Episcopal church sues deposed San Joaquin bishop
By Amanda Fehd, Associated Press Writer
Article Created: 04/25/2008 02:04:24 PM PDT
SAN FRANCISCO _ The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin is suing a deposed bishop who led a secession last year prompted by the church's ordination of women and gays. The diocese said in its lawsuit, filed Thursday in Fresno County Superior Court, that John-David Schofield breached his duties to the church and demanded he turn over diocese property and vacate his offices.
National church leaders removed Schofield as the head of the Fresno-based diocese, after he led parishioners to align themselves with the conservative Province of the Southern Cone, an Argentina-based member of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Last month, Jerry Lamb, a bishop loyal to the U.S. church, was elected to head the San Joaquin diocese. Schofield, however, maintains he is an Anglican bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin under the worldwide church.
The U.S. Episcopal Church is also part of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, a global fellowship of churches that trace their roots to the Church of England, but the U.S. province has faced increasing scrutiny for its liberal-leaning stance. Most Anglicans are traditionalists who believe Scripture bars gay relationships.
Lamb said in a statement Friday that there was no other viable way to recover church property but to seek court intervention.
"Regardless of the necessity of proceeding with the litigation, the diocesan leadership and I remain committed to reconciliation with clergy and parishes that are still trying to understand their relationship with the Episcopal Church," Lamb said in the statement. A call to Schofield's office seeking comment was not immediately returned Friday.
The complaint demands that Schofield vacate his Fresno offices, return control of a church investment trust and foundation and return bank and brokerage accounts, money, and financial, historical and property records.
"Defendant Schofield's attempt to divert the Diocese of San Joaquin itself and its property for the use and benefit of another church in violation of the Episcopal Church's Constitution and Canons breached his fiduciary duties as the Bishop and ecclesiastical authority of the Diocese of San Joaquin," the complaint said.
GJ - The issue is who owns the property, who controls the money. Some have left the property and other claims behind. There seems to be a good legal case for the Presiding Bishop having no material claims to any property or money, but she has millions to spend against the dissenters. Individuals congregations have far less money and really hate the tension caused by such actions. Even a departing diocese is going to debate the extent of their legal defense.