Monday, November 20, 2006


I continue to be encouraged by both the proactivity and transparency of our new Presiding Bishop. Case in point: this just-published-by-ENS letter from her Most Reverend Self to +John-David. In short: You Go, Girl!

Episcopal News Services reports: Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori -- concerned by current affairs in the Fresno-based Diocese of San Joaquin, California -- has written to its bishop, the Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield. The diocese, which is scheduled to meet in convention December 1-2, includes an estimated 10,000 Episcopalians in some 48 congregations. The text of Jefferts Schori's November 20 letter follows.

The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield
Diocese of San Joaquin
4159 E. Dakota Avenue
Fresno, California 93726

My dear brother:

I have seen reports of your letter to parishes in the Diocese of San Joaquin, which apparently urges delegates to your upcoming Diocesan Convention to take action to leave the Episcopal Church. I would ask you to confirm the accuracy of those reports. If true, you must be aware that such action would likely be seen as a violation of your ordination vows to "uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them." I must 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.

I certainly understand that you personally disagree with decisions by General Conventions over the past 30 and more years. You have, however, taken vows three times over that period to uphold the "doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church." If you now feel that you can no longer do so, the more honorable course would be to renounce your orders in this Church and seek a home elsewhere. Your public assertion that your duty is to violate those vows puts many, many people at hazard of profound spiritual violence. I urge you, as a pastor, to consider that hazard with the utmost gravity.

As you contemplate this action I would also remind you of the trust which you and I both hold for those who have come before and those who will come after us. None of us has received the property held by the Church today to use as we will. We have received it as stewards, for those who enjoy it today and those who will be blessed by the ministry its use will permit in the future. Our forebears did not build churches or give memorials with the intent that they be removed from the Episcopal Church. Nor did our forebears give liberally to fund endowments with the intent that they be consumed by litigation.

The Church will endure whatever decision you make in San Joaquin. The people who are its members, however, will suffer in the midst of this conflict, and probably suffer unnecessarily. Jesus calls us to take up our crosses daily, but not in the service of division and antagonism. He calls us to take up our crosses in his service of reconciling the world to God. Would that you might lead the people of San Joaquin toward decisions that build up the Body, that bring abundant life to those within and beyond our Church, that restore us to oneness.

I stand ready for conversation and reconciliation. May God bless your deliberation.

I remain
Your servant in Christ,

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate


Hiram said...

Bp Schofield did indeed take vows ordination vows to "uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them."

Note: "AS THIS CHURCH HAS RECEIVED THEM." Not as this Church revises them according to the theological whims of this present age, but as they have been handed down from the Apostles.

Bp Schofield is keeping his vows. I will give Bp Jefferts Schori credit for courage and clarity, but she should know that an offer to talk would probably have more chance to bring some accomodation than to tell Bp Schofield how much artillery she has on hand.

Of course, in the long run, we will separate -- we are operating out of entirely different world views. The Puritans would be appalled to see what their Congregational Church has become, in the UCC and the UU's -- and the early Anglican leaders would be equally appalled to see what has developed in the Church of England and its daughters. The only real question will be whether the separation is antagonistic or relatively amicable. I suspect it will be antagonistic, because Bp Jefferts Schori and those who delight in her cannot admit that they have a different faith (albeit using much of the same vocabulary) than that of the "reasserters."

Pfalz prophet said...

Actually, hiram, I don't see TEC's decisions over 30 years to be theological whims, but more in the spirit of Paul's urgings to preach to the Gentiles. As startling as it was to see the number of female clergy at my diocesan convention this year, it was equally inspiring to speak with them and discover their intelligence, their spirituality and their active love for their brothers and sisters in the church. If we know TEC's 1979 decision by its fruits, then we know it was a good decision. Similarly, we have been called for at least this long to dialogue regarding our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ. Not all of us have lived into that call. The holdouts are making the most noise right now, claiming that TEC has abandoned the faith. I believe they are repeating the losing side of the "who's in and who's out" argument in Acts. Had a Greek not won that argument, the followers of The Way would have been just another Jewish sect. We should pray that ++KJS wins this one.

Suzer said...

Hi, Hiram. Bishop Schori does invite Bishop Schofield into conversation at the end of the letter. I do wish that those on both "sides" could come together and talk, and learn to live reasonably together despite our disagreements. I don't know if that can happen.

What I really wish, is that we all -- liberal, conservative, or whatever "label" we would ascribe to ourselves -- could come together and focus more on the 30,000 children who die daily of extreme poverty than who has sex with whom and whether it's a woman or man in the pulpit. It seems that both sides are angry and hurting. Too bad we can't get the focus off ourselves a bit more, and onto those who really need our Christian love and support (that is not saying we don't need it, too!).


Susan H.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Hiram -

The Bishop's ordination service also requires the bishop to vow to uphold the unity of the Church.

How does his action or the action of those that would like to exclude TEC from the Anglican Communion keep that vow?

Your argument about the Apostles is interesting. In fact not much about our doctrines (Trinity, Christology/divinity of Jesus, etc.)was formed by the Apostles, but by the Patristic fathers and tradition. Our doctrines have been formed over a very long period of time as the Holy Spirit has revealed more of God's truth to us. That revelation continues, has been there since the early days of the church, and the only difference between the orthodox and the mainline Episcopal is that the orthodox want to revise history by believing that that tradition somehow materialized at the instant of canonization and the writing of scripture.


David Huff said...

Hiram, "The Puritans would be appalled...the early Anglican leaders would be equally appalled..."

So, what's your point ? The Puritans would be equally appalled to see their descendants treating the Native Americans as actual human beings. And the early Anglican leaders equally appalled to see us having given up the Monarchy and their heavily class-based society.

To simply toss references to them around like this smacks of the argumentum ad antiquitatem (something to which the "reasserters" frequently fall prey).

Hiram said...

Dave, I am not saying, "It is ancient, and therefore it must be right." I am saying that Christianity is an internally consistent system of belief that does not change over time. Yes, as Jeff noted, the Fathers put the teachings of the Apostles into a more systematic for m of expression than what the Apostles, or their close associates, wrote in Scripture -- but their aim was to teach what the Apostles taught, not to come up with new ideas.

Of course, over time, how Christianity is expressed changes -- worship in Latin began because it made sense in 4th century Italy, but over time made less and less sense for people who did not speak Latin. And the needs of society change, so ministry forms must change. But the underlying core ideas must remain the same in order to be authentic Christianity.

Earlier today, I read a piece that is on The Living Church's web site, and which will be in a new issue soon -- I forget its author, but he shows the distinction between the core beliefs of "reasserters" and reappraisers." We share a good bit of vocabulary, but we really believe different things about who God is, how we relate to God, and how we know about God. We are two separate belief systems in one organization.

To my way of looking at it, it as though members of a communist cell group started arguing for private ownership of the means of production -- it may make sense, but it is not in accord with teh original beliefs or purposes of the organization.

The sooner we can separate, the better off we will be. Hopefully, it will be a gracious separation -- but with Bp Schori's letter, that is doubtful. I can understand her vehemence, for unless we who believe what the Apostles taught affirm that what you believe is an authentic expression of the Christian faith, you have to bear the burden of being a novelty.