Sunday, October 12, 2003

True Confessions

My families are a mess. I wrote about the difficulties in my family of the flesh in the preceding posting. It seems like my church family is in a bigger mess.

I wrote about the threatened schism in the Episcopal Church on September 26. Now I'm seeing the effect in my own parish.

Last week, I tried to get hold of my parish priest for some help getting my mother into a Christian retirement community, only to find out he had gone to Dallas for the American Anglican Council (AAC) convention. He hadn't bothered notifying the vestry that he was going. There wasn't any priest available to help me. With the hospital social worker's help, my mother was accepted into the Christian community without a pastor's recommendation.

I feel a bit betrayed. After talking so moderately in the beginning, Father Dearest has jumped on board the AAC train, following the bishop's lead. First, the Father sponsored a resolution at a diocesan meeting, repudiating the actions of the general convention (he did this without informing the vestry, either). Now he went to the AAC convention.

I'm noticing a difference in the way people act, too. The person who sponsored me for confirmation has been talking very conservative--but not talking to me. Never even asked how my mother was doing, although I've seen her twice in the past week, or put my mother on the prayers of the people list for the hospitalized last week--she's the one in charge of that.

A few days ago, I wrote a long E-mail to Fr. Bojangles, AKA
  • Le Pretre Noir
  • . It was a confession of my anger, with a lot of ranting and raving, but I didn't actually get to the point of asking forgiveness. Now I'm asking God for forgiveness of my anger. And, again, I'm praying for God to keep my heart from becoming hardened.

    Rumor has it that Father Dearest is at the top of the list for replacing the canon to the ordinary, who submitted his resignation over the direction the diocese is going. Is F.D. being influenced by that, or truly following his heart? I don't know. Maybe both.

    F.D. had to sign an AAC oath to attend the Dallas meeting. The oath calls for the Archbishop to:

    " a. Discipline those bishops in the Episcopal Church who, by
    their actions, have departed from biblical faith and order;

    b. Guide the realignment of Anglicanism in North America"
    --in other words, a separate province. This is schism.

    A delegation of four representing the Episcopal Church was turned away from the convention. Obviously, reconciliation isn't big in the AAC vocabulary.

    The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, which the AAC claims to uphold in their oath, declared willingness " to enter into brotherly conference with all or any Christian
    Bodies seeking the restoration of the organic unity of the Church.." This just doesn't fit the actions of the AAC.

    I know our parish is largely older and conservative, especially the monied people. This has to be a factor in any parish priest's thinking--the rectors all have to look out for the financial situation. So, I had expected him and the rectors of most of the churches to go the conservative route. I just didn't expect this jump on the bandwagon from F.D.

    I don't think most parishioners are aware of what they'll be getting into with an AAC-run province and diocese. Most have only even heard of the AAC very recently. I hadn't paid any attention to them until the general convention, when they started the schism talk. A friend was more aware, though, and said I better do some research on them.

    I found out they are ultra conservative, indeed. They have strong ties to right-wing organizations like the Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD), which is not a religious, but a political organization dedicated to stamping out anything they consider liberal -- like the mainline churches. The IRD and the AAC share the same address.

    A recent report by Steve Levin in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette revealed the following:

    One major source of its funding [the AAC's] is Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., of California, a $10-million-a-year patron of conservative causes through the Fieldstead Foundation. An Episcopalian, Ahmanson is heir to a savings and loan fortune accumulated by his father. Ahmanson attended St. James Church in Newport Beach, Calif., which, until recently, was run by the Rev. David C. Anderson, now president of the American Anglican Council.

    For many years, Ahmanson was associated with the late Rev. Rousas John Rushdoony, considered the father of Christian Reconstructionism, which advocates basing American society on biblical laws. For 10 years ending in 1995, Ahmanson contributed a total of $700,000 to Rushdoony's Chalcedon Foundation and served on its board of directors.

    Since then, both Ahmanson and his wife, Roberta, have repudiated Christian Reconstructionist philosophy.

    Roberta Ahmanson was recently named to the board of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute on Religion and Democracy, which works closely with the American Anglican Council.

    "The theonomist or [Christian] Reconstructionist philosophy is antithetical to our idea of religion and democracy," said Diane L. Knippers, a new member of the council board and president of the institute. "Roberta wouldn't have come on our board if she didn't agree with us."

    Well, I'm afraid they are too much in agreement. Ahmanson has poured money into groups who believe homosexuality, adultery and apostasy, or heresy (as defined by them) should be punishable by death. They believe in stoning, like in the Old Testament. Howard Ahmanson has ties to a number of religious and political right-wing organizations. Pat Robertson is moderate, heck, maybe even liberal, compared to them.

    Wake up, people. Do you really want groups like these setting church policy? Saying what you are and aren't allowed to do in your parish?

    And watch out if you end up on the opposite side of an issue from them.

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