There are several updates to the continuing Episcopal/Anglican saga in our area. They include:
Episcopal Bishop Jerry Lamb announced that the first service at St. Paul's in Modesto will be held July 5 at 10 a.m., instead of the two services originally scheduled.
He said a diocesan committee decided it would be better to have everyone gathered at one time to celebrate the renewal of Episcopal services at the church on Oakdale Road just south of Briggsmore.
You may recall that the majority of the congregation plans to walk away from the facility and sign it over to the Episcopal diocese the last week in June to avoid a lawsuit. Those folks will begin a new Anglican parish in downtown Modesto, holding its first service July 5 at 10:15 a.m.
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Also last week, the nine other self-incorporated parishes with ties to the Anglican diocese headquartered in Fresno received letters from Lamb "to arrange the transition of all properties and assets back to the Episcopal Church." Two of those parishes are St. Francis in Turlock and St. James (the historic Red Church) in Sonora.
Because of their independent status, those parishes were not named in the lawsuit the Episcopal Church filed against Anglican Bishop John-David Schofield and the rest of the parishes after they voted in December 2007 to leave TEC and come under the oversight of an Anglican group in South America.
"It's another effort for them to come and sit down and talk with us as St. Paul's did before we go through any more of these legal battles," Lamb said. "That's what we're trying to get away from."
Unlike St. Paul's, however, these nine parishes are tied to Schofield and the Anglican diocese, which will help pay their legal costs in case of a lawsuit.
The Rev. Gerry Grossman, pastor of St. Francis, said Lamb's letter "amounts to the harassment of a local congregation by a national organization. We've received 'invitations' from him before, but this is the first request to, quote, "give back" something that's ours. We're not going to have this taken from us. The story of David and Goliath comes to mind."
The Rev. Wolfgang Krismantis of the Sonora church is on vacation and was unavailable for comment.
Meanwhile, Schofield and eight delegates from the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin will head to the first assembly of the Anglican Church in North America. Held Monday through Thursday at St. Vincent's Cathedral in Bedford, Texas, the meeting will adopt rules to found a new Anglican province in North America.
Rick Warren, well-known megachurch pastor of Saddleback Church and author of "The Purpose-Driven Life," and His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah, an archbishop over the United States and Canada for the Orthodox Church in America, will speak. Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, who like Schofield led his diocese away from the Episcopal Church, is expected to be confirmed as the province's first archbishop, making him equal to TEC's presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori.
The Episcopal Church does not recognize the fledging province and is suing or has sued many dioceses and parishes that claim membership in the group and has deposed bishops such as Duncan and Schofield and priests, including 61 under Schofield's authority.