• RSS Subscribe to Blog

  • PAGES

  • RECENT PONDERINGS

  • RECENT COMMENTS

    Steve on SAINTLY?
    Paul Nicholson on SAINTLY?
    RGE on Calling the Shots
    Walter J. Tanner on MARRIAGE EXTENSION
    franiel32 on IN THIS COMPANY
  • ARCHIVES

  • BLOG STATS

    • 113,079 hits

DEPOSITION

I can’t get my head around the strategy adopted by the PB and her advisers, now granted an imprimatur by about half of our diocesan bishops. As I mentioned before today, when I was bishing, the more TEC bishops sought to lambaste those who were on the edge of leaving, the more they left. One of the larger APA congregations is in Atlanta. It shares a block with an Episcopal church, merely because the congregation bought a former Presbyterian church building which adjoined St Patrick’s.

Nothing did the tiny APA parish more good than when the then Bishop of Atlanta wrote an article denying the authenticity of our congregation on the grounds that it belonged to a group which could not be Anglican because it was not in communion with the See of Canterbury. Of course he was technically right. But he sounded as if he was saying that the members of the extra mural Anglican parish were frauds or fakes or con men. That article gained the new congregation some substantial members!

I have long written that the word “deposed” is an unfortunate and theologically erroneous term to describe the withdrawal of a license to practice within a specific jurisdiction. If a cleric is found guilty by due process of some frightful crime, then that cleric in most “catholic” bodies is “degraded” or “unfrocked” and prohibited from exercising whatever ministry was bestowed locally by a jurisdiction acting for the Holy Catholic Church. To employ a term to embrace everything from a frightful crime to merely deciding not to function as a cleric or to join some other church or denomination, let alone to transfer to another part of the same Communion, albeit under rather odd circumstances only leads people to assume that a deposition is draconian. Merely adding a clause assuring the world that “Mr. Duncan” hasn’t run off with the organist of either sex, still may be parsed as his having done something which deprived him of ecclesiastical title and status.

Now if a jurisdiction claims that in baptism, the Eucharist, Ordination etc it merely acts for the Holy Catholic Church, and to removes from a deposed cleric who joins the Duck River Free Will Baptist Church his style and title, unless he (or she) abjures such status calls into question the intent and theology of such a jurisdiction. IF ordination is as indelible as baptism, one may no more deprive a cleric of ordination than one can baptism. It the crime is heinous perhaps such a person may be excommunicated, deprived of even the rights bestowed in baptism. But one does not suggest that if Fr Bloggs is odd enough to become Coptic Orthodox, he becomes Mr. Bloggs. One may not want others to follow his example, may even want to find ways to win him back and prevent an exodus, or thwack the offending cleric to discourage others following him, but one cannot in so doing deny that which one teaches about ordination.

Thus we not only have a canonical problem on our hands, we have a theological problem. If +Bob Duncan, exasperating as he may be, perhaps worthy of severe censure by his peers, is now “Mr. Duncan” then all the chatter about TEC having a “catholic” doctrine of Holy Orders is nonsense. Its leaders believe that just as a lawyer may be disbarred so a cleric may be de-sacramentalized. So why is it that if +Bob decides to repent and believe TEC to be right, he may be restored to his status through the mail?

BRITTANIA RULES THE WAVES

Late Victorian days in Great Britain found her at her most jingoistic. The British Empire stretched across the world and although the United States and Germany were fast catching up in terms of wealth and prosperity, British power remained unchallenged.

The two political parties, Conservative and Liberal were largely led by people of the same class and with the same self-confidence in the particularism and self-confidence born of a passionate belief in the superiority of the British race and of its mission in and to the world. Where they differed, at least in part, was in their use of myth and their approach to wealth and its obligations. The Conservatives, led by an extraordinary man who had overcome the liability of race and social standing to rise to the highest elected office in the realm, believed largely in laissez faire capitalism, the reliability of a market economy and the extension of British power wherever its interests seemed to warrant imperial expansion. Disraeli came to realize however that Tories also needed to champion the common man, perhaps more by romanticizing village life and social order than by significantly bettering the life of a growing urban proletariat except by a judicious extension of the franchise.

The Liberals were divided between old-fashioned Whigs, less enamored with the pageantry of throne and Empire, but still invested in the reliability given to the state by people of wealth, breeding and culture, capitalists who believed in regulation, an extended franchise and the beginnings of social legislation to empower the working classes, and radical liberals who groped with non-Marxist socialism, the Nonconformist conscience and who distrusted Imperialism without wishing to dismantle what had been gained.

To the Tory led by that cynical convert to Anglicanism, Benjamin Disraeli, the inventor of the Indian Empire, who rescued the monarchy from probable oblivion. the Church was a formidable adjunct to the Establishment, a prop to the aristocratic ideal into which he had broken, and a symbol of social order. The Liberal Party, led by the tree-felling, prostitute-rescuing Anglo-Catholic, Gladstone, a man who disdained ennoblement and was capable of extraordinary righteous indignation, sought to disestablish the Church where possible and stress its “otherness”, except in the matter of nominating progressive bishops, deans and other higher clergy.

I write this vignette of British history today because I feel there is much in our present predicament which mirrors these times. Almost all Americans of whatever persuasion, subscribe to some form of American particularism, that whether by Divine permission or native genetics, Americans are different, and have reached global ascendancy because this is America’s destiny. Neither party dares to ignore or down play necessary patriotism or disavow America’s destined leadership. Republicans, or most of them, believe in the majesty and omnipotence of the markets and expect little central government at home and much American government overseas. Republicans or most of them see conservative religion as an ordained adjunct to the State and read the Bible as a blueprint for conservativism. Jesus would have been a Republican if he had been fortunate enough to be an American and lacking that distinction He must be afforded honorary citizenship.

Liberals are champions of the common man, regret the folly of the common man’s religion and political allegiance, at least of late, and believe that it is the intellectual class, rather than the wealthy, to whom should be given deference and who should govern the nation. In terms of religion, it matters little whether a person is religious or not, as long as he or she can manage to straddle a belief in egalitarianism allied to a trust in a right-thinking intelligentsia; an elite. Religion may be a useful personal pastime as long as its tenets do not contradict, at least in public, cherished liberal beliefs.

What unsettled the democratic game, in which British Tories and Liberals took their turn in bat while all was right with the world? Two movements shattered this world. The first was commercial and social. The United States, Germany and perhaps Japan began to rival the Empires’s wealth and prosperity, while a wave of depressions encouraged the growth of socialism as ordinary people disdained paternalism, whether aristocratic or intellectual. The second came from the Imperial designs and ambitions of unscrupulous countries, and after the first War, the humiliated dreams of revenge fostered by Germany. Are we witnessing the birth pangs of a similar psychology in Russia?

What strikes me in this overview is the growing subservience or irrelevance of the Church, a Church either captured in Tory romanticism or neutered by liberal intellectualism. I fear that I see much similarity in our present moment. The late Victorian Church was unable to be the Church. It was either co opted to bolster Tory Imperial and Capitalist idealism or marginalized by a growing secularism in the old Liberal and new Labour Movements. The Church’s leadership seemed unable to escape nationalism and the thralls of political dogma as it preached the Gospel.

To my mind nothing much has changed. Thus in our Episcopal Church the divisions are not Christian divisions but rather social and political divisions offered in some form of unholy baptism. No doubt there are people who like their politics encased in Gothic arches, but who speaks for and to the vast majority who have become as cynical about politics and political theory as they are about battling parsons? Our dwindling numbers speak more about the irrelevance of our message than about the effectiveness of the Faith.

GLOOMY THOUGHTS

I spent over twenty-five years of my life in extra-mural Anglicanism in America. During that time I sought to influence the preservation of a positive, evangelical-catholic pastoral Anglicanism and to resist the anger and destructiveness of reactive religion. I failed rather spectacularly although my former jurisdiction at the moment despite defections is holding the line from throwing its lot into Common Cause and the Gafcon solution.

I came into TEC in 1999, and vowed to seek to be a faithful pastor and to do what I could to uphold communion evangelical-catholicism and to promote reconciliation. While I am now happily in a parish which wants to grow into a positive Anglicanism and in a diocese led by a holy and pastoral, orthodox bishop, I feel more and more on the larger scene that I have once again failed. That will teach me not to adopt highfalutin ambitions!

I watch with grief the nastiness which possesses the Episcopalian soul from left and right, the political expedience of the Establishment and the sheer bloody mindedness of the opposition and wonder “How may anyone be saved when the Son of Man comes?”

The leadership of TEC is narrow-minded and sectarian, safe in belief in its “particularism” and obsessed with sexualism. The opposition has been inoculated with the virus of intolerance and is equally sectarian in a world-wide ambition.

How may we remain faithful to the belief that the Church is visible, is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic in such a context? How may one evangelize and propose the truth which is in Christ Jesus to a watching world which is not unaware of the brutality of our struggles?

Is Bishop Duncan a martyr? The Early Church taught that those who sought martyrdom were not martyrs. I believe that Bishop Duncan has deliberately sought martyrdom to prove his point. That he has indeed proved his point is neither here nor there. From the very beginnings of this conflict in the 60s the opposition has adopted political tactics, some of them as bad as those we witness in the present election, and has spectacularly failed. The Establishment has been much better at the game.

But who needs a church which merely replicates the strife, alarums and excursions of “Main Street” without providing the solutions offered by the Gospel? Who needs a schism which provides nothing but a fortress for like-minded politically conservative people who interpret the Gospel through the lens of right-wing Republicanism? Who needs a Christian Community which is so captured by cultural particularism and invests its hope in the myths of the American legend without subjecting that legend to the teachings of the Faith?

Damn it, I am more gloomy than George Bush.

THE BISHOPS MEET AGAIN

Today our bishops assemble in Salt Lake City. As the modern Episcopal Church seems to believe that God has given it a new revelation, Utah seems an appropriate venue for the bishops to meet. The whole idea that God does add to the truths given in Christ Jesus, and that such additions are vouchsafed to local American assemblies of the faithful through parliamentary procedures might at least seem to have more in common with Mormonism than traditional Christianity. Granted those who believe themselves to be modern prophets of new truths prefer to anchor their vocation in John Henry Newman’s theory of the Development of Doctrine, a theory which has been described as Newman’s gift to his new Roman Catholic home. Of course Newman lived to rue his proposal when the Roman Catholic Church at the first Vatican Council decided that God had revealed that the Pope could be infallible. New revelations can be iffy things.

We had hoped that our bishops, home from the Lambeth Conference after hearing the Archbishop of Canterbury reflect on the office and vocation of a bishop, and listening to fellow bishops from across the world express their experiences and views on being an Anglican and being an Anglican bishop today, would arrive at this meeting of their House humbled and ready to respond positively to the mission of restoring the Anglican Communion to health, unity and concord. One prayed that exposure to the outside world would temper what seemed to be a determination to regard Episcopalianism as something plain different from Anglicanism, albeit ready to share in the councils of Anglicanism and to be genuinely altruistic in contributing money and talent to those parts of the Communion where MDGs are most desperately needed.

I believe in miracles but I doubted in my faithlessness that the bishops who have placed the theory of alternative lifestyles at the summit of their doctrinal top ten list would have been changed by the Lambeth experience. I hoped that those in the middle, who to this point have been mesmerized by fear of being regarded as bigots or allies of the extreme right would have gained confidence to demand that the church does its theology on the matter of sexuality before adopting regulations and policies which proclaim only one possible conclusion to the exercise of applying Scripture, the Tradition and Reason to the problem of human relationships.

Enter Pittsburgh. Like it or not, the Bishop of Pittsburgh represents to the liberal majority what the Bishop of New Hampshire does to the conservative minority. The poor bishop has been clothed with the mantle of intemperate disloyalty and archaic bigotry. He is the bogey man the left has used to scare the moderate and centrist constituency in TEC.

Now he is to be shot on his own quarter deck as an example to others. Once that has been done, a few more summary executions should pacify dissent and open the way for General Convention to institutionalize TEC’s schism and its emergence as the herald of a brave new world.

As I was thinking about all this, while learning to walk again, and in the context of the elections, I mused about the ironies of all this. In the secular world liberals, whose share with our liberal bishops a belief in the essential goodness of human beings, want to regulate capitalism because they realize that greed and corruption are endemic. On the other hand conservatives who take a dim view of human beings unless they are rich and in business, and espouse Calvin’s doctrine of total depravity, want to leave the market and its wealthy captains to their own devises. This odd dichotomy only succeeds in convincing me that neither side has its wits about it.

So it is in our church. The right wing believes in an ecclesiastical market economy in which clerical and lay entrepreneurs are free to do as they please, even if that includes schism and the creation of a multitude of rival entities which have unity only in their common loathing of TEC and their mistrust of any attempt by the Anglican Communion to regulate their activities.

On the other hand our ecclesiastical liberals devoutly believe in government intervention and the draconian application of Canon Law, inventively interpreted to tamp down anyone who departs from the party line, while espousing a theory of the glory of free will and equality which would make old Pelagius blush.

One doesn’t have to be a prophet to suggest which side will win in Salt Lake City. The tragedy is that neither side resembles the great tradition of which our church is a churlish inheritor.

TAKE HEED

Just as I was getting used to feeling well and enjoying the experience no end, I fell. I was trying to get through the back door to my office, my arms full of books, when the door jammed on a carpet. I shoved it with my left shoulder, the door swung open, and I fell in and broke my hip. Mercifully a parishioner who is a nurse was in the office. She called for an ambulance. Pat didn’t have her cell phone with her, so it was later in the day, when she returned home, that she discovered I was at the Emergency Room in the La Porte Hospital.

What a splendid hospital it is. Nowadays one is used to being “processed” before being admitted. One must show ID and insurance cards before getting into a place where one can be evaluated. It was not at all like that. Through a fog of pain I kept suggesting that my insurance card was in my wallet, only to be told that someone would eventually get to such formalities but not to worry. The nurses were friendly and sympathetic and the doctor most apologetic that I must be X Rayed and that it would not be comfortable. An IV was inserted and an initial dose of pain killer provided and then I was wheeled swiftly to X Ray and gently moved onto the bench. A group of people expertly moved me from trolley to X Ray table and back again.

In no time at all, the hospital chaplain appeared and then my poor wife arrived, an Episcopal priest in tow. Yes, I had broken my hip, the doctor told me, but it wasn’t a particularly complicated break. I was then taken to a room. La Porte hospital only has single rooms. Fears induced by a recent stay in another hospital immediately evaporated. A year or so in another hospital I was roomed with an alcoholic who tore out his chemo line and went whooping around the corridors chased by frantic nurses. There was to be no such excitement in La Porte.

Later that evening, August 20th., my splendid and cheerful surgeon Dr Magill inserted a rod and pins and patched me up. Then I was moved to a very large corner room, with nice views of La Porte and enough room to hold a vestry meeting if I felt that masochistic.

I can’t speak too highly of the doctors, nurses and aides who cared for me on the 4th Floor and later on the Rehab floor. I would distribute medals to the occupational and physical therapy professionals who from the first day coaxed me out of bed and encouraged me to clamber up and down stairs with one hand on a rail and walker in the other, or made me walk and exercise and get myself mobile. I have always been against all forms of muscular Christianity, but despite the pain, I have to confess that I actually enjoyed working out.

I must also confess that the food was good. During my last stay in hospital in another state, I lost over twenty-five pounds. Not so at the La Porte Hospital. And if I wanted something other than that provided, it appeared in minutes, brought to me by a cheerful youth. If I rang for a nurse, someone came almost immediately.

Once in rehabilitation I took most of my meals with other patients. My first visit to the dining room was a bit difficult. The other patients sat around in lugubrious silence and my attempts to liven things up provoked the sort of response once encountered in English railway carriages, when the rule of silence was observed with all the discipline of a Trappist monastery.

Gradually I managed to produce some replies and even smiles. Two men had suffered strokes. One, a big, healthy looking man had just returned from a scout trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he had canoed and hiked and had a wonderful time, only to be smitten while sitting at his computer. A lovely eighty-seven year old lady, who lives alone and loves to tend her flower garden, tripped and broke her shoulder badly. Another rather grand lady broke both hips while showing off her new clothes to family members. My simple fracture seemed slight in comparison to the damage these people experienced.

We got used to meeting each other in the therapy room. During rest breaks, one could watch another “inmate” being put through his or her paces by insistent but cheerful professionals.

The hospital staff seemed to have reached an extraordinary conclusion or two. The first was that if one allowed patients to sleep at night, instead of waking them up grumpily every hour or so, they were better able to function during the day. The second conclusion they must have reached at some stage perhaps years ago is that if the staff is cheerful, kind and interested in the patients, things run so much more smoothly.

So now I am home, staggering around on a walker and going in three times a week for therapy in a pool. I am armed with all sorts of gadgets to help me put on socks, pick up things I drop, and get my cup of tea from the kitchen to my chair. There has been a minimum of bureaucracy even with Workman’s Comp. and the Insurance people.

Poor Pat. Last year she saw me through cancer and then pneumonia, a major move from West Virginia here, a flooded rectory and now this. She’s had a very tough time. Despite all this stress and strain and having to deal with me, which is a story in itself, she has tackled this latest chapter in Clavier’s decline and fall with courage and willingness. I thank God for her.

I managed to say Mass seated at my posh walker, and lead Bible Study last Thursday. I am taking this Sunday off, but hope to gradually slide back into harness over the next two weeks.

My older son Mark and his family are now safely at Durham University where he is reading for a Ph. D in Spirituality over the next three years. Diane has started a job there and Paul, clad in school uniform begins experiencing English primary education. Megan, who last year worked among refugee children on the Thai/Burma border leaves for Cambodia at the end of the month where she will teach villagers to use “wind-up” computers.

Never fear, I shall soon say something naughty about the House of Bishops, but I thought you would like to know why I have been silent for three weeks or so.