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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Why Not Just Let Them Leave?

Yesterday, the Rt. Rev'd Jerry Lamb, Bishop of Northern California, issued a testy statement in which he dealt with the request of the Rev'd David Miller, Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Petaluma, for Letters Dismissory to the Diocese of Argentina which would permit him and his parish to leave ECUSA but stay within the Anglican Communion. His Grace, like so many of the "inclusive" and "tolerant" leaders of our church, would have nothing of it and sarcastically turned down the Rev'd Miller's request. That was to be expected but then the combative and litigious bishop, still smarting after being slapped down in his attempt to bring abandonment charges against +Schofield of the Diocese of San Joaquin, turned up the screws. He wrote

“I have chosen to view David Miller’s letter of December 17, 2006 as a request to renounce orders in this church. This action was laid before the clerical members of the Standing Committee on December 26 and 27. They concurred with my acceptance of David Miller’s Renunciation of Holy Orders. I pronounced and recorded this action in the presence of two priests of this Diocese on December 27, 2006. As of that date, David Miller is no longer a Priest-in-Good-Standing in this Diocese and is no longer the Rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Petaluma.

“Also on December 27, 2006, I wrote to the Wardens and Vestry of St. John’s Episcopal Church that they appear to be in violation of Canon I.17.8, given their action to dissociate themselves and the Parish from the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Northern California. I therefore have declared the Offices of Wardens and the Vestry vacant.

“A priest-in-charge, Wardens and Vestry may be appointed at a later date.

Can't you just feel the love? The bishop has fired the rector, wardens and vestry and is prepared to parachute in a bunch of his satraps as replacements. It won’t work. The parish has already spoken: they want out of the diocese and out of ECUSA. No doubt they want to hang on to their building but if experience is any guide and should the bishop win a property fight (not a given in California), the people of St. John’s will simply hand over the keys to the diocese lawyers and set up shop in a local school auditorium or Holiday Inn conference room. There St. John’s Anglican Church (as it is now called) will become stronger and more vibrant than ever because the Church which is the Body of Christ consists of its members, not its real estate. You have to wonder if ECUSA’s leadership has lost sight of that.

+Lamb could learn from +Schofield as he begins the process of removing the Diocese of San Joaquin from ECUSA. +Schofield has stated clearly any parish within his diocese that wishes to stay in ECUSA is free to do so and may keep its property, too. When in the future increasing numbers of parishes vote to leave the Episcopal Church, would it be asking too much of ECUSA leadership to adopt +Schofield’s civilized approach and just let them leave?

UPDATE: The Documents in the Case (via titusonenine).

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