The "report" I'm speaking of is a supposed interview with the former Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, John-David Schofield. If this interview actually happened, which is unknown, some of the statements made by Bp. Schofield are quite interesting. For instance, consider this one:
...I am not a homosexual. I have never been in the homosexual lifestyle...I recall a time while in seminary at Nashotah House when a professor came into class, obviously terribly upset about something, and announced to us in a very loud voice, "This community is not dysfunctional!" Being a rather naive first year seminarian, it had never crossed my mind before that moment that there might be something a bit unhealthy about the community in which I found myself. But, if this professor found it necessary to make such a statement, and with such vigor, then obviously there were others who did indeed believe our community to be dysfunctional. In the following days, I began to be on the watch for such dysfunction. It wasn't very difficult to find.
I mention that story because I think that Bp. Schofield has made a terrible blunder by making such a statement. There were probably many within the Church who had never heard the whispered stories about this Bishop that have been circulating for many years. Now everyone is aware that there are those who question this Bishop's sexual orientation.
The "reporter" then erroneously makes the assumption that it is because this Bishop is celibate that these rumors about him have been circulated. Maybe that is true for some. But for others, such as myself, it is the stories that I have heard from men who have had first hand experiences involving questionable behavior by this Bishop that have caused me to assume that Bishop Schofield is gay.
I may be wrong. Maybe the stories I heard were just stories. This is a touchy issue, for numerous reasons. For instance, I personally don't care what this Bishop's orientation is, and really don't consider it any of my business. I also think it is beneath us to traffic in rumors.
There is also the concern I have regarding the suggestion that some of us suspect that anyone who is celibate is gay. For my part, I find such a suggestion absurd. Celibacy is a unique calling. Not everyone can honor such vows. I know I cannot. I have the deepest respect for those who are able to live into such a vocational call. Some days, I think it may be the better way.
You see, I have conflicted vows to uphold. As a husband and a father who happens to also be a priest, I took vows to support my wife in Holy Matrimony, to support my children when sponsoring them for Holy Baptism, and to serve the Church when I was ordained. But, if there is an emergency involving a member of my family, and at the same time, an emergency involving a member of the Church, my family member will get my attention first, every time. I am human. Blood ties are strong.
So, where does this leave us with Bp. Schofield's denial? I'm not fully convinced, for reasons I'll get into in a minute. But, the bottom line for now is that until we have actual accusations, with names and dates and full statements from those who are accusing the Bishop, he remains a celibate man who has honored those particular vows. End of story. If someone wants to make such an accusation, I can put you in touch with a number of investigative reporters who have been asking for such information. Send me an email. But until that time, I suggest that we not repeat second and third hand stories, unless we have solid statements to back them up.
There is another concern within this alleged interview, however. Although the "reporter" asked John-David about the allegation that he showed up at St. Nicholas in Atwater to "fire" Fr. Risard, he skirts the question by going on and on about the meetings he had prior to the ugly confrontation on December 23. He leaves out the statement he made that he was not there to fire their Vicar, after which he fired their Vicar.
He then goes on to suggest that everything is just fine at St. Nicholas, Atwater, which is simply not true. The Bishop's Warden, the lay leader of that congregation, along with many other members, now worship with Fr. Fred Risard at "St. Nicholas in Exile," which is currently the only Episcopal congregation in Atwater. Last Sunday, 25 people were present for their celebration. You can read more about their "First Eucharist in Exile" here. More are anticipated to join them as the news of their new location is made known.
For those wanting to join faithful Episcopalians in Atwater, the Holy Eucharist will be celebrated at 10:00 am each Sunday at this location:
760 E Bellevue Rd., Atwater, CA 95301
For more information, call 209-658-9832 or email: email@example.com
Also, since Fr. Risard and the people of "St. Nicholas in Exile" are now completely dependent on the support of their friends, note that a "donations" button has been added to the front page of the St. Nicholas Episcopal Church website. It can be found in the lower right corner.
Returning to Bishop Schofield's purported interview, there is no mention of the official dismissal of Fr. Risard, which was intentionally delivered on Christmas morning. That was obviously an attempt to cause as much hurt as possible. No mention of the orders to immediately change the locks and confiscate documents. This, and other actions by Bp. Schofield, make it clear that he has no desire to work with those who disagree with him. His intention is to crush them.
Since Bp. Schofield has been less than honest about some matters in this "interview," it gives me cause to question all of his statements. Beyond that, it gives me good reason to wonder about other matters that this Southern Cone Bishop has refused to comment about. For instance;
What were the circumstances surrounding the removal of the priest at St. Mark's, Tracy? Will the Bishop once again use the excuse that the congregation couldn't afford a priest any longer, or will he be honest this time and admit that he is methodically removing all clergy who disagree with him?
Why was a deposed priest appointed at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Turlock, against the desire of many of the members, who now are also without a church home?
There are other "aided parishes" and missions within the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin who disagree with Bp. Schofield's rash moves. Are they next on his hit list?
How many more faithful clergy and congregations must suffer before this man is stopped? What will it take for the faithful in San Joaquin, and the leadership of TEC, to finally realize that this Bishop, who has by his own admission abandoned TEC, is running wild, claiming congregations that are not his, and deeply hurting innocent people?
For those who are seeking ways to support our brothers and sisters in Christ in San Joaquin, I commend to you Kirstin's excellent article; How You Can Help Episcopalians in San Joaquin. Specifically, I wanted to point out this rather innovative suggestion:
...Worshipping courageously. If you have a chance to worship with a congregation whose leaders voted to leave the Episcopal Church, visit there, too. During announcements or coffee hour, let it be known that you are visiting in support of those who want to stay in the Episcopal Church. Be prepared for some possible unpleasantness--but realize that your visit may be life-saving to some who believe they are isolated and without hope...J.