Skip to comments.CA Diocese Lays Groundwork to Secede from TEC [San Joaquin]
Posted on 11/22/2006 3:23:42 PM PST by sionnsar
A battle is brewing in the Episcopal Church over the Diocese of San Joaquin, Calif., which is poised to be the first diocese to secede and position itself as the "vanguard" of a new U.S. branch of Anglicanism.
Home to an estimated 10,000 Episcopalians, the diocese will vote on amendments that would remove all ties to the national church at its convention Dec. 1-2. San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield said the 2.2-million member Episcopal Church is "preaching and practicing heresy" with its progressive approach to homosexuality and the Bible.
In a letter to parishioners, Schofield said his diocese would remain part of the global Anglican Communion but remove itself from the Episcopal Church, its U.S. branch.
"The diocese could be the vanguard of a new 39th Anglican Province in North America," Schofield wrote. The 77-million member Anglican Communion currently has 38 provinces around the world.
Episcopal officials maintain that church laws are clear: people can leave the national church but dioceses cannot. Diocesan property, they argue, remains held in trust by the Episcopal Church and dioceses are recognized and designated by the denomination's top law-making body, the General Convention.
New Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori stepped forcefully into the fray Monday (Nov. 20), warning Schofield not to secede.
"I strongly urge you to consider the consequences of such action, not only for yourself but especially for all of the Episcopalians under your pastoral charge and care," Jefferts Schori wrote.
"Our forbears did not build churches or give memorials with the intent that they be removed from the Episcopal Church. Nor did our forbears give liberally to fund endowments with the intent that they be consumed by litigation," she wrote.
A task force in the Episcopal Church has identified eight "problem dioceses," including San Joaquin, and compiled a "brief bank" of court filings and legal documents to fight any attempts by a parish or diocese to secede with church property, according to Episcopal News Service.
A year ago, the diocese amended its constitution to say it takes precedence over national church policies. Last March, the diocese changed its bylaws to prevent the national church from having a say in its choice of bishop.
As a result of those changes, four California bishops filed charges in church court accusing Schofield of abandoning the church. The court ruled the charges were an "inappropriate use of" church law and exonerated Schofield.
As Schofield admits in the letter to parishioners, walking away from the church carries risks, including leaving diocesan property behind.
Moreover, some clergy could lose their church-provided pensions and medical care, he wrote.
But leaving is necessary, Schofield said, because the Episcopal Church "denies the unique divinity of Jesus Christ ... and takes a position on human sexuality which undercuts marriage and is destructive to the family unit designed by God and revealed in Scripture."
In 2003, while bishop of Nevada, Jefferts Schori and 61 other bishops voted to approve an openly gay man, V. Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire. For that reason, and because they object to her gender or progressive views, seven dioceses -- including San Joaquin -- have asked to be put under the guidance of a foreign bishop instead. San Joaquin is one of three U.S. dioceses that do not ordain women.
The Episcopal Church recorded net losses of 90,000 members between 2003-2005, according to Kirk Hadaway, the church's director of research.
An estimated 30 percent to 50 percent of those losses are a result of parish conflicts over Robinson's ordination, Hadaway said.
In recent months, several other dioceses and high-profile parishes have distanced themselves from the Episcopal Church.
--Leaders of two large and historic Virginia parishes outside Washington -- Truro Church and The Falls Church -- separately voted in mid-November to recommend their congregations leave the national church. The two parishes, with a combined membership of 3,000, plan to join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a branch of the Anglican Church of Nigeria.
-- The diocesan conventions of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Rio Grande and South Carolina voted separately to officially apply for oversight from an overseas bishop. That request has not been acted on yet.
-- The diocese of Dallas asserted its ability to revoke or limit its relationship with the national church at its diocesan convention in October.
Those churches that break away will prosper regardless of what they lose at the beginning.
Having "been there and gotten the t-shirt" I can tell you that all you really lose are the headaches and stress...
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