Bishop Dan Martins of Springfield is one of seven bishops being investigated on disciplinary charges brought against them by an as yet unknown party for reasons seemingly rooted in their filing an amicus curaein support of the breakaway Diocese of Fort Worth in a property case currently before the Texas Supreme Court. Two other bishops are under investigation for filing affidavits in supporting a faction that broke away from the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy.
I cannot presume to speak for any of the other eight, but I need to be clear that my intention in attaching my name to the amicus brief was in no way to affect the outcome of that case. As the Bishop of Springfield, which is in Illinois, it is no concern of mine how a property dispute in Texas is resolved. If my action has the effect of aiding one side or the other, that is, from my perspective, an immaterial consequence. Rather, I took the action I did with the best interests of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Springfield, as nearly as I can discern them, at heart. My principal concern was to not leave unchallenged the assertion that the Episcopal Church is a unitary hierarchical organism at all levels, and that the dioceses are entirely creatures of General Convention. I viewed signing the amicus brief as consistent with my vow to uphold the doctrine and discipline of the Episcopal Church.
I certainly signed on reluctantly and reservedly. As a matter of general principle, I am opposed to litigating church disputes in secular courts. Lots of scripture passages are challenging to interpret, but I don’t think I Corinthians 10 is one of them. “Why not rather be defrauded?”, St Paul says. Moreover, I realize how my action could be construed as one bishop interfering in the affairs of a fellow bishop’s diocese, which is a big No-No. So I had to make a judgment call, and my judgment, after reflection and prayer, was that I had to join the intervention, because to allow such a false read of TEC polity to potentially help form legal precedent constitutes a danger that could bring harm to the church for decades to come, and resisting this outcome trumps my other concerns.