Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bp. Schofield Fires His Standing Committee

Things just keep getting more and more bizarre in San Joaquin.

Last year, Bp.Schofield got this strange idea that he could somehow join the Province of the Southern Cone and remain the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. Even after he was informed numerous times that such a scenario was legally and ethically questionable, he proceeded anyway, convincing a majority of the diocesan leadership to follow him into this uncharted territory.

Those who observed the San Joaquin Diocesan Convention on December 8 witnessed a confusing and somewhat embarrassing spectacle. At one point, the entire Convention sat in limbo while the front table conferred among themselves for a good ten minutes. For some reason, the vote tallies kept on coming out differently, which resulted in those voting "yes" being instructed to line up against one wall, and those voting "no" against the opposite wall. During another vote, some kind of "London Bridges" routine was used, with delegates being instructed to pass through a gauntlet of counters to have their votes tallied. All of this occurred at a Convention that was described as "an historical moment in the life of San Joaquin," and with full knowledge that the cameras were rolling.

Bp. Schofield then proceeded to remove Fred Risard, the Vicar of St. Nicholas, Atwater, with his letter of dismissal arriving on Christmas Day. This led to some concern that the Bishop would now be cleaning house by removing all of those who disagreed with him. Apparently, there was good reason for such concerns, as we'll get to in a moment.

But before getting to the latest house cleaning chore tackled by Bp. Schofield, this summary would not be complete without a reference to his response to the news that he had been inhibited by the Presiding Bishop. The next morning, it was announced by the Diocese of San Joaquin that Bp. Schofield was a Bishop in both the Episcopal Church and the Southern Cone simultaneously. By that afternoon, that response had been pulled, to be replaced by a statement that Bp. Schofield was no longer a member of the Episcopal Church.

And now we learn that Bp. Schofield has dismissed six of his eight Standing Committee members. The story comes from Dan Martins, a priest serving in Indiana who had previously served in San Joaquin for thirteen years.

Here's the Bishop's version of what happened:

...On December 8th at our Diocesan Convention the overwhelming vote to transfer from the Episcopal Church to the Province of the Southern Cone was passed. At that time I became a member of the House of Bishops of that Province. Therefore, the Standing Committee, which is my council of advice, must be composed of clergy members who are Anglican priests of the Southern Cone. This is required by Diocesan Canons and the Archbishop of the Southern Cone of South America...

...Therefore, this morning I received the resignation of those members of the Standing Committee who do not meet the above qualifications...
Here is the version from a priest who was present:

...During the Standing Committee meeting of January 19th, the Bishop determined that the elected members of the Standing Committee who had not publicly affirmed their standing in the Southern Cone [whose congregations are in discernment, some over the legality of convention's actions] were unqualified to hold any position of leadership in the Diocese, including any elected office. He pronounced us as unqualified. No resignations were given. The question of resignations was raised and rejected. The members of the committee at this morning's meeting were quite clear on this point, we did not resign, we were declared unqualified to hold office. The Bishop's decision affects up to 6 of the 8 elected members of the Committee including all of the clergy members...
Did they resign of did the Bishop disqualify them? Someone is not speaking the truth here.

To those former members of the Standing Committee; next Saturday there will be a gathering of those who share your concerns regarding the leadership of Bp. Schofield. It will be at Church of the Savior, Hanford, at 9:30 am. Among those present will be an attorney who may be of assistance as you seek the way forward out of this messy situation.

J.

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