I am writing to thank you for the article by Macduff Everton, “An Episcopal Priest in a Time of Turmoil,” in the February 22 issue of the Independent. It brought back many memories. I grew up in Trinity Episcopal Church and was a member there through the late 1960s, when I moved away from Santa Barbara for a job elsewhere. In retirement I have returned to Santa Barbara and Trinity Church.
I knew Clyde Everton well and considered him a friend. In addition, during this period my father was active on the vestry and served as Senior Warden (vestry chairperson). I want to thank Macduff for sharing his memories with us and making a new generation of Santa Barbarans aware of the spiritual leadership his father provided.
However, the last sentence in the article, namely that “…the vestry would reward his moral courage by firing him,” is of concern, insofar as conveys an inference that I believe to be unfair to the congregation and lay leadership of the day. First of all, a vestry does not have canonical authority to fire a pastoral associate. More to the point, in 1967 the rector of Trinity Church, the Rev. Richard Flagg Ayres, retired. The policy of the Episcopal Church, then as now, is that when a rector retires or resigns, his pastoral associates are expected to resign, so that the successor may put together a ministerial team of her or his own choosing. It was my understanding at the time, both from my father and Rev. Everton, that he was hoping to stay on until the new rector took over. Interim ministry, however, is at the discretion of the Bishop, and Bishop Rusack chose not to override national church policy and extend Everton’s tenure. The vestry then had no choice under church policy than to ask for Clyde Everton’s resignation, which he graciously provided, regardless of the light in which he may have understood that request.
The new rector of Trinity Church was the Rev. Robert Challinor. Bob Challinor shared Clyde Everton’s values and belief in racial equality and social justice. Personally I believe that the greatest contribution Clyde Everton made to Trinity Church and Santa Barbara was that he laid the groundwork for Trinity to become the progressive, inclusive community that it is today.