Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mission Congregations In San Joaquin Threatened by Former Bishop

From Episcopal Life:

...Michael Glass, a San Rafael, California-based attorney who represents congregations and individual Episcopalians who wish to remain in the Episcopal Church, told Episcopal News Service (ENS) December 11 that he, local leaders, Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop David Booth Beers, and leaders from Episcopal dioceses surrounding San Joaquin "are coming together very soon to finalize our coordinated efforts to provide for the leadership needs, the legal and pastoral issues, and the financial concerns of our brothers and sisters in San Joaquin, and to provide for the continuation of the diocese"...

...San Joaquin's canon to the ordinary says parishes in the diocese can go through a "period of discernment" to "determine whether or not they are comfortable with the decisions made by their delegates." If a parish-wide vote shows members are not in agreement, the parish may "appeal to the bishop for release," the Rev. Canon William Gandenberger told ENS.

Speaking from diocesan offices in Fresno, California, where phones are being answered with the greeting "Anglican Church offices," Gandenberger said he did not know how much time parishes have to discern their future, and added that mission congregations cannot participate in such a process.

Glass and another person who requested not to be identified told ENS that Schofield threatened the personal livelihoods and congregational finances of priests who opposed his efforts to lead the diocese out of the Episcopal Church.

The unnamed person said Schofield told him during a break in the convention that diocesan support of his mission congregation will stop at the end of December because he abstained in the December 8 vote. Glass confirmed Schofield's threat. The warning came, the person said, despite the fact that money was earmarked in the 2008 diocesan budget for support of the congregation.

The person said both Schofield and Gandenberger told him and another congregational leader a month ago that diocesan support might cease, since any funds in the diocesan budget for mission would have to go towards Schofield's legal defense...
Congregations must "appeal to the bishop for release," and mission congregations have no option except to remain under the authority of the Southern Cone. And if they object, their assistance will be cut off.

This situation continues to become more and more bizarre.

I think it is time to start correcting the errors being made not only by most reporters, but also by more than a few Episcopalians.

The Diocese of San Joaquin was created by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Regardless of what Bp. Schofield or the other leaders of San Joaquin claim, they do not have the authority to move the Diocese to some other Province. They are free to decide to no longer be a part of the Episcopal Church. But to claim that the Diocese itself belongs to them, and they can do with it as they please, is either deranged thinking or an attempt to justify criminal acts.

It is Bp. Schofield who needs to "appeal for release" from his ordination vows, if he feels he can no longer remain an Episcopalian. Since he did not choose to proceed along that honorable path, but has instead chosen to leave the Church that granted him the office of Bishop, it is quite clear that he has abandoned the Church, and is no longer a bishop of any recognized Diocese within the Anglican Communion. He has become one of the "Episcopi vagantes," whose membership includes Joseph Rene Villatte as well as the former bishop of Recife, Robinson Cavalcanti. The latter, who is currently the bishop of no diocese, has also been adopted by the Southern Cone. Bp. Venables seems to have a fondness for "wandering bishops."

The point being, those congregations who consider themselves part of the Episcopal Church are no longer under any compulsion to recognize the authority of Bp. Schofield, or any other former leader of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. Unless you have expressed to Bp. Venables your desire to join the Southern Cone, you remain a faithful Episcopalian.

Do keep in mind, however, that such a perspective, even though it is the most obvious understanding of the current developments, will never be accepted as valid by the former leaders of San Joaquin. If you openly challenge the authority of Bp. Schofield, be prepared for drastic measures against you to commence, as the threats in the above article reveal. You are now sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

I would suggest that the 12 faithful clergy who voted against this attempt to steal an entire diocese, and any others who are having second thoughts about this rash act, be in contact with an Episcopal bishop as soon as possible to explore ways to protect yourself and your congregation during the difficult days ahead. Since San Joaquin was formerly a part of the Diocese of California, Bp. Marc Andrus would be the most obvious choice.

In the meantime, those of us outside of San Joaquin must continue to express our support for the faithful Episcopalians in San Joaquin. Such expressions need to be made in both word and deed.


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