Sunday, January 27, 2008

Remain Episcopal

The dissidents who have abandoned their diocese, which previously abandoned the Episcopal Church had a pep rally in Hanford California today. All clear? No? Ok then.

Remain Episcopal is a group of members of the formerly Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. San Joaquin voted last month to leave the Episcopal Church. Remain Episcopal has organized to leave the Diocese of San Joaquin. There are five churches that form the core of Remain Episcopal. In 2006, these churches had a combined membership of around 1,400 with an average Sunday attendance (ASA) of 470.

Yesterday, the Episcopal Church held a pep rally on behalf of Remain Episcopal. It devoted a fair amount of resources to the effort (buses and satellite feeds aren't exactly cheap). According to the official organ of the Episcopal Church, The Episcopal News Service, around 350 people showed for the service.

The diocese of San Joaquin is not especially large, geographically. It takes about three hours to drive from one to the other (you may easily gauge how quickly I drive from this). Despite this and despite being advertised, transportation provided and the best efforts of the organizers, 350 people officially showed. Think about that. That figure includes a significant number of people who were never part of the diocese in any way.

No matter how you look at it or try to spin it, the attendance was pathetic. judging from the photos, the crowd was older and white. The demographics do not favour Remain Episcopal. My opinion, for what it is worth, is that when the dust settles and everyone has declared their allegiance to either the Episcopal Church or the Diocese of San Joaquin, then the Episcopal Church will be looking at closing some of the Remain Episcopal churches. The rule of thumb for churches is that you need an ASA of around a hundred to remain viable. Three hundred and fifty people, even assuming they all are from the area, yields three and a half viable churches.

If you go to the Remain Episcopal website you will see six churches listed. The five churches I have already mentioned and a sixth, St Nicholas, which is shown as a mission. There's a reason they're keeping St Nicholas around, even though it was dissolved by the bishop earlier. Article V.5 of the Constitution of the Episcopal Church require a diocese to have six churches before it can apply for membership. Retaining St Nicholas, despite it's manifest unhealth, gives Remain Episcopal six churches. This keeps the options open as to whether the Reamin Episcopal churches are a new diocese or the faithful remnant of an old one.

What puts all of this into focus is the declaration by the Presiding Bishop that the Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin have been naughty and are therefore no longer the Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin. This follows a declaration by the Bishop of San Joaquin that they could no longer be the Standing Committee as they were members of the Episcopal Church and not members in the Province of the Southern Cone.

Before the Presiding Bishop's fiat, it was entirely arguable that the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin still existed, and that it existed in the persons of its Standing Committee. Now it is a dead diocese. It is defunct. It is an ex-diocese.


Fresno Mark said...

You could not have been in Hanford yesterday and viewed the Diocese of San Joaquin as anything but alive, well and thriving. And no, those of us there do not intend to "leave" the Diocese of San Joaquin -- we ARE the continuing Diocese of San Joaquin. As the parishioners at Holy Family Episcopal Church in Fresno, California, voted UNANIMOUSLY at their annual meeting:

"We the parishioners of Holy Family Episcopal Church, Fresno, California,

"AFFIRM that we are and intend to remain a parish in the Diocese of San Joaquin, a part of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, and a member of the Worldwide Anglican Communion;

"ACKNOWLEDGE the leadership of our Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, and thank her for the prayers and support she has provided our Diocese and parish;

"PRAY for the reconciliation of the parishes and people in the Diocese of San Joaquin so that we can move beyond those things that prevent and distract us from presenting our common witness to Christ's presence in the world. "

Anonymous said...

fresno mark - You seem .. a little miffed.

Anonymous said...

fresno mark,
No you don't have to leave the Diocese of San Joaquin, they by a 92% vote have left you. You are free to affiliate with any other diocese you wish or create a new structure to belong to. It's all good. The bishop promises you could keep your property [not leaving a debt to the diocese], but not have any claim on any other property connected to the diocese of San Joaquin. It really is goodbye..and good luck..God's blessings on your journey..but the operative word here is goodbye. You are not the diocese of San Joaquin, have no claim on any properties other than your own. It was a fair, democratic process for the vote in December. It's unfortunate that some in the church do not respect the will of the people in an open vote.

Matthew said...

fresno mark,

I understand your emotions. May I suggest a constructive method for venting them? Prove me wrong. I understand if you do not believe me on this, but I would love to be proven wrong.

Make the Episcopalian remnant into a viable diocese. Make it into a diocese that is growing, self-sufficient and awash in new members.

Do that and I will gladly eat my words. I'll even supply the barbecue sauce.