Bishop John-David Schofield’s tone was urgent this month as he exhorted delegates from his Central California diocese to leave the Episcopal Church.
For more than 20 years, Schofield said, he had watched in dismay as the national church strayed from Scripture and made controversial decisions about theology and sexuality, including the role of gays in the church. Now, he told delegates to his diocese’s annual convention, it was time to act.
“God’s timing is essential!” the bishop declared, his voice rising. “Delayed obedience to Scripture is seen as disobedience when opportunities and blessings are lost.”
Schofield has emerged as a pivotal player in the drama surrounding the future of one of the nation’s most influential denominations. At the meeting of delegates from across the Diocese of San Joaquin, he displayed the strong-willed personality that has won him both admirers and detractors.
There was no time to lose, he told the delegates. The national church could put new rules in place to prevent such secession attempts. The moment might never come again, he said.
The measures passed, by huge margins.
San Joaquin, a Fresno-based diocese of 47 parishes, had elected to become the first diocese in the nation to break with the Episcopal Church over theological issues and align with a conservative Anglican province in South America. And Schofield, according to supporters and critics alike, had played the central role in those historic Dec. 8 decisions, propelling his largely conservative flock along a path that could prove risky for all concerned.