Admiral of Morality: Presiding Bishop Warns the Network

Monday, November 20, 2006

Presiding Bishop Warns the Network

The choice: "Uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them or find a home elsewhere"

San Joaquin Bishop could be deposed and new bishop named

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has written to the Bishop of San Joaquin, John Schofield, asking him to repudiate his statements that he intends to undermine the work and integrity of the Church. The letter likely serves as a warning to the rest of the Network bishops and many clergy who have passed from loyal dissent to actively undermining the Church.

Most Network bishops and many clergy, have turned their offices and mission, to denouncing the Church. Some in the Network may consider their membership a sign of loyal dissent or a vehicle for increased fellowship or advocacy. But many of its clergy and bishops actively seek to undermine the Church at home and abroad by attacking its mission, clergy, and laity who do not agree with them. ++Katharine writes that Schofield may be taking up the Cross for division and antagonism rather than building up the Body.

Schofield, recently cleared of abandoning the Church, stated in interviews that he intends to do precisely this at the upcoming dicoesan convention, by working to sever the diocese from the Church, which created the diocese as a missionary diocese in 1911.

The Presiding Bishop states in her letter that she stands ready for conversation and reconciliaton, but indicates clearly she is prepared to have Schofield removed as bishop if necessary in order to prevent any further spiritual violence to the Church and the people of the diocese.

The text of her letter:
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


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