From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Court considers comments about Montana bishop's sentence

Date 01 Feb 2001 09:10:35for <,>; Thu, 1 Feb 2001 09:17:30 -0800 (PST)


Court considers comments about Montana bishop's sentence 

by Jan Nunley 

     (ENS) The Court for the Trial of a Bishop of the Episcopal Church heard comments 
January 30 on a sentence of discipline for Bishop Charles I. "Ci" Jones III of Montana, 
including personal testimony from the woman who accused Jones of sexually exploiting 
her and from her husband. 

     Jones, already declared guilty of immorality and conduct unbecoming a member of 
the clergy in an earlier summary judgment, was judged subject to discipline by the 
court in a December 8 ruling. The case concerns sexual misconduct which took place in 
1981-83 when he was rector of a parish in Russellville, Kentucky. 

     "Jesus teaches that all evil people will be forgiven," the woman told the court. 
"I do not believe this means Ci Jones must remain a leader in this church in order to 
be forgiven. I need for this court to depose Ci Jones." 

     "In order to be forgiven, must one continue to be employed by the church?" her 
husband asked, reading from a prepared statement as he asked the court "not to confuse 
forgiveness and consequences." 

     The hearing was held at the office of the Lay Assessor to the Court in Charlotte, 
North Carolina. 

Antagonists after Jones? 

     The court also considered affidavits from members of the diocese of Montana 
questioning Jones' ability to continue to serve as a bishop, and a letter from the 
diocesan council calling for his resignation. That letter was challenged by a former 
Montana priest, now in North Carolina, who maintained that opposition to Jones in the 
diocese was the work of about 25 "antagonists and people who are never satisfied." 

     The priest, who asked not to be identified by name, is on the board of National 
Recovery Ministries with Jones and served on the diocesan council in Montana for the 
1999-2000 term. 

     Previously, the court heard from all parties in the case-Bishop Jones, the Church 
Attorney, and the woman who brought charges against Jones-in written comments submitted 
before January 11. All three then had until January 22 for written rebuttal on each 
others' comments. 

Three possibilities 

     According to the canons, three possible sentences can be imposed. The lightest 
sentence, admonition, is a "public and formal reprimand" which nevertheless does not 
deprive Jones of office. The heaviest penalty, deposition, would strip Jones of his 
ordained status entirely. 

     A sentence of suspension would allow Jones to continue to serve as chief executive 
officer of the diocese for "some administrative matters but would forbid him to act as 
a member of the clergy, including all episcopal visitations. A suspension in Montana 
could be complicated by the fact that many congregations in the diocese are missions, 
which are more dependent on the bishop's authority than are full parishes. The court 
could also choose to depose Jones, with an option for suspension if he resigns from 

     Jones will have 30 days in which to appeal any sentence, which would be "stayed" 
while the appeal is pending. The appeal would be sent to a Court of Review composed of 
nine bishops, who could uphold the trial court's sentence or could modify it in some 

     Members of the court spent January 31 deliberating on the testimony and other 
material submitted and are expected to issue their decision shortly. The decision will 
be sent to the woman bringing the charges, to Bishop Jones, to Presiding Bishop Frank 
Griswold and to the standing committee of the Diocese of Montana before it is publicly 
announced by Griswold, as church canons require. 

--The Rev. Jan Nunley is deputy director of the Episcopal Church's Office of News and 

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