A former Episcopalian diocese that left the denomination to join the Anglican jurisdiction of the Southern Cone is now being sued by its Episcopalian successor for its possessions and real estate.
The California Catholic Daily reports that in December, Episcopal Bishop John-David Schofield, with both clergy and lay representatives of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, decided to withdraw the diocese’s affiliation with the U.S. Episcopal Church to join the South American Anglican jurisdiction of the Southern Cone.
Motives for the 8,000-member diocese’s decision included the Episcopal Church’s toleration and promotion of homosexuality and other issues the Fresno-based diocese says depart from biblical orthodoxy. The diocese now calls itself the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin.
The Episcopal House of Bishops in a March 12 meeting in Texas voted to depose Bishop Schofield from the ordained ministry because, they said, he had “repudiated the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church.” Bishop Schofield said the vote has no effect because he now belongs to the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone.
Parishes in the diocese who remained with the Episcopal Church have reformed the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, approving the Right Rev. Jerry Lamb as their provisional bishop. On April 24, the reformed Episcopal diocese filed a lawsuit in Fresno County Superior Court to reclaim possessions and real estate property, including the diocesan chancery office, which are in the possession of the Anglican diocese.
The Episcopal diocese’s lawsuit says that the properties are being used “to advance the ministry and mission of a different church.” The lawsuit seeks to regain the “substantial assets” of the corporation sole, including Episcopal missions and parishes within the diocese
Of the original diocese’s 47 congregations, 42 voted to join the Southern Cone, though some congregations have reportedly decided to join the Episcopal diocese. Including two new congregations, the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin has 18 congregations.
According to California Catholic Daily, Bishop Schofield said that nothing in the constitutions and canons of the Episcopal Church prohibits a diocese from leaving one province and joining another. “Just as we stood together for the sake of our witness to the Gospel at our Convention in December, so now will we continue to stand together for that same witness,” he said.