Here’s an excerpt:
Today we stand at a critical juncture in history. It would be myopic to imagine that the rest of
Christendom, let alone the Anglican Communion, is not watching and praying as we deliberate.
Pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us in the momentous decisions that lie before us.
It is only natural to experience fear, for what we are considering takes the Diocese of San Joaquin
into unchartered waters. The leaders of the General Convention have expended enormous energy
to spread their mantra: “Individuals may the leave the Church, but Parishes and Dioceses cannot.”
No one seems to know who dreamed up this idea. What we DO know is that it is simply not true!
During the time of the Civil War in the 1860’s when this nation was torn apart, dioceses in those
states called the Confederacy withdrew from what was then known as The Protestant Episcopal
Church. During the war years they held their own conventions, developed their own Constitution,
had there own House of Bishops, elected a Presiding Bishop, and consecrated a bishop for one of
their dioceses. Nothing could be clearer. The southern dioceses had departed and had created a
separate church. Today we might call it their own Province.
Unlike many of the Protestant denominations, however, it didn’t make sense to Episcopalians to
maintain the separation when the war ended. Not only were the southern bishops and their dioceses
welcomed back, the newly consecrated bishop was recognized, and no punitive action was taken
against anyone. Presumably the southerners had taken their property with them when they left.
And, they would not have been the first to do this.
Centuries before, King Henry VIII, with the help of Parliament prevented all English money from
going to Rome. This action was followed up by taking all the property of the churches, including
the monasteries and shrines ”“many of which he dismantled and sold. Today, were you to go to
Ireland in search of a name or a tombstone of anyone buried before 1540, your search would have
to be in Anglican ”“not Roman Catholic”“ churches and cathedrals. Somehow the Pope never asked
that they be returned to him…and they weren’t.
Colonial churches, especially those in Virginia, whose existence pre-date not only The Episcopal
Church but the United States itself, were never given back to the Lord Bishop of London nor to the
Archbishop of Canterbury when, after the American Revolution, Anglicans identified themselves
as Episcopalians. They took their property with them.
History is replete with instances in which dioceses, too, have moved from one Province to another
”“ no matter how it was accomplished. Liberia moved from The Episcopal Church to the Province
of West Africa, Venezuela moved from the West Indies to The Episcopal Church. Mexico has
moved back and forth from The Episcopal Church more than once.
Historically, Provinces, such as The Episcopal Church, are not, and never have been, an essential
part of Catholic Order. On October 14th this year, Rowan Williams, our present Archbishop of
Canterbury, wrote to Bishop John Howe of Central Florida: “…Without forestalling what the
Primates might say, I would repeat what I’ve said several times before ”“ that any Diocese compliant
with Windsor remains clearly in communion with Canterbury and the mainstream of the
Communion, whatever may be the longer-term result for others in The Episcopal Church. The
organ of union with the wider Church is the Bishop and the Diocese rather than the Provincial
structure as such.” Later, in the same letter, Archbishop Williams strengthened what he had said
already by adding: “I should feel a great deal happier, I must say, if those who were most eloquent
for a traditionalist view in the United States showed a fuller understanding of the need to regard the
Bishop and the Diocese as the primary locus of ecclesial identity rather than the abstract reality
of the ”˜national church’.” (Emphasis added) Abstract realities do not own, nor have they ever
There is no question that what we are considering today will be called Schism. We will be told that
unity trumps theology. We shall be told that we are doing is destructive and against history and
Catholic Order. Once again, the words of J.I. Packer are most helpful. He notes: “Schism means
unwarrantable and unjustifiable dividing of organized church bodies, by the separating of one group
within the structure from the rest of the membership. Schism, as such, is sin, for it is a needless and
indefensible breach of visible unity. But withdrawal from a unitary set-up that has become
unorthodox and distorts the gospel in a major way and will not put its house in order as for instance
when the English church withdrew from the Church of Rome in the sixteenth century, should be
called not schism but realignment, doubly so when the withdrawal leads to links with a set-up that
is faithful to the truth, as in the sixteenth century the Church of England entered into fellowship
with the Lutheran and Reformed churches of Europe, and as now we propose gratefully to accept
the offer of full fellowship with the Province of the Southern Cone. Any who calls such a move
schism should be told they do not know what schism is.”
For those of us who are facing the unknown, Provinces and Property seem to be among the top
concerns. As bishop, I would like to suggest to you that a ”˜NO’ vote at this convention will not
provide the imagined protection needed to get on with our lives uninterrupted. Many do not realize
that for 40 years, with the first twenty under Bishop Victor Rivera, and now nearly twenty years
with me, as bishops we have been able to provide a buffer for our people from the innovations that
abound in dioceses all around us. A quick trip north, south, east or west is all that it takes to wonder
if we’re in the same church with those folks. Years ago, it was the moderate Bishop John
MacArthur of West Texas who first stated clearly that “we are two churches under one roof.”