Friday, December 12, 2008
As the Anglican World Turns - Episode 152 (Or, is it 163? I lose count)
I've found myself praying, off and on today, for the legal proceedings happening in the Diocese of Central New York.
I've been praying that, despite who claims to be right and who is judged to be wrong, justice will be done and the truth will have out.
The long and the short of it is that the clergy, wardens and vestry of Church of the Good Shepherd, Binghamton, NY who have left the Episcopal Church for the more 'orthodox' uber-Calvinist (but apparently accepting of the ordination of suitably obedient, subservient women) Anglican Church of Kenya, are in a bit of a legal wrangle with the Bishop and the Diocese of CNY over - guess what? - the property.
You can read a brief synopsis of the situation here. I don't know all the details, so I won't comment, but I'm certain of one thing: It's all more complicated than the alleged victims would have us believe.
Fast on the heels of all this drama, comes a note from a certain retired but still very active uber-orthodox bishop on the HOB/D listserv.
He was shocked - SHOCKED, I tell you! - about the news release, published 25 October, about the cost of the legal proceedings.
There was the distinct sound of annoyance in his note that no one personally picked up the phone and told him, as well as the hint that, somehow, the leadership of TEC was withholding this information.
Not only that, he said this:
"Of course, some cast the blame for this matter on those clergy, and congregations, and now, dioceses, that felt abandoned by the leadership of TEC, and concluded they could no longer remain in this Church, and chose to leave. Then there are others, myself included, who see this Church as having abandoned 4,000 years of Biblical teaching and doctrine that has been upheld by the Church of Jesus Christ for 2,000 years, and is still upheld by the rest of the Anglican Communion, and most of the rest of Christendom throughout the world.--that sexual relations outside of marriage, between a man and a woman, are wrong in the sight of God, and contrary to His Will.
As for who is ultimately right, and who is wrong in this matter , I believe,
we will need to wait on that one, for the ultimate judgement (sic) of Almighty God, and may He bless us all."
As Bishop Spong once said, "Literalism in any form is little more than pious hysteria."
(I love that quote, don't you?)
Well, at any rate, I fear it pulled my last, poor, tired nerve.
Here's how I answered him:
"Yes, bishop, some of us did see that news release. And, with all due respect, sir, the two issues you present do not create a situation of 'cause and effect."
Of course, the two are not unrelated, but TEC is not "paying" for its actions. You didn't say that. You also didn't say this, but neither is it God's judgment against TEC. Although it is a shame and there's lots of blame to go around, this is not about "shame and blame". It is decidedly unhelpful - if not flat-out wrong - to frame the situation in that way.
You have an absolute right to your opinions and beliefs about my suitability for ordained ministry on the basis of my gender and my sexual orientation, both of which are God-given, I might add, as are yours. You also have the absolute right to your opinions and beliefs about the "correct" interpretation of scripture, or liturgy, or how to interpret the rubrics, or anything else in this church.
Obviously, I don't agree with you, but that's not the point. The point is that at the heart of classical, traditional Anglican Spirituality is an understanding of gracious accommodation of a variety of beliefs, all held in tension.
That has eroded over the past 10-15 years as the voices on the right side of the aisle have become more strident in their insistence on the notions of conformity and purity, and the voices on the left side of the aisle have become more insistent on enacting the messy notion of the inclusion of all the baptized in all of the sacraments and sacramental rights of the church.
We now find our selves in a lamentable situation of schism in The Episcopal Church and, sadly, in The World Wide Anglican Communion.
The folks who have earnestly disagreed with the direction of TEC also have a right to leave and find - or create - a home where they can believe and worship whatever they wish. And, they can call themselves whatever they wish. There is no copyright on the brand 'Anglican'. That does not make them Anglican, but they have the right to call themselves that.
All of these rights are, to turn a phrase, 'self-evident'.
What the folks who have decided to leave don't have is the right to is this: church property. I would submit to you, good sir, that THIS is the problem. THIS is what is causing the obscene legal fees. It is the arrogance and hubris to assume the right to church property based on the fact that you think your theology is 'right'.
Being theologically 'right' has never been the basis of assumption for legal right.
In this lamentable situation, 'possession is not 9/10 ths of the law'.
That would be enough difficulty, in and of itself, but the infamous Chapman Memo makes it clear that this is part of the strategy of those who have been plotting and scheming to form their own identity, cause TEC to be shunned by the rest of the WWAC, bankrupt TEC, and then supplant her as the Anglican 'franchise' in North America.
It is sad in the extreme to note that this obscene amount of money has been spent on legal fees. It is tragic that, over the next decade, more money will need to be spent on legal fees. It is and will be, however, our reality.
It is my prayer that as these dissident groups continue to splinter off, the Tree of Life in TEC will be healthier and happier for the pruning and better equipped for mission and ministry.
I also pray that those who understand their beliefs to be 'orthodox' will also flourish and grow so that all who see their works will give glory and praise to God, in the name of Jesus.
Even so, TEC will 'keep the porch light on' for those who wish to return - as some reportedly already have. I have no doubt that more will return. I rejoice in that possibility. They will be welcomed home not to sign onto or lock-step to a 'liberal progressive' agenda; rather, they will keep us more faithful to the essence of what we claim to be at the heart of what it means to be Anglican.
I submit to you, bishop, that it is unhelpful, unfair and flat-out wrong of you to frame the issues of our theological and ecclesiological disagreement and the status of the finances in TEC as cause and effect with such bold strokes, heaped with shame and blame.
However, if you insist on doing so, please make sure the offending sacristy slipper is on the right foot."