Reflections on San Joaquin
...As many of you know, I served in the Diocese of San Joaquin for fourteen years before coming to Northern Indiana. Thus Bishop Schofield – and many of the leaders of the diocese – have been part of my life for a long time. Bishop Cox, too, is revered and respected, with an important place in the church’s recovery of the ministry of healing. Both bishops acted in accordance with their consciences. Yet I believe that their actions are disordered, theologically and canonically. Nothing good ever comes from schism. When Christians separate from one another, the gospel is hampered and our ability to offer Jesus to a needy world severely compromised. In the days leading up to the vote on the two bishops, I found myself torn between conflicting responsibilities: to the unity and canonical integrity of the church on the one hand, and to honoring conscience in the midst of conflict on the other...
...In the end, I voted No on the resolutions to depose Bishops Schofield and Cox, one of a very small number of bishops to do so. (Since the resolutions passed on voice votes, there’s no specific count.) During the debate over the resolution to depose Bishop Schofield, I spoke to the House and said something like this: that Bishop Schofield is guilty as charged, and his actions have unleashed chaos upon his diocese and on the church. And yet, I said, I would vote against the resolution to depose him. Why? Because a deposition is the canonical equivalent of the “death penalty”; it effectively closes the door to the possibility of future reconciliation. And so, I said, it would be better to find a way of accomplishing the same end (removing Bishop Schofield from his position as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin) without the negative overtones of a deposition. A cord gently cut can be more easily re-tied. If we allow our friends to depart peacefully, we are more likely in God’s time to welcome them home.
Anyone that has known me for any length of time, knows how very highly I think of +Ed Little. He was my ordaining bishop; and for the many years that made up my process toward ordination his strong faith and pastoral heart nurtured the faithful articulation of my own call in some deep and profound ways. He has offered both prayerful challenge and encouragement when I needed them, and I am grateful to call him both mentor and friend.
Likewise, I believe as he does in reconciliation as primary to our life as Christian disciples. In my daughter's vernacular, Jesus was "all about" reconciliation, among people as well as between God and humanity. That was what he taught, how he lived, and why he died and rose again. If we are to be faithful, this is the example we must follow.
And this is why, with all due respect, I must (with reluctance and a certain trepidation) disagree with +Ed's decision here, especially in regard to Bp. Schofield. While I am not so intimately acquainted as he is with the particulars in San Joaquin, I do currently serve in a diocese whose former bishop also carved an incredible trail of damage and dissension in his wake before he was removed. My parishes (and occasionally my colleagues) have more than once exhibited behavior eerily similar to that of domestic abuse survivors. If these good folks thought there was any chance that CI Jones could resume episcopal ministry, I can only imagine the reaction that would be born of their history of hurt, anger, and fear-- like ripping scabs off wounds that have only begun to heal.
It seems to me that the actions of Bp. Schofield have "unleashed chaos upon his diocese and on the church" for so long-- and have been so hurtful, and so divisive-- that his removal should have happened long before this. We in Montana have been years recovering, and will be many years more-- and the damage done in SJ goes even deeper. I believe this deposition* will ultimately provide the greatest opportunity for healing and reconciliation in the long run.
Sometimes "loving your neighbor" means caring enough to refuse to allow the cycle of violence to continue.