Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Warning and Some Answers Regarding Bishops Leaving the Episcopal Church

We recently had a conversation in comments regarding the fate of faithful Episcopalians in San Joaquin after the anticipated vote in December that may align diocesan leaders with the Province of the Southern Cone. We now have some answers regarding what the response will be from the leadership of TEC. From Episcopal Life:

...In December the Diocese of San Joaquin is scheduled to hear the second and final reading of its constitutional accession amendment, a proposed act that may prompt "more dramatic action" beforehand.

At some point, assuming that all these and other constitutional changes go forward, the Presiding Bishop could ask the Title IV Review Committee to consider whether the three diocesan bishops who have proposed and supported these changes have abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church...

...If the Presiding Bishop were to present materials to the Review Committee regarding potential abandonment by the bishops in question, and if the Committee were to agree that abandonment had taken place, the bishops would have two months to recant their positions. If they failed to do so, the matter would go to the full House of Bishops.

If the House concurred, the Presiding Bishop would depose the bishops and declare the episcopates of those dioceses vacant. Those remaining in the Episcopal Church would be gathered to organize a new diocesan convention and elect a replacement Standing Committee, if necessary.

An assisting bishop would be appointed to provide episcopal ministry until a new diocesan bishop search process could be initiated and a new bishop elected and consecrated.

A lawsuit would be filed against the departed leadership and a representative sample of departing congregations if they attempted to retain Episcopal Church property.

"These are consequences, not punishments," Robertson said, "consequences that have long been clear, and are now being reiterated by the Presiding Bishop in the letters of warning. The goal is reconciliation, but also accountability."

Beers added, "The consequences can easily be avoided. But the Episcopal Church has the obligation to discipline its leaders under circumstances like this."
First the Title IV Review Committee will consider the matter. That could take a couple of months. The bishops would then have two months to recant. Then the entire House of Bishops would have to meet and vote. It looks like the faithful in San Joaquin will be in a kind of limbo for at least five to six months. That is not good. In a time of crisis like this, it is critical that the Church move swiftly to assure that her members receive the kind of pastoral care such a traumatic situation will demand.

A letter sent to Bp. Duncan of Pittsburgh is attached to the article. Similar letters will be sent to "other bishops," which it is safe to assume means Bp. Iker of Fort Worth and Bp. Schofield of San Joaquin, as they are the other two dioceses that are changing canons and making plans to jump to another Province (Quincy recently decided to wait). Here's part of Bp. Katharine's letter:

...I call upon you to recede from this direction and to lead your diocese on a new course that recognizes the interdependent and hierarchical relationship between the national Church and its dioceses and parishes. That relationship is at the heart of our mission, as expressed in our polity. Specifically, I sincerely hope that you will change your position and urge your diocese at its forthcoming convention not to adopt the resolutions that you have until now supported.

If your course does not change, I shall regrettably be compelled to see that appropriate canonical steps are promptly taken to consider whether you have abandoned the Communion of this Church -- by actions and substantive statements, however they may be phrased -- and whether you have committed canonical offences that warrant disciplinary action.

It grieves me that any bishop of this Church would seek to lead any of its members out of it. I would remind you of my open offer of an Episcopal Visitor if you wish to receive pastoral care from another bishop. I continue to pray for reconciliation of this situation, and I remain

Your servant in Christ,

Katharine Jefferts Schori
It is good to know what our leaders are planning. It helps us identify the gaps. We must fill those gaps.

San Joaquin's Convention will be in a month. We cannot allow faithful Episcopalians in that diocese to feel abandoned for six months while they wait for the slow wheels of canonical procedures to roll forward. It is past time to get organized.


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