The Special Convention in the Diocese of San Joaquin went off well. Episcopal Life Online carried a number of stories about it all and Fr. Jake ran comments from the meeting as well as some fine photos, one of which I post here.(Thanks to Fred, whoever he is.)
I have to confess I was somewhat nervous about how things would go. It was important, I think, that the event began with healing as part of the "work" to be done. Bishop Lamb will a kind, gentle and forceful witness for building again an Episcopal Church community.
Now it turns out that Bishops Lawrence, Howe and Duncan (or at least his Lawyer) have all objected to the voting at the last House of Bishops meeting. Bishop Duncan was absent. I don't know about Bishops Howe and Lawrence. Did either of them object at the time? And what does that objection mean now?
It is a matter about a procedure in the House of Bishops. Perhaps these bishops will want to attend the next meeting for sure and there raise their objections again, perhaps with a suggestion for a way forward that fits their understanding of canonical procedure, precedence, and rationale.
So its Monday and the Church (as mostly seems the case) is still made up of people who mostly find themselves able to go to Church on Sundays leave and get through to Monday and the weekly round holding something of the holiness of Sacred moments and carrying them into all other moments and making them sacred too. For most of them this business in San Joaquin is no big deal.
On the other hand the various parties in San Joaquin are having to work through a lot of things, putting some down and taking others up. The yoke may have been hard and now is easy, it may have been easy and now is hard. It's Monday, Monday...
I come to this Monday with an odd sense that there is something in all this that needs further work.
Let me begin by saying that I believe right decisions were made to depose Bishop Schofield, to hold the Special Convention, to question the viability of the old Standing Committee, to elect new officers and to to affirm Bishop Lamb as provisional Bishop. Matters could have been dealt with differently concerning the Standing Committee, but I am not convinced that a Standing Committee elected in the same Convention that voted to withdraw from the Episcopal Church and align itself with another Province can be said to be neutral on the matter.
What bothers me is this: The Canons are tools for us to use in our common life in the Episcopal Church, tools that both form and are formed by the community. While they are always in need of further work (of perfecting) they still constitute a body of discipline that we consider of such importance that obedience to them signals a basis for being considered included in or abandoning the communion of this Church.
It seems a good moment to take a forward step, perhaps gathering voices of the church that come from various places that seem so disparate that they are "across the divide" and together call for a clarification in the Canons on each of the matters that have plagued this discussion so far. In the proposed revision of Title IV being submitted to General Convention 2009 we would do well to consider carefully just what we mean regarding the words on the page and how it relates to previous practice and general justification for the various elements of the Canon.
Why should we do so? Well, in part because the Rev. Dan Martins will not get off the case until we do so. I disagree with his read on most of the items in the list of concerns, but I absolutely agree with him that we need to come to some clarity about what we mean in the canons, what its implications are and how we deal with disputes of interpretation.
The reason for this, at least as far as I am concerned, is larger than Dan's objecting, of course. The reason is that one day "they," who ever they are, will decide that my hesitancy about moving beyond the belief that Jesus was born of a Virgin to the assertion that the belief is now a stone cold fact that it is flat out SO, is grounds for the charge that I have abandoned the communion of this Church. When that happens no one will give a damn because I am a miserable lowly retired priest and who cares anyway. On the other hand when they come for my bishop (The Rt. Rev. Wayne Wright at the moment) and decide that he really doesn't believe with sufficient fervor that the words in Scripture constitute in final terms the "Word of God" they will haul him away, and with him will haul away the episcopal authority under which I have freedom to be the peculiar ol' fart that I am.
It turns out that visionary conservatives and visionary liberals alike want the canons to mean something: that they be clear and precise as possible; that they implicate us in community; that we will have to take responsibility for living under them and responsibility for ignoring them.
I believe Dan to be wrong in his assessment of what has happened in San Joaquin. I say that knowing that he knows the players and I don't; that he was part of that diocese and I wasn't. But I believe him to be right to press forward with the vision that the canons might actually mean what they say and say what they mean, and that somehow we will find a way to interpret the canons that itself will carry communal weight sufficient to satisfy us all.
Meanwhile, we baptize and we share communion and for those of us under the radar no one will ask how we felt about this canon or that, or how we might have voted, or what our real opinion is of Jesus' mother. We will be part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church by virtue of being small and of no account.