In a public rebuke to the Episcopal Church, the Diocese of San Joaquin voted Saturday to affirm its membership in the worldwide Anglican Communion after distancing itself from the American denomination over issues of sexuality and the ordination of women.
Some delegates to the convention called it a first step toward a formal break with the national church, although the proposal makes relatively minor changes to the conservative diocese's status.
"The national church has forced us to this point where we have to pick -- is our ultimate authority Scripture or is our ultimate authority an institution that has run amok?" said the Rev. Russell VanRozeboom, the diocese's chancellor. "This diocese has always shown itself to be resistant to the heresies of the national church."
San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield, who refuses to ordain women and gays, has publicly accused the church's newly elected female leader of promoting heresy.
Under his leadership, the Fresno-based diocese has stopped sending most funds to the national church and has considered a plan to affiliate with an Anglican diocese in Argentina.
In the last week, Episcopal leaders have been putting pressure on Schofield and other conservatives to ease off their threats to secede.
Saturday, a majority of the diocese's 204 clergy and lay delegates approved a proposal that formalizes the diocese's identity as a member of the Anglican Communion, rather than the Episcopal Church, the U.S. wing of the 77-million-member Anglican family.