Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Disposition Hearing Scheduled For October 16

I'm told that there is a hearing for disposition of the three related Rector, Wardens, and Vestry cases scheduled for Friday, October 16. Presumably, Judge Strobel will have issued her decision by then, but so far, there's no word on what it will be.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

John Hepworth On The Patrimony Of The Primate

John Hepworth made no public statements following his 2012 "expulsion" by the TAC College of Bishops. My understanding is that he had a serious medical issue around this time, was hospitalized as a result, and was presumably not in a condition to comment or engage in public disputes.

However, on February 24, 2014, he gave an affadavit in support of the St Mary's elected vestry that has now been posted on the Freedom For St Mary Site. Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5

The affadavit covers a number of areas relating to the Patrimony of the Primate as well as the circumstances of Hepworth's retirement (or, as some TAC bishops would have it, his "expulsion"). Regarding the canonical status of the Patrimony, he says,

The Patrimony of the Primate is a canonical device used by both the first Primate, Louis W Falk, and myself, to manage situations not anticipated by the Concordat (1990) of the world-wide Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC).

The Patrimony belongs to the Primate himself, not to the bishops of a national province (such as the ACA), and does not require the consent of the national province involved (if a province is involved). It is a "personal property" of the Primate. It is not a "diocese" as such, but an extension of the Primate's personal pastoral care, as required by certain unusual situations.

. . . . The powers were used again to prevent dissident U.S. bishops from taking legal action against Ordinariate-bound clergy and parishes by removing them from the jurisdiction of those bishops.

Hepworth then cites the August 2010 e-mail request from the ACA House of Bishops, via Louis Falk, to renew a previously-erected Patrimony to contain Ordinariate-bound parishes. He says,
It will be noted that there is, in this Consent, no mention of the Patrimony expiring "on the establishment of the American Ordinariate" as asserted in a letter of Brian R Marsh, newly Presiding Bishop of the ACA, on 10 January 2012. [The letter is posted here.] (That would appear to me as his own self-serving assertion.) It was always my understanding, from discussion with my Roman Catholic counterparts, that it would be some time after the Ordinariate was established before all applications could be processed and admissions and ordinations conducted; the Patrimony would serve as the vehicle for completion of that journey.
This understanding was entirely reasonable and borne out by events. The implication that Marsh's announcement of the "dissolution" of the Patrimony was self-serving is also borne out by events: Marsh did not attempt to seize any other Patrimony parish, presumably because only St Mary of the Angels was a property worth seizing. Hepworth's account of the events surrounding his retirement also strongly suggests that a desire on Marsh's part to seize St Mary's was involved:
The letter to the world-wide TAC bishops indicating I expected to resign on Easter Day, 2012, was signed and distributed by email on 28 January 2012. There were failed attempts by a certain few TAC bishops opposing the Ordinariates to force my resignation earlier. They had no power to do so.

Although I had announced on 28 January my intent to resign on Easter Day, 2012, I saw by then that the dissident U.S. bishops were making life and pilgrimage more and more difficult for chosen Patrimony parishes there [i.e., St Mary of the Angels]. I realised that signing any formal documents of resignation at that date would create even more problems for those parishes, so I refrained from doing so. I never dissolved the Patrimony.

Hepworth also says in the affadavit that, from his perspective, St Mary of the Angels is still a parish in good standing in the Patrimony, and Fr Kelley a priest in good standing as well.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Lancaster ex parte Application Rejected By Judge

I'm told that this past Tuesday, September 29, Judge Strobel rejected an attempt by Mr Lancaster to insert an additional brief in the trial record via an ex parte motion. An ex parte motion is "usually reserved for urgent matters where requiring notice would subject one party to irreparable harm." The initial action in the St Mary of the Angels cases resulted from an ex parte motion by Mr Lancaster on behalf of the dissidents and the ACA, as a result of which Judge Jones issued a temporary restraining order granting them control of the parish.

The problem was that Mr Lancaster concocted an "emergency" that rushed the judge into issuing an order that, on reflection, she realized was a judicial error. This error has left the ACA and the dissident group in control of the parish for over three years.

I'm told, though, that even before she left for her term on the appeals court, Judge Strobel instructed Mr Lancaster not to make any more ex parte motions in the case. It appears that Mr Lancaster s strategy was, at least in part, to distract or rush judges into premature decisions. I've been puzzled how, in litigation that's lasted more than three years, any sort of sudden "emergency" can arise. Apparently Judge Strobel has the same question.

I get the impression that Judge Strobel finds Mr Lancaster's strategies annoying.

She will apparently mail her decision on the trial within the next two weeks.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Why No Report On The 2015 ACA DEUS Synod?

The home page for the ACA Diocese of the Eastern US still contains a reference to its May 7, 2014 diocesan synod. However. although I'm told that a 2015 diocesan synod occurred this past June, there's no equivalent reference to it on the DEUS home page.

As we've seen, the ACA bishops announce only what they choose to make public, and when they choose not to make something public that they've made public in the past, there may be good reason. The only reference I've been able to find to the 2015 DEUS Synod is contained in the Rector's Report 2014/2015 of St Stephen's Anglican, Timonium, MD. Included in this report is the following joyous news:

What’s more, this June the parish will host the Annual Diocesan Synod. And during the course of it, The Rt Rev. John Vaughan, our Bishop Ordinary, will, God willing, ordain two deacons, Dan Bursi and Mark Newsome, and confer Anglican Orders on Episcopal priest, Robert Ludwig.
A knowledgeable party contacted me not long ago to say that although Fr Hawtin and Bishop Vaughan appeared to be under the impression that Robert Ludwig had been an Episcopal priest, this was never the case, and in fact, Mr Ludwig had dropped out of high school, though he later obtained a GED in an abbreviated career with the US armed forces. He does not have a degree from any undergraduate institution, much less a degree from an accredited seminary.

As a result, my informant reasoned that there was no way Mr Ludwig could ever have been an Episcopal priest. Concerned about this, I contacted Fr Hawtin of St Stephen's Anglican, as well as Bishop Vaughan of the ACA DEUS, with a copy to Presiding Bishop Marsh, in the following e-mail, asking what I feel was a reasonable question:

Bishop Vaughan and Fr Hawtin, I received an e-mail regarding the conferral of Anglican orders at the June 2015 DEUS synod on Robert Ludwig[.] [Material regarding the identity of my informant redacted.]

Can you explain what type of background check, reference check, criminal record check, or psychological evaluation was conducted on Robert Ludwig prior to conferring ACA orders?

Eventually I received the following e-mail from Fr Hawtin, with slanderous references to a third party redacted:

Dear Mr. Bruce,
It is not generally my habit to answer ugly e-mails of this nature from people I do not know. Moreover, I find uncharitable e-mails particularly distasteful. [redacted]

Robert+ was accepted as aspirant and postulant at this church in 2001 by our then Bishop Ordinary. Whether or not he was a “priest” in the TEC played no role in the decision to ordain him as we do not regard TEC orders as valid. Robert+ was ordained because he was accepted as a candidate for Holy Orders by our Standing Committee after passing our extremely demanding and comprehensive diocesan canonical examinations with a straight A grade. Naturally, he was required to submit to a psychological evaluation. Moreover, he was not presented for ordination by me but by the diocesan archdeacon.

However, one thing seems clear to me: We believe in redemption. You and [redacted] do not. This correspondence is now closed.
In Christ
Canon Guy Hawtin

Well, redemption doesn't come into it. Protection of innocent parties, of course, does. It appears that at some point, at least as reflected in the Rector's Report, Fr Hawtin, Bishop Vaughan, and the "diocesan archdeacon" apparently saw fit to represent Mr Ludwig as an Episcopal priest, whatever the truth of this may have been, and in fact seem to have relied on the prestige of TEC in their annoucment. As of now, they've clearly backed off that assertion and have angrily put out a different version.

Considering the record of the ACA in licensing Robert W Bowman, the REC priest who had a child pornography arrest, or the assortment of other priests and bishops without seminary degrees and dodgy histories, Mr Ludwig is nothing new. I wouldn't advise anyone to go anywhere near an ACA parish.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Timing Of John Hepworth's "Retirement"

A visitor corrects some facts in yesterday's post:
A slight correction re: Abp Hepworth, to what you wrote in the last day or two: He had announced his "intention" to retire as of the Easter Octave, April 15 [2012] (not Easter Day, April 8, as you stated). Therefore, both April 2 and April 9 were "during" his Primacy, despite the rogue acts of Marsh, Prakash, et al -- a "rump" action, not recognized by all other bishops.
It appears in hindsight that Bishop Marsh was closely involved in plans by the TAC College of Bishops to remove Hepworth as Primate. TAC Bishop of Pretoria and Southern Africa Michael Gill spoke to a conference of "continuing Anglicans" in Brockton, MA in November, 2011. Gill was appointed Secretary to the College of Bishops at the meeting in February and March, 2012 that expelled Hepworth prior to his announced retirement and appears since then to be the power behind the curtain. However, Brian Marsh was also at the meeting and is quoted in the press releases.

The conference at which Gill spoke in Brockton, MA appears to have been held in some connection with James Hiles's "continuing" parish there, St Paul's Anglican. Hiles, a former Episcopal priest deposed following sexual and financial allegations, was in the process of moving his parish into the ACA during this same period. Since Gill was in Massachusetts in late 2011 to attend the conference, it is certainly credible that he would have met with Marsh at that time to plan Hepworth's expulsion after the holidays.

(Who, by the way, paid Gill's travel expenses from South Africa to Brockton in 2011? Could it have been Hiles's parish? Hiles was consecrated a suffragan bishop in the ACA Diocese of the Northeast on April 27, 2013. Payback?)

In the context of events surrounding St Mary of the Angels in the first half of 2012, it seems plain that there was a need to "dissolve" Hepworth's Patrimony of the Primate, which protected former ACA parishes intending to enter the Ordinariate from just the sort of adverse actions that Strawn and Marsh quickly took against St Mary's. Michael Gill, Samuel Prakash, and other TAC bishops appear to have been complicit in this scheme.

Why would they want to do this, or at minimum, enable it? There were very few prosperous parishes in the ACA. The former Cathedral of the Incarnation, previously in the ACA Diocese of the Eastern US, had left to join its own Pro-Diocese of the Holy Family and does not appear to have been even as reachable as St Mary of the Angels.

It's been suggested to me that St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, Timonium, MD, still in the ACA DEUS, is a "cash cow", but this would be one of the few continuing income sources for the ACA after most of its prosperous parishes left in 2011.

It appears that Hepworth's removal had a great deal to do with Marsh and Strawn's attempts to seize St Mary of the Angels. There seems little other reason than the multimillion-dollar property to edge Hepworth out so quickly. Michael Gill served as a catspaw in this effort.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Events Of April 9, 2012

Not much was said at the most recent trial about the events of April 9, 2012, although statements allegedly made by Mrs Bush in the parish courtyard on that date are pertinent. In his September 23 testimony at the recent trial, Fr Kelley said that Mrs Bush loudly declared her intention to dissociate herself from the elected vestry in the parish courtyard on April 9. In her September 24 testimony, Mrs Bush denied that she had said this. Subsequent testimony at the trial established that, in any case, Mrs Bush did not attend any regular or special meetings of the elected vestry after March, 2012.

April 9, 2012 is the date of the second inchoate takeover attempt of the parish by Bishop Strawn in connection with the parish dissidents. It appears that this attempt was carefully planned and choreographed, and only the unexpectedly early delivery of a seizure notice from the IRS caused the misstep that resulted in the failure. Bishop Strawn, who had no authority to do so, since he was episcopal visitor to the ACA Diocese of the West, which St Mary's had left in January 2011, issued a notice of inhibition to Fr Kelley on April 2, 2012.

This notice was based primarily on non-payment of IRS salary withholding due from January, 2011, a matter which came as a complete surprise to the elected vestry and Fr Kelley, but which the parish dissidents appear to have communicated to Bishop Strawn as part of the planning. When the seizure notice for the unpaid withholding arrived four days early, the parish accountant was able to resolve the roughly $800 arrears immediately, establishing that it was an unintentional oversight and eliminating the issue. As a result, the pretext for the April 9, 2012 seizure attempt was removed, but the dissidents elected to proceed with it.

According to Fr Kelley, Keith Kang (a client of Mr Lancaster in the current legal actions) called him from the front office that morning to tell him there were two letters from the IRS there, one with Fr Kelley's name on it. Did he want to see them? However, there were no letters. (Presumably with the tax issue already resolved, any further correspondence did not take place, but the dissidents apparently proceeded with their plan nevertheless.) It appears to have been a stratagem to get Fr Kelley up to the front, where Anthony Morello, Mr and Mrs Creel from All Saints Fountain Valley and the ACA Diocese of the West, Mr Kang, and Mr Omeirs were waiting. Mrs Bush and Mrs Kang (also Lancaster clients) were in the courtyard, as they had used their keys to the parish door for the group to enter.

They presented Fr Kelley with Bishop Strawn's notice of inhibition. When Fr Kelley left with it to go back to the sacristy to review it, Mr Kang quickly brought in a locksmith to pick the lock to the rector's office. Fr Kelley returned and told the locksmith that what he was attempting to do was illegal. The locksmith recognized at once that he could lose his license and left. It appears that at about this time, the loud declaration that Fr Kelley testified to hearing from Mrs Bush in the courtyard appears to have taken place.

Fr Kelley called 911 to summon the police. According to the Freedom for St Mary timeline, someone from the dissident group then made four calls to 911 in an attempt to stop the police. Mrs Kelley also called Bishop Falk in Iowa, who was completely surprised at the move and spoke to the LAPD officers, explaining to them that Strawn had no authority to issue his letter of inhibition, since the parish was part of the Patrimony of the Primate. The officers then sent the Diocese of the West - parish dissident group away, saying there was no legal authority in Strawn's document.

According to Fr Kelley, Bishop Falk was taken aback to learn that Bishops Strawn and Marsh had "dissolved" the Patrimony of the Primate. The Kelleys contacted then-Bishop Moyer the following day, who was also surprised. Moyer said that if the ACA House of Bishops had "taken away" the Patrimony of the Primate (he didn't know how), then St Mary's had to be classed as "independent". This was the authority the elected vestry used in making its written declaration during the June 13, 2012 meeting.

Neither the Kelleys, Bishop Falk, nor Bishop Moyer was able to contact Archbishop Hepworth during this period. In reviewing the timing of events, I was surprised to learn that Hepworth had announced his intention to retire as primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion as of Easter 2012, which was April 8, the day before the inchoate takeover attempt. (However, the TAC College of Bishops expelled him on March 2.) It does seem to me that Bishops Strawn and Marsh were careful to act on the basis that the Patrimony had been dissolved only after the Primate himself was out of the picture, since the Patrimony was canonically his property. (Fr Kelley later learned that Hepworth was in any case incommunicado during this period due to hospitalization for blindness in both eyes.)

This timing leads me to believe that the first two seizure attempts, in January and April of 2012, were coordinated with elements in the TAC as well as in the US. I'll discuss this, and the possible reasons for it, tomorrow.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Events Of June 13, 2012

One of the issues that Messrs Lancaster and Anastasia repeatedly brought up in the latest trial was an "illegal vestry meeting" on the afternoon of June 13, 2012. Several elected vestry members provided additional information on what happened that day in their testimony there. (I am continuing with a policy of not mentioning their names here to avoid the real possibility of harassment or reprisal against them.)

June 13, 2012 was the day that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ann Jones dissolved the temporary restraining order against Fr Kelley and unspecified "John Doe" members of the parish, which had been obtained by Mr Lancaster on behalf of the ACA, Mrs Bush, and Anthony Morello on May 25, 2012. This turned out to be the first part of the legal quagmire that has nearly destroyed the parish in subsequent years: while Judge Jones dissolved the TRO and ordered the dissidents occupying the building to return the keys to Fr Kelley, she refused to enforce the order on the basis that this would involve her further in an ecclesiastical dispute.

As a result, the elected vestry returned to the building only to be turned away, apparently by Mrs Bush and other dissidents, who continued to occupy the building. (Mrs Bush in her September 24 testimony at the latest trial stated that she was on the premises on a daily basis at this time.) I assume they refused Judge Jones's order on the advice of Mr Lancaster, but this is probably covered by attorney-client privilege, and we'll never know.

At this point, Fr Kelley, elected vestry members, and other parishioners, a total of 12-15 people according to testimony, quickly had to develop a Plan B. The process of doing this, according to Mr Lancaster at the latest trial, immediately became an illegal special meeting of the vestry, as no notice of it was provided to Mrs Bush, who was barricaded in the church building only a short distance away.

Since Anthony Morello had already appointed a new alternate-universe "vestry" as of May 31, 2012, Mrs Bush at that time was, by her testimony, a member of the elected vestry, which had been turned away from the parish building by none other than Mrs Bush, who was also the senior warden of the appointed vestry in possession of the building. However, any attempt by the elected vestry to figure out what to do now would, according to Mr Lancaster, be illegal due to a lack of notice to Mrs Bush about this "special vestry meeting".

According to testimony, the vestry and other supporters were able to meet in the conference room of a local restaurant to consider their options. I assume that a call was placed to the elected vestry's counsel, although again, this is probably covered by attorney-client privilege, and we'll never know exactly what was discussed. However, the outcome was a handwritten statement signed by the elected vestry members who were present.

This statement was an exhibit at the latest trial and one subject of the repetitious questions put to all the elected vestry members. ("Is this your signature?" "Do you believe this as it applied to the parish, the Patromny of the Primate, and the ACA?" "Do you believe this as applied to you personally?" ad infinitum) The statement basically took the position that the St Mary's parish had been part of the Patrinony of the Primate since January 2011 and thus had left the ACA at that time. With the dissolution of the Patrimony, the parish had become an independent jurisdiction. This view was confirmed by Bishop Falk and then-Bishop David Moyer.

A source connected with the elected vestry tells me that the reason for the statement was to clarify the relationship of the parish to Bishops Strawn and Marsh of the ACA. The bishops had taken the position that with the dissolution of the Patrimony of the Primate (unilaterally announced by the ACA House of Bishops on January 10, 2012), St Mary of the Angels was back under the ACA's control, although this was contrary to the text of the January 10 announcement. This, of course, is the sort of ecclesiastical issue that continues to be part of the parish's legal quagmire.

Mr Lancaster then cited part of the Huber v Jackson decision to argue that in signing the statement, the elected vestry members had "denounced their prior promises to be subject to the governing documents of the national church and the diocese, abandoned their membership in the corporation, and lost the power and authority to be directors of the corporation, as they were no longer members in good standing of the [denomination]." Thus the elected vestry had lost all authority to call or hold any sort of meeting, ever.

The head spins. A source connected with the elected vestry has also provided new perspective on the timing of the Bush-Morello Easter Monday 2012 takeover attempt, which I'll discuss tomorrow.