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By Daniel Burke
Religion News Service

The Episcopal Church has barred Bishop John-David Schofield of San Joaquin, Calif., from ministry for “abandoning” the church by leading his diocese to secede from the national church last December.
Officially called an “inhibition,” the ban was imposed by Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori late Friday (Jan. 11), after a nine-member committee voted that Schofield had “abandoned” the Episcopal Church.
Because Schofield says he is no longer bound by U.S. church leaders, the jostling and ensuing court battles over who controls the diocese — including property, assets and clergy — will likely take years to settle.
Under church law, Episcopal bishops will vote on whether to depose Schofield in March. Until then, Schofield is permitted to recant his position or renounce his orders.
During his inhibition, Schofield is ordered not to preach, or perform any other religious rites pertaining to Episcopal priests or bishops.
In December, his Fresno, Calif.-based diocese became the first ever to vote to leave the Episcopal fold over disagreements about the Bible and sexuality. A majority of San Joaquin’s 50 churches and estimated 9,000 members joined the Anglican province of the Southern Cone of South America.
Archbishop Gregory Venables of Argentina, who heads that province, said Schofield “is not under the authority or jurisdiction of the Episcopal Church or the Presiding Bishop.”
Venables continued: “He is, therefore, not answerable to their national canon law but is a member of the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone and under our authority.”
Episcopal leaders, who maintain that individuals may leave the church but dioceses and congregations may not, are expected to contest San Joaquin’s claim of ownership over diocesan assets and property.
Bonnie Anderson, president of the Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies, said that “clarification of (Schofield’s) status will be a relief to many Episcopalians in the diocese. That clarity will help them in their ministry to each other and beyond in the continuing Diocese of San Joaquin.”
If Schofield is removed from office in March, Episcopal leaders would call a new convention and appoint a temporary bishop to head the diocese while searching for a new prelate.
The battle between liberals and conservatives in the Anglican Communion and its U.S. branch, the Episcopal Church, over scripture and sexuality has intensified since a gay, partnered man was elected Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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