Friday, March 14, 2008
How is Schism like Divorce?
As I have listened to the conversation in The Episcopal Church about the "violence" of deposition and law suits over church property, I feel as if I have fallen into scenes from the movie, "The War of the Roses" (for those of you who may not remember, that's the movie with Michael Doulas and Kathleen Turner about a couple who are in the midst of a violent divorce).
The situation in this church of ours has become what can only be described as an abomination in the site of God. I have no doubt that it breaks the very heart of Jesus, whose Sacred Body we are, and makes Him weep.
Abandonment - physical abandonment or the abandonment of a sacred vow like marriage - is always an act of violence. So are threats of divorce. While the events and actions preceding it can be violent, divorce, in an of itself, is not.
Ironically for some, divorce can often be an antidote to the violence. It acknowledges that the new life that was created by the love of two people once was is no more. It is sad, but it can be life-giving, allowing the two people to move on with their lives - and, often, those of their children and other family members - in peace.
Abandonment of communion is also an act of violence. So are threats of abandonment. While the events and actions preceding it can be violent, ecclesiastical deposition, in and of itself, is not. It acknowledges that the sacred vows taken at the ordination and consecration of a bishop are no longer viable and have lost their validity in the place they were once made.
It is sad, but it can be life-giving, allowing for the bishop and those of the flock who choose to follow him/her (or, not as the case may be), to move on in peace, to live their lives of faith and their relationship to God and Jesus in the way that has greater authenticity and integrity for them.
When Jack Leo Iker, the Bishop of the Episcopal (for now) Diocese of Ft. Worth, declined to attend the HOB meeting, he said "For a traditional anglo-catholic like myself, the HOB meetings have become a toxic environment, and the “spiritual violence” I suffer there is not good for my emotional or spiritual well being."
Actually, he was doing violence to the words of one of the uppitiest of the many uppity women in his diocese, Katie Sherod, who once said, "Call me a coward, but my spiritual and physical health could not take the toxicity of two days of our diocesan convention. Even reading e-mailed reports from home fill me with grief."
It is a sad irony that Bishop Iker seems deliberately to have twisted Katie's words, doing violence to them for his own purposes.
It is even more sadly ironic that the good Bishop of Ft. Worth, whose words and action have been filled with threats of abandonment, should cast blame on his brothers from 'spiritual violence' even as he, himself, is abandoning them.
Violence also surrounds the language about law suits over church property. Whenever there is abandonment of the church, there will always follow the legal proceedings to settle property matters.
It is an unfortunate necessity. These decisions must be made. If they can not be negotiated privately, there is no other redress than to appeal to the legal system for assistance.
The church may not be 'of the world' but it is, after all, 'in the world'. The legal proceedings, in and of themselves, are not violent. Rather, they have been made necessary by the violence of abandonment.
The sooner we understand the difference between the language of human behavior and their natural legal consequence, the better we will be able to move on in peace and the healthier this church will be.