Central Valley Episcopal diocese splits from national church


FRESNO
December 8, 2007 5:43pm


•  Its conservative leaders object to church’s support of gays and women as leaders

•  Lawsuits now expected


The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, which includes 47 churches with a total of 8,500 members from Bakersfield to Stockton in the Central Valley, says it is no longer part of the Episcopal Church of the United States, its leaders voting to join a Bolivian branch of the Anglican Church instead.

The vote Saturday in Fresno follows years of dispute over the national church’s ordination of women and homosexuals as church leaders.

The Central Valley churches become the first full diocese to reject the national church.

Now comes the legal part. Who actually holds title to the church buildings, land and property from vehicles to hymnals? A lawsuit on such an issue involving four Los Angeles churches is currently before the California Supreme Court.

Saturday’s vote will see the diocese removing all references to the “Episcopal Church” from its constitution. Its new affiliation is with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

"The Episcopal Church receives with sadness the news that some members of this church have made a decision to leave this church," says Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in a written statement.

"We deeply regret their unwillingness or inability to live within the historical Anglican understanding of comprehensiveness. We wish them to know of our prayers for them and their journey. The Episcopal Church will continue in the Diocese of San Joaquin, albeit with new leadership," she says.

Five churches were expected to reject joining the rebellion and stay with the national church.

John-David Schofield, the Fresno church leader who has campaigned for the schism, says the final split “was a resounding affirmation by our clergy and laity to remain within the worldwide Anglican Communion.”

“For 20 years and more we have watched The Episcopal Church lose its way, straying, at first from scripture to the point of dismissing the word of God, in some instances as mere historical documents,” he says in written comments.

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