The former Episcopal bishop of Montana is appealing against a church court decision that led to his resignation over charges of sexual misconduct.

The appeal, filed on May 11 by Charles I. "Ci" Jones III, challenges the decision by a court of bishops recommending that Jones be defrocked as a priest and also alleges that the head of the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, improperly influenced the case.

The 17-count appeal challenges nearly every decision made by the court, which recommended, on a 7-2 vote on February 14, that Jones be defrocked—meaning Jones would no longer be able to administer the sacraments, the most severe punishment possible under church law.

The church court had found Jones guilty of sexual misconduct for having an extramarital affair with a married woman church employee while Jones was rector of a parish in the state of Kentucky in the early 1980s.

At the center of Jones's appeal is the contention that he should not have been tried on charges of sexual misconduct because he had already been disciplined by Bishop Griswold's predecessor, Bishop Edmond Browning, and that the trial amounted to a kind of double jeopardy, with a second set of charges being based on previous allegations and accusations.

The court of bishops ruled, however, that a presiding bishop does not have the authority to discipline a sitting diocesan bishop. It said that the arrangement between Jones and Browning, which called for Jones to undergo pastoral counseling, did not preclude a formal trial.

Jones's appeal also alleges that Bishop Griswold improperly influenced the trial by making a "hearsay statement" on the case. Bishop Griswold had urged the court to recommend that Jones be defrocked.

Bishop Griswold has not formally reacted to Jones's appeal.

Jones resigned as head of the Montana diocese after reportedly receiving a $170,000 settlement from the diocese. In exchange, he agreed not to sue the diocese. The Montana Diocesan Council had unanimously supported Jones's removal.

Jones's resignation, however, only affected his status as bishop of Montana. Jones still retains his status as an Episcopal priest and bishop pending the outcome of the appeal, which now goes to a church court of review.

Jones declined to speak to ENI. In a statement issued to Episcopal News Service (ENS), he said he had not filed a civil suit against Bishop Griswold or the national church, which is based in New York.

Jones told ENS he doubted he had any future in the Episcopal Church. He felt he had "probably been pretty much black-balled from any consideration for another position in the church—even as a lay person."

He and his wife would remain in Montana during the appeal process.

"My hope," he told ENS, "remains that somehow the truth will become public, but there are very strong forces working against that." Though he did not specify who those forces were, Jones had previously said liberal opponents had sought his removal because he opposed church-sanctioned unions of gay and lesbian couples.

Related Elsewhere

Episcopal News Service and Virtuosity both offer reports on Jones's lawsuit, albeit from different perspectives.

Christianity Today's earlier coverage of Jones's case includes:

Defrocked Episcopal Bishop Resigns | Anger likely to continue over case of extramarital affair 20 years ago. (Apr. 11, 2001)

Episcopal Bishop Resigns After Court Decision, Blames Liberal Critics | But Montana bishop Ci Jones vows to keep fighting after discipline for affair 20 years ago. (Mar. 8, 2001)

Episcopal Bishops Recommend Jones Be Defrocked | Episcopal Bishop of Montana to receive church's most severe punishment for sexual misconduct. (Feb. 22, 2001)

Bishop to Be Punished 19 Years After Affair | Episcopal Church court may decide fate of Montana's Charles Jones next week. (Jan. 25, 2001)

The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky, also has several articles, including

Former bishop appeals verdict in church trial (May 18, 2001, third item)

Ex-Episcopal bishop's appeal rejected (Apr. 20, 2001)

Ousted bishop hopes to return as priest | Attorney to seek lesser penalty for sexual misconduct (Mar. 2, 2001)

Bishop is ousted in sex case | Ex-Kentuckian was Episcopal pastor at time (Feb. 16, 2001)

Episcopal bishop to be punished for misconduct | Actions involved parishioner in Kentucky in '80s (Dec. 13, 2000)

Sexual misconduct in Kentucky years ago haunts Episcopal bishop | Church will try ex-Russellville vicar this month (Sept. 3, 2000)

Information about Jones, including his resignation letter was available at the Diocese of Montana homepage, but the site seems to be down.