Though the majority of the 2.3 million-member U.S.-based denomination support Jefferts Schori’s progressive views on women priests and same-sex marriage, San Joaquin is one of numerous traditional dioceses seeking to circumvent the U.S. church in favor of direct representation in England, or in a more conservative national church abroad. The Anglican Communion, which lacks a governing body like the Vatican for Roman Catholics, includes 38 self-governing provinces across 164 countries. The provinces in turn are divided into dioceses such as San Joaquin. Under Schofield’s leadership, the Fresno-based diocese has already stopped sending most funds to the national church and has considered a plan to affiliate with an Anglican diocese in Argentina. Should the diocese eventually break with the national church, its millions of dollars in real estate, including its lush, mission-style headquarters in Fresno, would likely become subject to a long legal battle. Earlier this year, Schofield and bishops from Pittsburgh, Central Florida, Dallas, Fort Worth, Quincy, Ill., South Carolina and Springfield, Ill., asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint a traditional national leader to oversee them, instead of Jefferts Schori. The Dallas bishop later withdrew his signature. Over the summer, four California bishops levied formal charges against Schofield, when he suggested the diocese was intending to secede, but those charges were dismissed by church authorities. Last month, Schofield signed a statement of allegiance to Latin American archbishops exploring the creation of an alternate province in the U.S., said the Rev. Rick Matters, a parish priest in Lodi. One Bakersfield mission affiliated with the 8,000-plus member diocese already adheres to a bishop in South Korea. Those actions have set off a poignant and often bitter debate among worshippers. Members speak of the diocese’s “divided heart,” and worry where they’ll pray if its 48 churches secede and if the airy diocesan chapels become off limits. If change is necessary, some progressive members say they’d rather align with the diocese in San Francisco, where two openly gay priests were among candidates to become bishop earlier this year. Even if more than half of clergy and lay delegates vote to identify the diocese as explicitly Anglican on Saturday, that small change would not become final unless it’s approved by a two-thirds majority at a meeting next year, McCalister said.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! FRESNO – The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin quietly backed away from its threat to become the first to split with the national denomination just as its diocesan convention was about to begin. Clergy and lay delegates had been poised to consider a groundbreaking resolution to split from the Episcopal Church – the U.S. wing of the 77 million-member Anglican family – as divisions over the Bible and sexuality tear at the faith’s national leadership. Instead, they’ll consider a watered-down proposal that makes no significant changes to the conservative diocese’s status. Amendments can be made during the meeting, which starts Friday. “Instead of declaring that we’re on our way to this or that province, it says we recognize and declare that we’re Anglican,” said the Rev. Van McCalister, a spokesman for the diocese, which covers a wide swath of Central California. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESurfer attacked by shark near Channel Islands calls rescue a ‘Christmas miracle’The change of course comes as Episcopal leaders have been putting pressure on San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield, who refuses to ordain women and gays, and other conservatives to ease off their threats to secede. Two weeks ago, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori sent a public letter to Schofield saying that leaving the church would be akin to violating his ordination vows. “Your public assertion that your duty is to violate those vows puts many, many people at hazard of profound spiritual violence,” she wrote. “The more honorable course would be to renounce your orders in this Church and seek a home elsewhere.” McCalister did not elaborate about why the proposal was changed earlier this week. On Thursday, leaders of the national church offered conservatives more independence through the creation of a leadership position called a “primatial vicar,” who would work with dioceses and perform functions that normally fall to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, including consecrating local bishops.