Along with many Episcopalians in Fort Worth, I watched the live video stream from the "Moving Forward, Welcoming All," gathering of the Remain Episcopal group in the continuing Diocese of San Joaquin.
It was full of hope, and even better, information.
It began with a Eucharist, of course, this being a churchful of 350 Episcopalians. [And if any of those so quick to claim The Episcopal Church has abandoned Scripture were watching, I wish they'd please point out to me at what point in this service that happened.]
The turnout was especially notable, given the terrible cold and wet weather that part of California was experiencing. But as the day progressed, the sun came out, filling the church with light.
The celebrant and preacher was the Rev. Canon Moore of Seattle, who was appointed by the presiding bishop as an "interim pastoral presence" in the diocese. Moore told those present that they are called to walk the road of Christ, act in love and humility and yet with discipline. He said it was not their job to be judgmental.
He spoke of how the early disciples were "forced by circumstance to move out on their own initiative, to incarnate the Gospel in all its beauty, power and grace."
He gave them the charge to "learn the confidence of our gifts, the power of our faith."
After the service, Cindy Smith of Remain Episcopal said that the group has received generous financial, liturgical, and emotional support from all over the country. They also have heard from clergy from all over who are offering to come serve congregations on an interim or permanent basis.
Smith said Remain Episcopal was planning "for the day we cease to exist, a day the renewed leadership of the Fresno-based Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin can once again continue the reconciliation, work and mission of the church."
She cautioned that patience would be required as "communities of faith" continued to form and grow and the future of the diocese takes shape.
Nancy Key, co-founder of Remain Episcopal, also spoke. Among other things, she said, "Today represents the healing between the Diocese of San Joaquin and the national Episcopal Church."
Then Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, spoke. She began by saying, "You are the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin."
She spoke to them about making order out of the complexities and seeming chaos facing them.
She listed at least five different groups of Episcopalians who would be building the reconstituted diocese:
1. Some who are willing to litigate to keep church properties
2. Some who are not willing to litigate to keep church properties.
3. Some who voted to leave TEC but who have reconsidered and are willing to stay.
4. Some who are still on the fence.
5. Some who simply want things to get back to normal "so they can worship without all this disagreement."
Anderson emphasized that "any way forward must be Christ-centered. We are the people of God. That is our reality. The eye on the prize here is moving toward reconciliation."
She told them "It's not going to be real easy. You have people to reach out to, a lot of trust building to do."
She told them it's a new day in San Joaquin, but it's "a new day built on old promises," the promises of our Baptismal Covenant -- to seek and serve Christ in all persons.
"We have to ask ourselves, 'How would I like to be treated in this kind of situation?' Everyone has to swallow their pride and reach out to those you do not trust and who may have hurt you or been hurt by you in the past," Anderson said.
"This process of reconciliation will take courage. People will need to truly reach out to each other in the name of Christ. I encourage those present to reach out to others in the diocese who are struggling with their decision. Be open and encouraging, including everyone.
"Some people will need to let go of newly-found power. Some people will need to let go to long-held power," she said.
"Safe place for conversations and safe ways of talking together will need to be developed. Everyone must be committed to this work."
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori also addressed the group, via letter and videotape.
The letter, read by Canon Moore, said, "We expect to work next to clarify the status of members of the clergy in the Diocese of San Joaquin, and the status of any former diocesan leaders who wish to remain in The Episcopal Church."
Jefferts Schori said that financial and other support will be coming.
"We are already working to ensure continued salary for mission clergy who were recently removed from their posts by John-David Schofield. We will similarly work to continue diocesan functions such as ensuring insurance for congregations and clergy.
"Once the ultimate status of John-David Schofield is adjudicated by the House of Bishops, and if he is deposed, I will seek to gather the remaining members of the Diocese in a special convention to elect new leadership and make provision for an interim bishop. I will work with diocesan leadership to clarify ownership of the personal and real assets of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin," the letter said.
Episcopal News Service reported, "On January 11, Jefferts Schori inhibited Bishop John-David Schofield of San Joaquin from continuing to serve after a Title IV review committee determined he had abandoned the communion. He has the options of recanting his position, renouncing his orders or declaring that the Title IV assertions are false.
"If a majority of bishops concur with the Title IV review committee's findings during the March 7-13 House of Bishops meeting at Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas, the Presiding Bishop will depose Schofield and declare the episcopate of the San Joaquin diocese vacant.
"While acknowledging that there may be "bumps in the road" Jefferts Schori declared that TEC seeks 'the continued functioning, new growth, and renewed flourishing of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of San Joaquin.'"
Other national and provincial leaders were also present. Executive Council members Dottie Fuller of the Diocese of El Camino Real and Hisako Beasley of Seattle were present, as were the Rev. Charles Ramsden and Holly McAlpen of the Church Insurance Corp. to field questions. Michael O. Glass, an attorney who represents several local congregations and individuals was a featured speaker during an afternoon Q & A session.
Province VIII president, the Rec. Dr. Jack Eastwood and provincial coordinator Patricia Erskine were also present to offer information and help.
Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on January 25 wrote to inform each member of the standing committee elected at the last convention of the Fresno-based Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin that she does not recognize them as the standing committee of that diocese. She also assured continuing Episcopalians of financial and legal support in reconstituting the diocese.
Jefferts Schori, in a letter delivered January 26 to the committee's eight members, cited their unanimous vote to disaffiliate with The Episcopal Church (TEC) and their "attempt to organize as the standing committee of an entity that identifies itself as an Anglican Diocese of the Province of the Southern Cone," actions which violate church canons.
"In light of your recent actions, I find that you have been and are unable to well and faithfully fulfill your duties as members of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin under Canon I.17.8," she wrote. Canon I.17.8 provides that anyone accepting an office in the church "shall well and faithfully perform the duties of that office in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of this Church and of the Diocese in which the office is being exercised."
"Accordingly, with this letter I inform you that I do not recognize you as the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin," she wrote. "I regret the decisions that you have made to attempt to take the Diocese out of The Episcopal Church and the necessary consequences of these actions."
The letter was delivered by overnight mail the day of "Moving Forward, Welcoming All" a gathering of faithful Episcopalians at the Church of the Saviour in Hanford, about 30 miles south of Fresno.
These folks are moving forward in the light of Christ toward reconciliation, while holding church leaders responsible for the decisions they have made and the trust they have betrayed.
There ARE consequences to choices.