Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Episcopal Church: Inclusive as hell

I'm trying to not post about the debacles facing our sisters and brothers in The Episcopal Church. But, while acknowledging that I'm clearly an outsider, I feel somewhat of a connection, if a distant one, through friends who are Anglican and Episcopalian (one, very clearly on the "other side" of things from me, especially over the current contretemps). And certainly watch with interest what our "separated brethren" are up to.

Anyway, Bishop Schori's homily at the closing of GC showed up in my mailbox. :: sigh :: There's not even an attempt to acknowledge the present troubled reality of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, or to mention reconciliation in any realistic way. No. It's sallying forth bravely, daring all to come join in the new truth that God(ess?) is revealing.

It sounds nice. But has a bite. A serious bite. That casts the "troubles" squarely with the "other side."

"Theological frameworks" must be given up. Including the theological framework that says that theological frameworks must be given up? Giving up fear means giving up our "theological framework?" What does that mean? Oh yes -- you hidebound people, who are so stuck in the past -- come join the brave new world! Why don't some people give up their theological framework that accepts the philosphical presumptions of modernity as its First Principles uncritically?

Serious theological differences are merely the squabbling between children. And if we're not willing to overlook these squabbles (well, because some consider them to be more than squabbles), then, well, it's the fault of those who're squabbling. We're not. We know what God wants. A big bear hug for the whole wide word. Don't worry. I affirm everything you do.

Love the child with AIDS and our rhetorical opponents. But of course! We should! But what does it mean to love our "rhetorical oppnoents?" .... (as if the differences are mere rhetoric). To ignore serious differences? And if we don't, we're not really loving?

Or really -- that the reason the Anglican Communion is in such a tizzy it's because those other people -- you know, those poor bigoted Third World natives who really don't have our nice sophisticated sophistries, or those silly people who haven't yet gotten with the program about what the Bible really says -- they're just afraid. Yep. That's it.

That's what I hear when I read that. And I'm not even Anglican. I suspect conservative Anglicans might read this in a same vein.

Love one another. Absolutely. But, in the same Letter that says "God is love" and "Perfect love drives out fear" --- it also says, "And in this is love revealed, that you obey my commandments."

Woah. What does that mean?

Because without that, "love" is simply an empty container which can be filled by -- anything.

[The first time I read her homily, I didn't even catch the "our mother Jesus" reference. Maybe my eyes had glazed over by then.]

Here's Ruth Gledhill's thoughts. ("I just wish the Episcopal Church were not so predictable!" And also notes on a mug that was circulating GC. "The Episcopal Church. Inclusive as hell!" Does one laugh? Or cry?)

And when I first read it, I thought that Damien Thompson of the Telegraph was perhaps being a little too extreme. Anglicans should welcome schism. Maybe not. Maybe not.


Anonymous said...

This is perhaps *the* best thing I've read on this whole problem. Thanks so much for pointing out the worthlessness and emptyness of the Episcopal Church, and I say that as an Episcopalian (!). It's a sad, sad day.


St. Elizabeth of Cayce said...

Gashwin surmises, tongue-in-cheek, from the Episcopalians: Serious theological differences are merely the squabbling between children. And if we're not willing to overlook these squabbles (well, because some consider them to be more than squabbles), then, well, it's the fault of those who're squabbling. We're not. We know what God wants. A big bear hug for the whole wide word. Don't worry. I affirm everything you do.

Presbyterians are facing the same challenges and agreed to agree to disagree. (Redunancy intended.) If taking a stand hurts or alienates the person who disagrees with your stand, then you shouldn't take a stand. That's OK when you're making Neapolitan ice cream, but not when you are "rightly dividing the Word of Truth." (or Catholic words to that effect...)

I think taking a stand (even this bizarre stand) will define and maybe even strengthen (gasp!) those Episcopalians who opt to stay. I think letting each local Presbytery set its own rules for peace, unity and purity in ordination will divide that church.

Could be wrong on both counts... it's been known to happen.

Tiber Jumper said...

This issue of the anglican communion splitting is yet another excellent proof in real life of why the church needs to be One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. Without any final authority over issues of faith and morals and how to interpret the Bible, history will repeat itself again and again as the churches have been doing since 1517. It's Deja Vu all Over again

Anonymous said...

The Italian Church does not even accept that Anglican bishops are bishops so you shouldn't really be bothered what the Episcopalian (non)bishops say or do. As an Anglican (non)priest I don't care in the slightest about Italian church politics although I do despair when it results in the death of half of Africa.

assiniboine said...

Yes, well, inclusivity -- ie as to conservative viewpoints -- is decreasingly a major forte of liberal evangelical Protestant denominations yet the Episcopalians seem unwilling or unable to take counsel from the fiasco that has befallen their evangelical Protestant fellows. Consider the United Church of Canada, which recent censuses indicate has fallen from taking in some 25% of the Canadian population to NINE PERCENT! However, I doubt that your predictions of mass defections to Rome will follow. Sure, mainstream western Anglican parishes look a lot more like mainstream RC parishes these days than they did in, say, 1956. But intercommunion with Rome was never really on the agenda except at the very top and, when all is said and done, Anglicanism just isn't hierarchical enough for that to matter much and the fact that women clergy (who are in the main accepted enthusiastically) make it an impossibility doesn't really register with the rank and file: so what? The very high church constituency is pretty marginal. If anyone grass roots people are to defect to another communion it would be more likely that it be to Presbyterianism or Methodism or Congregationalism than Roman Catholicism. Try to imagine Barbara Bush crossing the Tiber!

Time was that a broad range of viewpoints could be accommodated because a general politeness kept people from confronting others with their differences. ("What's the big deal with ordaining homosexual clergy?" one prelate of my close acquaintance put it years ago: "We've been doing it for 2000 years." But it's all in-your-face these days, and that's the problem.

You might note that Bishop Michael Nazr-Ali of Rochester, who hoed into the American episcopal contretemps, has no difficulty at all about women; it's gays he has a problem with. But even there, he seemed fairly OK even with that so long as it wasn't a matter of official doctrine and practice. Interesting stance for a Pakistani. Indian Anglicans seem to take the view that gays are OK (so long as they don't frighten the horses) but women aren't; again, so long as we don't have to make it all express.

The art of gentle hypocrisy in the interests of getting along seems to have been lost.

Gashwin said...

Wow. What a bunch of comments for a generally commentless blog (except for a few faithful!)

St. Lizzy: why stop at the local Presbytery? Let's just each make up our own minds, wot? :)

James, Tiberjumper -- glad my rant was of some use.

Anon (Anglican priest): Italian church? I'll take that in jest, and ignore the old Africa canard. In my take, Christian communions aren't hermetically sealed from each other. Nor is this just about intra-Episcopalian politics. But, thanks for stopping by.

Gashwin said...

Assiniboine: trust the Americans to rip the veil of gentle hypocrisy, eh? :)

Actually, my "laugh or cry" was not so much over the "inclusivity" part (though, I don't read "inclusive" to mean -- the Church accepts everything, just everyone) as the "as hell" part. Hell, it would seem, is pretty darn inclusive :-)

assiniboine said...

Oh no. That link to Ruth Gledhill's blog told me much more than I wanted to know. THAT extreme, is it? I am not prepared to start calling myself a conservative just yet, but boy, the "liberals" sure are leaving me way behind.

I've always thought that with a few exceptions, conservatives tend to be a lot more congenial than liberals even when their politics (or their theology, or their ecclesiastical politics) weren't my cup of tea. I'd far rather have dinner with William F. Buckley than Gore Vidal any day. The exceptions, of course, tend to be somewhat like-minded on that score: John Kenneth Galbraith had lots of fun socialising with Buckley and even with Milton Friedman. But that's only talking congenial dinner companions or next door neighbours.

I wish that Her Ladyship (or is it Her Grace?*) would pay a visit to a Christian Science church ("Our Father-Mother God") and check out how full the pews are there.
*Incidentally, I'm quite sure that "My Lord" and nowadays, therefore, "My Lady" are quite kosher in the ECUSA; I've been to pontifical eucharists in American churches where it was definitely "the Lord Bishop of Wherever" (for that matter, Canadian Roman Catholic bishops go the same way, though "Your Grace" tends to go for mere bishops as well as archbishops). But then, as to republican-egalitarian nomenclature, the ECUSA has always been plus royaux que le roi, n'est-ce pas?