01 November 2007

Slidin' Down +Kate's Slippery Slope.

(Note: Several updates posted at the end.)

With the election, World Series, and retreats, I have neglected postings on the Current Unpleasantness in The Episcopal Church™. A lot has happened and, sadly, things aren’t looking good. A quick synopses:

The House of Bishops meeting back in September in New Orleans was supposed to be the “Come to Jesus” meeting with respect to the American church’s giving the finger to the rest of the Anglican Communion over sexuality. It was supposed to end there. But the Bishops, in true Episcopal Church™ style, responded with platitudes, legalisms, and parliamentary mechanics that changed absolutely nothing. In fact, several Dioceses, such as California, have already said they don't care what the Bishops decided in New Orleans, they're gonna go ahead anyway. So far, neither the Presiding Bishop, nor the Archbishop of Canterbury, is calling them on it. Nor are they likely to do so.

Therefore, the dispute remains.

Adding fuel to the fire, a few weeks ago the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote a letter to Bishop Howe in Central Florida concerning churches in Bishop Howe’s diocese that want to leave The Episcopal Church ™ and associate with another province in the Communion. The Archbishop said in the letter that the focus in the Anglican Communion was not the national church organization, but the bishop and the diocese - and that Priests and congregations should look to the bishop for their identity, not to the national church. Finally, some focus from the Archbishop, who is the “Focus of Communion”. As you can imagine, the letter got Episcopal Lefties and New Agers gnashing teeth and rending their (sunrise hued) garments. What’s the point of working for years to take over a respected national organization in order to advance your agenda, if that national organization doesn’t really matter anymore? So the Archbishop’s office, to quiet down their Lefty American cousins, issued a “clarification”. The waters quickly returned to their earlier, muddy state.

And were made even muddier by this report, which says the Archbishop of Canterbury may allow foreign Bishops to take over parishes and dioceses in other countries in order to keep the Anglican Communion from splitting. Hmmmm.

The Executive Council of The Episcopal Church ™ recently met, too, and said several things. First, it said the House of Bishop’s song-and-dance response in September to the Primates requests was just fine with them, but holding off on more gay Bishops and gay marriage should only be a temporary pause - which they don't like. Not at all. Second, they took a look at Anglican Covenant. Short answer: Cute, but.... REALLY. It's SO First Century. And if it doesn't let them charge ahead with their "prophetic gift" thing, they're not too interested. Third, the ever-falling numbers in church membership and attendance were ignored by pointing out that it’s happening to everybody. Well, not quite. While mainline protestant denominations like Methodists and Presbyterians are indeed sliding, the Mormons and Roman Catholics seem to be growing. (But the Presiding Bishop said we’re better than them, so I guess they don’t count.) Wasn't all of this “new thing” approach by the Church supposed to reverse the slide for us? The Millennium Development Goals (peace be upon them), gay bishops, and Clown Eucharists don't seem to be packing ‘em in like they thought. "Full Inclusion" is not resulting in full pews, but who cares - the offerings are up!

It's not all doom and polity, though: in the plus column Bishop-elect Mark Lawrence (finally) received the necessary consents to be consecrated Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. The National Church leadership does not want him getting a pointy hat as he is not a lockstep-Lefty, but he was elected by the rules so they don't have much choice. I'm sure that the National Church - and their lawyers - will be keeping their Canons at the ready in case he steps out of line.

And speaking of Canons at the ready, yesterday the Presiding Bishop wrote a letter and "reached out" (that is the Episcopal Church's description, not mine) to the dissident Diocese of Pittsburgh, and it's Bishop, Robert Duncan. +Kate is not at all happy that Bishop Duncan is choosing the wrong side in the Current Unpleasantness - he's openly defending the traditional view of Faith and Scripture, and he supports taking the Diocese out of the National Church if necessary in order to keep in Communion with Canterbury. Duncan is taking the Archbishop at his word about that Bishops-and-Dioceses-are-more-important-than-national-churches thing. And +Kate is taking off the gloves - play ball our way, or else. (An interesting aside - the Presiding Bishop's letter mentions "Constitution" and/or "Canon" seven times, but "Christ" is only mentioned once. In closing. What does that tell you....?) The good Bishop Duncan has yet to respond.

Well, that's about it from the trenches of The Current Unpleasantness. If you want more detailed, and far more wry analysis, I highly recommend Chris Johnson over at MCJ.

UPDATE: The good Bishop Duncan has responded to the Presiding Bishop with stunning brevity and clarity. A commentor at StandFirm likened it to the pastoral equivalent of General MacAliffe'a answer to the Germans at Bastogne. Since we orthodox pretty much feel like the we've been surrounded and besieged, I think the comparison is apropos. The gloves are off; it's now mitre to mitre. (For those keeping count, Bishop Duncan's letter mentions "Faith" and "saints" once each, and "Christ" "Jesus" and "Lord" in the closing. He even uses some Latin. "Constitution" and/or "Canon" are nowhere to be seen.)

UPDATE: Bishop Howe of Central Florida, who is mentioned above, has also responded to the Presiding Biishop's letter to Bishop Duncan, and he is not happy. Bishop Howe, while orthodox, has tried to work within the system to find a compromise to The Current Unpleasantness, but I think his patience is wearing out. He criticizes the Presiding Bishop's "thinly veiled threat" of disciplinary action if the Diocese doesn't tow the party line; which Episcopal Life, aparrently The Episcopal Church ™ version of Pravda, actually refers to as an "offer of reconciliation". Read the Presiding Comrade's Bishop's letter (link above), and judge for yourself.

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