Monday, January 28, 2008

More on the San Joaquin Standing Committee

After reading more about the decision of our Presiding Bishop to no longer recognize the members of the Standing Committee of San Joaquin, I find the need to make a couple of corrections to my earlier post as well as admit to some degree of uncertainty as to what is actually going on here.

Here are the specific actions of the Standing Committee that Bp. Katharine identifies as the reason for no longer recognizing them:

...It has come to my attention that in the past several months you have taken actions in support of an attempt to take the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin out of the Episcopal Church and into affiliation with the Province of the Southern Cone. I understand that these have included voting to amend the Diocese's Constitution and canons and attempting to organize as the Standing Committee of an entity that identifies itself as an Anglican Diocese of the Province of the Southern Cone. These actions directly conflict with the Constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church...
In my previous post, I stated that the Standing Committee had voted to leave TEC before and during the December Diocesan Convention, and so the the clergy members could face charges of abandonment. Since then I have not able to find evidence of the Standing Committee voting to move to the Southern Cone prior to the December 8 Convention. I believe I mixed up the actions of the Fort Worth Standing Committee with those of San Joaquin. In regards to the votes at the San Joaquin Convention, we have no record of how those present voted. However, some of us did watch that Convention by video feed. Canon Jim Snell, former President of the Standing Committee, was seated with Bp. Schofield. I did not see him cast any votes at that Convention. aghaveagh, who was present at the December Convention, confirms that Canon Snell did not vote, but also adds a significant piece of information that might support Bp. Katharine's position: none of the members of the Standing Committee voted "no" in regards to joining the Southern Cone.

This causes me to wonder exactly to which vote to amend the Diocese's Constitution and Canons our Presiding Bishop is referring.

Regarding organizing as the Standing Committee of the Southern Cone, it appears that six members were dismissed by Bp. Schofield for not declaring themselves to be apart of the Southern Cone before they ever had a chance to get organized.

So, with the information we have, I am left a little confused as to why Bp. Katharine decided to take this action. Quite possibly there is more going on here that we don't know about. There are certainly good reasons to question the judgment of a Standing Committee that would not speak up and question such a clearly unethical and potentially illegal move. And there is also no question that what is transpiring in San Joaquin must be stopped as quickly as possible. But, since Bp. Schofield had already removed six of the SC members, I fail to see the need for our Presiding Bishop to send this letter.

Regarding Bp. Katharine's canonical authority to remove a Standing Committee, such a situation is not specifically addressed in the canons, most likely because no one ever imagined such an unusual set of circumstances coming to pass. There is no precedent.

A recent news item in the Bakersfield Californian might help us get some idea of how Bp. Katharine is proceeding in this situation. Here's part of it:

...The Rev. Canon Robert Moore, of Seattle, who was appointed by the Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, as an “interim pastoral presence” in the San Joaquin Valley, spent the day in the greater Bakersfield area as part of a five-day “listening tour” that will culminate in a valley-wide conference in Hanford on Saturday.

At a Thursday night gathering of 60 to 70 believers and clergy at First Congregational Church and hosted by Remain Episcopal in the Diocese of San Joaquin, a faith community opposed to the split, Moore received hearty applause when he announced he had appointed the Rev. Tim Vivian, a Bakersfield resident, to a “temporary pastoral position as missionary priest under my direct supervision, which puts him within the jurisdiction of the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.”

Moore thus opened the way for Vivian to administer sacraments such as marriage, baptism and the eucharist to local believers who don’t have a parish to go to, as all three diocesan parishes in Bakersfield voted in favor of the split. Vivian is a Remain Episcopal member and a licensed priest canonically resident in Los Angeles, meaning he could perform priestly duties in that diocese but not in San Joaquin without proper licensing or consent.

“There’s no bishop to license him” locally, Moore said, since Jefferts Schori formally declared on Jan. 11 that San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield, who led the diocesan split, had abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church and “inhibited,” or stopped, his duties as a bishop. Vivian’s temporary assignment will cease “as soon as there is a new bishop,” Moore said.

“We’re inventing it as we go,” Moore said about the arduous process of rebuilding the split-up church, and said the night’s meeting was “not confrontational or to change anybody’s mind,” and its focus was “reconciliation and serving those who wish to stay.”

But he also said, “It is the national church’s position that a lot of what has happened here is not legal. People can leave the church. A bishop can leave the church. A diocese cannot.

“There are lawyers on both sides that are getting prepared for whatever legal battles need to happen,” he said. Most of those gathered were in favor of remaining within the Episcopal Church...
"We're inventing it as we go..." I understand why that might be necessary, but must admit that it makes me uncomfortable.

"...which puts him within the jurisdiction of the presiding bishop..." It sounds to me that since there is no bishop, Bp. Katharine is stepping in to fill that void.

If you want more opinions regarding the San Joaquin Standing Committee, Mark Harris and Dan Martins are worth a read.


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