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.