The Diocese of San Joaquin: June 4, 2008
The following facts are given to correct and clarify recently published misunderstandings and misstatements regarding legal claims against the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin
All actions taken by the Diocese of San Joaquin were authorized by its governing bodies, namely, its Standing Committee and its Diocesan Council, along with Bishop Schofield. These actions were done in complete compliance with California law and were done to secure the property until a California court can rule on the issue of ownership. One of these actions was to retitle accounts held at Merrill Lynch; assets were not moved from Merrill Lynch. The property in question is owned by the Diocese and its parishes and not the Episcopal Church. The Diocese expects a favorable ruling by the California court on the issues of property ownership.
The Diocese of San Joaquin is a California unincorporated association that is governed by the California Corporations Code and its own internal Constitution and Canons (akin to bylaws). The Diocese is a corporate person; a legal entity recognized by the civil courts. In California, an unincorporated association is governed by majority vote of its members. There is nothing in the governing documents of the Episcopal Church which forbade or limited the right of the Diocese of San Joaquin from withdrawing and taking its property with it.
On December 8, 2007, the people of the Diocese of San Joaquin exercised their democratic right reserved to them under their Constitution to withdraw from membership in the Episcopal Church and to realign with another province of the worldwide Anglican Communion, the Province of the Southern Cone. The vote of the people of the Diocese of San Joaquin at a duly noticed and convened Annual Convention was overwhelming; nearly 90 percent were in favor of the realignment. Special provision was made for those who disagreed with the majority’s decision: each parish in the Diocese was given the option of staying with the Episcopal Church and those who did were permitted to keep all of their real and personal property with the blessings of the Diocese and its bishop, The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield. Ultimately, some seven parishes decided to stay with the Episcopal Church.
Unwilling to abide by the decision of the majority, the seven stay-behind parishes, in concert with the Episcopal Church, purported to hold their own “re-vote” to reverse the 90 percent majority decision of the Diocese and have filed papers proclaiming themselves to be the “true” or “real” Diocese of San Joaquin and seeking all of the diocese’s real and personal property. These assertions are not legally tenable.
Bishop Schofield remains a fully ordained bishop and is a member in good standing of the House of Bishops of the Province of the Southern Cone, a constituent member of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Furthermore, at least five dioceses within The Episcopal Church have rejected or questioned the legality of the Presiding Bishop’s actions in deposing Bishops Schofield and Cox.