...“The question that begs to be answered by the House of Bishops,” said Bishop Schofield, “is, why bishops who continue to teach and publish books that deny the most basic Christian beliefs are not disciplined while those of us who uphold the Christian Faith are?”...In response to this statement from John-David Schofield, I am offering an essay by Bryan Taylor-Ferguson, AOJN, who is an Episcopalian from the Diocese of Fort Worth. Bryan's thoughts are published here with his permission.
...“I have not abandoned the Faith,” Schofield observed. “I resigned from the American House of Bishops and have been received into the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone. Both Houses are members of the Anglican Communion. They are not – or should not be – two separate Churches. It is the leadership of The Episcopal Church that is treating itself as a separate and unique Church"...
He wasn't deposed for abandoning the Faith. He was deposed for abandoning and otherwise violating the discipline of the Episcopal Church. While the people ask for the candidate to be consecrated "a bishop in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church," it is the Episcopal Church to whom each ordained bishop is accountable for the oath of conformity. Meaning no irony here, but the Anglican Communion has no "discipline" of its own. Bishops are generally recognized anywhere they may go, but they remain accountable to the Church that made them a bishop and where they serve. And there is no appeal beyond that Church if they run amuck and suffer the consequences. Those are the facts.
NEITHER the House of Bishops of TEC nor the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone "belong" to the Anglican Communion. Their churches do.
And yes, they ARE two churches, not one. The Anglican Communion is not a church (much less "The" Church). It is a federation of freely allied but independent and autonomous churches. That's still all it is, regardless of who says or thinks or wishes otherwise.
Within that communion, there have always been boundaries, and the Southern Cone has violated them by intervening in the affairs of the Episcopal Church. This they did when they began "receiving" bishops, priests, and congregations from TEC and claiming them as their own.
They did that in spite of directives condemning all such jurisdictional intrusions, from the very authorities they claim supercede the autonomy of The Episcopal Church. Those would be the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Windsor Report, the Primates' Meeting, and others besides. So those authorities, the so-called Instruments of Unity (or Communion), are to be obeyed, apparently, only when it suits them.
(Now there's an irony. That is precisely how the independent, autonomous provinces respond to those same authorities: as it suits them. That's what "autonomous" means. But while the provinces making up the Anglican Communion are autonomous churches, bishops are NOT autonomous.)
Mr. Schofield was made a bishop of the Episcopal Church BY the Episcopal Church. His status as a bishop, his oath of conformity, and his claim to membership in the Anglican Communion are all contingent upon his conduct in the Episcopal Church and no other.
None of which has any connection to the diocese he was formerly bishop of. It didn't become his upon his consecration. No bishop gets a right to preserve the diocese as it suits him, or to control what kind of bishops may succeed him or her in office. Nor is there any exception to their oath of conformity It doesn't have the legal capacity to remove itself from The Episcopal Church. Moreover, the Province of the Southern Cone restricts new dioceses to the geographical territory of the Province, which is made up of the nations of Argentina, Chile, and others at the southern tip of South America. That's right: the Southern Cone House of Bishops violated their own church's constitution in "receiving" San Joaquin. Schofield's assertion that he has just moved from one house to another within the larger Anglican Communion is built on these very shaky assumptions and claims.
As for his question, "why bishops who continue to teach and publish books that deny the most basic Christian beliefs are not disciplined while those of us who uphold the Christian Faith are?” the answer is not all that complicated.
He is not being disciplined for upholding the Christian Faith. He is being disciplined for schismatic activities culminating in this bogus attempt at diocesan secession. Indeed, it is precisely the same tolerance for diversity of belief that has allowed Schofield, Iker, and others to retain their status as bishops and allowed them wide latitude within their dioceses all these many years. If we were to think in terms of national life, their behavior would be termed fraud at least and probably sedition, consipiracy to commit treason, and treason. Schofield enjoyed exactly the same tolerance as Spong, and for exactly the same reason, until he crossed over from conspiracy to actual schism.
Bishops don't "solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church" until it changes in a way they don't like. I see no exceptions there on page 513 of the Book of Common Prayer, and no license anywhere to begin doing anything a bishop may think is justified when finding himself with such profound animosity toward the majority of that same church.
"We must serve God rather than men." All-righty then. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. But you won't be a bishop of this church any more, and you go as an individual, not as a bishop and not with your former diocese. The diocesan office, the car, the retreat center, any diocesan property whatsoever stays because it isn't yours and never was. Telling people otherwise is fraud. Any action that makes that property unavailable for use by Episcopalians is theft. Much whining about litigation being so un-Christian, but how about the Ten Commandments? Litigation wouldn't be necessary without the innovations cooked up by this years-long conspiracy to overthrow the constitutional and canonical processes (and results) of our church governance, the very "discipline" to which all bishops "solemnly engage to conform." It was not the Episcopal Church who invented bizarre legal theories and ridiculous pseudo-precedents to persuade people that they could do what canon and civil law pretty clearly says they cannot, and secede from the Church without any property consequences. It was the rejectionists who invented the concept of "primatial oversight" in order to keep from getting girl cooties from the Most Rev'd Katharine Jefferts Schori. It was Schofield, Iker and company who have stayed away from House of Bishops meetings as often as not, and kept the people of their dioceses from participating in any activities with other dioceses, or with the national church, who have made dialog and compromise impossible by refusing to even come to the table.
This isn't historic Anglicanism. It isn't the Episcopal Church of their beloved but distorted memories. It's a religion based on a purity code, where contamination--by women, by homosexuals, by people whose beliefs may not exactly mirror theirs--determines where they will go and what they will do. That's a new religion within Anglicanism as surely as the bogey-man "revisionism" they carry on about, and which barely resembles the Episcopal Church most of us actually know and support.
Mr. Schofield is no longer a bishop as far as Episcopalians are concerned, and I'm calling him a liar on all the above counts.
Bryan Taylor-Ferguson, AOJN
Strong words. However, I fail to see any inaccuracies in them.
We've used lots of strong words regarding the situation in San Joaquin over the last few months. And no doubt Bryan's essay will generate even more strong words. That's ok. Sometimes we need a safe place to speak our truth, even if our words cause more gentle folk to feel uncomfortable.
So say it. Get it all out of your system. Because we're going to be moving on, starting tomorrow.
To the small degree that we were able, we have contributed to the outcome in San Joaquin that we have witnessed over the last few days. If that contribution was primarily positive or negative is certainly debatable. But what I hope we can all agree on is that it is now time to let all that go, and allow those in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin to begin the work of rebuilding in the light of a new day, without the clouds of yesterday obscuring their vision.
So if you have something to say about the recent events in San Joaquin, this may be your last chance, at least for the next week, to give them voice. I have some very different types of conversations in mind for Holy Week, and I'd prefer to not have this matter still lingering about.