The Rt. Rev. Chester Lovelle Talton was formally seated March 5 as provisional bishop of the Modesto-based Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin at Holy Family Church in Fresno, California.
Earlier in the day, delegates to a special convention had approved a resolution affirming Talton as the Central California Valley diocese's provisional bishop, said Cindy Smith, president of the diocesan standing committee.
"We've got 19 congregations and everybody was there and accounted for, all the parishes and clergy. The resolution that the standing committee put forward passed unanimously. Everybody very much wanted Bishop Chet," said Smith during a March 6 telephone interview from her Bakersfield home.
Talton succeeds the Rt. Rev. Jerry A. Lamb, who had served as provisional bishop since Feb. 2008. Lamb had announced his intention to retire and called for the special meeting, in accordance with Article V Section 4 of the diocesan constitution.
"We had a great turnout, over 200 people, the church was packed," Smith said.
The ministries of both Jerry and Jane Lamb were recognized during the afternoon festivities, which included the symbolic passing of the crosier from Lamb to Talton, she added.
The two bishops shared the sermon time, which Lamb used to thank the continuing diocese for its efforts to rebuild.
"He's always used this image of the diocese as a ship for the past three years," said Smith. "It ran aground and we've been trying to get it floating and out there. He ended by saying basically that the ship is seaworthy and will carry the next crew and captain on to its next trip."
Talton "stuck pretty much to the Scripture and talked about the Transfiguration and of growing the diocese and what we can become."
Talton had retired in May 2010 after serving 19 years as bishop suffragan of the neighboring Diocese of Los Angeles. He has been visiting faith communities in the Central California diocese since Feb. 1 after being officially recognized by Lamb as a visiting bishop.
"We want to focus on mission and ministry and being the church together," said Talton, 69, in a March 7 telephone interview from his Modesto home.
"Everyone's been very enthusiastic and supportive of my becoming provisional bishop since I arrived. It was a really good day," he said of his March 5 investiture and seating.
The San Joaquin convention also approved a new deanery structure and held formal meetings in the new format, Talton said. The diocese has reorganized into three deaneries, north, central and south, and "will hopefully become centers of mission and ministry because the distances are so great here from Lodi in the north to Bakersfield in the South," Talton added.
Smith said that overall the gathering "was jubilant. We are so excited to have Bishop Chet leading us on this next phase of our life. Now, we are going to the phase of rebuilding and growth.
"Bishop Jerry's phase was healing and regrouping," she said of Lamb, 70, who had also served as assisting bishop in the Diocese of Nevada after his 2006 retirement as the sixth Bishop of Northern California.
"He has said numerous times when we gathered that he wants us to look forward. We have had to be focused on ourselves and our healing and regrouping but now he wants us as a diocese to start to look outside again at the wider church and other things we can be involved in, in mission and ministry."
Talton had said earlier that he hoped to continue Lamb's rebuilding efforts. "There is a lot of energy and enthusiasm to grow and expand and develop congregations as well as to be a more inclusive diocese of all people," he said. "There is a great deal of openness and potential. It's encouraging. I'm looking forward to being with them."
Talton was born in 1941 in Arkansas but spent much of his life in Oakland, California. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1965 from California State University, Hayward. He received both master (1970) and doctor of divinity (1992) degrees from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley.
He and spouse April Grayson Talton will divide their time between Modesto and their Pasadena home.