08 May 2009

A new blog - Gay Married Californian, and other blogging news

One of the nice things about having one's own blog is that one may post on any topic one wishes. So, taking advantage of "ownership," I have an announcement to make:

Our friend from Fr. Jake's place, "I.T.", has a new blog: Gay Married Californian. She and her partner "B.P." were married during the time marriage was available to all residents of the State of California. Now, her marriage is threatened by the religious fundamentalists who poured an obscene amount of money into, and spread deliberate lies during Proposition H8 which narrowly passed last November.

Although I have not met either of these gentle spirits in person, I consider both to be my friends as well as my sisters. Therefore, their civil rights are a concern to me and to my civil rights.

I made a decision to avoid any political posts here at TTLS. However, the marriage equality situation is not political: it is a matter of God's justice. As we await the decision of the California Supreme Court, let us pray "Let justice run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream." Amos 5.24. In case you haven't figured it out, I support full marriage equality for all of God's children.

From the blog:
We, the 18,000 couples married during the California Interregnum when gay marriage was legal, have a huge role to play. The right to marry for our GLBT family will not be restored without us embracing the role of Ambassadors, to teach our friends, neighbors, and coworkers that our marriages are as vital, serious, and important as any marriage.

So on this blog, we'll tell our stories. (If you put your stories in the comments, I will put them up as posts.) And, we'll provide information and talking points so we can advocate for our position.

Comments are moderated: this is my house, not a free-for-all, and rude, abusive, or hostile behavior will not be tolerated. If you post as anonymous, make sure to sign your post with a handle of some sort.
AND, SINCE I'M SHAMELESSLY plugging blogs, make sure to check out TransEpiscopal. There is also a link on the sidebar for the blog. Some great posts there on a topic most of us don't think about too often.

AND, WHY NOT ONE MORE? Make sure to go to Real Anglicans and read the Episcopalian Bill of Rights. Fred's posts are always a good read!

ALSO REMEMBER the gathering "Community Forum at Tracy tomorrow - our Blog Father, the Rev'd Terry Martin will be there.

This is one time I won't apologize for two posts on the same day.

Central African bishop elected chair of the ACC

THE RIGHT REVEREND James Tengatenga has been elected chairperson of the ACC. +Tengatenga is from the Province of Central Africa and will serve as chairperson until 2015. received 33 of the 66 possible votes.

I'm sorry to say, I know nothing about him. except that he is in the schismatic camp which is being hailed as a "victory" for the fundamentalists. However, their joy is muted as many fundamentalists see him as one who is or will be "easily manipulated by the liberals."

Somehow, knowing that the schismatics are not overly happy with his election makes me rest a bit easier. I'll poke about and see what I can learn.

07 May 2009

The spin goes on in San Joaquin and in Newport Beach

SINCE THE FRESNO COURT released it's summary judgment, the blogs have been abuzz with armchair commentaries. For the most part, the comments have all been predictable. I can summarize ninety-eight percent of them in one sentence:
    The activist, atheist judge doesn't understand California, Federal, or Canon Law; if the had a modicum of judicial intelligence, he would have recognized that TEC is the great Satan and Schofield is an innocent persecuted messiah.
Occasionally a comment is both interesting and revealing.
The other side doesn’t have much of a case if this goes to trial, so they are using “summary judgment” and other procedural endeavors to avoid a trial. They hope to run us out of money and win by default, which would be a real shame.
This comment reveals a complete lack of understanding of what the summary judgment actually means. The court found Schofield's arguments so "nonsensical" that it could not substantiate a single claim. The court found that TEC's case was so strong, it could not be controverted.

But, perhaps TEC's case was weak and Schofield's group lost its own case. In an article by George Conger at Religious Intelligence, Canon Bill Gandenberger said
[T]he judge’s opinion was a “preliminary ruling which shall be argued against in court tomorrow.” ... [We] look forward to the opportunity to present our positions properly and convincingly” before the judge.
In this statement Gandenberger revealed that either he and his legal experts could not submit a "properly and convincingly" written brief or that his personal charisma will cause the judge to ignore the facts of the case and be converted to the schismatic cause.

As for the financial ruination via costly litigation, well, that tactic was the "ace in the hole" for the schismatic assault of TEC. One of the puritan blogs has posted an appeal for substantial donations to the legal foundation so that the former leadership of Ft. Worth, Pittsburgh, and Albany, in addition to San Joaquin, can "continue the fight."

There has been some grumbling about how a summary judgement comes about. A summary judgment is awarded if the undisputed facts and the law make it clear that it would be impossible for one party to prevail if the matter were to proceed to trial. In this case, that means the court considered all the facts and found the schismatic case so "nonsensical" that they could not win in trial. That is an unacceptable reality for the schismatics.

Grandenburger disagrees about the facts and points to just one issue to prove that the facts are not undisputed:
[I]n this case the judge’s assumption that as the Episcopal Church is “hierarchical” in a manner akin to the Roman Catholic Church is a disputed material issue of fact, upon which the whole case turns for the diocese.
Previous legal rulings have established the fact that TEC is, indeed, a hierarchical church. That is a fact - the courts say it is. Whether one accepts the fact does not disprove the fact.

[...]Attorneys for the diocese argued the judge erred as a matter of law in accepting the Episcopal Church’s expert witness testimony on the ecclesial structures of the Episcopal Church as uncontroverted, while the diocese’s expert witness testimony offered contrary evidence, asserting that when the two sides dispute the facts to which the law is applied, there is a disputed issue of fact, and as such the matter cannot be resolved via a summary judgment.
Telling the judge that he doesn't understand the law isn't exactly the best way to win one's case. But, once again we hear the same story
    We don't care what the facts actually are. Truth and facts are what we say they are. We are right and the world is wrong.
Control of "truth" is a hallmark of despotic movements.

Whatever the reality of Monday's summary judgment, one thing is certain: the "hoped for" third province in North America received a monumental setback. The fundamentalists can spin the facts any way they wish, but they cannot dismiss the monumental legal victory awarded to TEC.

IN ANOTHER SCHISMATIC NEWS ITEM, it appears that the former leadership of St. James', Newport Beach,
Will file a petition for writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court to resolve an important issue of religious freedom: Does the United States Constitution, which both prohibits the establishment of religion and protects the free exercise of religion, allow certain religious denominations to disregard the normal rules of property ownership that apply to everyone else.
A writ of certiorari is a rare animal. It is "not a matter of right, but a judicial discretion. A petition for writ of certiorari will be granted only for compelling reasons." Rule 10, Rules of the U.S. Supreme Court. "

What that means is that, the losing side petitions to have their case reviewed even though there is no legal rationale for a review by the Supreme Court. It's basically the "Hail Mary pass" of the legal world.

The Supreme Court receives thousands of requests for a cert each year but normally accept less than one hundred. Rule 10 mentioned above states that the following, although neither controlling nor fully measuring the Court's discretion, indicate the character of the reasons the Court considers:

    (a) a United States court of appeals has entered a decision in conflict with the decision of another United States court of appeals on the same important matter; has decided an important federal question in a way that conflicts with a decision by a state court of last resort; or has so far departed from the accepted and usual course of judicial proceedings, or sanctioned such a departure by a lower court, as to call for an exercise of this Court's supervisory power

    (b) a state court of last resort has decided an important federal question in a way that conflicts with the decision of another state court of last resort or of a United States court of appeals

    (c) a state court or a United States court of appeals has decided an important question of federal law that has not been, but should be, settled by this Court, or has decided an important federal question in a way that conflicts with relevant decisions of this Court.

A petition for a writ of certiorari is rarely granted when the asserted error consists of erroneous factual findings or the misapplication of a properly stated rule of law.

If they refuse to grant the cert, it is over for the schismatics in Newport Beach but also Pittsburgh, Ft. Worth and every where clergy or vestry believe they own the property and can take it with them.

We must always remember one thing when we deal with the courts - take nothing for granted. So, there is a chance the court may grant the cert - slim chance. I believe the former leadership of San Joaquin might have a better chance for a cert than Newport Beach's schismatics, though.

For a group whose propaganda claims "it's not about the property," they certainly are willing to spend a lot of money to retain that about which they do not care.

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.

03 May 2009

Jubilate - Easter IV

The Fourth Sunday after Easter

Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48
    Introit: Shout with joy to God, all the earth, alleluia: sing ye a psalm to His Name, alleluia: give glory to His praise, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. -- (Ps. 65. 3). Say unto God: How terrible are Thy works, O Lord! In the multitude of Thy strength Thine enemies shall lie to Thee.

The mystery and miracle of Jesus’ resurrection is as fresh in our minds as it was for the apostles. Together we have witnessed the events that were both necessary and inevitable for the fulfillment of God’s redeeming love. As children of God our Creator, made in the image of God our Creator, we are filled with wonder and blessing at the awesome reality of our being. We know this to be true in our deepest parts, at the core of our being. And yet, we are challenged to live as children of God. We struggle with living up to the seemingly awesome task. Is it as complicated as we make it? What I mean is that everything we need to live like children of God is knit into our very fabric, even though it is not always evident to us or by our actions.

Peter, who once denied knowing Jesus, is witness to the healing power of the resurrection. His witness prevents those who had rejected Jesus from being able to imagine anything other than Christ’s life-giving, healing power in the resurrection. The evidence of his own transformation is clearly understood by his compassionate response to those who may have persecuted Jesus; Peter tells them that it could have only been done in ignorance. Who could know this better than he?

What we know about Peter is as incredibly convicting today as it must have been for the early Christians who knew Peter, especially the disciples. He walked with Jesus, one of his “chosen” apostles, and yet he was able to deny even knowing Jesus for fear that he might lose his own life. Yet, it was the fulfillment in Jesus resurrected that Peter truly believed.

Through the different accounts of the disciples realizing Jesus’ presence in the upper room -- without Thomas, then with Thomas present, and then again on the road to Emmaus -- we understand how they came to believe. Their witness to these events was written down so that we might believe in and witness to the incredible gift in Jesus -- and in our own lives as God’s children --without the need to see for ourselves. The Gospel is the only evidence that we need. It provides a foundation for our faith. It holds the mystery of faith and prompts us to search out our understanding of God’s great creation.

What does it mean for us to live as children of God, knowing that we have been made in God’s image? The gift of our being does not always match up to the way we live, and we are not always willing to bear witness to Jesus’ death and resurrection. What keeps us from sharing what we believe with everyone we meet? After all, aren’t they made from the same fabric in God’s image? Maybe we fit into the lukewarm category and are not convinced, let alone passionate enough to share what we believe. Maybe it is hard for us to look at our neighbor and allow ourselves to imagine that they are made from the same fabric, in the same image as our Creator.

We are living at a time when it is critical to live according to the two greatest commandments: to love our Creator God and to love one another. The Episcopal Church is entering a time of transition, which always includes some fear and anxiety. This transition will affect us all in our corporate relationships within the church and in the world. Make no mistake: treating each person as a brother and sister in Christ now will create the sacred space where the Holy Spirit’s presence can be seen and felt. In this way, we have an opportunity to experience the risen Christ standing among us and live as children of God.

The communion hymn “Taste and See” reminds us that coming to the table nourishes our bodies, minds, and spirits so we might be ready to live as children of God. We are drawn into close relationship with Jesus and each other when we share the bread and wine at the table. Engaging in the words of Scripture draws our attention to God our Creator and the incredible gift of Creation. Let us find passion for our faith so that we might share it with everyone we encounter in words and actions. And when we are uncertain, let us pray that we will recognize Jesus there at our side.

The Collect for today sums this up. “O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. AMEN.”

The Rev. Debbie Royals, Pascua Yaqui from Arizona, is a student at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) in a concurrent M.Div/MA program. She leads the Four Winds congregation in Sacramento, CA, and is active in Native American Ministry in the Episcopal Church, including involvement in the work of the Episcopal Council for Indigenous Ministry (ECIM). E-mail: debbieroyals@sbcglobal.net