Just a month ago, maybe less, we heard about the decision of two prominent Virginia parishes of the Episcopal Church to leave the this communion. Now the San Joaquin, California diocese, led by Bishop John-David Schofield, is considering leaving in mass and align with another episcopal jurisdiction, either in South America or Africa.
An interesting article by Louis Sahagun appears today in the LA Times. It is really distressing news. Although I've not been an Episcopalian since the mid 1970s, when I began my youthful journey in search of my own faith, my mother remains a devoted Episcopalian and my own historical work centers on the Anglican tradition (17th/18th centuries). The diocese is composed of about 47 congregations, not all of similar mind. But at least a majority is of this mindset, and not surprisingly since the current bishop has been there nearly 20 years and likely his predecessor was conservative. The San Joaquin Valley (The Big Valley for those who remember the show) is much more conservative as a whole than the Bay Area or LA. It has long resisted ordination of women (so not surprised about the problem with homosexuality). One of his critics, Fresno area pastor Keith Axberg, suggests that Schofield's biggest achievement is the "destruction of a diocese."
Because property is involved, the Civil Courts will be involved as well, which is a shame, but necessary. The Episcopal Church, which has long been a prominent voice in American life, is being torn asunder and that is disquieting. What is interesting to me is the manner in which a diocese that is so outside the national mainstream is able to sustain itself with clergy. What I discovered on the diocese's website is a school of ministry that partners with the local Mennonite Brethren Seminary and Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Virginia.
Whatever happens in this little diocese is sure to have a ripple effect, dividing congregations and dioceses. We've already seen this happen with the American Baptists in Southern California.