Lawyer A. S. Haley, aka the Anglican Curmudgeon, also lawyer for the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin (consisting of the deposed bishop of San Joaquin, a number of deposed clergy of The Episcopal Church, and a large number of lay persons), has written an analysis of the ruling of the California Appeals Court issued earlier this week. It can be read in its entirety HERE. His read is very different from that provided by the lawyers for the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, whose comments can be read HERE. Apparently everyone calls them as they see them, but they sure saw different things.
Of interest is this comment by Haley:
"When it was admitted as a Diocese in 1961, San Joaquin acceded only to ECUSA's Constitution, and said nothing about acceding to its canons; its diocesan Constitution still reads the same way today, under Bishop Lamb."
The question is, does acceding to the Constitution imply acceding to the Canons. Apparently, A.S. Haley thinks not.
According to the Constitution (Article V Section 1) General Convention is to be satisfied that the proceedings of a Convocation forming a new diocese, along with documents and other papers concerning the formation of the new diocese, meet the conditions for forming a diocese, and that the Convocation "has acceded to the Constitution and Canons of this Church."
The Constitution of the Diocese of San Joaquin reads,
"Article II – Acceding to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church.
The Church in the Diocese of San Joaquin accedes to the Constitution of that branch of the Holy Catholic Church known as the Episcopal Church in the United States of America and recognizes the authority of the General Convention of the same."
Haley believes this does not then involve acceding to the Canons. I believe he is wrong on several counts:
(i) Article II includes the assertion that the Diocese of San Joaquin "Recognizes the authority of the General Convention." That authority includes the provision of canons related to the fulfilling of the mandates and intentions of the constitution of the Church. So if General Convention authorizes (votes for) a canon and intends it to be authoritative for The Episcopal Church, the Diocese of San Joaquin recognizes its authority to do so.
(ii) It would be helpful if the accession language of the diocesan constitution in fact repeated the language of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church, "Constitution an Canons", but it is unnecessary. Had the intention of the Diocese of San Joaquin been otherwise than to meet the requirements of TEC's constitutional requirements, would they have presented the appropriate papers, documents and certified copy of the proceedings of a Convocation? And would they not have stated clearly that they were willing only to accede to the Constitution and not the canons? The omission of the full language is not a sign of intent not to be bound by the canons.
(iii) The Constitution of The Episcopal Church itself makes reference to canons as an extension of its own intent regarding organization (see Article V. Section 1) and the Constitution makes reference to canons which extend the intent of the Constitution (see Article IV, on Standing Committees). Acceding to the Constitution of The Episcopal Church therefore implies acceding to the Canons.
(iv) Quite independent of the matter of acceding to the Constitution, every clergy person promises to "solemnly engage to conform to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal Church." The insertion of the word "discipline" took place in 1901. The Annotated Constitution and Canons, Vol 1, opines, "Inasmuch as a violation of the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention or of those of a diocese constitute an offense under Title IV, Canon 1, for which persons in Holy Orders may be liable to presentment and trial, it is appropriate that the engagement of conformity to the discipline of the Church, as well as to is doctrine and worship, be included in the declaration." Here the reference to Discipline is to the Constitution and Canons. The "Constitution and Canons" are viewed here as a whole, the Canons being by authority of General Convention the means of augmenting the Constitution for purposes of discipline and governance.
It seems difficult to contend that the discipline can be split into two parts such that the first (the Constitution) warrants conformity and the second (the Canons) don't.
For a variety of reasons, therefore, I believe acceding to the Constitution implies acceding as well to the Canons. This, of course, is very different from giving up the right to change either.
The reason Haley wants to make this distinction between acceding to the Constitution and to the Canons is so that his client can not be charged with violations of any Canon that the client might not agree with. The object is to make his client the authority regarding the need to conform to any specific canon.
My sense is that acceding to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church does indeed imply acceding to the Canons of TEC. Further, the application of the Diocese of San Joaquin does not imply, by its absence of mention of canons, a rejection of the need to conform to the canons of TEC.
But, what do I know? I am not a lawyer or the son of a lawyer. But I know when I'm being blind-sided.
What do you think?