The Rev. Dr. Pamela Cooper-White conducted much of the original research for the General Convention that lead to the conversion of the Episcopal Church’s ecclesiastical discipline procedure. She describes how its foundation rests on God’s love that draws us into relationship.
The shift to a theological foundation also changed the tone of the canons. Bishop Wallis Ohl was one of a group tasked by the church to create the words of the current Title IV. The vows of baptism and the vows of ordination were paramount in the foundation of the new canon. Bishop Ohl says it now centers on an expectation that clerics will live as they vowed they would live. Thus, he says Title IV became a positive standard of conduct, rather than a negatively worded standard.
Because Title IV is theologically based, we may expect Title IV to grow through the church’s prayer and study in its quest to do the Lord’s work. The history of the church offers profound examples of changes in canons and rubrics so they reflect an inclusive and living church. However, the church’s commitment to being a safe church in which all live into their vows doesn’t change.
The current Title IV is a new way of looking at ecclesiastical discipline, formed by a quarter century of writing and rewriting. The theology of the church, including the vows of baptism and ordination, more clearly led the new way.
In supplemental educational videos, The Rev. Canon Michael Buerkel Hunn, Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Ministry Within The Episcopal Church, explains that the theology of Title IV is found in the way the church responds to a complaint, not in the “softening” of the outcome of a Title IV proceeding.
Additionally, Dr. Steve Nishibayashi, a member of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, says officers of Title IV proceedings need to focus on its theology during the disciplinary process.