Episcopal Diocese drops 61 priests in theological rift

The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin on Wednesday deposed 61 clergy from Lodi to Bakersfield because they have left the national Episcopal Church and aligned themselves with the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Episcopal Bishop Jerry Lamb, who called the action “heartbreaking,” said from his Stockton headquarters that such clergy will have their retirement assets frozen and no longer can participate as Episcopal priests. But, he added, “this action is not taken for any ethical or moral concerns.”

The news didn’t seem to matter to the priests, who are now under Anglican oversight.

“Really, this doesn’t impact us,” said the Rev. Michael McClenaghan of St. Paul’s Church in Modesto, who hadn’t yet received word of his deposition Wednesday afternoon. “We have been transferred to either the Southern Cone (in South America) or in our case, Anglican Missions through Rwanda. So we’re still priests.”

The 61 deposed priests are from parishes that have followed Bishop John-David Schofield as he led the country’s first diocese to leave TEC in December 2007 over issues related to the interpretation of Scripture, including acknowledging Jesus as the only way to heaven and opposing the ordination of gay clergy. Such parishes include St. Matthias in Oakdale, St. Luke’s in Merced and the historic Red Church in Sonora, St. James.Priests who have chosen to remain Episcopal, such as the Rev. Glenn Kanestrom at Christ the King Community Episcopal Church in Riverbank, were not deposed.

The Episcopal Church previously deposed Schofield and filed a lawsuit over the diocese’s properties, claimed by both sides.

Three other dioceses and about 700 parishes in the United States also have left TEC. They have set up an alternative province called the Anglican Communion in North America, an organization that is not acknowledged by TEC.

Wednesday’s move further solidifies the deep theological and spiritual divide between the two groups.