Sunday, February 03, 2008

Yet Some More Notes

The last couple of days have been a rough ride in cyberspace over goings-on in and about my former diocese of San Joaquin. There is a great deal of woundedness and mistrust in all quarters--quite enough to go around. My own heart aches for everyone involved, because they are people I know. (Even some of the anonymous commenters on blogs are probably people I know--I just don't know who they are!) They are people with whom I have worked collegially back when times were more normal. It gives me great pain that we have come to his mess.

For the record, lest there be any ambiguity, I do not believe the decision made by the convention last December was a wise one. I was disappointed in the votes. I believe Bishop Schofield has made a grave error in judgment, and it participating in a process that will very probably result in the destruction of the Anglican Communion as we have known it. And it is all needless, because if the Federal Conservatives (to adopt Stand Firm terminology) could just take a longer view, I believe, and have always believed, the evolutionary trajectory in Anglicanism has been in an orthodox direction. They have blown a major opportunity.

Also for the record, I have, within the political and personal dynamics of the Diocese of San Joaquin, labored with others to prevent what has come to pass. Much of that labor will never come to light, and much of it cannot be understood by anyone not involved in diocesan leadership. The realities on the ground have required subtlety and obliqueness. In any case, what has transpired represents a failure of my efforts, and the efforts of those with whom I have collaborated.

There are those who have accused San Joaquin's Standing Committee (and accused me inasmuch as I was a member of that committee until mid-August of last year) of dereliction of duty for not doing more to block the Bishop's efforts to lead the diocese out of TEC. This is where the subtlety and obliqueness come in, which render such efforts as have been made largely invisible.

A couple of cases in point: At last December's convention, a parishioner from one the parishes led by one of the "fired" Standing Committee members, very early in the debate, moved a substitute for the proposed constitutional change. If the substitute had been adopted, it would have, of course, turned it into a new "first reading," thus postponing the whole departure process by a year. The motion failed, but my source informs me that many of the members of Remain Episcopal who were delegates to the convention failed to vote in favor of the substitute. Yes, it was language that may still have resulted in a departure from TEC, so they would have been opposed to it in principle. But as a strategic move, it would have had the effect of delaying the Bishop's plan. One would think it might have merited their support.

Later, after passing the constitutional change that was understood (unnecessarily, in my opinion) as severing ties with the Episcopal Church, the concention still needed to pass a canonical change in order to affiliate with the Southern Cone. Since this canonical change was not made public by the required deadline, it was a "late" resolution, and required a three-quarters majority vote just to be heard by the convention. At least some members (maybe all, for all I know) clearly voted No on allowing this canonical change to be considered. My source tells me that the Remain Episcopal delegates present failed to oppose the consideration of the change, perhaps feeling that the cause had already been lost by the first vote. But it would not have taken very many votes to reject hearing it, and would perhaps have been successful if the Remain Episcopal delegates had joined forces with others on the question.

I do not believe it is yet too late for some redemption to happen here. But we're getting awfully close to a point of no return. Everyone needs to let down their shields. It probably needs to be done not in the blogsphere, and not by the exercise of power, but by a few phone calls and meetings between people who are actually on the ground in the Central Valley. Who will have the courage to stand down first?

13 comments:

One Day CLoser said...

Fr. Dan,
You are now placing blame at the feet of the Remain Episcopal group! I don't quite understand why you continue to try and be a mouth piece for a diocese you no longer are connected to. Things must be slow in Indiana! But seriously....in the wonderful words of Fr. Bill Gandenberger....
"We've moved on!"
I pray you are able to minister so fervently to the flocj that you are now in charge of as you have so fervently been voicing your spin via private conversation from those still here n teh Central Valley. God's speed to you Fr. Dan!

Leslie, St. Francis in exile said...

Dear Fr. Martins,
Thank you for your very thoughtful commentary. I still feel that there is only one place to lay blame and that is with Bishop Schofield. I also feel that the Standing Committee should have defended the faithful Epsicopalians of the D of SJ. I find it most difficult to have sympathy for them. Having said that, I do not wish for anyone to suffer. I continue to pray for the D of SJ daily.
Peace to you...

Anthony said...

If the Remain Episcopalians were despondent of success, maybe it was because anyone with any authority, anyone with a leadership position, who might agree with them was keeping his mouth shut (whether or not working behind the scene). Thus the clergy were playing CYA and letting a small group of laity take the heat. I cannot help feeling that this whole episode has been by for and of clergy, and the laity are going to bear the brunt of it, whatever that turns out to be, while many of the clergy fold their tents and melt away into the sand dunes of TEC. IMHO, OCICBW, etc.

Beryl Simkins said...

Father Dan,
I was at the convention, only as an observer, being a faithful parishioner who had been driven out of my parish after a deposed priest was placed there. I did see the actions you discussed. The bishop was outraged at the proposal, and came down from his platform to speak from the microphone on the floor to state that he was "bitterly opposed" to the proposal. There was very little hope for the proposal after that, and little opportunity for anyone to align, with no foreknowledge by groups, of what was happening and whether that was going to take place.

Unfortunately, that situation and time is now gone. I like your last paragraph, suggesting that people begin to work together to reclaim this diocese. I believe that there is more that binds us together, than drives us apart. I believe that the umbrella of TEC is and always has been very large. I believe way too much damage has been done and that there is way too much hurt all around. Do we know all the thoughts, issues, doubts, conflicts, frailties of every individual who joins us in faithful renewal at the communion rail? In all our very human frailty, do we need to know? Can we turn and look at one another and recognize Christ in each? If not now, when?

JamesW. said...

Dan: A few thoughts, but let me first say that I am not sure of the wisdom of what the DSJ did either. I do have sympathy for them though as a result of the Lawrence election debacle (JDS was set to retire soon) and TEC's rejection of the DAR Pastoral Plan which would have provided the necessary breathing space to diffuse the situation.

I do not think that what the DSJ has done can destroy the Communion, but I do agree that it may be the start of concrete actions that render the divide unbridgeable.

But I would suggest that things could become unbridgeable precisely because what the DSJ did was perfectly legal under TEC's constitution and canons and breached no Anglican Communion principles. The problem is that the Communion, in attempting to placate an angry TEC, will have to violate its own principles to strip the "real" DSJ of its Anglican status.

What do I mean? Well consider the following:
1) The powers-that-be at 815 and in the GC have long told us to justify their "revising" TEC's doctrine and discipline that that which is not specifically prohibited by the legal rules is permissible. The Righter trial set a very minimalist legal standard (albiet in a different area). But the direction of what TEC's ruling party has long argued is that anything that is not specifically prohibited is permitted. What the DSJ has done is simply taken that principle and applied it to an area that the ruling party did not want it applied to. There is no rule in TEC's constitution or canons that can reasonably be interpreted to prohibit an existing diocese from disaffliating with the General Convention. What is not specifically prohibited is permitted.
2) There is no Anglican principle that forbids dioceses from changing their Provincial membership, if done according to the rules. See point 1, that the DSJ has acted "according to the rules" and legal precedent of TEC.
3) There is no Anglican principle that attaches specific geographical territory for all time to a specific geographic Province. The Diocese of Columbia in South America is part of TEC (I wonder if Columbia had disaffiliated, if there would have been such a stink).

So I would argue that what DSJ did was perfectly legal under both TEC's and the Anglican Communion's rules and precedents. And yet, we know that TEC is declaring this illegal, and I would guess that the Anglican Communion will follow suit. And THAT, Dan, is why this situation has the possibility to permanently rupture the Communion.

This situation is pointing out - quite graphically - both within TEC and without - that the rules we thought we had, are essentially meaningless. There are no rules, there is no due process, there is no precedent. There is only rule by political force. Actions are taken not because they are demanded by the rules, but typically now, DESPITE the rules, and the rules can be set aside because the parties who have the power believe they don't need the rules.

And so the only thing that is seen to be holding things together is politics and political will. And that is glue that just won't hold in a divided Communion such as we have.

I don't think very many people realize that in 2003, TEC shredded the Anglican Communion's unwritten constitution. About the only people right now still trying to repair that fundamental breach is the ACI. As for the rest - and that includes TEC, the Global South, CANA, AMiA, and yes, even Rowan Williams himself, are only worsening the constitutional crisis of Anglicanism. But that's for another post.

Fresno Mark said...

Fr. Dan,

Let's see if I've got this straight: As you've previously stated on this blog, you helped draft the change to the canons that removed the reference to the "episcopal" church, thus precipating this mess. Remain Episcopal, on the other hand, has fought to keep people from leaving the diocese (from the left AND the right) and to keep EVERYONE together in the episcopal church's "big tent." So this mess is now Remain Episcopal's fault for not being skilled enough parliamentarians to defeat Shofield moves? I have to agree with the first comment, above, that you are putting the blame for this mess in the wrong place.

Donna McNiel said...

I'm stunned by the suggestion that people should have voted FOR a substitution that went against everything they believed in, because it would have postponed this move that the bishop was determined to make. (His anger at a delegate who supported the move but suggested a change that would have caused such a postponement made that clear.)

It confirms my sense that people are seeing themselves in their opponents. Because so many have been willing to use whatever tactics they could to achieve their goal, they assume that "the other side" is doing and/or should do the same thing.

That the ends justify the means is an ethical fallacy.

Dan Martins said...

James W: Speculation about how this all plays out internationally is above my intellectual pay grade. But my concern is that a non-Canterburian form of Anglicanism is emerging, the Common Cause Partners and GAFCOM are key pieces of that puzzle, and that events in San Joaquin are feeding the energy behind that movement. Also, how the PB and others are seen to play by the rules--or not--of "our polity" will be a factor as well.

Fresno Mark and Donna McNeil--Should I feel sullied because I have acted within a political process by behaving according to the rules of political processes? Perhaps so. Ideally, the councils of the church should be above politics. But as long as we take votes rather than throw dice, conventions are political. (For the record, I would not be opposed to going back to throwing dice rather than voting.) Politics is "the art of the possible." As I have explained before, when I helped craft the language of the constitutional change, it was a counter-measure to even stronger and more definitive anti-TEC lanuage. Those of us who framed it kept it as ambiguous as we thought we could get away with, and I continue to contend that what we passed, and what was approved on second reading last December, does not, in and of itself, take DSJ out of TEC. The canonical change affiliating with Southern Cone, of course, does. We were doing the best we could, working with the tools at our disposal, and with the on-the-ground political realities of the diocese. Our purpose was not to make a principled stand. Perhaps it should have been. Hindsight is 20-20. Our purpose was to keep the diocese together (we have failed) and to preserve the greatest number of options for the longest period of time, in the hope that those making decisions might exercise the option of not splitting from TEC. We failed there too. It was a long shot anyway. We had limited resources--political resources, that is. I hold my head high for what we tried to accomplish. I regret that we were not successful. I understand that it must look to others like we were craven or cowardly or even complicit. Given the available information, I would probably form the same conclusion about somebody else. For that I ought to repent, because we were, in fact, none of those things.

So I don't "blame" Remain Episcopal and their allies for not picking up these subtle political maneuverings. And if anybody wants to be a purist about even engaging in such things, they have my blessing. I'm only trying to point out that we (by which I mean myself and people like the Unqualified Six) were not just idly abetting Bishop Schofield southward flight. We were doing stuff. We were trying to practice the art of the possible. We obviously need more practice.

kaxberg said...

Hi Dan,

I was the person at convention who seconded the request to modify the amendment the parishioner (and delegate) asked to have modified. He asked me to "second" it and I did. Everyone should have an opportunity to speak to convention, and every acton should be open to modification. I did not ask if we were allies; I simply agreed to second the motion.

Whether I voted in favor or against the motion to change the original I do not (honestly) remember. I could have voted either way (for a variety of reasons), but I DO know that I voted my conscience in every case ... period.

If the issues that faced the Diocese of San Joaquin were as simple as voting for or against anything, it would have been simple for everyone. But the fact that any vote carried the weight of being for the bishop or against him made the vote difficult for everyone.

The rule of law is simple. I am an ex-cop. A state may not secede; neither may a diocese. That was proved in 1865 (as far as the nation is concerned - a diocese formed in the 20th century should understand that as well).

Consequently, as much as I appreciate the efforts of those who moved the constitutional changes and those who worked against them, I have to admit that my problem is NOT with those on eithe side, but with those who could not forcefully stand up to the bishop and say, "Not onl is this unwise, it is unchristian and unbelieveably stupid. Please, most reverend sir, step down."

No one stood up to the bishop to ask him to step down or back from his actions. Certainly NOT the "standing committee". Their job is to stand when everyone else has fallen. Where were they?

Have you seen "Scent of a Woman"? Have you seen "A Man for all Seasons"? I will take the lad who refuses to rat on his friends over the rats who side with their king (rex) any day of the week (and twice on Sundays - a line from "A Few Good Men").

Dan, as wonderful as it is to be an Anglican, I am more proud to be a Christian who has no voice and no seat in the (Southern Cone) Diocese of San Joaquin.

I am proud to be an American.

Anonymous said...

Fr Dan, when I was at convention in December, the day before "the vote(s)", I sat next to a gentleman who introduced himself as the "author" of these changes, The Rev Donald Seeks. He was quite proud of his accomplishment, and was pleasant until I said I thought that this move was premature. I echoed that feeling the very next day,when I spoke from the floor. Whether the SC spoke up or not is in the past, what should be concerning is they continue their silence.If they truly believe they are rightfully and duly elected to represent the ecclesiastical authority in this Diocese, for heaven's sake start standing up and reaching out. They all have had multiple opportunities and still have the arrogance to dismiss overtures from folks who are thinking that reconciliation is possible(I emailed you on that very circumstance). I will be attending a gathering that JDS has called for in a Parish near Modesto in February. It will be interesting to see if Fr McCleneghan is there to dispute what the JDS is going to say. In fact, JDS will be doing this all over the Valley, perhaps a great time for each of these SC members to be there and be open and honest as to whats going on. That will be a very telling sign of where these SC folks truly have their allegiance.

Dan Martins said...

To Anonymous of 4:56 PM--Fr Seeks was chair of the Committee on Constitution and Canons in 2006, and the proposed (now adopted) constitutional change was introduced and moved by that committee. So there is a technical sense in which he can claim authorship. The truth is, however, that the language was drafted by a group referred to at the time as "The Three Deans" (I was one of them). Our intent had been to offer it on the floor of convention as a substitute for the amendment already prepared by the C&C committee. Somewhat to our surprise, our amendment was simply adopted by them.

As for the upcoming deanery events, if the "fired" Standing Committee members show up, don't you think they will then be accused of, by their mere presence, giving credibility to Bishop Schofield and what he has done?

Anonymous said...

Fr Dan, As far as the SC members showing up and lending credibility to JDS, I would be more concerned about their own credibility at this point, I think it would depend on how those indiviuals address the issues and rightfully claim the Diocese as part of TEC. I intend to be there, at least one of them. As much as I hope one would show up, I'm not holding my breath. This may be one more opportunity for them to step up to the plate.

Scott K said...

Dan said: "For the record, I would not be opposed to going back to throwing dice rather than voting."

Not to hijack the discussion, but this is how my parish elects vestry members. After a nominating committee narrows down the field of nominees to about twice the number of open seats, the parish essentially draws lots to select the new vestry members from the slate. After having sat through four electing conventions in 2006 to select a new bishop in TN, I almost wish episcopal elections were done this way as well.

Dan, I appreciate the light you have shed on this whole situation, here on your blog, on the HOB/D, and the other blogs you have been contributing or commenting to.