Dan Martins on the Alice in Wonderland World of TEC in the Diocese of San Joaquin

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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 - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesCono Sur [formerly Southern Cone]Episcopal Church (TEC)Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts SchoriTEC BishopsTEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: San JoaquinTEC Polity & Canons

25 Comments
Posted March 29, 2008 at 6:33 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

When an overblown ego has power, things usually get rather ugly. Spitzer is a prime recent political example, and the church is (quite obviously) not exempt from the phenomenon, especially when focused on power politics.

March 29, 8:02 am | [comment link]
2. yohanelejos wrote:

Father Martins is eloquent in his description of a very messy situation. I want to talk about God’s relation to the situation, but it’s not clear what should be said.

March 29, 8:49 am | [comment link]
3. Islandbear wrote:

Very thought-provoking analysis—more paradoxical actions to come from TEC, I’m sure

March 29, 8:58 am | [comment link]
4. Charley wrote:

Comment deleted by elf.

March 29, 9:31 am | [comment link]
5. Br_er Rabbit wrote:

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.

Whoa. Dan Martins can really lay it on. Nevertheless, it is becoming crystal clear that these actions are an outgrowth of the powers of the dark side.
The Rabbit.

March 29, 10:46 am | [comment link]
6. Cennydd wrote:

And I believe that the Powers of the Dark Side rule The Episcopal Church.  Schori and Company are in for a long, long and extremely costly legal war…...not a battle.

March 29, 10:58 am | [comment link]
7. Chris Hathaway wrote:

In a way, to go “rogue” on oneself is to become godlike, to be accountable to no one and to be the author of one’s own existence and meaning. No one can interpret TEC’s canons but TEC. How messy it is to be held up by strict construction of various canons. True freedom means the ability to go and do, to make and to take, without hindrance or the need to ask permission. Schori is simplifying the process, forging in the deep recessses of 815 a single unifying canon. The Canon of <U>DIVINE SUPREMACY</U>. To it all other canons will bow.

One canon to rule them all
One canon to find them
One canon to bring them all
And in the darkness bind them

March 29, 11:02 am | [comment link]
8. Ralph wrote:

Comment deleted.

ANY reference to Hitler and the Nazis will automatically be deleted.

March 29, 11:24 am | [comment link]
9. Bill C wrote:

“Both bishops acted in accordance with their consciences. Yet I believe that their actions are disordered, theologically and canonically. Nothing good ever comes from schism. When Christians separate from one another, the gospel is hampered and our ability to offer Jesus to a needy world severely compromised.”

Is Dan Martins referring to the schism that resulted in the Reformation some 400 years ago?

March 29, 11:24 am | [comment link]
10. celtichorse wrote:

It is quite evident that it is not the canon that is important, as the deposition of Cox and Schofield shows.  Schori and Beers knew the canon’s requirements with regard to the necessary number of epsicopal votes to effect a deposition were not met at this months meeting, but they didn’t care.  It’s not what the canons said but what they said that ruled the day.  Any canon will do.  It’s the will that bends the canon or the gospel or the truth to its dark purpose which is everything.  And just who’s will is that?

March 29, 11:35 am | [comment link]
11. Chris Hathaway wrote:

Bill, your quote comes from the bishop Little of Northern Indiana in a later post, not from Dan Martins in this one. And no, he is not refering to the Protestant Reformation of England, because that little fact of our ecclesiastical heritage would inconveniently modify his righteous stand against separation over issues of faith.

March 29, 11:45 am | [comment link]
12. Cennydd wrote:

It’s the Devil’s will, but you’ll never get Schori, Beers & Company to believe that!

March 29, 11:47 am | [comment link]
13. Bill C wrote:

Chris, thanks for correcting my mistake re +Little.
I was trying to be facetious in referring to the reformation.
Bill

March 29, 12:06 pm | [comment link]
14. Chris wrote:

I wonder if Martins+ thinks there are ANY circumstances under which a diocese might leave?  If not, why are the Bishops elected by the members of the diocese, and burdened with administering everything (which the diocese of course pays for 100%)?  If 815 wants control then they should be responsible for EVERYTHING and have to figure out how to pay for it.  They should not be allowed to parachute in when it suits their needs - they have not earned that right as they have not taken responsibility heretofore - the Bishops and the Standing Committees have.

March 29, 12:23 pm | [comment link]
15. Chris Hathaway wrote:

“Those who do not learn fron history are condemned to repeat it.”
Lord Acton.

Of course it’s much harder to learn form history if you are forbidden to make reference to it.

March 29, 12:43 pm | [comment link]
16. Milton wrote:

Chris, as your eloquent #7 shows, it is not necessary to violate Godwin’s Law to make a point.  There is even much history left to which to refer and learn from.  Take, for example, the rich history of false teaching, heresy, apostasy and schism of TEC for at least the last 30 years and arguably for farther back than that!

March 29, 12:52 pm | [comment link]
17. jamesk wrote:

Does it bug anyone else that so many more “deep” references are made to JRRT than to the bible on this site?  I’m just thinking that, while [we] collectively might share a common vision, the rest of the world might question our scriptural credentials when we quote Gandalf rather than God.
jjk

March 29, 12:53 pm | [comment link]
18. Br_er Rabbit wrote:

#17 JRRT? Than went over my head.
The Rabbit.

March 29, 1:15 pm | [comment link]
19. Chris Hathaway wrote:

Milton, Godwin’s law is no law at all. It postulates that appeal to that historical era polarizes conversation and makes further argument difficult. But this is simply not the case. It only impedes argument with those who refuse to look at the purpose of the analogy.

I appealed to a lierary illustration. But history is much more powerful and relevant because it deals with what has happend in reality, not just in imagination. What we are witnessing is the rise of a regime whose use of the “rules” are not bound by anything but their own interpretations. In a word, this is lawlessness. Power by such means we have seen in abundance in the world, and especially in the last century. To be unable to make reference to that inarguable fact is to make real argument feeble. The editorial policy of Kendall and the elves in deleting all references to the rise of fascism or bolshevism has the effect of forbidding argument by historical anlysis and allusion. If they think fascism is a phenomenon limited to Europeans bent of world domination they do not understand the nature of the use of power in all forms of human societies. The will to power, unrestrained by law or truth, has been seen before, and it works in similar patterns, mutatis mutandis.

Godwin’s so-called law might as well be called Beatty’s Law, named after the chief fireman in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, who explains the reason why books are banned: because of the uncomfortable and provacative thoughts contained in them. Ideas were disturbing the peace of society. Get rid of books that contain ideas and peace and harmony will reign.

Forbidding certain historical arguments as the elves have done is not very far away from forbidding certain biblical arguments. I wonder how they think they can fight the revisionists by emulating them.

This is Kendall’s blog and he has established the ground rules. It’s the job of the elves to enforce them.Consider it a warning that suggesting the elves resemble the revisionists is not helpful.

March 29, 1:20 pm | [comment link]
20. Chris Hathaway wrote:

I’m just thinking that, while [we] collectively might share a common vision, the rest of the world might question our scriptural credentials when we quote Gandalf rather than God.

Who is this “rest of the world” to which you refer, James?

The reason many make citations to things other than the Bible is because among us reasserters there is littel argument regarding what Scripture has to say, and between us and the reappraisers it has become all too apparent that Scriptural arguments have little weight as we do not hold equally to the Bible’s authority.

Furthermore, none of us, I trust, are quoting anybody or anything else in the same way we quote the Bible. Tolkein is not an authority. A history textbook is not an authority. God’s Word IS an authority, THE authority. But since we are not Puritans we do not spurn our God given reason to mine the expanse of human knowledge and imagination for approriate foder for a rhetorical or logical argument.

If you cannot see the difference between appealing to the authority of Scripture and making rhetorical use of the example of a historical or literary idea then we will not have much to talk about.

And just for curiosity’s sake; why did you offer no Scriptural argument or citation?

March 29, 1:39 pm | [comment link]
21. Words Matter wrote:

One canon to rule them all
One canon to find them
One canon to bring them all
And in the darkness bind them

I don’t care where you got it, Chris Hathaway, that is funny

Anyway, all truth is ours, and JRRT (JRR Tolkien, usually a reference to LOTR - Lord of the Rings) wrote one of the most profoundly Christian novels ever. So quote on! Or, as in this case, semi-quote on.  grin

March 29, 1:59 pm | [comment link]
22. Chris Hathaway wrote:

Consider it a warning that suggesting the elves resemble the revisionists is not helpful.

Is that a warning or a threat? Seriously, are you implying that any criticism of you that offends you will be deleted, or worse, rather than responded to with a rational counter argument?

Are you utterly lacking in a sense of irony?

We are frequently running one elf short and no longer have the time to respond as we have in the past.

March 29, 2:27 pm | [comment link]
23. Ralph wrote:

Perhaps it would be more edifying simply to suggest that the present situation in TEC warrants a study of the acquisition, the use, and the misuse of power throughout recorded history. Perhaps there are some common themes. Maybe not. Perhaps “All is well.”

This isn’t my blog - I’m merely a guest. If I had a blog of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see? grin

Apologies to our host.

March 29, 3:26 pm | [comment link]
24. D. C. Toedt wrote:

I miss the old elfin tongue-in-cheek comments; some of them gave rise to monitor-cleaning moments ....

You’re missing the ‘young’ elfin. But not as much as I am.

March 29, 5:36 pm | [comment link]
25. The_Elves wrote:

I’m thinking that even if I were elfing the same amount of time as I once did and able to help more in monitoring the comments, that my tone probably wouldn’t be much different than yours, dear elf lady.  The situation in TEC is so ugly and chaotic as to dry up one’s wit and joy, and even my greatly reduced time on the blogs very quickly becomes fatiguing and produces cynicism.  That makes it much harder to have patience with off-topic or imprudent comments.

All, please be patient with any inadequate elfing.  The task really is too great for the amount of “elf-power” we’ve got at the moment.  I’m only rarely involved in comment monitoring these days as my schedule has changed dramatically in 2008, keeping me away from the computer for long stretches, even days at a time.  Elf lady is left on her own much of the time, and this is a job that is way too big for one person, even one with special elfen powers!

Your patience and understanding is appreciated.

Elf girl

March 30, 11:03 am | [comment link]
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