27 January 2009

Wantland's Folly, or, a melodrama in half an act

I ventured over to a well known spite site and what did I find? The hot topic is still the former bishop of the Diocese of Eau Claire. Here is an interesting quote:
Forward in Faith is appalled by TEC Primate Jefferts Schori's intentional disinformation and abuse of Church Law in her attack upon Bishop William C. Wantland, a bishop of the Province of the Southern Cone, and Bishop Henry Scriven, a bishop of the Church of England. The actions of Jefferts Schori are an embarrassment to Christians and all Anglicanism.
I think we need a wee history lesson regarding the facts.

According to Episcopal Life:

Episcopal Church bishops William Wantland and Henry Scriven have renounced their orders and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has accepted their renunciations.

The Presiding Bishop said that Wantland, the retired bishop of the Diocese of Eau Claire, had written to her 15 November to say that he had "canonically affiliated" with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. She said that Wantland declared in his letter that he was no longer a member of the Episcopal Church.

++Katharine said that Wantland, who was serving as an assisting bishop in the Diocese of Fort Worth, sent his letter "as a result of the Diocese of Fort Worth's recent attempt to realign with the province of the Southern Cone." That action took place at the diocese's convention -- coincidentally also on 15 November.

Wantland's statement, the Presiding Bishop said, made it clear that he has left the Episcopal Church "and no longer wishes to carry out the responsibilities of ordained ministry in this Church." Thus, she said, she accepted his voluntary renunciation with the consent of her Council of Advice on 15 January and released him from his orders.

Before delving into the details of this renunciation, and the his curious response, it might be helpful to recall some of +Wantland's (unaffectionately known as "Billy Eclair") previous actions.

The infamous incident that is most well known is +Wantland's Attempted Coup d'Etat back in 1996:

...According to documents obtained by the presiding bishop's office, a group of conservative bishops created a non-profit organization in 1996, using a variation on the corporate name of the Episcopal Church. Bishops William Wantland of Eau Claire (Wisconsin), John Howe of Central Florida, and John-David Schofield of San Joaquin (California) are identified in documents as founding directors of a new, non-profit corporation registered in at least 24 states as PECUSA, Inc.--The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, Incorporated...
Led by Bishop Wantland, a former attorney, this "non-profit organization" attempted, by legal maneuvering, to claim rights to the name "The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America." More reading regarding this episode can be found here. Particularly noteworthy is this article, which suggests +Wantland's motive was to replace the Episcopal Church. Some lawsuits were filed to stop this attempted coup, and +Wantland received a strong rebuke from Presiding Bishop Browning, but no ecclesiastical charges were made. This is rather surprising, as a case could certainly be made in the secular courts that +Wantland had engaged in attempted theft.

As a result of this failed coup, +Wantland became known as an "expert in Canon Law." His opinion on things canonical were widely quoted, and he taught seminars on Canon Law at at least two of our seminaries. The fact that his "claim to fame" was based on failed criminal actions seemed to escape those who held him in such high regard. But they've never been to keen on the truth.

The other role for which +Wantland is well know is co-founder of the Episcopal Synod of America in 1989, which, among other things, opposed the ordination of women as priests and bishops. This Open Letter from the Synod, dated 27 July 1997, includes this interesting statement:

...It has become clear to us that the Episcopal Synod of America must more fully and thoroughly continue in its mission to 'be the Church’, proclaiming the Gospel and shepherding the faithful. We see our faithful pursuit of this mission as an essential element in the emergence of an orthodox Province of the Anglican Communion in America. We are delighted that many others share this vision . . .
Pay particular note of the year this was released. It was 1997 -- six years before +Robinson was consecrated. Another lie exposed is that +Robinson had nothing to do with the schism. He was, as I've repeatedly said, the flag around which to rally the troops.

In 1999, the Synod became Forward in Faith. The name changed, but the purpose for their existence remained the same:

Be it resolved, that the purpose of Forward in Faith, North America, is to uphold the historic Faith, Practice and Order of the Church Biblical, Apostolic and Catholic...while working internationally and cooperatively for the creation of an orthodox Province of the Anglican Communion in North America.

More recently, +Wantland, the supposed "expert" on Canon Law, has been one of the loudest voices claiming the Dennis Canon, which asserts that parish property is held in trust for The Episcopal Church, is not valid, for various reasons. However, it appears that Bp. Wantland was for the Dennis Canon, when it suit his purpose, before he was against it.

Which brings us to the most recent incident. Apparently, last November +Wantland wrote to the Presiding Bishop to inform her that he was leaving for the Southern Cone, but wanted to be an "honorary member" of the Episcopal House of Bishops.

Bishop Katharine's response, found at the beginning of this post, was to accept +Wantland's renunciation.

We should not be surprised by +Wantland's response:

...I can only conclude that either you (1) do not understand the plain and fairly simple language of either the Canons or my letter to you, or (2) have deliberately violated the Canons for your own purposes and contrary to your obligation as a Christian not to bear false witness. Further, as you acknowledge in your cover letter that I have transferred to another Province of the Anglican Communion, you therefore have absolutely no jurisdiction over me or my ministry, and your purported action of January 15, 2009, is simply null and void...

+Wantland has a history of being at the root of various schemes of schism, and possibly even outright theft. Looking at his history, many would agree that he should have been brought before an ecclesiastical court twelve years ago. Yet, for some strange reason he feels entitled to be an honorary member of the House of Bishops, and now expresses outrage when his request results in his final removal from the roles of the Episcopal Church.

As they say in the Southern Cone, "Adios, Obispo."