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GRUMPY THOUGHTS BEFORE THE NEW YEAR

Of late I’ve blamed an upset stomach, worse in the morning, on one of the pills I take. I was wrong. The doctor tells me that the pain patch I’ve been wearing since my operation is responsible for my terrible digestion. This is the second problem I’ve had with prescribed pain killers. Earlier in the year I was given too strong a prescription and ended up babbling like a baby.

The dangers of a wrong diagnosis drives my mind to consider the state of our church as we enter a new secular year. Some believe that it is being forced back from its liberal path by the rest of the Anglican Communion. Others believe that TEC’s liberalism has unchurched it and these people, not content with splitting this Church seem more intent on ripping apart the Anglican Communion. It seems that those who have appointed themselves guardians of the true Faith are planning a meeting for themselves in the Holy Land of all places just before the Lambeth Conference meets.

I only wish the problem with TEC was something to do with liberalism. I caught a bit of a radio talk by the Archbishop of York over Christmas. He said that if the Church of England closed inner city parishes, even if they are sparsely attended, it would cease to be the Church of England and become merely a church for the well-off in suburban areas.

He need only look at the Episcopal Church. More and more as we have retreated from the inner cities and the rural areas we have become a church for wealthy people; people with the money to attend meetings, espouse liberal causes, write checks and love at a distance. The poor, white, African American, Hispanic are served by a few parishes and fewer clergy. It is almost assumed that the poor will prefer fundamentalist churches (this isn’t true of Roman Catholicism and it is a liturgical church) and will probably espouse illiberal views.

On the other hand where our church has grown in areas with substantial conservative populations, a form of Anglicanism has grown which looks very much like the political right at prayer. Its constituency is wealthy enough to support large parishes and now the latest Continuing Churches, allied to Provinces in the Third World whose theology seems akin to the leaders of these American groups.

I see no hope for genuine Anglicanism in either group. Indeed as they react against each other they are spreading schism and separation abroad. If Anglicanism, as many have said, is merely the religious department of this or that Establishment it has little Gospel to say to its own followers, for whom is provided an uncritical acceptance and has nothing but damnation to say to those who disagree.

If as I suspect, neither of these blocs represent authentic Anglicanism, where do we turn? I would like to see us start with the poor. I want to see our church financing starter parishes where poor people live, parishes devoted to the wholeness of those being served. I want to see us respond to those whose paychecks are devalued every time the cost of oil goes up; those who don’t have adequate health care; those with no pensions; in other words those who are not normally found in our well heeled parishes.

I want us to stay in country villages and I want us to find creative ways to provide priests for parishes. There was a time when a country parish had a priest because he had a glebe to farm. He, it was “he” then, may have been better educated than most, but he shared the lives lived by those around him. One of the problems of the seminary experiment, largely avoided by Rome and some other denominations, was the creation of a clerical cult set apart from those to whom they minister.

If our church showed a determination to be the church for everyone I would begin to believe its liberal pretensions.

If the traditionalists in our church showed the sort of daring once demonstrated by Evangelicals and later Anglo-Catholics I’d begin to believe its orthodox pretensions.

These men and women of faith didn’t despair because they were attacked by the Establishment, they carried on and they spread the Faith parish by parish. True some gave up and went to Rome, but few trod the path of schism. Revival always comes from the “edges.”

These are thoughts born of a sour tummy on this feast of St. John the Evangelist. Oh dear, Bah Humbug!

4 Responses

  1. Amen. I couldn’t agree more. And if there are the two of us who hope for this, there must be others. Let’s do it.

    A Good New Year to you.

  2. Intriguing observations at a number of levels – particularly given your past association with a “continuing Anglican” body.

    I am currently the Interim Priest in a smallish parish in Regina, Saskatchewan. Time was, there were 11 parishes in Regina, five of them “north of the tracks.” Now we are seven, and only this parish remains “north of the tracks.”

    To their credit, the parish has responded to this challenge with a couple of creative initiatives to announce their existence “north of the tracks.” Curiously, we have run into a couple of instances of people being told the parish was closed or closing.

  3. Oh, and BTW, I intend to add your blog to my blogroll at simplemassingpriest.blogspot.com

    (you needn’t post this, I just wanted to let you know.)

  4. what you say resonates strongly. but the question i have is how do we make those parishes work? as long as funding is parish-based, it’s hard to see how we are going to get dedicated clergy to serve in poorer locations.

    some of this is the fault of assumptions about what church membership looks like: but as much of it is also the fault of assumptions about parish budgets.

    funding inner city parishes adequately means, ultimately, that wealthier parishes do not get to decide how their money is spent.

    i would be happy with diocesan funding of all clergy salaries, and a significant tax on every parish to pay for it. but vestries want to control their dollars and their rectors.

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