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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.


DBW said...

I've said this before. This is the typical divorce drama of the eighties, brought into vogue by the baby boomers.
The thing to do--is to minimize violence.
England is full of "Anglican" churches that once belonged to Rome, you know. God continues to be worshipped in them. Perhaps the thing to do for the PB would be to say to departing parishes where the vast majority wants out of ECUSA would be to say "go in peace" considering that it is the congregations who have been maintaining the property. Or better yet, permit a realignment, so parishes which feel at odds in dysfunctional relationships with their bishops or dioceses, can realign with one within TEC that they can work with. In this global world, MUST dioceses be grouped geographically?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Oh, hello, dbw. Now, you know that comparing what happened in England during the Reformation with the 'schism' brought on by the Religious Right in TEC is not, in anyway, an accurate comparison.

As far as TEC letting the Schismatics have the property, I ask you only one question: If the ecclesiastical shoe were on the other foot, do you really think that is what Duncan, Iker and Schofield would do?

I didn't think so.

TEC in Pittsburgh, Fort Worth and San Joaquin will grow again and will need those buildings. We have the gospel to preach and the imperatives of the mission and ministry of Jesus to fulfill.

This schism is just a pruning of the vine. In the end, it's a matter of good stewardship of the gifts of property which God has given TEC.

Bill said...

And as in many divorce situations we're left with the problem of who gets the kids. Do they go with the runaway Dad or do they stay with Mother Church. Here, we have Dad taking over the house and the kids have no where to go.

DBW said...

You think its all as clear cut as that, don't you? Wow. That's all I can say. Wow. I thought you were more astute than that.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Yes I do and yes I am - more astute than you think I am. And, another thing: you know, I don't know any generation other than yours that is so hell-bent on slamming the previous generation. It's a real problem for you Xer's isn't it? I hope one day you get over the anger you have about your parent's divorce, grow up, mature and get on with the future that's ahead of you instead of constantly criticizing those who have come before you. I can't wait when the children YOU have begin to criticize your generation. Boy, are you all in for a HUGELY rude awakening.

Suzer said...

Umm...not a problem for ALL X-ers. :)

That said, I think there's a tendency among all generations to criticize those who came before. I don't know if it's generally any worse with X-ers, but then again it's not something I've paid much attention to.

Myself -- I'm trying hard to focus on love, and not hurt (which I indulged in as recently as this morning), and hope that this "divorce" will lead eventually to positive growth for all involved. That's rather hard to see at the moment.

Off topic, but we in Atlanta are reeling at the moment from a tornado that hit downtown. I don't know the condition of my church or office. We are safe in Marietta. I suspect Luiz is safe as he lives in Midtown (if he's even in town this weekend - I'll call him). There are other Atlanta bloggers we may need to keep in mind tonight. Thx.

Jim of L-Town said...

Just a quick point on the idea of parting amicably.
I believe, but could be wrong, that in at least a few dioceses there have been amicable property settlements without going to court.
Dallas I know negotiated a settlement with one of its churches.
My understanding was that Bp. Duncan had offered his dissenting churches to depart with property to a more liberal diocese and that he would not try to keep those properties. I believe some of the liberal parishes in Pittsburgh actually went to court to challenge that.
It was also my understanding that Bp. Schofield was offering to allow his dissenting "liberal" parishes to depart with their proprety as long as they were not indebted to the diocese.
There was a move by Bp. Lee to negotiate a peaceful settlement, one that would have satisfied both sides, but that the agreement was derailed by a national church legal team.
The point being, that there have been and could be a way to settle these difference short of a blood bath that drains millions of dollars away from real Christian mission.
Actually, I find the comparison between what is happening today, as what happened in England during the Reformation quite startling in its likeness.
Just an observation from across the divide.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Suzer - Yup, I think that, on the whole, the Xers pay much more critical attention to Boomers - especially in the church. It's all over the blogs. I suppose I notice it more because I'm part of the target. I think every generation learns from the previous one, but I've just never seen the relentless criticizing of Boomers as so many religious Xers do. Thanks for focusing on love and the positive.

And, prayers ascend for those of you in Atlanta. I'm thinking that's the second time this year y'all have had a tornado downtown. Take good care.

DBW said...

If I told you to just get over the fact that most of the Christian world views practicing homosexuals as unrepentant, willful sinners, you wouldn't take well to it, would you? The same can be said for telling a generation to get over having self absorbed, over indulged parents who were far more focussed on making themselves happy than on being parents. Get over it, indeed. You obviously don't get it. Now the church--which many of us turned to because we wanted it to provide the stability in our lives that our parents were too into their own self-absorbed pursuits to provide--and because its being run by baby boomers, they are doing what they know best. Screaming, holding their ears, insisting on their own way. Its utterly sickening. Get over it, indeed. Get over yourself.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

O, DBW, how very grown up and mature of you! And so Christ-like, too. Your parents must be very proud.

DBW said...

See, you didn't like being told to "get over it" any more than I did. You don't like being dismissed and told to shut up because nobody wants to hear your drek any more than I did. We all have our sacred cows, we all have our soap boxes, the internet is where we spew our rhetoric for our audiences. I am part of yours. Get over it, or have a private blog. Get over it, indeed. You've been a priest long enough to know that people seldom "get over it" when you wish they would. I wish TEC would get over it, but does it happen?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

You know what, DBW? I did not say to YOU, "Get over it." I made an observation about the consistent disrespectful tone of X-ers toward Boomers. You continue to prove my point. I will not tolerate this kind of disrespect on this blog.

You don't like what I have to say? Well, let me point out the obvious: I don't need a 'private blog'. This is my blog. If you don't like what I have to say or the positions I take, don't come over. I don't like your perspective so you will notice that I rarely, if ever, visit your blog.

It's really that simple.

DBW said...

I don't think I have a blog anymore, I realized I had nothing worthwhile to say, and that I had better things to do with the time God gives me on this earth than rant and rave and act ridiculous about a bunch of things I cannot change, and the people who were frequenting my blog were not the sort of people I wanted taking me seriously. I'm pretty sure I deleted the damn thing a few months ago.
I come here because I often DO like what you write. I often think you DO have a point. I also think you have blinders on sometimes. (So do I, don't get me wrong)But telling me (or worse, a generation) to "get over it" is sort of like saying "shut up, nobody wants to hear what you have to say, you're nothing, I'm too important to hear you out."
When I talked to you at your church a few weeks ago, you seemed so much more friendly and down to earth in person than you do on this blog sometimes, especially when it comes to your desire to see your enemies crucified. A good lesson, I think, for Palm Sunday and Holy Week, in any case.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I just re-read the comments. No where did I say to anyone - neither you nor the X-ers - "Get over it." I said, "It's time to move on."

I never said to you, "Shut up, nobody wants to hear what you are saying." I made the observation, in response to your insult that I was not 'astute', based on what I remember of other comments you have made here and elsewhere, that you were probably slamming me - again! - based on my status as a Boomer and yours as an X-er.

I was not disrespectful to you. You, however, insulted me right off the bat by saying, "Wow! I thought you were more astute than that."

Perhaps the reason your blog shut down is because you were reaping what you sowed.

I wish you had identified yourself when you came to St. Paul's a few weeks ago. It would have been nice to put a name and a face together.

I am friendly and down to earth. I also do not suffer fools gladly. Tone down your rhetoric, don't lead with insults, and you just might find that I'm as friendly and down to earth on this blog as I am in person.

A good thing upon which to meditate this Holy Week. May it be most blessed for you.

DBW said...

I DID identify myself, I gave you my name, I said I read your blog, and I said I was on spring break visiting NY/NJ from Michigan. I brought with me a friend who is a recovering JW, with whom you spoke.
Oh well. I suppose you get a lot of that.
And I said I thought you were more astute than that because you really do have blinders on to the issue of the Boomers, who are now in power in the church, being SO inflexible... and this can be said for those at either extreme. Each one holds a vision for the church and nothing short than 100% capitulation will satisfy.

DBW said...

Oh, my blog shut down because I went into recovery and realized the blog read like an Al-Anon Case Study for the addict going ballistic about things he or she cannot change, and it nauseated me to read things I'd written. As for me reaping what I sowed... you're probably right. We all do, one way or another.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Okay, one more time, dbw - You are talking about me. I am a Boomer. How am I inflexible? Indeed, how are Boomers more inflexible than the perception of ANYone who may be in the majority - but, not necessarily in power?

After all, there are conservative, republican evangelical Boomers like those in the present administration and then there are the more progressive, democrat, Episcopalian like +KJS who is NOT a Boomer and is downright egalitarian but strong as a leader.

She is advised by several of the "Silent Generation".

Go to Louie Crew's Anglican Pages (I have a link on my Blog). The largest percentage of of deputies are NOT Boomers.

How am I inflexible? How is it all about Boomers?

Paul Powers said...

You've piqued my curiousity here, Elizabeth. You said that +KJS is not a boomer. But surely she's not a Gen-X'er either. Where would you place her. I'd like to know since she and I were born in the same year (1954).

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, you've made my point. So many of us fall in between generations. It's like astrology, in a way. I fall between Aries and Taurus. Technically, I'm a Taurus but I also see a great deal of Aries which applies to me. Then again, I see other qualities of sings that are no where near my astrological chart.

These labels and designations are helpful to a point, but when we start using the point to point fingers, well, that's when the argument begins to fail.

Thanks for asking, Paul.