Okay, as someone who has just been involved in the ongoing “saga” of the Episcopal Church since my eyes and ears were blasted open in 2003—having spent all previous years as a nicely cradled Episcopalian (thank you very much) figuring there were just a few wacky rectors out there, but the “church” was basically following Christ—how do I react when faced with those, including priests, who have lived this all before, seen it all before, and in reality believe that nothing will change?
They will list all of the previous failures of the church (and there is quite a list) and the inability of ECUSA or the Anglican Communion to discipline or reprimand, instances from Bishop Pike to Bishop Ritcher to Bishop Spong, the initial illegality of women’s ordination, the consecration of Bishop Robinson, and on and on and on. And they are right—nothing was done. Parishioners left, a few “continuing churches” formed, and life went on.
So, is the Current Unpleasantness (or as I also call it “The War of Northern Aggression”) just more of the same old-same old (and so we can understand why more bishops and clergy don’t break from ECUSA—they know it’s just another round in the ongoing debate) or is it really different this time?
If I thought that “this time” was just another round in an endless fight, I would leave the Episcopal Church today. In fact, I’d be angry with myself that I hadn’t left yesterday. But until the battle is over, I know of no way to tell if this time it really is different or not.
In some ways, this is the same as what has happened before:
- We’ve seen no clear reprimand or consequences to ECUSA from the Anglican Communion as a whole
- Groups have broken off and fragmented—here in San Diego, we have Anglican churches under three different auspices: the Anglican Province of America, Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone, and Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda
- Parishioners have quietly or not so quietly left, as evidenced by declining membership and ASA statistics
- Those leaving (at least as they are often presented in the media) seem to be driven by specific actions taken by ECUSA, not over the understanding of basic Scriptural truths, so it’s easy to perceive these as reactionary malcontents
- There is no clear Anglican Communion alternative to ECUSA in the United States that is recognized globally
- Maybe we just think this is different because we are experiencing it for the first time (and for those older and wiser, they've seen it all before)
- ECUSA continues to be where the money is
- The organization of the Common Cause partners, the Anglican Communion Network, and the American Anglican Council seems united and focused on working together
- Not just individual parishes or parishioners are leaving—at this point, it seems very likely that some entire dioceses will leave
- The 60s generation that allowed these changes to culminate (because they had been in the works long before) is waning, and the generations after them have seen the damage done to families and lives by a world-view that worships the individual and special interest group at the expense of Christ and the family
- The Internet (need I say more?)
- The outspokenness of some Anglican Primates in support of the Anglican Communion operating as a true Communion where all involved need to come to a consensus
- Anglican Primates willing to come to the aid of those in the United States who can no longer operate under the ECUSA banner, which they see as heretical
- ECUSA may have the money, but the rest of the Anglican Communion has the people