The Episcopal Church has deposed one of its Californian bishops after he affiliated his diocese with a conservative Anglican province based in South America, the California Catholic Daily reports.
In December Bishop John-David Schofield of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, with lay representatives and clergy, decided to change their ecclesial affiliation from the U.S. Episcopal Church to the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. The diocese decided to change affiliation because of the Episcopal Church’s toleration and promotion of homosexuality and other disputes about Biblical orthodoxy. The Fresno-based diocese, which has over 8,000 members, no longer calls itself Episcopal but Anglican.
Episcopal presiding bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori in January placed an “inhibition” on Bishop Schofield, forbidding him from performing religious rites until an Episcopal Church meeting could make a decision.
At a Texas meeting of the Episcopal House of Bishops on March 12, the bishops voted to depose Bishop Schofield from ordained ministry because he had “repudiated the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church.” They also voted to depose a retired bishop from Maryland, William Cox, because he also continued to perform religious rites after affiliating with the Province of the Southern Cone.
The deposition of Schofield means that the Episcopal Church can establish a rival bishop over his diocese. Lawsuits over the diocesan property of the Diocese of San Joaquin are likely to follow.
On the day of the deposition vote, Bishop Schofield received a letter from Bishop Gregory J. Venables, the primate of the Southern Cone. Bishop Venables said in the letter, “God has called us to faithfully represent Christ in a difficult time in history… To bear faithful witness to Christ, however costly for us, is less of a price than that which must be paid by those who deny His saving grace.
“We are deeply honored to have you as Bishop and your Diocese as full members of the Southern Cone.”
Bishop Schofield responded to the Episcopal bishops’ decision to depose him by saying their disciplinary procedures were intended for those who had abandoned the faith and were leading people away from orthodox Christianity.
“I have not abandoned the Faith,” said Bishop Schofield. “The question that begs to be answered by the House of Bishops is, why bishops who continue to teach and publish books that deny the most basic Christian beliefs are not disciplined while those of us who uphold the Christian Faith are?”
According to the California Catholic Daily, Bishop Schofield said he still belongs to the Anglican Communion as a member of the Southern Cone’s House of Bishops. He accused the leadership of the Episcopal Church of treating itself as a separate and unique church.
“They may do so,” he said, “but they ought not expect everyone to follow teaching that serves only to undermine the authority of the Bible and ultimately leads to lifestyles that are destructive.”