Charges Filed Against Four Bishops

Diocesan Press Service. September 23, 1974 [74242]

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- The Rt. Rev. John M. Allin, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, in response to inquiries which have come to the Episcopal Church Center, has announced receipt of formal charges against four bishops of the Church who participated in a service in which 11 women deacons were intended to be ordained to the priesthood in Philadelphia on July 29.

The House of Bishops, meeting in a special session in Chicago, August 14-15, declared "that the necessary conditions for valid ordination to the Priesthood in the Episcopal Church were not fulfilled" at the Philadelphia service.

The charges were filed "with heavy hearts, and painfully aware of the seriousness of this act" in four separate papers by Bishop Stanley Atkins of Eau Claire (Wisconsin) ; Bishop William H. Brady of Fond du Lac (Wisconsin); Bishop Charles T. Gaskell of Milwaukee; and Bishop Albert W. Hillestad of Springfield (Illinois).

"The issue presented by these charges, " according to the four accusers, "is the obedience of Bishops to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church and the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer. "

Among the violations cited were the failure of the participating bishops to receive "the recommendations of the several Standing Committees and the request and approvals of the Diocesans of the Deacons ;" the bishops "officiated or assisted without the request of the Bishop of Pennsylvania ;" and "all of the Deacons were women. "

The charges were filed against Bishop Daniel Corrigan, retired former Suffragan Bishop of Colorado; Bishop Robert L. DeWitt, resigned Bishop of Pennsylvania; Bishop Edward R. Welles II, retired Bishop of West Missouri; and Bishop Jose Antonio Ramos, current Bishop of Costa Rica.

As required by the Canons of the Church, Bishop Allin has referred the charges to a panel of three bishops, who, "unless a majority of them shall determine that such charges, if proved, would constitute no canonical offense," will select a Board of Inquiry of five presbyters and five laymen. The responsibility of this board will be to investigate the charges against each of the four bishops and to determine if "there is sufficient ground to put the accused Bishop on his trial. "

Bishop Allin has appointed as members of the panel of bishops to whom the charges are now referred, Bishop Christoph Keller, Jr., of Arkansas, chairman; Suffragan Bishop Hal R. Gross of Oregon; and Suffragan Bishop John T. Walker of Washington (D.C.).