Skip to comments.Remaking San Joaquin (Following the Canons-Pt III)
Posted on 05/17/2008 6:55:47 AM PDT by Huber
III. Remaking the Diocese of San Joaquin: a Canonical Proposal for Harmony
Given the background that is in Part I of this Memorandum, and the analysis that is in Part II, the way forward to reconstitute the Diocese of San Joaquin according to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church is clear. Recall that the Diocese has always been an unincorporated association, and that such an entity is simply a gathering together of like-minded people for a common purpose. The group known as Remain Episcopal can therefore be fully accommodated in the ongoing Diocese, along with the other parishes, missions and individuals who did not join or participate in the irregular convention held on March 29 (because of its irregularity). All that is required of them is that they agree they want to continue as the Diocese of San Joaquin in Province VIII of The Episcopal Church.
(Your predecessor required that would-be participants in the March 29 convention sign an "oath of conformity" to the Church as a condition of participation. This was a condition without precedent in the annals of the Church, and should not be made into one for the future. The open nature of an association means that its members are free to join it and to leave it as they see fit.)
A Diocese needs a Bishop, and a Bishop can be elected only at a properly noticed diocesan Convention. Under Article V of the diocesan Constitution, a Convention must be called by the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese. In the absence of a Bishop, Article III provides that the Standing Committee of the Diocese is the Ecclesiastical Authority. Thus it is necessary first to consider the canonical status of Bishop John-David Schofield.
As noted in Part I, Bishop Schofield sent in a letter that resigned his seat in the House of Bishops, but did not resign his jurisdiction as Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin. He has since left with those members of the former Diocese who submitted to the jurisdiction of the Southern Cone. As explained in Part II, that group is an unincorporated association in its own right, but which The Episcopal Church cannot recognize as a Diocese in accordance with its Constitution. Thus if The Episcopal Church recognizes the remainder group as the true Diocese of San Joaquin, and because Article II, Section 6 of its Constitution requires the consent of the House of Bishops for a Bishop to resign jurisdiction, it will first be necessary to arrive at a way to declare the see of the (Episcopal) Diocese of San Joaquin vacant before a successor can be elected. If done properly with no prejudice to the ability of Bishop Schofield to remain as Bishop of a Diocese under the jurisdiction of the Southern Cone, there is no reason to believe that Bishop Schofield would not cooperate fully in this regard.
Your predecessor, and the Title IV Review Committee which reported to her, were frankly preoccupied with the mechanism for deposition provided by the "Abandonment of Communion" Canon (Canon IV.9). For reasons I have explained at length here and here, the use of this Canon to depose a Bishop who is leaving The Episcopal Church for another province of the Anglican Communion (as opposed to leaving for a church that is not in communion with The Episcopal Church) is improper, and ultimately self-defeating for TEC itself. The invocation of Canon IV.9 against Bishop Schofield served only to exacerbate the situation, and unduly prolonged its resolution, especially when the requisite number of votes could not be secured at the meeting of the House of Bishops which considered the resolution to depose.
I am confident from Bishop Schofield's public pronouncements that he has no desire to hinder or to impede those wishing to remain in The Episcopal Church from organizing themselves. That being the case, I recommend that we negotiate with his Chancellor the terms of a letter of resignation from any legal entity which this Church wishes to recognize as its own Diocese of San Joaquin. The letter would expressly provide that such resignation would be without prejudice to his right to continue as the Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin that is subject to the jurisdiction of the Southern Cone, and as incumbent of the corporation sole that bears the name "The Anglican Bishop of San Joaquin, a Corporation Sole." (When the court dismissed the lawsuit against Bishop Schofield and his Diocese, it ruled null and void the amendments to that corporation which had been filed by Bishop Lamb.)
Such a letter could be acted on by a majority of TEC's Bishops without the necessity of calling a meeting of the House of Bishops, under Canon III.22.3(b), and the way would then be cleared for the election of a successor under the Diocesan Canons, or (if the group wishes, after you consult with them) for the appointment of a Provisional Bishop under the terms of Canon III.23.1. Either of these alternatives would require the summoning of a Diocesan Convention, if the date of the next Annual Convention is not close enough. Pending any such convention, the Standing Committee could invite in a visiting Bishop, pursuant to Canon III.23.2, to perform any necessary episcopal acts.
You should promptly consult with the Standing Committee of the Diocese on any of these alternatives---as noted earlier, the summoning of a special convention, if the decision is not to wait for the next annual one, must be done by the Standing Committee, in the absence of a Bishop. There were, following the departure of Bishop Schofield, six members serving on the Standing Committee who had been elected at past diocesan conventions. (Your predecessor wrote them a letter saying that she refused to recognize their authority, which was an uncanonical act that further exacerbated the situation, and which led to the departure of four more of its members. Of the two remaining, Father Rob Eaton has indicated his definite desire to stay in The Episcopal Church; but even if he were the only one left, Article VII, Section 3 of the Diocesan Constitution empowers him to fill all vacancies on the Committee until the next annual Convention. I recommend that you follow up immediately on the contact you made with him just prior to your election.)
At the next regular annual convention, the Diocese can complete its organization and fill any vacant posts, such as those on the Standing Committee. Then, with either a diocesan or provisional Bishop in place, the Diocese can again take its place in the roster of Episcopal dioceses.
A final word about the property---the buildings, land and trust accounts that stayed with Bishop Schofield when he left. As noted in Part II, the court held that the Dennis Canon (Canon I.7.4 of TEC) applied only to the property of parishes and missions, and not to property held by dioceses. It was the policy of Bishop Schofield to allow any parish or mission remaining in The Episcopal Church to keep its property (so long as arrangements were made to pay off any debt owed to the diocese). Thus each of the parishes and missions that form part of the ongoing diocese already have their property as far as I am now aware, and I am certain that Bishop Schofield remains open to discussing amicably the particulars of any case that remains unresolved. The Episcopal Diocese now has property and accounts of its own in Stockton due to the generosity of the Church in funding it for the present, and with proper shepherding of those funds, and not having to expend them on further costly litigation, the Diocese should be viable.
Note by the Author: This exercise in imagination is wholly hypothetical, except for the facts given in Part I. Rather than having it turn out to predict the future course of the current litigation, the author hopes that those who read it, and who are in any position to bring it about, might use its points as a start in negotiating a compromise---among The Episcopal Church, the good and faithful Episcopalians of San Joaquin, and Bishop Schofield---that would avoid needlessly wasteful and rancorous litigation. A solution that lets everyone exist within their own parameters is at hand, if Christian consciences will only apply themselves to that end.
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