While I would not use, as some have, the word stink, the DSJ situation is a mess. It represents a situation unconceived-of in the canons and constitution. I am of the opinion that the Standing Committee did not cease to exist on the illegal actions taken by the Convention, or as a result of their failure to interpose an action in the Convention’s or the Bishop’s path; in the absence of certain knowledge, I assume at least some members of the Standing Committee were elected at previous sessions of the Convention, not all of them at the “Robbers’ Synod” (a reference for all you church history buffs out there).
In any case, the duly elected Standing Committee has a canonical responsibility and is not merely a creature of the Convention, even though elected by it — any more than the Bishop is a creature of Convention because elected by it.
Moreover, I disagree with those who see this as being a “systems” thing. There are only, in this case, individuals, since a Diocese cannot, in fact, leave the Episcopal Church — there is no canonical way to do that apart from action of General Convention, and even then it is possible only in the case of Dioceses that are not part of the territorial United States. If you want the canons, that’s what the canons say. The “Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin of the Southern Cone of the Americas” is an “illegal fiction” with no standing whatever. There is only the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, with a number of disobedient or disorderly members and clergy (who meeting in convention took an action they were not by law empowered to take) and one bishop (now awaiting deposition), together with a number of loyal and obedient clergy and members.
The question comes down to, and has been posed as: does casting an improper vote or failing to exercise due diligence in preventing improper actions by others cause one automatically to abdicate an elected office? I would say not, for there are canonical procedures in place to address these failings; there is no mere ipso facto deposition absent an action by those with the authority to impose such a sentence. Even if the charge is abandonment of the communion of this Church (which is well appropriate if one voted to leave it and join Cono Sur) this should properly be addressed by the use of the canon next after the one already applied to the errant Bishop.
The situation is complicated by the fact that it is the Standing Committee itself that normally brings charges in such a case. As the old Latin tag has it, Qui custodet ipsos custodes — who will guard the guardians?
My view, then, is that if the members of the former/existing Standing Committee can unambiguously reaffirm their allegiance to The Episcopal Church (the real one), they should be able to continue to function as members of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese, and serve out terms until the next elections by the diocesan convention. (I disagree, by the way, with the language suggesting that there is a need to “reconstitute” the diocese; some organization and reordering is needed, but the diocese still exists, and the illegal efforts to amend its constitution are void.) This may, in fact, be what is happening in the interplay of letters and conversations, and the continued hard work on the ground by a number of folks, not least of them the Presiding Bishop.
We can only hope for some greater clarity as time goes on. But to blame the present problem on Katherine Jefferts Schori is not helpful: she is attempting to deal with a novel situation created by Bishop John David Schofield’s hubristic folly, “L’eglise, c’est moi.”
Tobias Haller BSG