Saturday, December 08, 2007

Leaders of San Joaquin Abandon the Episcopal Church

Some of you have joined me in monitoring the actions of the former Episcopal diocese of San Joaquin. I think those of you following the events would agree that this has been an historical moment in the life of the Episcopal Church. It may be wise for us all to remember, however, that this is but one scene; it is certainly not the final act of this particular drama.

The constitutional change, which removed all references to the Episcopal Church, was approved on its second reading.

During that vote, Bp. Schofield made a very curious comment. He announced that if they pass the resolution to join the Southern Cone (which was made public only last night), all diocesan clergy will become members of the Southern Cone. They would have to formally state their refusal of the offer before they would no longer be affiliated with the Southern Cone.

Other amendments to the constitution were approved, including one that made it possible for San Joaquin to allow congregations from outside their diocesan boundaries to join them. In other words, they became a non-geographical diocese.

A resolution which would add a new canon, "Canon 38", which would accept the offer for the diocese to join the Southern Cone was then approved. The impact that this will have on lay members, including members of the vestries and diocesan committees, is unclear at this point. But the impact on the clergy was made very clear by the bishop. They are now members of the Southern Cone, if they want to be or not, according his pronoucement.

As of 2:42 pm EST on December 8, 2007, the bishop and clergy of the diocese of San Joaquin are no longer members of the Episcopal Church.

Of course, we can expect 12 of the clergy (the faithful 12 who voted against these changes) to quickly reject the invitation of the Southern Cone. Remain Episcopal will be meeting shortly after the conclusion of this convention to make plans for the continuation of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, of which Bp. Schofield and at least 70 of the clergy are no longer members.

Regarding the response from the leadership of the Episcopal Church, we have an early report from Episcopal Life:

..."The Episcopal Church receives with sadness the news that some members of this church have made a decision to leave this church," said Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. "We deeply regret their unwillingness or inability to live within the historical Anglican understanding of comprehensiveness. We wish them to know of our prayers for them and their journey. The Episcopal Church will continue in the Diocese of San Joaquin, albeit with new leadership"...

...If Schofield is considered to have abandoned the communion of the church, he would have two months to recant his position. Failing to do so, the matter would be referred to the full House of Bishops. If the House were to concur, 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.

And that's how Nancy Key and other "loyalists" intend to proceed, she said. The group, "Remain Episcopal" will convene immediately after the close of San Joaquin's convention to strategize.

"We are prepared to work with the Episcopal Church to reconstitute our diocese," she said. "I feel this is what we are called to do. I am so convinced of this."
I find this particular drama to hit close to home. I was baptized by "Fr. Vic" Rivera at St. Paul's, Visalia. In some ways, I've always considered San Joaquin as my home diocese. It breaks my heart to see these scoundrels attempt to destroy it.

In the long run, they will not prevail. But they have already done much damage, for which they will one day be held accountable.

May God have mercy on us all.


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