We received word yesterday that the Superior Court in Fresno had issued its final judgment in our motion for summary adjudication concerning who is the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin. I am pleased to tell you that the court found overwhelmingly that I am the Episcopal Bishop and therefore the Corporate Sole of the Diocese and have control of the properties and assets of the Episcopal Church. The importance of this decision by the Superior Court should not be underestimated. Here is a quote from the decision, “The diocese of San Joaquin (plaintiffs),” i.e. the Episcopal Church, “is not a new organization that ‘split off’ from the defendant’s older organization. It is the older organization from which defendants removed themselves.” I rejoice in this decision and give thanks to God in this blessing, but I am aware that there are more legal hurdles ahead of us as we continue to recover assets that belong to the Episcopal Church.
I am also aware of the pain and suffering that these legal actions and reactions have caused. I hope that this recent ruling will cause some of the congregations that chose to attempt to leave the Episcopal church to rethink their actions and become open to conversations about the return of properties to the Episcopal Church.
Please be in conversations with friends and acquaintances who are part of the group that left the Episcopal Church and invite them to return to the church. A motto of the Episcopal Church in 2009 is “All are welcome here.” We are strong enough and broad enough for everyone to be welcome here. I look forward to conversations with those who have left the church.
Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin
Well, its not over yet, but the case is building. The Diocese issued a press release in which some of the particulars were spelled out:
On July 23, 2009, the Diocese received an order issued by the Superior Court of Fresno County, California, sustaining the position of the Church and the Diocese that the Rt. Rev. Jerry Lamb is the Bishop of the Diocese and the officeholder of the Diocesan corporations, and that former Bishop John-David Schofield is no longer the Bishop and has no claim to any of the corporate or ecclesiastical offices of the Diocese.
In reaching this conclusion, the Court found that there is no question that The Episcopal Church is a hierarchical church, of which the Diocese is an integral part. It also held that “If the Constitution of the Diocese incorporates and accedes to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, which require accession, then the Constitution of the Diocese cannot be amended to remove such language.” The Court additionally ruled that the continuing Diocese of San Joaquin is "not a new organization" created after former Bishop Schofield attempted to remove the Diocese from the Church, but that the Diocese "is the older organization from which ([defendant] Schofield and the other) defendants removed themselves."
On that basis, the Court also ruled that the amendments to the Diocesan Constitution, Canons, and corporate documents that purported to take the Diocese out of the Episcopal Church were void and invalid.
The order will greatly expedite the resolution of the remainder of the case, which will ultimately provide for the recovery of the Diocese's properties and assets so that the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin can continue to pursue its ministry to the central third of California utilizing these resources. A copy of the Court’s Order is posted on the diocesan website."
They stated that "... we emphasize that The Episcopal Church consists of autonomous, but interdependent, dioceses not subject to any metropolitical power or hierarchical control. The Ecclesiastical Authorities in our dioceses are the Bishops and Standing Committees; no one else may act in or speak on behalf of the dioceses or of The Episcopal Church within the dioceses."
It appears the Superior Court of Fresno California believes otherwise.
That is not the end of the matter, of course, but arguments contending otherwise did not prevail in California. In California it appears they understand that contrary arguments notwithstanding, The Episcopal Church is a hierarchical church.