The Oraborus and the Bishop of San Joaquin.

The Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin is in the midst of living out one of several self destructive images, warnings of which are often expressed as follows:

“What goes around comes around.”

“Be careful what you pray for, you may get it.”

“Watch out it doesn’t bite you in the ass.”

“Don’t be an instrument of your own oppression.”

All of these are variations on the shadow side of the image of the Oroborus: The snake or dragon that eats its own tail - that consumes itself. Sometimes the Oroborus is considered a positive symbol of eternity, always renewing itself, but self contained and perhaps containing everything. But the shadow side is there, the smiling satisfied serpent that does not realize that his appetites are being satisfied by self consumption.

The Bishop of San Joaquin, John-David Schofield, has made several newsworthy statements regarding the Diocese of San Joaquin and its continuing life in the Episcopal Church in the past week and these have provoked commentary from Fr. Jake, Thinking Anglicans, the Daily Episcopalian, the Living Church and others.

Bishop Schofield believes that the Diocese of San Joaquin has the right to withdraw from the Episcopal Church if it wishes and that the Diocese can continue as part of the Anglican Communion, either independently or under the authority of another Province. He assumes that he as bishop and the diocese as an ecclesiastical entity possessing sufficient autonomous powers to provide the nutrients needed to maintain life without being included in the Episcopal Church. He is urging the Diocese to choose life apart from the Episcopal Church from which is derived his license as bishop and the diocese’s life as more than a local council of churches. He is inviting his diocese and himself to self-consumption. He does so with a smile on his face.

Nowhere is this more evident than in an interview recorded on AnglicanTV in Anglican Report Episode Nine. There Bishop Schofield is almost gleeful with self satisfaction as he reports on the process of disaffiliation with the Episcopal Church that he is promoting. At the end of this interview he was asked about possible future relations with the Presiding Bishop, and he remarked, “I doubt very seriously if she wants to have any truck with me or the Diocese of San Joaquin and quite frankly we would be only too glad to reciprocate.” He seemed pleased with that.

Bishop Schofield in his now famous letter to the diocese had this to say about the Episcopal Church:

“The truth is that TEC (1) denies the unique divinity of Jesus Christ and (2) takes a position on human sexuality which undercuts marriage and is destructive to the family unit designed by God and revealed in Scripture. These are not positions and teachings which are merely "revisionist" or "liberal." These are positions of those who have abandoned the Christian faith.”

So it is no wonder that he wants out.

Fair enough: if you believe the Episcopal Church has abandoned the Christian faith, it would indeed be a good idea to leave.

In leaving, however, it might be good to remember that every ordained person exercises ministry by license. We may carry our orders with us wherever we go, but our orders are only activated by license. Bishop Schofield is bishop of San Joaquin by virtue of being part of the body of the Episcopal Church, and in particular part of the House of Bishops in union with the General Convention.

The people of the Diocese of San Joaquin, as a grouping of people, can be convinced by the bishop to follow him into the wilderness. God bless them. But the Diocese of San Joaquin, as an instrument of mission of the Episcopal Church and as an ecclesiastical entity, is not thereby voided. It will continue.

The Bishop, if he breaks from the House of Bishops, is no longer a bishop in the Episcopal Church. He may not mind that, but we will have to mind that. The people of the diocese may leave, they may not mind that but we will have to mind that.

Our ‘minding’ will include grief for both bishop and people, who fed us all by their presence in the Episcopal Church and who were fed by the whole of which they were a part. There is no smile of satisfaction in the Bishop’s attempt to leave. Instead of being fed by the wider church community and feeding us all by the particular witness he and his community brings, we ought to grieve as we witness this self consuming and self destructive tragedy play out.


  1. Amen, Mark. Amen.

  2. I'm shocked.

    I watched the interview.

    +San Juaquin needs emotional and spiritual help desperately...this man is "acting out" in self-altered reality.

  3. Not to be catty or anything, but now that I have seen the Schofield video, I have a pretty good idea of why he is so preoccupied with homosexuality.

  4. "But the Diocese of San Joaquin, as an instrument of mission of the Episcopal Church and as an ecclesiastical entity, is not thereby voided. It will continue."
    Yeah right! All forty-seven loyal Episcopalians will declare themselves the "true" Episcopal Church and will remain part of the withered branch that is barely attached (if at all) to the one holy catholic and apostolic vine to which it once belonged.

  5. When I moved from Tennessee to California I lived in Modesto and was a member of St. Paul's. I met Bishop Rivera. Even though he was against the ordination of women, I think he was a good bishop. But he is probably spinning in his grave at the current Bishop's actions.

  6. susan s. GOOD NEWS (no grave rolling)

    I believe the good Bishops daughter is:

    The Right Reverend Bavi Edna "Nedi" Rivera

    (Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Olympia Washington).

    People change!

  7. Ricardo...
    Yes she is, but she became a priest against his wishes. There was reconciliation when she was made a bishop. I believe he gave her his cope to wear for that event. He had retired by then but he was there.

  8. Brother William16/11/06 5:04 PM

    Ah, the ever-courageous Anonymous is here to boldly proclaim the Faith Once Delivered To The Apostles Around 1912 and smite the Unrighteous Heretics with the Flaming Sword of Gastric Indignation.

    Onward, Christian Soldier!

  9. Anonymous (4th poster):

    Yup. IF there were really only 47 faithful Episcopalians in San Joaquin they would, indeed, constitute the Episcopalians* of the Diocese of San Joaquin (man that sounds like a tautology!), entitled to all that belongs to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.

    [* And ergo, Anglicans]

    If only 47 (or only 4---or only 1---or even Zero).

    ...but their numbers won't stay that small for very long. Faithful Episcopalians will move into the diocese, and---Praise Christ!---others will/are newly finding God's GOOD NEWS in TEC...

    ...even in Stockton. Even in Modesto. Even in Lodi. Even in Merced. Even in Turlock. Even in Fresno. Even in Delano. Even in Bakersfield. (I sorta know this part of the world, or can you tell? Let freedom ring from Mount Whitney! ;-p).

    Holy Saint Joachim, grandfather of our Lord Jesus Christ: pray for the Episcopalian faithful of your namesake valley. Amen.

  10. Come on Mark, catch up with Truro Church and The Falls Church in VA.
    Two more of the largest Episcopal Churches in country pulling out.
    It's kind of like turning in front of a speeding tractor trailer with your little economy car because you have the right of way. Problem is, you will be DEAD right. For all of you Mark groupies, get a different opinion, read "Homosexuality, Good and Right in the Eyes of God?" by F. Earl Fox; or even, if you happen to be scholarly, try Robert A.J. Gagnon's book, "The Bible and Homosexual Practice, Texts and Hermeneutics" The entire issue of the acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle in this country was the very sophistcated orchestration of a pile of lies which the Episcopal Church bought, and now, it does'nt know how to undo. God forbid that anyone would have to say they are WRONG. But then again when you disregard scripture as meaningless history, meant only for that time and place, it really won't matter much.

  11. You guys are unbelievable. How many times have you said: "The church isn't a building. The church isn't the bishop. The church is the people." Your tune now goes "the church is the name (i.e., the franchise)." The CHURCH (you know - the peolpe) in San Joaquin is telling you that you belong to a different church than they do. They don't intend to stop being "the church" and join your cult devoted to the god "if it feels good, do it."

  12. Hey Anonymous...

    Exactly. God forbid anybody ever admitted that they were wrong.

    Including you. And Fox, etc.

    Ssspt. God didn't write the Bible. Humans did.

    Jesus didn't talk about homosexuals, Paul, the undivine human, did.

    I wonder what sins you are without that you feel so free to hurl stones around so freely.

    Me thinks you doth protest too much.

  13. And if the good Bishop of S.J. feels he and his parishoners in S.J. are not part of TEC, begone, and quit the Diocese. But there is still a Diocese of TEC in S.J. - his grand departure from it not withstanding.

    Those of us in the church of the God of reason and light, who sent his son for the likes of us ALL, are glad to see him keep the church of the God of bigotry and prejudice under separate cover. The more I read from your likes, the happier I'll be to see their backs.

  14. Mark

    You gotta be kidding. It is clear the San Joaquin is not the one doing the leaving... It is the TEC that is walking away... Time for THEM to say goodby, not San Joaquin who is staying...

    • In the New Testament, homosexuality is considered a serious sin as well. Jesus reiterates the Old Testament teaching that marriage is exclusively between one man and one woman in explaining why divorce is a sin. Matthew 19:4-6 states:
    4And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’' 5and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.."

  15. As you point out, anon, your text has directly to do with divorce, far more directly than it has anything at all to do with homosexuality.

    And yet divorce seems to be quite popular among the "orthodox." None other than Canon David Roseberry, who was in charge of the Network's efforts to "preserve the sanctity of marriage" has two wives, something that he has in common with many of his parishioners.

    When people spend all their time fulminating over the homos while averting their gazes from the rampant adultery in their midst, they look an awful lot like hypocrites.

  16. Bill Carroll18/11/06 11:17 AM

    Bishop Schofield deserves our respect as a human being, a brother, and a bishop. I think his actions have invited another round of scrutiny and perhaps a second presentment, but he still deserves due process and respectful speech.

  17. I have to agree with Bill c. While I have a deep sense that the bishop and his diocise are living in a delusion, he is still their chief pastor unless or untill an ecclesiastical court removes him. And even then, when he discovers his Ugandan or Bolivian roots (and he will) he will still be the bishop of some folks.

    I have little use for the continuim, but I treat its members, lay and clerical with a sense that they are even if I think misled, attempting the same journey.


  18. Sorry Anon - it's the SJ that's leaving TEC..not the other way around.

    In Mark, Jesus was speaking of marriage in the only way it was culturally perceived (2000+ years ago), and actually, he was speaking more against men abandoning their wives, who had no RIGHTS without them - the sin is of abandonment of the helpless, in my mind, rather than even against divorce. I don't think Christ, as a human, could have conceived of women who could support themselves without a husband. Wives were property to be abandoned and stolen at will. I believe this is what Christ was preaching against.

    I disagree with Bill and Jim...FWIW..

    Schofield, is NOT acting as an agent of TEC. I don't disagree that he is acting from a place of deep conscience - but it isn't from a place of TEC. He's renounced it, for better or worse. I disagree with him vehemently, but I do wish him Godspeed on his way, and pray for him and those like him daily.

    Christ spoke no words againts homosexuality. The words you quote are twisted for your own agenda.

    Blessings from the our Mother, creator of all life...

  19. Eileen,

    I think you mistake me, and I suspect Bill C. Neither of us would, I think, care to argue that Bp. Schofield is acting as a representative of TEC. I will go a step further and say I think the presentment against him should have been allowed to continue.

    That said, even as I wont refer to Bp. Katherine as, "jefferts - Schori" I wont refer to the bishop as "Schofield."

    That is not about validating either the gentleman's views, but rather respecting the place to which his diocise has elected him, and my own sense of what the faith requires of each of us. When we promise to "respect the dignity of every human being" as the prayerbook has it, the vow includes homophobes.


  20. Jim...

    Conceded, begrudingly (dragging myself kicking and screaming....)

    Yes, God, I do "understand" in my head that you have made homophobes, even if in my human limitation I don't in my heart. Prayers ascending for Bp. Schofield - although, I'm not sure what he's the Bishop of anymore...

    (sitting properly chastened in the corner...) ;-)

  21. Eileen,

    :-) It is hard to love those who hate you. I suppose we should be grateful for the opportunity.


  22. Mark,

    This is all very sad, but thank you again for your insights. Prayers are very much in order.

    Here are my thoughts from "next door."

  23. Bill Carroll20/11/06 2:09 PM

    I don't think it would be over the line to suggest that Bishop Schofield is acting inappropriately and is undermining the doctrine, discipline, and worship he swore to uphold. This invites ecclesiastical discipline. I think the earlier presentment was premature and that the review committee did the right thing. I'm not at all sure that a new presentment wouldn't be appropriate right now. But the process needs to be initiated in the proper manner and needs to be followed. In the meantime, why not criticize his actions, which are worthy of repudiation, in a civil tone.

  24. Bill,

    Nor do I think that is over the proverbial line. In fact, the presiding bishop has written an open letter that says about the same thing, and more, to the bishop. She is very clear that he has and / or is about to cross not one but several lines.

    Our new PB seems to have a nearly surgical touch with letters. I am sure the bishop did not enjoy reading the note. I am equally sure he is about to discover his African heritage. ;;sigh;;



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