Monday, June 16, 2008

TEC Seizes Property in Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin

Bishop Schofield is grieved by the aggressive and disturbing behavior exhibited by Bishop Lamb, his agents, and the leadership of the Episcopal Church in the USA. Despite having signed new by-laws in March 2008 declaring themselves an Anglican Mission of the Diocese of San Joaquin, and confirming that within a document sent to the Diocesan Chancellor from the Bishop’s Committee Clerk, we are informed that some eleven members of St. Andrew’s Mission, Taft, held an unpublicized meeting in late May with The Rev. Canon Mark Hall, Canon to the Ordinary for Bishop Jerry Lamb, wherein a majority apparently illegally voted to join the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. Neither the Priest, nor the Wardens nor Bishop Schofield were advised of this meeting, and therefore the gathering, held on church property, was without the authority reserved to the Priest in Charge. We are told that the Jr. Warden discovered that the meeting was to take place only one hour prior to its occurrence.

Subsequent to that meeting the Junior Warden and Treasurer each resigned, although for differing reasons. Soon thereafter, a phone call was received by the Priest in Charge (appointed there by Bishop John-David Schofield many months earlier) from Canon Hall, informing him that his position was terminated at St. Andrew’s. That priest immediately notified Bishop Schofield of that conversation. Letters written by Bishop Lamb, dated June 1, 2008, were soon delivered to the Priest’s home and the Senior Warden’s home informing each that they were no longer appointed to their prior roles, and that Bishop Lamb had appointed new Wardens and an entirely new Bishop’s Committee. He also re-appointed the Treasurer who had resigned just days before despite the fact that this individual is no longer a member of St. Andrews having transferred her membership to the Diocese of Hawaii.

On June 4th Bishop John-David Schofield, Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, a recognized member Diocese of the Province of the Southern Cone of South America, was informed that some of the members above changed the locks on the doors without any court order, thereby seizing the property and preventing Anglican members from entering freely as they had been able to before. Additionally, we were to understand that Canon Hall was to preside at services held on that Sunday, June 8th, at the direction of his Episcopal Bishop.

Bishop Schofield is grieved by the aggressive and disturbing behavior exhibited by Bishop Lamb, his agents, and the leadership of the Episcopal Church in the USA. Established protocols exist within the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin to assist churches to rightly discern the mind of their members, yet none of these seem to have been considered and Bishop Lamb appeared to follow no protocol at all as he reached out to seize this Church. It might be considered abusive behavior that many of the members of St. Andrews received no knowledge of that meeting about to take place. This was not an informed congregation nor could an informed decision be made as, apparently, two strong personalities within their body manipulated the situation so that only those who could be counted upon for affirmation were notified of the meeting and called upon to vote accordingly. No Canons or By-Laws were followed to provide the congregation proper notification of a Parish Meeting (normally 30 days notice), to confirm the qualifications of those voting, minutes of said meeting, or any other ecclesiastical standards. While this is a very small congregation averaging only 18 in attendance on a Sunday (according to 2007 parochial reports submitted), it appears that a vote of 9 to 2 is not a simple majority of those qualified to vote, but only a majority who had the select knowledge and opportunity to be present at this secret meeting of church members.

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 an indefinite period of discernment and the option of staying with the Episcopal Church, and those who did so were permitted to keep all of their real and personal property with the blessings of the Diocese and its elected bishop of nineteen years, The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield.

No decisions have been formally made concerning future actions of the Bishop, Standing Committee, or Diocesan Council regarding this matter. Many here rejoice in the graciousness of Bishop Schofield to the people and clergy who have determined to remain part of the Episcopal Church, and to those at St. Andrews Mission, noting the contrast of his behavior to the divisiveness of the appointed Provisional Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese who verbally claims to seek reconciliation while actions say otherwise. We mourn the fact that leaders within The Episcopal Church continue to behave in ways that cause damage to the Body of Christ by initiating ecclesiastical actions and litigation against Bishop Schofield and this Anglican Diocese, and proceed to further tear the fabric of the world-wide Anglican Communion.


Anonymous said...

My prayers have been and are with His Grace and the priests of San Joaquin. It is completely obvious that Canon Law is followed only when it fits the intentions of TEC but do not seemingly apply when it goes against their will. Hmm, kinda like the Gospel.

Alan Rogers said...

Howard, as usual what a fine biased report you present!
The good people at Taft, by acting prudently, have probably saved their church from a a re-cap of Trinity church Madera. In case you forgot, your bishop closed that church in 2004 and sold the property, ignoring the tearful pleas from the little old lady members who had nowhere else to go. If you want to discuss someone causing "damage to the body of Christ," you could cite Madera as a prime example. Furthermore, one can only wonder if the proceeds from that sale have been put into the coffers of Schofield's Anglican Defense Fund.

The church at Taft has been struggling for years financially, and your bishop did not supply them with a vicar until they raised their pledges to his satisfaction. Perhaps if his approach had been more pastoral these many years, they may not have felt the need to do what they did.

Fred Schwartz said...

Finally, Episcopalians are beginning to realize the huge travesty that was committed both by them and on them and they are beginning to return to a place they have always been welcome.
I think we will kill the fatted calf!

Fr. Daniel Weir said...

As I read the Canons, the Diocese of San Joaquin is a Diocese because the General Convention affirmed it as such. One might even go so far as to say that the General Convention created the Diocese as a Diocese of the Episcopal Church. That being said, the Convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin has no authority to make the Diocese anything other than what it is, a Diocese of the Episcopal Church. The people of St. Andrew's Mission Church did not change the status of St. Andrew's - it had never ceased to be a Mission Church of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.

Fr Van McCalister said...

The idea that churches and the diocese to which they affiliate must be defined by property deeds and canonical machinations is a worldly and counter-biblical perspective. The Greek term for "church" in the NT is "ekklesia", which refers to "the called out" - the people, not the property, not the building. The Early Church clearly understood that the churches were a community of people in relationship with one another, under the pastoral care of their bishop, who was submitted to and following Christ. The idea that a godly bishop of a diocese and the will of the congregations of people who elected him should be ignored for the sake of canon law, which did not foresee nor address this scenario, is ridiculous. The diocese was formed and a bishop was elected by people who wished to serve Christ in their local communities through the oversight of apostolic succession. The people of the Missionary Diocese of San Joaquin did not seek to form a diocese for the sake of deeding it all to some national organization, which in 1911 had very little central authority. Yes, the General Convention gave approval to charter a missionary diocese but for what purpose? - to become a property management company for PECUSA? NO, for the sake of establishing congregations of people who would be fulfilling the Great Commission. This is our same goal and our same identity today. The (Anglican) Diocese of San Joaquin is still faithful to that original missionary charter.

HowardRGiles+ said...

Mr. Rogers,
You have an interesting view of the relationship between missions and the Diocese.

The Bishop does not keep vicars in his back pocket and send them whenever he fees like it. Vicars must live like everyone else.

The Bishop would love to have full-time clergy at every church of the Diocese, but many can not afford to pay the mileage and supply clergy rate of $200 a service let alone what it costs to support even a part-time vicar.

Neither the Bishop nor the Diocese supply vicars, the church must supply vicars by making it a priority in their budgets and in their giving. It is not the Bishop's satisfaction that has to be met in giving, it is the Lord's and either we give enough to support ministry at our local churches or we do not.

Fred Schwartz said...

Fr. Giles/McAlister:

I can only add that when Pinocchio came up with those types of explanations his nose grew beyond all proportions.

Truly, people are always free to go and we say, Go with God's blessing. But don't you think a fully informed choice by all concerned would have been better than a selected short subject?

Alan Rogers said...

OK. What about Trinity Church Madera?