A Divided Church Lands in Court

April 25, 2008 7:46:45 PM PDT
A lawsuit has been filed against Bishop John-David Schofield that is trying to legally oust him from the church. The fight is over a 14-county diocese that includes more than 40 congregations. The lawsuit wants to legally determine who the head of the Diocese of San Joaquin is. The split started with a vote. A convention in December agreed with Bishop Schofield who doesn't support the ordination of women and gays. Schofield said in a previous November 2007 interview, "Someone who is involved in a same sex partner, as the Bishop of New Hampshire is, is going against scripture."

The Diocese of San Joaquin claims in a lawsuit Schofield is no longer the bishop and has refused to turn over diocese property. Bishop Jerry Lamb was recently elected to replace Schofield. He says millions of dollars in assets are at stake, "What we are talking about is who the Bishop is and who is in control of all these assets of the diocese. And we're saying it can't be John-David Schofield because he was removed from office."

Bishop Schofield was unavailable for comment because of an injury, but Father Van McCalister who is a Schofield supporter said, "We are going to challenge the lawsuit because we have a responsibility to our congregation who overwhelmingly supports our decision. They made their will very clear."

Reverend Keith Axberg supports Bishop Lamb. Axberg hopes the lawsuit will finally resolve the dispute and heal the church. He said, "Reconciliation doesn't mean giving up what you believe in, rather coming together and saying how can we operate and work and cooperate together that the gospel may go forward."

A court date has not been set for a judge to decide this issue. Bishop Lamb said he is not fighting for control of individual churches but Bishop Lamb has not ruled out that option.


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