The cold front sweeping across northern Indiana from the west tonight brings with it news of the commencement of litigation over the ecclesial entity known as the Diocese of San Joaquin. Aside from finding it heartbreaking and surreal, and aside from wondering how parties on either side explain their relationship with I Corinthians 6:1-11, I don't have a lot to say. There was a time when I intended to become a lawyer. I was officially "pre-law" for one semester in college. But I'm not a lawyer. I've never played one on TV. I have spend a night in a Holiday Inn Express, but it didn't make me an expert in anything, so don't believe the ads. I'm going to leave it to actual lawyers, and probably a few wannabes, to parse out all the different ways the chips can fall on this.
But you can bet that we haven't seen the last of undisguised spin, partial statements of facts, caricature, self-congratulatory rhetoric, sweeping generalizations, and ever more entrenched positions. And it will come in more or less equal shares from both parties to the California dispute. In the meantime, searching souls for whom the Anglican way of being Christian might just offer them the most efficient way to be made a saint will be repelled by the air of conflict that envelopes American Anglicanism. Kyrie eleison.
The acrid odor you are smelling is the aroma of bridges being burned. As I have already noted more than duly in this space, the executive leadership of the Episcopal Church has tragically chosen an ideological purge over not only canon law and not only common sense but even over their own long term self-interest. They want a Diocese of San Joaquin that is a showcase for the brand of liberal puritanism that has become the order of the day, and they're not interested in the care and feeding of any conservative POWs. (Some had raised a white flag, but were quickly chased off to Argentina, which welcomed them with open arms.)
But the bridges are being torched from both ends. Some seventeen months ago, when I was still resident in San Joaquin, I proposed an "amendment to the amendment" of our constitution that, even as it helped set the pins for an potential departure from TEC (as it indeed eventually did), would have at least acknowledged that the diocese's ongoing life, whatever shape that might take, would be in organic continuity with the life and history of the Episcopal Church. My amendment went down like the Hindenburg, so toxic was the expression "Episcopal Church" in the family system of the diocese by that point. I have a strong enough ego to still contend that the convention, in rejecting my proposal, was acting against its own enlightened self-interest. At any rate, the perception of toxicity has only grown since that time. The breach that has occurred, even though Bishop Schofield proclaims it extraordinary and temporary, will never, I am convinced, be healed in my lifetime.
I will, of course, watch events as they unfold, and do so with great interest. I am an Episcopalian. I lead an Episcopal parish that is vital, orthodox in worship and teaching, and engaged in gospel-driven mission. I love the souls who have been entrusted to my pastoral care, and serve them as best as I am able. This is not to say that I don't have serious "issues" with recent actions of General Convention, Executive Council, the Presiding Bishop, and the President of the House of Deputies. I do indeed have such issues, and if you visit this place regularly, you know I'm not shy about raising them. But as long as the Episcopal Church has the Anglican franchise in the United States, I do not feel myself at liberty to leave it, or to encourage anyone else to do so. I believe, as I have said several times, that the action taken last December by the Diocese of San Joaquin was ill-conceived and has caused harm on multiple levels. I deplore it.
That said, I support the right of these Anglican friends of mine to do what they did, and I hope they prevail in court. I hope the Episcopal Church--my church--loses in every venue of litigation in which it is currently engaged. We need a dose of humility.