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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dead Wood Splinters

I’ve told this story before. Maybe you haven’t heard it.

As a young child, I walked to early morning mass every day with my grandmother.

As we passed St. Jean Batiste, the Roman Catholic Church established by the French Canadians immigrants she would kiss her thumb and make the sign of the cross as a form of blessing.

When we passed St. Patrick’s, the Roman Catholic Church established by the Irish immigrants, she would also bless herself. Clearly, it was a sign of respect – a wee ‘arrow prayer’ in solidarity with all those who were praying there.

As we rounded the corner to attend mass at St. Elizabeth’s Roman Catholic Church which had been established by the Portuguese immigrants, we always ran into “the Protestant Church” at the top of the street.

My grandmother would bless herself several times, in rapid, furious succession, as if warding off the real presence of Evil itself.

I asked her, once, why she did that.

She spit on the ground and then hissed, “Dead wood splinters,” going on to explain that these were not part of God’s “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. They are not connected to their original source,” she said.

“They broke away. They work harder to justify their existence than to pray to God. And, because of that, they can not sustain their faith. They argue among themselves. They break off from each other. They have no faith. Dead wood splinters.”

My grandmother was very big on faithfulness. She didn't believe in divorce, either, which she thought was a result of "intermarriage" - that is, marrying outside of what she called "the Portuguese race."

In my grandmother's world, you were faithful and loyal to your race/ethnicity, your family/tribe, your spouse AND your religion. You stayed "close to your original source" or you risked "drying up" and splintering off.

When my marriage failed, she was a bit more compassionate because I had married someone of German, French Canadian and Iroquois lineage. "What did I tell you?" she asked sadly, as she hugged me.

She never understood my relationship with Ms. Conroy but she was more perplexed and completely devastated when I left the Roman Catholic Church.

But, she loved me, and gave me her 'guitara' which had been a gift from her mother - the only thing, besides a small bag of clothing - which she brought with her from Portugal at age 13.

She had left her six brothers and her father shortly after her mother died. She left to escape the poverty, yes, but mostly the oppression she would have to endure as the only woman and the youngest daughter in a house filled with men.

I understood the gift her beloved guitara to me as a clear message that she understood my need to go on my own.

It also gave me a window on to her passion about faithfulness and loyalty. She had worked very hard and sacrificed for many years to save up the money to bring her brothers to this country. All but two of them eventually made the journey.

I have often reflected on my grandmother’s words whenever I consider the need for the so-called orthodox of The Episcopal Church to remain part of the Anglican Communion.

I understand.

As I consider the list provided by Common Cause of the organizations attending the September 25-28 meeting in Pittsburgh, I hear my grandmother’s words in a new way.

Here are the splinter groups of the so-called orthodox Episcopalians.

AAC: American Anglican Council
ACiC: Anglican Coalition in Canada
NACDP: Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (also known as the Anglican Communion Network - ACN)
AEC: Anglican Essentials of Canada
AMiA: Anglican Mission in America
ANC Anglican Network in Canada (which may be why the ANC / USA changed to NACDP)
APA: Anglican Province in America
CANA: Convocation of Anglicans in North America
FiFNA: Forward in Faith – North America
REC: Reformed Episcopal Church

Participating guests:
FAC: Federation of Anglican Churches
The deposed bishop of Recife (Brazil)
The bishop of Bolivia (ICON)
The retired bishop of SE Asia and former chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), and listed as being affiliated with the AMiA.

There may be others. There may be those yet to break off yet again. These are the ones who reportedly attended the Network meeting in Pittsburgh.

It is an astounding array of organizations which continue to be divided not so much by scriptural interpretation but by the application of scripture – especially with regards to the role and function of women in the councils of power and authority in the institutional church.

Did anyone else chuckle over Moderator Bob Duncan’s three-sentence response to the Presiding Bishop’s letter of concern and warning?

In one of the three lines total in the letter, he said something about “the faith first delivered to the saints.”

That takes a lot of cojones, as we say in North Jersey.

How many of his orthodox brothers would agree that the “faith first delivered” included the ordination of women?

Not too many, I'd wager.

It will be interesting to see what all comes of this. Will there be more splintering? Or, will there be a network of independent churches, all thriving and working to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth?

My grandmother would say that if they work harder to justify their existence than they pray to God, they don’t stand a chance. They will argue among themselves. They will break off from each other.

Then, she’d spit on the ground and hiss, “Dead wood splinters.”


Jim said...

And, by no means, is this the set of all splinters. There is PCK (Province of Christ the King) and a lot more.

The disease your grandmother diagnosed is certainly evident. There is another. If the standard is holiness, then any diversity is a basis for division. As the 60's folk song about the John Birch society had it, we only trust we and thee and we are not too sure of thee!

Of course, for the immoderator, there is one nice note, every division seems to produce more mitres and more archbishops. I have not looked lately but at one point there were two mitres, one archly above the other, in a splinter "true Anglican" community of three parishes.

What is 'true Anglican' anyway?


Revd. Neal Terry said...

Will there be more splintering?

Certainly, it is part of human progress and the Holy Roman Catholic church is not devoid of the experience, nor is Islaam, nor Judaism, nor Buddhism...

The manner in which it is conducted and the pain/distress felt by those in the context at the time, is a different matter. To start with the view that it is perfectly OK for others to think and organise differently and accept this as a normal process in human organisations makes it easier to deal with. The battles in the communion at the moment pretend to be about scriptural authority versus a liberal progressive agenda. They are more accurately about organisational power and the trappings that come with it. Strangely, I don't believe that testosterone fuelled displays of 'my faith is bigger than yours', impress God in the slightest. Unity of organisational construct is a false idol and unachievable unless there is first a unity as to the nature of diversity. Our organisations can only be reformed and reshaped once there is a pattern to our thinking on diversity.

DBW said...

So you don't think your dead wood splintering metaphor relates to the Episcopal Church as a whole, or just our current line of schismatics? And what does that make Susan Russell, then, who said on national television that if TEC went along with the Dar es Salam communique, her parish would consider leaving TEC?
And are you now championing the cause of racism?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

DBW said:

So you don't think your dead wood splintering metaphor relates to the Episcopal Church as a whole, or just our current line of schismatics?


And what does that make Susan Russell, then, who said on national television that if TEC went along with the Dar es Salam communique, her parish would consider leaving TEC?


And are you now championing the cause of racism?

Oh, pulllleeeeesssse! The race card? Are you kidding me? I guess you don't know just how desperate y'all are.

Jim said...

Liberals have left, one or two, three or four. Mostly, lesbians or gays traumatized by the hateful greeting they get in places like Fort Worth leave. My parish lost a really wonderful vestryman who was shocked by the homophobic crud heard at a meeting -- not a gay, but the loving parent of one who would not lash out, but could not stay.

But, the rest of us have sadly bid them well, and gone back to work. We will be here as long as it takes. So that is the general answer -- I wont write about Rev. Susan behind her back (you can find her blog?)