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."....
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?"_______________________________________
Aghaveagh says, "what a courageous priest!"
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