... and then declines the offer.
The San Joaquin drama took another turn yesterday--one that I have to say caught me by surprise, and very little surprises me anymore.
The Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin (whatever that may be--we'll just leave it alone for the moment) has accomplished a noteworthy feat. Six of the eight elected members have been "de-acknowledged" by not just one, but two Primates of the Anglican Communion. How did they manage such an accomplishment?
On January 19, Bishop Schofield pronounced all four clergy members and two of the lay members of the committee unqualified to serve, since they were not able to indicate a settled mind in affirmation of either the advisability or the legality of the decision the diocesan convention took last December 8 to secede from the Episcopal Church and affiliate with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Now, exactly one week later, all eight members (including the two who were still standing when the dust settled on the 19th), have received, by overnight mail sent to their home addresses, a message from the Presiding Bishop informing them that she does not acknowledge them as the legitimate members of the San Joaquin Standing Committee. Talk about a one-two punch.
The Presiding Bishop is mistaken on several counts.
First, she bases her action on a putative "unanimous vote" of the Standing Committee in support of the path on which Bishop Schofield has led the diocese. (It "has come to my attention...") No such vote has ever taken place. They haven't voted for it. They haven't voted against it. They simply haven't voted. The question has never come up in the course of the committee ordinary performance of its duties. Neither has the Standing Committee "attempted to organize" as a committee of a diocese of the Province of the Southern Cone (the other major count in her indictment against them). Quite the contrary, I would not be surprised if it were revealed that the committee has, in fact, acted according to its obligations under the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church by consenting to an episcopal election or two, and done so after the diocesan convention vote in December. That would constitute a "fact on the ground" that would make it difficult to make a charge of breaching fiduciary duty stick. (And let me add that how any member of the committee personally voted, or did not vote, at the December convention is of no consequence. See Executive Council member Mark Harris' lucid analysis of this question here.)
Second, she has no canonical authority to unilaterally and summarily pronounce elected members of a diocese's Standing Committee excluded from office. Even if she were able to substantiate her accusations that they have breached their canonical fiduciary responsibility (which she cannot), there is still such a thing as due process, using Title IV of TEC's canons. And she does not have the canonical authority to initiate such proceedings; it would have to be done by laity and clergy within the diocese. (For the record, and once again, six of the members were elected at prior conventions. Two of them were elected in December, but the election took place before the vote to secede and re-affiliate.)
Third, the Presiding Bishop has bungled a major opportunity for advancing her narrative on the whole San Joaquin mess, which is that the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin continues in existence, with a bishop currently under inhibition and shortly to be deposed--i.e. that no corporate removal to the Southern Cone has taken place, only individual defections. It's difficult to get a lot of traction for this story when all that remain are those few who have been the (loyal, for the most part) opposition in the diocese for years and years. But then she was presented with an opportunity to woo and recover some of the most senior clergy of the diocese--long-tenured, experienced, leading substantial parishes. One would think she would have pounced on this as a veritable godsend. She could have come off as Katharine the Reconciler, the one who is truly interested in inclusion.
But no. She snubbed it.
This is a monumental gaffe on her part. Unless, that is, she isn't really interested in inclusion or reconciliation, but only ideological victory for her side, in which case a scorched earth "take no prisoners" policy is the way to go.
The rapid disintegration of due process in "this Church" should be worrisome to those of every ideological and theological stripe. More on that later.