Strange events

In CORRESPONDENTS this month we chronicle some recent strange events in the United States. The Episcopal Church is in turmoil, not least in deciding what is core doctrine and who has strayed from it.

These pieces, all appearing within two weeks of each other, highlight a pressing problem. Two bishops seeking to remain faithful to the Anglican heritage, in which they were ordained and which they have made solemn promises to uphold, are being pursued by the highest authority in their Church of ‘abandonment of communion. Meanwhile syncretism is being openly advocated and practised in the cathedral church of a diocese whose bishop is under no threat of censure.

This curious concatenation of events raises two inevitable questions, one about the polity of The Episcopal Church, the other about its faith and order.

The first can be stated plainly: is ‘being admitted into union with the General Convention of The Episcopal Church a one-way ticket or is a return journey possible?

The second is more complex and less precise: at what stage does a Church which fails to censure heterodox opinions cease to be recognizably Christian?

The Inhibition of John-David Schofield

In the text of the inhibition, Jefferts Schori wrote: T hereby inhibit the said Bishop Schofield and order that from and after 5:00 p.m. PST, Friday, January 11, 2008, he cease from exercising the gifts of ordination in the ordained ministry of this Church; and pursuant to Canon IV. 15, I order him from and after that time to cease all ‘episcopal, ministerial, and canonical acts, except as relate to the administration of the temporal affairs of the Diocese of San Joaquin’, until this Inhibition is terminated pursuant to

Canon IV.9(2) or superseded by decision of the House of Bishops.’

Jefferts Schori acted after the Title IV Review Committee certified that Schofield had abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church.

On January 9, Upper South Carolina Bishop Dorsey Henderson, committee chair, wrote to Jefferts Schori, telling her that the nine-member committee had met that day and that a majority agreed that the documentation provided to them ‘demonstrated that Bishop Schofield has abandoned the communion of this Church by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of this Church.’

Jefferts Schori needed, in accordance with Title IV, Canon 9, Sec. 1, the consent of the three senior bishops of the church with jurisdiction (as opposed to being retired or not in diocesan seats) to issue the inhibition. She noted in the inhibition that Leo Frade of Southeast Florida, Peter Lee of Virginia, and Don Wimberly of Texas gave their consents January 11. T think what is crucial for us is that the bishop was presented with potential consequences of his actions long ago and repeatedly, and now the review committee has indeed made their determination, which will go forward to the House of Bishops,’ the Revd Dr Charles Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop, told ENS. ‘The three senior bishops have given their consent to his inhibition and, again, the ministry of The Episcopal Church continues and moves forward.’

At Schofield’s urging, the convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin voted December 8 to leave The Episcopal Church and to align with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

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.

Mike Glass, a San Rafael, California attorney who represents congregations and individual Episcopalians who wish to remain in The Episcopal Church, welcomed the actions.

‘The Title IV Review Committee’s certification of abandonment is the first step in clarifying and resolving John-David Schofield’s canonical status. The accompanying inhibition will provide safety

and assurance to those who are working toward the continuance of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin in The Episcopal Church,’ Glass said. ‘The inhibition also provides a safe space for those who wish to remain Episcopalian, but may have otherwise felt they could not speak their true heart for fear of retribution. My clients, Canon Robert Moore and I will use this time to continue our efforts to reach out to those individuals, missions, and parishes.’

Moore was appointed by Jefferts Schori as an interim pastoral presence in San Joaquin. He, Glass and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson plan to gather with Episcopalians in the diocese at a previously planned January 26 event titled ‘Moving Forward, Welcoming All’ The event is being organized by Remain Episcopal, an organization that has been a rallying place for San Joaquin Episcopalians who did not want to follow Schofield out of the church.T know that this clarification of the bishop’s status will be a relief to many Episcopalians in the diocese,’ Anderson said. ‘That clarity will help them in their ministry to each other and beyond in the continuing Diocese of San Joaquin. I look forward to being back in the diocese on January 26, and I hope that people will see this meeting as a chance for them to join with other Episcopalians who want to participate in rebuilding the diocese.’

On the afternoon of January 11, the Presiding Bishop called Schofield at the diocesan offices in Fresno, California, to notify him of her action, Robertson said. Schofield was not in the office and Jefferts Schori left a message with a staffmember, telling the bishop that he would receive copies of the certification and inhibition that day via email and fax, and by overnight mail on January 12.

‘To everyone involved and everyone throughout the church, again, our focus has been and continues to be the mission of the church in spreading the good news of God in Christ, of feeding the poor, of helping the marginalized, and that work has not stopped and will not stop within the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and throughout the larger church,’ Robertson said.

Schofield now has two months to recant his position or renounce his orders by way of Title IV, Canon 8, Sec. 2 or Title III, Canon 12, Sec. 7. He can also declare that the Title IV’s assertions are false.

The two-month time frame refers to the days remaining until the House of Bishops’ next meeting March 7-13 at Camp Allen outside Houston in the Diocese of Texas. ‘The House of Bishops will review and vote on the findings of the review committee,’ Robertson said.

If a majority of the House concurs, the Presiding Bishop must depose Schofield and declare the episcopate of the diocese vacant. Those remaining in The Episcopal Church would be gathered to organize a new diocesan convention and elect a replacement Standing Committee, if necessary. An assisting bishop would be appointed to provide episcopal ministry until a new diocesan bishop search process could be initiated and a new bishop elected and consecrated.

A lawsuit would be filed against the departed leadership and a representative sample of departing congregations if they attempted to retain Episcopal Church property. The first section of Title IV, Canon 9 says that a bishop abandons the communion of The Episcopal Church if he or she takes one of the following actions:

open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of the Church; formal admission into any religious body not in communion with the same; exercising episcopal acts [which include primarily Holy Orders and Confirmation] in and for a religious body other than The Episcopal Church or another Church in communion with the Church so as to extend to such body Holy Orders as this Church holds them, or to administer on behalf of such religious body; confirmation without the express consent and commission of the proper authority in this Church.

[Episcopal News Service]

A Statement from the Bishop of Fort Worth on Bishop Schofield’s Inhibition

It comes as no surprise that the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church has initiated canonical actions against the Rt Revd John-David Schofield to remove him from office. However, the matter is complicated by the fact that Bishop Schofield and the Diocese of San Joaquin, by constitutional action of their Convention, are no longer a part of The Episcopal Church. They now function under the authority of the Province of the Southern Cone. Disciplinary actions cannot be taken by this Province against a Bishop who is a member of another Province of the Anglican Communion.

The House of Bishops of TEC can indeed prevent Bishop Schofield from functioning as a Bishop in congregations of The Episcopal Church. However, they cannot invalidate his consecration as a Bishop in the Church of God, nor prevent him from functioning as such in congregations that welcome and affirm his ministry as their Bishop.

The Bishop of San Joaquin has my friendship, my support, and my prayers during this time of turmoil in the life of our church.

The Rt Revd Jack Leo Iker Bishop of Fort Worth

The response of the Bishop of San Joaquin

The Diocese of San Joaquin and its Bishop, John-David Schofield, will not participate in any ecclesiastical disciplinary action brought against them by The Episcopal Church, according to statements released by the diocese and Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables, Primate of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone.

As of December 8, 2007 Bishop John-David Schofield is not under the authority or jurisdiction of The Episcopal Church or the Presiding Bishop,’ Bishop Venables said. ‘He is, therefore, not answerable to their national canon law but is a member of the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone and under our authority’

During its annual convention on Dec. 8, the diocese voted to dissolve its relationship with The Episcopal Church and affiliate with the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, which is based in Argentina. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori issued a temporary inhibition on Jan. 11 prohibiting Bishop Schofield from exercising sacramental acts pending a disciplinary hearing at the spring House of Bishops’ meeting. Bishop Schofield is charged with abandonment of communion with The Episcopal Church.

‘The Diocese of San Joaquin continues to move forward, motivated by the momentous consensus of our convention in December,’ the Revd Canon William Gandenberger, canon to the ordinary, told The Living Church. ‘The Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin is a member of the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone of South America and under their authority. Therefore, the actions of the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal

Church, in broken or impaired relations with more than half of that worldwide Communion, have no authority over our bishop or this diocese. Rather, Bishop Schofield continues to function in all the capacities of a bishop in good standing within the Southern Cone and the Anglican Communion.’

Attempt to censure Bishop Robert Duncan

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori informed Duncan on January 15 of the certification and sent him a copy. Her letter told Duncan that she sought the canonically required permission from the House’s three senior bishops with jurisdiction to inhibit him, based on the certification, from the performance of any episcopal, ministerial or canonical acts.

‘On 11 January 2008 they informed me that such consents would not be given at this time by all three bishops,’ Jefferts Schori wrote.

‘Pursuant to the time limits stated in Canon IV.9, the matter will not come before the House of Bishops at its next scheduled meeting in March 2008, but will come before the House at the next meeting thereafter,’ the Presiding Bishop wrote in her letter.

T would, however, welcome a statement by you within the next two months providing evidence that you once more consider yourself fully subject to the doctrine, discipline and worship of this Church,’ Jefferts Schori wrote in her letter to Duncan.

The three senior bishops with jurisdiction – Leo Frade of Southeast Florida, Peter Lee of Virginia, and Don Wim-berly of Texas – did give their permission on January 11 for Jefferts Schori to inhibit Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield. The House

will consider the case matter involving Schofield in March.

The time limit to which Jefferts Schori referred is a two-month period afforded to bishops subject to such a certification to retract their acts, demonstrate that the facts alleged in certification are false, or renounce their orders by way of Title IV, Canon 8, Sec. 2 or Title III, Canon 12, Sec. 7.

The Title IV Review Committee told Jefferts Schori on December 17 that a majority of its nine members agreed that Duncan had abandoned the communion of the church ‘by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of this Church.’

The Review Committees certification from Upper South Carolina Bishop Dorsey Henderson, committee chair, said that the committee received submissions alleging Duncans abandonment of communion from ‘counsel representing individuals who are either clergy or communicants in the Diocese of Pittsburgh’ and from the Presiding Bishop’s chancellor, David Beers, and his colleague, Mary E. Kostel. They asked the Review Committee for a determination.

Some 40 pages of material submitted by Pittsburgh counsel, which allegedly ‘trace the course of Bishop Duncan’s actions from the meeting of the General Convention in 2003 through the most recent Annual Convention of the Diocese’ in early November, is included in the committee’s certification and is available here.

Pittsburgh’s diocesan convention on November 2 gave the first of two approvals needed to enact constitutional changes to remove language in the diocesan constitution stating that the diocese accedes to The Episcopal Church’s Constitution and Canons as the church’s constitution requires.

The Presiding Bishop sent Duncan a letter prior to the convention, asking him to retreat from his advocacy of the changes.

[Episcopal News Service]

Effort to Inhibit Pittsburgh Bishop Unsuccessful

An effort to inhibit the Rt Revd Robert Duncan, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, has not been supported by The Episcopal Church’s senior bishops.

The news, along with a copy of the allegations made by the chancellor to

the Presiding Bishop against Bishop Duncan and the Title IV Review Committee’s decision to certify that, in their opinion, Bishop Duncan ‘had abandoned the communion of this church’, came in a letter from The Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori late in the day on January 15.

Bishop Duncan offered a brief response to the news, saying, ‘Few bishops have been more loyal to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church. I have not abandoned the Communion of this Church. I will continue to serve and minister as the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.’

[The Living Church]

Episcopalians hold an Indian Rite Mass with Hindus

Hindu nun Pravrajika Saradeshaprana, dressed in a saffron robe, blew into a conch shell three times, calling to worship Hindu and Episcopal religious leaders who joined Saturday to celebrate an Indian Rite Mass at St John’s Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles.

The rare joint service included chants from the Temple Bhajan Band of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and a moving rendition of ‘Bless the Lord, O My Soul’ sung by the St John’s choir.

‘This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience in worship service,’ said Bob Bland, a member of St Patrick’s Episcopal Church of Thousand Oaks, who was among the 260 attendees. ‘There was something so holy – so much symbolism and so many opportunities for meditation.’

During the service, the Rt Revd J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, issued a statement of apology to the Hindu religious community for centuries-old acts of religious discrimination by Christians, including attempts to convert them.

T believe that the world cannot afford for us to repeat the errors of our past, in which we sought to dominate rather than to serve,’ Bruno said in a statement read by the Rt Revd Chester Talton. ‘In this spirit, and in order to take another step in building trust between our two great religious traditions, I offer a sincere apology to the Hindu religious community’

The bishop also said he was committed to renouncing ‘proselytizing’ of Hindus. Bruno had been scheduled to read the statement himself, but a death of a close family friend prevented him from attending the service.

Swami Sarvadevananda, of Vedanta Society of Southern California, was among about a dozen Hindu leaders honoured during the service. He called Bruno’s stance ‘a great and courageous step’ that binds the two communities.

‘By declaring that there will be no more proselytizing, the bishop has opened a new door of understanding,’ Sarvadevananda said. ‘The modern religious man must expand his understanding and love of religions and their practices.’

All were invited to Holy Communion, after the Episcopal celebrant elevated a tray of consecrated Indian bread, and deacons raised wine-filled chalices. In respect to Hindu tradition, a tray of flowers was also presented. Christians and Hindus lined up for communion, but since Orthodox Hindus shun alcohol, they consumed only the bread.

During the service, the two faiths also blended practices during the handling of an icon of Jesus. The Revd Karen Mac-Queen, an associate priest at St Paul’s Episcopal Church in Pomona, who was the celebrant, carried the icon, a large painted image, during the procession. She placed it before the altar. Then, as she and the others knelt before the icon, a second Hindu band, Adoration Chant Band, sang a hymn while the icon was anointed with sandalwood paste by the Episcopal celebrant. A flowered garland was placed on it and a lamp was lighted, a sign of Christ, the light in the darkness. Both Hindu and Christian texts were read.

In her homily, A Vision for Inter-Religious Dialogue’, MacQueen said in both Hinduism and Christianity devotees believe that ‘the Divine Presence’ illuminates the whole world. MacQueen, who spent two years studying Hinduism in India, said both faiths revere great figures who embody the divine light, who teach the divine truth.’

For Christians, Jesus pre-eminently embodies the divine light, she said. For Hindus, she said, a number of figures embody the divine light and teach the divine truth.

‘To my knowledge this is an unprecedented event in LA, California and the US,’ said the Revd Gwynne Guibord, head of the ecumenical and inter-religious affairs for the diocese, which initiated Saturday’s project. ‘My personal, prayerful hope is that it will serve as a model of goodwill toward building up of a beloved community,’ she said.

K. Connie Kang, Los Angeles Times, 20 January 2008