15 Bishops File Charges Against Bishop Chambers

Episcopal News Service. June 23, 1978 [78180]

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Fifteen bishops of the Episcopal Church have filed charges against a retired bishop for participating in a service of consecration contrary to the Constitution and Canons of the Church.

The Rt. Rev. John M. Allin, Presiding Bishop of the three million-member Episcopal Church, announced today that he has received the charges against Bishop Albert A. Chambers of Dennis, Mass., retired Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois.

Bishop Chambers and Bishop Francisco J. Pagtakhan of the Philippine Independent Church consecrated four bishops for a new breakaway church group in Denver, Colo., last January 28. The new church -- called the Anglican Church in North America -- was formed by Episcopalians who oppose certain decisions of the General Convention in 1976, such as the approval of the ordination of women to the priesthood and revision of the Book of Common Prayer.

The charges which the 15 bishops -- from 14 of the 18 dioceses of Province IV, located in the southeastern U.S. -- presented to the Presiding Bishop are that Bishop Chambers violated the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church as follows:

  • he participated in the consecration service without the Presiding Bish(p or the President of Province VI -- where the service took place -- taking orders for the consecrations, and without the consents of the diocesan standing committees and other bishops of the Church (Canons: Title III, Canon 14, Section 1 (b) and (c) );
  • his episcopal act was done without the consent of Bishop William C. Frey of Colorado and without authorization of the House of Bishops or the Presiding Bishop (Canons: Title III, Canon 18, Section 9 (a) and (b); and Constitution: Article II, Section 3);
  • he "flagrantly breached" his own consecration vows to "conform to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship" of the Episcopal Church by participating in these "illegal episcopal acts" (Canons: Title IV, Canon 1, Section 1 (4) and (6) ).

According to the Canons of the Episcopal Church, after the Presiding Bishop reviews the charges, they are turned over by him to a committee of three to seven bishops who decide whether a Board of Inquiry should be appointed to investigate the charges and determine whether "there is sufficient ground to put the accused Bishop on his trial." If it is decided such a board should be appointed, it would consist of five priests and five lay persons.

If a majority of the Board of Inquiry decides the charges are sufficient to recommend the accused bishop be put on trial, a presentment is prepared. The trial would take place before a nine-member Court for the Trial of a Bishop, composed of one bishop from each of the Church's provinces. If a bishop is found guilty of an offense, he may then appeal the decision to a Court of Review of the Trial of a Bishop, which is also composed of one bishop from each of the provinces.

The bishops who filed the charges with the Presiding Bishop are: George M. Alexander of Upper South Carolina; Frank S. Cerveny of Florida; Charles Judson Child, Jr., suffragan of Atlanta; James L. Duncan of Southeast Florida; Hunley A. Elebash of East Carolina; William H. Folwell of Central Florida; Thomas A. Fraser of North Carolina ; Duncan M. Gray of Mississippi; Emerson Paul Haynes of Southwest Florida; George M. Murray of Central Gulf Coast; David B. Reed of Kentucky; William E. Sanders of Tennessee; Bennett J. Sims of Atlanta; Furman C. Stough of Alabama; and Gray Temple of South Carolina.