Bishop Schofield wrote Bishop Jefferts Schori on November 28, 2006 , in response to her letter of November 20, 2006. In this letter Bishop Schofield states: (i) he is faithful to his vows, (ii) the Episcopal Church is on a wrong theological path, is apostate and unrepentant, (iii) the Diocese of San Joaquin will express its will concerning continuing “institutional membership” in two phases, (iv) if the convention votes to leave the Bishop can shorten or lengthen the process by the timing of the Diocesan Convention next year, (v) there are “factors” that will contribute to timing, “we are responding to the Primates who called upon us to remain flexible,” and (vi) “should proceedings be instituted against me…I would not feel obliged to exercise restraint.”
He doesn’t get it.
The Presiding Bishop, in her letter of November 20th, had called into question Bishop Schofield’s vow to “solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church,” (pg. 513 of the BCP) not his vows expressed later in the ordination service. The issue is not Bishop Schofield’s general vows as bishop, but his vows to exercise his vocation in the context of The Episcopal Church.
The diocese of San Joaquin is a diocese of the larger entity called The Episcopal Church. Should Bishop Schofield wish to leave, and supposing most of the members of the various churches in the Diocese wish to join him, they would be viewed by the institution of the Episcopal Church as having vacated the leadership of the Diocese. The Diocese would not have left, they and he would have left. So at the last the exercise of restraint on the Bishop’s part is of no particular consequence, save that provides momentary relief from having to deal with his oddly shaped ecclesiology.
Bishop Schofield’s letter threatens an end to restraint. It is too late. His letter already indicates that he is relying on direction from the Primates in February 2007, following on the call by the Global South Primates who met with the Realignment bishops and leaders November 15-17, and that “until then, powerful forces will be at work that will ultimately shape the future.”
Look, then, for several new power plays in the immediate future. Where will these come from? Possibly from the Archbishop of Nigeria, who has been remarkably silent in the past few weeks, possibly from the committee he heads, the Global South Steering Committee, possibly from his surrogate, Bishop Minns, from whom nothing at all has been heard. Or, with his being named as the spokesperson for those seeking APO, perhaps it will come from Bishop Duncan.
Given the Global South Steering Committee’s request from realignment people meeting with them in mid November, it appears that they wanted the American realignment folk to be united, have a single spokesperson, and take direction form them. Well, Bishop Schofield is dutiful in following directions. And in the Moderator of the Network, also the Bishop of Pittsburgh, there is a spokesperson.
Today (November 30) ENS posted “A Response to ‘An Appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury” which outlines a response to the request for alternative primatial oversight or relationship. The statement is HERE.
It proposes a Primatial Vicar, reaffirms Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO), and provides for a period of time – three years – for an initial use of this arrangement.
Sarah Dylan Breuer has an excellent commentary on this document. See it HERE.
There have been other initial responses from Bishop Iker , Bishop Duncan, and from David Anderson of the AAC Not surprisingly they don’t like it.
Bishop Duncan said, “at first glance what is proposed is neither primatial, nor oversight, nor is it an alternative to the spiritual authority of one who, by both teaching and action, has expressly rejected the Windsor Report and its recommendations. This is obviously not what was asked for.” (bold mine)
David Anderson simply said, ““The proposal does not take into account the heart of the issue and problem which is that Katharine Jefferts Schori has adopted a form of faith, theology and Christology that is so seriously out of step with historic Anglicanism and Christianity that it calls into question her capacity to give appropriate leadership on this matter. It keeps all the power in her hands. The proposal is to be in consultation with not the consent of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Thus she makes all the decisions. It is a non-starter.” (bold mine.)
What Bishop Schofield doesn’t get is merely the result of faulty ecclesiology. What the Moderator of the ANC and the President of the AAC are up to is the extension of the shell game that both AAC and ANC have used over a protracted period.
Every new attempt to mollify the realignment crowd is met by their shifting of the issues, so that we are distracted into paying a lot of attention to each new issue and not focusing on the core goal of both organizations: the effort to gather as much authority as possible around their organizations so that they can make the plea that they represent the authoritative voice of Anglicanism in North America and are the true constituent member of the Anglican Communion.
The demands for “alternative” primatial oversight is precisely the demand for a primate of their own choosing, whose standing is not dependent on The Episcopal Church or its leadership.
Bishop Schofield raised the standard issues for his plea regarding APO. He recited the actions of General Convention 2003 and the brokenness of the Communion, and interestingly Pope Benedict’s statements. I have remarked on those in another essay. Read that HERE. But Bishop Schofield in his letter did not mention concerns about the Presiding Bishop’s preaching, teaching or past actions.
It is important to recognize that both the ACN and AAC statements do turn on the Presiding Bishop. Now the objection is about HER leadership.
The proposal from the bishop’s meeting of November will not satisfy most of the realignment crowd because it does not give on the issue of just who is Primate in The Episcopal Church, any more than the Diocesan parallel (Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight) gives on the issue of just who is the Diocesan Bishop. Both proposals provide an alternative way, for pastoral reasons, to have the functions of the office exercised.
However, the reality is there for all to see: There is one bishop diocesan, one primate. Not many.
In the end Bishop Schofield doesn’t get it. He swore on to this ecclesiology and he can bow out, but as Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said, “The Church will endure whatever decision you make in San Joaquin.”
The Moderator of the ACN and the President of the AAC don’t get it. They can move the shells around all they want: what they are attempting to do only happens if they acquire leverage from which they can claim power and authority. But time is running out.
They are using up what authority they have in dashing here and there for new leverage where there is none. The proposal for a Primatial Vicar is telling – the realignment crowd weeps for primatial oversight. But in The Episcopal Church that oversight is not exactly massive. A Vicar will do.
What I find most interesting about the proposal for a Primatial Vicar is that it points out the particular polity of The Episcopal Church – in which power is not vested in a monarchical metropolitan or patriarchy, but in the Houses – of bishops and deputies – with the Primate as presiding officer of one house and of both when they meet together, and Chief Pastor. The proposed “Primatial Vicar” is a pastoral response by the Chief Pastor. It is not a give away of powers, real or imagined.
Within six hours of its publication the rejection slips are coming in. Perhaps that is what needs to happen. Perhaps it will become clear that the leadership of the realignment network is not interested in a pastoral response at all, nor interested in having a Presiding Bishop. Instead these leaders want a power response: an alternative Primate of their own choosing, and one with primatial powers unlike those available in The Episcopal Church.