Bishop Schofield of San Joaquin responds to recent Episcopal Church Actions

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Received via email--KSH.

It is with a mixture of sadness and joy that we received today a letter from Bishop Lamb wherein he purports to depose 36 priests and 16 deacons as of May 22, 2009. It is heartbreaking that The Episcopal Church chooses to take such a punitive action and condemn 52 active clergy with “Abandonment of the Communion” when all of these men and women are recognized around the world as priests and deacons in good standing within the Anglican Communion.Clearly, the traditional understanding of what it means to be a member of this historic Communion has been tragically altered by this action; and thereby The Episcopal Church needlessly isolates itself from their brothers and sisters around the world.

The Diocese of San Joaquin continues to reach out to the central third of California in active ministry.It will become one of 23 founding Dioceses, along with 5 more in formation, within the new Province of the Anglican Church in North America at its first Provincial Assembly in Bedford, Texas, June 22-25. Despite The Episcopal Church’s disregard for valid Anglican Orders and ongoing legal actions against us, the bold vision to bring all to an ever expanding knowledge and joy of the Lord Jesus Christ remains unchanged within the diocese. We rejoice over the growing number of ministries seeking to join themselves with us in the mission field God
has put before us.
We are, however,~grieved that the leadership of The Episcopal Church feels compelled to create this unprecedented division between the ministries of The Episcopal Church and their brothers and sisters throughout the rest of the Anglican Communion. For our part, we continue to recognize the orders of those who are properly ordained according to the Book of Common Prayer and who have chosen to continue to serve Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior within TEC.~~May God bless~all of us who share a common vision of ministry.~

--The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, is Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: San Joaquin* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues

Posted May 28, 2009 at 8:25 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. BMR+ wrote:

What I and I think many find very frustrating here is that there is not, and apparently never has been, a canonical provision allowing clergy of the Episcopal Church to be transferred from the Episcopal Church to the ministry of another Church in communion with this Church.  Episcopal clergy may serve in other in-communion jurisdictions, with the permission of their bishops, and there is nothing in the canons to prevent them from being received into canonical residence in other in-communion jurisdictions, but when they do so what they do, apparently, is adopt a sort of dual citizenship. 

Voluntary resignation of orders “in this church” or deposition for the “abandonment of the communion of this church” are the only canonical actions provided for non-Title IV situations when a cleric is to be separated from the ministry of the Episcopal Church.

It is important to note that resignation and deposition for abandonment do not presume to implicate the status of sacramental ordination.  If such a resigned or deposed cleric wishes in the future to return to the ministry of the Episcopal Church, the process of returning is administrative, not sacramental.

I’ve been talking with a few colleagues about drafting a canon to propose at General Convention to provide for the removal of an Episcopal Cleric from the ministry of this Church by way of Letters Dimissory to another diocese of a Church in communion with this Church.

Absent such a provision, there are some legal concerns.  It is quite common when civil actions are taken against clergy for, per example, sexual or financial misconduct, for the bishop and diocese to be named in the same action, as having presumed oversight of the cleric’s practice of ministry.  The Episcopal Church-TEC dioceses do in fact need some formal way to clarify that clergy functioning under the auspices of, say, a Southern Cone bishop, are no longer clergy of the Episcopal Church.  This is especially a concern here in Pittsburgh, where the Southern Cone diocese has insisted on continuing to use the word “Episcopal” in its nomenclature.  The Church Deployment Office and the Church Pension Fund, for example, with canonical mandates to serve the clergy of the Episcopal Church, likewise require some formal instrument to discern their responsibilities.

I have respect for Bishop Schofield, whom I knew very slightly when he and I were both in the Diocese of Northern California, and several of the clergy of San Joaquin-Anglican were classmates and friends of mine in seminary.  I pray that they will have a flourishing ministry and witness to the Gospel.  But I don’t really understand, given the current canonical environment in the Episcopal Church, why they felt they couldn’t simply each send Bishop Lamb or, if they don’t wish to interact with Bishop Lamb, perhaps to the President of Province VIII, a brief note that they would voluntarily “resign from the ordained ministry of the Episcopal Church” in order to undertake ministry under the jurisdiction of the Southern Cone.

Bruce Robison

May 28, 9:03 am | [comment link]
2. TomRightmyer wrote:

Title III Canon 9 Section 4 provides for Letters Dimissory for clergy moving to another diocese.  The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church formerly interpreted diocese to mean a diocese of a church with which this church was in full communion - generally another Anglican diocese - and bishops gave letters dimissory. A friend was transferred from an American diocese to a diocese in a foreign country. He was living and serving in that country.  After 2003 the bishops decided on a policy of not giving these letters to clergy who were not physically moving to the diocese where they sought canonical residence.  That’s a policy decision. I think it was wrong, but I also thinl Bruce Robison’s reading of the canons is in error.

May 28, 9:38 am | [comment link]
3. fatherlee wrote:

Bruce - The reason is rather simple - we don’t recognize his authority.  First, his election was a sham.  Second, The Diocese removed itself from TEC as a whole.  Recognition of his authority would have meant that we still believed him to be validly the Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, and therefore to hold legal title to property.

May 28, 9:55 am | [comment link]
4. Phil wrote:

I don’t see the concern, Bruce.  They left.  All Regional Manager Lamb would have to do to, apparently, make you happy would be to eschew the language of “deposition,” which presumes his own fraudulent authority, and simply send a short letter to each priest saying something like, “This is to acknowledge that you are no longer employed by ECUSA or any of its subsidiaries.”  But then, ECUSA would be deprived of the opportunity for petty vindictiveness.

May 28, 10:10 am | [comment link]
5. BMR+ wrote:

Tom, I am aware of that provision, and of the earlier, more generous interpretation most bishops gave to it.  However, I would note that even in those days such “transferred” clergy were maintained on the roster of the Special List of the Recorder of Ordinations.  I also have heard the argument about “actual residence,” but would point out that when Bishop Henry Scriven departed from Pittsburgh to take up actual residence and ministry in the Diocese of Oxford of the Church of England, the Presiding Bishop determined that “the only choice she had” was to interpret his bread-and-butter letter announcing his new work as director of SAMS-UK and thanking the House of Bishops for their hospitality as his “resignation of orders” as a Bishop of the Episcopal Church. 

In any case, my belief is that the earlier practice of sending Letters Dim to foreign jurisdictions was a loose and perhaps even incorrect application of the canon.  But in the present environment there is more need for clarity.  The Episcopal Church at present has apparently no way to distinguish between an Episcopal priest who associates himself with the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh-Southern Cone and an Episcopal priest who is called to a settled ministry in, say, Peru. 

Some clearer and more orderly process would be very helpful.

Bruce Robison

May 28, 10:20 am | [comment link]
6. Cennydd wrote:

As it stands now, the process is as clear as mud.

May 28, 11:12 am | [comment link]
7. Stuart Smith wrote:

#5:  The willingness to seek a “clearer and orderly process” would be more believable if the TEC powers-that-be were not already seeking to seize property by costly civil law suits (expressly forbidden by Holy Scripture), and acrimonious name-calling.
It’s exceedingly hard to accept venomous depositions, compounded by dubious and un-Christian legal attacks, while entertaining the notion that TEC is simply “doing paper work”.

May 28, 11:39 am | [comment link]
8. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

CEOs do paper work.  Ergo ... .
Bishops defend the Faith, save souls, minister to the Body.
Let who has ears hear.

May 28, 11:44 am | [comment link]
9. Cennydd wrote:

In that case, Schori and Company need to pay a visit to an ear specialist to determine how deaf they are.

May 28, 11:49 am | [comment link]
10. TLDillon wrote:

Lamb all but admits that there was not a quorum at that “Special Convention” which BTW was done against their own C’s & C’s so TEc has used Lamb to their advantage and his disadvantage. Read it here:

Lamb is not the “real Bishop of San Joaquin…the see is vacant!

May 28, 12:45 pm | [comment link]
11. Cennydd wrote:

Well, it seems to me that there really IS no see, is there?  There IS an IMAGINARY see, however, and one which has not been officially accepted by their General Convention, anyway.

May 28, 1:52 pm | [comment link]
12. TLDillon wrote:

Exactly Cennydd! The see is vacant…there are a few TEc parishes/missions that TEc is propping up with 815 money but that will soon run out and then what? I hop the judge considers to let this evidence be herd upon his ruling as I asked Mr. Haley and if the judge will consider it our attorneys will present it!

May 28, 5:06 pm | [comment link]
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