Saturday, July 08, 2006

Darwin triumphs again! A new species of Anglican has evolved!

Chris Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal found this screed by a certain Wayne Besen, and it's a doozy. I've read arrogance and condescension from liberal Episcopalians before, but this is the first one to venture into Star Trek territory. I suppose I shouldn't waste time fisking the whole thing, but I'm anxious not to look like I'm pruning the text to make the author look bad. This is the entire essay, in all its gaudy incoherence.

Is size all that matters to the Anglican Church?
Well, to certain segments of the Anglican Church, yes.
It appears that the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury , is willing to steamroll gays to prevent a seismic schism that would decrease membership rolls.
“Seismic”? The Episcopal Church accounts for a scrawny 3% of the Anglican Communion. And the Churches of Africa are growing so fast, they’d probably make up that number in a year. If it’s “membership rolls” the Archbishop of Canterbury is worried about, logic would dictate ditching TEC at the earliest possibility. The Episcopal Church has lost 38% of its own membership since 1965, yet the progressives whose clever ideas led to this hemorrhage nonchalantly consider it the acceptable price of doing business. And they are today urging more discontented catholics and evangelicals to just leave. The schism is “seismic” when it’s the progressives who find themselves standing outside the door. When it’s those irritating people who refuse to agree with them, then as Lear’s Fool said, “Truth's a dog must to kennel; he must be whipped out, when Lady the brach may stand by the fire and stink.”
In a document titled “theological reflection,” Williams asked all 38 regional churches in the worldwide Communion to agree to a “covenant” that could stymie a church’s ability to elect openly gay bishops. Those churches that did not adhere would have their status downgraded and become second-class affiliates. This plan would create an ecclesiastical caste system, with conservatives playing the role of Brahmins, while GLBT affirming churches would become the new untouchables. Yet, it would still allow the demoted denominations to share in Communion.
Well, that’s one step up from what untouchables get under a REAL caste system. Nobody’s suggested that Gene Robinson and Katherine Schori should get used to scrubbing toilets for a living. It might be worthwhile acquiring a little information about other religions before using them as cheap punchlines.
Not surprisingly, such a convoluted compromise pleased neither faction. Six right wing dioceses declared they would bolt the Episcopal Church, while the Diocese of Newark named an openly gay priest as a candidate for Bishop.
The author seems to have omitted the necessary adjective to describe the Diocese of Newark. We have “right wing” on the one hand, and on the other…what? Are we to suppose that the Diocese of Newark is so mainstream vanilla that there’s no word in the English language that can clarify just what their “orientation” might be? How about “left wing”? “Radical”? Or does political labeling only work when it goes in one direction?
What disturbs me about this debate is that Williams is known for his supposedly liberal views. So, if he sees gay people as equals before God’s eyes, how can he so easily relegate them to the back pews with an admonition to behave and be quiet?
“We thought he was one of OURS!” As for being told to behave and be quiet, that’s pretty much what everyone is expected to do in church. It isn’t a place to agitate and protest. Why are homosexuals a special class? And what’s this stuff about relegating them “to the back pews”? I’ll bet Rosa Parks wouldn’t have made a scene about sitting at the back of her own church, but Besan seems to think that a bus and a church are pretty much the same thing, since they both have chairs. Well, maybe where he attends, they are.

The painful nature of this debate brings up existential questions that leaders such as William seem unprepared to face. For example, is the more successful church the one brimming with members based on bigotry or is it the smaller institution walking in righteousness?
“Based on bigotry.” Really, you itchy-eared Teccers must try to get over yourselves. You think that all those millions of people in Africa crowd into Anglican churches every week just to indulge in bigotry against the lily-white apostles of sodomy across the sea? Do you really think you matter THAT much? Their religious faith seems to be based on Jesus Christ and the Bible; and not surprisingly, it’s thriving. Your dessicated faith in bodily fluids, on the other hand, is shriveling up like an orchid in the desert. If you’re “walking in righteousness”, then why does the path of righteousness lead right off a cliff?
While keeping the Communion together is a worthy goal, the price that conservatives are asking is too high for Anglicans of conscience to pay.
Oh, I see – this is making up for the lopsided adjectives above. Now we have just bald “conservatives” vs. “Anglicans of conscience”. And once again, the self-pity of the rootless cosmopolitan Episcopalian is never far from the surface. It’s conservatives who are asking, nay DEMANDING this price from the harmless, innocent liberals. Ah, the burdens they bear, and yet with such uncomplaining patience!
Those who have embraced full inclusion of gay and lesbian leaders have embarked on a journey and have been enlightened. Once they see homosexuals as spiritual soul mates, it is impossible to go back into the darkness.
Cue the theremin and the panpipes. Gnosticism has certainly lost none of its old arrogance and superciliousness. Now 2,000 years of faith are “the darkness” from which true enlightenment has at last emerged, vouchsafed to a handful of effete Americans. No wonder they resent being dislodged from the Brahmin berth.
What Williams is essentially asking is that liberals subjugate wisdom and undermine understanding for the greater good. But in their hearts, liberals know that something so bad can’t truly be for the greater good. They are being asked to reconcile the irreconcilable and it will never work.
No, the Archbishop is saying to you, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.” You’re the ones who are claiming infallibility, and that all argument is an insult.
The Archbishop of Canterbury cannot expect progressive Episcopalians to look their gay friends in the eyes and then treat them as inferior. Gay people are either equal and deserve full inclusion, or they are not equals and deserve castigation. The search for middle ground in this equation is futile. If the church thinks Equal-lite is the solution, it is headed for a schism.
This one made me laugh. “Treat them as inferior?” How? By not making them bishops? I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t have any diocesan sees in my gift, so I don’t see just how I can “treat” anyone in a way that has the slightest influence on the question under discussion. And nobody is “included” in everything. Only ordained ministers are considered for the position of bishop; doesn’t that exclude all laymen and lay women? One man out of thousands is made bishop, yet I don’t hear all the parishioners in my church muttering about how unfair it is to them, and how it’s an attack on their “equality”. You know what they say, Non omnia possumus omnes, eh?
In a sense, this skirmish is no longer about gay people in the Anglican Communion. It is about whether the church is still a conduit for spiritual integrity and intellectual honesty.
I thought that’s what online diaries were for. A church is a conduit for grace and divine aid.
If members can no longer be true to their beliefs, then the institution will have lost much of its power and meaning. Is a church that dictates one’s conscience rather than allowing one to live as his conscience dictates worth saving?
Hmm, maybe ask the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox; they don’t seem to have a problem with directing consciences, and they’re not looking around for someone to “save” them, either.
Liberal Episcopalians should take comfort in the fact that history does not look kindly on splinter church groups that broke away because of intolerance towards minorities.
If the current state of the Episcopal Church is any indication, history does not look kindly on splinter church groups of ANY kind.
The Southern Baptist Church will always have the stain and stench of slavery hanging over its biography. I can’t think of an instance where a religious group that chose the side of discrimination turned out to be right in history’s judgment. In recent years, for example, the Vatican apologized for its treatment of women and Jews. Although there is little hope that the current Pope will change his archaic views, his embarrassing actions will cause a future Pontiff to grovel over today’s abusive treatment of gays.
In your dreams, buddy. But if ever wants to, I’m sure he knows where to go to get some authoritative instruction on the most elegant way to grovel.
As a practical matter, most church-goers won’t even notice the missing malcontents if the Anglican Church splits. The New York Times reported that a Connecticut priest asked his flock how many of them had even heard of the Anglican Communion before the war over homosexuality erupted in 2003, and only a third raised their hands. Given this tenuous connection, it is hard to see how leaving the backward churches behind will cause significant trauma.
So it’s NOT a “seismic schism” after all, then? I thought not.
I’m not a marriage counselor, but my untrained eye sees a pretty good case for divorce.
An Anglican who stays true to form, I see. As Malcolm Muggeridge put it, “In this case, the vomit returned to the dog.”
Many in the Episcopal Church have evolved into a new spiritual species and it will only be stalled by the Neanderthals that remain stuck in another era.
And judging by the sort of people who will be left in it, this newly evolved species will have to propagate itself by cloning, since there isn’t going to be any of the old-fashioned way of producing new generations going on.
Yes, bigger can be better, but the Anglican Church may soon learn that the size of ideas matter more than the size of membership lists.
A lesson that the Episcopal Church has learned all too well over the past 4 decades.

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