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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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However, as is now well-documented--on this blog and elsewhere--the four clerical members of the Standing Committee, and two of the lay members, almost immediately following the December convention, signaled their intention to not follow the majority to the Southern Cone. They did so by consenting to the election of a bishop by a diocese of the Episcopal Church, and transmitting that consent through normal channels. In mid-January, the President of the Standing Committee spoke on the phone with the Presiding Bishop and informed her that a majority of committee's members did not intend to join in the secession, and wished to continue to operate under the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. A day after this phone conversation, Bishop Schofield, in effect, recognized this reality and effectively "fired" these six individuals, and reconstituted the Standing Committee of the Southern Cone Diocese of San Joaquin from the remaining two lay members. But for reasons at this point known only to her, the Presiding Bishop refused to recognize the loyalty of the six, despite clear knowledge of their intention to follow the canons, and publicly declared her judgment that there were in fact no continuing members of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. This was the first of three canonically questionable moves on her part that cast a shadow over the entire project of rebuilding the ministry of TEC in the central valley of California.
The second such canonically questionable (and this is a charitable description) move took place barely two weeks ago at the meeting of the House of Bishops. The question before the house was the canonical deposition of two bishops--Schofield of San Joaquin and Cox, retired Assistant of Oklahoma. In the case of Bishop Cox, the entire process (under the so-called "abandonment of communion" canon, which calls for summary judgment without trial) was botched, as he was never inhibited and the Presiding Bishop held the "indictment" (from the Title IV Review Committee) back when she was canonically required to have presented it to last September's meeting of the HOB. But in the case of both bishops, the deposition failed on a technicality, though this was not noticed at the time. Within it couple of days, however, outside sources pointed out that the required number of votes to depose needs to be not just a majority of a quorum, but a majority of the "whole number" entitled to vote. As I write, at least one member of the HOB has demanded that this irregularity be investigated, and we can be sure the dust is far from settling.
Now the final ingredient in the Perfect Storm recipe--the one that will act as a catalyst, joining with the others to ignite a cataclysm in the Anglican world. In less than two days' time, the Presiding Bishop is intending to call to order a special convention of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin in the city of Lodi. While it is arguably her duty to facilitate the reconfiguration and reinvigoration of TEC's ministry in that area, the way she has gone about doing so seems to ignore, if not flout, the very Constitution and Canons of the Church she serves. This is where the canonical cloud over the deposition of Bishop Schofield becomes extremely relevant. Only in the absence of a bishop can the Presiding Bishop step in to a situation, and then only under strictly limited circumstances. But there is plausible doubt whether Bishop Schofield has in fact been properly deposed, and this calls into question any action that the special convention on Saturday will take. Of course, Bishop Schofield has no desire to be the Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin, and he has in fact submitted his resignation to the Presiding Bishop. The problem is, neither she nor the House of Bishops bothered to accept that resignation! So, do we indeed have a vacancy in the office of Bishop of San Joaquin? Practically, we do. But technically, we do not. And with as much at stake as there is in these times, with the level of trust in our leadership eroding at every turn, this is one occasion when it is imperative to be excruciatingly correct technically, to bend over backwards to avoid even the whiff of an impression of the subversion of due process.
But wait...there's more! The "unrecognized" Standing Committee--that is, the duly and canonically elected Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin--made it clear to the Presiding Bishop on several occasions that, in the event of Bishop Schofield's lawful deposition, they stood ready to perform their duty and become the Ecclesiastical Authority of the diocese, cooperating with her office as appropriate under the constitution and canons. As recently as two weeks ago, they expected to shortly be called to act in accordance with the polity of "this Church." But because of the technical glitch, they cannot recognize the See of San Joaquin as vacant, and are therefore unable to lawfully step in.
So what we will have Saturday is a Perfect Storm--an institution going rogue on itself, ignoring its own polity, its own rules . . . just because it can. The harm that this will do to the commonweal of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion is untellable. If we can't trust ourselves to live by our own laws, if the ends are seen as justifying the means, if a mistake in the past is used as a justifying precedent for repeating the same mistake, then the confidence of the minority that the protections afforded them under our polity will indeed be effective evaporates like morning mist under the desert sun. We are left to be drowned by the tyranny of the majority. If that is the offering we must make, then so be it. No such costly oblation will, in the redemptive economy of God, go wasted. But on the Last Day, I do not anticipate being envious of whose who, buoyed by a perception of power made invincible by righteousness, are in these days the instruments of such an unholy wrath.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Cono Sur [formerly Southern Cone] Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin TEC Polity & Canons
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