With words of inclusion and healing, Episcopalians welcomed their presumed next bishop into the Diocese of San Joaquin at St. Paul’s in Modesto on Sunday.
“This is the next chapter in a very long history,” said the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States, at the induction ceremony for the Rev. David Rice.
Roughly 450 parishioners and clergy from the diocese attended the welcome service for Rice, who is expected to be confirmed as bishop at a vote March 29.
“Thank you three times for your welcome, generosity and hospitality,” Rice told the congregation after the ceremony. His wife, Tracy Cappel-Rice, said later she’s found people here to be “very warm and friendly,” and is looking forward to settling in Fresno, where the diocese is headquartered.
Vestry member Gayle Lingua said her first impression of the incoming bishop was “pretty wonderful.”
“I’m thrilled to have him,” said Cindy Smith, who attended the ceremony. “He’s full of energy, and I think that energy will transfer to the diocese.”
“He seems like the kind of person I could get to know and enjoy,” R.J. Moriconi said.
In her sermon, Jefferts Schori traced the San Joaquin Diocese’s ecclesiastical heritage from the chaplain of Sir Francis Drake in 1579 to the 2007 schism of the Episcopal church, and the legal wrangling and reconciliation efforts that followed.
Drawing a theme from a passage in the Bible’s book of Joshua, she said Episcopal leaders helped heal the rift “by not turning to the right hand or the left, because taking sides was a good part of what led to the split.”
Jefferts Schori urged members “to be strong and courageous enough to enter into real dialogue with people who have different views.” She said the time had come to “grow up. It’s not easy, but it is the way. We have to do the hard work of truth-telling.”
Six years ago, the late Bishop John-David Schofield led 40 of 47 local parishes away from the national church, following the ordination of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire. Since then, church properties have been returned in Modesto, Sonora and Turlock. A lawsuit seeking the return of 31 properties awaits a ruling, expected this spring.
Bishops Jerry Lamb, in 2008, and Chet Talton, in 2011, helped restore the church by creating an inviting and welcoming presence, Jefferts Schori said. Both were present at the induction, presenting Rice with symbols of the office he will inherit.
Rice, a North Carolina native, spent much of his clerical career in New Zealand, serving last as bishop of Waiapu. He and his wife have two children, Ian and Zoe, attending college in New Zealand.