As many of my Episcopal and Anglican readers may recall, the current Bishop of the Diocese of Louisiana, +Charles Jenkins, is set to retire at the end of this year. As a part of the search for a new Bishop the Diocese is holding four "Community Forums," and the one for Baton Rouge was held tonight. Your humble blogger was one of about 50 who attended, and was pleasantly surprised by the results.
While most of the diocese "challenges" the participants said the new bishop will face are what you'd expect - money issues, a declining and aging membership - the problems besetting the national church since 2003 also figured in, either directly or in the undertone of some of the comments. And most folks there did not seem to see the current leftward tilt positively. In fact, the words "inclusion" and "diversity" only came up once in the discussion summation.
The bother over the leftward tilt got more direct when the responses to the "qualities for a new bishop" were aired. Qualities like "theologically conservative", "dynamically orthodox", "meeting the challenge of '03" and "traditional understanding of Scripture" seemed to be the consensus concerning the theological temperament of our next bishop.
A clear victory? Not really. But in this sense it is heartening: people out there in the pews are beginning to pay attention, and at least in Baton Rouge they do not appear to like what they see from our national church leadership.
To be fair, the opinion (at our table, at least) was that any new bishop not take our Diocese along the same road as Fort Worth or Pittsburgh. But at the same time they do not want to elect a "nut" (actual quote) like John Spong.