Usually I avoid our annual Diocesan Council meetings if I possibly can. Everyone wants to argue about sex or racism. Yawn…been there done that to the point of boredom ad infinitum.
And I’ll bet by now our council is getting ready to bicker about Iraq. What’s that? No, they won’t be arguing over how much money to send to the persecuted Chaldean Christians there.
But the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin in Fresno, I’d have loved to have attended their Council — though I can see why they might not have been issuing invitations:
Clergy and lay members of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin voted 173-22 at their annual convention to remove all references to the national church from the diocese’s constitution, according to spokeswoman Joan Gladstone.
The Fresno-based congregation is the first full diocese to secede because of a conservative-liberal rift that began decades ago and is now focused on whether the Bible condemns gay relationships.
The diocese, in a later vote, accepted an invitation to join a conservative South American congregation of the Worldwide Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. member of the global Anglican Communion.
173-22?? I don’t know the “right” side of this argument…
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Biblical exegesis being the kind of soft discipline that it is, one can make a case for either view of this on-going titillating brouhaha. And you can even use the same passage from Scripture to make opposite debate points. The most you can say in this case is that 173-22 is a decisive move in one direction, and that direction is not New Hampshire.
The MSM sure eats this stuff up, though. And the hierarchy, in their nuanced, pastoral way, gently suggests:
“I do not intend to threaten you, only to urge you to reconsider and draw back from this trajectory,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, head of the U.S. denomination, wrote in a letter to Schofield [the Fresno Bishop] earlier this week.
Chopping through the ecclesiological verbiage, I will translate for you: The national Presiding Bishop is telling the Fresno Diocese – rough translation here – “I don’t care where you go, Jack, the property belongs to us.”
And some property it is, too:
The diocese’s holdings include 48 church buildings, including its Fresno headquarters, a series of mission-style buildings surrounded by olive, Chinese elm and cherry trees. Its total assets are worth millions, said the Rev. Van McCalister, a diocesan spokesman.
Be assured this will get ugly….I mean, uglier. Fights over dogma and money always are, no matter the denomination. Nor will this be the last skirmish before the last light is extinguished in the Episcopal Church of the United States of America:
About 55 conservative Episcopal parishes have split from the church in the last few years and some have affiliated directly with Anglican provinces overseas, according to national church statistics. But the courts have mostly ruled against them.
San Joaquin is one of four full dioceses out of 110 in the nation – along with Fort Worth, Texas; Quincy, Ill., and Pittsburgh – that has taken steps toward breaking with the U.S. church.
So the courts seem to rule against individual churches. What will it do in the case of whole dioceses?
I realize such unseemly behavior by seemingly godly people is indeed a shame. But all families are like that, There ain’t a one of ‘em don’t bicker and carry on some. Some of the more sensitive souls have to hike up their skirts and run for the bus out of town, never to darken the doors of the family manse again. Others like to hang around for the carrying on.
If there’s one thing the Episcopal Church is good for, it’s carrying on.
So, Adios amigos in Fresno. Will you have to learn Spanish to join the South American Church?