Friday, July 14, 2006

presentment likely against bishop of san joaquin

The bishops of California, Los Angeles and San Diego are preparing
presentment charges which may be filed as early as next week against
the Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, Bishop of San Joaquin, according to
three persons who attended a diocesan meeting July 8 at St. John’s
Church, Los Angeles.

For those who don't know, San Joaquin is one of the dioceses that has requested "alternative primatial oversight" since General Convvention.  It is also one of the three dioceses that maintains the apostolic teaching on Holy Order (i.e. that does not attempt to ordain women).  Read the whole thing here.


father thorpus said...

The article linked-to here is written in part by George Congar, whose reporting on General Convention I found to be fair and accurate. It references two 'offenses' commited by Bp. Schofield: 'tightening' the property laws and changing the diocesan constitution.

Here's the constitutional change:
“Article II – Accession and/or Incorporation of the Constitution of the Protestant Episcopal
Church in the United States to the Constitution of the Diocese of San Joaquin:
“The Diocese of San Joaquin accedes to and/or incorporates the terms and provisions of the
Constitution of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America to the terms and provisions
of the Constitution of the Diocese of San Joaquin to the extent that such terms and provisions, and
any amendments thereto, adopted by the authority of the General Convention, are not inconsistent
with the terms and provisions of the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of San Joaquin, as
amended form time to time, and ratified by any Diocesan Convention duly called and held.”

I found this at

and with a statment of objections at

Here's David Virtue's report of the San Joaquin property canon:

In the orthodox, Anglo-Catholic Diocese of San Joaquin they passed a
resolution that said "no ownership or proprietary interest in any real
or personal property in which title and/or ownership is held by the
Diocese of San Joaquin, its churches, congregations, or institutions,
shall be imputed to any party other than the Bishop as a Corporation
Sole (including a trust, express or implied) without the express written
consent of the Bishop and the Standing Committee of the Diocese." In
short, the national church now has no claims to any property of the
diocese. They will have to sue for it, but they cannot use the Dennis
Canon. Read the entire story here:

As to the constitutional issue, San Joaquin is not the only diocese that has such provisions. Pittsburgh does, Albany does, I'm sure several others do. Why pick on +Schofield?

As to the property issue, here's what FiFNA's website says about the Dennis canon and some recent legal procedings that bear on this discussion:

"ECUSA adopted, in 1979, a canon that became known as the "Dennis Canon". This canon specifies that all property held by a parish, even if deeded to that parish, is held in trust for the diocese. As such, it has made it extremely hard, if not impossible, for a parish that desires to leave ECUSA to do so and retain its property--meaning that if orthodox believers leave, they leave their property in the hands of the revisionists.

There has been a surprising ruling (in California!) that has ruled that a United Methodist church that had been restrained by the United Methodist Church equivalent of the Dennis Canon could terminate that trust and leave with its property. Peter Sean Bradley reports:

What this means is that the "barrier to exit" - the forfeiture of the real and personal property that the members of the church have donated for generations - for churches that are unhappy with the leftward tilt of their denomination has been essentially vaporized in California (and in other states with statutory schemes similar to those in California)."

The California court found that the Dennis canon had no legal teeth. I don't know how it would hold up in the state of New York, but it's certainly not an iron-clad lock on the property of orthodox parishes or dioceses. If this TEC canon is dubitable under California state law, doesn't San Joaquin have a right to question it? Again, why pick on +Schofield?

These were diocesan actions, taken by the entire diocese in Convention duly convened. If anyone should be disciplined for this it should be the entire diocesan convention. +Schofield may not have been able to defeat these resolutions even if he had wanted to. Again, why pick on +Schofield?

father thorpus said...

From the Living Church's article:

"On June 29, Bishop Griswold asked the communications office at the Episcopal Church Center to distribute a media briefing packet to bishops and diocesan communication directors.
“Dioceses, like congregations, do not ‘leave’ the Episcopal Church,” the document states. “Dioceses are creatures of the General Convention and continue in place unmoved by the choices of individual persons who may choose to pursue paths other than sharing in the common mission of The Episcopal Church.
“Should the need arise to declare a diocese vacant, the Presiding Bishop would be called upon to do so, and to engage a process of healing and restoration, including the eventual call for the election of a new diocesan bishop locally.” "

Has all of Anglicanism lost its ecclesiological senses? A diocese is a creature of General Convention? I recall there being bishops in the US BEFORE there was such a thing as a General Convention. Seabury's succession had nothing whatever to do with General Convention. In fact, there were diocese in this country long before we were separate from the CofE -- they were all under the care of the bishop of London and administrated by commissaries. These same administrative areas received bishops after the revolution and all got together to form the Episcopal Church. So you might say our current PB got it backwards -- since dioceses had to send deputies to the gathering that created our constitution, it would be more correct to say that General Convention is a creature of the diocese than the other way around.

And why is the Presiding Bishop threatening to unilaterally declare diocese vacant? Isn't this precisely the misuse of power that we witnessed in the diocese of Connecticut around the 'abandonment of communion' canon? If done, this would be an unprecedented escelation of persecution against the orthodox. It's the same thing that the province of Brazil tried to do with Cavalcanti, and I don't think they've succeeded.

And what the heck is the correct plual of diocese?

The long and short of all this is: we've lost our sense of ecclesiology. We are The EPISCOPAL church, not the General Convention church. Our polity is based on bishops, built around the fundamental unit of the diocese, and it is a soundly Catholic polity because of that. Our visible unity is not found in General Convention or in adherence to its rules, but in our theological recognition of each other as churches of Christ. You could whisk away General Convention and we'd still have a soundly Catholic structure with bishops and diocese(s) and everything we need to be church. The idea that General Convention is our God, setting our appointed boundaries, delivering infallible commandments, MAY be true, canonically, though if so it is unfortunate -- but it is an ecclesiological fallacy, and a dangerous one at that.

kendall said...

George Conger is spelled with an er at the end.

father thorpus said...

How embarassing. My apologies to Fr. Conger, and thanks to Kendall.