Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sour Grapes

While (making an effort at) resting 5,000 miles from the storm in Kojima, Kurashiki, Japan with my in-laws, wife Hiroko, and our rambunctious 3-year-old, I read today Bishop Schofield's letter to the people of the Diocese of San Joaquin. How's them sour grapes? It brought to my mind a renewed understanding of an old hope found in the book of the prophet Jeremiah (and reiterated as a warning in Ezekiel 18:2):

"In those days they shall no longer say:
‘The parents have eaten sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ "

Jeremiah 31:29

Contrary to Jeremiah's teaching, it seems the Bishop of San Joaquin and their Constitution and Canons Committee has at last invited the diocese over the brink. Question is, will they go? Should the proposed schismatic amendments to their diocesan canons and constitution pass, the people who will most suffer -- those who will most eat of the sour grapes -- will not likely include Bishop Schofield, setting aside his claim of reprisals from the national church leadership and other bishops in California over his "standing for the Lord." Nor will the Episcopal Church leadership really suffer, hand-wringing aside, to any great extent.

No, the children of San Joaquin, who will inherit the debts of legal action over property and canonical procedure, the shattered remains of congregations in some places, and more generally-speaking, the legacy of schism. . .they will have to pick up the pieces in a very real way, whether they are part of a resurrected diocese of the Episcopal Church, or some as-yet-unrealized non-geographical province of the Anglican Communion. God's grace be with them if what is proposed comes to pass.

Then there are the unnamed and unknown children of God who will suffer: those whose bellies will go empty, whose needs will be neglected as the mission of the Church gives way to quarrels over the sour grapes of self-righteousness. We can only hope that Christ can be both in a diocesan convention sweating over the finer points of damning legislation and in the streets with the poor. It's hard for us to be in both places, for sure.

Others have covered this much more thoroughly than I, including the canonical consequences if Bishop Schofield and his Diocesan Convention decide to effectively secede from the Episcopal Church. Mark Harris offers the usual thoughtful perspective, complete with a compelling metaphor out of mythic imagery.

The greatest breath of grace for me came from a straight-shooting response from within San Joaquin itself to the proposed changes to the Diocesan canons and constitution -- the changes that the Bishop apparently wants to see implemented. Seems some level heads in San Joaquin are trying to prevail at the approaching convention in early December.

Meanwhile, the parents are eating sour grapes. . .

and the children's teeth are set on edge. At least mine certainly are, and I only live next door.

Please join me in praying for the people of San Joaquin and their bishop as they prepare for their convention. Those of us in the Diocese of California may have to help clean up the resulting mess in coming years.

1 comment:

R said...

As a follow-up, our Presiding Bishop has written a very clear, pastoral, and open letter to Bishop Schofield asking for explanation and inviting very careful consideration about what San Joaquin is proposing to do.

Her compelling letter, as it reads to me, speaks for itself with eloquence and an appeal from the heart of the Gospel. I hope that Bishop Schofield will rise to the occasion of a respectful response.