Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bishop Lamb Counts Heads

Bishop Jerry Lamb is the Episcopal Bishop of the San Joaquin Diocese (CA). This, of course, is a relatively recent event.

In a brazen move, now-deposed former Bishop Shofield removed the entire diocese (however, a trip to the San Joaquin Diocese site above denotes churches that did not follow) from The Episcopal Church (TEC) last winter--buildings, candlesticks and assets--claiming a new home under the Argentina-based Province of the Southern Cone. Bishop Lamb was then appointed to take over the Diocese last spring.

Many of the Diocese clergy followed Shofield out the door. Many did not. At this point, given the ongoing litigation (you can read about this at the Diocese site pointed to above, under "news") and the recent GAFCON/FOCA revelations, head counting is ever in order.

As with most organizations, it is prudent to know who is on your team, and who is not. You won't find liberal democrats, for instance, in the Bush White House. Nor will you find paid Angel players batting for the Yanks. In this case, there is also a more urgent reason.

While Shofield made the "on paper only" jump southward to the Southern Cone, it is worthwhile to note that this Province's bylaws do not allow for the region to extend into the United States. But who cares about bylaws, right? Wrong. Bylaws are important pieces of the fabric of a corporation, whether a church corporation or a for-profit corporation. In either case, the bylaws set forth the terms under which the entity will exist and operate.

At issue is not only where Shofield "exists" as a Bishop (under whose authority), but "if" he exists and whether he has the right to "act" in that position. He most certainly, today, does not hold that right in TEC as he was deposed, without his own objection. Under the terms of the Southern Cone's bylaws, he doesn't exist there either. So who IS this masked man, Shofield, administering sacraments?

For anyone disinterested in whether someone can or cannot administer sacraments, the point is irrelevant. It is NOT irrelevant, though, for a Christian being baptized, or one accepting communion from the hand of a happy wanderer potentially under no ones authority to do so. Is that baptism valid? Can one accept communion under Shofield? And if clergy, likewise, have followed into this no-mans-land (literally: there are no women clergy under Shofield), those receiving anything sacramental may be in the exact same position.

Clergy now is being given the opportunity to clarify, themselves as individuals, whether they ARE in service under TEC or not. And it is being done in a kind and gentle way with several options: Remain and serve TEC, leave TEC as Clergy, or remain in TEC but chose to no longer exercise your ordination in ministry under TEC (but not leave, thus giving the opportunity to return).

Bishop Lamb is doing the right thing for the church and everyone in it. As Christians and Episcopalians, it is vital that the sacraments be properly administered.

God Bless and keep you, Bishop Lamb.