Saturday, February 02, 2008

More San Joaquin Flotsam and Jetsam

I've been busy today being a one man Rapid Response Team/Truth Squad elsewhere in the blogsphere. Most everyone who checks this site probably also drops in where I've been spinning verbiage, but just to have it all in one place, here's some of what I've written elsewhere:

(Father Jake Stops the World)
Good people, you can believe or not believe what I'm about to write--that's your choice. I don't have either the time or the energy, especially in a comment thread of this length, to fully annotate my remarks. I'm just going to give it to you straight, and I'm pretty much in a position to know what I'm talking about.

Don't waste your time with conspiracy theories. They're hogwash. In order for there to be a conspiracy, there has to be communication, and lack of communication between Bishop Schofield and the Standing Committee is the single biggest reason the Martyrs of San Joaquin have now been hung out to dry by two (count 'em) Primates of the Anglican Communion. If they don't talk, they can't be in cahoots.

Contrary (but with respect) to Fr Jake's assertion that the canons never envisioned a situation like this, and we should just wing it--or at least allow the PB to wing it--situations like this are precisely when the canons should be applied and followed with the utmost rigor and consistency. When grace is in short supply, we've got to rely on law! So, whatever anyone may feel or think about who didn't say what at the December convention, such feelings or thoughts are ultimately irrelevant. According to 815's own narrative on this mess, there *is* currently a Bishop of the (Episcopal) Diocese of San Joaquin. His name is John-David Schofield. He is under Title IV discipline, and it seems plausible to speculate that he will be deposed next month. At that moment, the duly-elected Standing Committee becomes the Ecclesiastical Authority. That committee is presently short-staffed by two lay members, who have clearly indicated that they have left the Episcopal Church. According to the canons of the diocese, it falls to the Standing Committee's remaining members to fill those vacancies by appointment until the next regular convention. It also falls to that Standing Committee to request permission from Bishops with jurisdiction and the Standing Committees of the various dioceses to elect a new bishop. This is the way it plays out. This is due process. This is the *discipline* of the Episcopal Church to which those in Holy Orders have promised allegiance. No bishop, including the Presiding Bishop, has the canonical authority to circumvent that process. Are we operating under the rule of law, or under the rule of majoritarian tyranny? Time will tell.

(Titus OneNine)
[What many] seem not to have grasped is that the six signatories of the letter are already on record as, at the very least, being skeptical of the diocesan move to Southern Cone, if not directly opposed to it. With a little bit of sugar, rather than vinegar, they could be (or could have been as recently as a week ago) tipped fully in the direction of TEC. The fact that the PB chose to behave with such inexplicable foolishness can only indicate that she is not interested merely in keeping a viable TEC diocese in the central valley of California, but in bagging a trophy for her own ideologically monochrome vision of TEC.

(later on T19, in response to a commenter who questioned why the PB et al would even want to deal with The Six):

Because three of the clergy on the Standing Committee are rectors of the three largest parishes in the diocese. Presuming that they have some influence in the congregations (two of them are 10+ years in cure), and presuming they could and would influence those congregations to stay in TEC, that would result in a hugely more viable “continuing” diocese. With only the Remain Episcopal congregations (St Anne’s, Stockton; St John the Baptist, Lodi [which has humongous building debt]; and Holy Family, Fresno; along with Christ the King, Riverbank and possibly Church of the Saviour, Hanford; plus exiled remnants from St Nicholas’, Atwater, St Francis, Turlock, and St Paul’s, Bakersfield), it is nowhere near a viable diocese. With the three big ones (and at least one pastoral-size parish led by the fourth priest on the SC--and possibly others), it could well be viable, if stripped down. There was a potential tipping point two weeks ago, went the six were “let go” by Bishop Schofield. If 815 had responded with honey rather than vinegar, we could be looking at a DSJ/TEC that could actually make it. And it would have been, IMHO, a huge propaganda victory for the PB. It mystifies me why she spurned it. The only explanation I can think of is that she is simply not interested in a Diocese of San Joaquin that would continue to be “reasserter” in its dominant views, and would rather have a smaller trophy that is a beacon for the TEC majority’s misplaced notion of “inclusion.”

(FJSTW)
Let me try and rephrase: For purposes of this discussion, I will stipulate to your contention that the Standing Committee, both corporately and individually, should have made a more determined and public effort to oppose the Bishop's plan at the time of the convention last month. (It's actually more complicated than that, but for purposes of discussion....) I will stipulate to your contention that The Six are weak leaders who failed to perform a crucial duty, and that they don't deserve to be the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. But, the hard truth is that, in a community bound by the rule of law, none of that matters. If the Presiding Bishop is allowed to exercise authority she does not actually possess--even if we think she should possess it, or "somebody has to do it, so why not her?"--then all order has broken down. If you think The Six should be removed from office, there is a canonical procedure for doing so. Primatial fiat is no part of that procedure. Read Title IV. With the disintegration of everything we have come to take for granted as "normal" in our church life, this is not the moment to surrender to chaos. Even in the maelstrom of 16th century England, when Queen Mary wanted to be rid of Archbishop Cranmer, she had him legally deposed from office by recognized constitutional processes, before she had him burned!

(later)
[A commenter] asks: "Were a majority of congregants in DiocSJ also canonical members of a Southern Cone diocese before the official work of their last convention began?"

No. None of them were members of a Southern Cone diocese before December's convention. There is no way they could have been. What has gone under-reported is that the Southern Cone option was sprung on the diocese more or less at the last minute. The Standing Committee was certainly out of the loop as the arrangements were being made. (I was a Standing Committee member there until mid-August.) Yes, the question of cutting ties with TEC was very much on the table following the 2006 convention. But there was no widely publicized plan (let alone a plan into which wide input was sought and received), as to where to actually go once ties were cut.

Jake, you and I will have to agree to disagree. It was certainly not apparent to me (and I know these people) that the Standing Committee members were members of the Southern Cone following the December vote. Now it is quite apparent that they were not. But more importantly, I must assert once more (I guess that makes me a reasserter!) that the constitution and canons of TEC are quite up to the challenge of the current debacle. They simply need to be followed. There is no need for martial law.

(and yet again)
To [a commenter who speculated that the PB is undoubtedly getting advice from canon lawyers]: Unfortunately, there is no universally (or even widely) recognized credential for the status of "canon lawyer" in TEC. More to the point, however, there is no independent judiciary that can rule definitively on disputed issues of canon law. The ultimate arbiter is General Convention, which is, of course, inherently political in nature. So, in the end, canon law is only what a concurring majority vote of both houses of General Convention says it is. But that doesn't mean we should just chuck it in advance. We should try to apply it.

To Jake: You don't know that they have not met with Canon Moore. But I wouldn't blame them if they haven't, because his presence there is illicit.

Now, let me refine and amplify my contention that the C&Cs of TEC are up to the task of this particular tempest. Here I will agree with Jake on one point--that the C&Cs do not envision an event such as a diocese seceding. What we need to realize is that there are two very different narratives in play. (My personal opinion is that they can both be "true," but that's a sidebar.) It's like, say, a Synoptic and a Johannine account of the life of Jesus. They operate in different universes. It's not fruitful to try and harmonize them.

In brief, the DSJ/Southern Cone narrative is "We're no longer under the oversight of TEC, and we're now accountable to the Southern Cone. All clergy are transferred to the Southern Cone if they pick up their cards (this was a big thing at the convention). All congregations are presumed to be in the Southern Cone unless they indicate otherwise--with time for discernment. If you think otherwise, we'll see you in court." Under that narrative, what Bishop Schofield did two weeks ago makes perfect sense, and it is understandable that he cares not one whit about being inhibited or deposed.

The other narrative (I won't say "competing," just different) is TEC's: "Dioceses are creatures of General Convention and cannot leave without General Convention's approval. Those who purport to lead a diocese in attempting to do what it clearly cannot do have abandoned the 'communion of this Church' and are subject to canonical discipline. All the real and personal property of the Diocese of San Joaquin is held in trust for the Episcopal Church, and those who use and occupy such property while purporting to be part of another Church are interlopers and trespassers. The Bishop of San Joaquin has been placed under canonical discipline and the HOB will determine next month whether he should be deposed. There is, in fact, an Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, and that diocese is the rightful heir to this history and legacy of the diocese that was formed as a Missionary District in 1911 out of the Diocese of California. The fact that those who occupy its offices and churches believe otherwise is lamentable, but irrelevant."

Everything that I have suggested on this thread, on my own blog, and and T19, is an attempt to analyze the facts through the lens of this second narrative. If TEC (aka 815 aka the PB) really believes the premise of its narrative ("Dioceses and parishes can't leave, only people can leave") then it needs to act consistently with that premise, and the only logical conclusion is to recognize the continuing six as the Standing Committee and to allow them to serve as the Ecclesiastical Authority in the event of Bishop Schofield's deposition. To do otherwise would be to cede veracity to the other narrative.

(and one more)
Neither TEC's canons nor SJ canons allow a member of a Standing Committee to be removed by a bishop. From the standpoint of the "TEC narrative" (see my comment upstream), Bishop Schofield exceeded his authority when he removed the six Standing Committee members. For that matter, even from the standpoint of the "SJ-Southern Cone narrative," he may also have exceeded his authority, since (as I have been led to believe by someone who has seen them) the Southern Cone C&C makes no provision at all for Standing Committees, hence the diocesan canons apply. Part of a Standing Committee's job is to act as a check on episcopal power, which is exactly what the Martyrs of San Joaquin were doing when they told the Bishop, "We're not persuaded that the convention's vote was legal." For that, they were dismissed.

(and while I was writing this very post, another one)
I did "debate" representatives of Remain Episcopal on two occasions, both at the invitation of leaders of Remain Episcopal. That was a different time (2004? 2005? I can't precisely remember). My point then was that it may be necessary to leave TEC in order to remain in communion with Canterbury. That looked like a plausible possibility at the time. Subsequent developments in (what may be broadly described as) the Windsor Process (including the Archbishop of Canterbury's letter to the Bishop of Central Florida last fall) have lessened that possibility, at least for the time being. A lot has changed since then in Bishop Schofield's rhetoric as well. Despite professed loyalty to a constitution that calls for full communion with the See of Canterbury, an alliance with the Southern Cone puts San Joaquin in league with those (the Common Cause Partners and GAFCOM) who are working to create a non-Canterburian form of Anglicanism. I am interested in neither an Episcopal Church that is not Anglican nor an Anglicanism that is not Canterburian.

(and a final one on T19):

[A commenter] writes, “I still don’t understand why, a year into it, and after a significant majority of the diocesan convention voted for the move, major parishes are still in discernment.”

Because there was nothing to discern until very recently. The constitutional change, yes, was in the pipeline. But, as I have written elsewhere, that alone did not necessarily divorce SJ from TEC. The Southern Cone plan was not revealed until literally a few weeks before the December convention, and it was a plan about which the elected leadership of the diocese was kept largely in the dark by the Bishop and his staff. Hardly time for any serious discernment.


15 comments:

Ann said...

The Standing Committee has said nothing - no statement at the Diocesan Convention - no statement following the vote to go to the Southern Cone. No wonder it is impossible for KJS to recognize them as the Standing Committee - how long did they plan to wait before making a statement to the Diocese - did they try to reach out to those who ARE the Episcopal Church? I haven't seen them doing anything that would convince me that they had not abandoned their post. Now they are playing the victim card - it just won't work.
I agree - canons need to be followed - beginning with the former Standing Committee.

One Day Closer said...

For the record Fr. Dan, St. Pauls Bakersfield's vestry voted to go Anglican Southern Cone! So that one is not staying in TEC! The remenants in Bakersfield are and have been meeting with a licensed LA priest Tim Vivian who has had no authority to start a mission church even before the Dec vote as he has been doing. I'm not altogether surre that that remenant is that large unless they get some LA folks to come join them!

paleont said...

It seems possible that the Remain Episcopalians don't want to be in a diocese dominated by these big conservative parishes. I'm not saying that legally they ought to be given any choice. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

What I want to know is, from who the BLEEP is 815 getting its canonical advice? Or, more to the point, when is 815 going to step back and redo what's wrong with this situation?

Beryl Simkins said...

It is still difficult for me to believe that the Standing Committee is a group of "martyrs," to the cause. Their letter is full of disrepect and accusations leveled at the presiding bishop of our church. They then publish the letter on Stand Firm, a site known for its disregard for all that is Episcopal. As you would expect, the responses were a series of smears and angry diatribes. The other place where this letter appeared was on the weblog for the Diocese of San Joaquin. Now why would it have appeared there if it was not supported by John David Schofield?

You say that the RE churches and remnants need those "large" conservative congregations, but the opposite is also true, they also need us. Hey, if they really want to work with us, then they need to take a step forward in a positive manner. Someone has to drop the gauntlet. I believe that those of us who wish to remain with the national church have dropped the gauntlet, if we ever held one. We want to talk.

Matthew said...

Thank you Father Dan for your insight. I truly wish that someone in power would heed what you say. Unfortunately, both Bishops Schofield and Schori seem bent on having their own way regardless of what the canons say.

Anonymous said...

Beryl,
The documents were published on the diocesan blog site Surrounded. Other blog sites have pick up the information & done with it what they wanted. The SC of the diocese did not publish this outside the diocese.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Martins, I'd like to direct readers of this blog to the entire discussion at Fr. Jake's, from which you have excerpted your own comments. They might find it interesting. Unfortunately, after your posts appeared, someone began posting comment spam to Fr. Jake's blog, and it has become almost impossible to access the comments. Regrettable, isn't it?

Anglocat said...

Actually, and for the record, I found your explanation that the SJ canons (not publicly available to date) did not allow the Bishop to remove SC members to be illuminating and helpful, and thank you for that.

Mind you, I think calling the individuals in question "Martyrs" is a tad over the top, but you have given me some food for thought, and I appreciate it.

Jake said...

I want to thank Dan for keeping a civil tone in what was no doubt a very difficult conversation. We can be a rowdy bunch at times.

We most likely will continue to "agree to disagree" on some matters, but I think it is worth noting, as Dan mentioned, that the situation continues to change quite quickly, and we have all had to adjust our stance on any number of things.

If I understand his position correctly, Dan considers remaining in communion with Canterbury as a very high priority, and has never supported Bp. Schofield's move to the Southern Cone as the way to accomplish that priority.

That stance is significantly different from many of those with whom I usually disagree, and is one that I can respect, even while holding to a different set of priorities.

Oh, and the spam is gone. One person, probably a child, judging from the silly content. No big thing. All part of this strange new world.

RFSJ said...

Fr. Dan,

I think you are generally right - ++KJS erred significantly in her actions toward the SJ SC. We'll have to see how it plays out, unfortunately. I don't believe the Canons ever contemplated both a sitting bishop and a Standing committee being absent, which is what 815 believes at the moment.

Pray for the church.

Joe said...

Dan,

I don't quite understand the situation. If the SJ Diocese has left TEC, and if the Standing Committee is the SC of that diocese, then the SC should not be recognised as part of the TEC.

If the SJ Diocese has not left TEC because it cannot legally do so, then the TEC needs to find some way clearly to distance itself from that decision and to affirm its continued membership in TEC even though its bishop (even before being inhibited) has left. Being a member of TEC is a voluntary association and, though it is polite to leave in a proper legally-sanctioned fashion, one can nonetheless leave simply by deciding to do so. Inhibition is a consequence of leaving TEC, not a cause for leaving.

Is the SC saying that, though its bishop has left TEC, they haven't and they're holding the fort until a new bishop is appointed?

I may be missing something crucial in all of this.....

Joe, UK

Dan Martins said...

Joe asked, "Is the SC saying that, though its bishop has left TEC, they haven't and they're holding the fort until a new bishop is appointed?"

Yes.

Precisely.

That is what they are saying.

Joe said...

Thanks for that, Dan. One further question: do the six SC members who were fired by Bishop Schofield still consider themselves members of the SC? And do the other members recognise them as such?

Joe

Dan Martins said...

Joe asks, "Do the six SC members who were fired by Bishop Schofield still consider themselves members of the SC? And do the other members recognise them as such?"

They (i.e. the Unqualified Six) consider themselves members of the Standing Committee of the *Episcopal* Diocese of San Joaquin, but not the Southern Cone Diocese of San Joaquin. The other two, who were not found "unqualified" by Bishop Schofield, consider themselves members of the Southern Cone Diocese of San Joaquin.