I am of an age to remember Watergate, and Richard Nixon's firing of the Attorney General for his refusal to fire the Special Prosecutor, and his instant promotion of the Solicitor General in order to accomplish the deed. It was known as the Saturday Night Massacre.
In the post previous to this one, I drew attention to the role of the Standing Committee in the Diocese of San Joaquin. All eight members--four clergy and four lay--are solidly orthodox in their theological positions, all "reasserters." All have been energetic supporters of Bishop Schofield's advocacy for the received moral teaching of the Church Catholic. All have agonized over their relationship with an Episcopal Church that causes them shame and embarrassment at every turn. I am well acquainted with five of the eight, and know two of the three others, having served on that very Standing Committee as recently as six months ago. I shared their mixed feelings when we contemplated our relationship with TEC and the Anglican Communion. We worked hard to present a united front with our bishop in bearing witness to the faith of the saints, apostles, prophets, and martyrs.
As of this morning, six of those eight are now ex-members of the San Joaquin Standing Committee. Only ... which ones are the six and which ones are the "remaining" two?
Here are the facts. First, a message from Bishop Schofield:
On December 8th at our Diocesan Convention the overwhelming vote to transfer from the Episcopal Church to the Province of the Southern Cone was passed. At that time I became a member of the House of Bishops of that Province. Therefore, the Standing Committee, which is my council of advice, must be composed of clergy members who are Anglican priests of the Southern Cone. This is required by Diocesan Canons and the Archbishop of the Southern Cone of South America, who writes:
“In welcoming you to the Province of the Southern Cone on December 8th it is my clear understanding that even though you are allowing a period of discernment for those clergy who are still undecided, it would be highly inappropriate for any officer or leader within the Diocese of San Joaquin to be currently undecided or clearly within the Episcopal Church and continue as an officer or leader. The requirement governing each diocese of the Southern Cone is that all members of Diocesan Council, Standing Committee, and those selected as representatives at Synod be recognized Members of this Province.”
Therefore, this morning I received the resignation of those members of the Standing Committee who do not meet the above qualifications. Communication and correspondence related to the Standing Committee should now be directed to the new President of the Standing Committee, ---------, at the Diocesan Offices.
Then we have this , from the duly-elected president of the Standing Committee:
During the Standing Committee meeting of January 19th, the Bishop determined that the elected members of the Standing Committee who had not publicly affirmed their standing in the Southern Cone [whose congregations are in discernment, some over the legality of convention's actions] were unqualified to hold any position of leadership in the Diocese, including any elected office. He pronounced us as unqualified. No resignations were given. The question of resignations was raised and rejected. The members of the committee at this morning's meeting were quite clear on this point, we did not resign, we were declared unqualified to hold office. The Bishop's decision affects up to 6 of the 8 elected members of the Committee including all of the clergy members.
Let the record show that three of the four clergy members who are now clearly not members of the Standing Committee of the Southern Cone Diocese of San Joaquin are rectors of the three largest parishes of the diocese. Two of them are the two most senior priests of the diocese (in terms of time in cure) and the other is in the top five, having held his position for 12 years.
Bishop Schofield's action has effectively (pardon the metaphor) "outed" these priests, revealing a divide within the diocese that cannot be casually dismissed. We're not talking about the liberal fringe (I use "liberal" in a relative sense) who have always been malcontents in the diocese, now under the umbrella of Remain Episcopal. We're talking about actual conservatives--those who, in grand San Joaquin tradition, wore out the 'No' buttons on their clickers during legislative sessions of the House of Deputies. We're talking about the potential seeds of a viable continuing conservative TEC presence in the Central Valley of California.
But the big news is that, by any reasonable reckoning, these four priests and two lay persons (who, incidentally, are members of two of the large parishes represented by the priests) are still the members of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. It is tempting to say that there are now two lay vacancies on that committee, but I have to think about the due process angle a little more. In any case, if 815 wants to know who they should be talking to--that is, the Ecclesiastical Authority of the diocese, given the inhibition (to say nothing of the voluntary departure) of the Bishop--there is now no doubt.