The sacking of William Morris as bishop of the Australian diocese of Toowoomba raises more than a few theological questions about the relationship between bishops and the Bishop of Rome. Many Catholics believe, and so apparently does Benedict XVI, that the Bishop of Rome is free, by the will of Christ, not only to appoint all bishops in the Roman Catholic church, but to dismiss them as well. This is an incorrect assumption, and the firing of Bishop Morris provides us with a teachable moment in ecclesiology.

From the very beginning of church history, bishops were elected by the laity and clergy of the various local churches, or dioceses. And this included the Bishop of Rome, known more popularly as the pope.

One of the most important bishop-saints of the third century, Cyprian of Carthage in North Africa, offered explicit testimony about the election of bishops in the early church.

"It comes from divine authority," Cyprian wrote, "that a bishop be chosen in the presence of the people before the eyes of all and that he be approved worthy and fit by public judgment and testimony."

Indeed, when Cornelius was elected pope in 251, Cyprian described the process in a letter to a contemporary: "Cornelius was made bishop by the judgment of God and His Christ, by the testimony of almost all the clergy, by the vote of the people who were then present, by the assembly of venerable bishops and good men."

COMMENT: So there you have it. Of the three main denominations of the Christian Church, Roman Catholicism, Byzantium Orthodoxy and Anglicanism, the most orthodox, when it comes to the election of bishops, is Anglicanism and the province within the Anglican communion that has got it the most correct is the USA. This fact emphasises just how devious and perverted the accusations of revisionism and apostasy, levelled at the US Church by its jealous detractors, actually are, especially as they come mostly from bishops who have assumed dictatorial powers for themselves and who have been elected in processes that reflect those practiced by the secular powers of the cultures they minister within.

I have known for a long time that the election of bishops as described in Richard McBrien's article were the norm in the ancient Celtic Church, the African churches, the Middle Eastern, Indian, Oriental churches and in the Celtic influenced, Milanese Church. But I had not realised that it was the practice of the Roman controlled churches before they sold themselves out to the Roman Empire. The fact that it was the primitive, pure model of episcopal election makes it a very valid model to apply to all our churches today. If the reception of the people had been the defining factor in English episcopal appointments at the time that Jeffrey John was unceremoniously black balled by the Archbishop of Canterbury the result may have been very different. It is possible that the lay people and clergy of the Oxford Diocese at the time would have rejected Jeffrey as well. But, polls of "ordinary" people in England give the impression that most people who are not involved in the power politics of institutions such as the Church of England don't give a toss about the sexuality of other people and would have accepted Jeffrey as their bishop on the basis that he is obviously a "decent sort of chap."

So, let's throw down the gauntlet in front of these "oh so clever" theologians who quote tradition to justify their persecution of gay people within the Church. If they are so keen on the ancient practices of the faith then why do they ignore them and quote revisionist, world reflecting practices adopted late into the Christian era by powerful quasi-princes wishing to keep the laity and clergy of the Church under their control. Not only are these fabricated tradition quoting bishops and archbishops deceiving the members of the Church, it appears that they have all been invalidly consecrated. Perhaps they should invite Bishop Gene and Bishop Mary over from the States to lay hands on them in order to give their assumed orders Apostolic validity.

By the way, I love the way St. Cyprian emphasises the distinction between venerable (worthy of reverence because of their position) bishops and good men. Same as it ever was obviously.



  1. The article is brilliantly timely, and, as you say, its significance applies far beyond the story of the persecution of Bishop William Morris by the Vatican.

    The NCR was my mainstay for many years, as the newspaper gave me great comfort in knowing that I was not alone in my resistance to swallowing the Vatican line whole and entire.

    I will link to the article, but I will definitely let my readers know that you posted first, MadPriest.

    WV: ‘maties’. I guess we’re maties then, eh?

  2. Yes. We have laws in my country, called “The Benny Hill Regulations,” and I’m not going to risk becoming a social pariah by ignoring them.

  3. Careful MP, next thing you know the Democrats will be calling for an investigation of you. Bad enough we share some troll problems!


  4. I come here to leave an approving message to the discussion of bishops and TEC, only to find MP and Mimi flirting *again*. smh

  5. Well, had we known somebody was going to actually say something serious at OCICBW… for once we would have kept the thread clear. But we just weren’t expecting it. It’s been such a long time since it happened around here.

  6. MadPriest, if you made a couple of rules about no comments about word verification and now no comments about the ads, some of the unserious commentary might be avoided. Just a thought.

    And I have a WV that is hilarious, but I will say nothing about it.

  7. The point I am trying to make is that serious comments are so rare nowadays that if I was to stop you waffling on and going off thread at the drop of a hat I would soon get very lonely around here.

  8. Okay. I’ll get serious. (Sort of.) I guess I knew this stuff about the election of bishops but hadn’t really called it to mind of late. It is a timely article indeed and I’m glad you brought it to our attention.

    I must say (and I might shock you all; I realize this) that I’ve had serious questions about the episcopacy in general recently. There needs to be some sort of checks and balances with regard to the power of bishops because I don’t think it’s right for one Christian to have that kind of power over another Christian. Mind you, I don’t have a solution to the problem that I’d suggest….

  9. Do you all have so little to do that you have to make up imaginary friends to talk to?
    At least I have the excuse of an atheist prophetic ministry; you don’t even have the self-respect to stop charging people for “healing” or waving your hands over bread and changing it.
    I am so glad religion is shrinking away to nothing. Whenever a church closes, I am glad.

  10. Anonymous (yeah, right, Nixy-wixy),

    You have no ministry, you little pseudo-atheist toad!

    You talk at people who think you a joke, waste your life in bitterness and bile, and then pretend you’re happy about something!

    What a pointless fool you are! What a meaningless “ministry” you have! Even if you actually did anything, all it would be is to take away hope or happiness from others – which you still don’t accomplish – and gain nothing for yourself. I’m laughing at your “ministry” and at you!

    Idiot. However sad my life admittedly may be, at times, I’m still better than you. The worst of us here is better than you. I may feel at times I have no reason to live, but you really don’t. I’d be sad about that, but there’s not enough human left in you to care about.