The Episcopal (Anglican) bishop of the state of Montana has resigned following a church court's decision to defrock him for sexual misconduct.

The resignation on February 26 by Charles I. "Ci" Jones III followed reports of a settlement under which Jones will be given $170,000. The Montana diocese also agreed to forgive the remaining mortgage for his diocesan home, Episcopal News Service (ENS) reported. In exchange, Jones agreed not to sue the diocese.

The Montana Diocesan Council had unanimously supported Jones' removal. Jim Hunt, a lawyer and member of the diocesan council, said that under his contract Jones was owed a severance package. Both sides had come to the conclusion that the bishop's resignation was in the best interests of all. "Ultimately, it was an amicable parting," Hunt said.

However, Jones' resignation only affects his status as bishop of Montana. He is appealing against the decision by the church court to defrock him as a priest, and he is asking for a modification of the sentence, according to Jan Nunley, spokeswoman for the Episcopal Church. She told ENI that Jones would retain his status as an Episcopal priest pending the outcome of the appeal.

If he is defrocked, Jones will no longer be able to administer the sacraments—the most severe punishment possible under church law.

The Episcopal Church's leader, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, has denied a request by Jones that would have allowed the bishop to undergo what is called "voluntary submission to discipline"—which would have left the way open for the possible reinstatement of Jones as a bishop. But Bishop Griswold has not publicly commented on the case.

The punishment of defrocking was recommended by a 7-2 vote on February 14 by a panel of fellow bishops after a church court in December found Jones guilty of sexual misconduct involving a married woman who was a parishioner and church employee.

The woman named in the case had asked for the strictest discipline to be applied. Jones had a sexual relationship with her from 1981 to 1983, when he was rector of a parish in Russellville, Kentucky. Jones became bishop of Montana in 1986.

Though officials termed Jones' departure as amicable, the outgoing bishop lashed out at his critics on February 24 in a pastoral letter, saying two dozen church liberals had supported efforts to depose him because of his opposition to church-sanctioned unions of gay and lesbian couples.

"I feel a great deal of the energy for this action escalated with my pastoral letter a year ago in which I stated I would not ordain active homosexuals or allow the blessing of same-sex unions within the diocese until our church was settled on these issues," Jones said, claiming this position was not popular either among the national or state church hierarchy.

"Although this does not seem to me to be what God is calling me to do," he said, "after nine years Ashby [his wife] and I cannot emotionally continue to stand against the powerful forces seeking my ouster."

Related Elsewhere

Christianity Today's earlier coverage of Jones's trial includes:
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 Associated Press also has a report.

Jones's resignation letter has been republished at The Prayer Book Society of Canada's site and other sites.