If It Doesn’t Fit…Challenging an Unjust legal Opinion
Leonard Lovett, Ph. D
The expensive legal opinion rendered by the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman & Caldwell and passed on to the Board of Bishops as a basis for by-passing the November election for a Presiding Bishop, simply does not fit.* It is not what the opinion stated that is crucial, but rather what it omits that is important. Remember lawyers are trained to give you back what you give them. (garbage in…means garbage out). The six questions asked in the document were designed (stacked) to favor the interim Presiding Bishop. The problem is that someone failed to ask the right questions. Page three, paragraph two of the opinion is incorrect and simply does not fit.
The General Board did not and could not create a policy of succession upon the death of Bishop Patterson. It is not a law-making body. Bishop L. H. Ford personally pleaded and appealed to the general church in an open meeting to complete his predecessor’s term. What you did not know is that within twenty-four hours Bishop Ford was respectfully reminded that technically he was not the Presiding Bishop. Only the General Assembly can elect a Presiding Bishop. With the mike, money and manpower must really ask why the fear of an election? It does not fit…
The Pattern of Succession of Leadership [Office of Presiding Bishop]Let us review the facts since the demise of Presiding Bishop J. 0. Patterson. On December 29, 1989, Bishop J. 0. Patterson succumbed. On the evening of the day of his burial a special meeting was held at Mason Temple. Bishop L H. Ford stood and verbally pleaded to the general church in an open meeting for the privilege of serving the remaining term of Bishop Patterson. The general church sanctioned Bishop Ford’s request by voice vote, not the General Assembly. The Chairman of the General Assembly was bound by the Constitution to convene a special session for the purpose of electing a Presiding Bishop even though Bishop Ford had been sanctioned only (45) days earlier. On February 15, 1990,Chairman Frank Ellis sent a letter to the Board of Bishops announcing the agenda for the Spring Session (April 3 – 6) of the General Assembly. A special selection was held during a non-quadrennial year. Two years later (1992) Bishop Ford was re-elected.Thus the pattern for succession had been established by precedent. This pattern superseded and overrides any previous charter established and legally renders null and void any legal opinion set forth. Please note that the Chairman of the General Assembly’s agenda was precise and deliberate. The agenda consisted of eight items. They are as follows:
April 3, 1990 Agenda
1. Memorial tribute to the late Bishop J. 0. Patterson, Sr.
2. Election to fill the vacancy on the General Board
3. Receive financial reports from each Jurisdiction
4. Consider several Constitutional Amendments
5. Hear reports from Trustee Board sub-committees
6. Elect the Presiding Bishop
7. Approve two (2) Assistant Presiding Bishops
8. Install new officers