Recently, Tim posted Man on the Run a reflection on Luke 15's story of "The Prodigal Son." I commented that I've always thought of this story as "The Loving, Patient Father."
I've reflected quite a bit on the story and Tim's post. The more I ponder these two things, the more I'm convinced that the story is for Episcopalians today.
In the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D., the church universal was dealing with what we are experiencing. It was the original Donatist Heresy. For the full background on Donatism you might read this previous post.
The early church struggled with what to do about the traditori, those clerics who had renounced the church. Most of those who renounced had good reasons to do so - horrible torture and eventual death if they did not recant and turn informer. (Duncan -- who claims to be persecuted and a martyr for his faith -- insults our first-four century Christian ancestors.)
Many of those 4th Century clerics who renounced the faith regretted their moment of weakness and desired to be readmitted to the church.
Part of the church went Puritan on the traditori and refused to even consider allowing them to return. Another part of the church said, "After repentance and amendment of life, we will welcome you back." The Puritan bunch declared the welcoming church to be in apostasy and set up their own group. In the end, welcoming the traditori back was what the majority decided was the godly decision.
This is what TEC is facing. The day is coming, and will not be long, when the schismatics loose in court decisions. The majority of the laity who left will want to return to TEC.
The San Joaquin decision has been delayed (all courts are backlogged and that's why we haven't read their decision yet) but, that delay has been good. The California Supreme Court has now given the lower courts the road map. We shall see Bishop Lamb in St. James' Cathedral sitting in the Ordinary's stall.
I believe the lead in the reconciliation will have to come from the laity. TEC clergy, for the most part, are in the spot of the older brother in Luke 15. We, the laity, will have to play the father's role. We will have to tell our clergy how the situation is going to be resolved and wholesale welcome is what we want. I am not speaking of the lay leaders who abetted the clergy in the schism and theft. I do not believe they will return, but, if they wish to return, we must welcome them, too.
That scares some people a great deal.
Remember dear readers, the Diocese of San Joaquin is still there, but the doors and windows are open and the sun is shining in - it will not be the same cancerous dictatorship that it has been heretofore. We need not fear another coup by those who return. We must kneel at the Altar rail with them.
The schismatic clergy will need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Any wholesale welcome as clergy-in-good-standing would be counter productive to the entire reconciliation. But, I doubt many of the clergy will wish to return. They have cast their lots with Akinola, Venables, and Duncan.
San Joaquin will need to find retired clergy who are interested in being part of the healing process and agree to short term rectorates. I would venture a guess that, also, there are a number of newly ordained and non retired clergy who would jump at the chance to be part of the healing process long term.
My favourite part of the Prodigal story is that the father sees the son coming while the son is just a speck in the distance. The father has been watching and waiting for him to come home. And the father runs to meet the son. This is what God is doing with the schismatics. This is what we must do - watch and expect them, and run to meet them as we welcome them home. Remember, they will be as apprehensive as we are.
The San Joaquin Valley will set the example for how our members deal with those who wish to come home. This will be the precedent to which the other dioceses look - or should look. Because of this, San Joaquin must be careful and prayerful in how they respond.
For those who were deeply wounded by the schism, it will be hard to do. After the resurrection, Jesus welcomed Peter back with open arms. Can we do less?
as we forgive
those who trespass against us."