On Friday March 26, the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin filed a lawsuit against the former members of St. John’s, Porterville. This lawsuit is a continuation of the Diocese’s litigation efforts seeking the return of property from a number parish Churches that are currently occupied by former members of The Episcopal Church who have sought to affiliate with a different denomination. On February 8, a suit was filed against the former members of St. Francis, Turlock, A similar suit was filed against former members of St. Michael’s, Ridgecrest on February 26. A third lawsuit was filed against former members of St. Columba, Fresno on March 11.
Unfortunately, such litigation became necessary after the invitations of the Diocesan Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Jerry Lamb, to discuss the orderly return of the Churches were largely ignored. . . .
The lawsuit against St. John's, Porterville was thus the fourth such action brought by Bishop Lamb against former parishes of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. But the Rev. Lee Nelson, of St. John's parish in Stockton, which is the next in line to be sued by Bishop Lamb, says:
I am saddened to report to you that the Episcopal Church USA and its local affiliates will soon be filing litigation against our parish in an effort to shut down St. John’s and to seize all of our property and our operating funds. Despite our best efforts to reach out to them and to find a resolution, our efforts have been rebuffed and we have been informed that they have no interest in anything other than shutting down our parish, seizing our church property, and confiscating our operating funds.
Bishop Jerry A. Lamb says (emphasis added):
The litigation is focused on returning the properties and assets to the mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.
St. John’s was independently established more than 160 years ago. Captain Charles Weber, the founder of the City of Stockton, granted the very first residents of Stockton this very parcel of land for the purposes of establishing an Anglican parish church. St. John’s existed long before the Diocese of San Joaquin or, for that matter, any Episcopal Bishop in California. When Bishop William Ingraham Kip, the first missionary bishop of the Episcopal Church, first visited our congregation, he found a worshipping congregation of 300 souls, producing prayerbooks from their pockets and meeting in a courtroom. Our parish was built, funded, and operated by generations of Stockton families committed to preserving the unique Anglican tradition in our community. We have never, ever received so much as a single penny of support from The Episcopal Church USA—though they cannot make the same claim in the other direction. . . .
There is no dissenting Episcopal congregation to install in our church building. (Indeed, the existing Episcopal parish in Stockton is itself barely viable.) If The Episcopal Church USA were to succeed in its efforts to seize our church, it will likely sell it—assuming, of course, it can find a buyer in this market—as it has done so elsewhere in the United States.
[R]egardless of whether or not litigation is pending, the Diocese remains committed to working with any parties to facilitate the return of the properties so that we can all be about the work that Christ has called us to undertake in His Name.
They have refused to even speak with us about settling our differences, despite two attempts on our part to invite them to meet with us.
Bishop Jerry A. Lamb also says:
We are called to continue the ministry that Jesus began. We are called in the same way as the disciples were called to follow Jesus to learn from him and then continue to proclaim his uniqueness. We are to live our lives in a manner that makes Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection manifest to a world that does not know him.
[ECUSA's] bishop, Jerry Lamb, is nothing more than a puppet administrator controlled by his handlers in New York, tasked with destroying the Anglican Diocese and its constituent parishes. Funded by The Episcopal Church, he has sued the Bishop of San Joaquin, Bishop John-David Schofield, in Fresno Superior Court, frozen the financial assets of the Anglican Diocese, and engaged in a “scorched earth” litigation campaign against the Anglican Diocese and its parishes. It is almost impossible to fathom that a Christian clergyman, who fashions himself a shepherd ministering in the name of Jesus Christ, could engage in such malicious behavior, so clearly contrary to the Gospel injunction against Christians suing each other in the civil courts.
In July 2008, Bishop Jerry A. Lamb told his "diocese":
It has been pointed out to me that some blogs are falsely claiming that I am not resident in the Diocese of San Joaquin. Let me assure you that Jane, Mark (the dog) and I do live in Stockton. We have been here continually since April 10, 2008. We have a rental home, a fenced back yard for Mark, and furniture provided by friends and yard sales. We plan to live here for the duration of my ministry here in the Diocese of San Joaquin.
A little over a year later, he told them:
The Standing Committee met last Friday and the Diocesan Council met this last Wednesday. At both of these meetings, I presented a request that we revisit the issue of how much time I am spending here in the Diocese of San Joaquin. As you know, after the Special Convention in March 2008, Jane and I returned home to Las Cruces, New Mexico to take care of matters concerning our retirement home. . .In 2008, Bishop Lamb swore under oath in Fresno County Superior Court that he was the only lawful "Bishop of San Joaquin", having been duly elected to that position "at a special meeting of the Diocese of San Joaquin" in March of that year. To be validly elected, however, the "special meeting" had to have a quorum of canonically resident clergy present, and there were only 21 recorded as present (two of whom had been brought in from other Dioceses, and so were not canonically resident in San Joaquin). And that was just one of the irregularities about that "special meeting."
. . . Given the budget at the national church, we cannot expect funding to stay at the level that it was for 2009. We will need to look closely at every proposed expenditure for 2010, and there may be savings in the area of the Episcopate.
Here is the proposal I made to the Standing Committee and the Diocesan Council. I will return to Las Cruces on December 1, 2009, and come back to the diocese for a period of 15 days every two months. . . .
Later in 2008, Bishop Lamb used his claimed position as "Bishop of San Joaquin" to pronounce the deposition of 61 clergy who he asserted had been canonically resident in the Diocese, but who had "abandoned the communion of this Church" by transferring to other provinces in the Anglican Communion. But 21 + 61 = 82 clergy who were canonically resident in San Joaquin before the "depositions" (giving the benefit of the doubt to the two outsiders). Under the Diocesan Constitution, which the group under Bishop Lamb purported to re-adopt, minus some changes made under Bishop Schofield, a quorum of 82 clergy is one-third of that number, or 28.
Thus by Bishop Lamb's own act, he proved that he lied under oath to the court in Fresno. There was no proper quorum, hence no proper "special meeting", hence no valid election of a "Provisional Bishop of San Joaquin." Bishop Lamb may be a bishop in the Episcopal Church (USA), but he is no bishop of no see.
In pronouncing the 61 sentences of "deposition", Bishop Lamb said:
I find the actions I was forced to take last Friday and Tuesday to be heartbreaking. I have known a few of these clergy personally and others by the stories I have heard about their ministry. But, the fact is, they chose to abandon their relationship with the Episcopal Church. . . . They declined to ask for a release from their ordination vows, and I had no option but to bring the charges of ‘Abandonment of the Communion’ to the Standing Committee last year and take these final steps today. It is a sad day.
Just weeks earlier, Bishop Lamb wrote to his clergy and parishioners these words (emphasis added):
In all this, we must remember our brothers and sisters who attempted to leave the Episcopal Church. We are rightly pleased with recent court decisions, but others will find them devastating. We should be reaching out to our friends and acquaintances who are suffering. Many members of the Episcopal fellowships remember vividly what it is like to lose your church. We cannot allow others to undergo that feeling of rejection or violation.
"Attempted"? Does Bishop Lamb mean that no clergy can validly leave ECUSA without the permission of a valid bishop, allowing them to do so? And that, unless they obtain such permission, their only choices are to "renounce their ordination vows" or face deposition?
Apparently not. For to him of the forkèd tongue, even a valid permission to leave ECUSA depends on who issued it. One of the 61 clergy whom Bishop Lamb claimed authority to "depose" in 2008 had been issued letters dimissory by Bishop Schofield in October 2007, and had transferred to, and had his letters accepted by, the ecclesiastical authority of the diocese to which he transferred. All of this happened before the House of Bishops voted to "depose" Bishop Schofield in March 2008; i.e., the letters were issued by a bishop in ECUSA who was fully recognized by ECUSA at the time of their issuance.
But after the fact, Bishop Lamb claimed retroactively "not to recognize" the validity of the letters, and proceeded to "depose" the priest in question anyway. Thus Bishop Lamb cannot recognize valid acts of the Church to which he belongs, because if he did, he would also have to recognize that his own position and authority are not valid.
Bishop Lamb is also well-known for his practice of opening communion to anyone who kneels at the rail, regardless of whether they have been baptized or not. This is despite the very explicit language of Canon I.17.7 ("No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this church"). Canons have meaning for Bishop Lamb only when they let him do something he wants to do, like depose clergy who ought to have showed up to elect him. Even then, however, what the canons mean is to be ignored if that meaning would get in the way of the result desired. (As opposed to "process theology", this must be termed "outcome-based theology".)
Another example: when Bishop Lamb came to San Joaquin, Diocesan Canon 33.01 read as follows:
Sec. 33.01: All members of the clergy of this Diocese shall be under the obligation to model in their own lives the received teaching of the Church, and specifically that all clergy are to abstain from sexual relations outside of Holy Matrimony.
But this language prevented all sexual relations between clergy and laity of the same sex (or even between -- or among -- clergy of the same sex). Under Bishop Lamb's pastoral guidance, certain of his clergy (or was it laity??) proposed a change in this canon on the ostensible ground that "the canon in question puts sexual sins in a higher category than lying, gluttony, etc, because it is the only one mentioned." Specifically, they introduced a resolution at their convention to amend the canon by striking the second clause (all the words after "Church"). But if that were the reason for the change, then why could not this canonical change have been made years before, under Bishop Schofield?
Moreover, the justification offered for the change was that the Canon "as currently drafted is in conflict with the Canons of the Episcopal Church, under 'Rights of the Laity' (Canon 1:17.5) and 'Rights of the Clergy' (Canon 3:1.2), which forbid discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, disabilities or age. The proposed deletion of the language in the subject canon would remove any actual or potential conflict with the Canons and Constitution of the National Church." So the only possible conclusion to reach, as I detailed in this earlier post, is that relations among the clergy and laity would be more, ah, flexible than they were under Bishop Schofield.
The amendment passed on his watch, in October 2008. Bishop Lamb must read the Seventh Commandment to mean something different than Bishop Schofield. But that would be no problem for someone who cannot read Canon I.17.5, either.
When the Fresno Superior Court announced its tentative decision in his favor, Bishop Lamb wrote to his clergy and parishioners, urging them to "reach out to our friends and acquaintances who are suffering", as I quoted above. At the end of that message, he wrote:
Once again, I direct your attention to the prayer attributed to St. Francis in the Prayer Book (BCP p. 833). I urge all clergy to use this prayer as an additional post communion prayer at all services.
Let's see. The prayer of St. Francis referenced is as follows:
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
An "instrument of your peace." Yes, that would certainly describe a bishop who has instigated no less than five lawsuits against his fellow Christians, and who has a sixth on the way.
"Where there is hatred, let us sow love." Yes, exactly as when you decided to treat Bishop Schofield's perfectly valid letters dimissory as invalid, because they prevented you from deposing someone you needed to depose.
"Where there is injury, pardon." Oh, yes -- exactly as you did with the other 60 clergy whom you "deposed."
"Where there is discord, union." The unity that is sowed by multiple lawsuits is just amazing to behold.
"Where there is doubt, faith." As when you allowed your clergy to remove any doubt over their extramarital relations by sowing the faith of the New Teaching.
"Where there is despair, hope." As when you announced that you would no longer be a full-time resident in the "diocese" that elected you, and encouraged them to seek a new leader.
"Where there is darkness, light." As when you brought your practice of open communion to the unbaptized in San Joaquin.
"Where there is sadness, joy." As when you committed the cash-strapped "diocese" you led to borrowing another $125,000 from the DFMS (on top of the $200,000 it loaned you in 2009) so that your lawsuits could continue in the hope of eventually recovering some property you could sell for cash, or (better yet) bank accounts you could drain.
"Grant that we may not seek so much to be consoled, as to console." Yes, certainly, you offered consolation to those 61 clergy when you assured them that it broke your heart to remove them from holy orders.
"To be understood, as to understand." Ah, yes -- you surely showed your ability to understand Father Fry.
"To be loved as to love." No one could ever accuse you of wanting to be loved as a result of your actions in San Joaquin, that's for sure. How those actions show your love, however, is one of those infernal mysteries.
"For it is in giving that we receive . . ." No doubt; for what you have given to ECUSA, you have certainly received a lot -- that trip to Lambeth 2008, for instance.
". . . it is in pardoning that we are pardoned . . ." Just as you pardoned those 61 clergy, so shall you be pardoned.
". . . and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life." Amen.