Bishop David Rice returning to US
Bishop Rice, who was born and raised in the US, is making the move in response to the needs of his extended American family.
Archbishop Philip Richardson, who is the senior bishop of the seven New Zealand dioceses, says the three Primates here have accepted Bishop David’s resignation with regret.
“For the last five and half years, Bishop David has thrown himself, body and soul, into serving the Diocese of Waiapu.
“His people here will miss him. Equally, they will understand, as we do, the responsibilities we all have to care for our extended whanau. He and Tracy will return to the US with our blessing and prayers.”
Bishop David is to become the Provisional Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, in eastern California, and will take up that role in February next year.
Bishop David is presently in the US at a meeting of the bishops of the Episcopal Church, and his appointment was confirmed at that meeting.
Before departing for the US, Bishop David said leaving New Zealand would be an emotional wrench for his family.
“New Zealand is a country that we have loved well for 18 years, and know intimately. I have been a vicar, dean and bishop here, and this is the place where our children have spent their entire lives.
“But the need is urgent. We feel it is right for us to take this step – and a response to God’s prompting.”
Both the Rice children, Ian and Zoe, are at university in New Zealand, and will remain as students here. Indeed, one of the attractions of the California posting is that mum and dad will be just one flight away from their children.
About six years ago, the then Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin led a breakaway movement from the Episcopal Church – and took all the churches and trusts within the diocese to form the Anglican Church of San Joaquin.
Since then, says Bishop David, the Episcopal Church has installed a provisional bishop to lead those in the diocese who chose not to break away, and has won a number of court cases over the return of those diocesan asserts.
More importantly, says Bishop David, those who stayed loyal to the Episcopal Church have thrived, apparently shorn of anxieties about plant and infrastructure, and become what he calls a “missional community”.
As a result, he says, “they have become more concerned and effective in engaging with the wider community.”
Bishop David says he looks forward to leading this new way of being missional church in San Joaquin.
The Diocese of Waiapu was informed of the likelihood of Bishop David’s departure at its annual synod last weekend in Mt Maunganui.
Planning has now begun for an election for his successor, and a new Bishop of Waiapu is expected to be chosen before next year’s General Synod.
“Bishop David is to become the Provisional Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, in eastern California, and will take up that role in February next year. He has been asked to take on that role by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA, Bishop Jefferts Schori, and by the San Joaquin diocese itself”.
It has been known for some time now that Bishop David has felt the need to return to his roots in the U.S. Having been considered for another post in the U.S. earlier on, which was eventually taken by a local U.S. person; it seemed likely that he would be open to the possibility of accepting another invitation to return to his homeland.
Since becoming a bishop in ACANZP in the Diocese of Waiapu, Bishop David has been a strong supporter of Women and the LGBT community in the New Zealand Anglican Church. His influence in the N.Z. House of Bishops will be undoubtedly missed, when he takes up the post offered to him by the TEC Diocese of San Joaquin, in California and the US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori.
There can be little doubt that Bishop David’s strong empathy with TECs proven record of opening up The Episcopal Church’s polity towards the emancipation of Women and LGBT people will help the loyal TEC San Joachin Diocese into a new era of proclamation of the Gospel of liberation.
We will miss you, Bishop David. Go well into your new calling!
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand