In 1688, in a (relatively) bloodless coup, the British parliament ousted King James II for his Roman proclivities, imported a Dutch prince, William of Orange, and installed him as King William III. Several bishops, along with a few hundred clergy and laity, while not particularly supportive of James, believed themselves morally bound by an oath of loyalty to him, and refused to take such an oath to William. For exercising the courage of their convictions, the bishops were deprived of their sees and their livings and many were reduced to poverty. This group became known as Non-Jurors. For a time, they were a sort of diminutive "shadow" Church of England, and the bishops even consecrated successors to themselves. After about a century, it was all rendered moot by the death of the Stuart pretender.
From a safe distance now, the Non-Jurors are often held up as models of courageous integrity. They agreed that it was a good thing for the realm to be rid of James, and that William and Mary would make splendid regents. They just didn't think William should be made monarch. That little principled stand was a career-ender for them. Unemployment and loss of status were no more attractive or tolerable in the seventeenth century than today.
There's a new group of Non-Jurors in the process of formation even as I write. They are former clergy and laity of the Diocese of San Joaquin. Their principled stand places them between the "rock" of their former bishop, whom they have loved and served loyally, but whom they cannot in good conscience follow to the Province of the Southern Cone, and the "hard place" of the non-canonical rump "remaining" Diocese of San Joaquin, which they cannot in good conscience join because it represents the raw exercise of naked illicit power by the Presiding Bishop, and because to do so would compromise their oath of loyalty to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.
In a letter written on her official letterhead and made public two days ago, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori announced that she will call to order a special convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin at St John the Baptist Church in Lodi on Saturday in Easter Week. (Sidebar: St John's, Lodi carries a debt of around $2 million the last I heard, and the note is co-signed by Bishop Schofield. Interesting.) The agenda for the convention includes the election of a "Provisional Bishop" and a new Standing Committee. I've already been around the block on this, so I won't belabor the point except to point out yet again: There already is a Standing Committee, duly elected under the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. Anyone who is complicit in the election of a new Standing Committee at the special convention is acting in defiance of the Constitution and Canons, and is appropriately subject to ecclesiastical discipline. Yeah, I know. Never gonna happen. But it needs to be said.
One Non-Juror-in-training is a priest of the diocese (not a member of the Standing Committee) who has actually given me permission to use his name, though I cannot at this moment bring myself to do it. He has written the following letter to Bishop John Howe of Central Florida:
Dear Bishop Howe,
I am writing to you [in your capacity] as the spokesman for “Communion Partners. Today I received a letter of invitation to a “special convention” called by our Presiding Bishop, The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori. I’m attaching a copy of this letter for you. In the first full paragraph, the letter states, “There being at this time no Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, or any qualified members of the Standing Committee of that Diocese, I, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, in consultation with the Steering Committee of faithful Episcopalians of that Diocese, hereby give notice that at 9:00 a.m. PST on Saturday, March 29,2008, at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lodi, California, I shall call to order a Special Meeting of the Convention of that Diocese. This is a travesty of justice in which due process has not been afforded to the rightful, sitting members of the present Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. I am deeply troubled by the above mentioned actions by our Presiding Bishop, which displays unprecedented authority; authority which is not rightfully hers. With no regard for due process, let alone the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, I submit to you Right Reverend Sir, that Bishop Schori is treading on extremely dangerous ground. What she is attempting to do could have terrible repercussions on the rest of the Episcopal Church. I am pleading with you to speak to the other Communion Partners, and Windsor Bishops to lodge a protest at the upcoming House of Bishops meeting against the actions of Bishop Schori in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. Thank you very much for your prayerful consideration!
Faithfully in Christ,
[name withheld by DHM+]
This is a guy who wants to "remain Episcopal" but for whom there is no room in "Remain Episcopal" because he cannot cooperate with the patent charade that 815 is producing with that organization's cooperation. He has taken an oath of loyalty to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, which are being ignored by the Presiding Bishop and which will be grossly violated on March 29th.
Just today, the following text was circulated as an email message to selected (read here "Remain Episcopal") clergy and laity in San Joaquin. It comes from the Revd Mark Hall of St Anne's in Stockton, who has been one of the on-the-ground leaders of 815 loyalists in the wake of last December's unfortunate vote by the diocesan convention:
The nominating committee has spoken to our bishop designee and has concurred with PB Katherine's recommendation. He will be visiting the diocese just after the House of Bishop's meeting, arriving on March 13. We will have two pre-convention meetings with him and to discuss the upcoming Special Convention. We are encouraging everyone to attend these meetings, including those who may be observers at the Special Convention.
Meeting at Christ the King, Riverbank on the evening of March 13, at 6:30 PM.
Meeting at Holy Family, 1135 East Alluvial, Fresno on the evening of March 14 at 6:30 PM.
We will be meeting the Bishop nominee
Reviewing the work of the Nominating Committee
Considering the Resolutions
Going over the requirements to certify delegates and clergy as voting members
Looking at the budget
If you have any additional requirements or needs for these meetings, please respond. Also, we need circulation of this information to as many as possible. I will be attempting to contact all the delegations and observers as I can, but our communication system is not up to par, but we are getting there.
So, Bishop Schofield hasn't even been deposed yet, and there's already a "Bishop nominee." The addressee header in the email includes one Jerry Lamb, so it seems safe to speculate that the retired Bishop of Northern California is poised to step in.
It's difficult to know what to say about a horrendous situation about which one is powerless to actually do anything. This was a preventable tragedy. It didn't have to happen. It has been misplayed by the "departing" Diocese of San Joaquin (i.e. there was no compelling reason for them to depart) and it has been misplayed by the Presiding Bishop and her operatives (i.e. by refusing to work with all the elements that were left in the wake of the departers). Lord, have mercy. What a mess. I'm going to have a drink and go to bed.