The Presiding Bishop has written Bishop John-David Schofield the following letter:
"December 14, 2007
The Rt. Rev. John-David M. Schofield, SSC
Diocese of San Joaquin
4159 E. Dakota Avenue
Fresno, CA 93726
My dear brother,
I was deeply saddened to hear of the actions of the Diocesan Convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin this past weekend, particularly the declaration that you are no longer part of The Episcopal Church, but are now under the authority of the Province of the Southern Cone. I assume that this means you understand yourself to have departed the Episcopal Church and are no longer functioning as a member of the clergy in this Church.
I would like to have confirmation from you of this understanding of your status. Many interrelated matters depend on that status – for example, your membership in the House of Bishops and the acceptability of pension contributions on your behalf.
You continue in my prayers.
Yours in Christ,
Katharine Jefferts Schori"
Dated today and posted in an article by the Episcopal News Service, one presumes the letter was sent by electronic means as well as by post, so that Bishop Schofield has it in hand. It cannot have been a surprise.
There are indeed "many interrelated matters" that depend on the status of his membership in The Episcopal Church. If he has abandoned The Episcopal Church his position in the House of Bishops will be resolved by his being deposed. Details are available HERE. . His pension will indeed be frozen at some point. He can of course receive the pension due worked out in terms of years of service, etc, but at some point he ceases to be able to add to his pension contribution.
More to the moment, actions taken by Bishop Schofield in and for "The Diocese of San Joaquin" following his departure would be of questionable legal standing. And if he has left and now is part of the Province of the Southern Cone, does this mean the Standing Committee becomes the Ecclesiastical Authority? What if the clergy members have also left The Episcopal Church? What of the lay members? Might there be a quorum of Standing Committee members who continue as members of The Episcopal Church until such time as they too declare they are no longer part of The Episcopal Church, even though the Bishop has declare himself out and the diocese with him? What if, while the ecclesiastical authority, the Standing Committee gave approval to various reassignments of clergy, passed on the decision to ordain new candidates, etc? Would those stand? It is not simply his membership in The Episcopal Church that is at stake here. If he also contends that clergy and congregations have gone with him, and that Diocesan Convention decisions affirmed that, then the whole structure of ordained and lay leadership is without continuing clear power to act in The Episcopal Church context. If I were a bank manager where Diocesan funds are held, I would want to have assurances that the Bishop continues to have signatory powers for the Diocese, and barring that that his signature card is voided. What is to be done with all this?
Unsnarling this mess of tangled interrelated matters will be a knitters nightmare, unsettling until completed, and then only really settled when some new knitting can commence.
The Presiding Bishop is absolutely correct in asking for Bishop Schofield's understanding of his current status. His reply will be most informative, I am sure.