SAN JOAQUIN: Standing Committee nominates Chet Talton as provisional bishop

January 18, 2011

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin has nominated the Rt. Rev. Chester Lovelle Talton, retired suffragan of Los Angeles, for provisional bishop, according to a Jan. 19 statement posted on the diocesan website.

If elected at a special convention, scheduled for March 5 in Fresno, Talton would succeed the Rt. Rev. Jerry Lamb, who had served as provisional bishop of the Central California Valley diocese since February 2008.

"It was a short retirement," said Talton, 68, during a Jan. 18 telephone interview concerning his new role. He retired in May 2010 after serving 19 years as bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

"I'm excited and looking forward to serving in San Joaquin," he said, adding that he will begin visiting congregations and faith communities Feb. 1, once he is officially recognized by Lamb as a visiting bishop.

"I'm really impressed with the quality of the people, and the quality of the leadership in San Joaquin," Talton added. "It's refreshing to see such committed, dedicated people who have been so creative in their thinking. There are good collaborative leaders there who hadn't even been in leadership roles" before the diocese was reconstituted following a split in 2007.

Talton and spouse April Grayson also will meet and greet San Joaquin Episcopalians at a series of regional meetings scheduled for consecutive Sundays in February, he said.

If elected, Talton said 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."

Lamb praised the Standing Committee's choice of Talton and expressed gratitude to all those whose efforts helped to rebuild and reorganize the diocese.

"He's a great choice. I've known Chet now for 20 years and he's been a great bishop," he said during a Jan. 18 telephone interview from his Las Cruces, New Mexico home.

"He certainly is a person with a tremendous amount of experience of the wider church but he's also essentially a California-raised kid, so he understands this area and the church in the west."

Talton brings to the new role a sense of the state and of the Diocese of San Joaquin as well as considerable and varied parish experiences that will serve him well as diocesan renewal continues, he said. "We had to rebuild the diocese from nothing. No files, no equipment; everything was from the beginning," after former bishop John-David Schofield attempted to realign the diocese with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone in December 2007. Lamb said an entire infrastructure had to be created, including diocesan committees and councils and other ministries.

He said seven congregations remained intact after the split and 14 others were started "from nothing, except being a group that refused to break away from the Episcopal Church."

But he added: "It's been a moving experience for me. The people of San Joaquin are so committed to their Christian faith and the Christian faith as expressed in the Episcopal Church.

"On a personal level, it was really time for me to retire," added Lamb, 69, who had also served as assisting bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada after his 2006 retirement as the sixth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California.

The March 5 special convention also will be a day to honor the contributions of Lamb and his wife Jane, said Cindy Smith, president of the Standing Committee, in an e-mail.

If Talton is elected, Lamb is expected to transfer ecclesiastical authority and install him as provisional bishop at that gathering, according to the press release.

"As we move from a focus of healing and regrouping to that of recovery and rebuilding, we are excited to have the vision, enthusiasm and experience of Bishop Chet Talton," according to the release.

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 was ordained a deacon in 1970 and a priest in 1971 in the Diocese of California. He has served California congregations in Berkeley and Carmel and also in Chicago, St. Paul, Minnesota, and in New York City, where he served as mission officer of Trinity Church, Wall Street, for nine years and as rector of St. Philip's, Harlem. He was elected suffragan bishop of Los Angeles in 1991.

He has four adult children.

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