Sunday, December 17, 2006

Episcopalians are Revolting

According to a story in today's online edition of the New York Times the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America is about to reach a point of "revolt", a state that the Times seems to find in the imminent vote of eight parishes in Virginia to sever ties with the denomination. Some of them hope to come under the aegis of African or Latin American bishops who are more orthodox than, say Peter James Lee, the present bishop of Virginia.

I have mixed feelings about Bishop Lee who, as regular readers of this forum will remember, was my Rector when I was a parishioner at the Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, North Carolina before my conversion. I worked rather closely with him, too, because I was a postulant for Holy Orders at the time and he oversaw my internship year while I worked for Bill Coolidge at St. Bartholomew's parish in Pittsboro. The two men went rather different directions: Bill Coolidge has basically left the church, while Peter Lee has gone to become one of its leaders. But they are similar in some ways. When I was working at St. Bartholomew's a new hymnal was being introduced, and some of the parishioners did not like it. Bill's attitude was basically "Nobody is forcing them to use the new hymnal; they can just sit in the pew and listen while the rest of us sing." Compare that with this from Peter Lee:
Our Anglican tradition has always been a very large tent in which people with different theological emphases can live together,” Bishop Lee said in a telephone interview. “I’m very sorry some in these churches feel that this is no longer the case for them. It certainly is their choice and their decision. No one is forcing them to do this.
True enough. Nobody is forcing them to do this, just like nobody forced those folks back at St. Bart's to sing from the new hymnal. I don't force my son to go to school, either. He can stay home every day if he wants to, stacking up the unexcused absences until he is expelled. It's his choice. Why should I take any responsibility for my son's poor choices? He's almost 13 years old, for goodness sake. What am I, his guardian?

It's a little disconcerting when someone from an apostolic church shrugs off the apostolic responsibility onto the flock so easily. But of course my analogy is flawed. It's not so much like my son refusing to go to school and getting expelled; it's more like his insisting on going to school and getting a good education while his teachers insist that he stay home and watch TV. Who would blame him if he decided to hire some African or Latin American teacher to come to his house and give him some real lessons? Knowing the educational establishment the way I do, I suspect that the local school board would object that these new teachers are not "certified", and they would make trouble for them and try to keep them from teaching in this district. At least Peter Lee has not done that--he has been rather accommodating of the orthodox believers, unlike some other bishops, who have ridiculed and blocked parishes that wanted to move under the auspices of conservative African or Latin American bishops.
Anglican rules and traditions prohibit bishops from crossing geographical boundaries to take control of churches or priests not in their territory. So Archbishop Akinola and his American allies have tried to bypass that by establishing a branch of the Nigerian church in the United States, the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. Archbishop Akinola has appointed Mr. Minns as his key “missionary bishop” to spread the gospel to Americans on his behalf.

Mr. Minns and other advocates of secession have suggested to the voters that the convocation arrangement has the blessing of the Anglican hierarchy. But on Friday, the Anglican Communion office in London issued a terse statement saying the convocation had not been granted “any official status within the communion’s structures, nor has the archbishop of Canterbury indicated any support for its establishment.”
That would be bad for unity, after all. Better to whip those bad boys into shape and keep them in the fold until they get bishops that are properly "certified". In this case, "certification" means keeping your mouth shut even when your teachers are teaching you a load of crap. The unilateral actions of the progressives in the PECUSA has drawn the ire of folks throughout the communion, but for some reason its the conservatives who are arrogant and judgmental.

For more of my thoughts on this, here is a post contrasting Peter Lee with Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, my mentor in the faith.

4 comments:

Grano1 said...

Scott -- while I find some Episcopalians' behavior and theology problematic, I'd hesitate to label them all as 'revolting.' It's just this sort of uncharitable mischaracterization that hinders ecumenical dialogue nowadays. Charity, sir, charity! :-)

Scott Carson said...

Hi Rob

It was the Times who characterized what they are doing as a "revolt".

Having been an Episcopalian myself, I think it's fair to say that Episcopalians in general have a well-developed sense of humor--developed enough to see the joke in my title and, apparently, better developed than some.

Scott Carson said...

Hi Rob

Oops--it only just dawned on me that you were yourself making an ironic joke!

Sorry!

Grano1 said...

Glad you got it, Scott! I too was an Episcopalian, and agree with you on my former co-religionists.

For a brief period near the end of my time as an Episcopalian, Bishop Duncan was my prelate -- he's a good man.