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First diocese quits the Episcopal Church: CEN 12.14.07 p 1. December 12, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England Newspaper, Ecclesiology, La Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur de America, San Joaquin.

The Diocese of San Joaquin has voted to secede from the Episcopal Church and affiliate with the Church of the Province of the Southern Cone.

Saturday’s vote marks the first secession of an American diocese from the Episcopal Church since 1862, when the southern dioceses seceded to form the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America. Four more dioceses are expected to follow suit over the coming year. However, US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has vowed to fight the secession, saying there will be legal and canonical ramifications for the separatists.

Delegates to the diocesan synod on Dec 8 passed a second reading of a constitutional amendment, nullifying its accession to the national church. Secession passed in a vote by orders, 72 to 12 amongst the clergy and 103 to 10 in the lay order. Synod also voted to accept the invitation to affiliate with the South American Church.

“Welcome Home. And welcome back into full fellowship in the Anglican Communion,” Southern Cone Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables said to the diocese in a statement read to synod by Bishop Frank Lyons of Bolivia.

In his Presidential Address to the Convention on Dec 7 from the pulpit of St James Cathedral in Fresno, California, Bishop John-David Schofield said delay would not answer. A ‘no’ vote to secession would not restore the status quo nor bring peace to the diocese. “Timing matters,” he said. “God’s timing is essential. Delayed obedience in scripture is seen as disobedience when opportunities and blessings are lost.”

He also promised congregations loyal to the national church would be permitted to secede from the diocese along with their property upon payment of any outstanding debts. Five of San Joaquin’s 47 parishes are expected to remain with the national church.

Reactions to the secession have been mixed. Bishop Schori stated she was saddened by the news, but noted the Episcopal Church would continue in San Joaquin, “albeit with new leadership.”

“We deeply regret [San Joaquin’s] unwillingness or inability to live within the historical Anglican understanding of comprehensiveness,” she said.

Leaders of the Global South Coalition of Primates meeting in Nairobi this week are expected to back the move, while the Archbishop of Canterbury has given mixed signals.

In a meeting with Bishop Venables in September, Dr. Williams was informed of the plan to bring the US traditionalist dioceses on board. At last month’s Fort Worth synod meeting Bishop Lyons of Bolivia reported the plan had the tacit approval of Lambeth Palace.

ACC general secretary Canon Kenneth Kearon confirmed Dr. Williams had been sighted on the South American plans but in an email to an American Episcopalian questioned if “the Archbishop would formally support such a development which is contrary to the Windsor Report (especially paragraph 155).”

A spokesman for the ACC released a statement on Dec 10 saying “Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has not in any way endorsed the actions of the Primate of the Southern Cone, Bishop Gregory Venables, in his welcoming of dioceses, such as San Joaquin in the Episcopal Church, to become part of his province in South America.”

The South American Church leadership told The Church of England Newspaper there was no contradiction between Bishop Lyons remarks and the clarification from Lambeth Palace and agreed that Dr. Williams had not given his formal support nor overt blessing to the secession plan.


1. Lionel Deimel - December 12, 2007

The “secession” of 1862 was never acknowledged by the General Convention. The dioceses of the Confederacy, after all, suddenly found themselves in a separate country, and travel to the Episcopal Church’s General Convention was hardly practical. What could they do? Shortly after the war, the Southern dioceses were welcomed back to the General Convention, but their creation of a new diocese was repudiated.

If the “orthodox” are looking for a precedent here, they will be disappointed. Telling half-truths about the situation, however, may get them some sympathy among the uninformed.

2. Mark McCall - December 13, 2007

A point of clarification: are the Global South Primates meeting the week of Dec. 10 or the week of Dec.17? Given the publication date of this article in CEN, the reference to “this week” is unclear.

Geoconger writes: The meeting in Nairobi takes place the week of Dec 10.

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