Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Nowhere to go but up

It's getting difficult for me to write anything about the Episcopal Church these days. Even satire has to be grounded in reality, and TEC is getting so far out these days, I'm left with little room to manoeuvre if I want to keep from going over the top.

But it's easier to write satire than to comment on "real life" as it is lived in The Enchanted Realm of Mrs. Schori. Part of my problem is that I'm starting to lose any sense of a side to root for. It's easy to be against the execrable Schori, Beers, Bruno, Robinson, and all their vestured footmen. But where I used to sympathize with the conservatives still remaining in TEC, now I'm starting to feel, at best, exasperation, and at worst - well, I don't even like to say it...scorn. As Chris Johnson has said (and this is only the most recent such statement) "It can't do a Christian any good at all to remain connected, even theoretically, with such unbelievably base and unprincipled people."

No, it can't. And yet the idea of doing good to a Christian is fading away before a determination to prove one's hardiness by staying planted on the ship until the waters close over one's head. I'm referring, of course, to the ACI response to the debacle in New Orleans, but that's only the latest entry in the ever more baroque structure of justification for staying in TEC. This has now reached almost hysterical heights, as this essay has inspired Establishment conservatives to envision a career of glorious immolation on the altar of Unity and Witness.

I'm sorry, but I've gone as far as I can go in sympathy; conservatives who are staying now are staying in a fantasy church of their own imagination. This thread from StandFirm is a perfect illustration of how these people will muddle along forever. They collect "hopeful signs" and "steps in the right direction" the way I collect aluminum percolators. When I hear this, I immediately think of those documentaries about the destruction of Pompeii. Remember how the inhabitants were encased in the ash from Vesuvius, so that 1,800 years later, archaeologists were able to uncover them and see a sculpture of what it looked like when the city was destroyed? I think of those people fleeing for their lives when the hot ash caught them, and I think "Well, it was a step in the right direction."

I haven't got any real opinion on the Common Cause thing starting up in Pittsburgh. As a Roman Catholic, my gut feeling is that it's only a temporary respite, but I have no crystal ball. This may work, I don't know. The women's ordination faultline is being built into the foundations, so I suspect the whole thing will crack sooner or later (probably sooner). But people who go that route are at least getting out of TEC, and there's no hope until that happens. It's like leaving an abusive spouse for a battered women's shelter; even if you never go anywhere else, it's better than where you were, and the chances are that it may be the stepping stone to a really good life elsewhere.

16 Comments:

Anonymous ellie m said...

There was an absolutely delightful joke told on one of the conservative sites -- StandFirm or Titus 1-9, I can't remember which. Sadly, I don't remember the author either. If he/she reads this, perhaps he/she will claim credit. Anyway, as I recall it went something like this: "As the lesbian high priestess and her lover laid their sacrificial thank-offering at the feet of the multi-breasted fertility Goddess, an old fellow in the back row turned to his wife and said, 'If the Anglican Church changes ONE more thing, I'm leaving!!'"

2:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ellie M - FWIW, I saw that joke probably 5 years ago in a Terry Mattingly column (of "Get Religion" fame). He used to be Episcopalian, but left for Eastern Orthodoxy at least a decade ago.

Jean

7:44 pm  
Blogger The Bovina Bloviator said...

Excellent piece, Doctor, and after recent events in my life it should come as no surprise I agree with you completely. You have to feel sorry for those poor souls over at Stand Firm, who desperate parse and re-parse six ways to Sunday the words "barely adequate" in hopes of finding yet another glimmer of hope and, amazingly enough, find it. Hallelujah! And how many times have you read over there words to the effect, "Well then, things are at a dreadful pass but at least now we have the clarity we seek?" Clarity is an elusive little bugger at Stand Firm, it always pops in and out, like Bertrand's Scarbo but unlike the unpredictable Scarbo, at Stand Firm you know exactly when clarity will suddenly vanish: at any moment a rational person might think here, certainly, finally, assuredly, unquestionably, indubitably, they must make the decision to jump from the sinking ship that is the Episcopal Church. Nope, the SF folks say, not just yet. How sad. As the briny washes over the deck they will cling to the mast, awaiting just one more appearance of oh-so-elusive clarity. Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle.

12:00 am  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

It DOES make me sad, because they are good people. Intelligent, witty, funny, Biblically educated, serious about Jesus Christ - they'd be an asset and ornament to any church. Their current situation is unworthy of them.

6:16 am  
Blogger The Bovina Bloviator said...

Touché.

8:14 am  
Blogger Mrs. Falstaff said...

As an Anglican who is choosing to stay Anglican, I disagree rather vehemently with you (assuming you hold the same opinion of the Canadian Anglican church.) I've made the point on my own blog here:

http://hairyeyeball.wordpress.com/2007/10/07/i-love-being-an-anglican-2/

As far as the women's ordination issue is concerned, the Pentecostals have had women pastors since the '20's, (I think - I may have the date wrong, can't find a reference on the net at the moment) and they aren't showing any signs of imploding, or falling into heresy. I don't think building womens ordination into the new structures means building a crack into the foundation. You also need to remember that this mess is strictly a Western thing - the two thirds world churches aren't falling into error. The Anglican Network in Canada is preparing an alternate structure for faithful Anglican parishes to take shelter in; it will in all probability be led by an Anglican two thirds world bishop; it will, I hope and pray, become the seed for a revived Anglican communion.

2:38 pm  
Anonymous Ed the Roman said...

As the lesbian high priestess and her lover laid their sacrificial thank-offering at the feet of the multi-breasted fertility Goddess, an old fellow in the back row turned to his wife and said, 'If the Anglican Church changes ONE more thing, I'm leaving!!'"

That's actually a REALLY old joke.

And Mrs. Falstaff, the Pentecostals are already in heresy from even the smallest of small-c catholic points of view.

9:43 pm  
Blogger Kate said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:36 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

As Ed said, the Pentecostals, well... You have to understand that I'm coming from this from a completely different direction. When I was an Anglican, I was an Anglo-Catholic. So what the Pentecostals do doesn't really count as a guide to how I think a church should behave. It would be like saying that we should burn down our churches and strip naked because the Doukhobors do it and it works for them.

My point about the "fatal flaw" in the CCP project is that they already have a serious divide between members involved, even though it's dormant at the moment - there are evangelicals AND there are Anglo-Catholics combined in the same group, and WO is eventually going to arise as a problem. Sure, it seems fine now, because there's such relief at the prospect of just escaping the even worse disaster of TEC. But some day the question will arise about putting a female priest in authority over people who don't believe she's a real priest, and history will repeat itself all over again. They think they can just "agree to disagree", but that's what everyone thought 20 years ago in ECUSA (and ACA), and we've seen how well that works out. It would probably be kinder to exclude Anglo-Catholics altogether from the new entity right at the outset, if the majority is determined on WO, because it's going to be very upsetting for these people to be driven out a SECOND time from their church, over the exact same issue.

8:59 am  
Blogger Kate said...

I can't remember the name of the two dioceses - but there are two dioceses, side by side, in the states; both headed by orthodox bishops, one of whom thinks WO is ok and the other doesn't. The one who doesn't simply sends women postulants over to the other diocese. Agree to disagree. I think that the Anglo catholics in TEC who feel that strongly about WO have probably already left, in any case.

As far as the other things are concerned, I am a protestant. I am quite willing to believe that if you can say the Nicene creed and mean it, and you believe that the bible is God's word written, then
you are a Christian.

10:52 am  
Blogger Toral said...

The Anglican Network in Canada is preparing an alternate structure for faithful Anglican parishes to take shelter in; it will in all probability be led by an Anglican two thirds world bishop; it will, I hope and pray, become the seed for a revived Anglican communion.

I fear that the ANiC, which currently boasts the grand figure of 16 parishes and two retired bishops, must be regarded as a long shot attempt to maintain an alternate form of Anglicanism of any significance. Part of the problem is that the Essentials movement from which ANiC springs was an evangelical effort with a detailed statement of dogma some of which would not go over well with Anglo-Catholics or high Anglicans. That was probably a mistake. Where I live the local Anglo-Catholic rector sometimes attends Essentials meetings, but is not AFAIK a member.

Common Cause will indeed have to be a very loose affiliation of disparate groups in order to stay together. The Reformed Episcopal Church, which left the Anglican Church in the 19th century to protest creeping Romanism, and Bishop Jack Iker are going to have a hard time finding much common ground. The hope that once existed that the ABC might recognize an alternate North American Anglicanism has now totally dissipated.

But perhaps God has other plans and is just not tipping His hand at the moment.

12:54 am  
Blogger Kate said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:00 pm  
Anonymous Mrs Falstaff said...

Have you ever been to a Pentecostal church? How they behave in worship isn't particularly relevant: how they live out their lives in Christ is.

As far as the Network is concerned, I would suggest to you that in today's climate, many priests and parishes are afraid to make the move of joining the Network. I think that will change once the alternate structure is up and running.

1:01 pm  
Blogger Toral said...

mrs falstaff:

I would agree that more will join Network if it seems like a viable entity.

IMO the key period is between now and 2010. In 2010 GS will (unless God wills otherwise) support SSBs, complete with a theological rationale derived from the majority (or minority) report of the Primate's Theological Commission. THEN there will be an outflux. People, parishes, leaving armed with a full record of the ACC's error, no doubt about it.

So the Network must survive as a viable entity for 3 years.

The Network, like +++Rowan, is now in the position of trying to run time off the clock. Bishop Don's recent newsletter suggests that no alternative hierarchy can be in place for at least 15 months.

People are leaving or thinking of leaving every day. The aged saint who drives me to church parked at the side of the road today on the way to pick up another passenger to tell me that she was thinking of not coming to church any more --
she didn't want her other passengers to hear this.

The Network's immediate task is to hold these people in place. For they have thoughts like those of Dr. Mabuse, and are wondering why they are staying.

7:28 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These bishops live in slavish fear to whichever way the Zeitgeist barfs at the moment, and naturally, it percolates downwards. I'm not RC, but I do admire how B16 (and Orombi, and Akinola) are so gloriously free of this idiotic fear. No man can serve two masters.

1:00 am  
Blogger Mark Windsor said...

How they behave in worship isn't particularly relevant

I wonder if God would agree with you on that, given that the methods of worship are pretty clearly spelled out in the Bible and the writings of the early church fathers. Ever read the Didache?

I'm just sayin'...

I know quite a few Pentacostals that don't live the very definition of a Christian life. They are just as flawed as the rest of us, but moreso in their theology. No one doubts their zeal, but zeal isn't everything.

11:31 am  

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