I have found myself over the past year or so in the unfamiliar position of being asked by grownups (those with children and grandchildren, hugely successful careers, and true wisdom, all gained only after the kinds of struggles that lie in my future) how I think it is we got ourselves into this situation with the Episcopal Church, and where I think it's headed.
To be sure, more than one person I've met in the course of this debate has told me I have more opinions than sense. They may well be right, but in this case I have an explanation that has resonated with almost everyone to whom I've given it. The rough outline is buried somewhere deep in the archives of Stand Firm, so a few people reading this may vaguely recognize it. It has been the touchstone for many hours-long conversations.
Think of the whole of the Episcopal Church as a pew full of people (yes, Episcopalians, it is possible for a pew to be filled with people... work with me here). The people are arranged, from left to right, in roughly the order of where they fall on the theological spectrum.
Twenty five years ago, someone on the far right of the pew happened to be in possession of a crystal ball. In the swirl of events surrounding women's ordination and a revised Book of Common Prayer, he looked into the crystal ball and saw the future of the Episcopal Church: Five, perhaps ten years down the road. Perhaps he saw the influx of radical feminists using ordination as just another hill to be taken in their secular war on the church. Perhaps it was a BCP that watered down the confession of sin - indeed, made it optional. Perhaps it was a vision of the proliferation of Spongs and Pikes and Borgs, men who not only deny the basic tenets of the Christian faith, but who have risen to its highest offices and levels of celebrity because of their (un)beliefs.
He voiced his objections to what he saw happening to his church, and some in the pew turned and scowled at him. They couldn't help but notice one thing - that of all the people in the pew, he was the farthest to the right. For more than a few, this became the only thing they noticed about him. For those who didn't know his name, and even for a few who did, he was labeled "the fundamentalist," or "the troublemaker."
Whatever he saw - in the crystal ball, down the pew - it was enough to make him want to get up and leave. The decision was difficult. His family had been Episcopalian for five generations, his great-grandparents had been charter members of the grand old church where he grew up, where both of his children were married. He became Presbyterian, or Methodist, or perhaps Roman Catholic, or joined a fledgling Anglical splinter church. He may have stopped going to church altogether. But before he left, he handed the crystal ball to the lady on his immediate left.
She was sad to see him go. She shared many of his misgivings about the direction in which the church was headed, but she preferred sitting tight to rocking the boat. She hoped that the spasms of radicalism in her beloved church were temporary, and would eventually pass like a fad. . .
Read it all.