Updated again Friday evening
The ENS report by Jan Nunley is headed San Joaquin bishop asked to ‘reconsider, draw back’ from withdrawal efforts.
Expressing concern for his health and “evident sense of isolation,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori urged Bishop John-David M. Schofield of the Diocese of San Joaquin to “reconsider and draw back” from efforts to withdraw his diocese from the Episcopal Church.
As with previous letters to other disaffected bishops, the correspondence with Schofield notified him that such a step would force Jefferts Schori to act to bring the diocese and its leadership into line with the mandates of the national Church.
“You have been clear that you feel your views are dismissed or ignored within the Episcopal Church, yet you have ceased to participate in the councils of the Church. It is difficult to have dialogue with one who is absent,” Jefferts Schori wrote. “…The Church will never change if dissenters withdraw from the table. There is an ancient and honored tradition of loyal opposition, and many would welcome your participation”…
The full text of the letter is included and also appears here below the fold.
Bishop Schofield has responded to this, and his reply can be read here. The diocesan site has it here, but a more permanent URL is this PDF version. The full text of this reply is now also below.
December 3, 2007
The Rt. Rev. John-David M. Schofield
Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin
4159 East Dakota Avenue
Fresno, CA 93726-5227
As you approach your next Diocesan Convention, I would like to remind you of my prayers, and those of many other Episcopalians, for you and for the Diocese of San Joaquin. I continue to be concerned for your health, and for your evident sense of isolation. You have been clear that you feel your views are dismissed or ignored within the Episcopal Church, yet you have ceased to participate in the councils of the Church. It is difficult to have dialogue with one who is absent. While there are a number who disagree with you, I believe many more would welcome your participation, particularly as a sign of your faithfulness to your vow to share in the councils of the Church. The Church will never change if dissenters withdraw from the table. There is an ancient and honored tradition of loyal opposition, and many would welcome your participation.
I do not need to remind you as well of the potential consequences of the direction in which you appear to be leading the Diocese of San Joaquin. In this connection I have in mind, among other things, your support of amendments to that diocese’s Constitution that would be plainly inconsistent with the Constitution of the Episcopal Church and that would implicitly reject the Church’s property and other canons, as well as your support for the transfer of the membership of your Diocese to the Province of the Southern Cone. If you continue along this path, I believe it will be necessary to ascertain whether you have in fact abandoned the communion of this Church, and violated your vows to uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of this Church. I do not intend to threaten you, only to urge you to reconsider and draw back from this trajectory.
While you may believe that the Diocese of San Joaquin can be welcomed into another Province of the Anglican Communion, I believe you will find that few parts of the Communion will recognize such a proposal. Such an action is without precedent, violates long-standing principles of catholic Christianity, and can only harm those faithful Episcopalians who only seek to follow Christ. I urge you to consider whether there might not be a more honorable course for you, personally, than seeking to violate your ordination vows and the Canons of this Church. Together with many in this Church, I would very much value your continued and increased presence at the table – both the table of Jesus Christ and the table of fellowship.
You and the Diocese of San Joaquin continue in my prayers, and I remain
Your servant in Christ,
Katharine Jefferts Schori
Bishop Schofield’s response to Presiding Bishop Schori
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
815 Second Ave.
New York, NY 10017-4594
Dear Bishop Schori:
Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ, our one and only Lord and Savior.
I have read your letter of December 3, 2007 and thank you for your prayers. There is a pastoral tone to this letter which is much appreciated. Informing me that you are not writing with any threats is most encouraging also. One would hope that this indicates your serious consideration of the Primates’ specific request that deposition and litigation under the present circumstances be abandoned as unacceptable behavior among Christians.
Please know I do not share your feelings that I am isolated. My understanding of the authority of the Holy Scriptures, as well as Catholic Faith and Order are shared by the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Churches and by some 60 million faithful Anglicans worldwide. It is The Episcopal Church that has isolated itself from the overwhelming majority of Christendom and more specifically from the Anglican Communion by denying Biblical truth and walking apart from the historic Faith and Order.
It is true that the House of Bishops has ignored my views for nearly twenty years. After this length of time, one wonders how genuine the offer of change for the Church can be by having the “loyal opposition” present at the table. Despite all of this, we are not pining away here in the Diocese of San Joaquin; we are rejoicing in the truth of God’s word!
The decision to be made by our Annual Convention this Saturday is the culmination of The Episcopal Church’s failure to heed the repeated calls for repentance issued by the Primates of the Anglican Communion and for the cessation of false teaching and sacramental actions explicitly contrary to Scripture. For years, I have tried in vain to obtain adequate Primatial oversight to protect the Diocese from an apostate institution that has minted a new religion irreconcilable with the Anglican faith. Hopes were raised in February 2007 when leaders of the Anglican Communion met in Dar es Salaam. The direction given by them for the formation of a pastoral council would have provided the protection we requested and would have averted the need for the Diocese to seek sanctuary from another Province. You were in Dar es Salaam, and in the presence of the assembled Primates you verbally signified your agreement to this direction. By the time you returned to the United States, however, you denied your public statement and declared you had only meant to bring it back for further consideration. It was no surprise, therefore, when the Executive Council and the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church later denounced the plan for a pastoral council that you went along with them. This was a clear signal that our religious freedom to practice the Historic Faith as this Church has received it would not be protected by The Episcopal Church. My Ordination vows require me to be a faithful steward of God’s holy Word and to defend His truth and “be ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s Word; and to use both public and private monitions and exhortations…” I can do no other.
The Anglican Church of the Southern Cone has graciously offered the Diocese sanctuary on a temporary and emergency basis. This action is unprecedented but so, too, are the apostate actions of The Episcopal Church that make these protective measures necessary. The invitation of the Southern Cone is a matter of public record. In essence it embodies the solution agreed upon by you and the rest of the Anglican leaders at Dar es Salaam to provide adequate, acceptable Alternative Primatial Oversight. To endorse this as a way forward need not be a final nor irreconcilable commitment. Should it be the will of the Annual Convention to accept this most generous gift, I will welcome the opportunity implied in your letter to discuss how it impacts our relationship. In the event that the clergy and laity reject this offer from the Southern Cone, I would, of course, follow your recommendation to participate as a dissenter of the present unbiblical course of action being pursued by the House of Bishops. To do anything else would be to abandon God’s people of San Joaquin and, in the end, prove to be a hireling and not a shepherd. For me, at least, this is the honorable course the Lord would have me follow.
You will remain in my prayers,
+John-David M. Schofield
Bishop of San Joaquin