Monday, July 24, 2006

Meeting +John-David

And how I learned something about Church politics.

As some California bishops begin presentment proceedings against another California bishop, I thought I might tell a story about +John-David of San Joaquin. He's been in the Episcopal news lately because he's being charged with abandoning communion. In all honesty I'm not sure why, but according to these sources it has something to do with diocesan canons, and what some think he might do in the future. But the story is unfolding, and there is much more to this story than what we see in the news. It's an important story as any in the battle over who is genuinely Anglican in the United States. It's worth following.

It's worth following because the Diocese of San Joaquin is on the shortlist of dioceses disliked by the liberal establishment of the Episcopal Church, and will tell us much about how those on the edges of the Episcopal Church are treated by those closer to the centre of power. My own relationships in the Episcopal Church have developed within the perifery of the liberal establishment (though Presiding Bishop elect, +Katherine Jefferts-Schori, is a graduate of my seminary), and most of the voices I know here are fully consonant with the power-voices within the Episcopal Church, like that of presiding bishop ++Frank Griswold and the national church bureaucracy. All that is to say that I had never heard many good things about +John-David, until a conservative friend came under his wing after this friend came into some conflict with his own diocese over some familiar theological and ecclesial issues.

I went to Howard's diaconal ordination, but with some trepidation. As uncomfortable as I am with much of the politicking and theology of the Diocese of California, San Joaquin also has positions and policies that are at variance with those of my own diocese. I wondered to myself, should I insist on processing in the clerical procession? Should I even wear my clericals? I wasn't sure that my orders were recognised in San Joaquin. I was licensed in the Diocese of California, a diocese as different from San Joaquin as you can get. In the end I decided not to process, but I did wear my clericals. I'm sure of the validity of my orders, even if I wasn't sure that this diocese would recognise them.

At the end of the ordination I entered the receiving line along with everyone else. I was anxious to meet the bishop, as most of the bishops I've met (though not all, to be sure) have more serpentine wisdom than dove-like gentleness. Here I was, a crippled deacon from the Diocese of California, meeting one of the most conservative bishops in the Episcopal Church. I didn't know how this bishop would receive me.

As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. +John-David held my hand tightly and smiled broadly when I met him. He was radiant, and genuinely interested in me and how I was doing. He spoke lovingly of his own time in the Diocese of California, and of some of the people we both knew. He was curious about me being a Canadian in California. He wanted to learn about my ministry in Marin County. In short, +John-David won me over with his gentleness and pastoral presence.

Are meetings like this a solution to our deep divisions? No. I'm not that naive. But the opportunity to meet, face-to-face, someone as demonised as +John-David, certainly revealed some things that I have a hard time remembering: There are a lot of good men and women on both sides of this chasm. Don't believe the demonisers. And above all, reach out to all those you meet with love, affection, and charity, just as +John-David did with me. If he had relied on his own preconceptions, he would have had every reason to look another way.

Instead, he reached out his hand, and taught me something about Christian charity and hospitality.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Chris T. said...

Great post.

As you note, there are plenty of things to question about the theology of +John-David and his diocese, but that doesn't mean we liberals are any more justified in going on a witchhunt than conservatives are.

I'm particularly distressed that this whole fight seems mostly about property. My understanding from what I've read over at Fr. Jake's is that the other California bishops are worried that San-Joaquin is going to walk with property they consider to be TEC's (i.e., all the property in the diocese).

That might be a good canonical reason for a presentiment, but not a good Christian reason to call the diocese into question, IMO.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 12:52:00 AM  
Blogger *Christopher said...

I think what I question most is that I know many same sex couples in that diocese who have been refused Holy Communion and now drive to this diocese to receive. We can meet face to face all we want, but that's a deal breaker from here as it has predetermined the terms of the meeting at the highest level; one young man I know interested in the Episcopal Church chose against it, being gay in that diocese. I've also known women priests who have received quite a different reception from Bishop Scholfield.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 10:40:00 AM  
Anonymous HowardRGiles+ said...

For anyone who want to support +John-David, there is a petition at:
http://descant.classicalanglican.net/

As for the previous comment, they beg the question of catholicity. +John-David doesn't ordain women to the priesthood because he does not believe that he can. He could follow the Rite, but that would not make her a priest because the catholic and apostolic church has received the Holy Tradition of ordaining men to the priesthood. No one person or sect has the ability to change Holy Tradition.

As for admitting people to Holy Communion, we strive to live by the disciplinary Rubrics found on page 409 of the American BCP. Once again, 'couples' are defined by Holy Tradition as a man and a woman bound in Holy Matrimony, not by a local council.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 4:05:00 PM  
Blogger Charlotte said...

Excellent post. Demonization of "the other side" is not the way through.

Friday, July 28, 2006 7:16:00 AM  
Anonymous HowardRGiles+ said...

For all who would like more information on what the Bishop's of California are up to:

http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=4528

Friday, July 28, 2006 1:18:00 PM  

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