Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Living under the Network

I've been reading Karen's posts at The Heretic’s Corner, Fr. Jake's at Father Jake Stops the World and mumcat's at The Cat's Cradle — all discussing the anger of the conservatives within the church and the desire on the part of some to break from the Episcopal Church.

In an attempt to look at the AAC/conservative point of view from a pastoral perspective, Karen asks, "If everyone in a parish from the rector on down, wishes to depart from the Episcopal Church in order to join one of the "continuing" jurisdictions, why must we insist that they leave their buildings behind? They've built them, tended them, and worshipped in them."

Like mumcat, I wish I could be as pastoral as Karen about this. It's not only the conservatives who have built the buildings, tended them, and worshipped in them. It's all of us. The large and diverse center of us.

My perspective, living in a Network diocese, is different than most. I've watched the maniuplation, I've been told the lies by clergy ("I don't know much about the AAC" while actively furthering it and pooh-poohing my concern about them, to "nothing will change"). I've heard, from clergy, the national church called "a train wreck" and rude disrespect shown toward the presiding bishop. I've been told I shouldn't even spend my time reading up on what's going on. I guess I shouldn't worry my little head over these things!

I've heard the ugliness of someone being called "unchristian" for not having the exact same interpretation of scripture as an AAC person. I've heard gays and lesbians referred to as "abominations" and "lower than dogs."

I've watched the diocese becoming more constrictively conservative. Now there are only two seminaries that aren't too liberal for our prospective priests to attend. Education for Ministry (EFM), a study program for lay people offered through Sewanee/The University of the South is being called too liberal. I'm pretty sure it will not be allowed back next year.

Like Father Jake, I just can't trust the AAC and their leaders. They've given me no reason to trust them. They do things in an underhanded way, as the Chapman memo revealed. They call us revisionist, heretical and apostate, yet refuse to do the most Christian of things — to come to the Communion table with other Christians. I really wonder how they will justify this to Christ. What if some of the apostles had refused to come to the table with Matthew, or refused to attend if Mary Magdalene were there?

And I'd like to know, who are the revisionists, anyway? The via media is the Episcopal tradition. This hard-nosed fundamentalism is the revisionist doctrine, in my opinion.

How do you reconcile with someone who refuses to come to the table, who shows zero tolerance for reconciliation, in fact?

If they can't tolerate a divergent view, or women (and the talk against women in the church is growing in these groups), or gays or lesbians, if they won't sit in the same room with a bishop or with anyone who didn't actively oppose his ordination, then I have to think a schism is inevitable. Are they so intent on tearing apart the body of Christ?

If someone is so determined to leave the church, they really should go. But they are the minority. Father Jake reports a study by John Clinton Bradley that shows "Diocesan Convention support for affiliating with the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes is extremely limited." And, "The overall ratio of positive to negative impacts resulting from diocesan convention resolutions is 2.2 to 1."

So, my rightwing friends are in the minority in the Episcopal Church. The number of dioceses to join the Network testifies to that.

If the Episcopal Church is so intolerable to this minority, maybe they should evaluate where they are. A dissident minority can certainly leave, but does it have the right to take the buildings in which we worship from the rest of us?

The Archbishop of Canterbury has been under increasing attack by these groups' gurus. I'm starting to wonder: Do they want to pull out of the Anglican Communion now, too, since the Archbishop is not doing as they wish? Is all this AMiA activity the preliminary to a move into some other communion? Why are priests in this Network diocese given letters dimissory to transfer into a church that has no status with the See of Canterbury?

In fact, on David Virtue's blog today is a long diatribe against Rowan Williams and related persons, basically saying that the Anglican communion needs someone with passionate biblical convictions, ending with this: "If there is going to be a new leader it will probably come from Africa in the person of Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria. But if that happens the shape of Anglicanism will change forever, and if that occurs a lot of people are going to be very unhappy, mostly and including archbishops like Rowan Williams."

Of course, Akinola is as virulently anti-gay as is Virtue himself. But he doesn't seem to object to polygamy (but I guess, after all, it is biblical), stoning, slavery, child labor exploitation or other things most of us heretical "revisionists" would have a problem with. But I'm beginning to suspect more and more this is the direction some of these bishops want to take us.

There are too many things that concern me to want to give the AAC-types any more than they've already taken. I have no trust left for them. I've heard too much arrogance and hate come from the lips of bishops who lead the AAC and who claim to be modeling the face of Christ on earth.

Yet I feel strangely optimistic. Whether the AAC members go or stay, the Holy Spirit has all this in hand. He will bring good out of even the most wretched actions in the long run. We can hand our concerns over to him, for he is the one we can trust.

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