Panel Dismisses Charges Against Spong

Episcopal News Service. October 8, 1987 [87204]

NEW YORK (DPS, Oct. 8) -- A presentation made against the Rt. Rev. John S. Spong, bishop of Newark, by Episcopalians affiliated with the Prayer Book Society and a group calling itself the Committee of Concerned Episcopalians has been dismissed unanimously by a panel of seven bishops appointed by Presiding Bishop Edmond L. Browning to look into the charges.

The panel, headed by Bishop Duncan M. Gray, Jr. of Mississippi, ruled that the charges against Spong were doctrinal in nature. Therefore, under the provisions of Canon IV.4.2, they must be presented by ten bishops exercising jurisdiction within this Church. The presentation, which was offered by clergy and lay people, did not meet those criteria. Therefore, the panel stated it "does not have authority to proceed." The panel declared other charges redundant or non-canonical and dismissed the entire 11-count presentation.

A letter has been sent by Browning to George T. Smith-Winnes, executive director or the Committee of Concerned Episcopalians, and to the Rev. Jerome Politzer, president of the Prayer Book Society, informing them of the panel's decision. The Presiding Bishop declined further comment, citing his role as chief pastor and his obligations to administer the investigative canons.

A second presentation against Spong, stemming from a dispute over a $574,000 fire insurance settlement check for Ascension Church, Jersey City, is still under consideration by the panel.

In addition to Gray, the panel appointed by Browning during the recent House of Bishops meeting in St. Charles, Ill., includes diocesan bishops Claude Charles Vache of Southern Virginia; C. Brinkley Morton of San Diego; William C. Wantland of Eau Claire; Arthur A. Vogel of West Missouri; H. Coleman McGehee, Jr. of Michigan and suffragan Bishop Walter D. Dennis of New York.