BB NOTE: We may all remember what happened when the Diocese of South Carolina’s bishop-elect was not affirmed by all the standing committees of the dioceses of The Episcopal Church. Some tried to send in their consents via e-mail and those consents were ruled invalid. The only acceptable way to receive the consents was via snail mail – even for those dioceses in foreign countries. So while Mark Lawrence did receive (barely) the consents for ratification, several were deemed invalid since they were not received in the proper way. Looks like the same thing may be happening for the Diocese of Virginia and the recent election of Shannon Johnston (who was consecrated Bishop Coadjutor in May). The Presiding Bishop has received this letter from the Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin’s (tip of the tinfoil to Dan Martins at Confessions of a Carioca.
Virginia rewrote the testimonial deleting the following canonically required text: “fully sensible how important it is that the Sacred Order and Office of a Bishop should not be unworthily conferred, and firmly persuaded that it is our duty to bear testimony on this solemn occasion without partiality, do, in the presence of Almighty God, testify that we know of no impediment on account of which the Reverend A.B. ought not to be ordained to that Holy Order. “
As we know, the Episcopal Church has been enforcing strict canon law regarding the lawsuits it has instigated, but apparently the Presiding Bishop overlooked, ignored, or went a long trip to South America rather than face the fact that Virginia rewrote the canon requirement. Very interesting. Check out the response from Sarah Hey, of the Diocese of Uppder South Carolina, here.
Here’s the letter to the Presiding Bishop – actually the third letter. She and David Booth Beers have apparently not responded to the first two letters. We look forward to hearing what Schori, her Chancellor, and the Diocese of Virginia have to say. Or are some more equal than others?
Diocese of San Joaquin
4159 E. Dakota Ave.
Fresno, CA 93726-5227
July 20, 2007
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church
815 Second Avenue
New York, New York 10017
Dear Presiding Bishop:
Please review our correspondence sent to you, your Chancellor, and the Diocese of Virginia on May 31 and June 18 regarding consent to the ordination and Consecration of The Very Rev. Shannon S. Johnston as Bishop Coadjutor for the Diocese of Virginia. The matter of the Diocese of Virginia using a defective testimonial is of grave concern. We asked you in writing, within the 120 days from the date of notification of election, to confirm that a properly worded consent form was returned by a majority of Standing Committees. Now it is 6 weeks past our original letter to you and there has not been a response from either you, your Chancellor [David Booth Beers] or the Diocese of Virginia. Your failure to even acknowledge our written concerns leads us to believe the testimonials used by the Standing Committees did not conform to the requirements of Canon III.11.4.b. [printed here]
(b) Evidence of the consent of each Standing Committee shall be a testimonial in the following words, signed by a majority of all the members of the Committee:
We, being a majority of all the members of the Standing Committee of ______________, and having been duly convened at ______________, fully sensible how important it is that the Sacred Order and Office of a Bishop should not be unworthily conferred, and firmly persuaded that it is our duty to bear testimony on this solemn occasion without partiality, do, in the presence of Almighty God, testify that we know of no impediment on account of which the Reverend A.B. ought not to be ordained to that Holy Order. In witness whereof, we have hereunto set our hands this _____ day of _________in the year of our Lord _________. (Signed) _______________
The testimonial from Virginia reads:
Having been duly elected on January 26, 2007, at the Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia. We, being a majority of all the ____ members of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of ____, having been duly convened at ____, give our consent to the ordination and consecration of the Very Rev. Shannon S. Johnston as Bishop Coadjutor for the Diocese of Virginia. In witness whereof, we have here unto set our hands this ___ day of ___, 2007.
As you can see the Diocese of Virginia form for Standing Committee testimonial is defective on many counts. Since Canon III.11.4.b is crystal clear that the only evidence of consent is a testimonial in the canonical words, the Virginia documents do not constitute evidence of consent.
How did you “proceed to take order for the ordination” without evidence of consent from the Standing Committees? If you do something that is not canonically permissible, isn’t that a violation of the canons? Should you not have declared the election null & void as required in III.11.5? If you fail to do something that is canonically required, isn’t that a violation of the canons? I believe you are familiar with the requirements of both canons III.11.4.b and III.11.5 as you used both to declare null & void the recent election in South Carolina.
Without your confirmation of receipt of proper consents, we have a very uneasy situation. First we have what appears to be your unequal application of the same canon in two separate cases within months of each other. Second we potentially have the irregular consecration of Bishop Johnston [without consents from Standing Committees], calling into question his Episcopal acts. Third we may have before us a Canon IV.1.c liability on your part for violation of the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention. Since you are the person to inform the review committee if there is sufficient reason to believe that a Bishop has committed an Offense [IV.3.23.b], how do you suggest others can clarify the conflicted situation within the Church?
We began this inquiry within the 120 days from notification of election of Bishop Johnston. We ask again Presiding Bishop, David Booth Beers, & the Diocese of Virginia, for the third time, to confirm the canonically required consents, in the words as required by canon, were received prior to consecration of Bishop Johnston. Failing to make such confirmation, please advise as to what steps can be taken to have these matters forwarded to the Review Committee and resolved.
Because we have not had a response from our two prior, private, requests, we feel compelled to involve a wider audience in our concerns. The Standing Committee of San Joaquin is hopeful your written reply will appear soon.
President of the Standing Committee
Diocese of San Joaquin
cc: David Booth Beers
Diocese of Virginia Standing Committee
BB NOTE LATER: Why haven’t 815 and Mayo House responded after three letters?
Actually, this issue does pose a problem for the Diocese of Virginia and 815 in the lawsuit. It can become Exhibit A in the trial to show that:
1. The Canons can be interpreted any way you wish, including the Dennis Canon.
2. The enforcement of the Canons are random and not consistently enforced. In other words, they can mean whatever you want them to.
3. The Episcopal Church is not a hierarchical church since the “higher” national office did not require the “lower” diocesan office to comply with the canons.
4. Discovery could include The Episcopal Church producing evidence that it has enforced all its canons for the past fifty years consistently and with force to the “lower” dioceses.
5. Doubt to the “validity” of the bishop coadjutor’s consecration since his election was irregular as defined by the canons of the church.
No wonder neither 815 or the Diocese of Virginia have responded to three letters requesting more information in this matter. If they respond that letter will be included in the lawsuits (if they tell the truth). They will either have to give evidence that the Dioceses are at least equal to the national office (which is the truth by the way, if not actually superior since the Dioceses can elect not to send their assessments without penalty at General Convention – dioceses that withheld their assessments still were seated in both houses at General Convention) and so the Episcopal Church is not hierarchical (which it is not) or that the enforcement of canons is random (and thus puts their case based on the Dennis Canon at risk).
LATER: Jan Nunley of 815’s communication’s office admits that “Virginia did use a shorter consent form instead of the full, exact language in Canon III.11.4.b.” She goes on to justify the lack of adherence to the Canons of the Episcopal Church is voluntary – that in fact, 815 has not enforced adherence to the canons for quite a long time. This must also mean that their enforcement of other canons is also open to “interpretation” and do not need to be followed “to the letter.” We wonder if she consulted with the lawyers before she wrote her post. She admits that dioceses have not been following the canons for quite some time – and 815 did not care.