Saturday, December 09, 2006

Voting in Virginia

It’s a big weekend in the Diocese of Virginia. Two congregations, Truro Church, Fairfax, and The Falls Church of Falls Church, will begin a process of congregational voting on the issue of whether to stay in the Diocese of Virginia of The Episcopal Church, or to separate themselves and subsequently join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, associated with the Church of Nigeria – Anglican. Thinking Anglicans calls this to our attention here.

My guess is that the results are predictable. A majority of those voting in these two congregations will probably vote to leave The Episcopal Church.

Not that long ago I was watching the same process take place in Christ Church, Overland Park, Kansas. The congregation took longer to vote – four Sundays, I think, instead of two. However, the vote was entirely predictable. A majority – a supermajority approaching two thirds or better, if I remember correctly – voted to leave the Diocese of Kansas of The Episcopal Church and seek oversight from the Province of Uganda. No one knew exactly what the numbers would be when things started, but almost no one was surprised by the outcome.

You see, by the time of the vote, most of those who might have opposed it had already left the congregation. This was not so much an issue of manipulation or exclusion, although there were those who did feel that way. It was more the case that the clergy had established a clear trajectory, a clear direction for the congregation. It was established by the standards for Bible study and theological reflection, by tone and tenor, more than anything else. The rector became progressively more conservative in his interpretation, at least on some subjects; and there were plenty of folks who found that consistent with their beliefs. Many, and probably most, of those who didn’t find it consistent with The Episcopal Church has they had known it, found a different congregation, one that “fed them spiritually,” as we say; and most had done so well before the Christ Church congregation came to “40 Days of Purpose,” much less to a vote.

The current principles and spiritual culture at Truro Church and at The Falls Church are not new. They’ve been on this trajectory for a number of years. They may only now have come to a vote; but I believe them when they say the issues have been simmering for some time. I imagine that those who did not hear Christ at Truro Church or at The Falls Church left some time ago; and that those who stayed were those who did hear Christ in those congregations. Were people run off? Was their church taken away from them? Such things were said by folks who left Christ Church, and I expect they will be said here, too.

But mostly I imagine it’s a case of folks finding or not finding Christ in the particular environments of those two congregations, and then voting with their feet. So, regardless of the hype, it's not recent events, studies, or letters back and forth that will really affect the results of the processes in these parishes. It’s those other votes, cast some time ago, that will do most to determine the votes cast over these next two Sundays.

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