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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Red Letter Calendar Day

Saturday, March 29th is a Very Big Day for at least two reasons.

The first is that I have the distinct honor of being one of those presenting Michael Sniffen to the sacred order of priests at 11 AM at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lattington, Long Island. It has been a difficult journey for Michael which has been painful for those of us who love him and believe in his vocation. The church says it want 'young vocations' and then they set up all these hoops for them to jump through because, well, "they need more seasoning." Sheesh! So, this is a most joyous occasion. And, his preacher is really, really good. Another young vocation who was my seminarian. I can't hardly sit still for all the excitement.

The second reason March 29th is a Red Letter Day on the calendar is that the Diocese of San Joaquin will be holding its reorganizational convention. You can read the ENS report below. You can also get the 'inside scoop' over at Fr. Jake's place.

Please keep both these important events in your prayers.

San Joaquin diocese prepares for its future
Reorganization effort to continue by 'taking care of people'

By Mary Frances Schjonberg March 28, 2008

[Episcopal News Service] Members of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin are gathering in Stockton, California, March 28 to take two major steps in reorganizing the diocese.

The first step will be a "service for healing and forgiveness" at the Episcopal Church of St. Anne in Stockton, the temporary home of the diocese. House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson will preside at the service and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will lead the litany for healing. The Presiding Bishop and a number of other clergy will be available to anoint people during the service.

Prior to the service, St. Anne's will host a reception for Jefferts Schori and Anderson. After the service, the Presiding Bishop will engage members of the diocese in a question-and-answer session at the church.

The Rev. Mark Hall, St. Anne's rector and acting diocesan administrator, told ENS that interest in the healing service is keen. Based on registrations, he estimates about 350 people will attend -- a number that will stretch the seating capacity of St. Anne's.

"We have people we haven't heard from in years calling and saying they want to be part of it," he said.

Hall said that while there is a "lot of joy" in the diocese at the moment and some people may be feeling "somewhat vindicated," the healing service is important.

"This is not about being triumphant," he said. "This is about being the church and taking care of people."

Special convention set to convene
The second reorganizing step will come the following day, March 29, at the Episcopal Church of St. John the Baptist in Lodi when the diocese gathers for a special one-day convention.

“As the faithful people of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin gather this weekend, it marks a sign of hope for the future," the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop, told ENS. "As specified in Canon III.13.1, the Presiding Bishop will be present to consult with the Convention about a provisional bishop.

"However, her presence and that of the President of the House of Deputies is also a reminder of the larger Church which stands with, prays for, and supports the people of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin as they move forward in mission and ministry."

Canon III.13.1 states in part that "a Diocese without a Bishop may, by an act of its Convention, and in consultation with the Presiding Bishop, be placed under the provisional charge and authority of a Bishop of another Diocese or of a resigned Bishop."

Delegates to the special convention will be asked to consent to the Presiding Bishop's recommendation of Bishop Jerry Lamb as provisional bishop of the diocese. Lamb, 67, retired as bishop of the Diocese of Northern California in 2007 and most recently served as interim bishop in the Diocese of Nevada.

Lamb is expected to be seated at the provisional bishop during the Eucharist which will follow the close of the convention. He anticipates serving the diocese three-quarter time for a minimum of 18 months while the diocese searches for and elects a diocesan bishop.

The delegates will also be asked to sign an oath of conformity to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, and will consider a number of other re-organizing resolutions, including one to essentially return its Constitution and Canons to the state they were in before now-deposed Bishop John-David Schofield led an effort to remove the required accession to the Episcopal Church's Constitution and Canons.

That effort culminated at the 2007 diocesan convention December 8 when clergy and lay deputies voted to effectively remove all references to the Episcopal Church from its Constitution and describe the diocese as "a constituent member of the Anglican Communion and in full communion with the See of Canterbury." That convention also took a vote purporting to realign the diocese with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

The March 29 convention will welcome clergy who had not been allowed to serve in the diocese. Three new congregations: Grace, Bakersfield; Holy Trinity, Madera; and St. Mary's in-the-Mountains, Sonora; will be also welcomed. Delegates will also be asked to elect a standing committee and deputies to General Convention 2009 in Anaheim, California; and to approve a $445,243 budget, which is funded with money provided by the Episcopal Church's Executive Council from the wider church's budget.

Hall told ENS that 17 congregations will officially participate in the convention. Another estimated 20 congregations will have members present, he said. Such participation would represent a larger portion of the diocese than he and others anticipated would choose to remain in the Episcopal Church, Hall said.

"I'm hopeful that this [reorganization] is going to happen a whole lot faster that we thought," he said.

Meanwhile, a weekly announcement posted on the website belonging to the Southern Cone-affiliated Fresno, California-based diocese that Schofield is leading tells clergy and laity to stay away from the March 29 convention.

"No authorized special conventions have been called by Bishop Schofield," the newsletter announcement says. "There is no reason for clergy or delegates to be present at the gathering on March 29th in Lodi that was announced by the Presiding Bishop of TEC."

The newsletter also tells congregations that they should file their annual parochial reports of their activities and membership with Schofield's office "and certainly not to the Episcopal Church."

Reorganization efforts have been on-going
Continuing Episcopalians have been at work to reconstitute the Diocese of San Joaquin since the December 8 convention.

Jefferts Schori warned Schofield of the possible consequences of his actions prior to the convention via a letter and then asked him on December 14 to confirm her understanding that he had left the Episcopal Church and was no longer functioning as a member of its clergy.

The Title IV Review Committee certified on January 9 that Schofield had abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church "by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of this Church." Jefferts Schori inhibited him from exercising any episcopal, ministerial and canonical duties on January 11.

Schofield then told Jefferts Schori in a March 1 letter that he would resign from the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops on March 7, claiming he was doing so to prevent his colleagues from having to vote on the question of whether to allow the Presiding Bishop to remove him from his diocesan position.

Schofield wrote in the letter that he was both a bishop in the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone and the Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin. "The Episcopal Church has no jurisdiction or authority to affect my status in any of these capacities," he wrote.

During a meeting of the House of Bishops earlier this month, the Presiding Bishop said Schofield's resignation did not affect his status as a bishop with jurisdiction so it was still necessary to act to consider his abandonment of the communion.

Thus, on March 12, the House of Bishops consented to the Presiding Bishop's request that she be allowed to remove, or depose, Schofield, calling their action "the painful culmination of a lengthy process of conciliation and review."

-- The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is Episcopal Life Media correspondent for Episcopal Church governance, structure, and trends, as well as news of the dioceses of Province II. She is based in Neptune, New Jersey, and New York City. The Rev. Pat McCaughan, Los Angeles-based Episcopal Life Media correspondent in the dioceses of Province VIII, contributed to this story.

1 comment:

Muthah+ said...

"We have people we haven't heard from in years calling and saying they want to be part of it," he said."

This is good news indeed and should give heart to FtW and Pitt. The house of cards that Schofield and the like have tried to build in their dioceses are going to come down around their ears.