Deputies to a special synod meeting of the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy acted with dispatch on Saturday, April 4 as they quickly and unanimously elected new leadership, approved a diocesan budget and elected a provisional bishop. The actions were necessary after a majority of deputies at the 2008 annual synod voted to leave the Episcopal Church and realign with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.
Deputies elected the Rt. Rev. John Clark Buchanan, retired bishop of the Diocese of West Missouri, as provisional bishop of the Diocese of Quincy. Buchanan most recently served as interim bishop in the Diocese of Southern Virginia.
In his opening remarks to the synod, Buchanan told the deputies and guests that he now "lays claim to your heritage and to all who belong to the Diocese of Quincy."
"Let the word go out," he said, "that all are welcome and all are invited to be a part of us."
Buchanan plans to spend about ten days per month in the Diocese of Quincy.
The deputies also voted to undo actions of two previous synod meetings that changed the constitution and canons of the Diocese of Quincy with the aim of disassociating it from the Episcopal Church.
Four congregations of which a majority of members have recently voted to remain in the Episcopal Church--St. John's Church, Kewanee; St. Paul's Cathedral, Peoria; St. James' Church, Lewiston; and St. James' Church, Griggsville--were represented, along with several other congregations where similar votes are pending and also those in which a majority of members have chosen to realign to the Southern Cone.
Warm welcome signals a new day
Deputies and guests -- nearly 300 in all -- gave Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori a rousing greeting on her first visit to Peoria and the Diocese of Quincy. In stark contrast to the previous synod meeting, at which she was vilified as the chief architect of what former leaders claimed was the Episcopal Church's departure from traditional Christian beliefs, Jefferts Schori recieved a warm and jubilant welcome.
The Presiding Bishop reminded deputies that "dioceses cannot leave the Episcopal Church; only people can leave." She said the Diocese of Quincy has always existed as part of the Episcopal Church and continues to do so today.
In a diocese that has previously never ordained women or welcomed women in leadership roles, the visit by Jefferts Schori, the first female presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, was seen as significant and representative of new attitudes in the reorganized diocese.
Cindy Ford, a member of Christ Church, Limestone, said the presiding bishop's visit signaled a new day for the Diocese of Quincy.
"This is the first time a woman has been allowed to lead morning prayer here, as far as I know," said Ford. "It was never allowed in this diocese under the previous leadership. So it was amazing to see something of a miracle happening today."
Ford also said the synod meeting provided an occasion for her to hear something else she said she has not heard in the diocese in recent years: "intellectual theological conversation."
She was referring to a question-and-answer session during which Jefferts Schori fielded a number of queries about matters of faith -- both her own and that of the Episcopal Church -- including her views on human sexuality and whether Jesus is the only means to salvation.
In response to a question, Jefferts Schori said that to insist Jesus is the only way to God is to "limit God." She said that God is certainly at work in the lives of people in Jewish and Muslim communities.
"God is, at the very least, a mystery," Jefferts Schori said. "God's intention is for a restored relationship with all humanity. My job is to proclaim the good news of Jesus, but I cannot deny God is not at work in other ways."
Ford said she found the Presiding Bishop's comments to be a "breath of fresh air."
"We have been cut off from the world," she said, referring to the previous leadership of the diocese, which sought to keep its members away from contact with varying viewpoints in the Episcopal Church that it did not consider "orthodox."
The Rev. Canon John Blossom agrees. He said that after being a priest in the Diocese of Quincy for 38 years and recently discovering "the breadth and resources of the Episcopal Church," he feels cheated.
Blossom, priest of Bread of Life Anglican Fellowship in Peoria, an emerging "storefront" church, served as part of the steering committee that prepared for the April 4 synod. He traveled with a group of committee members to New York in February to meet with the Presiding Bishop and other senior Episcopal Church officials. Blossom said that his views about the Episcopal Church and the Presiding Bishop have changed.
"This is a new day in the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Quincy," said Blossom. "It's now time start loving each other instead of judging each other. It's time to start renewing our mission and ministry and be about loving, learning and accepting."
Erich Yetter, a member of Christ Church, Limestone, and artistic director of the Peoria Ballet, also said it was a "new day." He said he was delighted that the Diocese of Quincy was now reorganized and can move forward. He also said the Presiding Bishop, by her words and presence, helped calm a lot of fears.
"I think there has been a lot of fear hereâfear of the unknown. When you are in a situation where you don't know how to move forward, you need some light at the end of the tunnel. That's what she provided. She told us we were not alone, that others have gone through this and we will, too."
"This is a great day for these people," said the Rev. Canon Rick Cluett, a special representative of the Presiding Bishop to reorganizing dioceses. "They have worked so hard, suffered so long and finally are coming to the realization that they are free to be the Episcopal Church in this place and free to be part of the larger church."
Also on hand at the synod was Bishop Jeffrey Lee of the neighboring Diocese of Chicago, who said he was there to show support, assure the people of Quincy of the prayers of the people of Chicago and offer "any assistance possible." Lee said the day was "very significant as the Diocese of Quincy moves forward in mission and ministry."
Jefferts Schori departed the synod meeting for Moline, Illinois, where she was scheduled to preside and celebrate at the Palm Sunday service at All Saints Church, a new congregation formed by parishioners ousted from breakaway congregations in Rock Island and Moline.
Episcopal News Service will provide coverage of the Presiding Bishop's Palm Sunday visit to Christ Church, Moline and additional information from the synod on Monday, April 6.