David Rice steps up to the challenge
Waiapu’s former bishop is “seated” for a trail-blazing role: Bishop of San Joaquin in central California.
Despite huge challenges, the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin in central Califorrnia is fronting up to new frontiers of mission under Bishop David Rice.
Formerly the Bishop of Waiapu, +David was elected and “seated” at a special convention in St Paul’s Church, Bakersfield, on Saturday.
It’s a brave new world for Episcopalians in San Joaquin, following a breakaway by the former bishop along with many of his clergy and parishes seven years ago.
Most departing parishes took their properties with them. However, In every parish a remnant stayed committed to the Episcopal Church of the United States (ECUSA), and Bishop David has been called to lead the rebuilding of the diocese – a big challenge indeed.
St Paul’s, Bakersfield, is one of the properties returned to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin after several years of litigation.
On Saturday morning, the special convention heard from the president of the diocesan standing committee about the search for a new bishop and the eventual choice of Bishop David.
The resolutions necessary to elect him were then put and passed unanimously – to sustained acclamation.
There was obvious delight and energy as the convention looked to a new era. I was impressed, too, by the calibre of the diocesan leadership.
But huge challenges lie ahead. More legal cases are in process, with the biggest not expected to conclude before June.
The good news for the Episcopal Church is that the courts are generally ruling in its favour.
Members of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin have also discovered that a lack of buildings has enabled their mission to be leaner, more focussed, and in many places more effective.
There’s even talk of selling much of the property that is being returned, and continuing with new strategies for mission.
The convention was chaired by Bishop Chester Talton, who came out of retirement to assist the diocese part-time at this challenging time.
A gracious man, he has clearly done much to draw the diocese together and launch this new beginning.
Bishop David is the first full- time bishop since the breakaway of the former Bishop, so there was great thanksgiving and joy on Saturday.
I was accompanied to San Joaquin by the Vicar-General of Waiapu, Brian Hamilton, and his wife Susie, and Bishop Ross Bay of Auckland.
In the Kiwi way, we brought Bishop David and Tracy to their new place and handed them into the care of their new diocese.
But not before assuring them of the abiding love of the people of Waiapu and Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
Philip Richardson is Archbishop of the New Zealand Dioceses.
What a lovely lot of pictures from the occasion of the enthronement of Bishop David Rice, on his translation from ACANZP to The Episcopal Church in the USA. And so good to hear of this very positive report of the expectations of the San Joaquin Diocese in the wake of the schismatic breakaway of their former Bishop, taking many of the diocesan clergy and parish plant with him. Thank to Anglican Taonga for both pictures and story.
Our Pakeha Archbishop of New Zealand, ++Philip Richardson – who wrote this report for ‘Taonga’ – together with the Bishop of Auckland, +Ross Bay and other Waiapu representatives from New Zealand, performed the typical Kiwi ‘handing-over’ ceremony of Bishop David to his new diocese of San Joaquin, on behalf of us all in ACANZP.
The task ahead for Bishop David, fraught as it may be with the daunting task of re-building the Diocese of San Joaquin from the ground up, is seen here by Archbishop Philip as a task well within the capabilities of the new Bishop, who is a native-born North American, used to the diverse nature of the Anglican Church in New Zealand.
As a former Dean of Dunedin, David Rice became Bishop of Waiapu, where he was known to support the ethnic diversity unique to that Diocese. David was also a well-known and enthusiastic supporter of a new approach in the Church towards Women and Gays, and one suspects that this openness on social justice issues is what commended him to the hierarchy of the Episcopal Church in the USA as a possible contender for leadership in San Joaquin and in the Episcopal Church in North America.
May God richly bless +David and his family as they resume life in their former homeland.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand