Fort Worth 7 indicted on charges of failure to inform on other bishops

 

Fort Worth 7 indicted on charges of failure to inform on other bishops

Author: 

George Conger

The episcopal defendants in the Fort Worth 7 case have been charged with fraud, financial misconduct and failing to inform on their fellow bishops  who held opinions on church order contrary to those advocated by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.
In an email dated 2 Oct 2012 seen by Anglican Ink the Fort Worth 7 were informed of the specific canonical violations they had committed by filing an amicus brief in the Fort Worth case before the Texas Supreme Court.
The intake officer for the House of Bishops, the Rt. Rev. F. Clayton Matthews told the seven:
"The complaints were filed by the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Fort Worth and Mr. Paul Ambos, a member in good standing of Christ Church, New Brunswick, New Jersey and a Deputy to the 77th General Convention from the Diocese of New Jersey.  They allege you violated Canons IV.3.1, and Canons IV.4.Sec1(c),(e),(g),(f),(h)(6),(h)(8), and possibly IV.4.Sec.1(h)(2).”
The canonical violations enumerated by Bishop Matthews were:
Canon IV.3.1
(a) knowingly violating or attempting to violate, directly or through the acts of another person, the Constitution or Canons of the Church or of any Diocese;
(b) failing without good cause to cooperate with any investigation or proceeding conducted under authority of this Title; or
(c) intentionally and maliciously bringing a false accusation or knowingly providing false testimony or false evidence in any investigation or proceeding under this Title.
Canon 4: Of Standards of Conduct
Sec. 1. In exercising his or her ministry, a Member of the Clergy shall:
(c) abide by the promises and vows made when ordained;
(e) safeguard the property and funds of the Church and Community;
(f) report to the Intake Officer all matters which may constitute an Offense as defined in Canon IV.2 meeting the standards of Canon IV.3.3, except for matters disclosed to the Member of Clergy as confessor within the Rite of Reconciliation of a Penitent;
(g) exercise his or her ministry in accordance with applicable provisions of the Constitution and Canons of the Church and of the Diocese, ecclesiastical licensure or commission and Community rule or bylaws;
(h) refrain from: (6) conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation; or (8) any Conduct Unbecoming a Member of the Clergy.
And possibly: IV.4.Sec.1(h)(2): holding and teaching publicly or privately, and advisedly, any Doctrine contrary to that held by the Church.
While the identity of one of the complainants, the Standing Committee of Fort Worth, has been known since July, the identity of the General Convention Deputy who had brought the complaint had been unclear.
In July Bishop Matthews told the accused that a Deputy from New Jersey to the General Convention, who was also an attorney, brought the charges in conjunction with Fort Worth.  Anglican Ink asked Mr. Ambos whether had had brought the complaint, and on July 23 he responded that he had not and the claim was inaccurate. Mr Ambos has not responded to a request this week for clarification of his July statement that he had not brought the complaint in light of the claim made by Bishop Matthews.
Bishop Matthews told the bishops that his “task” was to “determine whether the information, if true, would constitute an Offense; and if the complaints are so determined, to forward them to the Reference Panel.”
He stated that “After reviewing the complaints and participating in the 'closed' sessions of the House of Bishops meetings during the 77th General Convention held this past July in Indianapolis, I, as the Intake Officer, have determined that the alleged canonical violations contained within these complaints, if true, would constitute an Offense, and I am forwarding these complaints to the Reference Panel."
The member of the reference panel to which Bishops Matthews, the investigator, forwarded the complaint for judgment includes Bishop Matthews, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, and retired Bishop Dorsey Henderson.
On 19 Oct 2012, Bishop Matthews increased the list of defendants by two, adding two bishops to the defendants’ list for having signed an affidavit used by the breakaway diocese of Quincy.  The ten defendants: The Rt Rev. Peter H. Beckwith, the Rt Rev Maurice M. Benitez, the Rt Rev John W. Howe, the Rt Rev Paul E. Lambert, the Rt Rev William H. Love, the Rt Rev D. Bruce MacPherson, the Rt Rev Daniel H. Martins, the Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon, Jr, and the Rt Rev James M. Stanton were told that the “Reference Panel unanimously decided according to IV. 6.sec.8 that the complaint will proceed” with “Conciliation pursuant to Canon IV.10.”
One of the accused told Anglican Ink that it was “intriguing that one party to a dispute (Katharine Jefferts Schori) should be able to determine that the other party (the Seven Bishops) has committed an offense by disagreeing with her.”
Canon lawyer Allan Haley has noted the procedures used to investigate and try the bishops violate natural justice and U.S. legal procedures.  He argued that it was axiomatic that an investigator not be a judge of his case or for a complainant be the judge of her own cause.
Bishop Matthews further stated that “after some research for potential persons to serve as a Conciliator, I will meet on October 29th with the person, who we hope will serve as the Conciliator.  I hope following this meeting, a schedule for proceeding will be forth coming."
Sources close to the investigation tell Anglican Ink the meeting to name a “conciliator” had been postponed due to Hurricane Sandy. One of the bishops under indictment told AI he had doubts about the integrity of the proceedings.
“Note that the ‘complainants’ must agree to this procedure, but the ‘respondents’ have no say in the matter,” he said.