Saturday, January 12, 2008

Renunciation and Adultery

Friday afternoon, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori inhibited the Bishop of San Joaquin, John-David Schofield.

Bishop Schofield was inhibited according to the canons of the Episcopal Church. First, the Title IV Review Committee certified that he has abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church. The review committee met on Wednesday and then notified the Presiding Bishop that a majority of the committee agreed that the documentation provided to them "demonstrated that Bishop Schofield has abandoned the communion of this Church by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of this Church." Then on Friday, the three senior bishops with jurisdiction gave their consent for the inhibition and without delay the inhibition was issued.

Now the practical effect of the inhibition, as I see it, is simply to prepare the way for the House of Bishops to vote at their March meeting to depose Bishop Schofield, which will open the way for an interim Bishop to be appointed and for the governance of the Diocese to be reconstituted.

There are undoubtedly practical issues relating to pensions and possibly insurance to be resolved. Most of the clergy in the diocese voted to sever ties with the Episcopal Church and affiliate with the Province of the Southern Cone. It is also true that there will then be litigation over property. Since Bishop Schofield and the other leadership in the Diocese of San Joaquin claim that they are no longer subject to the discipline of the Episcopal Church, nothing much will change on the ground until Bishop Schofield is deposed. Moreover, the inhibition specifically exempts acts relating to “the administration of the temporal affairs of the Diocese of San Joaquin.”

Over a year ago, Bishop Schofield openly declared his intention to renounce the Discipline of the Church. Everybody knew it was coming – all we were waiting for was the act. He had, you might say, already committed renunciation in his heart.

In the Gospel of Matthew (5:27-28) Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (NRSV)

It is clear to me that there are at least two other diocesan bishops who have already in their hearts committed “open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of this Church.” It seems to me that any reasonable person would conclude that both Bishop Duncan and Bishop Iker should be inhibited on the strength of their declared intentions to leave as soon as their dioceses (improperly) vote to go with them.


Father Jake has posted on the Diocese of Fort Worth and in the comments the question of an inhibition of Bishop Iker has been raised (not by me.) In response, I went further there than I did above --- as I see it, Bishop Iker has already openly renounced the discipline of hte Episcopal Church and is thus subject to inhibiton and deposition. Of course, those canonically responsible would have to agree for this to happen, and I strongly suspect that Bishop Katharine will not move unless she is certain that there is agreement at least on inhibition.

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