A Guide and Overview

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For our purposes, the term “Canon Law” refers to to the whole of the polity structure of the Episcopal Church. It includes the Constitution of the General Convention, as well as the Canons proper, and the Constitution of and Canons of the Diocese. You are responsible for knowing all of these. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”


“Polity” simply means the way we do things – the rules that govern our common life.

Appeals to “polity” are really nothing more than an assertion that we like the way we do business. To speak with pride about “our polity” is really off the mark, since “our polity” is the possession of every group. It is a form of special pleading.

A polity may be more or less formal. If more formal, it consists in a written document – often a constitution.


The basic notion of the Canon Law tradition in the Episcopal Church has been: “To protect the laity from the clergy, and the clergy from their bishops.” (Dr. Massey H. Shepherd)

 The Canons are not a trap but a protection. But in order to be protected, you must know what they require of you.

In recent years, some of this basic understanding of the Canons is eroding – or being eroded! E.g., the Canon on Abandonment of the Communion.


The Canons are finely balanced to include the concerns and the protections of everyone in the Church. The most dramatic element of balance in our system is that the Laity are involved in the choice of their bishops. This was a dramatic innovation when our Constitution was adopted. But Laity are involved at every level of the governance of the Church. So are Clergy (Priests and Deacons). So are bishops.

There are some areas in the life of the Church where authority belongs to one or another of these: e.g., Laity: have authority over the property of the Church; over the calling of Rectors. Rectors (Priests) have authority over the spiritual life of the Parish, the services and how and when they are conducted. Bishops have authority over the clergy, over the staff of the Diocese, over the program of the Diocese, and over those seeking Ordination.

Understanding the balance of the sense of authority is the key to understanding the Canons and their proper use.


Subsidiarity is the principle that what can be done at lower levels of organization should be done at that level. Connversely, higher levels of an organization should not do those things which may be better done at lower levels.

There are prerogatives that belong to parishes that should not be usurped by the Diocese. There are prerogatives that belong to dioceses that should not be usurped by the General Church.

The general rule – though it is nowhere written down – is that what affects the most should be decided by the most.

Subsidiarity is not just about the distribution of power: it is about mutual respect in the Body of Christ.


The Canons of the Episcopal Church state that it is a “hierarchical church.” This is done for the purpose of influencing Court decisions, especially in the area of property law. In this sense it is a "term of art."

In actual practice, a “hierarchy” refers to rule by priests, which plainly does not describe the Episcopal Church.

What this phrase actually means is that the Episcopal Church is an ordered church. The Orders have their proper role and function in the Body as a whole. And, together with the principle of subsidiarity, implies that each Order should undertsand its obligations and prerogatives in relation to the others.



Sets out the basis on which the Episcopal Church is formed as an integral part of the Anglican Communion  

Article I  Basic Structure

  • Sec 1   General Convention made up of two houses
  • Sec 2   House of Bishops: membership and quorum
  • Sec 3   Presiding Bishop: election and succession
  • Sec 4   House of Deputies: membership and quorum
  • Sec 5   Voting procedures; votes by orders
  • Sec 6  Adjournment
  • Sec 7   Time and place of meeting of General Convention  

Article II   Bishops

  • Sec I   Elected by rules of the Diocese
  • Sec 2   Age limit (minimum 30 yrs) and Consents
  • Sec 3   Jurisdiction confined to each bishop’s diocese
  • Sec 4  Bishops Suffragan authorized
  • Sec 5   Authorizes dioceses to permit Suffragan to become Ecclesiastical Authority
  • Sec 6   Resignation requires consent of the House
  • Sec 7   Special Suffragans elected by House of Bishops
  • Sec 8   Permits Bishops of jurisdiction to be elected by other dioceses

Sec 9   Resignation of jurisdiction mandatory at 72 years  

Article III Bishops consecrated for foreign lands  

Article IV Standing Committees  

Article V Dioceses

  • Sec 1   Admission of new dioceses
  • Sec 2  Division of dioceses, rights of bishops
  • Sec 3   New diocese formed from parts of two or more dioceses; rights of bishops
  • Sec 4  Diocesan constitution and canons — continuity and creation
  • Sec 5   New Diocese: 6 parishes and six presbyters minimum; reduction of a diocese, 12 parishes and 12 presbyters minimum
  • Sec 6   Cession of territory from one diocese to another  

Article VI   Missionary Districts

  • Sec 1  Authorizes House of Bishops to form missionary districts and elect missionary bishops
  • Sec 2  Rules concerning cession of territory and retrocession of territory
  • Sec 3  Missionary diocese organized as prescribed by Canon  

Article VII   Provinces  

Article VIII   Ordination

  • Required declaration
  • Provision for ordination of persons to minister in foreign places
  • Rules for admission of foreign clergy
  • Exception made for Lutheran Clergy (ELCA)  

Article IX   Courts

  • General Convention may establish court for the trial of bishops
  • Courts for trial of presbyters and deacons to be established by dioceses
  • Provision for change of venue
  • General Convention may establish courts of review (appeals court)
  • General Convention may establish an ultimate Court of Appeal (supreme court) on questions of Doctrine, Faith, or Worship (never done!)
  • Bishops alone pronounce sentences Sentences must specify terms, conditions  

Article X   

  • Book of Common Prayer
  • General Convention establishes the BCP, and amends it
  • Action on the BCP requires approval at two successive meetings of General Convention
  • Lectionary, Psalms, and their use;
  • Trial services may be changed at a single meeting
  • Bishops not limited in providing special forms of worship permitted by Rubrics of BCP and/or by Canon  

Article XI   The word “Diocese”

Applies to missionary dioceses and other jurisdictions  

Article XII   Amendment

Amendments and alterations require approval at two successive meetings


Title I - Organization and Administration  

Canon I:  Rules concerning General Convention  

  • How the House of Deputies is organized
  • Secretary: duties and responsibilities
  • Standing Commissions:  rules and responsibilities, enumeration
  • Treasurer:  duties, responsibilities
  • Site selection for General Convention  

Canon 2: Presiding Bishop

  • Nominating Committee
  • Term of Office
  • PB must resign previous jurisdiction Expectations (Sec 4)
  • Disability  

Canon 3: Foreign and Domestic Missionary Society (Constitution)  

Canon 4: Executive Council

  • Function
  • Accountability to the General Convention
  • Membership:  election, vacancies
  • Powers of Council
  • Officers of the Council
  • Meetings
  • Budget preparation: (Sec 6)
  • Reports of and to Council
  • Missionaries of the Church:  qualifications, responsibility  

Canon 5:  Archives of the Episcopal Church  

Canon 6:  Means for securing a view of the State of the Church

  • Annual reports from parishes sent to Bishop
  • Dioceses to report to Executive Council, to be filed not later than Sept 1
  • Diocesan Conventions must forward Journal of the Convention to Secretary of the House of Deputies  

Canon 7:  Business methods in Church Affairs

  • Annual audits to be conducted in every parish, diocese, institution, province
  • Funds must be deposited in National or State Bank
  • Records for all funds shall be kept
  • Treasurers and custodians to be bonded
  • Books of account to be kept
  • Diocesan accounts to be audited by CPAs and  filed with Bishop
  • No encumbrance of property without prior approval of Bishop and Standing Committee
  • All property of the congregations is held in trust for the Church and Diocese in a way prescribed by the Diocesan canons  

Canon 8   The Church Pension Fund  

Canon 9:  Of Provinces

  • Enumerated
  • Membership
  • Provincial Synod:   gathering of the dioceses, on a regular basis
  • Organization :  officers
  • Powers  

Canon 10:  New Dioceses

  • Primary Convention
  • Standing Committee to call if there is no bishop
  • Admission to General Convention Technicalities for reunion of dioceses  

Canon 11:  Missionary Jurisdictions

  • Area missions (including ecumenical efforts)
  • Missionary Dioceses:  organization, administration  

Canon 12:  Standing Committees

  • Rules for election set by Diocese
  • Meetings set by their own rules
  • Quorum  

Canon 13:  Parishes and Congregations

  • Membership in the diocese
  • Boundaries defined by the Diocesan Convention
  • Formation of new congregations vested in the Bishop  

Canon 14:   Parish Vestries

  • Mode of election set by the Diocesan Convention
  • Vestries are the “agents and legal representatives” of the parish in “all matters” pertaining to their corporate property and relations with their clergy
  • Rector of the Parish is a member of the Vestry and President of the Vestry  

Canon 15:  Congregations in foreign lands  

Canon 16:  Clergy and Congregations seeking affiliation with ECUSA  

Canon 17:  Regulations respecting the Laity

  • Definition of members
  • Adult communicants are 16 years of age or older
  • Transfer of members
  • Refusal of Holy Communion
  • Unbaptized not eligible to receive Communion
  • Officers to perform duties in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of ECUSA and the Diocese “well and faithfully”  

Canon 18:   Holy Matrimony

  • Clergy must conform to the laws of the state  
  • General Conditions:
    1) Parties have the right to contract marriage according to the state
    2) Parties understand nature of marriage as a physical and spiritual union, by mutual consent, and with the intention that it be lifelong
    3) Parties freely and knowingly consent to marriage — without fraud, deceit, coercion, mistake as to identity, or mental reservation
    4) That at least one is baptized
    5) Parties receive instruction in the nature, meaning and purpose of Holy Matrimony  
  • Clergy requirements:
    1) Time limit: ceremony not sooner than 30 days (except for “weighty” pastoral reasons, Bishop being notified)
    2) At least two witnesses
    3) Record the marriage in a proper register
    4) Require the following declaration of the parties, signed and filed:  
“We, A.B. and C.D., desiring to receive the blessing of Holy Matrimony in the Church, do solemnly declare that we hold marriage to be a lifelong union of husband and wife as it is set forth in the Book of Common Prayer. We believe that the union of husband and wife, in heart, body, and mind, is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. And we do engage ourselves, so far as in us lies, to our utmost effort to establish this relationship and to seek God’s help thereto.”  

No member of the Clergy can be compelled to solemnize a marriage  

Canon 19:  Preservation of Marriage, Dissolution, Remarriage

  • It is the “duty” marriage couples in dissension to seek the counsel and guidance of the clergy It is the “duty” of the clergy to
    1.       protect the physical and emotional safety of those involved
    2.       labor that the parties may be reconciled  
  • Persons  whose marriage has been annulled or dissolved by civil authority may apply to the Bishop for a judgment, who shall render it in writing  
  • Clergy may solemnize a remarriage (when the former spouse is still living) only
    a) when the clergy is “satisfied” by evidence that the previous marriage has been legally annulled or dissolved
    b) when the clergy have instructed the parties to the new marriage with regard to the well­being of the former spouse and children (if any)
    c) when the clergy has consulted with and obtained the consent of the Bishop
    d) when all other provisions of Canon 18 have been complied with    

Title II — Worship  

Canon I:  Of the Due Celebration of Sundays

  • Members of this Church “shall celebrate and keep the Lord’s Day” – i.e.,  Sunday  

Canon 2: Translations of the Bible authorized for use in public worship  

Canon 3:  The Book of Common Prayer

  • The standard for the public worship of this Church  
  • All editions of the BCP or parts thereof must be authorized by the Custodian of the Book of Common Prayer
  • No other services or forms are “of authority” in this Church
  • Trial services may be authorized by the General Convention
  • A Custodian is appointed by the HOB and confirmed by HOD; requirements
  • The Ecclesiastical Authority has the “duty” to give public notice that unauthorized editions of services are “not of authority”  

Canon 4:  Authorization of special forms of worship

  • To be approved by the Bishop
  • No special forms of worship shall be licensed until the Bishop is satisfied that it is “in accordance” with the Doctrine and Worship of this Church
  • No special forms may be used for ordinations  

Canon 5:  Music in the Church

  • Clergy responsible for the use of music
  • Clergy have “final responsibility” in matters pertaining to music
  • Clergy should seek persons skilled in music  

Canon 6:  Of dedicated and Consecrated Churches

  • Dedicated and Consecrated buildings and grounds must be “secured for ownership and use” of the Church
  • Encumbrance of Church property requires prior approval by Bishop and Standing Committee
  • Alienation of property requires prior approval of the Standing Committee
  • Dedicated and consecrated property subject to trust (1.7.4)    

Title III  Ministry  

CANON 1: Of the Ministry of All Baptized Persons

  • All the baptized are ministers of this Church  

CANON 2: Of Commissions on Ministry

  • Rules set by the Diocese
  • COM to support lay ministry
  • COM to assist the Bishop in recruiting and preparing ordained and lay leadership, and providing pastoral care and continuing education for clergy and lay leaders
  • Bishop and Commission to “solicit” persons for ordained ministry
  • COM competent to organize itself and to provide sub-committees for carrying out its work “subject” to approval of the Bishop, and consistent with the Canons  

CANON 3: Of Discernment

  • Discernment takes place in local communities – congregations
  • The notion is that the Church raises up leadership as a result of discernment
  • The Bishop and Commission “actively” solicits persons with qualities of faith and leadership
  • Bishop and Commission selects appropriate avenues for expression and support of ministries  

CANON 4: Of Licensed Ministries

  • Types of Licensed Ministry:
    1. Pastoral Leader
    2. Worship Leader
    3. Preacher
    4. Eucharistic Minister
    5. Eucharistic Visitor
    6. Catechist    
  • License requested by the clergy in charge of the congregation (renewal must be requested as well)
  • Licensing requirements established by Bishop and Commission
  • Bishop grants the license for a period not to exceed 3 years
  • Licensed persons may perform duties in another diocese on invitation of the clergy in charge, and with approval of the Bishop
  • Licensed persons must conform to the direction of the Bishop and the clergy in charge
  • Descriptions of Licensed ministers are set out in the Canons
  • Requirements for all others are established by the Bishop of the Diocese
  • Licensed Lay Leaders may not take the place of ordained ministers where available  

CANON 5: Of General Provisions Respecting Ordination

  • Requirements and expectations
  • Support of local Rector and Vestry
  • COM advises Bishop on granting Postulancy
  •  Postulant may be removed at Bishop’s discretion
  • Sex not to determine candidacy or ordination
  • All canonical requirements must be complied with
  • Testimonials must be in the words prescribed by Canon
  • Vestries must support required certificates by 2/3 vote of all members  

CANON 6: Of the Ordination of Deacons  

CANON 7: Of the Life and Work of Deacons  

CANON 8: Of the Ordination of Priests  

  • OrOrdination to Priesthood requires appointment to Parochial Cure (or an alternative: missionary cure, chaplaincy, or teaching position in a Church institution; Bishop judges if appropriate)  

CANON 9: Of the Life and Work of Priests  

CANON 10: Of Reception of Clergy from other Churches  

CANON 11: Of the Ordination of Bishops  

CCANON 12: Of the Life and Work of a Bishop

  • Keep records of all official acts  
  • May not act outside their own diocese without permission or license  
  • Must reside in the diocese
    a) absence of more than three months requires permission of the Convention or Standing Committee
    b) absence of more than six months requires authorization in writing of the Coadjutor, Suifragan (if permitted by canon), or Standing Committee to act as Ecclesiastical  
  • Authority:
    Bishop may at any time authorize Coadjutor, Suffragan (if permitted by canon) or Standing Committee to act as Ecclesiastical Authority until revoked  
  • Bishop must visit congregations at least once in three years  
  • Visitation:
    1) Bishop presides at Eucharist and Baptism, Confirmation
    2) Preaches the Word
    3) Examines records of the Parish
    4) Examines life and ministry of Clergy and congregation  
  • Failure of visitation may result in a petition by the clergy or vestry to the Presiding Bishop to convene a “Council of Conciliation” -  the Council’s determinations are binding  
    Bishop may deliver a Pastoral Letter “on points of doctrine, discipline or worship”, and may require the clergy to read the same to their congregations  
  • Bishop Diocesan must report to every Diocesan Convention on the state of the Church within the Diocese  

Bishop Coadjutor:

  • Bishop Coadjutor has the right of succession
  • Consent for election must be obtained from either General Convention or Bishops and Standing Committees
  • Bishop Diocesan must resign not later than three years after consecration of Bishop Coadjutor  

Suffragan Bishops:

  • Bishop Diocesan calls for, or at least consents to, election of a Bishop Suffragan
  • Consent for election must be obtained from either General Convention or Bishops and Standing Committees
  • Bishop Suffragan acts as an assistant to and under direction of the Bishop Diocesan
  • Tenure of Suffragan not delimited by that of the Diocesan Bishops
  • Suffragan may not serve as clergy in charge of a congregation  

Assistant Bishop:  

  • Must be called for by the Diocesan, with consent of Standing Committee
  • Position authorized by the Convention
  • Appointed by Diocesan under such conditions as the Diocesan may determine
  • Assistant Bishops may be appointed from
    a) any sitting bishop eligible for election in the Diocese, provided he/she has resigned former position
    b) Bishops resigned (retired) from previous positions;
    c) Bishops of churches in communion with this Church (under certain conditions)
  • If the Assistant is not a member of the House of Bishops, consents must be obtained from the Bishops
  • Assistant Bishops may not serve beyond the term of the appointing bishop
  • Assistant bishops serve at the direction and under the authority of the Diocesan  

Missionary Bishops

  • Are elected by the Missionary Diocese according to its own constitution
  • Or by the Provincial House of Bishops, or the House of Bishops of General Convention  

General Provisions:

  • On testimony of two medical doctors, psychologists, or psychiatrists, the Presiding Bishop may declare the Diocesan incapable of functioning and designate the appropriate Ecclesiastical Authority  
  • Bishops must resign on attaining 72 years of age: it is declared accepted by the PB  
  • Bishop resignations must be consented to by the House of Bishops  
  • Resigned Bishops are subject to the Constitution and Canons of the Church    

CANON 13: Of Dioceses without Bishops

  • By act of Convention, in consultation with PB, may be placed under provisional charge of a Bishop
    a) of another diocese or
    b) a resigned bishop
  • Such a bishop may act with the authority of the Diocesan until a bishop is elected and ordained.
  • Other bishops may be invited to perform sacramental acts by the Convention or Standing Committee
  • In the case of a provisional charge, invitations may be extended only on approval of the provisional bishop    

CANON 14: Of Religious Orders and Other Christian Communities

  • Voluntary society of Christians in Communion with the See of Canterbury holding possessions in common, marked by celibacy, and obedience to a Rule and Constitution.
  • Official: Must have at least 6 professed members, and have approval of the Standing Committee on Religious Communities of the House of Bishops
  • Each order must have a Bishop Visitor or Protector.
  • Procedures for dispensation from vows.
  • Orders may establish houses only in dioceses where the Diocesan Bishop gives approval — permission is irrevocable
  • Religious Communities are similar, except for celibacy requirement.  

CANON 15: Of the General Board of Examining Chaplains

  • Membership, organization
  • Prepares at least annually a General Ordination Examination
  • Reports to the Candidates and their Bishops the results of the Examination and recommendations on attaining proficiency
  • The COM of the Diocese must certify to the Standing Committee that Candidates have demonstrated proficiency in the canonical areas.
  • Reports its work to the General Convention.  

CANON 16: Of the Board for Church Deployment

  • Membership, organization
  • Oversees Church Deployment Office
  •  Study development needs and trends in ECUSA
  • Assists in deployment of Clergy and Laity in leadership positions

Title IV— Ecclesiastical Discipline  

In general:  

  • The Church’s law and procedures in disciplinary actions are not subject to review or disposition by a secular court (cf. Uniform Code of Military Justice) (Canon IV.14.1-3)
  • Clergy specifically prohibited from resorting to a secular court
  • Bishops may not present a person for offenses (except Violation of Vows)
  • Bishops receive complaints If warranted,
  • Bishop places complaint before Standing Committee
  • Standing Committee investigates and may issue a Presentment (indictment)
  • Each Diocese has a Court for the Trial of Clergy made up of Clergy and Laity (Province maintains Court of Review)
  • General Church has a Court for the Trial of a Bishop, and Court of Review
  • Presentment is handed to the Court
  • Church has a Church Attorney ( acting as prosecutor)
  • Individual is presumed innocent until found guilty
  • Individual entitled to representation
  • Court determines guilt (or otherwise) If guilty,
  • Court suggests sentence
  • Bishop may reduce sentence (may not increase sentence)
  • Bishop pronounces judgment and imposes sentence
  • Individual may appeal to a Provincial Court of Review  

CANON 1: Of Offenses for Which Bishops, Priests, or Deacons May Be Presented and Tried, and Of Inhibitions

Offenses for which one may be tried:

  • 1. Crime
  • 2. Immorality
  • 3. Holding and teaching publicly or privately, and advisedly, any doctrine contrary to that held by this Church
  • 4. Violation of Rubrics of BCP
  • 5. Violation of Constitution and Canons of ECUSA, or Constitution and Canons of Diocese (in which resident and/or functioning)
  • 6. Violation of Ordination Vows (charge made by Bishop)
  • 7. Habitual neglect of the office to which ordained
  • 8. Conduct unbecoming a member of the Clergy  

Temporary Inhibition and Inhibition:

  • The Bishop may impose a Temporary Inhibition in writing, for causes spelled out, defining the offense, the terms of the inhibition, for a period of not more than 90 days.
  • Temporary Inhibitions remain in force until
    a) an Inhibition (non temporary) is issued canonically
    b) withdrawal of the Charge
    c) refusal of a Presentment by the Standing Committee
    d) the Bishop dissolves the TI
    e) imposition of a Sentence on Voluntary waiver and submission
    f) or, ninety days have elapsed  
  • Temporary Inhibitions may be extended by the Bishop for cause (in 90 day increments)  
  • Where a Priest or Deacon has been found guilty of a crime involving immorality by a civil court, the Bishop may issue an Inhibition until an Ecclesiastical Trial Court has made its judgment.  
  • In cases involving bishops, the Presiding Bishop issues Inhibitions or Temporary Inhibitions.  

CANON 2: Of Voluntary Submission to Discipline

Voluntary submission to discipline:

  • If either allegations of an Offense have been made, or Charges of an Offense filed, the Priest or Deacon concerned may submit voluntarily to discipline  with the consent of the Ecclesiastical Authority.
  •  The submission takes a definite legal form, and the one who submits waives all rights to further legal proceedings to which entitled under Canon, including the right to appeal.
  • Voluntary submission may come before or after Presentment.
  • A Sentence is imposed and “shall be as if it were imposed and pronounced after Judgment by an Ecclesiastical Trial Court”.  

CANON 3: Of Presentments

  • Each diocese must have a Diocesan Review Committee (DRC).
  • The DRC serves as a kind of Grand Jury: It reviews charges brought to its attention and decides when and if to bring a Presentment (indictment) before the Trial Court.
  • The Standing Committee may serve as the DRC if so designated by Diocesan Canon.  
  • Charges against the Clergy MUST be in writing, and clearly inform the DRC with respect to the nature of the Offense(s) and facts.  
  • Charges may be made by
    a) a majority of the Vestry of the clergy’s parish;
    b) any three Priests canonically resident in the diocese where the Offense is committed;
    c) any seven adult communicants in good standing in the diocese where the Offense is committed;
    d) in case of Crime, Immorality, or Conduct Unbecoming by: an adult victim; or parent or guardian of a minor or disabled victim; or the spouse or adult child of a victim;
    e) in case of "doctrine contrary to that held by this Church" (or “heresy"), only by the majority of the Standing Committee of the diocese where the Offense is committed;
    f) by the Ecclesiastical Authority (Bishop) in a diocese where the act was committed but not where the respondent is canonically resident  

Note:    The Bishop of the Diocese in which the respondent is canonically resident CAN ONLY charge the Priest or Deacon with a violation of Ordination Vows involving disobedience to a Pastoral Directive. (Prior Pastoral Directives remain in effect despite death, resignation or removal of bishops.)

Canon 3.7: “Except as expressly provided in this Canon, no Bishop of the Diocese shall prefer a Charge against a Priest or Deacon canonically resident in that Diocese.”  

The Bishop can only lay allegations and investigatory results before the Standing Committee - no judgments or comments are permissible.

Once the DRC has determined that the charge(s), if true, may constitute an Offense,

  • It refers the matter to the Church Attorney (prosecutor) for further investigation.
  • The Church Attorney makes a report to the DRC and the Bishop.
  • The report in both cases is confidential.
  • After this, and within 30 days, the DRC decides whether to issue a Presentment.  

A Priest or Deacon convicted in a criminal court in a case involving immorality, or against whom a judgment has been entered in such a case in a civil court must inform the Ecclesiastical Authority within 30 days. The EC MUST inform the DRC. The DRC may come to this information independently. In either case, the DRC MUST investigate the matter and if true, institute a Presentment.   The DRC may suspend its proceedings if a criminal or civil action is brought against the Clergy, until that action has reached its conclusion.  

If a Presentment is issued,

  • It must be in a specific form, in writing, dated, and signed by the President, and containing separate accusation(s) for each offense, and a plain and concise factual statement of each accusation.
  • The Presentment is given to the Respondent (defendant), And to the Trial Court President  

If the DRC does not issue a Presentment 

  • That decision must be in writing and served upon the Bishop, who in turn files it with the Secretary of Convention, the Respondent, the Church Attorney, each Complainant, and the Victim (unless the latter is waived in writing).  

Separate provisions are made with respect to Charges alleging a Bishop has committed the Offense of Holding and Teaching Publicly or Privately, and Advisedly, Any Doctrine Contrary to that Held by This Church.  

Canon 3.21 A Charge of holding doctrine contrary can only be filed where the Doctrine in question has been the subject of a Statement of Disassociation by the House of Bishops.  

Canon 3.23-51 deals with other offenses by a bishop.  

CANON 4: Of Diocesan Courts, and Courts of Review for the Trial of a Priest or Deacon, Their Membership and Procedure

  • Provides membership and procedures for Trial Courts.
  • Diocesan Canons prevail where not inconsistent with the General Canons.  
  • Section B of this Canon deals with the Appeals procedures.  

CANON 5: Of the Court for the Trial of a Bishop

  • This Canon details the structure and procedures in the Court for the Trial of a Bishop.  

CANON 6: Of Appeals to the Court of Review of the Trial of a Bishop

  • This Canon deals with Appeals of bishops.

CANON 7: Of a Priest or Deacon in Any Diocese Chargeable with Offense in Another

  • A Priest or Deacon committing presentable acts in a diocese other than the one in which he/she is canonically resident may be subject to Presentment by the Ecclesiastical Authority of such a diocese on notice to the diocese of canonical residence.
  • The Ecclesiastical Authority of the diocese of canonical residence then has three months to initiate proceedings against that member of the Clergy.
  • If no action is taken in that time, the Ecclesiastical Authority of the diocese where the act was committed has jurisdiction and can proceed to act accordingly.  
  • Provision is made for handling foreign clergy in similar circumstances.  

CANON 8: Of Renunciation of the Ministry by Members of the Clergy Amenable for Presentment for an Offense

A member of the Clergy may renounce the ministry

  • If liable to Presentment or under Trial for offenses other than Crime, Immorality, or Conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy;
  • If liable to Presentment but NOT under Trial for these latter offenses.  
  • If the member of the Clergy is under Trial, he or she may renounce the ministry, but the renunciation will not be accepted until the results of the Trial are final.  
  • Any renunciation entails Deposition,
  • No renunciation becomes effective until accepted and Deposition pronounced.  

CANON 9: Of Abandonment of the Communion of This Church by a Bishop


CANON 10: Of Abandonment of the Communion of This Church by a Priest or Deacon

  • Abandonment of the Communion basically has to do with the person in question actually leaving the Church
  • The procedures are grounded in the expectation that one who actually leaves the Church will not be responsive to a legal proceeding  
  • Abandonment is demonstrated by:
    1) open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of the Church
    2) formal admission into any religious body not in communion with this Church  
  • For bishops:
    3) performing Episcopal acts in a church not in communion with this Church conferring Holy Orders, Confirmation  
  • In both cases, notice is sent to either the Presiding Bishop or the Bishop of the Diocese:
    a)  Investigation is carried out by a Review Committee (bishops) or Standing Committee (priests/deacons)
    b)  If certified to be true, an inhibition of six months is imposed on the offender
    c)  Offender may retract the acts or make a good faith denial of the acts alleged — the inhibition is then lifted
    d)   If neither retracted nor denied, the offender may be deposed without trial  
  • There is a slight difference between the two canons:
     a)  For bishops, the Presiding Bishop must have the concurrence of three senior bishops both in imposing an inhibition and in lifting one
     b)   For priests and deacons — the Bishop must lift the inhibition if he/she is “reasonably satisfied” as to the retraction or denial of the offending acts  

CANON 11: Of a Priest or Deacon Engaging in Secular Employment without Consent, Being Absent from the Diocese, or Abandoning the Work of the Ministry

  • A Priest or Deacon must obtain the permission of the Bishop to engage in secular employment.
  • If not, the Priest or Deacon is liable to an investigation and Presentment.
  • Indeed, it is the “duty” of the Diocesan Review Committee to investigate the matter when so notified by the Bishop.  
  • In general, a Priest or Deacon who seeks or engages in secular employment MUST consult with and obtain permission of the Bishop to do so; otherwise, he/she is liable to being accused of abandoning “the work of the ministry,” and may be Presented.  
  • Absence from the Diocese, or engagement in secular employment requires that the Priest or Deacon file an annual report to the Bishop.
  • Failure to do so may result in investigation and Presentment. Failure to do so for a period of five years may lead to Deposition for Abandonment of the Communion.  

CANON 12: Of Sentences  

Defines Sentences:

  • Admonition: a warning not to engage in the adjudged action;
  • Suspension: depriving the minister of ministerial function under certain conditions and for a period of time which must be prescribed in reasonable detail
  • Deposition: removal from ordained ministry  


  • May be adjudged either by a Trial Court (after a trial), or by a Bishop (after Voluntary Waiver and Submission – see above).  
  • Sentences in either case are pronounced by the Bishop of the Diocese where trial was held, normally; if there is no bishop, the Standing Committee where the trial was held may request another Bishop to pronounce judgment.  
  • Before a sentence is pronounced, the guilty party or victim may offer mitigating evidence or information for consideration by the Bishop.  
  • The Bishop may impose a lesser Sentence than that adjudged by a Trial Court.  
  • Sentence of Deposition must be pronounced in the presence of two other priests.  
  • Notification must be sent by the Bishop whenever Sentence is pronounced.  
  • Provisions of Sentence in the case of a Bishop (with provisions of appeal).  
  • Deposition from any Order is deposition from all Orders.  
  • A Bishop who has been suspended is suspended from all ecclesiastical functions, but retains authority to act in temporal (secular legal) matters as may be required.  

CANON 13: Of the Remission or Modification of Sentences

A Sentence of Suspension or Deposition may be remitted or terminated; this canon lays out the conditions:  

  • In the case of a Bishop, by the House of Bishops;
  • In the case of priests and deacons, by the Bishop having jurisdiction,
  • With 2/3 of all members of the Standing Committee of the Diocese,
  • AND, in the case of Deposition, with the approval of five neighboring Bishops,
  • AND the signing of the Declaration in Article VIII.  
  • If the Deposition was for abandoning the communion of this Church, the priest or deacon must demonstrate that he/she has been in communion for at least a year.  
  • If the priest/deacon is living in another Diocese, the Bishop to whom the application for remittance is made must obtain the approval of the application by the bishop where the person is residing.  
  • The bishop remitting must give written notice to all clergy of the diocese, the vestries, and so forth.  

CANON 14: Of General Provisions Applicable to This Title

  • Various technical provisions  
  • Basic nature: “Disciplinary proceedings under this Title are neither civil nor criminal, but ecclesiastical in nature and represent determinations by this Church of who shall serve as Members of the Clergy of this Church and further represent the polity and order of this hierarchical Church.”  

CANON 15: Of Terminology Used in This Title

  • A glossary of terms  

CANON 16: Of Conciliation of Disciplinary Matters

  • In matters not involving a “serious Offense against the Church and its good order and Discipline,” or “involving immorality or serious personal misconduct,” the Standing Committee, Ecclesiastical Authority or Presiding Bishop, as the case may be, may offer conciliation (mediation) in lieu of canonical procedures seeking a Presentment.  
  • If all the parties agree to conciliation, the proper authority appoints a Conciliator.  
  • The parties have a minimum of thirty days to a maximum of ninety days to achieve conciliation.
  • If the effort fails, the Conciliator refers the matter back to the proper authority without recommendation.  
  • If successful, the Conciliator produces an agreed statement in writing with the signatures of all concerned and reports this result to the proper authority.  



Title V— General Provisions

  • This title provides for enactment, amendment and repeal of Canons
  • Terminology
  • Provision for Quorum
  • Means of filling vacancies on canonical bodies