The Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the national Episcopal Church, will be in Modesto on Sunday to introduce the Rev. David Rice as the next bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, pending a vote March 29.
Rice, a North Carolina native who was ordained in the Methodist Church before becoming an Anglican priest, has spent most of his clerical career in New Zealand. In 2008, he became the bishop of Waiapu, which he recently resigned to take his current post. He was moving and unavailable for comment last week, but said in a news release that his leadership has encouraged “people to engage in their community to try to discern what God might be doing and to do that by way of building relationships, responding to needs and being the church outside the walls of the physical plant of the church.”
He said he and his wife, Tracy, believe the California post will be a good fit. “This feels really good to us,” he said.
The couple have two children, Ian and Zoe, who will complete their college work in New Zealand.
Rice is the third bishop to fill the post since the split in 2007 when the late Bishop John-David Schofield led the vast majority of his diocese away from the theologically liberal Episcopal Church and under the leadership of the more conservative Anglican Church in North America. It was the first diocese in the country to leave and included 40 of 47 parishes.
The Episcopal Church installed a new bishop, the Rev. Jerry Lamb, in 2008, to oversee the remaining parishes and individuals throughout the diocese, which stretches from Stockton to Bakersfield. Lamb filed lawsuits in 2009 to recover the departing parishes’ properties. The biggest lawsuit includes 31 parishes and the diocesan headquarters in Fresno; that one is awaiting a judge’s ruling, expected by mid-June.
Nine other Anglican parishes, independently incorporated, were sued individually. Most of those, such as St. Francis in Turlock and St. James (the historic Red Church) in Sonora, were settled out of court and returned to the Episcopal diocese last year.
One Modesto church, St. Paul’s, voted to leave the national church with Schofield, but aligned itself with another Anglican group. About 90 percent of its members chose to give up the northeast Modesto property in 2009 rather than face a lawsuit. They formed a new church, Wellspring Anglican Church, which is meeting downtown in a rented facility while it completes work on a building near the Modesto Junior College West Campus.
The Episcopal Church is the U.S. arm of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Because he was part of that larger body but not the U.S. church, Rice had to take an oath, submitting to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church. The national church also created a job for him as assistant bishop of the diocese until the election of the new bishop in March at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Bakersfield. If elected, as expected, Rice will be immediately installed.
Rice succeeds Bishop Chet Talton, who took over from Lamb in March 2011. Both former bishops will be on hand for the welcoming service at St. Paul’s.
Bee staff writer Sue Nowicki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2012.