The 2007 Annual Parish Meeting of St John's, Stockton took place today. What follows is a substantial portion of my State-of-the-Parish address, wherein I offered some reflections on the state, not only of the parish, but of the larger church.
Now I’m going to ask you to turn your attention for a while to a subject that is a source of some anxiety, but which we can’t just ignore, which is the state of unrest that the Anglican world, and the Episcopal Church, and the Diocese of San Joaquin are in. It’s too big a subject for me to cover in detail right now, but I do want to share with you something of my own heart and my own mind as relates to how we as a parish might respond to all that is going on.
First, while the secular press gives the world the impression that the dispute is really all about sex, it really isn’t. Sex is only the match that lit the fuse. But I do want to say this much about sex, and I’m not trying to pander to anybody; I’m just trying to be as transparent as I can. I have what are, by any account, traditional views. But I try with all my might to hold those views humbly and compassionately. My heart truly aches for those who, by no choice of their own, find themselves able to bond intimately only with persons of the same sex. I am not closed to the idea that something of holiness might be reflected in some such relationships. I want
But, like I said, it’s not really about sex. It’s about the nature of Anglican Christianity, the nature of authority, the nature of mutual accountability under that authority. Perhaps because it is an American church, the Episcopal Church has a fiercely independent streak. The actions of the last two General Conventions have pushed independence to the point where it has collided head on with mutual accountability between the 38 Anglican provinces. Virtually since the close of convention in Minneapolis in 2003, whatever gravitational forces that have held the Episcopal Church together since 1789, and colonial Anglicanism for 182 years before that—those gravitational forces have steadily weakened on an almost daily basis. As a result, even those who support General Convention’s actions acknowledge that the Episcopal Church stands a very real chance of losing what might be called the Anglican “franchise” for the territory it now covers.
You have the right to know where your Rector stands in all of this, and even as I shared my heart with you with respect to the presenting problem of human sexuality, I will try to be equally transparent in discussing these strategic and political concerns. That fact is, I’m very torn, and I wrestle with the question daily, almost hourly. You know, I once aspired to a career in politics. It’s a good thing I didn’t try to go that direction, because I would have been a terrible politician. It’s very hard for me to think in absolute, black-and-white terms. It’s relatively easy for me to see both sides—several sides, in fact—of most any given question. I know that this is frustrating to some of you, who are eager for me to exercise clearer leadership.