From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Court deposes Montana bishop
15 Feb 2001 12:20:44
Court deposes Montana bishop
by Jan Nunley
(ENS) The Court for the Trial of a Bishop of the Episcopal Church issued a
sentence of deposition for Bishop Charles I. "Ci" Jones III of Montana
on February 14. The vote on the sentence was seven to two.
According to the canons of the Episcopal Church, deposition, the heaviest
penalty applied to a member of the clergy, would strip Jones of his ordained
The case concerns sexual misconduct with a woman parishioner and employee of
the parish in Russellville, Kentucky, where Jones was rector prior to his
election as bishop of Montana in 1986. The misconduct took place from 1981-83.
Jones was declared guilty of immorality and conduct unbecoming a member of
the clergy in an earlier summary judgment and was judged subject to discipline
by the court in a December 8 ruling. The court heard testimony regarding
possible sentences on January 30.
In a press release, the court "noted the serious nature of the sexual
exploitation and abuse of power and trust that underlie the Offenses Bishop
Jones committed. The Court found that Bishop Jones has not demonstrated
an understanding of or a genuine repentance for the Offenses committed."
In the release, the Court said it "also found a continuing pattern of
abusive and exploitive behavior and a risk of future exploitation. For those
reasons, the Court was unpersuaded that the passage of time since Bishop Jones'
relationship with the Complainant mitigated the serious circumstances of the
The court's decision was sent first to the woman bringing the charges, to
Jones, to the presiding bishop, and to the standing committee of the Diocese of
Montana, as church canons require.
Dissents called for admonition, suspension with conditions
One member of the court, retired bishop Robert Johnson of the Diocese of
North Carolina, called instead for a sentence of admonition. Admonition is the
lightest possible sentence under the canons, and would have consisted of a
"public and formal reprimand" but would not have deprived Jones of his episcopal
New Hampshire Bishop Douglas Theuner issued a second dissent calling for
Jones to be suspended, but only if he met certain conditions. Theuner argued that
Jones has apparently not engaged in sexual misconduct in the 15 years since
leaving Russellville, and that deposition places him out of reach of the
disciplinary canons of the church.
The conditions proposed in Theuner's dissent would have suspended Jones from
ordained ministry for at least five years, with the presiding bishop to determine
when Jones could resume his ministry, as long as he resigned as Bishop of Montana
within 30 days.
Within 60 days, he would have had to present the presiding bishop with "a
plan and letter of intent to pay restitution" to his accuser, including $40,000
for medical and therapeutic expenses and all of her "reasonable costs" associated
with the trial. He would also have had to "apologize fully and completely to the
Complainant" in person or in writing--her choice--and to arrange for therapy at
his own expense. Failure to comply within 60 days would automatically have
resulted in Jones' deposition.
The court noted that some members would have agreed with Theuner's dissent,
but "felt limited" by Title IV, Canon 12.13, which states that a sentence of
suspension does not terminate a bishop's administration of the temporal affairs
of a diocese. "Because these Members of the Court agree with the majority of the
Court that the Sentence imposed should terminate the Respondent's authority
altogether," the judgment said, "these members join in the majority decision to
issue a Sentence of Deposition."
Appeal or modification possible
Jones may now file a motion with the court seeking to have the sentence
modified. He will also have 30 days in which to appeal the sentence, which will
be "stayed" while that appeal is pending. An appeal would be sent to the Court of
Review of the Trial of a Bishop, composed of nine bishops, who could uphold the
trial court's sentence or could modify it in some way.
The court's members are Bishops James Coleman (West Tennessee); Clifton
Daniel III (East Carolina); John Lipscomb (Southwest Florida); Bruce MacPherson
(Dallas); Larry Maze (Arkansas); Richard Schimpfky (El Camino Real); Chester
Talton (Los Angeles); Franklin Turner (Pennsylvania); and O'Kelley Whitaker
--The Rev. Jan Nunley is deputy director of the Episcopal Church's Office of News
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