The lead up to Diocesan Conventon of San Joaquin, and the presentations at it, give us an example of remarkable, concerted and forceful full press whammy, whose purpose was to get the changes in the Constitution of the Diocese passed overwhelmingly. In this the Bishop and leaders of the Diocese were entirely successful. The vote for the first of the changes (to Article II) was, in a vote by orders, 68 clergy in favor and 16 opposed, and 108 lay delegates in favor, with 12 opposed. The other measures were passed by similarly large votes (thanks to the ENS article for these numbers.)
I have some level of admiration for the campaign for these constitutional changes. It was done with focus and considerable persuasive power. There was plenty of purple. There was careful (if often biased) argument.
It remains to be seen if any of this comes to much, particularly in the light of the forceful response from the Presiding officers of the Episocpal Church, but we would do well to listen carefully, for in the press for these changes nothing is hidden that shall not be revealed.
There has been wide publicity of the Bishop’s lead up campaign for the proposed changes. He wrote for the diocesan paper and led deanery discussions. The strategy of those meetings and, it appears, the strategy of the presentations at the convention were (i) to recite a story of supposed grievences, (ii) to offer a supposed solution that entails continued membership in the Anglican Communion as a diocese without association with The Episcopal Church, (iii) to firmly base this on an agreement with the Global South, (iv) to assure delegates that they are not leaving what they are, only leaving what they are not, and (v) to prepare them for holy suffering. Parts one, two and three were covered by Bishop Schofield, parts three, four and five were covered by Archbishop Venables.
The Diocese of San Joaquin has been kind enough to let us see some of the pieces of this strategy: The Bishop’s comments in the Diocesan Paper are published online; Anglican TV gave us Bishop Schofield’s address to the Convention and Bishop Salmon’s address to the Convention banquet.
Today (December 4th) Anglican TV posted a video by the Province of the Southern Cone of Archbishop Venables’ address to the people of the San Joaquin Convention.
This video speech is almost 17 minutes long. It opens with the logo for the Anglican Communion, as if the Archbishop spoke for the Communion. (Note: the title "Archbishop" is on the Video. It has been pointed out that he is called the Presiding Bishop. Correct as you wish in what follows.) About six minutes into the speech he says, “We (the Global South Steering Committee) met together in Washington DC and we listened to the experiences and the voices of Windsor Report Dioceses and the Network and other people and it became clear that God is calling us to form a united group which will move together with this plan for there to be for there to be alternative Primatial oversight within the United States worked through and authorized by the Primates of the Anglican Communion. That suggestion will go forward to the Primates at our meeting in February in Tanzania, /break/ which is a unified, consistent and fully supported message from the leadership of the Global South, that although you might need to separate from an agenda which has left long ago the plan of God for the Christian Church at no time will you have to separate from the Anglican Communion”
Three interesting points come from this: (i) the meeting of the GS Steering Committee and the Network folk and others took place in Washington, DC, and (ii) the Episcopal Church is reduced, not even with a name, to “an agenda which has left long ago the plan of God for the Christian Church,” (iii) the Archbishop spoke as “one with authority” on behalf of the Anglican Communion.
Archbishop Venables then spends the remainder of the message (about eight minutes) talking about the suffering that will come and how it is holy suffering.
It was the perfect add on to the Bishop’s address. It confirmed what everyone wanted to hear: that they might suffer, but it was for the very best of causes, that they were not leaving anything of importance, but only “an agenda which has left long ago”, and that they would not be abandoned, but always part of the Anglican Communion.
Some have asked why we need to pay even a moment of attention to what happened in San Joaquin. The answer is that the recitation seen there is part of the strategy. The litany of wrongs, the accusation that the Episcopal Church is apostate, the claim to be the righteous remnant of believing Anglicans, and the argument for inclusion in the Anglican Communion as the “constituent” member from the United States, are all part of a focused effort. These are “talking points” whose purpose is to recite again and again a sales pitch until the product is sold. We must listen and learn.
The sales pitch worked well for the delegates to the Convention.
Disappointment in their decision is important, but it is not enough. The Presiding Bishop is right to have begun her comment on the actions of the San Joaquin Convention by stating her lament. She is focused by ending her comments by saying, “I continue to consult with others involved in responding to this extracanonical action.”
I believe the delegates from San Joaquin are good people who have been given the full press whammy. They admire their bishop, they love the fellowship of their dioceses, they understand servant hood, and they are willing to suffer if necessary. How could they not vote the Constitutional changes?
We need to admire their courage and willingness to step into an unknown future with faith. We also must focus our own actions as the Episcopal Church, with equal courage and witness.
I believe it is the missionary intention of the Episcopal Church to be present in every part of these United States. If that intention is not met by particular people, clergy and bishops formerly part of us, then it will be met by others who will represent us there. Our respect for those who have left this common pilgrimage will remain, but we must find ways to continue our particular work and witness in Jesus Christ in places where the Episcopal Church has been abandoned.