San Joaquin diocese asked to consider Jerry Lamb as provisional bishop

Retired bishop of Northern California brings experience from neighboring diocese
March 11, 2008

Bishop Jerry A. Lamb -- retired bishop of Northern California and most recently interim bishop of Nevada -- has been recommended by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to serve as provisional bishop of the Central California Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.

Lamb can begin work in this capacity after ratification by the diocese's convention, set to meet March 29 in Lodi, California.

The convention follows the House of Bishops' March 12 vote consenting to the deposition of San Joaquin's previous bishop, John-David Schofield, who is confirmed by the church-wide Title IV Review Committee to have abandoned communion of The Episcopal Church.

Continuing Episcopalians have been at work to reconstitute the Diocese of San Joaquin since Schofield led a December 8 convention vote purporting to realign the diocese with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

Lamb is prepared to visit the San Joaquin diocese in mid-March, and to attend the March 29 convention.

Looking ahead to the possibility of his service in San Joaquin, Lamb told ENS that he sees his role as bringing "support for the leadership already there, offering direction, and helping to renew those in the area who remain part of the Episcopal Church.

"I'm really excited and very much humbled by the opportunity of being with that group of folks who are seeking a way to remain faithful to the Episcopal Church, and working to continue the life of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin."

Lamb said this work represents "a wonderful opportunity to rebuild, though I am so sorry it's come about in the way it has."

Lamb said he looks forward to working closely with the steering committee appointed for the diocese by the Presiding Bishop, and with local groups including Remain Episcopal and new faith communities.

He said he would continue to build on the work of the Rev. Canon Robert Moore and the Rev. Canon Brian Cox, two priests whom the Presiding Bishop named earlier this year to provide pastoral presence in the diocese.

Rebuilding "would not be possible without the absolute support of the Presiding Bishop; the President of the House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson; and the Executive Council putting $500,000 into this effort," Lamb said, citing the Council's February 14 vote to allocate funds.

Lamb also praised the "generous contributions of expertise from across the church" and especially within neighboring and other dioceses in the Episcopal Church's Province VIII. " Bishops and leaders from surrounding dioceses and the whole of Province VIII have been extremely supportive and have offered aid and support to whatever extent they are able," he said.

"This extended family we call The Episcopal Church wants to continue to support the local initiatives of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin both through our prayers and other tangible forms of assistance," said the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop.

Lamb, 67, would bring to San Joaquin some 16 years' experience in the episcopate, to which he was elected in 1991 to lead the Sacramento-based Diocese of Northern California. Previously he was canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Oregon and served three congregations there.

"One of the most pressing needs we have in western dioceses is for personal interaction, of bringing people together, gathering not only for word and sacraments, conferences, other kinds of work," Lamb said, noting that in San Joaquin he will focus on "the very real concern of developing relationships between congregations and people."

Lamb and his wife, Jane, propose to assist this process by living part of the time in Stockton, California, where diocesan offices, formerly located in Fresno, are being re-established. The Lambs would maintain their permanent residence in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Lamb said he would expect to work three-quarter-time as provisional bishop for as long as needed, estimating a minimum of 18 months – "serving until such time as the diocese is ready to elect and consecrate a new bishop."

"I suspect the first few months would be more or less full time -- getting to know people, getting a sense of what is needed right away, determining priorities as people see the priorities," Lamb said.

"Part of my excitement is that I love to function as a bishop, to engage in visits, sacraments, experience the life of the different congregations, and I like to preach and celebrate, Lamb said.

Born and raised in Denver, Lamb began his ordained ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. He left the order in 1971 and moved to Oregon. He was received into the Episcopal priesthood by Bishop Matthew Bigiliardi of Oregon in 1977. During these years Lamb earned an advanced degree in counseling from the University of Oregon, and served as an adult parole officer.

After beginning work in 1992 as bishop of Northern California, he spent 15 and ½ years "just across Dry Creek" where that diocese borders San Joaquin.

With this experience, Lamb brings a long view to the work of San Joaquin clergy and lay people who are now working to rebuild the diocese. "Life has really continued and grown," he said, "and now it's time to take a next step toward a clearer structure for life with the special convention on March 29."

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