So it is that I give you today a striking example of a richly deserved upbraiding of Bishop Jerry A. Lamb, whose uncanonical acts now bid fair to equal or surpass those of the Presiding Bishop. I wrote some time ago about his folly in presuming to "depose" clergy in the Diocese of San Joaquin. I warned that the only result of such an act would be to confirm that those very same clergy were needed to establish a lawful quorum so that the Special Convention held at Lodi on March 29, 2008 could transact business---including the business of confirming the Rt. Rev. Lamb, resigned, as "Provisional Bishop". And after he followed through just last week, by signing sentences of deposition for 61 clergy, I confirmed the end result of what he had accomplished: a demonstration, for any and all to discern, that he was not lawfully confirmed in the office he now claims to occupy. The emperor had no clothes, and Bishop Lamb has no see.
One of those 61 clergy whom Bishop Lamb has purported to "depose" is the Reverend Michael Fry, currently serving what was formerly a CANA, and is now an ACNA, congregation in Georgia. When he received Bishop Lamb's first letter of "inhibition", Father Fry wrote him a very polite response explaining that his case was unlike the others in the Diocese of San Joaquin. In particular, he had transferred out of the Diocese before it took any final vote to withdraw from the Church, and had done so with the full permission of its Bishop, who issued him letters dimissory. Wrote Father Fry to Bishop Lamb, on December 2, 2008 (quoted with permission):
One would think that this letter might have put an end to the matter. Even Bishop Lamb has acknowledged, in the verified complaint (i.e., signed under penalty of perjury) he filed in April 2008, and in each of the four amendments thereto he has filed since, that "In January 1989, defendant [the Rt. Rev. John-David] Schofield became Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin . . ." (par. 62), and that "On March 12, 2008, the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops met, and pursuant to Canon IV.9.2 of the Episcopal Church, authorized the Presiding Bishop to depose defendant Schofield from the ordained ministry of the Episcopal Church" (par. 91). Thus Bishop Lamb has sworn to a court of law under oath that John-David Schofield was Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin from January 1989 until (as he claims) March 12, 2008. What, therefore, could possibly be the problem with letters dimissory issued by Bishop Schofield in October 2007?Dear Bishop Lamb,
I trust this letter finds you well. Please accept this letter as a formal "Denial" of the charges of abandonment of Communion under Canon IV.10.1.I understand that you're dealing with a large number of clergy whom you do not know and whose circumstances in the present "troubles" vary.I left the Diocese of San Joaquin at the end of October 2007, prior to the vote to secede. I also received Letters Dimissory from Bishop Schofield dated October 29, 2007 transferring my orders to the Anglican Province of Nigeria under whose ecclesial authority I now serve (see attached copy).As Bishop Schofield was, at the time, a bishop in good standing in the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church still, as far as I'm aware, considers itself in Communion with the Anglican Province of Nigeria, the charges are plainly false. They are false both in the statement that I was a priest canonically resident in the Diocese at the time of the "Finding of Abandonment" as well as the claim that I did not request and receive a proper transfer. In any case I am in no conceivable sense under your authority or responsible to you for discipline.Please correct your records. I will be grateful to receive your and the Standing Committee's retraction at your earliest convenience.Yours in Christ,/s/Michael Fry
We do not have Bishop Lamb's response in full, but in his next letter, dated December 16, 2008, Father Fry quotes enough of it to enable us to see the ridiculous position which Bishop Lamb (along with his pseudo-Standing Committee) insisted on maintaining. Here is the beginning of that response, again quoted with permission:
Bishop Lamb's complaint that the "National Church" has "no record" of the Letters Dimissory is in reality a charge against Bishop Schofield of dereliction of duty. For as Canon I.1.6 (b) (6) plainly requires, it is the duty of every Bishop having jurisdiction, among other things, to "forward to the Recorder, on or before the first day of March of each and every year . . . the names of the Clergy who have been transferred during the preceding twelve months, with the dates of the Letters Dimissory and of their acceptance, and the name of the jurisdiction to which transferred . . .". (Use of the word "jurisdiction", instead of "diocese", contemplates just the sort of transfer which here occurred.)Dear Bishop Lamb,
I received your letter of December 10 expressing that you "have a problem with the Letters Dimissory issued by Bishop John-David Schofield." I suggest that the problem is wholly yours and should be corrected on your end. As for your statement that you "do not recognize this as a valid transfer," may I take a moment to instruct you on the purpose of Letters Dimissory both historically and in Canon Law:Letters Dimissory according to the Canons of the Episcopal Church [III.9.4(a)] are in essence a "testimonial." They are both a dismissal from the jurisdiction of the canonical authority presenting them (as the name implies) as well as a recommendation to any or a specific ecclesiastical authority receiving them. Your charge that the "National Church" does not have a record of such Letters is easily rectified: You have a copy, please forward it.
Father Fry quite properly points out that the letters serve only as a certificate, or "testimonial", of his good standing with the Diocese at the time of their issuance, and of his release from canonical residency in the Diocese of San Joaquin. (The canons define the term "canonically resident" as referring to "the canonical residence of a Member of the Clergy of this Church established by ordination or letters dimissory". Moreover, Canon III.10.2 (a) (2) requires that a bishop receive "Letters Dimissory or equivalent" before allowing any priest from a foreign church to officiate within that bishop's diocese. [Emphasis added both times.] How, then, can ECUSA expect a foreign church not to require them from its own diocesan when the reverse is the case?)
Bishop Lamb, however, arrogates to himself an authority he does not (and cannot) possess, and chooses to treat the letters as something more: as a form of diplomatic recognition, as it were, of the existence of the jurisdiction to which Father Fry transferred. What he does is fairly astonishing, within the confines of the Anglican Communion: he purports to sit and decide the validity of inter-Church transfers after the fact---after, that is, the two churches in question have concluded the transfer satisfactorily between them. Having set up this straw man, Bishop Lamb then proclaims that he will not recognize "the transfer as valid."
To which the only proper response is that given to Bishop Lamb by Father Fry, as follows:
The validity of the transfer is entirely in the eyes of the receiving jurisdiction. However you may feel about the situation is irrelevant. We are governed by canon law. I have attached a letter of certification from CANA that I am a clergyman in good standing (hence proof of acceptance). The charges of abandonment which you insist "will remain in force" are as farcical now as ever. I am an Anglican priest in good standing within a missionary jurisdiction of the Anglican Province of Nigeria. If you have any questions regarding the status of CANA you may explore the relationship yourself on the Province of Nigeria's website here: http://www.anglican-nig.org/To claim that I have "abandoned the communion of this church" is to insist that TEC is not in communion with the Province of Nigeria. That is a decision only General Convention can make. For you, or anyone else, to make that claim at this time is Orwellian in the extreme.
The claim, in short, is not Bishop Lamb's to make, even if it could be regarded as valid. The letters were valid when issued as between Bishop Schofield, who was the diocesan and had the authority to issue them (as many other diocesans did before him), and the Anglican Church of Nigeria, which accepted them. And that is all that anyone can have to say about the matter.
Thus Bishop Lamb challenges the validity of his predecessor's act for the sole purpose of asserting the right to "depose" from ECUSA someone who transferred out of it---who went to a sister church in the Anglican Communion, and hence in no sense of the word "abandoned the communion of this Church" within the meaning of Canon IV.10. Indeed, the pseudo-Standing Committee of the pseudo-Diocese of San Joaquin did not even have jurisdiction to bring charges of abandonment of communion against Father Fry in the first instance. Canon IV.10 begins (with italics added, for emphasis):
If it is reported to the Standing Committee of the Diocese in which a Priest or Deacon is canonically resident that the Priest or Deacon, without using the provisions of Canon IV.8 or III.7.8-10 and III.9.8-11, has abandoned the Communion of this Church . . .
But by the letters dimissory signed in October 2007, Father Fry was no longer canonically resident in the Diocese of San Joaquin when the pseudo-Standing Committee purported to lodge charges against him. Therefore, it was without jurisdiction to act. (Or---if it thinks he was still canonically resident throughout 2008, then it was bound to include him in its count of a quorum for purposes of its "special convention" in March of that year. It cannot have things both ways: present in the diocese for purposes of "deposition", but not present for purposes of counting as part of a required quorum in order to transact the lawful business of the diocese.)
What we have here, in short, is one more instance of ECUSA's overreaching its jurisdiction for the sole purpose of exacting a highly un-Christian form of "vengeance" in punishment for what it regards as "border-crossing". The vengeance, in fact, is toothless and futile---nothing which either Bishop Lamb or ECUSA does at this point can affect in the slightest way the status of Father Fry as a priest in good standing with the Anglican Church of Nigeria. And given that fact, the rest of Father Fry's second letter to Bishop Lamb is fully understandable---he is under no conceit as to Bishop Lamb's true intentions:
Bishop, I have no illusions that you will agree with me on this. You will do whatever you and your lawyers and 815 feel you need to do, regardless of what Canon Law actually says or implies, regardless of the actual relationships within the communion, and regardless of what is good and right in the eyes of God. The leadership of TEC (of which you are a part) would make Robespierre proud if he could take a few moments away from the flames of Hell to appreciate your handiwork.I would ask one favor of you, however: Please refrain from corresponding with me again. If your lawyers insist that some final word must be said I would encourage you to mail it to my California address which is probably still in your records. As I haven't lived there in well over a year, the Post Office will not forward it. That will make us both happy-you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you at least attempted to inform me of your final judgment and I will be spared the joy of reading it.My Church secretary here (who is a Presbyterian and an interested observer of this and many other actions of the leadership of TEC) has suggested a new slogan for you all to consider-The Episcopal Church: "Can you feel the Love". You are welcome to use it, we would not begrudge you any copyright infringement.Yours in Christ,/s/ Michael Fry
It is not recorded where Bishop Lamb mailed his "sentence of deposition". Should that meaningless piece of paper find its way to Father Fry, however, he would be entirely justified in treating it as German composer Max Reger dealt summarily with a similar piece of scrap, penned by one of his critics, in 1906. (You may read the full account of that precedent---and of an even earlier one, from Lord Sandwich---at this link.)
When an organized Church grasps at straws with which to assert its validity, its power and influence are on the wane. The futility of ECUSA's pseudo-depositions, pronounced by a pseudo-bishop installed in a pseudo-diocese, which in turn was conceived in an illegitimate meeting that lacked a constitutional quorum (as proved conclusively by the very actions of that pseudo-diocese and its pseudo-bishop), is now out in the open, for all to see---and to scorn.