Sunday, December 09, 2007

Not Just One Church: A Whole Diocese Waves “Adios”

Usually I avoid our annual Diocesan Council meetings if I possibly can. Everyone wants to argue about sex or racism. Yawn…been there done that to the point of boredom ad infinitum.

And I’ll bet by now our council is getting ready to bicker about Iraq. What’s that? No, they won’t be arguing over how much money to send to the persecuted Chaldean Christians there.

But the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin in Fresno, I’d have loved to have attended their Council -- though I can see why they might not have been issuing invitations:

700 year old church moved in GermanyClergy and lay members of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin voted 173-22 at their annual convention to remove all references to the national church from the diocese’s constitution, according to spokeswoman Joan Gladstone.

The Fresno-based congregation is the first full diocese to secede because of a conservative-liberal rift that began decades ago and is now focused on whether the Bible condemns gay relationships.

The diocese, in a later vote, accepted an invitation to join a conservative South American congregation of the Worldwide Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. member of the global Anglican Communion.

173-22?? I don’t know the “right” side of this argument…
- - - - - - - - -
Biblical exegesis being the kind of soft discipline that it is, one can make a case for either view of this on-going titillating brouhaha. And you can even use the same passage from Scripture to make opposite debate points. The most you can say in this case is that 173-22 is a decisive move in one direction, and that direction is not New Hampshire.

The MSM sure eats this stuff up, though. And the hierarchy, in their nuanced, pastoral way, gently suggests:

“I do not intend to threaten you, only to urge you to reconsider and draw back from this trajectory,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, head of the U.S. denomination, wrote in a letter to Schofield [the Fresno Bishop] earlier this week.

Chopping through the ecclesiological verbiage, I will translate for you: The national Presiding Bishop is telling the Fresno Diocese - rough translation here - “I don’t care where you go, Jack, the property belongs to us.”

And some property it is, too:

The diocese’s holdings include 48 church buildings, including its Fresno headquarters, a series of mission-style buildings surrounded by olive, Chinese elm and cherry trees. Its total assets are worth millions, said the Rev. Van McCalister, a diocesan spokesman.

Be assured this will get ugly….I mean, uglier. Fights over dogma and money always are, no matter the denomination. Nor will this be the last skirmish before the last light is extinguished in the Episcopal Church of the United States of America:

About 55 conservative Episcopal parishes have split from the church in the last few years and some have affiliated directly with Anglican provinces overseas, according to national church statistics. But the courts have mostly ruled against them.

San Joaquin is one of four full dioceses out of 110 in the nation - along with Fort Worth, Texas; Quincy, Ill., and Pittsburgh - that has taken steps toward breaking with the U.S. church.

So the courts seem to rule against individual churches. What will it do in the case of whole dioceses?

I realize such unseemly behavior by seemingly godly people is indeed a shame. But all families are like that, There ain’t a one of ‘em don’t bicker and carry on some. Some of the more sensitive souls have to hike up their skirts and run for the bus out of town, never to darken the doors of the family manse again. Others like to hang around for the carrying on.

If there’s one thing the Episcopal Church is good for, it’s carrying on.

So, Adios amigos in Fresno. Will you have to learn Spanish to join the South American Church?


James Higham said...

I don't see what this whole thing is about. If youaccept only the gospels, the inference is cleqr but not spelt out. If you accept Paul, then it is spelt out that homosexuality is condemned. With Christianity, there's no revisionism. The text is the text. Period.

Alexis said...

One implicit aspect of church politics I've noticed is how parochial leftist culture has become (or maybe always was). In fact, I think leftist myopia is strongly affecting perception of both Islam and non-European Christianity. Hippy culture often perceives itself as multicultural and sensitive to other cultures, when in fact the pretenses of multiculturalism are merely a tribal scream.

When one actually grows up with food, music, and customs from many different cultures, it is exasperating to be lectured on "celebrating our differences" by an ignorant "multicultural" leftist (or academic bureaucrat) who has never heard a panflute. It may be interesting to listen to a musical politician strumming his guitar playing a neo-folk imitation of the Kingston Trio while singing a leftist diatribe updated for the latest political outrage, one should not confuse it for actually understanding another culture. Unless, of course, one is an outsider who seeks to understand the culture of upper middle class American liberalism.

I don't think the key question within the Anglican Communion is homosexuality. Instead, it is about the presumption by certain (liberal) factions within the Anglican Communion that they can change the fundamental belief system of Anglicanism at will. Once a religion becomes a plaything of fashion, the essential teaching of the church is not about following the church's teaching, but about following the whims of the self-appointed guardians of the faith. Once one establishes that one can change church doctrine as often as one changes one's socks, the church essentially becomes a clubhouse with membership based upon obeying those who proclaim their own enlightenment.

In cultures where Anglicanism is relatively new (for the past 100-150 years), any major change in church doctrine coming in from the outside will feel less like a humanitarian reform and more like an imperialistic imposition, especially if it directly contradicts the teachings of the New Testament. Any reference to "outmoded thought" or "barbarism" from liberal bishops can easily be interpreted as white liberal racism. In particular, Bishop Spong has generated much bitterness worldwide. Within the Episcopal Church, parishes having many parishioners with non-European ancestry (whether American Indian or African) tend to be the most conservative parishes. This has led to some interesting ecclesiastical politics in the Midwest.

Tregonsee said...

"I’d have loved to have attended their Council -- though I can see why they might not have been issuing invitations."

You could have watched the whole thing live:

AnglicanTV carried the whole thing gavel to gavel, and has the bishop's address up now. In a day or two, there will most likely be condensed summaries of the conference, plus some interviews.

Paul said...

It seems many secular fundamentalists are snagged concerning the notion that God really lives, and that he is not far from each one of us. Why is this?

Maybe there is more depth and content in Jesus words than is apparent at first glance: unless you become like one of these (like a child) you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Bible (old and new testaments) clearly teaches that God took the form of a man (Jesus) to rescue and save his people. The Bible also tells us we can know God. What? Yes! Can you believe it? So how do we do this? Well, a passage comes to mind that reads, "You will seek Him, and you will find Him when you seek Him with all your heart". Hmmm. Chew on that awhile.

One of the nagging issues of our day seems to be homosexuality. Their is no ambiguity about what the Bible teaches. Homosexuality is detestable sin. Just like adultery, or fornication. Hey, don't get mad at me. It's what the book teaches. But there is hope for all sinners. That hope is Christ Jesus. There is redemption for all who call on the Name of Jesus, and power to overcome all the power of sin. His power is not something we are responsible for generating. He does it for us, because He loves us. Wow, what a concept. It is really true, and the power of Christ to free us from the slavery of sin is real. Each of us must come to Jesus alone.... and He is for real. I share this just as one beggar to another.

The Episcopal church, along with many other denominations, that embrace modern (not so modern) tolerance for SIN, are in the dark. Period.

You think it's bad here in America? Well, in many ways it is. But check out what's up with the Church of England. Talk about being in the dark.

From Melanie Phillips article of November 26, 2007
Losing faith in reason

"As Mr Blair said, it would have been seen in this way in the U.S., which is still a much more religious country than Britain due to the centrality of the evangelical tradition going back to the Pilgrim Fathers.

But in Britain, the Church of England has turned into a kind of social workers’ convention where faith in God is too often seen as the equivalent of making a rude noise in church.

It is almost as if Christianity is fine - with its high-minded concerns about poverty, the environment, war and so forth - as long as no one believes in it. "

Again, I am reminded of Jesus' words: "Unless you become like one of these......"

1389 said...

Continuing Anglican bishop converts to Orthodox Christianity

DocJim said...

A simple fact in most dioceses of the Anglican persuasion in the USA (used to be called PECUSA):
individual churches are not corporations, the diocese is a corporation and holds the title to the land and buildings of individual churches.
Thus, the diocese can probably pull out of the national church without much trouble, but the individual churches have to get their deed from the diocese--somehow.
I got fed up with the Anglican church a long time ago and attend TLM today.

1389 said...

Episcopal Church Update by a former Episcopal, Orthodox priest in Texas

Ed Mahmoud said...

I realize there may have been some political issues involving the family of Catharine of Aragon, Spain, and the Pope.

But the Church of England basically exists so Henry could marry and divorce at will. Compare and contrast, say, the Lutherans, who split from the Western Church over doctrine.

Any religion that starts that way is bound to have some problems down the road.

There are, from what I understand, a few married RC priests, as some Episcopal priests who have left the EC have been allowed to join the Roman church and ordained, despite being married.

Ed Mahmoud said...

Re: above- just as an example

Fr. Eric Bergman, married with three children, left the ECUSA Diocese of Bethlehem and joined the RC Diocese of Scranton over the Robinson ordination and became the rare, married Catholic priest.

Ed Mahmoud said...

I don't see what this whole thing is about. If you accept only the gospels, the inference is cleqr but not spelt out. If you accept Paul, then it is spelt out that homosexuality is condemned. With Christianity, there's no revisionism. The text is the text. Period.

I believe the standard is too accept the entire Scripture. I believe parts of the Scripture may be allegorical, or in parable form, but Leviticus and Paul's letters are pretty clear.

Dr.D said...

The departure of the Diocese of San Joaquin from the Episcopal Church is a pretty major matter; it is the first complete diocese to make this break. There have been quite a few individual parishes pull out of TEC (The Episcopal Church, formerly known as ECUSA), but this is the first whole diocese to leave. Many that are leaving, and I imagine San Joaquin as well, will join the Province of the Southern Cone that includes practically all of South America under Archbishop Gregory Venables.

To say that the Church of England exists so that Henry VIII could marry and divorce at will is a truly simplistic statement that overlooks a great deal. The implication of that statement is that the Anglican faith is a hollow shell, but nothing could be further from the truth. Anglicanism is the reformed Cathoic faith, and it is thriving in Africa, the Far East, and in South America. It is only having major difficulties in England, America, and Canada, the countries where liberalism has infected it and so many other denominations. It is certainly true that, just as individual parishes have left TEC and now a whole diocese, there have also been a number of priests leave also. As Ed notes, some of them have gone to Rome, some have gone to Orthodoxy, quite a number have into Continuing Anglicanism in the US. TEC has been losing resources - parishes, people, priests - for quite a few years now, and it has declined in total impact on the nation accordingly. The day may be coming when it is little more than a real estate holding company.

That does not mean that Anglicanism will have vanished from America, however. There are a number of Continuing Anglican groups and there are the whole diocese that we see in the process of pulling out now. It will simply mean that TEC will no longer have the Anglican franchise in America.

Morgenholz said...

When I was growing up, we always said that the Methodist Church was the one we didn't attend. My father was a Colonel in the Army, and the MC went far left during the Viet Nam war. It has never come back, and the few times I've attended since have been shallow affairs marked by guitars and peace and love-thy-neighbor, with nothing in the way of spiritual or moral guidance.

Now I'm a father, and it seems there is nowhere for a traditional, conservative Christian family to worship. (I have no truck with "contemporary services". I don't know what it is about the spirit of the Lord that guides every freshman music major to compose a "ditty" in His honor. And I don't know why they ALL get published. Downright disrespectful, in my admittedly uppity view)

Frankly, the exodus of this diocese gives me some measure of hope for Anglicanism. Some of the things ECUSA have done recently are flat blasphemous. I'm sure more dioceses are to follow.

. said...

Ed, how can you state that Leviticus must be read literally? Among the condemnations of homosexuality are other prohibitions and punishments that have been rejected for thousands of years already. They are too numerous to recount here - you can find them throughout the text yourself.

Leviticus is best read as the product of men - men inspired by God, but men nonetheless - who were trying to set out what an orderly, just society in about 1000 B.C. would involve. The main task the writers of Leviticus had was to separate themselves from the Canaanites and their practices - to build a just and sin-free society in the eyes of God.

The lesson to be taken from Leviticus is that we, today, must set forth rules to create a just and sin-free society in the eyes of God. But things have changed a lot in 3,000 years in terms of what we have learned about our world and ourselves - knowledge that I believe is God-inspired.

And one of the areas where we have more knowledge now regards homosexuality. Perhaps the "bath-house" culture of the 1970's and 1980's was an abomination - it spawned AIDS and other horrors and was undoubtedly destructive to those who participated in it and their families, friends, and cities. But we have learned that homosexuality is not intrinsically bad for people in any worse way than heterosexuality. Sex in a bathroom stall is wrong no matter the gender of the participants. Sex in the privacy of a conjugal bedroom is another matter, no matter the gender of the participants.

This knowledge has inspired the vast majority of the American Episcopal Church to accept homosexuals as bishops and to advocate for the performance of same-sex commitment ceremonies. If four dioceses split, don't forget that 106 are remaining.

PRCalDude said...

Yes, Tyndale, Latimer,Thomas Cranmer, and others were put to death so Henry VIII could get a divorce. Laughable.

ZZMike said...

The Anglican Church seems also to have lost its way - at least, Archbishop Williams has.

He's come out in support of Pullman's books, and supports the idea that way too much religion is being taught:

"Philip Pullman's controversial His Dark Materials books should be taught in religious studies lessons, according to the Archbishob of Canterbury."

"But Dr Rowan Williams told a Downing Street seminar of theologians and academics hosted by Mr Blair that Pullman's novels could help to address the "inadequacies" of some religious education courses which only taught pupils about religious festivals."

These are the "inadequacies" he mentions:

"The teaching of religious education in schools should be renamed spiritual education, with children being taught more about atheism and less about the life of Jesus and the 10 Commandments, according to the Government's favourite think-tank."

Dr.D said...

PRCalDude, you have a very strange sense of humor to find these good men being being burned at the stake to be laughable. You evidently did not read your link very well, however, because none of them were burned by Henry, but rather by Bloody Mary, daughter of Henry. It is quite a stretch to lay that at the feet of Henry (or do you want to accuse him of poor parenting?).

ZZMike, I think your statement is a little bit too broad. The Church of England has rather clearly lost its way, and with leadership such as that given by +++Rowan, it is not hard to see why. The statements you have quoted make it pretty obvious that he is quite confused in his own mind as to what is needed to enable the Christian faith to flourish in England. He is sometimes referred to as the ArchDruid of Canterbury for obvious reasons.

Fortunately, Anglicanism as a whole is doing very well in many parts of the world. Anglicanism is essentially reformed Catholicism, retaining the Catholic faith but reforming the medieval abuses that had crept into it. As such, it has a strong theological basis, it is highly liturgical, and it has a strong historical connection to the early Church.