“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
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
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.