Wednesday, February 27, 2008

San Joaquin: ECUSA March 29 special convention anticipated

From EpiscopalLife Online (but I'm not sure what's going on in San Joaquin with the duly elected Standing Committee - this report just refers to a "steering committee" which seems to be the functioning authority according to the presiding bishop):

More San Joaquin congregations opt to remain within Episcopal Church; March 29 special convention anticipated

A growing number of Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Joaquin are opting to remain within the Episcopal Church (TEC), as the Fresno-based diocese prepares for an anticipated March 29 special convention that would elect a provisional bishop.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, in a letter to be distributed via a new diocesan newspaper, notes the proposed convention date and reassures the people of the diocese that work is ongoing "to ensure that you and your fellow Episcopalians may continue to bless the communities around you well into the future."

"I anticipate convening a Special Diocesan Convention on 29 March, at which you will elect new diocesan leaders, and begin to make provision for episcopal leadership for the next year or so," Jefferts Schori writes. "That gathering will be an opportunity to answer questions you may have, as well as to hear about plans for the renewal of mission and ministry in the Diocese of San Joaquin."

The convention announcement follows a series of February 19-22 meetings with individuals and groups from Lodi to Bakersfield which the Rev. Canon Bob Moore called "very fruitful. We've been able to broaden the scope of people who may see a future in the reconstituted Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and that's been good," he said.

Moore noted as signs of progress the appointment of a 26-member steering committee to help continue the diocese (see roster below); 17 congregations who have opted to remain with TEC; the anticipated March 29 special convention to elect a provisional bishop; establishment of new diocesan headquarters in Stockton and a partnership with Episcopal Life Media to facilitate dissemination of information and to provide a new diocesan newspaper edition.

"It's an enormously big step," said Moore, of the new diocesan publication. "The lack of information here is profound," he said.

The Presiding Bishop appointed Moore, and later the Rev. Canon Brian Cox, as an interim pastoral presence to continuing Episcopalians after 42 of 47 diocesan congregations voted in December to leave TEC and to realign with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

In the absence of ecclesiastical authority, the Rev. Mark Hall, rector of St. Anne's Church in Stockton and the senior active priest in San Joaquin, is also serving as temporary diocesan administrator.

He said, light-heartedly, that the continuing diocese is rapidly growing from an informal group "with cell phones wandering around the valley trying to get organized" to establishing a new diocesan headquarters and readying for the convention and necessary elections.

"Our biggest challenge has been that the entire administration of the diocese was taken over," Hall said, referring to the December 8 convention vote that splintered the diocese. "We had no center" until recently, he added. The Congregational Church has offered office space in Stockton, where "the original diocesan headquarters were before it was moved to Fresno," he said.

Membership in the continuing diocese is growing with 17 congregations remaining with TEC and the possibility of more coming on board. "Some are start-up and some are continuing congregations," Hall said. About five others are also considering continuing with TEC, added Hall, who is a steering committee member.

Delegates to the anticipated March 29 convention will, in addition to electing a provisional bishop, also elect the standing committee, deputies to General Convention, provincial representatives and diocesan officers.

Michael Glass, a San Rafael attorney who represents many of the continuing Episcopalians, said Title III. Canon 13, Section 1 provides for the election of the provisional bishop "in consultation with the Presiding Bishop."

Glass predicted additional congregations will also "come out of the woodwork" and decide to remain with TEC after the election. "Right now the only authority is Bob Moore and Brian Cox and the steering committee," he said. "When people have a new bishop they can call up and an alternative functioning structure to interact with, you'll see more people."

TEC is providing the funding for ongoing mission congregations, and other forms of support have been designated by the Episcopal Church's Executive Council.

Nancy Key, a co-founder of Remain Episcopal, said that the group of continuing Episcopalians is now offering financial assistance to emerging missions and other faith communities. "About two-thirds of our budget is going to support these missions; we've developed an application process which is on the website," Key said.

Getting the word out has been a significant challenge, said St. Anne's Hall. "Because of the nature of how things have been … people were kept from talking to each other and … we've been marginalized." He said that Episcopal Life's monthly newspaper and other church-wide publications were unavailable within most of the diocese for at least a decade.

Cindy Smith, a steering committee member, recalled discovering Episcopal Life during a visit to Virginia.

"I thought it was a diocesan publication, and I asked about it. They told me it was the national newspaper and I remember saying, 'what national newspaper?' I had never seen it or heard of it," said Smith, who is also a member of the Bakersfield Faith Community and president of Remain Episcopal.

"The idea that it's now going to be mailed to all the people in the diocese, 3,700 households, along with information about Episcopal Relief and Development and all the things the church is doing, all the things nobody ever told us about, except that it's 'bad' or 'apostate,' the possibility of what that can provide to people, is amazing."

Moore agreed. "We talked to people this morning who simply hear rumors on blogs and get the impression that these various blogs and web pages are the national church speaking with some uniform voice. This is an enormously big step."

The new publication will be edited by Doris Hall, who had retired in December 2007 after serving for 19 years as editor and ten years as associate editor of the diocesan publication, the "San Joaquin Star." (Hall is no relation to the Rev. Michael Hall.)

"I'm thrilled and excited," she said about the new publication, which is expected to publish its first issue in early March. "Now we can give people news about what's happening all over the Episcopal Church and not just locally."

The steering committee has organized into subcommittees, including an executive committee and: finance; canons and constitutions; reconciliation; arrangements; nominations; negotiations; liturgical planning and outreach.

Committee members represent a broad theological spectrum and include:

The Rev. Keith Axberg, rctor of Holy Family Parish in Fresno
The Rev. Marlin Bowman, vicar of St. Clare of Assisi Mission, Avery
The Rev. George Cano, a deacon at Christ the King, Riverbank
Barbara Conrad, St. Clare of Assisi, Avery
Amanda Gaona
The Rev. Mark Hall, rector, St. Anne's Parish, Stockton
Mike Handy, member, Church of the Saviour, Hanford
Richard Jennings, treasurer, Remain Episcopal
W. Marshall Johnston, member, Holy Family, Fresno
The Rev. Glenn Kanestrom, rector, Christ the King, Riverbank
Nancy Key, member, Holy Family, Fresno, and Remain Episcopal
Lejf Knutson, member, Church of the Saviour, Hanford
John Ledbetter, member, St. John the Baptist, Lodi
Shelley Lindgren, member St. Matthew Parish, San Andreas
Ron Miller, member, St. Francis, Turlock
Adrian Nestor, member, St. Matthew Parish, San Andreas
Dr. John Olowoyeye, member, St. John the Baptist, Lodi
Brenda Peterson, member, St. Nicholas Mission, Atwater
The Rev. Fred Risard, vicar, St. Nicholas Mission, Atwater
Joe Sadler, member, St. Nicholas Mission, Atwater
The Rev. John Shumaker, rector, St. Matthew Parish, San Andreas
Cindy Smith, member, Bakersfield Faith Community, Remain Episcopal
Norel Steffen, member, Christ the King, Riverbank
Tom Vanderwal, member, Remain Episcopal
Juanita Weber, member, St. Anne Parish, Stockton
Stanley Boone, provisional member . . .

Read it all.

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