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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.

7 Responses

  1. You said “. . . .would have gained confidence to demand that the church does its theology on the matter of sexuality before adopting regulations and policies . . . “

    Actually the church has done its theology on the matter of sexuality and adding your voice to the people who just keep saying the reverse doesn’t make the reverse so, Tony.

    But, best wishes and prayers for your speedy recovery

    Tim Stewart
    Honolulu

  2. Tony, as one who has had to stand with clergy and laypeople who have been victimized by the wrath of Bob Duncan, I disagree with your assessment. He has harmed good people for simple dissent and he has showered the Episcopal Church with words like
    “heresy,”
    “apostate”
    “counterfeit religion”
    “non-Christian.”

    I see none of that in Gene Robinson, who has said over and over again about Duncan, Iker and others “There is room in my church for them: I only wish there were room in their church for me.”

  3. Fr. Tony,
    I think Tom is right that +Duncan has gone “over the top”. Please take the time to watch 3 or 4 of the videos at the “Choose This Day” web site, http://www.anglicandecision.com/

    As to homework, I think some, but not all, of the homework has been done.

    — Bill Hammond

  4. I guess Tom conveniently forgets that terms like homophobe and bigot get tossed at the right routinely by the left, and Bishop Robinson has used those as a “reconciler” to label his opponents. And, let’s not forget the yells at bishops who refused to don rainbows or take papers at Lambeth. Add to that the attitude of “one day you will catch up with us because we have a special revelation which you are not now privileged to share,” and both sides have plenty of stones to hurl at one another. Apparently, the justice crowd does not turn the other cheek either . . .
    Peace,
    JB

  5. Tony – thank you. Contrary to the other comments it is clear that the homework has not been done – if it had we might have moved forward. The TEC contribution was that shallow presentation made to the ACC which was so theologically lightweight as to be laughable. It argued that experience equals theology!
    Meanwhile Mrs. Schori has created a martyr of huge proportions. Contrary to Mr. Woodward’s comments, she has clearly demonstrated that she and those who joined her have earned all the soubriquets listed in his comment.
    +Bob is one of the Godliest men that I have the privilege to know. Evidence of that is he will not contest the ruling though he has more than adequate grounds to do so.
    I thanks God that 35 bishops were willing to be counted and oppose this new manifestation if Inquisition. This was a much greater number than opposed the lynching of +Schofield and +Cox.
    I now await what God will do to those who crucify His servants – they have been warned and God is not mocked.

  6. Let the Leftists amongst the Baby Boomer generation who now steer the Episcopal Ship have their fun. They won't be steering it forever.. neither will their 60's/70's Liberation theology.

    Eventually I think the mainline Churches will even out theologically.

    Brett
    <><

  7. Amen, Fr. Tony.

    Your skill in writing is matched by the depth of your outlook.

    Of course, Bp. Duncan is no perfect soul… but show me a Bishop who is in this (or perhaps any) era of the Church? We can spin endless lists of anecdotes about the wrongs done by this or that key actor in this sad crisis. The point is that each “side” in claiming that it alone knows what is right demonstrates that it is wrong. The eagerness and complacency with which partisans excommunicate each other and enthusiastically line up with one party or another has about it the haste and fear of the apostles abandoning Christ at Gethsemane.

    I greatly value your balance, wisdom, and groundedness in Anglicanism. This crisis has shown me how few members of TEC really love the Anglican Way, and how many prefer something akin to a fundamentalism of one sort or another. On my weakest days, so do I. But, I believe that is not good enough in the service of Christ.

    Eventually, though, this obsession will be shown for what it is, I believe. Until then, I try to be faithful and say my prayers.

    Blessings on you, and may you continue to heal. Blessings on your wife, too. Thank God for loving, faithful, and patient spouses.

    In Christ,

    Brandon+

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