On July 1, 2011 complex, far reaching and polity changing revisions to the disciplinary canon (Title IV) of The Episcopal Church (“TEC”) become effective. The revisions are a product of a multi-year process begun in 2000 whose stated purpose is to change Title IV’s “overly militaristic and rigid application.” The revisions are intended to provide a speedier disciplinary process based on a “reconciliation model”. Commenting on the Task Force’s progress in February 2008, the Chairman stated the revisions place “an emphasis on pastoral resolution” while moving away from a criminal-justice model. “Title IV Resources” made available for Diocesan use on the General Convention website state that the changes “emphasize pastoral care for all” and “reflect more clearly our theology.”
The revisions certainly will change the character of the disciplinary process making the disciplinary landscape appear less formal, speedier and more pastoral. However, these goals mask other very unsettling realities of the new disciplinary process, more suggestive of another pastoral analogy: a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Unmasked, these revisions do not simply change the form of the process in ways that dramatically alter Clergy’s due process but they also make very significant changes to the substantive discipline of Clergy, as well as to the very polity of TEC as it relates to the Dioceses, Bishops Diocesan and the Presiding Bishop. In summary, these revisions:
remove procedural safeguards for accused Clergy, greatly increase the number and nature of Clergy offenses, broaden the reach of existing offenses, and dramatically allow a Bishop (and Presiding Bishop infra at 16-18) not only to be involved in the decision to charge Clergy with offenses, but also effectively to control those decisions;
are an unconstitutional infringement on diocesan authority;
give unprecedented and unconstitutional authority to the Presiding Bishop;
were passed without adequate disclosure and debate.