TEC wins “tentative” victory in San Joaquin case

There is plenty of legalese to wade through in this pdf from Fresno Superior Court, which is preparing to rule on the case between the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and deposed former bishop John-David Schofield. The upshot, however, its promising.

These tentative rulings, which give the parties a sense of what the judge is thinking heading into oral arguments today, strongly suggest that The Episcopal Church and Bishop Jerry Lamb may win a summary judgment. A summary judgement is awarded without trial when the facts in a case are not at issue and the law is clear.

Pages 4-7 and 48-58 contain the rulings, although the key stuff is 48-56.

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 — 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.

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