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Associated Press
Fresno, California – Episcopal leaders have ousted a breakaway conservative bishop in a struggle for control of the Diocese of San Joaquin and its properties.
The Episcopal House of Bishops, meeting in Texas, took the action Wednesday against Bishop John-David Schofield, who last December led the Fresno diocese to secede from the Episcopal Church.
The Episcopal Church is the Anglican body in the U.S.
San Joaquin is the first full diocese to split from the liberal-leaning denomination, which in 2003 consecrated the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the head of the national church, has been working to maintain oversight of the central California church region. Episcopal leaders still consider the diocese part of the denomination. Schofield, however, aligned the diocese with the conservative Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, based in Argentina.
The Episcopal Church is the Anglican body in the U.S.
The House of Bishops voted to “depose” Schofield, which removes him as head of the diocese and bars him from performing any religious duties.
Schofield, who opposes ordaining women and gays, vowed in a statement to continue leading the diocese as a member of the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone.
“I am still an active Anglican bishop,” he said.
He warned that any attempt by the denomination to “seize our property” through litigation would violate biblical teachings. The diocese includes 48 church buildings in prime real estate markets throughout California.
“It appears as though the real motivation behind all of this is the use of raw power and coveting property,” Schofield said.
Jefferts Schori cautioned that “since he is no longer the bishop of San Joaquin it would be inappropriate for him to retain title.”
About 2,000 parishioners in the 8,000-member diocese want to stay in the Episcopal Church and have hoped for Schofield’s removal.
“We’ve been waiting for this,” said Ron Miller, a former vestry member at a Turlock parish that has split into opposing camps. “Many of us have gone through very hurtful times and vilifications by Schofield supporters. This is the initial step leading us toward healing and reconciliation.”
Since last August, dozens of worshippers have been studying the Bible at a parishioner’s home and are planning to hold Easter Sunday services in a park because congregants who support the bishop have control of St. Francis parish, Miller said.
Jefferts Schori and other leaders plan to travel to Stockton on March 29 for a convention in which parishioners who wish to stay with the national denomination will elect a new bishop.
The global Anglican Communion is a family of churches that trace their roots to the Church of England. The fellowship is on the brink of schism over Robinson’s consecration.
Schofield and other conservatives believe Scripture bars same-sex relationships, and he told San Joaquin churchgoers that they risked moral decay by staying with the Episcopal Church.
Several dozen conservative U.S. parishes have split from the national denomination since 2003 and, like Schofield, aligned with like-minded Anglican provinces overseas. But a majority of Episcopalians accept gay relationships, based on biblical teachings on social justice.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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