Friday, April 18, 2008

A Logical Inference

I catch some flak for continuing to bring up issues related to the Diocese of San Joaquin (in any of its 2.5 current incarnations). I can understand why. I'm getting rather tired of the subject myself. And while I am arguably a more-knowledgeable-than-average observer, I am certainly not disinterested. I have friends and former colleagues and former parishioners all over the map there (both literally and metaphorically), not abstractions, but real people whom I know and care about. Looking at it from afar, what has transpired still seems incredibly surreal, and I am in no small amount of grief over the dissolution of what, until a few months ago, was the fabric of my non-domestic life. It hurts. I have dreams about it.

Enough maudlin self-disclosure. How unbecoming. The serious reason why I continue to engage events emanating from what once was "the Episcopal Church in the central third of California" is that they are operate in a microcosm--a model, a laboratory--of the meta-conflict in North American and worldwide Anglicanism. What happens in San Joaquin, and what happens in the wake of what happens in San Joaquin, has wide ramifications, and eventually affects Anglicans everywhere.

The great majority of the diocese, including the Bishop and his staff, contend (and I mean here to pass no judgment on this contention, one way or the other) that they have seceded from the Episcopal Church and been joined to the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. For the time being, at least, they have taken the real estate, buildings, and financial assets of the diocese and all but nine or ten of its congregations (eight that have remained with TEC, one gone to the AMiA, and one to this point undecided, as far as I know) with them.

In response, the Presiding Bishop has purported to depose Bishop John-David Schofield (declining to accept his resignation), but the deposition was (with no malice aforethought on anyone's part, I believe) thoroughly botched, and there is widespread question as to its canonical validity. In the process, she spurned the good faith overtures of the legitimately elected Standing Committee of the diocese and proceeded to call a special convention, which re-organized the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, electing an interim Bishop, as well as a completely new Standing Committee and Diocesan Council, and rejecting out of hand the complaint of the one real member of the Standing Committee who attended the convention that he had never resigned his office nor acted in any way to abrogate his duties as a presbyter in the Episcopal Church.

All the while, Bishop Jefferts Schori, along with the entire 815 bureaucracy and many bishops, have cloaked themselves in the mantra that "individuals can leave the Episcopal Church, but dioceses and parishes cannot do so." What, then, do they contend happened on December 8, 2007? By their own rhetoric, one would have to surmise that what happened was that the great majority of the clergy of the diocese and the great majority of the elected lay delegates acted at the same time to leave the Episcopal Church ... as individuals, of course.

Leaving aside the obvious problems with such a claim, let us, for the sake of discussion, simply grant it. One would think that--simply for the sake of appearances, to say nothing of legal strategy--it would then be in 815's best interests to establish as much continuity as possible between the "new" DSJ--i.e. the one configured at the Lodi convention of March 29 of this year--and the "old" DSJ, that is, the one that was spun off as a Missionary District from the Diocese of California 97 years ago. One would think that it would be in the best interest of the Presiding Bishop and her counsel to be able to credibly say, "Several individuals have left, but the diocese remains. Look: We have retained eleven congregations, including the three largest ones, representing over half of the average Sunday attendance of the diocese. We have retained the most senior clergy, and six of the eight members of the Standing Committee, who have assured us that once Bishop Schofield resigns or is lawfully deposed, they will step in and perform their canonical duty. The Diocese of San Joaquin is still vital, diverse, and financially viable without any outside help."

The ability to say all of this was within 815's grasp. But, for reasons that I could only speculate about, they looked a Public Relations gift horse in the mouth and sent it packing. They rejected continuity, and chose instead to confect a new DSJ out of whole cloth, with only a little decorative embroidery from had come before. The fact that there is not the shred of a canonical basis for doing what they have done seems to count for nothing; what's new is new and what's done is done. The rule of law has been thrown under the bus of expediency.

The irony in all of this, and the actual point of this post, is that, in rejecting the path of maximum continuity, maximum numerical strength, and maximum credibility in the eyes a watching Anglican world, 815 has undercut its own Prime Directive that "only individuals can leave." By their actions in electing to start over from scratch, they have tacitly admitted that the Diocese of San Joaquin did, in fact, leave the Episcopal Church. Why else would they have taken such pains to invent a new one--a new one that is every bit as ideologically monochrome as they accuse the old one of being, a new one that has retained not even a vestige of institutional or administrative continuity with the old one, and a new one that is wholly dependent on 815's financial largesse and will, in effect, be a client diocese for as long as it is allowed to exist?

Apparently, dioceses can leave the Episcopal Church. One just did, and they made a new one to replace it.


Malcolm+ said...

Okay, the following flows from my interest in procedural minutiae rather than my interest in the outcome.

I don't know what the canons say about the majority required to accept a resignation, but previous discussion suggests it's probably a simple majority of those present and voting.

If so, whatever the canonical effect of the motion to depose JDS, was not the motion a de facto acceptance of his resignation?

Therefore, could one argue that the House of Bishops, in one motion, accepted JDS's resignation and (failed to - if one agrees with Dan's interpretation) deposed him?

Or maybe I'm stretching.

But I once did manage a floor fight at a political convention where a bunch of 18-23 year olds took on the leadership and won.

Unknown said...

Re: the resignation.
On one hand, it would have been better if he had submitted the resignation prior to being accepted into the Southern Cone. However, with the canons, it could depend on whether Schofield simply resigned or renounced his ministry.

Now the canons do say that a bishop cannot renounce his/her ministry if under Presentment. In this case, he was under charges of Abandonment of Communion. The question then is whether Abandonment can be seen as implied in the other canon or not.

In addition, there's the question of the distinction between resignation and renunciation of ministry. On a purely surface reading, the canon re: resignation states that the PB shall (not may) declare the resignation accepted. However, on a purely surface reading, the resignation canon only concerns those bishops who reach 72 years of age and must resign.

Of course, I could be missing something.


Anonymous said...

Malcolm+ and Kevin,
The reason KJS rejected Schofield's resignation was that he resigned from the HOB only and not from jurisdiction [ecclesiastical authority]of the diocese of San Joaquin. So using Malcolm+'s method, even IF we could now stretch to accept the Schofield resignation, it would only affect seat in the Episcopal HOB and not his being the bishop of DSJ.

Kevin, there is a huge difference between renunciation & resignation. When a bishop resigns jurisdiction he/she is no longer the ecclesiastical authority over a diocese...but remains a bishop in the church. When a bishop renounces orders, they are no longer a bishop [or priest or deacon].

To be very clear, Schofield did NOT offer a renunciation. Nor was his resignation accepted. Schori's own words confirm that Schofield retained jurisdiction in San Joaquin and the HOB was required to vote on abandonment [to remove Schofield from jurisdiction]. There were insufficient affirmative votes to carry the motion. The process to depose Schofield failed. Schofield is not deposed. Schofield retains jurisdiction in San Joaquin.

Now add to that the non canonical meeting in Stockton/Lodi March 29. It wasn't called according to canons, no quorum in canonical resident clergy, no quorum of established congregations, Constitution & canons altered by single vote resolutions. To say that KJS has now reconstituted the diocese is a farce. Even to assert she has created something new is to stretch what actually happened and to close our eyes to a multitude of canonical [and Constitutional] violations.

It's not pretty.

Anonymous said...

I don't think any one has accused 815 of using logic. Illogic is what we can expect from people who work from feelings instead of from disciplined minds and wills.

Unknown said...

Also, if one reads the canons in another way, resignation could be implied in the clause about a bishop not being able to renounce his/her ministry while under Presentment. Likewise, Abandonment of Communion could also be seen as implied here. Therefore, the reason for not accepting Schofield's resignation could be that due to his circumstances, he could not resign simply to avoid facing charges.

On the other hand, if Schofield simply resigned from the House of Bishops without giving up jurisdiction, then that resignation could not be accepted either. One can be a member of the House of Bishops and not have jurisdiction, but there is no provision for someone with jurisdiction not being a member of the House of Bishops.

As for the argument that he had already left TEC, well, that doesn't fly either. The problem there is that he did not resign his jurisdiction prior to resigning from the House of Bishops. Instead, he abandoned his position and took others with him, leaving the remaining members of SJ without a leadership but at least a chance after many years to heal and start over.

Brother David said...

Reacquisition of the Corporation Sole; appears to be sufficient deposition for the Sec of State of CA!

Anonymous said...

David: I wouldn't assume too much about the State of California's approval from the fact that Michael Glass filed an amendment to the corporation, other then that this is the first step in TEC's litigation campaign. All that Glass had to do was submit the amendment and claim that he had the right to do so ( I would expect counter filings and the outbreak of litigation soon over this.

Anonymous said...

I think that TECUSA seriously erred with its recent convention. Either they acknowledge that the clergy had left and were now resident in Southern Cone and that the parishes were not part of the diocese, or they were doing business without a quorum - and thus their actions were null and void.

While I do not know for a fact that the Diocese of San Joaquin had requirements for a quorum to conduct business in convention, I strongly suspect that their requirements were at least 50% of the canonically resident clergy and representatives from at least 50% of the congregations in the diocese. So, since there clergy were not deposed or inhibited or under discipline, they were either resident in SJC or in SC. Likewise, the congregations were either members of the diocese or were not. If not, then their property is not part of TECUSA. If so, then the convention was illegal and Bishop Lamb and the standing committee should be deposed for holding a convention against the canons of the diocese.

Phil Snyder