When I was younger our parish was part of the Diocese of California . The diocese was one of the largest geographical areas in The Episcopal Church. To drive from one end of the diocese to the other took five hours on a major interstate highway. Our parish was four hours from the cathedral.
In such a large diocese one rarely sees the Bishop Diocesan. In our case, we saw him or the Bishop Suffragan about every three years. Usually, these visits were deanery "Pastoral Visitations" and not parish visitations as they were in the northern part of the diocese. Fortunately, we always had good bishops.
The curse of this is that each parish developed a parochial mentality because we felt isolated. Nearly thirty years later, that mentality is still at work in El Camino Real and has contributed to a "Congregationalist mentality" at the diocesan council.
So, what does this have to do with anything, you ask? I believe that it has a great deal to do with the tribulations of the Diocese of San Joaquin. This was recently confirmed by sources in the Diocese of San Joaquin (and according to Canterbury and the AC office, there is only one Diocese of San Joaquin and Schofield is not the bishop thereof ).
When we examine the events in that diocese, we see that there were four contributing factors:
- Geographically, San Joaquin is huge
- The congregations are basically isolated and inter parochial contact was forbidden
- The diocese has always had a conservative flavour
- Twenty years of unscrupulous leadership
He also spent most of twenty years removing references to The Episcopal Church. Additionally, he prohibited the distribution of National Church publications and in some instances, he proscribed parish publications. By doing this he had total control over the information the laity received. He ended any contact between parishes and forbade any gatherings of the laity. Fred pointed out that Schofield even ended LEM training and gatherings of the ECW.
And the congregations allowed this to happen. The question we've all asked is, "Why?" The answer is found in number two above.
San Joaquin's congregation are few and far between. They are mostly old congregations established when the area truly was "The Big Valley." Generations of families have worshipped in the same buildings with other families who have also been there for generations.
These people have a real sense of ownership of the buildings. Some who worship in these buildings are the grandchildren or great grandchildren of those who physically erected the structures. These families are the glue that bind the congregations together though the inter-familial connections.
My grandmother is buried over there, and my wife's grandmother is just two plots away in the church yard. They were best friends and the church's first altar guild.It is this "endure to the end" mentality that provided Schofield and his clergy the power to achieve the ultimate goal of setting up their own kingdom.
We were here before this priest came and we'll be here when he is gone. No one is going to run us off.
He simply held the buildings hostage. A tactic copied by virtually all of the schismatic clergy.
And, in the end, he was correct. Very few people could actually sever their tap root. They didn't follow Schofield; they merely stayed in the pews. And sadly, we see traces of the Stockholm Syndrome, too.
But the pain of those who could not remain is monumental. Not only did they walk away from ancestral buildings and long-time friends, they faced vilification and retaliation at the hands of Schofield and his minions.
Recently a funeral took place in the diocese for a long time member of a particular parish. The man had been a warden of the parish time and time again. Yet, on the day of the funeral the hearse drove past the church where the man had worshiped for decades and continued down the street to a strange church that had opened its doors to the Episcopalians in that town. Even in death the Episcopalians cannot escape the vindictiveness.
Is Schofield holding the buildings hostage? You bet he is.
But the taproot that allowed him to steal the buildings and congregations will be his Achilles Heel. It is the reason he is obsessed with keeping the property and the reason he is willing to bleed the coffers dry in the effort.
He knows that when he loses the buildings he will lose the laity. That's the main reason he continues to spin numbers and fabricate facts as he did in his Christmas letter . The other reason is his immense ego.
To quote a source in San Joaquin,
Schofield knows that what worked for him will work for The Episcopal Church--Where the property goes, so go the people.