Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

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
But in some ways, it is very different:
  • 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
So, "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time" and we still might not know in our lifetime if this time is different or not, but Christ calls us to persevere, so if we feel called to this battle, we stay.


Alan said...

I am reminded of that old joke about the man of faith whose house is in the path of a flood. As he is clinging to the weather vane with the flood waters about to consume him, he askes God why He has forsaken him. A Voice from above replies, "I sent you a bus, a boat, and a helicopter, and you turned them all down. What, exactly, are you waiting for?"

There is a distinct similarity to the rapidly sinking TEC. A few have been aware of the drift of the denomination and most of its leaders, not for a few years, but literally decades. For those who have seen endless opportunities lost, there is little point in allowing what may well be the last chance to pass by. After the fact may well be too late.

David Turney said...

I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church..

When a denomination chooses consistently the "catholic" part (i.e. universal in unity) at the expense of the "holy" part, I no longer believe in it as a church. I would argue that TEC has decidedly chosen a path away from the "Catholic" and the "Holy" altogether. What's left?

One has to have a clear notion of when a church is no longer a church. For those remaining with TEC, I wonder what visible signs of hope remain and what the signal might be, someday, to seek higher ground.