Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The San Joaquin lawsuit: An update

From the Anglican Curmudgeon, analysis of the current goings-on in San Joaquin [boldface mine]:

. . . The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, responded to the Diocese’s departure by doing three things: she declared that a motion to depose Bishop John-David Schofield had carried the House of Bishops, and that his see was now vacant; she declared that she refused to recognize the Standing Committee of the Diocese as its Ecclesiastical Authority, or for any other purpose; and she called on short notice a "special convention" of the parishioners remaining in TEC to consent to her designation of the Rt. Rev. Jerry A. Lamb, retired Bishop of the Diocese of Northern California, as Provisional Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin. Once those steps were accomplished, the special convention authorized Bishop Lamb to file suit against Bishop Schofield and the diocesan trust entities he controlled to acquire title to all of the diocesan properties, investments and accounts. TEC joined Bishop Lamb and the newly organized Episcopal "Diocese of San Joaquin" as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Plaintiffs subsequently amended their complaint to add Merrill Lynch as a defendant, because it was the custodian of the diocesan trust funds. Merrill Lynch has requested the Fresno Superior Court to be allowed to "interplead" all the funds it has in its possession, and to be dismissed from the lawsuit. By turning over the funds to the control of the court, and asking it to determine who is entitled to them, Merrill Lynch is abandoning any role as custodian and leaving it to the court to sort matters out. . .

Bishop Schofield and the diocesan trust entities have now responded to the first amended complaint. First, they have asked the court to strike it, on the ground that it was not drawn in compliance with California Rules of Court. . .

The first ground on which defendants have demurred is that among the funds held by Merrill Lynch which plaintiffs are claiming, are moneys deposited in the names of two individual parishes: St. John’s of Tulare, and St. John’s of Porterville. Plaintiffs, however, neglected to join those parishes as defendants, and thus the court cannot declare who owns the funds without the churches being represented in the lawsuit.

St. John's Episcopal Church in Tulare, however, has voted not to join the Diocese in aligning with the Province of the Southern Cone. Its rector, the Rev. Robert G. Eaton, also has declared his intention of remaining with The Episcopal Church. So let's understand what is actually happening on the ground here. The Episcopal Church and its designated agent, Bishop Lamb, are claiming to own or control money belonging to one of their own parishes that has voted to remain in The Episcopal Church. They are doing so regardless of the consequences, in order to maintain their fiction that Bishop Schofield "wrongfully" relinquished control of these funds to St. John's long after it had grown beyond the status of a diocesan mission. . .

A hearing on the demurrers and on the motion to strike will take place in Fresno County Superior Court the afternoon of August 20.

Read it all.

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