31 January 2009

Prayers for my family

I would like to ask your prayers for my cousin's family, the Elliotts. They have been married 58 years.

Husband, Bernard has not been well for a number of years due to emphysema. Last week a small cancerous tumor was removed from inside his femur. We learned yesterday that he has stage four cancer and the doctors believe he will only live a few weeks.

Wife Zela is not in good health, either, and mentally, she is not dealing with the news well.

Three of their children are mentally disabled (40s -50s in age) and we have not told them that Bernie is dying. That is our task this week.

Bernie and Zela have become estranged from TEC due to the influence of Schofield. Please pray that they will allow me to call one of our local male priests. Zela said today the only TEC priest she would let in Bernie's hospital room is Fr. Martin.

This coming week we will bring Bernie home for the duration. I will be part of the care-giving team.

Please pray that if earthly healing is not in God's plan for Bernie, that he will not have pain, or that the pain can be managed without him being "comatose."

30 January 2009

TTLS has been noticed in Schofield's front yard

The TTLS's post on Mr. Schofield's attempted coup d-etat has been picked up many places around the web One such news outlet is Recordnet.com, "News worth sharing online." Here is a quote from Michael Fitzgerald's comments in "A blogger nails schismatic Episcopal bishop":
The Three-Legged Stool gives the best analysis I've seen yet of the San Joaquin Valley's Episcopal schism: a vast, oversized diocese meant many parishes far removed from the center became parochial; ultra-conservative Bishop John David Schofield replaced subordinates with loyalists; and when they split off, they took the property, because to generations of worshippers deeply connected to these places the property is the church.
You'll find the piece here. Look for the entry 29 January 2009.

Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton, taking a hiatus only once to earn a B.A. in journalism at California State University, Fresno. He has worked at The Record since 1985. "His column ranges through different beats including, sometimes, the offbeat." I wonder, is TTLS the "offbeat?"

My thanks to the many readers who have informed me about the the article being commented upon in so many places. And as always, many thanks to the sources who contribute to TTLS's articles.

So why did I post about the Recorder mention? Because it's Schofield's "hometown" newspaper.

29 January 2009

Schismatics and the Vatican

The Roman Catholic English speaking world is abuzz with rumors that Rome’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF -- new name for the old Office of the Holy Inquisition) has recommended to Benedict that he welcome a group known as The Traditional Anglican Church into full communion with Rome and give them their own personal prelature.

The Traditional Anglican Church was born in 1990 with nine groups. They signed a concordat which led to the 1977 Affirmation of St. Louis.

I'll give you one guess why they left their respective parent churches.
We affirm that the Anglican Church of Canada and the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, by their unlawful attempts to alter Faith, Order and Morality (especially in their General Synod of 1975 and General Convention of 1976), have departed from Christ's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church . . .
Sound familiar?

A personal prelature functions like a global diocese without boundaries, headed by its own bishop and with its own membership and clergy. The rumor is that the Vatican is thinking about granting a worldwide “province” to the Traditional Anglican Communion independent from all Roman Catholic diocese in the world. This isn't new, really. The Uniate churches have had an unofficial prelatures for centuries.

The first official prelature was that of Opus Dei, the controversial religious order that has been named in one “intrigue” after another and features in the da Vinci Code fantasy.

According to the rumour mills:
It appears Rome is on the brink of welcoming close to half a million members of the Traditional Anglican Communion into membership of the Roman Catholic Church. Such a move would be the most historic development in Anglican-Catholic relations in the last 500 years.
At the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, the bishops of the TAC signed a statement of acceptance of the New Catechism of the Roman Church and a letter seeking admission to Rome.
Archbishop Hepworth personally wrote to Pope Benedict in April 2007 indicating that the TAC planned a meeting of its world bishops, where it was anticipated they would unanimously agree to sign the Catechism of the Catholic Church and to seek full union with the Catholic Church. This took place at a meeting of the TAC in the United Kingdom. TAC bishops placed the signed Catechism on the altar of the most historical Anglican and Catholic Marian shrine in the UK, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk, before posting it up in the main street in an effort to gather public support.
If all of this is true, it would appear that the Vatican has decided to cease talks with Canterbury, and therefore the Anglican Communion, in favour of talks with this splinter group.

We need to note, too, that this “Traditional” group does not include groups that are in “communion” with Akinola. TAC berated the Akinola schism when the GAFCON new group would not affirm the St. Louis Affirmation.

Which brings us to another interesting bit. Apparently the Vatican is not interested in Akinola’s communion and definitely not interested in Duncan, Schofield or Iker.

One interesting bit from The American Catholic submits that
This is going to create shockwaves all the way to Canterbury and the rest of the Anglican Communion throughout the world. It will definitely make the prelates of England and Wales cringe in fear to the thought of hundred’s of thousands of Anglicans entering their realm and bolstering the numbers of faithful and dedicated Catholics. It will also certainly create havoc for Katherine Jefferts Schori and her bishops in keeping The Episcopal Communion together here in the United States.
I doubt that it will create havoc for the Presiding Bishop or TEC. We have survived the predicted Exodus to the Global South, so why would we tremble at the thought of some Anglo Catholics fleeing to TAC a group just as schismatic as the Akinola organization.

The group itself claims a membership of more than 400,000. But like the other schismatic groups, they offer no explanation or documentation as to how they arrive at that number. The actual facts are probably more about 100,000 if that. But, taking their figures as accurate, TAC has fewer members worldwide than the Unitarian Church in the United States. It is not in communion with Canterbury.

As for "hundreds of thousands" of Anglicans joining up in the possible prelature, it's doubtful. Well, it's doubtful there are hundreds of thousands of Anglo-Catholics who long for full communion with Rome, in my opinion. A few thousand, perhaps. Speaking as an Anglo Catholic (and our old friend Fr. Jake could tell you just how Anglo Catholic I am), I know not a single Anglo Catholic who wants reunion with Rome.

Whatever the facts are, if the rumors are correct, the Vatican is more interested in a small schismatic group that it is with the Akinola Schismatics or the whole Anglican Communion.

My one question is, why would Benedict want a bunch of disgruntled people joining his ranks? Schism breeds schism.

You may read more about this at The Record and at the The Telegraph.

UPDATED COMMENT: I did not mean to imply that those reporting on this story are spreading rumors. The are reporting a story, as I am. At this stage, though, it's all rumor and speculation.

28 January 2009

Why Schofield is so obsessed with the property

Last Sunday I was asked for my opinion on why the coup d'etat in the San Joaquin Valley seemed to come off so smoothly and what I see in the near future. After consulting my crystal ball, I have this to offer for your consideration.

When I was younger our parish was part of the Diocese of California . The diocese was one of the largest geographical areas in The Episcopal Church. To drive from one end of the diocese to the other took five hours on a major interstate highway. Our parish was four hours from the cathedral.

In such a large diocese one rarely sees the Bishop Diocesan. In our case, we saw him or the Bishop Suffragan about every three years. Usually, these visits were deanery "Pastoral Visitations" and not parish visitations as they were in the northern part of the diocese. Fortunately, we always had good bishops.

The curse of this is that each parish developed a parochial mentality because we felt isolated. Nearly thirty years later, that mentality is still at work in El Camino Real and has contributed to a "Congregationalist mentality" at the diocesan council.

So, what does this have to do with anything, you ask? I believe that it has a great deal to do with the tribulations of the Diocese of San Joaquin. This was recently confirmed by sources in the Diocese of San Joaquin (and according to Canterbury and the AC office, there is only one Diocese of San Joaquin and Schofield is not the bishop thereof ).

When we examine the events in that diocese, we see that there were four contributing factors:
  1. Geographically, San Joaquin is huge
  1. The congregations are basically isolated and inter parochial contact was forbidden
  1. The diocese has always had a conservative flavour
  1. Twenty years of unscrupulous leadership
In 1988, Schofield inherited a foundation well laid by the late Bishop Victor Rivera. He was a staunch "conservative" but he was was loyal to The Episcopal Church. David used that foundation to craftily "guide" search committees to call malleable clergy, and used his power as Ordinary to appoint like-minded ultra conservatives to mission congregations. He knew that the clergy would be his storm troopers when the time came. They had to be loyal to him, not to The Episcopal Church. Those clergy were instructed to only allow "useable" lay people to run for vestry/bishop's committee positions.

He also spent most of twenty years removing references to The Episcopal Church. Additionally, he prohibited the distribution of National Church publications and in some instances, he proscribed parish publications. By doing this he had total control over the information the laity received. He ended any contact between parishes and forbade any gatherings of the laity. Fred pointed out that Schofield even ended LEM training and gatherings of the ECW.

And the congregations allowed this to happen. The question we've all asked is, "Why?" The answer is found in number two above.

San Joaquin's congregation are few and far between. They are mostly old congregations established when the area truly was "The Big Valley." Generations of families have worshipped in the same buildings with other families who have also been there for generations.

These people have a real sense of ownership of the buildings. Some who worship in these buildings are the grandchildren or great grandchildren of those who physically erected the structures. These families are the glue that bind the congregations together though the inter-familial connections.
My grandmother is buried over there, and my wife's grandmother is just two plots away in the church yard. They were best friends and the church's first altar guild.

We were here before this priest came and we'll be here when he is gone. No one is going to run us off.
It is this "endure to the end" mentality that provided Schofield and his clergy the power to achieve the ultimate goal of setting up their own kingdom.

He simply held the buildings hostage. A tactic copied by virtually all of the schismatic clergy.

And, in the end, he was correct. Very few people could actually sever their tap root. They didn't follow Schofield; they merely stayed in the pews. And sadly, we see traces of the Stockholm Syndrome, too.

But the pain of those who could not remain is monumental. Not only did they walk away from ancestral buildings and long-time friends, they faced vilification and retaliation at the hands of Schofield and his minions.

Recently a funeral took place in the diocese for a long time member of a particular parish. The man had been a warden of the parish time and time again. Yet, on the day of the funeral the hearse drove past the church where the man had worshiped for decades and continued down the street to a strange church that had opened its doors to the Episcopalians in that town. Even in death the Episcopalians cannot escape the vindictiveness.

Is Schofield holding the buildings hostage? You bet he is.

But the taproot that allowed him to steal the buildings and congregations will be his Achilles Heel. It is the reason he is obsessed with keeping the property and the reason he is willing to bleed the coffers dry in the effort.

He knows that when he loses the buildings he will lose the laity. That's the main reason he continues to spin numbers and fabricate facts as he did in his Christmas letter . The other reason is his immense ego.

To quote a source in San Joaquin,
Schofield knows that what worked for him will work for The Episcopal Church--Where the property goes, so go the people.

27 January 2009

Wantland's Folly, or, a melodrama in half an act

I ventured over to a well known spite site and what did I find? The hot topic is still the former bishop of the Diocese of Eau Claire. Here is an interesting quote:
Forward in Faith is appalled by TEC Primate Jefferts Schori's intentional disinformation and abuse of Church Law in her attack upon Bishop William C. Wantland, a bishop of the Province of the Southern Cone, and Bishop Henry Scriven, a bishop of the Church of England. The actions of Jefferts Schori are an embarrassment to Christians and all Anglicanism.
I think we need a wee history lesson regarding the facts.

According to Episcopal Life:

Episcopal Church bishops William Wantland and Henry Scriven have renounced their orders and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has accepted their renunciations.

The Presiding Bishop said that Wantland, the retired bishop of the Diocese of Eau Claire, had written to her 15 November to say that he had "canonically affiliated" with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. She said that Wantland declared in his letter that he was no longer a member of the Episcopal Church.

++Katharine said that Wantland, who was serving as an assisting bishop in the Diocese of Fort Worth, sent his letter "as a result of the Diocese of Fort Worth's recent attempt to realign with the province of the Southern Cone." That action took place at the diocese's convention -- coincidentally also on 15 November.

Wantland's statement, the Presiding Bishop said, made it clear that he has left the Episcopal Church "and no longer wishes to carry out the responsibilities of ordained ministry in this Church." Thus, she said, she accepted his voluntary renunciation with the consent of her Council of Advice on 15 January and released him from his orders.

Before delving into the details of this renunciation, and the his curious response, it might be helpful to recall some of +Wantland's (unaffectionately known as "Billy Eclair") previous actions.

The infamous incident that is most well known is +Wantland's Attempted Coup d'Etat back in 1996:

...According to documents obtained by the presiding bishop's office, a group of conservative bishops created a non-profit organization in 1996, using a variation on the corporate name of the Episcopal Church. Bishops William Wantland of Eau Claire (Wisconsin), John Howe of Central Florida, and John-David Schofield of San Joaquin (California) are identified in documents as founding directors of a new, non-profit corporation registered in at least 24 states as PECUSA, Inc.--The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, Incorporated...
Led by Bishop Wantland, a former attorney, this "non-profit organization" attempted, by legal maneuvering, to claim rights to the name "The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America." More reading regarding this episode can be found here. Particularly noteworthy is this article, which suggests +Wantland's motive was to replace the Episcopal Church. Some lawsuits were filed to stop this attempted coup, and +Wantland received a strong rebuke from Presiding Bishop Browning, but no ecclesiastical charges were made. This is rather surprising, as a case could certainly be made in the secular courts that +Wantland had engaged in attempted theft.

As a result of this failed coup, +Wantland became known as an "expert in Canon Law." His opinion on things canonical were widely quoted, and he taught seminars on Canon Law at at least two of our seminaries. The fact that his "claim to fame" was based on failed criminal actions seemed to escape those who held him in such high regard. But they've never been to keen on the truth.

The other role for which +Wantland is well know is co-founder of the Episcopal Synod of America in 1989, which, among other things, opposed the ordination of women as priests and bishops. This Open Letter from the Synod, dated 27 July 1997, includes this interesting statement:

...It has become clear to us that the Episcopal Synod of America must more fully and thoroughly continue in its mission to 'be the Church’, proclaiming the Gospel and shepherding the faithful. We see our faithful pursuit of this mission as an essential element in the emergence of an orthodox Province of the Anglican Communion in America. We are delighted that many others share this vision . . .
Pay particular note of the year this was released. It was 1997 -- six years before +Robinson was consecrated. Another lie exposed is that +Robinson had nothing to do with the schism. He was, as I've repeatedly said, the flag around which to rally the troops.

In 1999, the Synod became Forward in Faith. The name changed, but the purpose for their existence remained the same:

Be it resolved, that the purpose of Forward in Faith, North America, is to uphold the historic Faith, Practice and Order of the Church Biblical, Apostolic and Catholic...while working internationally and cooperatively for the creation of an orthodox Province of the Anglican Communion in North America.

More recently, +Wantland, the supposed "expert" on Canon Law, has been one of the loudest voices claiming the Dennis Canon, which asserts that parish property is held in trust for The Episcopal Church, is not valid, for various reasons. However, it appears that Bp. Wantland was for the Dennis Canon, when it suit his purpose, before he was against it.

Which brings us to the most recent incident. Apparently, last November +Wantland wrote to the Presiding Bishop to inform her that he was leaving for the Southern Cone, but wanted to be an "honorary member" of the Episcopal House of Bishops.

Bishop Katharine's response, found at the beginning of this post, was to accept +Wantland's renunciation.

We should not be surprised by +Wantland's response:

...I can only conclude that either you (1) do not understand the plain and fairly simple language of either the Canons or my letter to you, or (2) have deliberately violated the Canons for your own purposes and contrary to your obligation as a Christian not to bear false witness. Further, as you acknowledge in your cover letter that I have transferred to another Province of the Anglican Communion, you therefore have absolutely no jurisdiction over me or my ministry, and your purported action of January 15, 2009, is simply null and void...

+Wantland has a history of being at the root of various schemes of schism, and possibly even outright theft. Looking at his history, many would agree that he should have been brought before an ecclesiastical court twelve years ago. Yet, for some strange reason he feels entitled to be an honorary member of the House of Bishops, and now expresses outrage when his request results in his final removal from the roles of the Episcopal Church.

As they say in the Southern Cone, "Adios, Obispo."

26 January 2009

Answer to a reader's comment

From time to time, I make a reference to a "source" in my posts. Not long ago I received and e-mail asking about the "source." The reader asked:
Is your source just one person or do you have a spy ring of informants?
That's an exact quote. I rather like that, "James, Ace of Spies." No, it just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it.

One of the "perks" of being a lifer in TEC is that if one is even margionally active at the diocesan level, one meets all sorts of interesting people. In addition, I have been fortunate enough to attend several General Conventions. That presented me the opportunity to meet delegates (and even a few bishops) from all parts of this Church.

Those relationships have been invaluable since I began TTLS. Many of my friends have gone on to have careers in the National Church and in diocesan and province circles. I even have a source who well connected in the schismatic movement.

A few years ago, I spent the summer in the United Kingdom where I met many amazing people. Three of those people are connected to Canterbury, if you get the drift. Another person is well connected to the Church in Wales.

The UK connections were by total accident. I was in a pub eating lunch and i asked someone where the nearest Internet connection might be. I mentioned to my traveling companions that I needed to see what "Fr. Jake is talking about today." Two tables away was a person who was also Fr. Jake reader. He introduced me to the three people at his table and the rest is history.

When I started TTLS, I emailed all of these friends and gave them the URL. (It was a shameless attempt to get readers.) That turned out to be a brilliant piece of work because I frequently receive emails from them passing on interesting information.

Some information is sent to me with the request that I pass the information to a specified third party blogger. That ensures the source is completely anonymous.

Other information comes with "strings." I'm asked to sit on the information until a specific date or until something "official" is said.

None of this post is meant as self aggrandizement. Rather, it is just to show how dumb luck sometimes turns out to have the most remarkable consequences.

So, "anonymous," I hope this answers your question.

25 January 2009

Epiphany III

Third Sunday After Epiphany
Adorate Deum

Jonah 3:12-5, 10; Psalm 62:5-12; I Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

The light of Epiphany shines on a truth accepted by both religious and agnostics: a person who spends his or her life dedicated to a good cause rises above the ordinary and many times is considered a hero. We call this “responding to a call,” acting on a mission. All our heroes, whether saintly or secular, are people who responded to a call and acted on the demands it made on their lives. St. Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus, as Luke described it, was dramatic and utterly life-changing. As Saul of Tarsus he was stopped in his tracks; he was called by name; he was confronted by the glorified Christ; and as a result, he became a new man for Christ.

The rather ridiculous person of Jonah, by contrast, tries to avoid a call and is confounded at every turn. God is not mocked, but God, apparently, can appreciate a joke.

The short gospel of Mark is filled with calls. Jesus calls the people to himself and to the kingdom of God, and the people call to Jesus for help and healing. We are barely into the first chapter when John, called by God to proclaim and practice a baptism of repentance, pays for his obedience to this call by being arrested by a worthless king.

Jesus, baptized by John, hears the voice of his Father proclaiming a call that is unique: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased,” and then spends 40 agonizing days in the wilderness contemplating his calling. Having chosen the way of utter obedience, he starts immediately to live out his response not in isolation but in the gathering of those whom he in turn calls by name.

There is an immediacy here, an urgency that propels the message: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.” Cold chills run up and down the spine when the Son of God pronounces the word “time” – kairos in the Greek, the special time of God. Jesus uses this word, kairos, to speak of its fulfillment, or to declare at crucial moments: “My time (kairos) has not yet come.” He is always aware of where he is in God’s kairos.

As reported by Mark, he calls two sets of brothers first. Were they aware of God’s time? Is this why they responded so quickly? There seems to be no question in their minds that this is God’s call to them through this young, vibrant Jesus who becomes the focus of their existence from then on, even though most of the time they don’t understand him. With such obedience to God’s call to a new life is the world changed and saved.

The remarkable American anthropologist and medical doctor, Paul Farmer, responded to a conviction that all human beings on earth deserve medical care. Together with four other doctors he founded Partners in Health, and in the process is changing the lives of the poorest of the poor in Haiti, Peru, and Rwanda. What a shining light this man is in the midst of a hurting people. All because he responded to a call to heal the poor.

Dr. Muhammad Yunus responded to an inner conviction that poor women deserve to receive loans with the lowest interest possible so that their lives could be changed. By changing the lives of women for the better, he knew that he could help improve the lives of their whole families. On that conviction, or call, he founded the Grameen Bank, and the practice of giving small loans to women and the poor in general is now flourishing.

Desmond Tutu heard the call of God, which filled him with the unshakable conviction that all human beings, regardless of the color of their skin, are created in the image of God. That conviction led him to work with another great human being, Nelson Mandela, to bring an end to the evil of apartheid.

The stories of response to a call from God can be found all around us. We need them during this Sunday in Epiphany because the world at large is darkening with wars and currently with the enormous human misery in Gaza. We desperately need the light of Epiphany, the revelation that shines upon people who respond to a call from God, regardless of their background and religion. When their words and their actions bring light, they are all blessed by God regardless of the name by which they call their Creator.

Simon and Andrew, James and John did not know how their lives would unfold when they responded to the call of Jesus, who promised to make them fishers of humanity. They responded to his call because the man of God who was calling them possessed the light of Epiphany in his person. They knew instantly that he was from God, and they said, Yes! They didn’t stop to ask: “What will this cost me?” They left their livelihood behind.

In the case of Peter, did he wonder, “What will this mean to my wife, my family?” He knew that responding to the call of Jesus was good regardless of the consequences. He had regrets and failures and loss of confidence later, but all that passed because the light of Epiphany remained with him burning steady to the end.

Saying yes to the call of God means great suffering in many cases. Look at John the Baptist; look at Jesus and his disciples, and at Paul. Yet, not one of them turned away with regret. They were faithful to the end, even to death upon a cross. And because of their response to God’s call, we reap the blessings of their obedience. What responsibility does this place upon our shoulders? What if the call has sounded and we have ignored it?

May the light of Epiphany shine upon us in such a way that we see, recognize, hear, and respond to God when we too are called by name.

-- Katerina Whitley teaches at Appalachian State University and is the author of five books of Biblical characters who obeyed God’s call. She can be reached at katewhitley@charter.net or www.katerinawhitley.net.