In preparation for my Dec. 21 column about the Episcopal schism in the San Joaquin Valley, I called our local St. Mark's for help. They referred me to the Rev. Bill Gandenberger, who shared these thoughts via e-mail about the split:
First of all, I was wondering how this decision will affect the average, everyday worshipper at St. Mark's (or at any of the churches). Will the normal churchgoer notice, or will it change their experience?
Our intention is that there should not be significant changes noticeable to the average everyday worshippers within our churches because of the action of our convention to realign with a different province of the Anglican Communion. Our people will have the same styles of worship, the same Book of Common Prayer, the same hymnals and newsletters, etc. As I have said before to some of our churches and to other reporters, "Look around. What has changed?" The most noticeable change, and one given as a direction to our churches by Bishop John-David Schofield in his Pastoral Letter of Dec. 16, is that we are now to include our Archbishop Gregory Venables to the Prayers of the People during our worship services.
[Here's the Web site for more information.]
Second, what message does the church intend the decision to send? Or, is this a move that was made purely because of a moral decision within the church leadership and isn't intended to make a "statement" at all? Do you hope others to follow the church's lead?
Your readers may not be aware that 60 percent of the other Provinces of the world-wide Anglican Communion [22 out of 37] have impaired or broken communion with the Episcopal Church because of actions it has taken, which have caused scandal or difficulty to other parts of the world. The purpose of Dec. 8th’s vote at our convention, therefore, was not to change anything within the diocese but quite to the contrary. With the status of the Episcopal Church’s membership in the Anglican Communion looking more and more precarious, the people of San Joaquin simply wanted to remain what we have always been, namely Anglican. The Province of the Southern Cone of South America offered us the ability confirm our positive status and to be in full communion with the rest of the Churches in the Anglican Communion immediately and freedom to proclaim the great news of Jesus Christ boldly and without compromise caused by confusion in the Episcopal Church.
Also, who had a say in the decision? I understand that a final vote was taken, but must admit I'd like a more specific idea as to who voted and how it was decided as to who would vote.
Every Church in our diocese sends delegates who are elected at annual meeting of each church. Ordained clergy in our diocese also vote. We have to assume that these issues were openly discussed at each church prior to the Convention.
Finally, in regards to criticism of the split with the American body, many people have remarked that this decision is a divisive one that overlooks Christ's message of inclusiveness and repeated Gospel passages of him reaching out to the marginalized, outcast, etc. How does the San Joaquin church respond to this?
To be clear, we are teaching and believing what we have always taught and believed —from our perspective it is the leadership of the Episcopal Church that is bent on breaking away from mainstream, biblical Christianity. We are simply choosing not to follow them. We continue to reach out to the marginalized and the outcasts as Christ himself did and as he commanded, but we do so not to affirm their current situation or personal choice of lifestyle, but to be part of their transformation in Christ that the Lord desires. We reach out to offer hope and freedom through Jesus Christ because we all want that for ourselves too. The Great Commandment in the Bible is to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves and that is what we intend to do as earnest Christians who happen to live out their lives as part of the Anglican tradition.