Thursday, October 05, 2006

Response to the Action of Bishop Schofield and the Diocese of San Joaquin

If there had been any lingering doubt that a small number of dioceses intend to secede from the Episcopal Church, that doubt should be put to rest in light of the latest move by the Diocese of San Joaquin. According to a news story posted on the San Joaquin diocesan website, "constitutional amendments have been proposed that place the Diocese of San Joaquin in an ideal position to be part of any ecclesiastical structure that the Archbishop of Canterbury and Primates might design."

The Episcopal News Service, notoriously understated in its headlines, introduced the story thus: "San Joaquin diocese to consider constitutional amendments severing relationship with the Episcopal Church."

At a special convention to be held in early December, the diocese of San Joaquin will be asked to amend its canons in order "to transfer all relationships and communion from ECUSA to an Anglican Province." The proposed changes to the diocesan constitution are enumerated here. The diocese claims this future ecclesiastical structure will be determined by consultation "with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican primates of the Anglican Communion," and delegates to the diocesan convention will be asked to decide with which other Anglican province they will associate.

This measure is unprecedented in the past five centuries of Anglican polity and ecclesiology, and it reveals the Diocese of San Joaquin – and others of its ilk – as the true schismatics and revisionists in the Anglican Communion.

This move is breathtaking in its illegality and in its arrogance. ACN-affiliated dioceses like San Joaquin seem to persist in giving to the Archbishop of Canterbury a role as a kind of Anglican pope. He is not, and never has been. Further, they cede to overseas primates a legal standing that those primates do not have in our church canons or in our state or national legal codes. They have neither the right nor the power to determine anything concerning the Episcopal Church. Apparently, the Bishop of San Joaquin and some number of his diocese believe wishing it makes it so. It does not.

This desire to drag a whole diocese, including many people and parishes that are faithful to the Episcopal Church, into some wild, new adventure on the basis of a series of hysterical and baseless charges against the larger church is folly and madness.

Ironically, this move comes hard on the heels of a recent ruling (on September 28, 2006) by a panel called by the Presiding Bishop in which the Bishop of San Joaquin, John-David Schofield, was cleared of charges brought by three California bishops that he had abandoned the communion of this church. As the San Joaquin website just recently revealed, these constitutional changes were submitted September 1 — well over a month ago. In that light, it seems abundantly clear that this secessionist bishop has indeed abandoned the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of this church. What more evidence is needed?

At this late date it would still be wise for the bishop and his cohorts (including those in other secessionist dioceses) to recall the catholic notion of diocesan property. The assets of any given diocese have been donated and established by previous generations with the hope of continuity for the assets on into the future. The bishop, Standing Committee, trustees and convention are merely custodians of these assets. They do not own them. Their current opinions give them no absolute rights to the disposal of these assets. It astonishes us how those who trumpet their faithfulness to catholic doctrine and practice continue to cherry-pick which of these suits them politically at the moment.

At this point, it appears necessary for the Presiding Bishop to declare the Episcopacy in San Joaquin vacant and to proceed to fill it with someone loyal to the constitution and canons of this church.

A more honorable course for Bishop Schofield has long been open to him. It is open to all those who wish to leave the Episcopal Church. They could, as their consciences seems to indicate, simply leave the church and form some "pure" denomination of their own. Instead, they attempt to have their cake [steal property of the Episcopal Church] and eat it too [insist that theirs is the "authoritative" view]. Such actions smack of lacks of both courage and hypocrisy. We invite them to leave if their consciences can no longer tolerate the Anglican mode, while we would hope they would not depart. But this constant effort to steal the assets of the Episcopal Church only reveals their crass materialism, power-mongering, and lawlessness.

Finally, and now perhaps most important, we extend whatever help we can to those in that beleaguered diocese who suffer under the hands of the present administration. They have remained loyal, faithful, and abiding, and now they are suffering under this power grab. The offices of the Episcopal Church should make haste to save them. If the official church will not, then we somehow must.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Susan said...

"...the Bishop of San Joaquin, John-David Schofield, was cleared of charges brought by three California bishops that he had abandoned the communion of this church."

Lisa,

Who are the 3 bishops you are referring to? I had heard there were 4.

10/06/2006 1:10 PM  
Anonymous Allen said...

I hate to say this, but let them go.
Akinola thinks of us as a cancerous lump, we can think of San Joaquin as a cancerous lump in TEC, breeding nothing but hate and division.
And we need to reach out to those churches, laity and clergy that don't agree with the decisions of the diocese and bring them in with us, into the fold of reason.

10/08/2006 8:36 PM  
Blogger Marshall said...

I'm really more concerned about the LEAC Conference coming up in Orlando. There is lack of integrity perhaps in pursuing disassociation of the diocese even while the bishop is under investigation; but actions of diocesan convention are ultimately done in daylight. On the other hand, the LEAC conference is intended to develop "cadres" to take "a curriculum" to Episcopal parishes and entice members away. Moreover, two Episcopal bishops are taking part. I have shared my own thoughts here.

I know about the decision regarding Bishop Schofield, but he had not acted on the decisions of diocesan convention, however much he supported them. Two bishops acting to participate in disassembling the Episcopal Church causes me more concern.

10/09/2006 8:23 PM  

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