Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hero of the Month

We are aware that many who log onto The Episcopal Majority are Episcopalians looking for some kind of light or inspiration in remaining Episcopalians in a hostile environment. It is for you, especially, that we post this inspiring story (via Episcopal Life Online) of courage in the face of abusive power:

SAN JOAQUIN: Atwater vicar asks bishop to clarify planned visit
By Mary Frances Schjonberg, December 20, 2007

The vicar of St. Nicholas Episcopal Church in Atwater, California, in the Diocese of San Joaquin has written to Bishop John-David Schofield questioning his plan to visit the congregation December 23 and asking for clarification about his status as a bishop in the Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Fred Risard noted in his December 20 letter to Schofield that St. Nicholas had "already had the pleasure of your annual visitation for 2007."

"Without notice of the upcoming visit we have not had the opportunity to prepare candidates for confirmation, nor is the Bishop's Committee prepared to meet with you," Risard continued.

The vicar told Schofield that he has the permission of the mission's Bishop's Committee (which is the mission equivalent of a vestry) to request the clarifications. Risard also noted that he has consulted with legal counsel.

"We would like you to state to us your pastoral and canonical relationship with St. Nicholas Episcopal Church, and myself," Risard wrote in his letter. "You publicly stated at our diocesan convention that you no longer are the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, and instead you are a Bishop within the Province of the Southern Cone. As such, we understand your visit is simply to worship with us; there will be no liturgical role for you, neither celebrating nor preaching. The Episcopal Church welcomes all, and you are most welcome to worship, with the purpose of seeking transformation and reconciliation."

Delegates attending the 48th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin on December 8 voted overwhelmingly to leave the Episcopal Church and to align with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

Congregations and individual Episcopalians who wish to remain in the Episcopal Church are making plans for the continuation of the Diocese of San Joaquin. Continuing Episcopalians and their supporters are exchanging information and resources via the Remain Episcopal website.

On December 14, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori sent a short letter to Schofield asking him to confirm his declaration that he is now under the authority of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone "means you understand yourself to have departed the Episcopal Church and are no longer functioning as a member of the clergy in this Church." Schofield has not yet responded to the Presiding Bishop's request.

In a December 16 pastoral letter meant to be read or distributed in all the congregations of the diocese, Schofield said, in part, that the diocese is "no longer operating under the looming shadow" of what he called the Episcopal Church's "institutional apostasy."

"In all fairness, if the Presiding Bishop has asked for a clarification and hasn't received one, I think that the priests in the Diocese of San Joaquin are entitled to know, too," Mike Glass, a San Rafael, California-based attorney who represents congregations and individuals who wish to remain in the Episcopal Church within the diocese, told Episcopal News Service. Glass added that priests may be rightly concerned about violating church canons by allowing Schofield to preside in their congregations.

"Until that clarification comes from either the Episcopal Church's canonical processes or from the bishop himself, perhaps the bishop ought to refrain from attempting to exercise any episcopal authority," he added.

Neither Schofield nor any other spokesperson could be reached for comment.

Risard told ENS that Schofield spoke to a deacon at St. Nicholas by phone on December 20 and questioned the intent of Risard's letter. The vicar said that he emailed Schofield later in the day to assure him that he has no intention of banning him from worshipping with the mission congregation.

"I would never ban anybody from worship -- not even my worst enemy -- because I would hope that they would be transformed by the Eucharist and the grace of God," he said.

Risard said he is worried that Schofield is coming to St. Nicholas to either announce the closing of the mission or his removal as vicar, actions that Schofield has taken elsewhere in the diocese during his episcopate.

"Is it his intention to support the mission congregations in their call to worship and to serve the poor or does he want to close it?" Risard said. "He needs to go on record about what he's doing."

Noting that following their Eucharist, the mission congregation plans to "go out into the community to deliver groceries and coats to a dozen needy families as we seek to do the work of Mission which comes out of our worship of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior," Risard asked in his letter, "Will you be coming as our Episcopal Bishop, having repented of your actions at Diocesan Convention, seeking forgiveness and reconciliation? Or will you be coming to worship as a visiting foreign Bishop seeking to reconcile with your former congregation and Vicar, and, following the Mass, to join us as we take groceries and coats to the poor?"

The mission has sent announcements to the local newspapers "to reassure the public that the Episcopal Church is still present in the Merced area, where ALL are welcome to worship and do the work of the Mission," Risard said in his letter.

While he thinks it is proper for the Episcopal Church to be pursuing canonical procedures to clarify and then respond to Schofield's status and the actions of the convention, Risard told ENS that other issues must be addressed.

"We need a parallel and no less important conversation about filling the pews in San Joaquin," he said. "We all need to focus on the missions of the church -- not for my own self-interest -- but for the mission of the church" to bring people to Christ.

Among the people to whom Risard sent copies of the letter are Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson, and the Rev. Canon Robert Moore (whom Jefferts Schori appointed to provide an ongoing pastoral presence to the continuing Episcopalians in the diocese).
We join the The Rev. Fred Risard in his puzzlement. The former Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin has made it clear that he is no longer a part of the Episcopal Church. Now that he is a bishop in a Latin American diocese, we are perplexed that he would want to exercise episcopal jurisdiction in an Episcopal church.

Kudos to Father Risard for asking the pertinent question.

Addendum (12.28.07): Thanks to "Anonymous," who posted in the comments below. For up to date information about Fr. Fred and St. Nicholas click on this link. Also, the best source for news about the situation in the past week is being reported at Father Jake Stops the World.


Blogger Grandmère Mimi said...

Fr. Risard and the vestry of St. Nicholas have taken a courageous stand. May God be with the members of St. Nicholas Mission and grant them wisdom and strength and his peace that passes understanding to keep their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

I fear that Bp. Schofield is going to remove Fr. Risard and close the mission.

Lord, have mercy.

12/20/2007 10:51 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I fear that too, Mimi. I know I don't need to ask this of you: But please keep Fr. Risard and his congregation in your prayers. They are taking a very brave stand. If the Latin American bishop Schofield tries to take any action against them, I hope that all the powers of 815 will swoop in and support this truly Episcopal parish against any attack from the Southern Cone.

12/20/2007 11:11 PM  
Blogger Matthew Dutton-Gillett said...

I fear for Fr. Risard and his congregation. While Bishop Schofield has made it clear that individual clergy and parishes will have the option of a period of discernment about whether to follow him (and what happens if they choose not to is unclear to me), he has made it very clear that mission congregations do not have that option. Let us keep them all in our prayers.

12/21/2007 7:04 AM  
Blogger Ginny said...

I attend a different St Nicholas, a mission in the diocese of Chicago. I've posted a link to the article on the church blog, asking for prayers for our sister mission and for the Church.

Fr. Risard certainly seems to have a good knowledge of tactics, a useful thing for an Episcopal priest in a "foreign" diocese.

I wonder how many other missions have been summarily closed?

12/21/2007 12:25 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I'm glad to hear that, Ginny. Prayers and support are much needed now for the Episcopalians in San Joaquin.

As far as I know, no missions in San Joaquin have been closed yet. But see this article from the Episcopal News Service, which includes an implicit threat from Southern Cone bishop Schofield:

Speaking from diocesan offices in Fresno, California, where phones are being answered with the greeting "Anglican Church offices," Gandenberger [Schofield's canon to the ordinary] said he did not know how much time parishes have to discern their future, and added that mission congregations cannot participate in such a process.
Glass [a San Rafael, California-based attorney who represents congregations and individual Episcopalians who wish to remain in the Episcopal Church] and another person who requested not to be identified told ENS that Schofield threatened the personal livelihoods and congregational finances of priests who opposed his efforts to lead the diocese out of the Episcopal Church.
The unnamed person said Schofield told him during a break in the convention that diocesan support of his mission congregation will stop at the end of December because he abstained in the December 8 vote. Glass confirmed Schofield's threat. The warning came, the person said, despite the fact that money was earmarked in the 2008 diocesan budget for support of the congregation.
The person said both Schofield and Gandenberger told him and another congregational leader a month ago that diocesan support might cease, since any funds in the diocesan budget for mission would have to go towards Schofield's legal defense.

12/21/2007 12:41 PM  
Blogger WSJM said...

I find this quote that Lisa shared from an earlier ENS story to be very interesting:

"The person said both Schofield and Gandenberger told him and another congregational leader a month ago that diocesan support might cease, since any funds in the diocesan budget for mission would have to go towards Schofield's legal defense."

This is not hard. If Schofield would just go away (to Buenos Aires or wherever) then he would not need a legal defense and those funds would be available for mission in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, as they should be.

12/21/2007 4:49 PM  
Blogger Grandmère Mimi said...

Lisa, I will definitely keep Fr Risard and the members of St. Nicholas in my prayers.

12/21/2007 5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For up to the date information about Fr Fred and St Nicholas copy and paste to your URL:

12/28/2007 2:32 PM  
Blogger sam said...

here is a comment on the St. Nicholas website, under the "our blogs" section

I would like anyone to take a good look around at St. Nick's and see the life that IS there and HAS been there! Since the arrival of Fr. Risard, there have been many new seems like something going on every month or so, and people keep showing up.
The kids are all attatched to him, many of the adults have come to appreciate having a full time clergy after so many years of "supply". Growth happens when it is focused on. It has been focused on for the past two years (approximately).
Some of the old timers there just can't stand a change of anything. Nothing new, it happens anytime a new priest comes to any church. Some go, new ones come. It is just the nature of change.
Even if some may not particularly care for the current clergy you need to wake up and smell the coffee, folks! John David is no longer a Bishop in the Episcopal Church. He thinks he can walk off with all the money that has been poured into the plates, the buildings and property that are held in trust of the National Episcopal Church, and oh yeah, he thinks he can scoff off with our souls too!
And gee, thanks Deacon for being so accomodating to the Bishop of what?, a completely different region. Certainly not a Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Isn't it nice to know you are a pawn too?
If John David were truly interested in righting the "wrongs" of the Episcopal Church as he sees them, then he would hang out and try to work it out. If he is that mad, then he certainly has the option to leave the church, but not drag everyone else along with him through the mud.
How many of you out there think the "undisclosed" amount of money set aside in the legal funds should be used for the people and programs of the church and not some legal defense for a man who has truly lost his perspective of what it is to be a christian?
I DO! Give that money back to the churches, build up our missions, parishes, keep the youth and kids programs going, put some money into senior programs.
Wake up folks! Take a good look at what is really happening and how many of the members have merely been pawns in somebody else's game.

I agree with what wsjm said, "if he would just go away..."
Unfortunately he is not going to. I question any person who is a "recovered homosexual", as Schofield is. Why is he so against what he "used" to be?? Certainly he, of all people, should have far more sensitivity to this matter than the ordinary hetero.
Although I dare say, I personally may not choose the lifestyle, I will stand with anyone (man or woman) who is decent, kind, truly spiritual, and who demonstrates inclusivity as Jesus did, rather than the likes of a scoundrel such as jds.

And a response to Lisa...check out how many churches have closed recently in the DioSJ, due to corrupt leadership. This man is in the business of closing churches, not building them. Shame, shame on him!!!

12/29/2007 6:40 PM  

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