Presiding Bishop inhibits San Joaquin bishop
Action comes after Review Committee says Schofield has abandoned the Episcopal Church
By Mary Frances Schjonberg -->January 11, 2008
[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on January 11 inhibited Diocese of San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield.
In the text of the inhibition, Jefferts Schori wrote: "I hereby inhibit the said Bishop Schofield and order that from and after 5:00 p.m. PST, Friday, January 11, 2008, he cease from exercising the gifts of ordination in the ordained ministry of this Church; and pursuant to Canon IV.15, I order him from and after that time to cease all 'episcopal, ministerial, and canonical acts, except as relate to the administration of the temporal affairs of the Diocese of San Joaquin,' until this Inhibition is terminated pursuant to Canon IV.9(2) or superseded by decision of the House of Bishops."
Jefferts Schori acted after the Title IV Review Committee certified that Schofield had abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church.
On January 9, Upper South Carolina Bishop Dorsey Henderson, committee chair, wrote to Jefferts Schori, telling her that the nine-member committee had met that day and that a majority agreed that the documentation provided to them "demonstrated that Bishop Schofield has abandoned the communion of this Church by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of this Church."
Jefferts Schori needed, in accordance with Title IV, Canon 9, Sec. 1, the consent of the three senior bishops of the church with jurisdiction (as opposed to being retired or not in diocesan seats) to issue the inhibition. She noted in the inhibition that Leo Frade of Southeast Florida, Peter Lee of Virginia, and Don Wimberly of Texas gave their consents January 11.
"I think what is crucial for us is that the bishop was presented with potential consequences of his actions long ago and repeatedly, and now the review committee has indeed made their determination, which will go forward to the House of Bishops," the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop, told ENS. "The three senior bishops have given their consent to his inhibition and, again, the ministry of the Episcopal Church continues and moves forward."
At Schofield's urging, the convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin voted December 8 to leave the Episcopal Church and to align with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.
Jefferts Schori warned Schofield of the possible consequences of his actions prior to the convention via a letter and then asked him on December 14 to confirm her understanding that he had left the Episcopal Church and was no longer functioning as a member of its clergy.
Mike Glass, a San Rafael, California attorney who represents congregations and individual Episcopalians who wish to remain in the Episcopal Church, welcomed the actions.
"The Title IV Review Committee's certification of abandonment is the first step in clarifying and resolving John-David Schofield's canonical status. The accompanying inhibition will provide safety and assurance to those who are working toward the continuance of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin in the Episcopal Church," Glass said. "The inhibition also provides a safe space for those who wish to remain Episcopalian, but may have otherwise felt they could not speak their true heart for fear of retribution. My clients, Canon Robert Moore and I will use this time to continue our efforts to reach out to those individuals, missions, and parishes."
Moore was appointed by Jefferts Schori as an interim pastoral presence in San Joaquin. He, Glass and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson plan to gather with Episcopalians in the diocese at a previously planned January 26 event titled "Moving Forward, Welcoming All." The event is being organized by Remain Episcopal, an organization that has been a rallying place for San Joaquin Episcopalians who did not want to follow Schofield out of the church.
Anderson first came to the diocese to support those Episcopalians in February 2007 at Remain Episcopal's invitation. Since then she has been in contact with the organization on a regular basis to provide the members spiritual, pastoral and organizational support.
"I know that this clarification of the bishop's status will be a relief to many Episcopalians in the diocese," Anderson said. "That clarity will help them in their ministry to each other and beyond in the continuing Diocese of San Joaquin. I look forward to being back in the diocese on January 26, and I hope that people will see this meeting as a chance for them to join with other Episcopalians who want to participate in rebuilding the diocese."
On the afternoon of January 11, the Presiding Bishop called Schofield at the diocesan offices in Fresno, California, to notify him of her action, Robertson said. Schofield was not in the office and Jefferts Schori left a message with a staff member, telling the bishop that he would receive copies of the certification and inhibition yet that day via email and fax, and by overnight mail on January 12.
"To everyone involved and everyone throughout the church, again, our focus has been and continues to be the mission of the church in spreading the good news of God in Christ, of feeding the poor, of helping the marginalized, and that work has not stopped and will not stop within the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and throughout the larger church," Robertson said.
Schofield now has two months to recant his position or renounce his orders by way of Title IV, Canon 8, Sec. 2 or Title III, Canon 12, Sec. 7. He can also declare that the Title IV's assertions are false.
The two-month time frame refers the days remaining until the House of Bishops' next meeting March 7-13 at Camp Allen outside Houston in the Diocese of Texas. "The House of Bishops will review and vote on the findings of the review committee," Robertson said.
If a majority of the House concurs, the Presiding Bishop must depose Schofield and declare the episcopate of the diocese vacant.
Those remaining in the Episcopal Church would be gathered to organize a new diocesan convention and elect a replacement Standing Committee, if necessary. An assisting bishop would be appointed to provide episcopal ministry until a new diocesan bishop search process could be initiated and a new bishop elected and consecrated.
A lawsuit would be filed against the departed leadership and a representative sample of departing congregations if they attempted to retain Episcopal Church property.
The first section of Title IV, Canon 9 says that a bishop abandons the communion of the Episcopal Church if he or she takes one of the following actions:
open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of the Church;
formal admission into any religious body not in communion with thesame; or
exercising episcopal acts [which include primarily Holy Orders and Confirmation] in and for a religious body other than the Episcopal Church or another Church in communion with the Church so as to extend to such body Holy Orders as this Church holds them, or to administer on behalf of such religious body Confirmation without the express consent and commission of the proper authority in this Church.
In addition to Henderson, the 2007-2009 Title IV Review Committee consists of Bishop Suffragan David C. Jones of Virginia, Bishop C. Wallis Ohl Jr. of Northwest Texas, Bishop Suffragan Bavi E. Rivera of Olympia, Bishop James Waggoner of Spokane, the Rev. Carolyn Kuhr of Montana, the Very Rev. Scott Kirby of Eau Claire, J.P. Causey Jr. of Virginia, and Deborah J. Stokes of Southern Ohio.