Friday, December 01, 2006


I love the lexical flexibility of the German language. Compound nouns can pop out of nowhere as the need arises. (My favorites are heilsgeschicte, weltanschaung and gesamtkunstwerk.) At this present moment in my life, however, realpolitik is the most relevant. For whatever reason, I associate this term with the foreign policy stance of the Nixon administration under the guidance of Henry Kissinger. It denotes a pragmatic approach to complex issues and relationships, driven by what can happen--what will work--more than by what should happen. It is non-ideological. Whoever said "politics is the art of the possible" was thinking along the same lines.

During the next couple of days, I'm going to be engaged in some heavy-duty church politics, as the Diocese of San Joaquin gathers for its 47th annual convention. (It's really the 95th, I should think, since San Joaquin was spun off from the Diocese of California in 1911, but it was a Missionary District until, if my math is correct, 1959. My own parish of St John's in Stockton, founded in 1850, ante-dates both the dioceses of San Joaquin and California.) I'm running for Standing Committee, and the budget is a highly contentious issue. But the elephant in the living room, of course, is the proposed amendment to our diocesan constitution that intentionally neglects to make any reference to our being a diocese in union with the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. That's why we're going to have our proverbial fifteen minutes of fame this Saturday as the eyes of the Anglican world will be focused on the humble Eden Hall of the humble Cathedral Church of St James in the very humble city of Fresno, California--about 125 miles down the often humble California Highway 99 from where I live in Stockton. (What's the largest city in the country that is not situated on an Interstate highway? Yup, that would be Fresno.)

Whatever happens in the big vote on Saturday morning, it will not be ideal. This is hard for me to accept, because I am by nature an idealist. (It comes with my INTJ wiring.) For every waking moment, my default mode is to be driven by ideology. But there is no ideal outcome to what's in front of us as a diocese. It's a matter of finding the least problematic solution. It's a matter of finding what will work--for us, for who we are, for this time and this place. Not what should work. Not what might work in some other diocese. Our task is to find a very pragmatic way through our particular circumstances. Our task--my task--is to practice realpolitik.

If I were to vote my ideals on Saturday, I would vote against the proposed constitutional amendment. This is the wrong time for us to be considering this question, and if given the chance, I will say as much on the convention floor. But I'm not in control of events, and the fact is, now is when the matter is before us. So...what to do?

The Episcopal Church, I am convinced, is a sinking ship. It has taken on more water than can plausibly be pumped out. It's a "sunk ship floating." My assessment, though, is that it's sinking at a rather leisurely pace, and that it's not an unsafe place to be for another three years or so, when the General Convention of 2009 fails to opt in to the Anglican Covenant. However, the prevailing consensus in the Diocese of San Joaquin seems to be that the bow is going to rise into the air and the entire hulk plunge to the bottom of the sea any time now, and we'd best be gettin' off while the gettin's good. I don't believe that to be the case, but this is not a hill I feel compelled to die on. We are going to do what we're going to do. And if this is what we're going to do, then I want us to do it well. And doing it well means putting up as united a front as we can, because we are going to have God-only-knows what hurled at us before we've even left the cathedral parking lot on Saturday afternoon.

Realpolitik dictates that I vote 'aye' on the motion to amend the constitution of the Diocese of San Joaquin.


Fr. Christopher Cantrell SSC said...


Glad you have come to this conclusion. You are NOT alone. I got the digest and now I know what you were talking about. Apparently ridicule is only alright if your initials are EK. You are not in need of absolution!

Ann said...

And it seems more agree with your realism, Dan - readign the article on the news today about SJ backing out of the worst (IMO)of the resolutions. And PS Christopher+ your blog has not been free of ridicule - so I would be careful of calling others to task (although you did the right thing last time).

Anonymous said...

Do you think it is possible that you might be wrong on TEC being a sinking ship? If not, what do you think should be done to rescue the persons on this sinking ship? As an "idealist" what do you think would be the ideal solution for the Body of Christ?

I also consider myself to be an idealist and am also an INTJ. For me the ideal solution would be to return to the way the church was before all this posturing after GC 2003. Where people were free within the bounds of their baptismal covenants to understand God's word the why it speaks to them directly. Not to call people names and judge them as something evil. Where nobody imposes their will on others.
John Larson