The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin held a wonderful celebration yesterday and all went very, very well. We seated our newest provisional Bishop Chet Talton and had a chance to celebrate the ministry of Bishop Jerry Lamb.
There was one bit of work that did indeed throw some of us for a loop. Well, not a loop, but we were taken aback by the attitude of some of our fellow delegates. Alas, I get ahead of myself.
The bit of work we needed to do had to do with the reconstitution of our deaneries. We have historically had four deaneries in our diocese but as of now we have reduced to three. In that process we have restructured and are now electing a chair and a vice chair that is either lay of clergy (but not both). These two offices will serve on the diocesan council. The deaneries are supposed to revitalize our diocesan life and so are now required to meet (at least) 4 times a year. We are working on a lot of functions and activities but we came to a fork in the road and need to vote on an issue that I thought was a "no-brainer". The issue was voting rights at the deanery level. Again, historically on delegates have been allowed to vote on issues within the deanery and someone thought it was time for a change. The resolution on the floor was to permit all members in good standing that were present at the meeting of the deanery. WOW! You would have thought we had just taken someones pocketbook and would not give it back! There was a hue and cry about -- guess what? privilege, yep, privilege. Those who were delegates wanted to maintain their elite status and not permit anyone other than an officially elected delegate be allowed to vote.
Now, here are some issues I found persuasive. First, we want as many persons to be involved as possible and in order to get them to a deanery meeting what better way (in fact what other carrot is there) than the vote? AND< what is so all fired important and so all fired secret that ONLY delegates to convention should vote? I do not think anything that happens at our deanery levels warrants on exclusivity provision. The simple fact is that if the diocese of San Joaquin had continued to hold deanery meetings where everyone was invited and involved the likelihood of breaking away would have been diminished. Not eliminated but diminished.
Second, we, the Episcopal Church, needs more laity input and more laity control and this is a good start. Maybe some would say it is only a "bone thrown to appease" but we have to start somewhere.
Third, it was apparent that many of our laity had not learned the lessons currently being taught under the guise of exclusivity. Furthermore, we need to not trust our fate to a few when we can shine the light of day on these types of issues.
The resolution passed. Anyone who wishes to attend and takes the time to be involved can and will vote on whatever issues are presented at that time. But, the vote was 16 to 8. While the majority clearly ruled the minority voice clerly indicated there is still much work to do, even here in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.