I give thanks for Jerry Lamb, the priest I first knew at Trinity Episcopal, Ashland, Oregon. It was his midweek service back in my college days that concluded my search for a spiritual direction and a spiritual home. Later on he became the Bishop of Northern California. Recently confirmed Bishop Beisner [June 2006] will continue in +Jerry's stead as he retires, upholding the Constitution and Canons of our Church as he was sworn to do--as all ordained ministers have as part of their ordination vows. We can be glad that the Episcopal Church USA is in the good hands of such bishops, priests and deacons.
From the EPISCOPAL NEWS SERVICE
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA: Retiring bishop refuses
By: Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted: Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Episcopal Diocese of Northern California Bishop Jerry Lamb has told the diocese that he will not issue Letters Dimissory for a priest who told him that he had "disassociated" himself from the Episcopal Church and the diocese.
Lamb, who retired at the end of 2006, wrote to the diocese December 28, saying that he and his successor, Bishop Barry Beisner, had received letters on December 17 from the Rev. David H. Miller and the Vestry of St. John's Episcopal Church in Petaluma declaring the disassociation.
Miller asked that Letters Dimissory be sent to another province, Lamb wrote.
"I have declined to send these Letters Dimissory, inasmuch as it is my understanding that Letters Dimissory are sent when a person physically moves to another diocese. It is my understanding that David Miller will continue to reside in this diocese and not in another diocese," he wrote.
Clergy under the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical authority of a diocese (typically the diocesan bishop) are canonically resident in that diocese.
Letters Dimissory are the mechanism by which an Episcopal priest may transfer his or her canonical residence from one diocese to another when called to a cure in another diocese. The canonical provisions for Letters Dimissory and canonical residency are found in Canon III.9.
Lamb wrote that he and Beisner received Miller's request "with much sadness."
"The relationship of David Miller, the congregation and the Diocese as a whole has been strained since General Convention of 2003. David Miller's letter reports that his action has come about because of 'actions of the National Church and your support of them, the lack of any change in the direction of our diocese regarding matters dividing our communion, and the new Presiding Bishop's investiture on November 4 of this year.'"
According to an email posted here, December 19 the decision came after three years of "prayer, study, consultation, and tears by the rector, vestry and congregation." The email was written by the Rev. Dr. Lu T. Nguyen, who is reportedly acting as a lawyer for the members who voted to leave.
Lamb, noting that he "left a church home in 1971," wrote that he knows "the angst of this moment for David Miller and others in the congregation." Lamb had been a Roman Catholic prior to being received into the Episcopal Church.
"I believe individuals have a right to make such changes as they feel necessary for their spiritual life. I don't believe it is appropriate for anyone to try to take a congregation with them when they make such a change," Lamb wrote.
He said he would "resist any movement to take St. John's Parish outside of the Episcopal Church" in the remaining four days of his diocesan episcopacy.
"I believe that Bishop Beisner is in agreement with this stance," he added.
Lamb wrote that he was "undertaking further actions at this time," promising that information about those actions would be posted on the diocese's website.
Lamb asked for prayers for Miller, the vestry and people of St. John's and for him and Beisner as they "seek to respond to this action in an appropriate and pastoral manner."
St. John's Petaluma, founded in 1858, consists of about 250 members who pledged about $220,000 to its mission and ministry in 2005. Miller was the rector of St. John's from 1998.
The Diocese of Northern California comprises about 16,170 Episcopalians worshipping in 68 congregations.
C 2007, The Episcopal Church, USA. Episcopal News Service content may be reprinted without permission as long as credit is given to ENS.
Nothing we do changes the past. Everything we do changes the future.
~~ Joan Chittister