Friday, December 28, 2007

Reactions to the Southern Cone's Seizure of St. Nicholas Episcopal Church, Atwater

Bishop John-David Schofield, who abandoned the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and joined the Province of the Southern Cone, made a visit to St. Nicholas Church, Atwater on December 23. The Vicar, Fred Risard, had made it clear in a letter to his former bishop that since St. Nicholas was remaining Episcopalian, it was inappropriate for Bp. Schofield to visit in the capacity of their diocesan bishop. On December 23, Bp. Schofield showed up anyway, with bodyguards. In what is being reported as an "unpleasant scene" before worship, Bp. Schofield apparently insisted that St. Nicholas was his church, and demanded the right to celebrate and preach. What occurred during worship has been described well here and here. Essentially, Bp. Schofield stated that he was not there to fire Fred, and then he fired Fred. Fred then gave the bishop a piece of his mind. The bishop left by a back door.

Two days later, on Christmas morning, the people of St. Nicholas were informed by letter that Fr. Risard had been removed, and the locks were to be changed and all important documents confiscated.

Bishops changing allegiance to a fairly unknown foreign Primate, Vicars issuing challenges, fights over the altar, bodyguards, an emotional exchange during the liturgy, locks being changed...sounds like high drama, doesn't it? Irresistible to those following the current unpleasantness within the Episcopal Church, one would think.

Quite a few folks simply could not resist responding to this drama:

From Elizabeth Kaeton - Ho, Ho, Ho? Oh, Oh, NO!

From Susan Russell - What's Worse Than a Lump of Coal in Your Stocking on Christmas Day?

From Tobias Haller - Do You Know the Way to San Joaquin.

From Mark Harris - Bishop Schofield in Denial

From the Anglican Scotist - On the Diocese of San Joaquin.

From Kirstin - My Head is Still Shaking and Between Atwater and San Francisco.

From Jared Cramer - Foreign Bishop Attempts to Close Episcopal Mission.

From Aghaveagh - How the Grinch Stole San Joaquin, part 3.

From The Episcopal Majority - Plastic Man and His Evil Brother Struggle for the Church.

From the Episcopal Cafe - St. Nicholas on Christmas Morning and Update on Reactions.

From Thinking Anglicans - San Joaquin Developments and San Joaquin Saga Continues.

From RFSJ - The Cost of Schism.

From Anglocat - On Christmas Day in the Morning.

From Brother Causticus - From the Blackberry of Deacon Thorndike Andrewes.

From MadPriest - Monstrance Inc.

From Katie Sherrod - Christmastide, San Joaquin and the Power of Lay People.

From Kendall Harmon - Modesto Bee: Bishop Removes Episcopal Vicar.

From Josh Indiana - Shocking Events in San Joaquin; or, The Empress and the Queen.

From the Robbinsdale Radical - Christmas Hero in the Diocese of San Joaquin.

From Jane Ellen - Reality Distortion Fields.

From ePiscOpalOoza - Former Bishop Schofield Visits Old St. Nick.

From the Byzigenous Buddhapalian - Wolves in Shepherd's Clothing.

I'm sure there are more, but that's a quick round up. If you find others, I'll add them to the list.

What I find curious is that there is not a word about this story over on Kendall Harmon's site. It can't be because he hasn't heard about it, as it was mentioned by a commenter on this thread. (Note: Kendall has now broken silence. See the second update and the link added to the list.)

And Stand Firm is also strangely silent. Those who have tried to inform them about this situation have been deleted, and in some cases banned, for being "off topic".

I suppose they must be commended for having the will power to avoid such a juicy story full of drama and intrigue. But, it does cause one to wonder why they are going to such lengths to attempt to bury it.

I have heard comparisons made to this story and the one about Bp. Andrew Smith seizing St. John's Church, Bristol, Connecticut and changing the locks. Other than the role of a locksmith, the stories are not really comparable, it seems to me. Bp. Smith is indeed the Bishop of Conneticut, regardless of what you think of his actions. But Bp. Schofield is no longer the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaqiun. An important difference. Another difference is that there was no attempt on anyone's part to try to bury that story. It was discussed in a variety of places, including here. As a matter of fact, at the time I disagreed with Bp. Smith's actions.

What troubles me even more is that we have also yet to have any reporting from Episcopal Life on this matter, other than an article on the letter to the bishop from Fr. Risard.

I can understand that Kendall and the Stand Firm folks might be a bit embarrassed by Bp. Schofield's actions, and so reticent to comment on them, but why the silence from Episcopal Life?

On another related matter, I understand the priest serving St. Mark's in Tracy has also been removed by Bp. Schofield. If anyone has more information on that incident, please let me know.

J.

UPDATE: I've been informed that the Episcopal Life team are taking a well-deserved break until January 2. Mystery solved regarding that bit of silence.

SECOND UPDATE: Kendall Harmon has now posted on the Modesto Bee story. That entry has been added to the list.

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