The vicar of St. Nicholas Episcopal Church in Atwater, California, in the Diocese of San Joaquin has written to Bishop John-David Schofield questioning his plan to visit the congregation December 23 and asking for clarification about his status as a bishop in the Episcopal Church...From the Living Church:
..."We would like you to state to us your pastoral and canonical relationship with St. Nicholas Episcopal Church, and myself," Risard wrote in his letter. "You publicly stated at our diocesan convention that you no longer are the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, and instead you are a Bishop within the Province of the Southern Cone. As such, we understand your visit is simply to worship with us; there will be no liturgical role for you, neither celebrating nor preaching. The Episcopal Church welcomes all, and you are most welcome to worship, with the purpose of seeking transformation and reconciliation"...
...Risard said he is worried that Schofield is coming to St. Nicholas to either announce the closing of the mission or his removal as vicar, actions that Schofield has taken elsewhere in the diocese during his episcopate.
"Is it his intention to support the mission congregations in their call to worship and to serve the poor or does he want to close it?" Risard said. "He needs to go on record about what he's doing"...
...In an interview with a reporter for The Living Church, Fr. Risard said he is concerned that Bishop Schofield was planning to relieve him of his responsibilities as vicar at St. Nicholas. Fr. Risard said he wants to remain a priest of The Episcopal Church. He abstained from the votes to leave The Episcopal Church and from the one to affiliate with the Southern Cone on Dec. 8 during diocesan convention...Let us hope other clergy follow Fr. Risard's example.
...Fr. Risard said St. Nicholas’ has retained Michael Glass as legal counsel and declined further comment on the relationship, citing client-attorney privilege. Mr. Glass, a San Rafael, Calif.-based attorney who represents congregations and individual Episcopalians who wish to remain in The Episcopal Church, told Episcopal News Service on Dec. 11 that he, local leaders, David Booth Beers (chancellor to the Presiding Bishop), and leaders from Episcopal dioceses surrounding San Joaquin “are coming together very soon to finalize our coordinated efforts to provide for the leadership needs, the legal and pastoral issues, and the financial concerns of our brothers and sisters in San Joaquin, and to provide for the continuation of the diocese.”
Fr. Risard said St. Nicholas’ is not contemplating legal action against Bishop Schofield or the diocese. However, he believes the proposal to leave The Episcopal Church is illegal and should never have been put to a vote at convention. Fr. Risard said he is hopeful that a growing number of clergy will realize its illegality and refuse to be intimidated by Bishop Schofield any longer.
“All I’m doing is trying to put pressure on the bishop to clarify his status in The Episcopal Church,” he said. “By not following him into the Southern Cone, he is not our bishop. Other clergy need not be fearful of the bishop. They need to come to their own conclusions about what he has done. He is not getting away with that with me.”
If you're in the area, please consider joining the people of St. Nicholas this Sunday for worship and as a sign of support. Directions to the church can be found here.