Friday, September 19, 2008

Commentary on the HOB: The day the music died. . .

From Hills of the North:

. . . That said, for all intents and purposes the Episcopal Church as a church died yesterday. In purporting to depose Bishop Robert Duncan, two-thirds of those bishops who attended the House of Bishops meeting did something so blatantly and brazenly unlawful under the canons and so patently violative of Robert's Rules that they in effect announced that within our church words and laws and truth no longer matter. All that matters is power. Not the power of the Gospel, mind you--but raw human secular power, exercised for political purposes. Those bishops who voted to depose (and the one cowardly Judas who changed his vote after being sure it wasn't needed to destroy his brother bishop) openly and proudly embraced what was a lie--that there had been abandonment of Communion--and did so by embracing transparent lies about what the canons and parliamentary procedure actually said. Those charged to guard the truth yesterday gleefully showed their fealty to the very opposite. . .

Years from now, this action by the House of Bishops may well prove to have been a tipping point for the Episcopal Church. There are many for whom this will be the final straw, not because they have any association or necessarily even agreement with Bishop Duncan, but because it reveals what a corrupt organization they find themselves a part of. Others will realize that they cannot any longer do business with (and certainly not follow) those for whom words are meaningless, law is nothing more than an instrument of power, and truth is nonexistent. And still others will leave weary of the fight, and yearning for spiritual refreshment they cannot get from what is now indisputably a secular organization (and actually something less than most secular organizations, since few could abide such dishonesty in their leaders). In short, the exodus of the orthodox will continue and likely accelerate. This is likely exactly what the Presiding Bishop and her minions want, as they undoubtedly believe that if all the retrograde evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics would just go away, there's no limit to the greatness a progressive Episcopal Church can achieve. The evidence, of course, has been quite to the contrary, but perhaps the accelerating membership loss will help put the lie to this fantasy. . .

Finally, it's worth considering what difference yesterday's events will have in an average Episcopal Church, ones such as our two parishes here. I think it's plain enough that there will be little if any effect in the short run. The chances that even a half-dozen parishioners knew the House of Bishops was meeting is pretty small, and fewer still probably have any idea who Robert Duncan is. What happened doesn't affect the work the altar guild has to do, or the music the choir is rehearsing. It doesn't affect a parish's social outreach. It doesn't change the liturgy (yet), or alter the service times. Certainly it won't occasion the interest of reorienting the furnishings in the church, or getting a new stained glass window. If the Presiding Bishop is betting on the ignorance or nonchalance of the average pew dweller, she is making a pretty sure bet.

That's not to say there won't be an effect eventually, and a pretty potent one. The average age of those in Episcopal Church pews is high and increasing, and it's not as if the average Episcopal Church is full of children and young people and young families. There's a reason churches all around ours are opening and growing, and ours are at best in a steady state, despite population growth. And the trajectory to which the larger Episcopal Church is now committed is not one that is likely to spur growth or giving. In time that will affect the average parish church, and the average parish church here. And some years from now when we wonder why our numbers are down, and why people aren't pledging, and why no new families are joining, and how this all happened, we will be able to point to the House of Bishops meeting of September 18, 2008, as the day our church, as a church, died.

Read it all.
H/t to Stand Firm.

No comments: