Well, here we go again! Another San Joaquin alum has been nominated for bishop. This time it is Springfield. If you read the current Bishop's statements one begins to figure out why. That leads to the next question, will the script be any different? So let's listen in on an interview that is held and the person being interviewed could be almost anyone -- from San Joaquin. You want to know if this matches anything -- go back and read the words and speeches of those both in and out of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin. Keep in mind this is just a spoof -- (I think).
Conservative Interviewer: What canonical options do you see for the Diocese of Springfield now over the next few months?
San Joaquin Prima Donna: The canonical options are for them to look at their diocesan canons and constitution and the canons and constitution of the Episcopal Church and to see what the direction is, it's that simple. The canonical option - there is no other option - that's it.
Conservative Interviewer: So, as you understand it, is it or is it not an option to hold the election again with you as a candidate, or as the only candidate?
San Joaquin Prima Donna: I'm not sitting here looking at the canons of the Diocese of Springfield, I don't even have them. I'm not looking at the canons of the Episcopal Church, but I know what it says, it says that the diocese shall hold another election. It doesn't say whether the person can be elected, I'm sure they can. It's happened before, so it can be. The question is what the standing committee will do - that's a simple one.
Conservative Interviewer: If, in fact, another election is held and you are eligible to stand for election, would you want to do so?
San Joaquin Prima Donna: In some strange kind of way, the heart of my wife, and my heart, have been knit to the people of Springfield over the last five months, and from the standpoint of whether I would want to go through this again, no I don't want to go through the abuse again, but I would consider it for the sake of the people of Springfield, if that was their choice, and if God called me to do that again, I shall do it. But nobody would want to go through this abuse. I've been asked questions and more variety of questions, as far as I could tell, than any other candidate in the history of the Episcopal Church, at least in the modern era.
I mean, they were parsing the word "intention." One standing committee member, who was trying to get his committee to focus not on what I have done, but on what I might do, asked me what my intentions were. So, I write in the statement on March 8, "My intention is..." and what happens on the House of Deputies listserv and just about every other liberal blog? "Martins says 'intention.' The path to hell is paved with good intentions."
What do they want here? Do they want me to bow my knee to the almighty institution, and elevate it over the Scriptures - over the teachings of the one holy and apostolic church - over the worldwide Anglican Communion - or successive Lambeth Conferences? I'm not going to do it. It is all those things together that make us Episcopalians. You cannot be an Episcopalian without those things. They define our canons. Our canons don't define them.
Conservative Interviewer: When you were elected, I think most people, at least those over here on the conservative side, assumed that it would be a somewhat closer call than normal. But most of us figured that only the real doomsday types were thinking, with any seriousness, "Oh, I doubt he'll get consent." Were you surprised at how difficult it was - how challenging the whole process was?
San Joaquin Prima Donna: No. I've been to General Convention in 2003 and 2006. I was on the committee for the consecration of bishops. I've been in the middle of the fray, whether I wanted to be or not, and it hasn't surprised me at all. What surprises me is how few people understand the gravity of the situation in the Episcopal Church.
As I said before, this whole election process has drawn back the curtain on the stage of the Episcopal Church, and what the whole world can see right now is the theater of the absurd. If you've been in the play before, you are not surprised at Act III.
Conservative Interviewer: Do you think this is being observed closely by the Primates and ++Rowan Williams, and what do you think their reaction is likely to be?
San Joaquin Prima Donna: I don't have the slightest idea what their reaction will be. I suppose it will be mixed. I'm so grateful, words cannot express how grateful I am to the Primates of the Anglican Communion for their communique issued at Dar es Salaam, for the sacrifice that many millions of Christians are making for the cause of orthodox Christianity in Africa, and the way they have extended themselves. I am also grateful for the Archbishop of Canterbury's role in Tanzania. I'm grateful for the things he has issued - for his letter issued after General Convention in 2006, and I'm grateful for his recent letter issued to the Episcopal Church and to the Primates summing up what the communique is all about. That is Anglicanism as I understand it.
Conservative Interviewer: Soon after your election, talk started circulating about the possibility of your not getting consent. A few influential conservative leaders speculated that should that happen, it might hasten a communion-wide split, because it would so clearly and finally signal to the rest of the communion that there's no longer any place for traditional Anglicans in the Episcopal Church, that orthodox primates would throw up their hands and say there's no hope of rescuing it.
San Joaquin Prima Donna: I think the jury is still out on that one. What has been going on in the Episcopal Church, let's say for the past 25 years - we can go back further if you want, but for the last 25 years - in my opinion, a radical group in the Episcopal Church has been pushing an agenda, it is essentially a political agenda, a social justice agenda. And the sad thing is that because they've always framed it as social justice, it has hindered the debate that needs to take place over the teachings of Scripture, the nature of a human being, and all sorts of other things.
For the most part, those of us in the orthodox camp have been pastoring our churches, preaching the Gospel, trying to grow our congregations, and ignoring the political issue at hand until, in recent years, in successive General Conventions, even before '03 and '06 certainly, but '03 and '06 galvanized the orthodox in a way that they weren't before. Anyway, in the orthodox camp - what I'd call mainstream Anglicanism in the Episcopal Church in the United States - we began to see that we had better enter into the political debate. That, then, began a polarization within the Episcopal Church between what some call the left and others call the right, whether one wants to call it - progressive or reappraising, reassertive, all sorts of those terms, it doesn't matter, we all know who the players are - that has grown so polarized that the broad middle has become very uncomfortable, many of them have chosen to put their heads deep in the sand. Others have chosen to say, "You know, I wish these people wouldn't fight so much."
Until the Primates communique, it was mostly those in the orthodox camp who talked about leaving, or who did leave. The dynamics have been like a dysfunctional family - where two members are quibbling with each other and the others don't want to get involved in the quibbling - when Mom says, "I can't take Dad's abuse anymore," and the children turn on Mom and say, "Mom, why are you ruining our family?" Now, the problem is, anyone who stands up to those in the radical camp, those who are pushing this political agenda, are immediately called homophobic, bigots, reactionary, and whatnot. Nobody in their right mind wants to be called homophobic, bigoted, or reactionary. I understand that. And so the broad middle have not gotten involved very much, and when they have, they've blamed those of us on the orthodox side who say, "We can't take it anymore. We're leaving."
Now, what happened in General Convention 2006, and the passing of B033, the middle said, "Hey, we don't want to leave the Anglican Communion." And so they rose for a brief moment. Now, the message that I think the rejection of my election in Springfield is sending to the broad middle of the Episcopal Church, which for the most part is uninvolved in this debate, is that it's time that you wake up, if you want the Episcopal Church to look anything like you've known in the past - one that really is a place where people of different perspectives can live out their Christian lives under the grace of Jesus Christ.
For the past 20 years, the virtue of tolerance has been the virtue before which all other virtues have bent the knee. I think people are beginning to see that without the other virtues, tolerance is not a virtue that can stand on its own. Without truth, without honesty, without integrity, without the classical virtues of prudence or wisdom, temperance, justice, courage, faith, hope, and love... tolerance will not survive. What we see in my election is that tolerance is not sufficient, inclusivity is not sufficient. That is why, in the wisdom of the ages, we've had seven virtues, to deal with the seven deadly sins of pride, envy, sloth, greed, anger, gluttony and lust. So, I think there will arise a generation who will see that tolerance is, of course, a precious thing, and ought to be honored, but she is not the virtue before which all other virtues must bend the knee. She is a virtue with which all of the other virtues need to live, and that tolerance needs to find her rightful place among the others.
We in the orthodox camp don't want to be painted with the brush that we are intolerant or that we are not inclusive. The irony of this is, I had more gay and lesbian parishioners here at St. Anne’s before 2003 than I have now. And here is the thing I'd love to have a research project done on: I bet that since 2003, evangelical Episcopal churches have lost more gay and lesbian persons to other denominations than progressive Episcopalians have brought in. And, that is because, as William Temple once put it decades ago, "The church must be very clear in its public pronouncements, so she can be very pastoral in her application." Now, isn't that ironic? I know gay persons who have gone from the Episcopal to the Roman Catholic Church. And I've asked them why, and they say "It's because homosexuality is a settled question in Roman Catholicism."
Conservative Interviewer: Back to the people in the unengaged middle. You say this should be a wake-up call to them, that this should cause them finally to get engaged. But why? Why should they get engaged over something as arcane as San Joaquin Prima Donna’s failure to obtain consent?
San Joaquin Prima Donna: It’s not really about that. It’s what that whole rejection represents. Here you have a priest who has served the church for almost 27 years in ordained ministry without a single black Prima Donna on his record, who has under God’s grace grown every conIntervieweration that he has been a part of - numerically, financially, spiritually - and who before that worked as a lay person in his parish church, who was put forward, drafted if you will, to be a bishop; and because he puts his allegiance to Jesus Christ, the trustworthiness of the Scriptures, the teachings and fellowship of the one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the teaching and communion of the Anglican Communion as essential aspects of what it means to be an Episcopalian... he has to be rejected. Therein lies the theatre of the absurd. Bishops have been approved in this Church who have failed to keep the most sacred of vows, and when I've gladly kept mine for three decades, they still question whether I'll keep the Oath of Conformity.
Conservative Interviewer: I have said often over the last few years that about the worst thing that you can say to folks in the unengaged middle is that there is something wrong with the Episcopal Church, that it's dysfunctional, it’s unhealthy, it’s sick and it needs help.
San Joaquin Prima Donna: Well we know what families do when someone faces the specter that there may be dysfunction there. The whole ethos of denial enters in and you have to do something with the person who is trying to intervene. You have to discount or discredit them.
Conservative Interviewer: You have to shoot the messenger.
San Joaquin Prima Donna: There you go.
Conservative Interviewer: What has been the most painful aspect of the past six months? I have a sense that the real story is not that there were irregularities that shaved off a few points from the score. It's like a football team in the playoffs that loses by a field goal, then blames it on a holding call in the second quarter.
San Joaquin Prima Donna: Right... it's not bad refereeing!
Conservative Interviewer: A team that deserves to win the big game has to put it out of reach, so that it won't be close. That is the story here. It would have been one thing if we had gotten what we expected: A slim but safe win. What we got, though, barely qualified as slim.
San Joaquin Prima Donna: I think it's hard not to see the hand of God in this. That it comes down to a church that has jettisoned the trustworthiness of Scripture and the historic teachings of the church, and relies increasingly on its polity, its constitutions and canons, that it comes down to canonical interpretation. Only God can so craft something to make it end up that way. A touch of irony.
Conservative Interviewer: Let's shift gears and talk about the challenges to you and your family over the past five months. Can you talk about some of that?
San Joaquin Prima Donna: Let me just talk about the whole process. It began for me, I think it was March 25, 2006. We had the Order of St. Luke's here at St. Paul's on a healing conference. They took the initiative to book Father Michael Flynn who came from Fresh Wind's ministry to lead a weekend on healing. On Saturday, late morning, after several teachings, he said, "I'm just gong to serenade you [the group] in the Spirit." He has a beautiful Irish baritone voice. As he began to sing I saw myself journeying through different lands. Then I heard the words, "The journey begins, the journey begins, the begins. Pack your things, pack your things, pack your things. Give your children your blessing. You've been in one place long enough." Then the Spirit of God came over me in such a way that I just began to weep there at the table quietly. I was just overwhelmed with the sense of God's presence, that He had spoken. During the break I met with my wife in the office and I said, "What happened to you during that time?," and of course she told me, and then I began to tell her what happened to me, and as soon as I began speaking the words of the prophetic word that came to me, "The journey begins..." the Spirit of God came upon her and she began to weep. She hardly heard the rest of the words, she was so overcome, undone. She quotes those words of St. Augustine, "He wrapped me in His splendor and sent my blindness reeling."
And, so, we didn't know exactly what that meant. We just lived with that through lent and the first couple of Sundays of Easter, and then, I think it was around May 1st, or the last Sunday, April 30, something like that, and I got a phone call from a friend in Columbus, Ohio, who's never done this before, and he said, "I was praying for you this morning, and God spoke so profoundly to me, and said that he was going to be moving you from being the pastor at St. Paul's Episcopal parish, and to move you into a role of preparing the faithful for the battle ahead." I didn't know what to make of that.
Wednesday of that week I'm in my office saying morning prayer and my devotions, and I get a phone call from the retired bishop of Pittsburgh, Bishop Alden Hathaway. He said, "Prima Donna," and he's tried to get me into episcopal elections before and I've just stayed out of them, "I wonder if you'd be willing to allow your name to be put in for the bishop search for the Diocese of Springfield." I didn't know anything about it. I hadn't been following it. You know, just doing my ministry here. And, given the prophetic word that I'd heard in late March, and what my friend had said, I just heard my self saying, "yes." The "yes" came out of my mouth before I could put it in. And, with the "yes" came a sense of ominous, "Oh my gosh." I couldn't get it back. It came out of my mouth before I could stop it. And, of course, Alden was completely surprised. He was stunned. He said, "I thought I was going to have to twist your arm." I said, "Bishop, you are no more surprised than I am." Well, suddenly I was sucked into the vortex, if you will, of this search process, and before you know it, there I am one of the finalists, and it was astonishing. The things I've noticed over the last couple of months, as some of these bloggers on the left have said, "Why in the world does he want to be a bishop?" I wanted to say, "Who in the hell said I wanted to be one!?" I was drafted. I didn't necessarily think I was called to be bishop of Springfield. I didn't know what I was called to me. I did believe that God had called me to be a part of the process. I mean, He said, "The journey begins," I don't know where it's going - where the destiny is. I just knew that I was on a journey.
I began to realize something just before the walkabout and the election taking place, and that was, "Prima Donna, you have to begin to own this. You can't see it as just God calling you to be a part of the process. You have to personally begin to own it." The thought of that filled me with dread. I can't tell you how profoundly dreadful it made me feel. It is beyond words to tell you how dreadful it was. After the election, I lived with that dread up until Sunday night before the deadline for consents, and it suddenly lifted. I don't even know how to go about describing that. It was a path I was prescribed to walk, and if I sound exuberant now - these reporters are probably surprised that a person is not downcast, that sort of thing - no rejection could be anywhere near the heaviness of that dread that I lived with for five months. Added to that is that my wife's heart was so profoundly inclined towards the good people of Springfield - she just fell in love with the people there and the whole place - so she was continuously having her heart go there and then seeing the developments and having to pull it back, so it has been an emotional struggle for her having to continuously relinquish and surrender this whole sense - she felt a sense of call, I just felt a sense of, "I'm in this. I will be faithful to this." I don't know what it means, but it's my burden to carry.
Conservative Interviewer: Ellis Brust and Steve Wood were the other candidates. Do you think there would have been a difference in the outcome had one of them been elected? In other words, was this a debate about the man San Joaquin Prima Donna, or about the Diocese of S.C. and how others perceive it and its future direction?
San Joaquin Prima Donna: If you had asked me in the first months of the consent process, I would have said it was about the issues, I think it eventually became, not about San Joaquin Prima Donna, but about the issues of APO and the theological debates within the church. I think it started out like that. I think pretty soon it did become about San Joaquin Prima Donna because certain persons made it about San Joaquin Prima Donna. I didn't make it about San Joaquin Prima Donna; others did. They did that because they are so committed to their agenda that anyone who stands in the way becomes part of the problem and needs to be dealt with. Eventually, they would have done the same thing to Steve, they would have done the same thing to Ellis, they would have just have had to take different tacks. I had certain things that I had written that they could try to exploit, misquote, misrepresent, decontexulize, whatever... and they did that. I don’t know if I take it personally, even though they have made it personal. This Sunday [March 18] I am preaching - I’ve been doing a series during Lent on the Lord’s Prayer - and this Sunday is "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." So I find myself asking, 'is there anyone in this whole process that I need to forgive, and if so how do I go about doing that?' If there is someone, then I’ve allowed it to become personal, too. I’m not sure, I haven’t had anyone come to mind. Certainly there are people who have led the charge against me. There are four stages of forgiveness: 'You’ve hurt me and you’ve hurt me badly" is stage 1. Stage 2 is "It wasn’t okay then, and it’s not okay now, and if I live to be 100 years old it won’t be okay." Stage 3 is "I surrender my right to get even." If there is a just universe and someone has done me wrong I have a right to get even. So in Stage 3, I surrender my right to get even. Stage 4 is reconciliation: "I allow you back into my life."
Now, one can only reconcile completely with someone who has acknowledged their part in the wounding. For the most part I haven’t allowed this to become personal with most of my accusers. But I do find their tactics unconscionable, and in some ways abusive, and, you know, if we are going to have a discussion, let’s have a level playing field. If you are going to quote someone, don’t quote them out of context. Don’t misrepresent their position because then you don’t get at what needs to be discussed. This church is in desperate need of a genuine conversation and debate about its future, and many, because of their commitment to their agenda, are truncating that debate.
Conservative Interviewer: One of the more controversial statements you've made was in response to a question regarding how hard you would work to keep the Diocese of Springfield in the Episcopal Church. You replied something to the effect of, "As hard as the other bishops of the Episcopal Church work to keep us in the Anglican Communion."
San Joaquin Prima Donna: Well, that is a turn of phrase that is meant not to be evasive but to be a call to mutual accountability. That is, Lambeth '48, Lambeth '78, Lambeth '88, Lambeth '98 - all used the term when speaking about the Anglican Communion, mutual accountability. The bishops of the Episcopal church attended those Lambeth conferences and up until 1998 for the most part went in favor of all those votes on all of the issues. Now what happened in 1998 is the shameful accusations that those on the orthodox wing of the Episcopal church began buying chicken dinners for the African bishops in order to get their votes. How insulting. How shameful, how racists. The reality is that those were bishops who have faced persecution and in some cases close to martyrdom; are in death struggles with political and religious struggles that we in the U.S. can't hold a candle to in terms of persecution, and to dare suggest that they could be bought by chicken dinners is insulting. Anyway, so you see, in all this debate about autonomy, the fact of the matter is that since the bishops of The Episcopal church have been participating in the Lambeth conferences and signed on in 48, 78, 88 and 98 to the mutual accountability phrase, we are already in a state in which we are called to live with mutual accountability by their own acquiescence to it. And that is somewhat, some would say, already a surrender of complete autonomy if we are to be Anglicans. But what has happened is there has arisen a generation of leaders in the Episcopal Church who know not Joseph. They know not the language of Zion, so to speak. They are ignorant of the history of the Anglican Communion for the most part and Anglicanism by and large, and now are describing us who are part of the mainstream of the Anglican Church as extremists. We are just trying to bring a little of reality into a church which has become increasingly marginalized by its commitment to in-house causes and special interest groups of the extreme political left.
That term, "mutual accountability." is a term used within the Anglican Communion for the national or the provincial churches of the Anglican Communion to keep in mind in all there deliberations and polity and national Christian life.
Conservative Interviewer: Right, but to describe TEC's leadership as "mutually accountable" could not be less accurate.
San Joaquin Prima Donna: Well that is the posture that some are taking and even as they look at the Primates' Communiqué, more than a few of them have stood up and said, we don't want to be accountable to you. Now let's hope that by September 30 there is a majority of Bishops who are willing to say we want to be mutually accountable, we want to be in a covenant relationship with the Anglican Communion. We see that one of the things that it means to be an Episcopalian is to be an Anglican.
Conservative Interviewer: Let me wrap up by asking you to comment on Jan Nunley’s recent rePrima Donna regarding the communique, which was, "It’s not an ultimatum unless you think it is."
San Joaquin Prima Donna: That term, "ultimatum," does not come from the communiqué. The term "ultimatum" is coming, obviously, from a church that is grappling with the appeal of the primates for the Episcopal church to seek the communion. To begin to use that kind of term - "ultimatum" - is already a breach of affection. It is like a family member responding to another family member's urge to be in love and fellowship with one another by saying. "Is this an ultimatum?" It comes out of a willfulness that is unbecoming of the Christian. And so to use that kind of term - to say that that is what the primates are doing - misunderstands the spirit of the communiqué. It misunderstands the heart of the archbishop. It misunderstands the heart of the primates. It is a sad self-indictment.
Conservative Interviewer: But don’t you think that kind of misunderstanding is what led to this crisis in the first place - to the crisis to which the communiqué is just the latest response?
San Joaquin Prima Donna: The willfulness of a church that will exalt its autonomy over others, that will function unilaterally, breaching the bonds of affection, is what has led to the need for the communiqué, but frankly that was seen coming by many within the church, when in '48, '78, '88 and '98 the term "mutual accountability" came to the fore. You see, we are not talking about a decade; we are talking about two generations of rising willfulness against the fellowship of the communion, and that has got to grieve the heart of God and it has to grieve the heart of every Episcopalian who sees what it means to be an Episcopalian, to be in communion with the See of Canterbury, to be a constituent member of this glorious thing we call the Anglican Communion, and to be what we have in the past rejoiced to call ourselves Episcopalians