The Diocese of San Joaquin has voted to leave the Episcopal Church and ally itself to one of the most conservative Evangelical Provinces in the Anglican Communion. It will look rather like Martinique, whose geography places it in one part of the world and its polity in another. As this chapter further unfolds in Pittsburgh and Fort Worth the watching world will witness Christianity at its worst as it engages in internecine warfare.

The tragedy will be worst for those in the middle, faithful people seeking to worship God and to love their neighbor who are caught up in this struggle for victory. Those in the know may object that this is not a family squabble as TEC has left the family. As yet no word has emerged from the Instruments of Unity, our Anglican familiar symbols, affirming that TEC has left the family or even that the Southern Cone has left the family, and thus it remains forensically a family row. One wonders when in Advent the Archbishop of Canterbury will bring clarity to us or whether there remains any clarity at all for him to bring.

In worldly terms TEC may win, for it seems to have the money and the battalions. Yet such a victory, if it is a victory will drain further its resources, impede its attempts to grow -who in their right mind wants to join a squabbling group unless they are fanatics of one stripe or another – and probably seal its fate for the present as far as relationships with the rest of the Anglican world are concerned. It will emerge weakened and isolated.

Those who lose will find themselves fragmented and tugged between those who wish to remain loyal to the Anglican Communion and those who wish to replace it. They will be prey to ambitious people and unspoken agendas and to a dangerous romanticism which confuses fidelity to the faith once delivered with nostalgia for a mythical golden age when the Church was pure.

In all this the prayers, hopes and voices of sensible people will be needed if not always heeded. Of all God’s gifts that of common sense will be the most desired and the most difficult to acquire. Yet as I write this I wonder whether even sanctified common sense may help. This present tragedy has been long a coming, and could have been averted years ago if leaders, appointed and self appointed had been graced enough to listen to each other and to prize Anglican comprehension, civility and gracefulness. The frightful modern obsession to win and take no prisoners, which has ruined sports and bedeviled politics has donned an alb and strides around our altars.

There has been a brutality about in those who have pressed a wide agenda of “reforms” and those who have used fear as a weapon to oppose the agenda of our ascendant progressives. Certainly that perfect love which casts out fear has been absent. One wonders whether we are not witnessing the truth of the ancient adage, “Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.”

Those of us who embrace Anglicanism and seek to live into its best nature, into a spirit of mutual tolerance and purposeful comprehension have a difficult road to follow, made the more difficult because that which we feared but thought impossible has now happened.

For myself I love and honor my friends who are sure they cannot stayin TEC knowing full well that some of them will take it ill that I remain where I am or where I may be. The personal irony will be that if TEC is expelled from the Communion (or perhaps TEC and the Southern Cone) I will have come full circle and will abide once again in a body which calls itself Anglican but which is not in full communion wth the See of Canterbury.

2 Responses

  1. All I’m interested in here is the continuation of the traditional Anglo-Catholic ethos – an orthodox, tolerant-conservative (don’t ask, don’t tell except in Confession, God forgives), liturgically traditional (‘choreography by Fortescue’ especially in North America), with an emphasis on the daily office, Western Catholicism in English (and what English it is) – no matter what the church sign outside says.

    This obviously has no future in TEC.

    But does it in the Protestant Global South?

    As both a Catholic and a believer in a free society I’m not interested in destroying TEC.

    TEC’s claim to the buildings is understandable. But this is new legal territory unlike leaving parishes where it’s pretty well mapped out (the diocese owns it, sorry – asking the bishop to sell is not stealing but if the answer’s no you have to move).

    (Ex-)Episcopal dioceses unlike Roman Catholic ones are largely independent so it’ll be up to the court.

    I imagine the remnant will elect a new bishop unless they decide they’re not big enough to be a diocese any more. Then I imagine they’d go under +California (Marc Andrus).

    If the Bishop of San Joaquin really said having overlapping Anglican provinces, out of communion with each other, in North America (Anglican = invited to Lambeth) is the answer then he’s wrong.

    This is a canonical quagmire as long as both sides remain in the Anglican Communion.

    There are only a few inevitables in this row, taking Dr Jefferts Schori at her word that only a tiny minority want to leave TEC: some parishes will be split, others squashed and being expelled from Anglicanism (if it is) wouldn’t affect most Episcopalians.

  2. Well said, Fr. Tony.

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