Today, a very godly and humble Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Keith Keith L. Ackerman, received communications from the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, accepting his "renunciation of ordained ministry." There is only one problem: Bishop Ackerman never had any intention of renouncing his ministry.
I know from speaking with Bishop Ackerman that he sent the Presiding Bishop a handwritten letter merely asking to have his credentials transferred to the Diocese of Bolivia. He said that he had no intention of renouncing his orders and that, while he intends to assist Bishop Lyons in work in Bolivia, he also wished to remain available to assist bishops in the United States, as requested.
The Presiding Bishop says that “...there is no provision for transferring a bishop to another province.” But that is not true. Title III, Canon 10, Sec. 2, provides for the reception of “Clergy Ordained by Bishops of Churches in Communion with This Church” by means of Letters Dimissory and states:
(3) The provisions of this Section 1 shall be fully applicable to all Members of the Clergy (emphasis mine) ordained in any Church in the process of entering the historic episcopal succession with which The Episcopal Church is in full communion as specified in Canon I.20, subject to the covenant of the two Churches as adopted by the General Convention.
And a subsection states that the churches from which such a clergy may be received includes:
(i) those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury,
So if the Episcopal Church can receive clergy (and bishops are included when it says “all Members of the Clergy”) from other provinces of the Anglican Communion by means of Letters Dimmisory, then it can issue those same letters when a bishop or other member of the clergy transfers to another province of the Anglican Communion.
And, of course, the Episcopal Church has transferred clergy to other provinces of the Anglican Communion throughout its history. If one reviews the clergy list in The Episcopal Church Annual in most years one will find a section listing “Clergy Transferred to Other Churches” with the country or province to which the clergy have transferred given in parentheses. For instance, if you look in the 2003 Annual you find the name of the late Peter Toon followed by (England), because the Rev. Dr. Peter Toon, who continued to live and minister in the United States until his death earlier this year, transferred his canonical residence back to England in 2002.
Further, it is not even necessary for the Presiding Bishop to be involved in transferring a bishop to another province or diocese elsewhere in the Anglican Communion.
CANON III.10.2(a)(2) provides only that Letters Dimissory be issued by “the hand and seal of the Bishop with whose Diocese the person has been last connected.”
That a resigned bishop (such as Bishop Ackerman) may transfer to another diocese is indicated in CANON III.12.8(i) which states:
A resigned Bishop may, at the discretion of the Bishop of the Diocese in which the resigned Bishop resides, and upon presentation of Letters Dimissory from the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese in which the resigned Bishop has had canonical residence most recently, be enrolled among the Clergy of the new Diocese, and become subject to its Constitution and Canons including being given a seat and vote in the Diocesan Convention, in accordance with its canonical provisions for qualification of clergy members.
This Canon demonstrates that Bishops are considered to have canonical residence in a diocese and that this canonical residence can be transferred by means of Letters Dimissory. Consequently, the “Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese in which the resigned Bishop has had canonical residence most recently” (presumably the “Provisional Bishop” of Quincy) could have transferred Bishop Ackerman to Bishop Lyons in Bolivia by means of Letters Dimissory and his transfer have been recorded without any recourse to the Presiding Bishop or the purported “renunciation” which the PB is now asserting.
It will be remembered that the Presiding Bishop also erroneously asserted that Bishop Henry Scriven renounced his orders when he returned to England. (See 1, 2, and 3.) If the Presiding Bishop would only have bothered to check for precedents in how such tranfers were handled, she could have avoided the scandal of, once again, misinterpreting the canons.