A friend sent me a link to a blog by someone in the Diocese of San Joaquin (http://sanjoaquin.wordpress.com/). It outlines, from the bloger's perspective, the controversy about the status of members of the San Joaquin Standing Committee. The members in question had all, as far as I know, voted to remove the Diocese of San Joaquin from the Episcopal Church and to affiliate it with the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone. There were also reports that these members were organizing themselves as the Standing Committee of this new Southern Cone diocese. The blogger criticizes the Presiding Bishop for writing to the members to inform them "that I do not recognize you as the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin."
I find the controversy perplexing, to say the least, and would only fault Bishop Katharine for not being absolutely certain about the members' intentions before writing to them. As far as I can tell, she based her letter on what appeared to be accurate information about the votes of the members on taking the diocese out of the Episcopal Church and reports that they had constituted themselves as the Standing Committee of the new Southern Cone diocese. I think that what was/is needed is clarity about the intentions of the members of the Standing Committee. If it is certain that they intend to stay within the Episcopal Church and be part of the Diocese of San Joaquin, I think Bishop Katharine should recognize their authority. If, however, they cannot give assurances that they want to remain in the Episcopal Church, one might reasonably conclude that they are trying to have it both ways, i.e., to exercise authority as the Ecclesiastical Authority after Bishop Schofield is deposed, as seems inevitable, while exercising similar authority in a diocese of the Southern Cone. I don't believe that having it both ways is an honest option. Having read their response, what I found most offensive was, not their protestation of innocence, but their listing of counter-charges against Bishop Katharine. In my experience that tactic is usually used by one who is guilty as charged.
One of my prayers this Lent is that all of us in the Episcopal Church will seek wisdom in living through these diffucult times, and that we will, unless it would violate our own convictions, do nothing that would lead to further division.