The rule is simple - one diocese, one bishop in charge. With great respect we suggest that it would really help if some former bishops recognized that rule.

Retired Bishop Donald Harvey

It's not easy being a bishop. Overseeing clergy is a bit like herding cats. The laity have their fair share of complaints. Bishops in the Anglican Church are given considerable powers to run their dioceses, though the bishop doesn't have charge alone - he or she governs "in synod." That is, the bishop must exercise power according to set rules (called Canon law), and this often means having to gain the assent of the clergy and people in the diocese at a synod or council.

The rule that there is only one bishop with jurisdiction per diocese was upheld by a group of 13 Canon law experts in a Panel of Reference reporting to the Archbishop of Canterbury just last month.

The bishop can ask other bishops to help out, or even ask the synod for an assistant (or suffragan) bishop. (Example: retired Archbishop Douglas Hambidge is to do an ordination at Bishop Michael Ingham's request this month.) But one person is in charge.

The power of the bishop belongs to the office, not the person. Bishops don't govern for life. Diocesan bishops must retire at 65, archbishops at 70, and some voluntarily retire earlier than that. When they retire, they should retire. Unfortunately some retired bishops don't understand that.

Bishop Donald Harvey of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador retired in November, 2004. Since then, as head of the "Anglican Network in Canada," a conservative group, he's made many trips across the country, poking into dioceses along the way, including ours. He's held conferences for clergy, visited parishes, given sermons, without the permission (and in some cases the knowledge) of the diocesan bishop.

Bishop Harvey has every right to express his views. He feels strongly that same sex blessings are wrong, and he's a strong and forceful advocate for what he believes - which is fine. What is not fine is that Harvey appears to be acting like a bishop where he shouldn't.

Retired Archbishop Terence Finlay

Harvey says he hasn't engaged in any "episcopal acts" without a local bishop's permission - like confirmations, ordinations, etc. That may be technically true, but the fact of the matter is that he's engaging in episcopal leadership, and he shouldn't be.

But it's not just conservative retired bishops who are causing problems. Last summer the Bishop of Toronto Colin Johnson suspended a priest in the diocese for a year from performing the rite of marriage for two women. Bishop Johnson has never authorized his clergy to do that. Then it was revealed by the Anglican Journal last month that the priest in question was none other his predecessor, retired Archbishop Terrance Finlay.

Finlay performed the marriage to the couple, close friends of his family, because he feels strongly about the issue. It is an important issue, and feelings are strong on both sides. But of all people, Finlay, a retired archbishop, still shouldn't go against a diocesan bishop any more than should Bishop Harvey.