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A LETTER TO A LIST ON CONSENTS TO CONSECRATION

(I wrote this to the Bishops/Deputies email list in response to people who urged that standing committees reject the election of the bishop-elect of South Carolina)

I find the arguments on whether to confirm or reject the bishop-elect of South Carolina quite astounding. On the one hand it is proposed that the confirmation process is, or was in 2003, an arcane ritual undertaken -at some considerable expense- to satisfy a mysterious canonical requirement demanding that bishops with jurisdiction/standing committees, the House of Deputies, in suitable combination discover that which the Presiding Bishop has already discovered – that the Canons have been observed by the electing diocese- when taking order for a consecration. It is therefore suggested that our diocesan bishops and their standing committees get on with the job. What was good for New Hampshire is good for South Carolina.

Others now suggest that the bishop-elect of South Carolina’s election be voided on the grounds, quoted from B033: that his “manner of life represents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion”. What does “manner of life” mean? It seems to mean to some that the bishop-elect can’t swear on a heap of books that he would never, ever leave TEC and would never ever suggest that his diocese so do. Is it proposed that those of us who do not acknowledge the canonical validity of actions taken in 2003 have either to change our minds and submit or not present ourselves to be considered for any office or administration in our church?

Is it suggested that while the ratification and consecration of the present Bishop of New Hampshire caused the greatest crisis in Anglicanism since Cromwell’s day, that the ratification of the election in SouthCarolina would cause scandal of the same intensity or with the same ramifications?

It is possible to facilitate and encourage schismatic behavior. Those who seem determined, with scant logic, to drive South Carolina and the whole traditionalist camp closer to schism, and whose actions in so doing would only deepen the divide between our church and the Anglican Communion had best examine themselves in this matter. I abhor schism, and I do so from bitter experience. We are not playing politics here. We are dealing with the Body of Christ and with the mystical and actual relationship which the font symbolizes, and in which we become, in a manner unbroken, organs within that same Body.That organic unity has nothing at all to do with where we stand on issues, other than the issue that Jesus is Lord and we are called to be the church for all people, and not merely for some enlightened elite.I am so sick and tired of elitism; of this idea that we are the better informed more enlightened ecclesial group called apart specially by God to tell the world what God has told us. Call the Squire.

PLEDGE TIME

None of us likes to hear about giving money. We like it even less in church on Sunday. We feel as it we are being dunned or picked on. Getting the matter of “sacrifice” straight, of our offering our lives to God is at the heart of our getting what we mean by “church” right. I hate the term “church member.” We are parishioners. Otherwise it sounds as if we belong to Rotary or the local Garden Club. Now both are good organizations. The church is not an organization. Belonging to such organizations is, in a sense,”political.” We may feel free to join or leave, to withhold funds or give more, to quarrel with the board of directors or get into a blither about this that or the other.

Obviously the vision of the church we see in the New Testament and in the teachings of the Prayer Book have nothing to do with that sort of thing at all. The church isn’t something we join; something there for our personal enjoyment; something we can take or leave at will.Think of the font at church. Think of touching it. Think of it as the spiritual womb from which your new life in Christ sprung. It is because of the font, because God loved us and adopted us, that we are Christians and parishioners. God always starts things, even if we think we did it all ourselves alone! When we were baptized we lost the choice – at any rate the saving choice – to belong or not to belong. In our baptisms we became limbs, organs, blood cells in the Body ofChrist. We became interdependent. The Body began to rely on each one of us working together.

That working together is far more holy and of far greater consequence than a pledge and a time and talent card. It means that either we are in ministry and service to God and his church or we are not!

At the moment I know all about what happens when blood cells become enemies of the body and the destruction and death which may follow. The question is, “How do we look envision our self-offering and sacrifice in and through and towards each other and how will it show itself in concrete form during the next year? Please “touch” the font. Please remember that you are loved and adopted by God. Please remember that St. Thomas a Becket Church is you and that you are all mystically linked together as Christ comes in Eucharist and possesses the parish, all that we are, all that we own, and all that we shall be. Then pray as a family or alone if you live alone: you are never alone– and write that pledge as a sacrifice and symbol of who you are and whom you serve. No budget crisis this year please.