Bishop. Since that post, ECUSA has filed two more lawsuits: one in Pittsbugh and another in Fort Worth, and it was named as a defendant in a preemptive lawsuit brought by the Diocese of Quincy in Illinois, before ECUSA filed suit itself. So under the current Presiding Bishop, ECUSA initiated suit in eighteen separate instances, and there are twenty-two lawsuits for which she now has responsibility. (And that is the case despite the fact, as I pointed out in this post, that the Constitutions and canons nowhere give the president of a body which is not itself a member of the unincorporated association of dioceses authority to bring suit in court "on behalf of" the association as a whole.)

2. The amount of its resources which ECUSA is devoting to litigation in the civil courts has multiplied even more enormously. As detailed in this post, ECUSA's budget for litigation went from an original estimate (at GC 2006) of $300,000 for the triennium 2007-2009 to a currently budgeted $4,704,138 for that same triennium, plus a further $1.8 million proposed to be budgeted for the next three years, for a total of over $6.5 million.

3. The number of clergy deposed since November 2006 (when the Presiding Bishop's term began) comes to 121 --- and counting. (With the recent action in San Joaquin, the number more than doubled.) That number is up from just 36 in the years 2004-2006 --- nearly a fourfold increase. (The details---excluding San Joaquin---are on pages 22-25 of this Report.) And now there are a potential 72 more depositions scheduled in Fort Worth.

4. Three bishops were "deposed" (not canonically) under the current Presiding Bishop, while she "deemed" another six to have voluntarily renounced their orders --- without their ever having in fact done so (see page 25 for details). That makes nine bishops removed in less than thirty-six months without bothering so much as once to observe the canonical procedures. (Previously, such an abuse had occurred only once in Presiding Bishop Griswold's term, and once in Presiding Bishop Browning's term; no one saw them for the canonical violations they were at the time, but an illegality can never serve as a precedent. And counting those two, there had been just five bishops of ECUSA deposed in the entire four-hundred year history of the Church, before Presiding Bishop Schori started her current campaign.)

5. Despite an unprecedented downturn in its revenues, with resulting layoffs and downsizing in ECUSA's staff, the Presiding Bishop has found room in the budget to hire a personal legal adviser, in addition to her Chancellor.

6. At the same time that she has sought novel ways to fund litigation costs, the Presiding Bishop has urged the Church to hold fast to maintaining the Millennium Development Goals as its "first mission priority".

Read the rest here