A growing number of Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Joaquin are opting to remain within the Episcopal Church (TEC) as the Fresno-based diocese prepares for an anticipated March 29 special convention that would elect a provisional bishop.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, in a letter to be distributed via a new diocesan newspaper, notes the proposed convention date and reassures the people of the diocese that work is ongoing "to ensure that you and your fellow Episcopalians may continue to bless the communities around you well into the future."
"I anticipate convening a Special Diocesan Convention on 29 March, at which you will elect new diocesan leaders, and begin to make provision for episcopal leadership for the next year or so," Jefferts Schori writes. "That gathering will be an opportunity to answer questions you may have, as well as to hear about plans for the renewal of mission and ministry in the Diocese of San Joaquin."
The convention announcement follows a series of February 19-22 meetings with individuals and groups from Lodi to Bakersfield which the Rev. Canon Bob Moore called "very fruitful. We've been able to broaden the scope of people who may see a future in the reconstituted Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and that's been good," he said.
Moore noted as signs of progress the appointment of a 26-member steering committee to help continue the diocese (see roster below); 17 congregations who have opted to remain with TEC; the anticipated March 29 special convention to elect a provisional bishop; establishment of new diocesan headquarters in Stockton and a partnership with Episcopal Life Media to facilitate dissemination of information and to provide a new diocesan newspaper edition.
"It's an enormously big step," said Moore, of the new diocesan publication. "The lack of information here is profound," he said.
The Presiding Bishop appointed Moore, and later the Rev. Canon Brian Cox, as an interim pastoral presence to continuing Episcopalians after 42 of 47 diocesan congregations voted in December to leave TEC and to realign with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.
On my other blog, I have a persona who occasionally steps in known as The History Geek, and she comments upon historical antecedents of events from the news or current events. So let's turn to my History Geek side for a little parallel.
In the American Civil War, the state of West Virginia seceded from the seceded state of Virginia. The mountain people of West Virginia had little sympathy with the concerns of the slave-owning plantation owners in the Tidewater region. Although hardly a bastion of abolitionism, the West Virginians had long resented the imbalance of power that had existed in state politics to their detriment. When Virginia voted for secession, the delegates from western Virginia walked out.
Now, here's the interesting part: Since constitutionally, a new state formed from an existing state has to have the permission of the existing state, the West Virginians simply asked permission from themselves to form their new state, since they were the only part of the state still under the authority of the Constitution.
San Joaquin stands in the same situation. And Bp. Schofeld can scream all he wants, but a fragment of a diocese that has seceded from the Episcopal Church has nothing to say to those who choose not to go with them. The people of the reconstituted diocese of San Joaquin may not agree with everything done in the Episcopal Church, but they have chosen to stay. I myself have qualms with Bp. Robinson's qualifications, but I refuse to ally myself with the homophobic rants of African bishops who would never countenance bishops of the Episcopal Church meddling in their own affairs.
And, of course, this site has some interesting information. Here's an interesting point of view:
...(T)he split now occurring, and that conservatives want made official, is distinctly un-Anglican. The heritage of Anglicanism is genuinely "big tent" and rich with compromises. That slavery wouldn't cause serious fragmentation within Anglicanism but the ordination of a gay bishop somewhere would, shows that Anglicanism itself--a centuries-old thing--has become the latest victim of a conservatism that is on the rise in many nations, including our own. That money from major GOP donors has helped destroy something so global and old, demonstrates its power, and leaves me in horrible awe.
Point Second: Many have foreseen this split. The Anglican Churches in Africa are growing especially rapidly and are especially conservative and evangelical. The conventional wisdom is that they will dominate the Lambeth Conference in 2008. (One Episcopal priest expressed his frustration to me hyperbolically, "They're minting 12 new bishops a day!") By virtue of the simple fact that they will so hugely outnumber the bishops from the Americas and Europe by 2008 means that if they really want to invent a way for a national church to be thrown out of the Anglican Communion, they will.
And they will have to, because all of this is unprecedented. Lambeth is a consultative and advisory body officially and only. Period. It doesn't even have the mechanisms in place to dis-invite or excommunicate or kick-out or chuck a member. This is an important point, since most of the media coverage I've read misses the fact that the conservative bishops are calling for something that in essence isn't even possible without re-inventing the Anglican Communion itself, and making it a distinctly un-Anglican thing: something that's authoritative more along the lines of the Roman Catholic Church. If the conservative bishops have their way, it's really the end of Anglicanism as history has known it, not just an end to the participation of Americans and Canadians in some "Anglican Communion."
Pretty well stated.