About two months ago, Risard said, the bishop summoned him to Fresno. He took along a church official.
“He started building a case as to why he was getting rid of me,” Risard said. “I asked him, ‘What’s this all about?’ He said, ‘We already talked that you’re going to leave at the end of ’08.’ He said, ‘The bottom line is you have to go because we’re not going to have the money to support the mission. If we vote up (to leave the Episcopal Church USA and join Anglicans elsewhere), we’re going to lose the liberals and their money, and if we vote down, we’re going to lose the conservatives and their money.’ ”
The diocese office in Fresno was closed this week. The bishop and other officials could not be reached for comment. But an e-mail from the bishop’s assistant, the Rev. Canon Bill Gandenberger, sent to two St. Nicholas officials on Dec. 25, reads in part:
“The attached document is the letter notifying Fr. Risard that his deployment at St. Nicholas is now over. We wish you to know that the Bishop and the Diocese are fully behind the continuation of your church in Atwater and we will do all that we are able to support you during this transition.”
It also says the “most important directions from the bishop” include changing the exterior locks “immediately,” as well as locks “to the priest’s office and any file cabinets”; retrieving bank statements; forwarding minutes from past committee meetings (“This is especially important if there are commitments made to Mr. Michael Glass, an attorney referenced in the letter of Fr. Risard to the Bishop”); and an assumption that the church’s deacon can “lead worship for a short period of time, especially this next Sunday.”
Despite the loss of his church, Risard isn’t bitter.
“The bishop hasn’t defrocked me. He’s just asked me to go away and leave him alone. He’s the one who priested me and tried to form me in his way, so I still have some affection for him.
“I believe as a priest that Christ calls us to love one another as friends. I sign my letters to the bishop ‘faithfully, your friend in Christ.’ He really is a Christian, maybe operating in a particular way these days, but he truly means well.”
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