Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bishop of San Joaquin Announces Plans to Leave TEC

It appears that the neighboring bishops of San Joaquin had good reasons to be concerned in regards to the past actions and proposed future plans of Bp. John-David Schofield. Judging from this recent letter, it seems that the leadership of the diocese and Bp. Schofield do indeed intend to leave the Episcopal Church. His reasons are based on a number of false accusations and half truths, with a liberal sprinkling throughout of shameful portrayals of the faithful members of the Episcopal Church:

...Much has been said and written about the controversy over the revisionist teachings of TEC. The truth is that TEC (1) denies the unique divinity of Jesus Christ and (2) takes a position on human sexuality which undercuts marriage and is destructive to the family unit designed by God and revealed in Scripture. These are not positions and teachings which are merely "revisionist" or "liberal." These are positions of those who have abandoned the Christian faith...
The evidence for the first accusation is that General Convention did not pass Resolution D058, Salvation Through Christ Alone. The reality is that the resolution was presented near the end of Convention and was recommended to be discharged by the Evangelism Committee because it had already been addressed at previous General Conventions. The House of Deputies voted to discharge the resolution. The resolution itself was never debated or rejected.

However, it is doubtful if the resolution would have passed even if it had not been discharged, because of its poor wording. The affirmation of the unique divinity of Jesus Christ is affirmed every time we recite the creed and reaffirm our Baptismal Covenant. But it was the second part of the resolution that I suspect would have been problematic, as it includes the unusual phrase "the substitutionary essence of the Cross." One must assume this is a reference to Anselm's idea of "substitutionary atonement," which is one way among many to understand what happened on the cross. To prefer Irenaeus' or Abelard's understanding of atonement instead of Anselm's might be controversial, but is certainly not heretical. But such a discussion is irrelevant to the charges being made by Bp. Schofield, since the resolution presented by San Joaquin as evidence was never placed on the agenda for a vote at Convention. A more detailed account of what happened in regards to this particular resolution can be found here.

When this half-truth is exposed for the false accusation that it is, one can then imagine the fall-back "evidence" will be a couple of sentences picked out of Bishop Katharine's interviews with the secular press. We have previously discussed these particular false accusations at some length, so I will not repeat them now.

Regarding TEC undercutting the "family unit designed by God and revealed in Scripture," I'm afraid I'm not clear exactly what "family unit" the bishop is referring to here, as there are many models found in scripture, none of which resemble what we understand a "family unit" to be today. The most common marriage pattern in scripture is polygamy. Women were considered the property of the man. They were listed with the children and cattle. The bishop is selectively picking those parts of the bible that he wants to define today's "family unit." How is this selective reading of scripture any different from what the bishop accuses those he opposes of doing?

I first met Bp. Schofield in 1989. He was convinced then that the Episcopal Church was going to hell in a handbasket. The issues were different, but his attitude was the same. He continues to grab at any hint of heresy in an attempt to depict TEC in a harsh light. Based on these straws that he has grasped, the bishop now declares that those who disagree with him "have abandoned the Christian faith." Do you get that? According to Bishop Schofield, I am no longer a Christian because I agree that resolution D058 was poorly worded and redundant and was appropriately discharged, and because I do not believe scripture offers us a model of "family units" that addresses some of the realities we face today. Imagine that. But let's get back to the letter:

...Major parishes across the country have left and continue to leave in record numbers. (We are not immune in this Diocese having lost one parish already.) The statistics are staggering and clearly demonstrate that TEC is disintegrating. This is not surprising given that TEC has chosen to walk apart from the Christian faith...
Another half-truth. There's been about 200 congregations that have disassociated themselves from TEC, but most of these are groups that have left parishes that remain in TEC. Last I heard, there were about 30 actual congregations that have affiliated with foreign bishops. But even if we go with the larger claim, 200 out of 7,500 is less than 3%. Hardly "record numbers." And, once again, we witness the harsh depiction of TEC as no longer part of the Christian faith. One has come to expect such rhetoric from the internet extremists, but this kind of smear from a bishop is really behavior unbecoming of his office.

...The proposed constitutional amendment will reaffirm our commitment to the historic Anglican Faith and our membership in the Anglican Communion and our relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury without having any direct ties to The Episcopal Church...The flag; the word "Episcopal" will most likely be replaced with the word "Anglican;" Our delegates and clergy will not attend the TEC General Convention...
If these resolutions are passed, those individuals that affirm them will no longer be members of the Episcopal Church, by their own choice. Keep in mind, however, that a diocese cannot leave TEC; only individuals can.

So what will happen? That will be for the lawyers and 815 to sort out. I would imagine that the faithful Episcopalians in San Joaquin will form a Standing Committee, hold a Convention, and select a bishop. Most likely a bishop will be provided for them by 815 during the interim period. It will probably take some time to sort out the property issues. It is doubtful that this group will allow "Pagans" like us to share worship space with them. Since they will hold on to the keys, rented space may need to be used for a time.

We need to reach out to those faithful Episcopalians in San Joaquin who may now find themselves homeless. We also need to keep all the people of the Diocese of San Joaquin, including Bp. Schofield, in our prayers. God knows they are going to need them in the days to come.

I have confidence that the leadership of TEC will address this new development. I think these kinds of accusations need to be challenged, but let's not give into the temptation to match judgment for judgment or meet smear with smear. Let us express our disagreement with Bp. Schofield, but let us never forget that we are called to be witnesses to God's grace, God's unmerited favor.

J.

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