Six Episcopal Priests Deposed Over Women's Ordination

Episcopal News Service. August 18, 1977 [77272]

LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Five Episcopal priests in the Diocese of Los Angeles and one in the Diocese of Colorado have recently been deposed as a culmination of their actions in opposition to the approval of the ordination of women to the priesthood by the 1976 General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

The priests had been inhibited by their bishops from priestly functions for the past six months. According to the Canons of the Church, the depositions were automatic following the six-month period during which the priests had not retracted their acts or declarations.

The priests -- supported by their congregations -- had renounced the authority of their bishops.

In June, Bishop William C. Frey of Colorado deposed the Rev. James Mote of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Denver, the first of a number of parishes and missions to vote to sever relations with its Episcopal diocese in opposition to the ordination of women.

In August, Bishop Robert C. Rusack of Los Angeles deposed the Rev. John Barker and the Rev. Elwood Trigg of St. Mary of the Angels Church, Hollywood; the Rev. William T. St. John Brown of St. Matthias, Sun Valley; the Rev. Forrest Miller of Our Savior's, Los Angeles; and the Rev. George H. Clendenin of the Church of the Holy Apostles, Glendale.

Meanwhile, litigation of a property dispute involving the Los Angeles area breakaway parishes and the diocese is still pending in Los Angeles Superior Court.

In a letter to the nearly 400 clergy of the Diocese of Los Angeles, Bishop Rusack said he had deposed the men "with great sadness.... I bid your prayers for those men and for me in these days of sorrow. "

Bishop Frey's letter to Mote stated that he is "released from the obligations of the ministerial office and deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority as a minister of God's word and sacrament, as conferred upon you at ordination."

The Rev. Canon C. Harry Christopher of the Diocese of Colorado said of Mote: "We cannot take away his ordination. This isn't a defrocking. The Episcopal Church doesn't do that. It just means that Father Mote's priestly functions aren't valid in the Episcopal Church."

Priests in other dioceses of the Episcopal Church have been inhibited or suspended over the question of the ordination of women to the priesthood and other issues, but their six-month period to allow for a retraction has not expired. Several other Episcopal priests have publicly renounced their Church, and four in the Diocese of Mississippi recently announced their intention to affiliate with the Orthodox Church of America.

The Canons of the Episcopal Church provide for inhibition (suspension), removal -- usually amicable and voluntary -- and deposition of clergy for various reasons. Bishops act in such cases with the advice and consent of their diocesan standing committees, a clergy-lay governing council.

The Canons provide procedures for the restoration of those suspended, removed or deposed.

Breakaway parishes, missions, and priests in California, Nevada, and Colorado, have formed what they have named the Diocese of the Holy Trinity under interim leadership of the retired Bishop of Springfield, the Rt. Rev. Albert A. Chambers, who serves as episcopal visitor.

Several breakaway priests and parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of California have formed what they call the Diocese of San Francisco.

According to a recent announcement by the Rev. Canon Albert J. duBois, the executive vice president of Anglicans United, and a leader, together with Bishop Chambers, in the separatist movement, the Los Angeles based Diocese of the Holy Trinity now includes more than 40 parishes and missions.

Canon duBois -- himself currently under suspension by the Bishop of Long Island -- said that he has assisted in the creation of new deaneries in the Midwest, the East, and the South, which, he said, adds "over seventy other congregations seeking attachment to the Diocese of the Holy Trinity pending their own formation in five other new American Dioceses."

Canon duBois reports that there are at present "over one hundred separatist congregations" in the U.S., and he predicts there will be "over two hundred and fifty such congregations by the end of 1977, with many more in 1978."

Canon duBois said that members of the separatist movement "envision a new 'Anglican-Episcopal Province of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church' based in the U. S. A. by the end of 1977."

In an effort to establish the structure of a "continuing" Episcopal Church, the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen -- an umbrella group of 15 organizations and publications of Anglican traditionalists -- has called a Church Congress for Sept. 14-16 at the Chase-Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis. About 1,000 persons are reported to be registered for that meeting.