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Three conservative bishops of the Episcopal Church are under fire from the church's national leaders and are being threatened with dismissal for seeking to pull their dioceses out of the church in protest of its leftward drift.

The attempted purge of conservative bishops Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, Jack L. Iker of Fort Worth, and John-David Schofield of Fresno from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori marks a new stage in the battle over church doctrine and discipline that has threatened to split the Episcopal Church since the hotly contested 2003 consecration of a non-celibate gay priest as bishop of New Hampshire.

On January 11, Bishop Jefferts Schori stated that a secret review panel had handed down an indictment against Bishop Schofield for "abandoning the Communion" of the Episcopal Church. In November delegates to his diocese's annual convention voted to pull out of the Episcopal Church and seek the oversight of an overseas archbishop from the Anglican Communion.

Bishop Schofield's support for the secession would result in a trial before the church's House of Bishops in March, Bishop Jefferts Schori said, and he was ordered to "cease from exercising" his ministry as bishop of the diocese of San Joaquin.

Four days later, Bishop Duncan was told that he had also been indicted by the secret church panel as a result of his diocese's having taken the first steps towards pulling out of the church last year, and would face trial this September. However, Bishop Duncan was not suspended from office as the Episcopal Church's three senior bishops declined to support the request for an "inhibition," or suspension from office pending trial.

Bishop Iker reported he too had received a "threatening" letter from Bishop Jefferts Schori ...

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