Retired bishop who led split from Episcopal church dies in Fresno

10/30/2013 6:20 PM

10/30/2013 8:28 PM

Retired Anglican Bishop John-David Schofield, who led the Diocese of San Joaquin to leave the U.S. Episcopal Church over Scripture interpretation, died Tuesday morning. He was 75.

Bishop Eric Menees, who was flying home from Rome on Wednesday, said on the diocese’s website that the Rev. Schofield died peacefully at his northwest Fresno home, sitting in his favorite green chair.

“My heart is heavy because I am selfish and desire my brother by my side,” Menees said, “but also joyful because I know that at this moment he has heard the words of our Lord: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”

Funeral arrangements are pending. There will be an open-casket viewing and vigil from 7:45 a.m. Friday through 8 a.m. Saturday at St. James Cathedral, 4147 E. Dakota Ave. in Fresno.

The Rev. Schofield attracted national attention in 2007 when the San Joaquin diocese voted overwhelmingly to amend its consitution and leave the national Episcopal church over its increasingly liberal stance on biblical issues, including the 2003 ordination of a gay bishop and whether Jesus is the only way to salvation. The diocese remained part of the Anglican Communion, the worldwide denomination that includes the Episcopal church.

The 40 parishes that left with the bishop became known as the Anglican San Joaquin Diocese.

In 2008, representatives from the remaining seven parishes, including Christ the King in Riverbank, and other individuals who wanted to stay with the national church elected the Rev. Jerry Lamb as bishop of the parallel Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. Lamb later sued the Rev. Schofield and nine individually incorporated parishes, demanding the return of all diocesan properties, including its headquarters in Fresno and its financial assets.

Some lawsuits are still in the courts, but the Episcopal Diocese has regained most of the individually incorporated properties, including the historic Red Church (St. James) in Sonora and St. Francis in Turlock, which were returned this year.

The first property regained was St. Paul’s in Modesto; 90 percent of its parishioners walked away from their $2.4 million property in 2009 rather than become embroiled in the lawsuits. They formed Wellspring Anglican Church, which has been meeting in downtown Modesto and recently purchased property near Modesto Junior College’s west campus.

The Rev. Schofield had served as San Joaquin bishop since 1988.

“Bishop John-David kept us on the path of Anglican Orthodoxy,” said the Rev. Gerry Grossman, formerly at St. Francis Anglican in Turlock, which formed a new church in May, Grace Anglican. “I will miss his spiritual leadership, warmth and graciousness. My family dined with him a number of times in his home and Bishop Schofield always treated our children with love and was truly interested in their lives.”

The Rev. Lee Nelson of Church of Saint John the Evangelist in Stockton said the Rev. Schofield “was just a wonderful man in every way. I remember him visiting my parish when I was a kid in Texas. He spread grace everywhere he went.”

The Rev. Tom Foster, retired pastor of Jesus Our Savior Anglican Church in Modesto and fomer pastor at St. Paul’s in Modesto and Christ the King in Riverbank, was with the diocese when Schofield was elected bishop. “I’m going to miss him,” Foster said. “He was a very beloved person. Jesus was the center of his life and we in the clergy appreciated his willingness to stand against the Episcopal church’s failure to defend the Bible and Jesus as our only Lord and Savior. He did it at great personal cost to himself. Doctors said he was a walking miracle. I’m glad he made it as far as he did.”

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