By Bob Woods
Both extremes in the Episcopal Church rift have been haughty and callous, which are not exactly good Christian virtues.
I served at St. Paul’s in Bakersfield in the 1980s, have served at a half dozen churches in this Diocese and I was Rev. Tom Hunt’s sponsoring priest. So I have a history here. What troubles me most in the recent debate, played out in the Opinion pages of The Californian, is the listing of things which, according to Angelo Haddad (“St. Paul’s is collateral damage from a progressive theology,” Aug. 9), I as an Episcopal priest do not believe. That list is 100 percent inaccurate.
For a non-Episcopalian to state that I believe otherwise is the result of ignorance, arrogance or something worse.
As a retired attorney who had a small Canon Law practice (In fact I was the church attorney in this Diocese before falling from grace), I and several other attorneys advised (former) Bishop Schofield that — incorporated or not — Episcopal churches belong to ECUSA as the courts have now quite predictably ruled in conformity with longstanding case law; their “loss” of the churches was foreseeable and predictable, hence no cause for whining exists in reality.
That advice was dismissed out of hand, and an attorney with no apparent canon or church law background gained Schofield’s ear. I also noted that, under canons going back to the Council of Nicaea, their proposed “withdrawal” was under longstanding canon law a schism, and that those who now claim to be Anglicans would not be recognized by the worldwide Anglican Communion, and indeed they are not. Their bishops and clergy were removed from office for breaking communion, and one will not find them listed if one checks the Anglican Communion’s official website or calls the home office, the Anglican Consultative Council. I informed Bishop Schofield I wished to remain in the Anglican Communion and therefore would remain with ECUSA. As the church in Kernville is small and remote, I offered:
* To stay on until a replacement could be found
* To share the church with the separating people
* To consecrate Eucharist for them until a priest could be found.
In response Bishop Schofield to send the canon missioner to my church, unannounced, the following Sunday, who told me I was no longer permitted to do any priestly act at the Kernville or any other “Anglican” church, and that I was to remove all my possessions from the church by noon the next day at which time the locks would be changed, which they were. When I reminded him I was still a priest in good standing in ECUSA and therefore of the Anglican Communion, the response was less than charitable.
Perhaps the supreme irony here is that the rift was completely avoidable. The schismatic group could have stayed without penalty or pause, no schism would have occurred, millions of dollars would not have been squandered on litigation, and the one Church given to us by Christ would not have been made weaker.
Some five years ago the Episcopalians in the Kern River Valley were locked out of a church the courts have affirmed was theirs all along. We did not attempt to regain our church by changing the locks or other force. Instead we took the road of peace and simply remained locked out. Fortunately, Kernville United Methodist Church took us in.
Today we remain, faithful to Scripture, interpreted by reason under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
All are welcome, including those who departed.
Father Bob Woods of Kernville is associated with St. Sherrian Episcopal Church.
This testimony, from a former Bakersfield, California, priest of The Episcopal Church, Fr. Bob Woods, gives his view on the rift that has occurred between the Dissidents that have moved out from T.E.C., and the parent Church; in order to form their own assorted schismatic entities in North America, now gathered under the umbrella of ACNA (Anglican Church of N. America).
His personal experience of being ousted from his position of church attorney and parish priest in the Diocese of San Joachin, California, by former Bishop David Schofield – who later left the Church to become a bishop in the newly formed ACNA group of schismatics in North America led by former Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan – proved to have been based on accusations that Fr.Bob did not subscribe to the alternative doctrine embraced by the dissidents who believed that TEC was no longer following the path of orthodoxy in the Anglican Communion.
Fr. Bob’s article, which was published in “The Bakersville Californian’, 14th August, 2013, states clearly the sequence of events that led to his dismissal by former Bishop Schofield, stemming from the following action:
“I and several other attorneys advised (former) Bishop Schofield that — incorporated or not — Episcopal churches belong to ECUSA as the courts have now quite predictably ruled in conformity with longstanding case law; their “loss” of the churches was foreseeable and predictable, hence no cause for whining exists in reality.”
From the account rendered by Fr. Bob, it can be seen that the schismatics clearly were not aware of the fact that they could not voluntarily leave The Episcopal Church and take the property with them. Recent events are proving the logic of this reality, and should be a warning to the GAFCON sponsors of schismatic congregations in the U.S. and Canada, that they cannot expect to alienate property that rightfully belongs to The Episcopal Church.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand