I would have thought that, if the constitutional amendment passed, it would do so with a narrow margin—2 or 3 votes in the clergy order. As it turned out, the margin was some 12 votes. The number of vocational deacons—each of whom has a special relationship with and affection for the Bishop--in
I caught the last five minutes or so of Bishop Duncan's after-dinner speech on Friday night, and it's possible that he's responsible for some aye votes. He is a very winsome speaker, quite compelling in a very soft and gentle and humble way. At times, he almost had me! But the mistake both he and Bishop Schofield make, as was pointed out during debate by one of the clergy, is to ignore or downplay the fact that "there are a great many good and godly people in the Episcopal Church." It is a fallacy on many levels to paint the entire Episcopal Church with the broad brush of its most radical members and leaders (including, of course, the Presiding Bishop and the Executive Council). This is precisely what my friends in SJ have done. It's a mistake to do so, but it's a very tempting and understandable mistake.
I like to think that, were I still there, I would have been lined up with the Nays, but to do so would have meant standing alongside those whom I consistently opposed on contested questions for all the years I was in the diocese, and I would have felt tremendous pressure (most of it internal) not to do so. I'm wondering how many others voted more out of response to pressure than out of conviction. And even having voted in the minority, I would, just to keep a paying job, feel pressure to go with the flow into the Southern Cone, and would probably have rationalized my way into doing so.
This is all very depressing and very disintegrating for me personally. I believe my former companions have made a tragic mistake, but at the same time I wish them well. They have an impoverished ecclesiology, but if their action has the effect of nudging the process (whatever that may be!) along a little further, then so much the better. In any case, I hope the significance of the vote margin is not lost on the Presiding Bishop or her staff or on Executive Council (or on the Archbishop of Canterbury, for that matter). The level of alienation toward the Episcopal Church in San Joaquin is astonishing. It was in the Red Zone a decade ago, and has only been escalating since. Even some who voted against the constitutional amendment are thoroughly alienated. Responding to alienation of that sort with blame-casting and clichés ("dioceses and parishes can't leave TEC, only individuals can") and canonical and legal maneuvers will represent a squandered opportunity of monumental proportions. Even the Pope did not excommunicate (i.e. take canonical action) against Elizabeth I and her subjects until 1570—eleven years after she failed to re-affirm her sister's "unqualified accession" to
As I hope is abundantly clear, as one on the "orthodox" side of the equation, I thoroughly disagree with the decision of my former diocese. It grieves me no end. I cannot see it as in any way righteous or just. Yet, I just as thoroughly affirm their right to make the decision they made, and believe it is one that should be respected. Denial and word games ("individuals have left") are no help, and only delay the happy issue out of our afflictions for which we all yearn and pray. The Diocese of San Joaquin has left the Episcopal Church. It's a done deal, and that's the basic fact that we should all have in mind as we consider what comes next. There are, to be sure, some details to be worked out with respect to those parishes and individuals who wish to remain connected to the Episcopal Church, some of whom will be exercising the promised "period of discernment." But what happened last Saturday is the most significant event in the history of Anglican Christianity since the consecration of Samuel Seabury.
But they haven't just left. They have gone to a particular place--namely, the Province of the Southern Cone. And Southern Cone is a province of the Anglican Communion, in full communion with the See of Canterbury. The Episcopal Church is also a province of the Anglican Communion, in full fellowship with Canterbury as well. As a priest of a diocese of the Episcopal Church, whose bishop has an invitation to Lambeth sitting on his desk, I am also in full communion with both Canterbury and the Southern Cone, and, hence, with my brothers and sisters in San Joaquin. To say that they have departed for "another faith community," as the Bishop of Lexington did in a letter released today, obfuscates and distorts the truth.
Finally, amid the calls for prayer and support on behalf of those in San Joaquin who have been "left behind"--calls with which I concur--let me observe that, metaphorically speaking, the "poorest of the poor" in this whole mess are those who are conservative in their theology and view of Christian morality, but who are nonetheless conscientiously unable to follow the pack to South America. They are by no means eager for the warm embrace of '815,' and are as embarrassed as anyone by the conduct of the mainstream of the church. To whom shall they turn? Who will speak for them?