04 May 2009

Schofield and the schismatis to lose the corporation

The Fresno County Superior Court has handed the schismatics, and David Schofield personally, the largest defeat possible. The ruling is labelled "tentative" because the oral arguments will be heard 5 May. However, it is extremely unlikely that the court will reverse its opinion. My legal experts could not name one case in which a summary judgment was reversed by the issuing court.

In its tentative ruling for summary judgment, the court dissected each of the schismatic arguments in a thorough and calculated manner and ruled against every point raised by the former leadership of the Diocese of San Joaquin.

The ruling states that the Rt. Rev. Jerry Lamb is the sole bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, president of the corporation, and that the name of the diocese belongs to TEC's diocesan structure.
The documents are clear. Only the "Bishop" of the Diocese of San Joaquin has the right to the incumbency of the corporation originally entitled "The Protestant Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin, a Corporation Sole" and given the number C0066488 by the Secretary of State. Moreover, the Episcopal Church has spoken as to who holds the position of Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin — [The] Reverend Lamb. Defendants challenge Lamb's election as Bishop on procedural grounds such as notice and quorum, but this court has no power to rule on the validity of the Episcopal Church's election of its Bishops.

Both the United States Supreme Court and California courts have held that in the case of hierarchical religious entities the civil courts must accept as binding and defer to decisions by religious tribunals with respect to religious doctrine, practice, faith, ecclesiastical rule, discipline, custom, law, membership, polity, clergy credentials and discipline, as well as religious entity governance and administration.

[...] Accordingly since the Episcopal Church has seen fit to recognize Lamb as the new Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, we must do so as well.
It is interesting that the court documents refer to him as David Mercer Schofield not "John David." The court recognized the legality of his deposition and stated that the courts may not interfere with the internal polity of TEC which it found to be a hierarchical church.
Secular courts, when resolving church property disputes, must not entangle themselves in disputes over church doctrine or infringe the free exercise of religion. (In re Episcopal Church Cases (2009) 45 Cal.4th 467, 478-479.) In re Episcopal Church Cases (2009) 45 Cal.4th 467, the California Supreme Court held that we must apply the "neutral principles of law" approach to resolving church property disputes in a hierarchical church organization.

In doing so, "State courts must not decide questions of religious doctrine; the court must defer to the position of the highest ecclesiastical authority that has decided the point. But to the extent the court can resolve a property dispute without reference to church doctrine, it should apply neutral principles of law. The court should consider sources such as the deeds to the property in dispute, the local church's articles of incorporation, the general church's constitution, canon, and rules, and relevant statutes, including statutes specifically concerning religious property, such as Corporations Code section 9142." (In re Episcopal Church Cases, supra, 45 Cal.4th at p. 485.) . . .

[...] Defendants dispute that the Episcopal Church is a hierarchical church, but both the California Supreme Court in In Re: Episcopal Church Cases and the appellate court in New v. Kroeger found it to be so. (In Re: Episcopal Church Cases, supra, 45 Cal.4th at p. 494; New v. Kroeger, supra, 167 Cal.App.4th 816- 817.) A review of the Constitution and Canons of the Church indicates that it is indeed hierarchical.
The court also addressed the actions of the 2008 convention:
[...] The 2008 amendment changing the name of the corporation to "The Anglican Bishop of San Joaquin" is likewise void. The Diocese of San Joaquin had not "duly authorized" the name change when it occurred. The only purported authorization came about after Schofield was deposed as a Bishop and the Anglican defendants were no longer recognized by the Episcopal Church as the Diocese of San Joaquin.
The Diocese is Properly a Party Plaintiff

[...] Although defendants make much over the fact that the Diocese acceded only to the Constitution, and not the Canons of the Episcopal Church, the court finds that the Diocese implicitly acceded to both by virtue to acceding to the Constitution. The function of the Constitution is to form a legislative body, the General Convention. The General Convention adopted and amends the Canons. Acceding to the Constitution that creates the legislative body, and recognizing the authority of the legislative body, while simultaneously denying accession to the product of the legislative body is nonsensical.

By analogy, a state could accede to the Constitution of the United States and claim that it did not accede to the federal law or the decisions of the United States Supreme Court. Moreover, the Petition for the Erection of the Diocese of San Joaquin mentions accession to both the Constitution and Canons. This strongly implies that it was always the intention of the Diocese to accede to both documents.

Finally, the Constitution of the Episcopal Church in place in 1961 required accession to both the Constitution and Canons. (Mullin Decl. Exhibit 8, Constitution of Episcopal Church, Article VI.)

Accordingly, the 2008 amendments to the Diocese's Constitution purporting to strike the accession clause and insert new language relative to joining the Province of the Southern Cone were ultra vires and void.
I am more concerned for David now than ever before. The stinging defeat and the blow to his personal infallibility and ego may be more than his fragile mental condition can handle. Please pray for him.

In all probability the former leaders will appeal the decision. However, doing so will be vain repetition. The ruling categorically states the judiciary cannot and will not rule against TEC polity or nullify previous judicial opinions regarding the schismatic claims. That opinion is sset in stone by citations from both the California Supreme Court and the US Supreme Court.

The most interesting development will be how Ft. Worth, Pittsburgh, and Albany process this complete legal defeat. One thing is certain: the San Joaquin decision nullifies their arguments.

Make sure to read the document posted at The Grapevine. Tip of the Biretta to Dusty for the news. The PDF format is here. Scroll down to pages 48 - 58 for the most interesting bits.

In the midst of our joy, remember that the people duped by Schofield are in mourning. They believe their cause is just. Twenty-years of a successful brainwashing campaign will cause them to see this ruling as a further proof they are correct and that the devil, working though the Presiding Bishop and the US Judicial System, is persecuting them. Pray for them, my friends - really pray for them

Personally, there is no joy in Mudville today. We are all losers in this mess.
    O God, you have committed to us the ministry of reconciliation of your son, Jesus Christ; give us the confidence in your power to forgive, as your son forgave us from the Cross. Enable us to be witnesses of your forgiveness at work and where we live. Unite us in a sacred fellowship to heal the hostilities we see, and give us the grace to love one another, rejoicing in this life together. Amen.